Don Quijote

To dream the impossible dream

I’m a little speechless after watching this video, so please forgive me for not giving you much of an introduction. I just warn you, watch this in a place where it’s ok to cry. Thank you to Daily Dose of Noor for bringing this video to my attention.

The power of writing

Write everything down. I´ve heard this advice before, but I never take it seriously. I bought a beautiful little moleskin book before coming here, and I´ve made a conscious effort to write down everything I learn, observe, or need to do. When I look through it I´m amazed at how much I´ve already forgotten. Two days ago I played a game called Pitufar, and I said that word so many times while playing the game I thought I´d never be able to forget it. However, that night I was telling my host mother about it, and for the life of me I couldn´t remember the name of it. Good thing I wrote it down.

Not only does writing help you remember, it also helps you clear your head. I was starting to panic about all the things I need to do before leaving Salamanca. I was going over and over the list in my head (even translating it into Spanish). However as soon as I wrote the list down I realized I only had five things to do. And they´re not even difficult. But when the list was just floating around in my head it was hard to get perspective on it. Now that the list is on paper I can distance myself from it, and I can think about more important things such as whether to get wine or sangria after class.

I suggest buying a pretty notebook that you don´t mind taking with you everywhere you go. Now I´ve tried this before but I´ve always been too intimidated to write in a pretty journal. I think, I must fill these beautiful pages with beautiful thoughts. I can´t put my grocery list in a Moleskin, what would Picasso or Hemingway think? (If you´re not familiar with Moleskin, they´re handmade journals that have been used by all the great writers and artists of the past – at least that´s what they tell me). Here´s what helped me. I scribled all over the first page. I made a big fat mess, and now anything I write in the book will be an improvement over the first page. Try it. I atually think the more messy the pages the better. I like flipping through the pages and seeing all my different handwritings, and doodles, and side notes. It´s almost like a visual of how my brain works.

I also love writing in a moleskin at restaurants. When a waiter sees one they automatically think you´re a food critic or a writer for a travel guide. As soon as I bring mine out, all of sudden the waiter becomes super attentive. I get free glasses of wine, and sometimes they let me try some of their specialties for free. I kid you not, this has happened three times since I got here. Maybe I play it up a bit. I have been known to take a bite, look up as if I´m thinking about how to describe it, and then write down a few notes. Usually I´m writing about how my day went, but the waiter doesn´t need to know that.

On a side note, today was my last day of classes. I´m going to miss my helpful teachers, and my fellow classes. Don Quijote is an excellent school and I´d highly recommend it to anyone who wants to learn Spanish abroad. Today for the first time ever I spoke in Spanish without thinking. I said three sentences to a guard at a museum and I thought to myself his English is good. And then I realized, oh wait I´m speaking in Spanish!

My tiny class

Why learn another language?

Learning another language makes you a better person. Here´s why:

Years ago when I was living in Mozambique with Gerome, from France, and Flavia, from Brazil, we tried an experiment. We each spoke in our native tongue and then afterward tried to translate what we heard into English. Even though Gerome didn´t speak Portuguese and Flavia didn´t speak French they were able to catch almost everything the other said. I on the other hand couldn´t remember a word. Gerome said that ¡t´s because Americans don´t know how to listen. I got offended, but then he said it´s understandable because we are not surrounded by different languages. We can drive for ten hours and still only hear English, but in Europe or Latin America, you can drive one hour and hear an entirely different language. They have to learn to listen or else they could never get by.

In class, I´m realizing how little I listen. I catch myself tuning out my teacher all the time because I don´t understand her. But I´m making an huge effort to listen and it makes a world of difference. If I can take this concentration back with me to New York, imagine how much more I will hear. Maybe I´ll actually be able to quote a real fact from the news, instead of just estimating the figures. Maybe I´ll hear a friend´s hint for a good birthday present, when before it would have just passed over me. Perhaps I´ll hear someone´s complaint before coming up with my defense.

Last night there was a party at the school to welcome the new students. We spoke in Spanish for as long as we could, but after a while it became obvious that we were genuinely interested in each other and our knowledge of Spanish just wasn’t cutting it. There’s only so much you can learn about a person from questions like

How many brothers do you have?

What is your favorite color?

Do you like food?

So we gave up and started speaking English. The students are diverse. At my table, I was talking to people from Turkey, France, Germany, The Ukraine, Brazil and Belgium. And everyone was fluent in English. It made me realize how lucky I am to have English as my primary language, because it truly is universal. Then it made me realize how important it is to learn a second language. We could not have become friends if they hadn’t first made the effort to learn English. Imagine how many people am I excluding from friendship because I don´t speak their language and they don´t speak mine.

Besides for opening up doors to friendship, it´s also really fun to eavesdrop. Yesterday, I was at the grocery store, and there was an old woman ahead of me at the cashier. When she heard the total for her groceries she started yelling, in Spanish, ¨That´s too expensive. You can´t make an old woman pay that. I won´t do it!” and the cashier told her she could have a 20% discount. I thought that was pretty funny, and I would have missed it all if I didn´t understand any Spanish.