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Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Letter from Spain

Letter From Spain

I have been working on something else and don’t really have much in the way of an essay to offer. I will just write down a few thoughts and send it out as I would a letter to family or friends.

About the only advice that I can give for learning a foreign language is just go out and learn a lot of words. This comes after the tedious part of first learning the grammar. I had a pretty solid background in Spanish grammar before I got here but I had some major holes in vocabulary.

I have been wearing out my Spanish/English dictionary and I have the vocabulary lists to prove it. I start a new list for every new book that I begin. I mentioned that I looked up about 75 new words for the last novel I read. In my latest reading assignment, La Edad Secreta by Eugenia Rico, I have made it to page 85 without using a dictionary at all. That is because I forgot to bring it yesterday. Without looking up a single word I have been able to read this extremely insightful novel very easily. I have had a lot more luck finding good novels to read in Spanish than I have in English, at least lately. I can’t remember being excited about two novels in succession in my native tongue. I highly recommend this novel as I think it has been translated into English. The title in English would perhaps be The Secret Age.

The plot, in a nutshell, concerns a woman who has recently been misdiagnosed with a fatal disease and decides to leave her unfaithful husband and just drive off. She doesn’t get very far on her own and picks up a man in a gas station who is 20 years her junior. If you think that this sounds kind of Thelma and Louise-ish, don’t worry, I did, too. What gives the novel strength and vitality is the author’s amazing insights into so many things that I can’t even begin to list them. Call it writing your guts out.

I have to admit a bit of misogyny as I was a bit gun shy about reading another work by a female author after the last novel I plodded through by another Spanish woman. I was afraid more for my linguistic weaknesses as books about feelings are generally more of a challenge for someone learning the language. I have been rewarded with a thoroughly entertaining novel full of a lot of wisdom considering the author was only 32 when she wrote it. It also helps that the chapters are mercifully short.

The night before I began this novel I was paging through my new kid’s dictionary and I came upon the word “mono” which in Spanish means monkey or single. I found another meaning for this word as a one-piece coverall that mechanics wear. I came across this word in this novel and at first I couldn’t remember what it meant until she went on to say that the person with the “mono” had dirty hands and the light immediately went on. It’s only one damn word but it illustrates a bit of the learning process and how words come into your vocabulary. I bought two other books along with this one yesterday. All of them are by contemporary Spanish writers because I am finding that this is the best way to learn the vocabulary of the everyday language.

The weather has been rather dreary lately. I check a weather page on the internet for Valencia and usually I see the smiling face of the sun but for the past week or so that grinning face has been replaced with a sun wearing a burkah of dark clouds. I have some laundry on the balcony that will not dry in this wet weather. The only thing I have to say is that if I survive this winter I will never complain about the hot summer months ahead. I can’t wait to put out wet clothes and bring them in dry later that same afternoon.

It seems ironic that someone from Seattle wouldn’t have an umbrella. I rarely used on there although I had several. I told someone here that because of the high winds that generally accompany the rains in Seattle the only thing umbrellas are good for is humiliation when they explode on you. I got off the metro yesterday and it was pouring. I ran in to the nearest Chinese mini Wal-Mart and waited in the line of about 8 other people also buying umbrellas. I kidded the girl in front of me that she shouldn’t have waited for the intense rain to buy her umbrella and I told her mine was for my grandmother.

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