Archive | September, 2013

Things just aren’t said the same way

14 Sep
  • In Spanish, ahora mismo doesn’t mean right now. People often say vuelvo ahora mismo when they go out the door, which really means “I’ll return soon,” not “I return right now.” When people procrastinate, they say lo hago ahora means “I’ll do it soon/later,” not “I’ll do it right now.”
  • In English, we say “what happened?” in the past tense; In Spanish people say “que pasa/que ocurre” which is in the present tense. It was a very confusing experience for me to hear a Spaniard ask me “What happens?”, which is fine grammatically but which just isn’t how we say it in English.
  • If there is a group of five people, in English I would say “there are five of us,” stating our existence. In Spanish, however, I would say somos cinco, which translates as “we are five”

A little different from Conan’s definition of what is best in life.

6 Sep
What is success?
To laugh often and much;
To win the respect of intelligent people
and the affection of children;
To earn the appreciation of honest critics
and endure the betrayal of false friends;
To appreciate beauty;
To find the best in others;
To leave the world a bit better, whether by
a healthy child, a garden
patch or a redeemed social condition;
To know even one life has breathed
easier because you have lived;
This is to have succeeded.

Travel vs. Education

1 Sep

Allison over at just wrote up a little opinion piece on how travel is not education, and I think that you should go read it. It isn’t earth-shatteringly deep or anything, and it probably won’t change how you live your life. But it is true, and it needs to be said. It is a prominent idea across the world (a traditional Chinese saying claims that it is better to travel ten thousand li than to read ten thousand books {行万里路胜读万卷书}) There are too many idiotic truisms in the world, and now at least I can mark one off of my list of “idiotic ideas that need to me countered.”

In my own reflections concerning the travel-education dichotomy (which is, like all dichotomies, a false one), I can say that I’ve learned much more about Brazil by reading a few books and a few blogs than by living here. When I was in Spain I certainly learned certain things from living there, but I got a very different type of knowledge from reading. If I hadn’t read the books, I would have been able to gain so much less from my time spent there in person. In China it is a bit more ambiguous, only because I feel like I grew so much as a person from living in China. However, there is not doubt that I’ve learned more about China from my readings (which I think are getting to be pretty extensive) than from normal life there. I don’t want to downplay the things that I’ve learned from everyday life, but those experiences are limited to… well, to the everyday.

I can learn about working in a particular type of company, I can learn about the local juggling scene or the improv theater scene, but my experiences are limited to those. I have only 24 hours in a day (most of which I don’t use for exploring new things) and my finances are limited too. So the number of distinct areas that I can explore are of course limited as well. Reading a book can allow me to learn about the political process in China, the muslim influences in Spain, and the growing relationship between China and Brazil. I could never learn these things from personal experience because those items are too far from my own daily experience. That is what education, reading and talking to smarter people really, allows us to do. It allows us to live vicariously and to learn from other people’s experiences. Travel is great, but it isn’t enough alone. Choosing between the two, I would choose ten thousand books over ten thousand li. And you?