My take on Matador Network’s “15 delusions I’ve had about returning home after being abroad”

I stumbled upon this article today, and think it’s fairly relevant seeing as I’m heading home soon, after, well, a 2014 where I’ve spent three months at home in total – which isn’t exactly crazy seeing as a lot of people travel for twelve months, or move abroad for a couple of years, and then return.  But, prior to this year I’d only spent five weeks abroad all at once, so it’s the most relevant it’s been for me so far.

Here’s a look at which of these I think have been, or will be, accurate in my case (with modifications thrown in when necessary):

1. I’m totally going to wear these Thai fisherman vivid pink north Argentinian pants back home.

I so am.  I already have, during my month at home between work placement abroad and erasmus – which also kind of gives me an insight into how true these all are.

Not delusional about this one.  They are super comfy, and I encountered more than enough staring on my travels to not really care about it anymore.  Next.

2. I’m going to use my Korean Spanish and French language skills all the time.

No.  I’m not going to kid myself about this one.  If the opportunity comes up, maybe in the form of a lost Spanish or French-speaking tourist, or someone who simply wants to speak either language to me at home for some reason, then yes, obviously, I’d be delighted to, but I don’t see that happening too often.

Even if I was living in a tourist hotspot, most people who visit Ireland know some English, and even if they only knew Spanish or French, I’d probably be so surprised it wouldn’t even register with me until too late.

3. By golly! Hon! I’m going to visit a museum in my own city. Why not?

I don’t live in a city or all that near to many museums, so no.  However, there’s at least one that I know of where I go to college (so knowledgeable), and I considered visiting it before, so maybe someday I’ll visit it.  Yeah, I’d like to.  But I would not bet too surprised if it didn’t happen for ages.

4. My home peeps are going to be so excited to see me.

They’re surely used to me being gone by now, and it’s only a couple of months since I saw a lot of them.  So nah, hardly.  Okay there’ll be a little bit of fuss over seeing people for the first time, but not much, I’m home for a while this time sure.

The dog is gonna go crazy though.

5. I’m going to start using public transportation.

I already have, whenever it’s been available.  (Kind of off the point but if Ireland could take the best of mainland European transport and have a lot of that even connecting villages with town and towns with cities that would be sound!  And actually if Europe could get buses like the ones in Argentina, with similar comfort and pricing too…  Yeah.  I’ll keep dreaming.  Covoiturage (BlaBlaCar) though, that can become a thing in Ireland.  Without even costing billions, or anything at all, to get it started.)

6. Friends and family will want to hear ALL the details of my international escapades.

Nope!  A bit more like this, really:

Me:  “Well.”

Friend:  “Listen to her, ‘Argentina this, Argentina that…’, does she ever stop?!”

And that’s why I miss my friends when I’m away.

7. They’re also going to appreciate my handmade photo album.

Didn’t make one.

8. I don’t need the new iPhone. I don’t need anything.

I don’t need anything.  I need to avoid getting an actual smartphone for as long as possible.  But I want one.  Kind of.  While simultaneously not wanting one.  So we’ll see how that goes.

Really though, I don’t need anything more than what I’ve managed to fit into a suitcase and carry-on luggage while switching countries.  I don’t even need all of what I’ve brought, and I no longer want to own more clothes than can fit in my luggage, but, reducing the amount of clothes I have to close to that would result in people wondering why I always wear the same clothes, why I don’t have a new dress for almost every night out, and the likes.  So it would be challenging purely because of that.  But I would like to have less clothes seeing as no matter how much I have, I’m still probably going to wear the same stuff most of the time anyway.  This delusion therefore, is fairly strong, for the moment, I guess.

9. I’m going to get a real job.

I’m a student, so finding proper, full-time employment isn’t something there’s much point in me wasting time worrying over yet.  Part-time work would be great though.  *Begs employers*

10. All my new travel mates and I are going to rendezvous in Morocco in five years! I’m going back to Argentina some day.

Delusional?  I hope not.  There’s far too much left to see there.  And simply because of the people, the culture, the language, the food…

11. I’m not going to return to the S.A.D. diet. (Standard American Diet) eat well when I get home

Best of luck to me.  I mean, I’m going home at Christmas.  You can’t avoid certain unhealthy foods  at Christmas (chocolaaaaate!).  It’s practically illegal.

I will eat more fruit and veg though.  And less baguettes.

12. I’m not going to drink so much.

This is likely, but I don’t drink much as it is, and never have much in Ireland.  So to drink less, I’d almost have to go back to complete sobriety.  I might do that.  Or I might just have a drink occasionally whenever I feel like it, because that will most probably be possible without tonnes of abuse for not always drinking on a night out, and not getting hammered even if I do.  Hon!

13. I’m going to throw the best Spanish/Thai/Vietnamese/Arabic dinner party ever! cook something Argentinian (empanadas) again while at home. And I’ll try making crêpes.

Realistic enough targets, I think, depending on the time limit.

14. I’m going to really put my new boxe française/tango skills as a Thai massage therapist/belly dancer/Hapkido yellow belt to good use.

Define “skills”…

15. I can’t wait to get home!

Agreeing with the author of the article on this one, finally going home after being away can be over hyped .  And I think it will be great, but eventually, yeah, it’ll probably go back to how it always was, and I may not meet up with people as much as I’d like, or y’know do a lot of kind of touristy things in Ireland while I’m there.  But Christmas will be lovely, as will having more time with my family, and heading back to college with my friends after a full year away from it will be amazing too (college work aside).  Really, it’ll only be disappointing in any way, if I allow it to be.  So I’m still really looking forward to it, even if I’ll miss a lot of stuff from the places I’ve been.  Travel is great but family and friends aren’t the worst either.  (And that is my completely chill way of not straight up expressing just how brilliant it will be to see everyone at home again, and completely playing down the whole thing.  Except that kind of undoes it, doesn’t it?  Oops.)

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Why I’m terrified about going on erasmus

Yes, that does say “terrified”, you’re not hallucinating…

But erasmus sounds amazing? Yes, yes it does.

And didn’t you just spend five months living in Argentina? Yes, yes I did.

So then what’s the problem?!

My problem is, that the whole point of me going on erasmus, is to learn a language. Yes, that’s the point of most people going on erasmus, unless they study abroad, but in a place where their native language is also the local one. However, most people who speak English don’t learn as much on erasmus, well, as I’d like to. I’m not saying that they’re stupid and I’m aiming to learn much more because I’m clearly better than them. I’m not. They probably don’t want to learn a language as much as I do. Or, want to put their erasmus to what they think is better use – maybe by getting to know people from all over the world, and just enjoying the whole experience. And I don’t disagree with them at all. Both of those are hugely important to me too. You can’t just go on erasmus and be stuck in dictionaries and grammar books for the whole time you’re there. I have no intention of that. I just want to improve my French.

Unfortunately though, English is quite a universal language especially when it comes to Europe, and most students who do erasmus speak some English – therefore (and because many of them are native English speakers) it automatically becomes the language they speak with each other, rather than the local language, which they obviously have to know, or at least learn at some point, too. Often, the local language is their third language, and English their second, so it’s actually easier for them to speak English.

This is fantastic if your first language is not English – you can do one erasmus and improve hugely at two languages.

As a native English speaker though, I’m filled with dread at the thought of having to try so hard to avoid speaking English with others in France, if it will even be possible – I won’t be able to completely escape it, but I will speak it as little as possible. Basically, I’m setting myself up to have no friends on erasmus, because I will run a mile from all the lovely erasmus students who (quite harmlessly) dare to speak to me in English, and even the French ones who do the same. Erasmus students don’t generally mix that much with other students and it’s because of this that I’m scared about going on erasmus. I’d rather not have no friends, but I don’t want to only make friends with people who solely speak English to me. In France, I mean. Obviously at home that’s fairly tolerable.

I am a native English speaker, I swear!

I think this blog could be a good way of keeping track of my deteriorating English if (I mean when) I continue to post regularly. It’s already gotten quite bad just from spending five months in Argentina (yeah that’s a thing I did, I might write about it later…). Since I’ve gotten home there have been so many occasions where I literally couldn’t get across exactly what I was trying to say, couldn’t think of a particular word that I needed, or just directly translated phrases I’d learned in Spanish into English, which ends up sounding a bit weird because although they make sense, we don’t use those exact phrases.

That and actually speaking in Spanish accidentally a few times. Now I don’t mean blurting out whole sentences in Spanish, but a few phrases now and then, like “ay díos” or “¡díos mio!”* if something goes wrong, or annoys me, or “¿qué sé yo?”** pretty much if anyone asks me a question ever. It’s nice that I picked up these phrases, and remember them, but it would be handier if I didn’t use them when meant to be speaking English…

And then there’s the hand gestures. I’ve attempted to teach one or two to friends from home, and one even caught on for a while, but I’m not sure I’m going to succeed in making them a permanent part of Irish culture just yet. Sometimes I find myself doing them and almost have to grab my hand and lower it back down into a more regular, motionless state so I can converse like a normal Irish person again.

Now France is going to influence how I communicate too, and if I manage to avoid speaking English a lot there then my English will surely get even worse. I don’t want to be awful at English, but I like to think that if my English is getting bad then surely my other languages are improving, right? …But then I find words I don’t understand in other languages and look up their meanings only to find that they’re the same in English, and realise I may need to work on improving my English for once.

But I thought I was a native speaker?!

* = “oh god” or “my god!”
** = “what do I know?”

The internet and language learning

I have a theory. Which I haven’t had a chance to test yet, but it’s fairly obvious and likely to be correct. Basically, the internet can be the most detrimental thing to a person’s language learning.

Hear me out.

I mean when abroad, in the country of their target language, it’ll be the internet which will slow down or inhibit their second language acquisition.

Obviously enough (duh Sarah), it will make you think in your native language, unless you never use the internet in your own language, which would be extremely rare. Say you’re a native English speaker. You go on Facebook – English! You check the news at home – English! You read your emails – English! You open Twitter – English! You Skype someone at home – English! You do almost anything – English! Every time you use the internet in these situations, you revert back to English, your comfort zone.

God Sarah this so obvious to anyone with any common sense why are you even blogging about it god.

I’m writing about this now because soon I’ll be moving continent for a few months, and doing my best to absorb and use as much Spanish as I can. But I’m going to want to keep in touch with people at home too. And that will have to be through English. Which will hinder my attempts to immerse myself in Spanish a lot.

So what can I do? Delete Facebook while I’m abroad? Delete Twitter? Ignore the world at home? Avoid reading my emails for months? Skype home less often? Okay so all of that would probably help but it would be likely to make me a lot more distant from my friends and family. And I don’t want that.

Solution (and maybe a challenge I can take up): Hugely limit my use of social networks while I’m away. That alone would probably help a lot, no matter how challenging it would be.

Then again, I don’t know what part of Argentina I’m going to yet. I might not have internet. Which would be awful. Or, in light of everything I’ve just written, would be the best thing that could happen… (I’ve jinxed it now, haven’t I?)

Hasta pronto,
Sarah

Getting Stabbed

I got stabbed yesterday. Four times. Twice in each arm. It hurt.

Okay so they were injections but it was painful and for some reason I did actually bleed a lot. Just from one arm. The nurse, as she put it herself, hadn’t “a clue why” it was happening but I survived, and the wee stream of blood (which seemed to pour everywhere) didn’t land on my clothes – success!

Her explanation that the needle “might just have caught a capillary” on its way out made me feel very queasy, not gonna lie – I was fine with seeing the blood pumping out of me, but the mention of blood vessels, and the piercing of one made me light-headed. So I mentioned that I felt a little dizzy (I’d never been this bad with an injection before!) and she suggested that I lie down, soon followed by the “are you always this pale?” question. I’d say I was as white as a ghost, I’m such a wimp when it comes to needles!

I think four injections within the space of five or ten minutes was slightly too much for me to handle. That and bleeding for two of them. My god. Not good!

Two or three more to look forward to next Monday, but at least then they won’t be preceded by a trip to the orthodontist. Not a great day, just further confirmation that I was most definitely correct in avoiding careers like doctor, nurse, surgeon, dentist and orthodontist. I wouldn’t last a week!

Sarah