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.)

Coin Flip

On Sunday, my inability to make a decision finally resulted in me choosing to flip a coin, to help me figure out what I wanted.  And I’d been told that when you flip a coin to make a serious decision, it results in you generally realising what you want before the coin even lands.  Maybe that knowledge messed it up for me because in the time the coin was flipped into the air, spun and caught, all my mind was telling me was “I don’t know”.  I actually couldn’t decide.  The coin failed.  I failed.

Except I think I just had a delayed reaction to the coin flip, or it it didn’t have the same effect because I was so aware that it was going to make me decide so I panicked, was sort of scared, and couldn’t think.  Even a minute later, when I was told the coin had said ‘heads’ – which we had chosen to mean I would stay in France for the year – my reaction was disappointment.  I knew that it would have been the same if they had said it was tails, but from that moment on, and taking into account some advice from college friends who’d all already made their decisions long ago and without much difficulty, I started seriously thinking about leaving my erasmus at just one semester, instead of extending it to two.

I think I made my mind up on the day, within  an hour of  the coin flip, but I’ve been pondering it since to make sure I’m doing the right thing.

Don’t get me wrong, I’d still love to stay for the year, or come back to this town to live here for a while, but I think going home is the right decision.  If I stayed it would probably make college much more difficult, between various modules, and most of all, the equivalent of a thesis that we have to write at some point in the next year and a half.  Seeing as it’s half of third year and all of fourth year we’re talking about here, I’d rather not make things any more complicated than they should be.

I’ve had a massive weight lifted off my shoulders after that anyway.  Fully recommend making serious decisions at least a few days before the deadline (and no later) to everyone.  Except that’s generally what people do, isn’t it?  Yeah…  Well, I tried.  This is a much better result than my last few major academic decisions, which were made either on deadline day, or when it was too late.  Great day for the parish.

I’ve had a crazy language-learning idea that just might work

It’s taken me thirty days, living in France, to have this brainwave, but it has finally happened.  Or, maybe more accurately, thirty days of often having great craic with Irish people (oh hey comfort zone) and other anglophones, but not really speaking or learning anywhere near as much French as I’d like to.

Inspiring quotes stolen from the internet – for all your motivational needs

Anyway, on the night of September 29th, I finally had this epiphany…

What’s the best way for me to improve at French?  By not speaking English!  Okay, I knew that before – that wasn’t really the epiphany.  I’d always known it – I mean for as long as I can remember wanting to learn any language.  The idea was only reinforced recently when I read ‘Fluent in 3 Months’ creator, Benny Lewis’s article on the topic, which I recommend if you want more language-learning motivation.

But – and yes, of course there’s a but – believe it or not, that is indeed easier said than done.  Especially, when you’re on erasmus, most of your friends are native speakers of English, and most other people you know, or get to know, speak it very well, or at the very least, know some, and can probably converse a little.  People also tend to think you’re a bit mental if you just decide you’re not speaking any more English.  (Obviously, there are some rules that go with this, namely – I can skype in English, and speak it to anyone from home who visits me, but I’ll get to all that later, probably in a separate post.)  Even when people really want to improve at their target language, it just seems a bit crazy to go all out and quit speaking the only language you’re fluent in.  At this stage though, I think it’s just all or nothing.  It’s easier this way, really.

Right, here’s where my own brainwave comes in…  I honestly think it would be extremely difficult to do this without some sort of excuse that people might possibly accept (otherwise I’d probably have started earlier).  So, my stroke of genius is, that I’ll bet some money with a few friends that I can avoid speaking English (bear in mind that all the rules of this still have to be worked out) until I leave France to go home for Christmas.  That’s only all of October, November, and most of December.  It’s not really that long.  And I assume that the first week or so will be the most difficult – then after that, it’ll get easier every week.  I don’t know how much to bet, but it’s going to be a bet where I’d actually win €0 if I succeeded.  I don’t want to win money from people, I just want to learn French.  I’ll bet with people, that I can avoid speaking English until my Christmas holidays, and if I lose, I pay them all.  I think it would be about a dozen people, so it wouldn’t be much each, but, the total amount will have to be enough to give me more motivation not to lose.  The thing is, I don’t plan on losing.  I’m not being big-headed and saying I think this will be easy.  I just don’t want to just throw money away, that’s not the idea of this, so I’m setting myself what I think is a manageable challenge.  In reality, I just think money would just be a bit of an added incentive, and it might make life easier if people want me to speak English, and I’m able to say that actually, I stand to lose a lot of money I really can’t afford to lose if I do, so I can’t.

And it’s not a thing that I’m going to expect people to speak French to me.  Ideally, they would, but if English is their native language, then fine, I understand English, and if they’re here on erasmus too then we both have some level of French so we can all understand each other.  If there’s an extreme communication barrier at times, as there will be, I can switch to my broken Irish with the Irish students, or try Spanish with anyone who speaks it, seeing as I now seem to find it easier to speak than French.  Sign language, gestures, drawings, whatever, if I’m feeling really determined to use zero English (I think being allowed to ask in French how to say a word in English is just logical, and makes it easier for anyone trying to deal with my attempts to communicate with them).  If people just want to practice their English with me too, even though the idea of them being here is probably to learn French, and they’re truly adamant about learning English, then fine.  I won’t lie, I won’t be happy about it, but with English it’s kind of inevitable, so if I still get to speak French, or even Spanish to them, and they respond in English, I’ll still learn something from speaking a language other than English.  I can live with that.

Another key exception I should point out straight away is that I’m going to play sort of by the rules (or rule, really) of the gaeltacht I went to a few years ago – one full sentence in English (or in that case, a language other than Irish) is not allowed.  I also believe that the young gaeilgeoirs got a warning if that happened, and were then kicked out, but I’m not sure if I’ll add that, I suppose it’s a good idea…  The main thing though is, if I accidentally react to something by saying something along the lines of “yeah”, “what?”, or “shite!”, in English, and then realise and go back to French – it doesn’t count – stuff like that is almost impossible to avoid at the start, at least.

A lot of people might think this idea is crazy, stupid, or just plain annoying if you’re unfortunate enough to be an English-speaker on erasmus with me (le sozz, guys), but I think it’s crazy to study French (or any language) for as long as I have, study it in college, and then go on erasmus in France – it also happening to be your first time in France – and not doing your best to speak the language as much as possible.  For me it would just be such a wasted opportunity, and such a waste of time and money.

I decided to start as soon as October arrived – literally at midnight last night, I stopped speaking English.  I even tested it out a little before that – mainly warning people that I was going to start speaking French to them, explaining myself, and speaking French with some of them to see how strange or difficult it was.  And it was very odd.  But it was possible.  We could converse.  We could understand each other (most of the time).  And most people I tried speaking French to wanted to practise it too, but like me, hadn’t spoken it as much as they’d like to yet.  So when I brought it up, and awkwardly switched to French with people, it got them responding in French, even if it was only for a few minutes.  It’s a start.  And it’s shown me that it’s possible for me to do this.  So I think I will.

I guess I’ll keep you posted.  Hopefully it’ll be a succès.

 

PS:  Like a lot of challenges, I guess if I tell enough people what I plan on doing, then it’s an extra incentive to go for it, ’cause it would be kind of mortifying if I kept telling everyone about this, and then failed spectacularly.  So if you’re wondering why on earth I’m sharing this spiel, there you go.  I just want to add possible embarrassment to the mix so I’ll work harder at avoiding English.

Facebook Birthdays

(Disclaimer:  I’m probably not as angry as you may think I am about this after reading this post, like a lot of what I write here, it’s not meant to be taken too seriously!)

It irritates me when Facebook points out people’s birthdays to me.  For a number of reasons.  First of all, it’s patronising.  You think I’m not going to remember my best friend’s birthday?  Wow.  Thanks.  Concerned that I’ll forget my one of my brothers’ birthdays?  Okay, I may not have been alive when he was born, so I can’t remember that exact day, but I have since been filled in on when his birthday is, and remember it.  A lot of people seem to do this.  It’s not that difficult.

Secondly, let’s say I don’t know when someone’s birthday is.  But Facebook tells me.  That seems kind of useful, right?  But now if I wish them a happy birthday, it’s just because I’ve been told to.  That doesn’t count.  It’s like when people purposefully remind you that it’s someone else’s birthday.  Then it undoes any further birthday wishes offered after that moment.  I was going to remember on my own, okay?

Another problem with Facebook’s insistence on telling us all when everyone’s birthday is, is that I get told about lots of people’s birthdays.  Most of whom, I’ve wished a happy birthday to on Facebook at least once or twice already.  I assume, at this stage, that they just know the drill.  Yes, I hope you have a great birthday.  No, I am not bothered writing it on your Facebook wall again, unless you’re a close friend and I’m going to write something with a bit more thought put into it than “happy birthday <name>”, with an optional smiley face thrown in.

This may seem a bit strange when this practice of wishing people a happy birthday as a once off doesn’t happen much in ‘real life’, but consider the fact that I may barely have seen the person in question since I last wished them a happy birthday, on Facebook.  It doesn’t matter any more if I say it to them or not.  It’s not going to have an impact on them if I don’t.

…You might be able to tell, but I’m not really one for celebrating my own birthday, hence the general lack of fuss about birthdays in general on my part.

The notifications, when sent, are the worst.  So now we don’t even need to remember to look at the top right corner of the screen to see if it’s someone’s birthday, we actually get a little virtual nudge and an update telling us whose birthday it is today.  Why do we even bother with these ‘brain’ and ‘memory’ things we have?  Sure Facebook will remember things for us, there’s no need to prevent our memories from getting worse all the time because of technology – technology’s going to allow us to survive without even having a decent memory.

I read too much into these things.

Happy birthday to everyone ever, I hope all of your birthdays are fantastic.  There, I think that covers everyone.

11 things that happen if you don’t have internet for 2 days

Oh look – a listicle.  List article.  List.  Whatever you want to call it.  Similar in design to many of those non-news stories which may pop up on your Facebook homepage if you’re unfortunate enough to use the slightly soul-destroying social media site.  (I haven’t managed to delete mine yet (if that’s even technically possible), but I have used it less over the last while, so that’s a start.)

So…  Here’s a super informative list of what happens (in my experience) if you don’t have internet for over two whole days.  Obviously, being a listicle, this contains unique and very wise insider knowledge that you just could not function or survive without:

1.  You socialise.

2.  You make friends.

3.  You exercise.  (I actually went for a run.  And it wasn’t even to a wifi hotspot.)

4.  You go exploring (especially if you’ve just moved to a new area, like I have, and need to find your way around).

5.  You go shopping.  (Proper, real life shopping, not online shopping.)

6.  You get enough sleep.

7.  You get into a good sleeping pattern.

8.  You meet up with people when you say you were going to meet up with them because you can’t contact them to say you might be late (taking a fully functioning phone out of the question because I’m abroad and haven’t got a sim card that works here yet).

9.  You go outside.

10.  You tidy, and in my case, unpack (in reverse order).

11.  You clean.

What?!  You do actual things?!?  Talk to actual people?!?!  Madness!!

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.