Paris, France

I went to Paris, France as my last leg of this European trip.  I spent 5 days there.  I decided I would go to see Paris back in September of 2019.  The last time I went to France was around 2006.  I had such a bad experience  with France that time.  This time I tried to go with an open mind.  I also used six months to learn some of the basics of the language.  I am in no way conversational.  I went to see a friend who I really enjoy talking to.

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So the last time I was in France I had such a bad experience.  There were several factors that contributed to my bad experience.  First, it was my first time traveling to Europe, I mostly touristy things, like the Louvre and the Eiffel Tower. Secondly,  I didn’t speak the language, not even a little bit.  Parisians are known for not being very nice to tourists.  Let’s flip the perspective and see it in their eyes.  If someone comes to your city and speaks another language, that’s not the official language of the country, how would react to them?  I think the reaction is pretty universal.

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Before Sunset

Instead of going to see usual things I went to see the locations I wanted to see.  I enjoy Rodin’s sculptures, so I went to his Museum.  I really enjoyed the Tecahnical Museum in Prague, so I thought the Musee des Artes et Metiers would be cool.  I enjoyed the models and architecture of old buildings.  The movies I enjoy in Paris that I know of are Amelie, obviously, Before Sunrise, and Inglorious Basterds.  I went to the bookstore in Before Sunset and I went to Brasserie in Inglorious Basterds.

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The cafe in Inglorious Basterds. Bistrot La  Renaissance 

I think that’s what makes me enjoy traveling more as I’m older.  I cater traveling more to my interests and feelings.  I try to see things and subjects that I have a general interest in.  I keep returning to Europe because I find it’s history amazing.  I also don’t try to rush so much activities in my day.  I just try to enjoy myself and go into a book shop, and relax.  If the weather was better I would be outside drawing all day.  Here are a few of my sketches from Paris.

This time I learned enough to get by and see what I wanted to.  I learned how to order food, coffee, and my check.  I felt good that I achieved these small steps.  I felt that I was received way better by the restaurants when I spoke french.  The first time I went to Spain, ordering food and interacting with the language on a daily basis was the first step as well.

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I think Paris is a great city to hang out in and take your time in.  There are so many cafes and places to see.  I did get to see my friend, if only for one night.  There was a strike so traveling was difficult the entire time in Paris. She couldn’t hang out the second day. But through coincidence or serendipity  I met a very Australian lawyer in Montmartre. I remember her henna tattoo from breakfast at the hostel. She was sitting at the same table I was sitting at. No one at the table was conversing except the Peruana and Espanola, which I was eavesdropping on the conversation. Fast forward to the afternoon and  She was having a cafe and a smoke outside in front of the Sacre Coeur. We had really deep conversation about her countries history and politics. Later that night we met again at the hostel and had another conversation on life and 2019 over some beer and bar food.

Overall a good experience in Paris, France.

 

Bruges, Belgium

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The Christmas Market in Bruges, Belgium

I went to Bruges after Antwerp.  I have heard it was one of the prettiest cities in Belgium.  The movie, In Bruges, is one of my favorite Colin Ferrell movies, probably the only. I did my reading assignments for my college class.  I went on a Spanish walking tour. I drank two beers, texted some friends and family then I went to sleep for New Year’s Eve. Not the best time, but not the worst time in Bruges.

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The famous red umbrella.

I did most of my reading assignments while I was in here in Bruges.  I stuck to myself and read my textbook on my phone.  I did the assignments and discussions from my laptop. I wonder if anybody else at Lonestar College is doing online classes outside of the country?  If you can work online doing freelance and be anywhere in the world, couldn’t you travel and finish college from anywhere in the world? Just a thought. We are now in the year 2020. ( A legitimate school would probably not go for that, huh?)

I took a free walking tour in Bruges.  Leonie, my German friend, whom I met in Antwerp has some influence in this.  I wondered if I could take the tour in Spanish.  So took the tour in Spanish. Did I understand all of it? No.  This was a big shocker to me.  I had to really concentrate to understand the guide.  There were so many ambient noises, people talking, cars, as well she was speaking to a group.  My comprehension was truly tested.  I can have one on one conversations but taking a tour is a challenging situation.  I wish to improve in this area.  I wonder if people that study English who think they got it down like me. Then they go on a tour and they get lost in the tour guide’s language speed or accent.  

I spent New Year’s Ever by myself in the Hostel Bar.  I drank a couple of beers then I went to sleep.  I reflected on the past year and past New Year’s Eves in general. Most of my New Year’s are pretty uneventful.  I think it just depends who you spend it with.  Unfortunately my family in California never does anything besides go to sleep or work, that is why I left to see somewhere else for New Years. I do like this tradition of being somewhere else for NYE.

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Happy New Year. Prospero Ano.

Valencia, Spain

A week at Taronja…

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La Ciudad de Artes y Ciencias designed by architect Santiago Calatrava. I first wanted to visit because of this building.  It is also portrayed in the Disney movie Tomorrowland.

I spent a week in Valencia. I enrolled in the Intensive and conversation classes at Taronja this week. I never been to an immersion language school. I met people from all over the world. I will most likely come back.

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Taronja is orange in Valenciano

My week in Valencia consisted of class Monday through Friday. The class schedule alternated from the afternoon and mornings. Every day I had conversation class as well. That class consisted of speaking on topics extemporaneously. ( Spoken or done without preparation. I’m trying to use this new word I learned in public speaking class.) The entire experience was great. It felt like I had 5 hour long italki lessons that didn’t stop. For the most part I enjoyed every bit of it. I think my level is at stage where I can live without too much effort. Could I work efficiently in this language equally to my mother tongue? No. Hopefully some day. I enjoyed the consistent curriculum at the school as well. The class I jumped in was covering imperfect, indefindo preterito, imperatives-positves/negatives, preterito perfecto and pluscuamperfecto. I have heard, read, and spoken these tenses before. It was a review but I needed it. There is so much nuance to using these grammar tenses than the English past tense.

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Left to Right. Me. Guy. Andrea, our teacher Alberto.

I felt bad for some of the students who had to digest the language faster. For the most part my classmates did very well. I think the advantage I had was my time in the language because I have been learning it so long, 5 years. This year as well I started to use italki consistently. The trick with italki is…. you can’t stop using it. Maybe when you get competent enough and achieve your goal. If you the time, money and freedom I would have done this course a long time ago. I didn’t have all those resources. I also have a philosophy that one can learn a foreign language on your own. That is another blog post.

I will most likely come back to the school because I had so much fun. I had fun during the class, with the social activities after class, and the city of Valencia. The last time I was here I only saw the arts and science museum. I didn’t even go in the city center. This time my apartment was right across the street from Mercat Central. I will probably come back May of 2020 or winter of 2020 and spend the whole month in Valencia. The class sizes at the school were smaller and very intimate. I was able to ask all the questions I wanted, at times we had friendly debates.

I met some cool people as well. All the professors were very friendly. I felt they were generally interested in me. Even though I was just passing through the school a week. As a traveler, you can get incredibly jaded from meeting new people. There were times I felt it. The professors really cared about teaching and helping their students. As an aspiring teacher I saw that quality. I met and had some interesting conversations with the becarios(interns) at the school. Stefano, the head becario, spoke 5 languages and hailed from Switzerland. There were also a handful of Italians which made the vibe quite warm and fun. (I don’t know why I feel Italians do that). Andrea,(Italian male name), who was in my class this week, always came in late. Although that was a stereotype characteristic, he always brought something to the table when we were learning. Guy, Australian, was in my class as well, he has living in Valencia for some months now and has about 10 more. Though we are not compatriots, we both speak English as our mother tongue. In that sense I felt bonded more with him than the other students. I wonder if that is the way how most people feel when they speak to people from other countries, the common mother tongue.

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Waiting for the train at Valencia Nord.

I’m going to try to blog when I leave a location.

Sidenote: Urgh.. I got my grades for the Fall Semester. All A’s except a C in Introductory Algebra. I went to the stages of grief fairly quickly. Denial. I don’t believe I got a C. I went to every class, asked questions, and I did fairly well on most tests. Anger. I thought my professor took a shine to me as well. I’m never going to be nice to teachers. Bargaining. Maybe I can email her and ask how she tallied the score up. Depression. I’m so stupid. (sigh) Acceptance. C’est la vie. I guess I just have to double down on my weaknesses. So I can crush college algebra next semester.

Truth be told. I’m still on Bargaining,

Traveling for Winter

 

Let’s do 500 words.

I know I haven’t blogged very much. I can make excuses, but I won’t. I just choose do other things than blog.

My goals for this Europe trip. First, Improve my Spanish and receive a baseline for my level. If don’t receive this I’m going to get during 2020 somewhere. Secondly, I taking an online course for school, Federal Government. Thirdly, improve my French, I learned the basics in the last 6 months. The last few things is visit a few friends in Paris and draw and water color more.

I choose to go to Europe because I find being in the United States quite boring. I love my family but I saw them on Thanksgiving already. I also feel Christmas is overhyped holiday in the United States. We, as a society or just Americans, are too materialistic. I want to get away from that next year. I’ve never visited Europe in the Winter. It has always been the summer when I visited. Which is always the best time to visit a country, but I like to change it up and experience something different.

I’m in Valencia, Spain right now. I’m taking a Spanish course. Hopefully it can jump start my learning to a new level. I’m here for a week. I hope to take an exam to finally get a baseline on my level. Then I can better evaluate where I am. “If you can’t measure it you can’t manage it.” – Peter Drucker.

During all this traveling I’m going to do a college course online. One might think why are you taking a class while you’re traveling in Europe? I say them Why not? I am school again. I can say honestly I’m not in love with living in Texas. I might as well just keep going to school and enjoy myself in the location of my choosing. We are lucky to live in a time where we can go to school online.

I held off visiting France for over ten years. My first experience was very off-putting. I made an unconscious decision to not visit France ever again. Then over the years I’ve met many cool French people. Those experienced change my opinion on French people. They can’t all be bad I thought. So I decided back in September to visit again during winter. My experience from the first time will not be repeated. A key to the story was that I was monolingual, immature and young. I learned a little bit everyday for 6 months. So hopefully I will have a better experience.

Afterwards I will go to Belgium. I’m going to visit a few cities during the Chrismas Holiday week and New Years. I’m going to visit Brussels, Antwerp, and Bruges. Finally Paris, France. I will end in Madrid to fly back.

I have two transfers on my flight back, which I will not enjoy. MAD- AMS. AMS- ATL. ATL-IAH. I use airport code because it is just easier to write especially if you’re a traveler. There is probably a better way to write it.

I got an Idea with my language learning. I listen to podcasts on Spotify. There is speed option on the application. To increase my comprehension. I will listen to the podcasts three times. (thrice) Once at 0.8x, the second time at 1x(normal time), and the third time 1.2x. I can also do this on Youtube.

Back to school

So I officially started school AGAIN.  It’s a little weird to go back.  The young students are probably wondering why I’m so old and going back to school.  That’s just me projecting and being insecure about being older.  Back when I was in college I used to wonder why the older students were so driven.  Now as an older student I know why.  I have had so much life experience and years of working in the world.  I’m going back to school more focused and knowledgeable on how to accomplish tasks.  I look back on my 20s,  I didn’t know what I wanted to do.  I’m impressed with these kids that do know what they want to do, but really they don’t know what it’s like to work in their proposed fields.

By being older I’m more focused and dedicated to my craft.  I know what I’m capable of and how the world works.  I’ve failed at many things in life. I learned resilience from getting back up.  For example, I’ve dropped out of art school, I failed out of Navy Dive school and I’ve had two knee surgeries.  These low points are necessary for the high points.  If I didn’t drop out of college, I wouldn’t have join the Navy and seen the world. If I didn’t attempt to try for special operations I would have always regretted not trying.  I’m a better person for failing at something.  My recovery from my knee surgeries gave me the opportunity to learn Spanish, something I always wanted to do.  Now I’m learning Korean and improving my conversational Spanish towards a near native level.  The experiences I’ve had from the time I’ve left college initially couldn’t have been learned by following a common archetype.  Even now I plan on finishing towards a Bachelors degree.  My future job will be an unconventional location in relation to forty years ago. My age is an incredible asset when it comes to returning to school.

I have to address that many students choose nursing as career of choice.  Nursing is an up and coming industry that will need workers.  It is a stable career.  I’m Filipino, it is ingrained in our culture, well, my upbringing.  My mothers a nurse, both my sisters are nurses, several members of my extended family are nurses.  I know very well about this occupation.  I worked as Navy Hospital Corpsman for 7 years.  I know what it is like to work in the healthcare industry, among doctors, nurses, and other specialists.  To sum up my experience, it isn’t for everyone.  I didn’t enjoy seeing people put in hospice care.  I didn’t enjoy the bedside care.  I didn’t enjoy people dying.  I think the last reason was why I couldn’t deal with it.  That aspect is a small part, it takes a toll on a persons mental health.  As a result most of the ICU staff I worked with had black humor, as most do that work with death so closely.  Its an interesting coping mechanism among first-responders.  I won’t mention the bureaucracy among the United States healthcare system or the how we heavily medicate with drugs and pharmaceuticals.  I won’t forget my time as a corpsman.  I admire any one willing to aspire to be a healthcare professionals.  I just hope they do it for the right reasons and not the money.

Some other News

I finished my Spanish intermediate online class.  I received an A.  There’s something wrong with the foreign language education system in the United States.  Is it the teaching method? The policy? America’s general attitude towards languages of foreign countries? That’s another blog post.  I have to keep studying.  There is so much to learn.  I learned many different nuances and subtleties in the class.  I still do italki.com classes with a community tutor.

I got a new/ old job.  I draw caricatures at the Downtown Aquarium here in Houston.  I drew for Kaman’s Art Shoppes from 2004- 2008 at Great America in Santa Clara, Ca.  I miss being around other artists.  It is very hot humid here in Houston.  It is something I just have to get used to.  So far my boss is cool and my co workers are warming up to me.

I started teaching Jiu Jitsu to kids again. Well, I’m the uke. (Uke: a japanese term for someone receiving the technique.)   The purple belt uke.  More to come on that.

I will try to post more.  College is about writing papers.  I have to practice writing.

Day 108. Prague, Czech Republic

What was Prague like? It was beautiful and very picturesque.  I had long term travel fatigue episode, I had coped with it. I tried out my first couch surfing experience. I’m glad I’m an older solo traveler, I can’t keep up with these young people. Meeting local people is my favorite part about traveling. I met up with a old friend from when I was in the Navy.  Took a train out of Prague to Dresden.  I will definitely love to come back and visit the city.

The Dancing House by Frank Gehry and Vlado Milunić.

I came to Prague with over 100 days on the road.  It is very tiring being a tourist.  Some days you just want to go back home. Yes, even for the people living their dream there are bad days.  After I had this thought of long term travel fatigue, I looked and there was already a blog post about it, here.  I read this post after I recovered.  What did I do to recover. I kept going, I pushed through.  There are interesting places everywhere, you just have to keep looking.  I went to the National Technical Museum in Prague, practically no tourists there.  It was an inspiring to see different types of technology evolve with time. There is a photography exhibit, medical technology, film, architecture, appliances, printing presses and many more. Then I went to see the National Gallery.  I enjoy looking at painting and modern art because I studied a little bit when I was in art school. It was really exciting to some famous artists that I admired.  The title picture is a close up of a Alphonse Mucha. I love his decorative style and color palette.  What got me out of the slump was to keep doing what I’m doing, keep working, keep searching, and keep exploring. Eventually it will pass. That’s advice if you need it. Please see the link above, that post is also good advice for any plateau.

Sometimes you just need an afternoon to read and drink in a Beer Garden.

You know when your friend would send you a postcard from Europe, Prague is a perfect card. Prague is located in central Europe as the capital city of the Czech Republic.  It’s the fifth most visited city Europe.  To say there were a lot of tourist is an understatement. When Richard Simcott, the polyglot superstar, studied here in the 90’s he described the Charles bridge as walking through a living radio when you turn the dial fast.  So many people and so many languages you can hear maybe five or six walking through it.  I didn’t have that exact experience, but I did hear a lot of English. Prague is beautiful but the amount of people detract from it. There are cool things to do you just have to look closer than the average tourist.

I managed to get some training amidst my slump.  In fact, Jiu Jitsu is a really good way to get back into it.  Exercise is good to way to move forward with a situation.  I have now taken classes in Spanish, German, Czech and English. I wonder how many more languages I can learn Jiu Jitsu in. Honza Stach told me about Richard Andres at Penta BJJ. It’s great to meet people and that other people recommend. Richard spoke English very well and took time to show me certain details in English.  He trained on and off in Minnesota. He is as technical as Honza said he was.  I really enjoy that the network of Jiu Jitsu is just an interconnected network of people.

Richard and I at Penta BJJ.

I met Jan through a mutual acquaintance.  I was in Chile on a bike wine tour. A fellow, Matej from Slovakia, told me to check Czech Republic out and if I was going to Prague he might know someone to put me up.  I didn’t think anything of it. I gave him my email address, usually nothing comes from these situations. Maybe because I’m American and people are flaky in America. I’m used to it. After a few weeks he emailed me some advice on Slovakia and Czech Republic. He gave me a contact for Prague.  That is how I ended up on the Jan’s couch.  It’s so great to hear the perspective of a local about their city.  It’s honestly a priceless experience. I don’t think many tourists experience traveling this way.  I learned a lot about the history and attitude of Czech People through Jan.  He is one of the reason I want to return and really experience Czech Republic.

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Jan and I at Palour

I extended my stay in Prague an extra day to see and old Navy buddy, Robbie. I was his LPO(Leading Petty Officer) in the department of ICU. He is now stationed in Japan.He has been traveling around Europe for about a week now.  He showed me his itinerary and I managed move some things around and spend a day catching up. We went to pub crawl, urgh I thought. A bunch of other English speaking tourists. Not really my scene but nonetheless I had fun. I met some new people, I got lost, I found my friends and I had a great time. Normally I would shy away from stuff like that. The further I go along in Europe I will probably go on more drunken nights with big groups of strangers.

Austrialian Adam,  Me, Nina from Colorado, Robbie, Justin from Canada.

Overall a good time in Prague.  Sometimes you feel down even in the most beautiful locations. Just keep going and learn from the experience. Keep your hobbies close so that you can feel normal even in a foreign country.  It’s great to meet new friends and old friends all in the same city. Czech Republic left as space in my heart I will try to fill it some day.

Day 95. Bratislava, Slovakia

A summary of Bratislava. I arrived on a Monday and I left on a Monday.  I stayed in a Botel. I attended my first Polyglot Gathering. I also helped the event as a volunteer. I went on a tour of Devin Castle and a wine tour. I added a few more friends to my Facebook network. It was incredible new experience.

My room mates badge with the flags that represents that languages that he speaks.


I took a bus from Vienna Erdberg to Brastislava Einsteinova.  The worst part was if I just stayed bus till the end of the line I would have been closer to my hotel.  Since I got off a bus stop before the end I had to walk an extra 30 minutes to my accommodation.  Lesson learned for Bratislava.  It wasn’t a big deal, it could have been avoided if I possibly knew German or Slovak.  The growing pains of traveling, its almost impossible to not a make a mistake, cultural or logistics during travel.

My Botel on the Danube

I stayed in a Botel, not quite a hotel, not quite a boat on the Danube River.  It was the more economical choice when it came to lodging options for the Polyglot Gathering.  It’s location was the selling point.  It was about a 10 minute walk to the bus stop and it was a 10 minute walk from the city center.  It was very convenient for the conference.  Many other attendees or polyglots were also staying there.  My roommate was from Lithuania, he spoke many languages. We mainly conversed in English and Spanish, the only languages I can converse in.  Having a roommate made the experience better and put my whole anxiety at ease.

Richard Simcott

My first Polyglot Gathering in Bratislava, Slovakia.  I felt very intimidated because I only spoke two languages, and one of them wasn’t at a high level.  There were people there that spoke 4-5 languages fluently, then there were Rockstars in the community like Richard Simcott who can speak  as many as 20 languages.  I felt at awe when I was walking around and seeing all these people I watched on Youtube.  By the second day I realized that these people are just human beings, like me.  I started talking more as I got over the intimidation factor.

Devin Castle


Audrius and I


I helped as a volunteer since I got there a few days before the event started. As I wrote before I was apprehensive of my language skills so I decided to volunteer to help get over my anxiety. By being a volunteer you see more behind scenes and how things operate from a stage left point of view.  It’s something I learned in the Navy, by being behind the so called magician’s curtain we can see that some things aren’t that special or magical. I met other people that spoke only three languages, a few didn’t even speak English, they were from Slovakia.  I even saw Esperanto exist on a working level with the volunteers.  I enjoyed volunteering and had more one on one time with the other staff.  I was glad that I was able to help such wonderful event.

I took some tours that the organizers of the Gathering had set up.  The first day was non-stop talks in the morning and afternoon, it felt like school. My tour of Devin Castle was in the afternoon of the second day, it was a good break from the talks.  It was good to meet and talk with the other people from the Gathering in another setting. I didn’t want to go to Slovakia and not see some historical monuments. Another was a wine and old town tour. On the afternoon of the third day we walked around the old town and heard the history of Bratislava. Which ended in drinking wine in a cellar near the center. I enjoyed the tours more for the socializing with the other attendees than hearing the history, though it was interesting. I was engaged with a lot of interesting conversations about languages and where people are from.

Last night at the Slovak Pub.


I ended up connecting with more people in the end. I was able to open up more by the end of the conference. I think the tours were a good icebreaker to meet other people, especially when wine is involved.  I practiced as much of my Spanish as possible, usually when I practice Spanish it’s with native speakers. I hope meet all the people I talked to at future events.


If you are a language learner or if you are wondering about attending one of these events?  I recommend it and I plan on going to the next one.  Whether you only speak one or 13 languages, everyone is welcome.  As long as you have an openness to learn and speak. Where else would you meet people who are as passionate about learning languages, travel, food, and cultures. I’m glad I was able to stop by in Bratislava for this conference. I’m incredibly fortunate to attend all the events I wanted to do this year.

 

Farewell Picnic the Monday after the conference.

Langfest- Montreal, Canada.- August 25-27, 2017

 

Polyglot Conference, Reykjavik, Iceland.- October 27-29, 2017

“Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.” – Benjamin Franklin