Friday, September 10, 2010

Doing Without - a Loss turns into a Gain

Since I've been boondocking in Mexico, I've had to do without certain things that I used to expect as a given. The first one and believe me, it loomed big, was reading. The second, almost as big, was TV. Not that I was ever addicted but I did enjoy some shows. Before my last season in the Arizona desert, I had bought a small digital TV. Close to Yuma, the reception was so good that I didn't even have to raise the antenna! Which is a good thing since the raising mechanism had broken down... Briefly, I considered getting a new one installed but finally opted against it since I had no idea what awaited me in Mexico, my ultimate destination.

Upon arrival in Tequis I rented a casita and got cable with quite a few channels in English. No way could I tackle anything in Spanish. Little had I realized that most shows were VERY dated. I used to enjoy "So You Think You Can Dance". Quite thrilled that I would get it here, I settled for an hour of visual delight (well, at least some of the dancers were skilful if not exactly artful) only to realize within the first two or three minutes past the commercials that the show had been taped some 3 years before! The experience was repeated many times over with different shows. Even some films in French were so old that I recognized actors from my younger days! So, when I finally decided to remain in Tequis rather than settle down in Oaxaca, it was to buy the lot on which I will eventually build my own little dwelling. I had other priorities besides TV so I let it slide.

I had discovered a lovely pastry shop in downtown Tequis run by an expat Austrian pastry chef. Stefan is multilingual and makes the most awesome desserts to be enjoyed with an espresso or cappuccino. His café sports a small shelving unit filled with books, some in English others in German, that he resells for a few pesos. I grabbed all that I could identify as new-to-me and filled a few evenings with reading--a short lived affair. I returned a few times and got the espresso and the strudel but no new books. My friends Jimena and Peter had given many books. Same fate. Within two to three weeks I'd run out of a boxful of reading material.

Evidently, I had to tackle that challenge head on. During the day I spent many hours learning as much Spanish as I could so that I could get a degree of understanding the written word for evenings to come. As I mentioned in a previous post, the easiest and cheapest way to get reading material was buying Selecciones del Reader's Digest and painstakingly work my way through the text with the help of the dictionary. The first edition was filled with handwriting. With the second one, I could leave quite a few lines of text unmarked. Then I passed both of them on to my friend Guadalupe who in turn lent me her book Siddhartha in Spanish, no less. I filled separate pages with translations, read it at least three or four times, until I could look at a paragraph without panic. Eventually I could take it no more. I'd read it in English centuries before and recalled the story line.

Yesterday I bought the September edition of Selecciones. Last night was stormy, a perfect evening for reading. After the first article without checking the dictionary -wait a minute- could it be that I had read the whole thing without underlining words? Wow... I had understood all of it! And the images formed in my mind without resorting to translating mentally!

Now, that's what I consider an unmitigated GAIN.

I can't wait until I get to the downtown library!

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