Sunday, April 12, 2009

Future Plans (and Champagne)

It occurs to me that I have blogged very little about my day-to-day life here in Madrid during this trip, so I thought I'd try to remedy that as I head into my final week. I think part of the reason is because I've been so happy here - somehow calamity and adversity seem to make for better blogfodder than day-to-day contentedness. It has been a wonderful trip, providing further confirmation for the observation that it does me a power of good to get up off my rear end and get out of San Francisco. Those winter reading marathons are enjoyable in their own way, and raise my profile over on the goodreads site, but nothing beats actually getting out of the apartment and out of the city. As always, even the mundane stuff is more fun when you do it in a foreign city and in a foreign language.

The only problem is that I'm not sure how long I can continue to use learning Spanish as a pretext for my travels. Although classes at Don Quijote have been enjoyable, and my Spanish has continued to improve, the inescapable truth is that the gains at this point are somewhat marginal, at best. This time around I placed directly into the highest level, where I had the distinct feeling most of the time of being well ahead of my classmates, at least as far as speaking ability is concerned. I slacked off a bit on the grammar this time, largely out of boredom, but also due to a certain degree of laziness. As always, the teachers at dQ have been wonderful; I wouldn't say the same for my classmates, a few of whom I actively dislike. Though it's tempting to elaborate, I will leave it at that, because I don't want to offend anyone unnecessarily who might end up reading this blog. I'm just glad that I didn't sign up to stay through the advanced DELE exam in mid-May, because faced with the option of preparing for it with the particular group assembled in Madrid, I would have had to flee to Salamanca.

Anyway, I think I can justify one more trip to Latin America (with maybe a side trip of a week or two to Costa Rica), probably in the July-September time frame. I very much want to go back to Buenos Aires, as well as seeing more of Argentina, and would like to spend some time in Chile as well. The Don Quijote school in Cuzco, in contrast, at an elevation of 11,000 feet, holds no particular attraction. After that, I will be faced with a major decision - either try to put my knowledge of Spanish to practical use by, e.g. seeking a visiting academic position in a Spanish-speaking location (something I intend to look into seriously as soon as I get back to SF), or start afresh with a new language, most probably French. Interestingly, one thing that doesn't tempt me in the slightest is going back to practice statistics within the biopharmaceutical sector - I spent a very enjoyable 25 years doing that, but have no particular desire to do it again. And, though it's taken me two years to reach this point, I also no longer feel guilty about not wanting to go back. But I do need something to get me out of San Francisco, even if it's for only half the year, as I have a definite tendency to fall into a rut if I stay there too long.

Anyway, the plan for the immediate future* is to go back and take care of my taxes, go down to visit my friends Peggy and Andy in Southern California round the beginning of May. Then fly to Scotland and Ireland to visit friends and relatives there, and to meet up with my sister Emer and her husband Dale, later on in May. In June I hope to spend some time on the east coast (DC, Baltimore, New York, Chapel Hill) to catch up with friends there, before taking a longer trip to Latin America, starting in July. The big question is what happens after that, but right now I'm happy enough to map things out six months at a time.

I know, I know. Everybody should have such problems. Trust me, I count my blessings every day.

*: Major props are due to Paddy, Katie, and Adam for helping me shape this plan, and for making it clear in no uncertain terms that if I showed further signs of falling into a vegetative rut in San Francisco that they would personally mount an intervention to save me from myself. I love them all dearly, more than they can possibly know.

The plain people of Ireland: Yes, yes. That's all very interesting, but aren't you forgetting something? Isn't there some occasion you want to mark?
MOTP: ?! Oh, yes. Sure. Happy Easter to all my readers.
The plain people of Ireland: Not that. Something else, maybe?
MOTP: Ah, yes. Of course. It's champagne ye're after isn't it? Well, have a pew and join me in a glass to celebrate this, the quinquecentennial post on this blog.
The plain people of Ireland: Yerra, we thought you'd never ask. Still, five-hundred, that's not too shabby at all.
Fade to the sound of ribald celebration.


Bebe Bahnsen said...

Bless Paddy's heart, which I do every day. She tells me, with gentleness and humor, things I need to remember. She will occasionally say she won't "nag" me anymore, but I tell her she is not nagging. She is making me feel loved. We are so lucky to know her and have her as a friend.

Shasha said...

David- instead of French you should try Shona and then go teach in Zimbabwe. How is that for a challenge?!