No hablo Español

A little bit before I came back from down south I decided I wanted to learn Spanish. When in was in Japan I decided I wanted to learn Japanese, but I didn’t stick with it. There were a number of reasons, some of which aren’t resolved as of this attempt at learning Spanish, but others that are.

I have been going pretty solidly at it for almost a month now and wanted to talk a bit about my journey so far. I also want to talk about why Spanish, and what I hope to get out of it, and why not Japanese and am I ever going to revisit Japanese?

The why is pretty easy. To quote the great Korben Dallas: “I only know two languages: English and bad English.” I’m actually a bit surprised and somewhat disappointed in myself that I lived in Los Angeles for 9 years, sometimes in very heavily Hispanic neighborhoods, and didn’t pick up Spanish. It could have been very handy. There are a lot of really great people in Los Angeles who speak Spanish but not English and it would have been great to be able to talk to those folks.

As of late I’ve also been doing a fair amount of traveling. Once to a place where almost nobody speaks English (Japan), and once to a place where English is widely spoken but not the native language (Iceland). There are many other places I’d love to go where English isn’t the primary language spoken or even spoken by a significant portion of the people. So I should really pick up another language.

But why Spanish? In short: it’s easier than Japanese and spoken in a lot more places. But there’s some deeper reasoning behind this.

During my trip and since, I’ve been trying to figure out what’s next. For the moment I’ve settled on going back to work, but I also have decided that I need to take a very active role in figuring out what’s next and how to do it, rather than “just wait until I have lots of money and just travel”. If I can work while traveling, my travels will be able to last a lot longer. There are problems with that, though. I am over 30, so I’m no longer eligible for most (all?) working holiday visa programs offered in some countries. I also don’t have a degree. This makes it very hard to get a work visa, even if I am otherwise more than qualified for a position. So the countries I can legitimately work in are very few, and I’d assume that most of those places aren’t primarily English speaking places.

One of the directions I’ve been looking in is getting a TEFL certificate and going to teach English somewhere for a while. There are a good number of countries where I can find work teaching English with a TEFL and no degree, but in some of the cases I’ve looked this usually involves working for cash under the table on a visitor visa which is actually only moderately illegal or not illegal, or illegal but nobody really cares, or whatever, but given that these tend to not pay taxes or provide benefits or whatever, it all feels extremely shady and not something I’d like to do if I can avoid it. I’d much prefer to be above board, even if it involves some hassle.

Another direction is going back to school and getting a degree. This is something I’m VERY interested in, but schools in the US are outrageously expensive, and I’m not willing to go to a diploma mill or something. So to go to school full time would cost me a lot of money and probably make it hard or impossible to work while I do it, at least not for any reasonable amount of money so I’m not completely bleeding cash, and I’m not very interested in taking on large amounts of debt. If I had a very clear idea of what I wanted to study, how much it would cost, and he quickly I could turn that degree into a high dollar job to pay off the loans, I might be more interested, but for the moment a 4 year commitment without much vision is fairly intimidating to me.

There are, however, places in the world with free or inexpensive higher education. Germany, France, Argentina, Colombia, I think Sweden or Norway or Finland or maybe all of them. This goes for foreigners as well. Some have English language programs, or like first year English while you learn the local language or whatever. I’m still looking into these, but I’ve already ruled out Germany, my high school diploma doesn’t fit their admissions requirements meaning I’d have to enroll in what I guess is their equivalent of a GED, but that requires proficiency in German. Colombia and Argentina are Spanish speaking programs (hence Spanish). France has some English programs, and I’m exploring those, they may fit the bill, but I’m hedging with Spanish, too. The Nordic countries are great but expensive and cold!

So, the thing I’m kinda thinking right now is learn Spanish, get a TEFL, go to a Spanish speaking country with inexpensive school, and try to figure out a visa situation. Some places might have Spanish classes I can take for a year to get me qualified for university and also qualify me for a student visa which allows me to work part time. Then once I get the degree the whole world literally opens up for me.

So that’s why Spanish and what I hope to get out of it. If nothing else also, it is something fun to do. And learning something new is good for the brain.

So why not Japanese? For one it’s significantly harder to learn. Not only is the grammar wildly different, but there’s the added difficulty of Kanji. Hiragana and Katakana only took a few days to learn, and they will be very useful if I return to Japan, but they aren’t even the entire picture. I feel like I’ll be able to learn the language a lot more quickly if I can read it, and Spanish gets me that. Sure, I can learn a bunch of kanji on the side, and would have to, but it’s one more added difficulty that I don’t want to have discouraging me.

Additionally, while I thoroughly enjoyed my time in Japan, and very much want to go back, I honestly don’t think I would ever want to move there permanently. So learning the language would be mostly an academic exercise and be useful for visiting and as a fun party trick, but not all that useful in my daily life. Japan is not a country with free education, and cost of living would be roughly comparable. Plus I likely would not be able to get a student visa for Japanese classes in Japan, and therefore no way to work while I’m there or even stay an extended period of time, and there are no primarily English programs in Japan that I know of.

I do eventually want to learn Japanese and depending how some of these other irons I have in the fire end up, I may switch back to Japanese, but for the moment I’m focusing on Spanish.

One more motivator is I know of at least one company doing tech educational materials in Spanish language, so who knows, maybe I can get a job doing that. There are a lot more Spanish speakers than Spanish speakers who know tech, and I have skills that people would also like to have, so there’s definitely a market for it.

Anywho. This iteration of my language learning is getting off to a good start. I hope to write more about my adventure, and about things I learn along the way and tools and techniques I use and discover. Hopefully at some point I can write a post titled “Yo hablo español”.

Te Afteroa

It’s been a few weeks since I finished walking. A lot has happened. A lot hasn’t happened.

The biggest thing that has happened, however, is I’m back in Portland, sitting on my couch with my cats, contemplating things.

To quote an article a friend linked me to: “life has ceased to be linear”. On the trail I had very few decisions to make. What am I going to eat for breakfast? Well, I had bars and I had muesli, not a tough decision. What am I doing today? Well, I have 2 choices: walk, or not walk. And most days I chose walk, if I’d already been walking the day before. Where was I going to walk? Up the trail. How far? To the next hut. What am I going to do after that? Eat. After that? Read. After that? Sleep. Rinse. Repeat.

Even adjusting to life off the trail while in New Zealand was hard. I’ve often found myself lacking the ability to make a decision about what to do, where to go, when I’m visiting a place. This was no exception. And it reminded me of what I liked so much about my time on the trail. Things were simpler, I just needed to feed myself and walk and everything was fine. Sometimes I’d get bored in a hut if I got in too early, but that’s ok, I can just eat, or sleep. Things I can’t necessarily do when I’m in the real world. I read somewhere once if you get hungry during the day to ask yourself “are you hungry or are you bored?”. 9 times out of 10 the answer to that is “bored”, but on the trail it’s ok if I just eat anyways, because I’m burning so many calories it’s all I can do to eat enough to get me through the day. When visiting places it ends up that I have this dilemma a lot, and I’ll recognize that I’m just bored, but I can’t figure out what to do, what I want to do, and so I’ll spin on that for a while until I end up going and eating anyways. Sometimes I’ll even get stuck on where to eat! That was also easy on the trail, eat what I have or if I’m in a town, eat something cheap or something good. Preferably both, but $8 fish and chips is always there and always good, so if all else fails, just go do that.

But I do the same thing at home. I’ve observed many times in the past that I can’t seem to leave my house without spending money. Like I have to have a destination in mind before I leave, and 99 times out of 100 that destination is “spend some money somewhere.” On a coffee, on food, a museum, whatever. I can’t seem to leave the house if I’m not going somewhere to spend money. On the trail there wasn’t anywhere to spend money, or any need to really. My goal for the day was always clear: walk to the next place. Because it was in support of my overall goal: walk across the country.

So the challenge now is that I’m currently at a major crossroads, with many options and none super clear. I can go try to find a job. Will I enjoy that job? Are there any jobs I would enjoy in Portland? Am I going to have to move somewhere? If so, where? What about a job doing something other than what I’ve been doing? What would I even do? How much would I be able to even make? Enough to support myself? I dunno.

One of the things I keep feeling like I “should” do is engage my creative side. Most of my career I’ve just been problem solving and bashing head against computer, and when not doing that I’m just watching TV or reading or whatever, all consumption and no creation. But there’s the problem of “what creative side?” I’ve never felt artistic or creative at all. I know the basics of knitting, but I don’t knit because I have no clue what to make. I’ve tried to just go make something, but my brain tells me that’s “leaving the house to spend money.” And so many of my ventures (read: all) into hobbies in the past have failed that I’m hesitant to even try.

Now, not all is doom and gloom. One of the biggest positive changes that I’ve noticed after the trail is I feel a lot less wired. I feel like I’m more able to stop spinning on something and if not find a clear path to go forward and execute, at least stop the spinning. Break out of the loop. It helps me be able to think more rationally and less anxiously. This means the fretting I’m doing about “what’s next” is at least feeling somewhat productive. I’m coming up with lots of ideas, and lots of them are really good. Each of them has something to be fearful of, anxious about, but this break in the cycle of my life, this exploration of what else is out there, is making me think more seriously about those things, and look at them with less “why won’t this work” and more “how could I make that work?” I feel like this in itself is a great change, and if I can continue that line of thinking, will be extremely positive for me overall.

In the mean time, I’m facing a bit of a financial snafu at home. I spent a lot more on this trip than I probably should have, and now my cash reserves are on the lower end of the spectrum. Nothing terrible, but it means I’m going to have to do some belt tightening. Eat out less (which is something I’ve been wanting to do forever anyways), spend less money on stupid crap (also something I’ve been wanting to do forever), probably sell some stuff that I’m not using or don’t need anymore. But it also means I have a bit of time pressure to take action, which is honestly a good thing. It means I can’t just sit around and do nothing, at least not all the time, that I need to get moving and do research and search for what’s next. Easier said than done, true, but it at least should help me focus my actions. I can’t just sit around and do nothing, or do effectively nothing all day, so that at least narrows the scope of my decision making process a bit!

Ok, I’m rambling, I’ve been rambling. It’s ok, but I’m going to stop rambling for now. I’m going to spend some time cuddling with my kitties. I really missed them a lot while I was gone.

Fin

I’ve called it. I’m finished with the trail. So many feels.

This morning the rain was pretty fierce and I just wasn’t feeling it. I delayed a couple of times and waited before making a decision, but ultimately decided to call it early and take the boat into Picton directly. I have a lot of mixed feelings about that decision, especially as now, at least here in Picton, it’s not raining, but honestly I feel like the end of the trail for me happened when I got to the gravel road at the end of the Richmonds, the last 15km or so into Pelorus Bridge. When I got to that road, I felt so much relief. So much accomplishment. Part of it was that I was fairly sure I was going to make my 5pm deadline into the campground, but in large part it was a recognition that the hard parts were behind me.

I’d been considering the Queen Charlotte track the “icing on the cake” of the trail, and that I was going to carry nothing and eat at places along the way and stay in fancy resorts and whatnot. Which I did do. But it just didn’t feel like the rest of the trail to me. Especially with the rain and then the shin splints. I let myself get lazy and that kinda hurt the experience, and I feel a little bad about that but I keep reminding myself that the QCT was never the challenge, getting there was. And I did.

So now I wait here in Picton waiting for my rental car to be ready to pick up, so I can go to my hostel for the night and do laundry and figure out what’s on for the rest of my time here in NZ. And also to figure out some things for my week in Sydney.

One thing I really want to do is try to reflect upon the trip. Write up some journal entries. Think about parts I liked, parts I didn’t like, look at photos, etc. I had some really great times on the trail, and some really trying times. I met some really amazing people and hopefully have made some good friends along the way. I’ve seen things so few will ever see, and done things few have even thought about doing. I mean honestly 2 years ago I had no idea this trail even existed, or that I might want to do it and today I’m writing about how it was to do. That’s pretty amazing, and I feel incredibly fortunate to have been able to do it.

Anywho, I feel like I’m rambling now! I’ve got about 30 minutes to get my car and I forgot to pick up the postcard I mailed myself from Bluff, so I need to go do that and see what past me wrote to current me.

I got a few photos as we pulled into Picton. The setting for this place is really great, and the ships in the harbor here are huge. Very busy for such a small town.

Day 52: Punga Cove to Miner’s Camp

It rained today. A lot. I sat around at Punga Cove until just before 1pm when I left to head to Miner’s Camp a bit up the trail.

Ran into John and Christine one last time. They were headed back to the road to try to hitch out to Picton. Hugs and goodbyes all around. Gonna miss them. Will have to visit Asheville some time.

Rain so camera lens was wet which means I didn’t get any pictures. It’s ok, there was nothing to see. I walked for about 2.5 hours and was at Miner’s Camp. Really nice folks here. They have 2 pigs, a handful of sheep, ducks, chooks, and a cow. And lots of wekas of course. Apparently there are times when they feed the pigs that everyone comes over to take part, including some of the wekas. Funny little birds.

Tomorrow rainy again. Gonna be bleh into the finish line but looking forward to being done!

Portage Bay to Punga Cove zero

It rained today. In fact, it’s still raining. And hasn’t stopped once all day. Between that and the shin splints I decided I was not walking today. There wouldn’t have been anything to see along the trail, I would have been miserable, it wouldn’t have been a fun day. And I’m beyond the point of needing to prove anything, so no walking.

Instead, I took a water taxi! The sound is big enough with enough locals and enough tourists and such that there are actually 3 different competing water taxi services, some with fixed route and fixed schedule and others with on demand bookings too. Nifty. The boats range from fairly small to surprisingly large. The one I was on probably had capacity for about 30 people. I was expecting something like 8, maybe.

Despite the weather, the sound was actually quite pretty. And there are a lot more houses along the water than I could have imagined. Makes me wonder how many of them are residents vs baches.

After some cruising around picking up and dropping others off, I was finally dropped off at Punga Cove Resort. This place is pretty nice with a little bar and cafe by the water and a kinda fancy restaurant up the hill with great views. Their backpackers accommodation is actually a bunch of small private rooms with shared facilities. Mine is at the very end, and actually has a pretty great view.

Not too bad for $63NZD a night. I spent more than that on dinner, which was delicious. I had the steak. And the fanciest sundae I’ve ever seen. Also the head waitress was extremely good. Always awesome to watch a master at work.

With nothing much to do here during the wet cold rainy day I used the WiFi to book some things for after I’m done with the trail and read a book. Pretty relaxing day, if a bit boring.

The resident weka population was showing off just how cheeky they are. One had ventured into the laundry room and made off with a plastic bag of toiletries, many of which had spilled out onto the ground. But it wasn’t going to give up the bag. Silly bird. I tried to get a photo of it but it’s just not really possible to see it sadly. Mischievous little weird chicken duck looking things.

Tomorrow it’s supposed to rain most of the day too, but the route is fairly flat and pretty short, and there’s supposed to be a window of not rain in the afternoon so I’ll probably sleep in a bit, hang out at the cafe some more, and leave the moment the rain stops. The place I’m heading tomorrow night has pet pigs. It should be awesome.

Day 51: Anakiwa to Portage Bay

Showering in the morning before going out has been pretty rare for me lately. I’ve been cleaning up a bit when I roll into huts in the afternoon, or showering when I arrive into town, but I haven’t been doing my usual morning shower routine. This morning, I had a shower. It was rather nice.

The weather was also rather nice. A bit warm, but a cool breeze. I was sweating a lot, but didn’t feel overly hot. Fairly decent overall.

The only real downside right now is that I’ve developed shin splints. Pretty sure it was due in part to the literal running I did a few days ago, along with the fast pace I was trying to keep up that day to get into town. Especially on descents. And now I’m paying the price.

Fortunately the trail is quite beautiful, and while I have longish days, I’m still beating the estimates by a lot, I’m just dealing with a fair amount of pain and discomfort. 4 more days and my legs can finally rest.

Anywho, the track goes up and down along the peninsula, crossing back and forth from one side to the other, meaning I get amazing views of both sides, and from time to time I get a peak thrown in with some really amazing views. But I’ll shut up and post pictures.

Also in the area there are lots of wekas. At the high point for the day there was one in particular which didn’t seem to care too much about my presence and was going about its day, so I got some good pictures of it.

They’re such weird little birds, and they are super cheeky. You don’t want to leave anything you care about near them as they are notorious thieves. But they’re just funny little things. I like them.

Along the trail there are numerous places to sit. I liked this one in particular because it felt like it was carved out of the trail, which I guess it kinda was.

Finally I got a view of my destination for the day.

After struggling down the hill with my shin splints I made it into my home for the night, took a shower, and chatted with the folks I’m sharing the place with. The nearby resort has a restaurant so I popped over there for dinner, the view was pretty good.

Sadly I am not sure if they have takeaway lunches anymore so I might just need to eat an extra big breakfast since there’s no lunch stop tomorrow. I have some snacks and such I can eat but was really counting on being able to take a packed lunch away. Oh well.

As far as my shin splints go, I’m not 100% sure I’ll be walking tomorrow. The road here goes directly to tomorrow’s destination, so there’s a possibility I could hitch it. Fortunately there seems to be a bail out from the trail to the road a few hours in, so if I need to I can do that. I should be ok though, I’ll just have to take it slow and take lots of breaks. Something I should probably do more anyways!

Oh, one thing which is pretty neat about this area. A lot of the things on the Queen Charlotte sound side of the peninsula are only accessible by boat or via the trail. So the trail itself is kind of a transportation corridor. Which means you get signs calling out accommodations and such off the trail in places. Pretty neat.

So far the “major” accommodation areas have had paved roads leading up from the north side, up and over let the trail to the other, but there are a few places tomorrow and almost all of the next day where the trail and by boat is what you’ve got. Super cool.