I don't usually go in for memes, but this one, via LJ friend zia_narratora
seemed like an interesting challenge. As it turns out, so has keeping up with a death-march translation project, but since I have broken the "10,000-words-to-go" barrier, I figure I ought to be able to kick back and do a few mental pushups of some other kind.
The assignment? Quoting zia_narratora
: I will give you five words that I think of when I think of you. You will post them to your blog and post what those words make you think of, in depth.
I beg pardon if I take liberties with the last part of the specification. "In depth," is not exactly something you want to ask of someone who can go on, and on, and on... but I digress... I shall, instead, write for 10 minutes on each subjectTravel
I am told my first travel commentary came from the back of my mother's 1954 Plymouth, when, in response to her turning onto our street one day, I cried "I don't wanna go home!" I had the travel bug early, I guess.
My mother did her best to keep me at home. She failed. If it wasn't one thing (or perhaps I should say "one place") it was another. Florida for intercession, South Carolina for Marine boot camp, eventually getting completely out of control when I took a job in Moscow at the height of détente between the Soviet Union and the United States. But I'm not prepared to catalog the places I've visited.
There are people who are perfectly satisfied remaining exactly where they are. My parents were like that. And while I am certainly not against a stable lifestyle, there is something about the call of the road that makes my heart beat just a bit faster. Pack a bag. Meet new people. See new places. Eat new food (and of course, drink new beverages!). Figuring out how people go about their daily lives may have useful application to my own. Checking out neat stuff you can't normally get back home is just plain fun.
And yet, in the end, travel is not about where you are, but the ideas you run into, and in the end, reaffirming the truth of T.S. Eliot's observation, that "the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time."Suspense
I find it curious that anyone would think of asking me to say a few (or many) words about suspense, because I'm not really a big fan, as a spectator—especially when people go out of their way to heighten it (the name "Hitchcock" comes to mind). When combined with the supernatural, as is often done in horror films, I simply cannot stand it.
Of course, if think about it for a little while, I suppose I have written things that have turned out to be suspenseful for the reader. In defense of what I have stated in the previous paragraph, it should be borne in mind that in writing said pieces, I knew—generally speaking—how things were going to turn out, so there was no suspense involved for me at all (except perhaps, whether I would make a deadline or not).Mind
Thinking about things has always been fun for me, especially when it comes to puzzles. Figuring things out—and figuring out how to figure things out—didn't come naturally to me in school, but eventually, through a combination of parental example-setting (my stepfather literally wore out two bilingual dictionaries and was in the process of putting a third out of its misery when he died, as he just had to know
the meaning of every new word he encountered in books, magazines, and newspapers, while my mother learned several languages in the course of her life, including Spanish at about the time I was in high school, in order to continue to work as a teacher) and the little rushes I experienced from a series of "Aha!" moments in junior and senior high school, I actually came to think of thinking, of studying, of figuring things out
, as, well... fun
. Later, when I started playing with various techniques people have used since ancient times to help them remember things and to calculate numbers in my head, the fun only got more intense.Language
Language is many things. Obviously, it's a way to communicate with other people. But it also opens a door onto how those other people think, though the idioms they use and the standard structures that permeate the grammar. Even humor provides insight, because while many jokes are impervious to translation, so many others are
. So in that way, one might say language is a means of gathering information about a culture, making one better equipped to compare and contrast, and to travel within it.
Language can also be a weapon. And not just in the sense of getting people to do what you want (ultimately, war is an exercise in getting people to do what you want), but also in the sense that (a) if you keep your mouth shut, people will sometimes say the most interesting—useful—things in your presence, and (b) if you don't keep your mouth shut, you can establish yourself as someone not to be taken advantage of.
Language can be entertainment. I love the music of poetry. I love reading books without having to deal with the filter of translation. (That's not to say there's anything inherently bad about translation—which is, after all, what I do to put bread on the table—but simply to note that stories are best enjoyed unfiltered, even if you have to dig a little to understand what makes them tick.)Russia
Winston Churchill summarized Russia with his famous observation that the country was "a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma." And despite the end of the Soviet era, there's still a lot of truth to that statement.
Back in the 60s and 70s, the two prevailing schools of thought about the Soviet Union—and while to many, "Russia" and "Soviet Union" were synonymous, technically, the former was but a part of the latter—were the "no-good-commies" school and the "they're-just-folks-as-good-as-if-not-
My stepfather had given me a pretty good summary of the former; various aspects of American society (and in particular, my university experience), the latter. It was this disconnect that likely drove me to seek a job in Moscow at the height of the era of US–Soviet détente, where I saw for myself—to the extent I was allowed to—what life was like in the USSR.
Since my first trip in 1975, I've been to Russia more times than I can count. And each time, there's always something new to learn. Some new surprise.