Wednesday, June 24, 2009

time to read; time to learn; time to rest

Time to return to our regular program, students.

Everybody. Take a seat. Get away from the window.

The big storm is over.

What we are going to review today is the seventh factor for finding a place to live in Mexico: time to read; time to learn; time to rest.

Of course, that is nothing more than a list of what I saw as the moral center of retirement. I still do -- with a few modifications.

Anyone who has ever read anything about retirement knows that one of the first warnings is to keep your mind active. People who continue to learn, live longer and enjoy life more.

Reading is my favorite hobby. Not just any reading. If I am going to invest some of my time in reading, I want to learn something. And I have been doing that.

  • I brought about six months worth of books with me. Biographies. Essays. Novels. In that last category, of course, is the Harry Turtledove series. I should just stop reading them. I have four to go. But, every 100 pages or so, I find an interesting point.

  • When that treasure trove is empty, I will use the local book exchange -- or have friends and relatives bring books with them when they come to visit. (One of the down sides of living in Mexico is that books are simply not generally available.)

  • Now that I have my Mailboxes, Etc. account, I have a regular flow of magazines. Some of those are simply comfort pieces: National Geographic. Some of them represent the detritus of past overseas ventures: The Economist.

The first category complements the second: when I read, I learn. But I also want to learn more about my new home. To do that, the key is going to be learning Spanish.

On Monday, I began a Spanish class with a local businessman, Ricky. We meet for an hour on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday morning. "We" are the teacher, a woman who has lived in Melaque for five years, and me. This is tutoring at its best.

Ricky's teaching method is similar to the Pimsleur method. He writes a series of Spanish sentences on the board with the English translation. Ricky then asks each of us to say the sentence in Spanish.

Then comes the learning part. He asks us to build on that sentence by changing the person or the object or the tense of the verb. And, often requiring us to use words we may not actually know.

It is a method designed less to build vocabulary than to teach how the language works.

Unfortunately, I am already a full week behind my classmate. I did not realize the class began last week. And we missed a class yesterday because of the storm. I hope we can start up again today.

I am excited about this.

Once I get a basic grip on Spanish, I would like to take a course on Mexican history -- with an emphasis on the Revolution. A friend of mine is a professor t a large Southwestern University, and he is an expert in that topic.

And then there is rest. I have not done too well on that factor.

For the past two months, I have not slept well because of the heat. I go to bed late and get up early.

I should tack on a confession here. For as long as I can remember, I would stay up until midnight or 1, and get up around 5. So, the heat may be an excuse for sleep patterns that do not even qualify as dysfunctional.

I thought I was going to make up the lost sleep by indulging in that most civilized of customs: the siesta. To a degree I have. But various factors around the house have kept me from napping.

I will get into a nap rhythm here -- one way or another.

How does Melaque rate on those three factors?

Quite well. But so does almost every other area of Mexico.

And, if I want to take academic level courses, I need to be in some other area of the country.

But, I am simply repeating myself now. Melaque has one advantage that the highlands does not have: the ocean. The question is how much that weighs against the other factors.

Next post?

Daily learning to survive, and facing mountains of difficulties -- and being repeatedly crushed.

Didn't I just get a lecture on that?

We'll talk.


Babs said...

I hate to keep repeating myself, but San MIguel has the largest bibliotecha in Mexico - started many years ago by ex-pats, and now staffed with volunteer expats. Great book sales frequently. In addition they have a theater for live performances, lectures and many, many other things.

American Mommy in Mexico said...

How about getting some simple books in Spanish - kids books - slot that into your reading, learning category?

For Example: Juan Bobo Four Folk Tales from Puerto Rico. "An I Can Read Book" Level 3, English in front and Spanish in back. Child's book - yes- but also gives rural storytellers of Puerto Rico learning.

Ron said...

Merida is 40 minutes or so from the Gulf coast and has a 17,000 volume English library. They also had books on sale - a friend of ours who lives south of Playa del Carmen bought a couple of bags full when she was there with us in December.

There are also at least two universities there. Debi, of Tom and Debi, has blogged on the Spanish classes she takes at one of them.

That would seem to combine some of what you are seeking with a nearby coast - but Mazatlan also has an English library if you are sold on the West Coast.

But, you may prefer the smaller town atmosphere.

Leslie Limon said...

I hope you are well and safe after Andres' visit!

Cynthia Johnson and Mike Nickell said...

I agree with Mommy. I used to read the preschoolers' Spanish books (and look at the pictures) and I was able to comprehend a lot of the stories. I also typed a lot in Spanish and that helped me to learn spelling.

cwilson284 said...

And may I recommend "Kristin Lavransdatter," by Nobel prize-winning author Sigrid Undset? And before you say, "No, not another 1,100 page Medieval Norwegian historical saga about spoiled maidens, childbirth, murder, and Catholicism!" may I just say that it's surprisingly adult, gripping, and wholly unlike anything else I've read for a while. I'm a third of the way done, but I love it. And the cooling zephyrs of the Norwegian winter will cool you off as you recover from the Mexican humidity. So, tear off a hunk of reindeer meat, put on your lice-infested bear skins, and lie back in your hammock for a trip to a world we'll never's so much better than Don Quixote.

Steve Cotton said...

Babs -- There is no doubt that SMA has some factors in its favor. I need to see for myself. And I soon shall.

AMM -- I very well may do that. What I need to do right now, though, is to set aside time to get through my daily lessons. I am amazed though at how confident I am at just jumping into conversations in Spanish. I will probably be chagrined in the future to discover some of the things I have said. I am not certain why I say "chagrined." Making the same mistakes in English does not bother me at all.

Ron -- I am convinced there is no perfect spot. And that may be the wisdom in moving regularly.

Leslie -- There was more sound and fury than danger. All is well.

Cynthia -- My teacher suggested that I bring my laptop to class. he says it helps some "younger" Boomer types.

Cwilson -- I was just about to email to see if you were still following the blog. Good to hear from you. And I suspect only you or Hofer would nominate a Norwegian novel for my "buck me up" book list. But it sounds interesting. I may pick it up if I ever head north. I doubt I will find it in the local book exchange. But you never know.

glorv1 said...

Glad the storm is over and you and Jiggs are safe. Now you can read up your own storm. Have a great rest of the week.

Anonymous said...


Only you would find a cold Norwegian tale interesting. Does it include a medieval recipe for fishhead stew as well.

My recommendation for a long read is Jonathan Littell's The Kindly Ones, the story of an aging SS officer giving his recollections of service to The Third Reich, based roughly on the Orestes story, but equal to it in blood, gore and guts.

Or if that isn't your fare, Hans Fallada's Every Man Dies Alone is a nice 500 pager, a story based on an actual Gestapo file about a couple who squared off against The Third Reich by dropping incendiary messages on postcards in public places.

No reindeer in my summer reading!

John H.

Jackie said...

Hang in there Steve. Even though you may not see it I believe you have made a lot of progress. I wouldn’t live anywhere in Mexico where the beach was more than an hour drive away. That is why my retirement plan is to live only part time on Isla and travel elsewhere for the hot humid summer months. That somewhere may be just back to Oregon. I am not going to be a full time Mexico resident as I need to be near my daughter and hopefully someday grandchildren at least part of the year.

Steve Cotton said...

Gloria -- I intend to blow through a lot of pages in the next few weeks.

John -- Such friends I have. This seems to be the intellectual equivalent of offering your alcoholic friend a shot of tequila -- to clear his head. I doubt that Third Reich novels exploring the nature of evil are going to push Ann Lamott and Florence King off of my reading table. But stranger things have happened.

Jackie -- I just wish I could find a cultural-rich area on the beach, and then spend the summer months in another area. It would be perfect. But I don't think it is going to happen. The beach and culture simply do not seem to mix.

Paty said...

Don't forget to check out the Lake Chapala area in your travels. We have a large English language library; mild weather and only 3 hours from or less from the beach; a large ex-pat community that is well organized with clubs, social events and the oldest English-speaking theater in Mexico; 25 minutes to an international airport; close to a large metropolis with everything one would want in the way of culture or food.

Steve Cotton said...

Paty -- I shouold put it on the list.