Learning a foreign language

  I did it! I’ve survived ten weeks in my Spanish for Travelling class. I pushed myself well past my comfort zone and learned a foreign language. 

I’ve never been great at learning languages. I can’t speak or understand a word of my ethnic language of Chinese. I studied French at high school for a year, (a very long time ago), and again one Summer when I was living and studying at university in the United States, (again, a very long time ago). I know enough basic French to at least order food and ask for directions, and I can speak basic conversational Dutch.

But of all the languages I’ve never wanted to learn, it’s Spanish. Not even the remote chance of meeting Penelope Cruz would motivate me to learn Spanish. Why? Because it makes no sense to me whatsoever. Spanish words and pronunciations have no resemblance to English. How on earth am I going to remember these words, let alone pronounce them?! But with a pending two month stint in South America starting in four weeks, I wanted some basic knowledge of the main language. 

I remember my first class, ten weeks ago. It was the most stressed I’ve felt in a long time. As the teacher gave us a worksheet to test our basic knowledge, I stared at the words that may as well have been written in Egyptian hieroglyphics. It didn’t help me feel any better that the girls at my table seem to recognise the words and understood what to do. I left my first class like my head was about to implode from information overload. 

Ten weeks on and I’m proud to say I now know more than I did when i first started. And although I’m not convinced I know enough to get me by as a tourist for two months, the most important thing I have gained is confidence to at least communicate on a basic level.

Afterall, one of the joys of travelling is to not only push yourself past your comfort zone, but to fully immerse yourself in the culture of the country. And there’s no better way to do that then learn the language! Como te llamas? 


Jab Me – To Vaccinate or to not vaccinate, is it really a question?! 

Today I visited my local health clinic and the nurse jabbed me with a tetanus booster, Hepatitis A and a Typhoid vaccination. I also had a yellow fever injection last month, and still need to be  jabbed for Hepatitis B, rabies, and purchase malaria tablets, all in the next month before I leave. Luckily for me, I don’t mind needles, even though my arm now hurts from today’s jabs! 

I’d forgotten about travel vaccinations. Maybe because I’ve never travelled to countries where they’re needed. But with South America and South East Asia on the map, suddenly I had to account for these additional, but essential expenses. 

It’s easy to consider not taking certain injections, especially when the pounds start adding up. Luckily some of the injections I’ve had are compliments of the NHS. But most need to be paid for. I can’t put a price on health and I’d rather travel with peace of mind. So here’s the in’s and out’s of common travel vaccinations;

1. Typhoid – Spread via faecally contaminated water, food, raw fruit, shellfish and vegetables, especially in areas with poor standards of food hygiene.

2. Hepatitis A – common in developing countries, this is spread via contaminated food, water or close physical contact with a contaminated individual.

3. Tetanus – this bacteria is found in the soil worldwide, and can enter via small cuts and wounds.

4. Diphtheria – a bacterial disease spread by exhaled water droplets, especially in developing countries and mixing closely with the local population. 

5. Yellow Fever – those damn day biting mosquitos! Parts of South America and Africa can put you at risk. Make sure you carry your yellow fever vaccination certificate with you to these countries! 

6. Rabies – a virus carried in the saliva of infected mammals, specifically  dogs and cats. It’s spread by bites, scratches and licks on open wounds. 

7. Hepatitis B – spread through  contaminated blood and body fluids, especially via unprotected sex, unsterilised needles and blood transfusions. 

8. Malaria – spread by Mosquitos in tropical areas. It can take up to 8 days after being bitten for symptoms to show. Malaria tablets and avoiding bites via mosquito nets and repellant are your only options.

Healthy travelling everyone!