My niece is currently spending two weeks in the south of France at a ballet summer school.

It’s been ages since I travelled and I really have no desire to do so – except when I see others’ photographs and a vague yearning inside of me is awakened.

My SIL & niece's home for the next couple of weeks - Carcassone.  Thanks for the pic Marg :-)

My SIL & niece’s home for the next couple of weeks – Carcassone.
Thanks for the pic Marg :-)

Having said that – if I’m honest – although I’ve not visited many of your typical countries / locales (UK, USA etc) – I really only want to travel to Italy. I’m not sure why but the whole clichéd Tuscan thing has long been a drawcard.

However, my niece and SIL’s photographs and the fact that this will be one of my well-travelled niece’s first forays into a non-English speaking environment has reminded me of my first time overseas. In fact, a few days ago I mentioned I’d been re-reading a journal I kept at the time.

I was spending a couple of months in Portugal for a six-week language training course before heading to a Portuguese-language speaking country in Africa; and in addition to obsessing about the food I was eating at the time, I did – fortunately – share ‘some’ other information in the journal.

train to Sintra 1995.pngI read that journal now and cringe at my naivety and ignorance when it came to travel and other cultures and communities. But… I guess it was a starting point for me and – although Portugal offered the obvious language issues – it could have been worse!

The language school I attended was one which was centred around the ‘development’ community, so they worked with a lot of foreigners heading to developing countries – Mozambique, Angola, Guinea-Bissau (for example). By the time I left I could say ‘That woman is carrying firewood on her head,’ but didn’t really know how to describe a toothache. A dilemma I had to overcome the hard way!

I’d not come across a lot of people from non-English speaking backgrounds before I travelled, despite years at University and working in the social sector at the time.

In the journal I bitch and moan about my ‘grammar’ teacher. I hated her. We didn’t gel. At all. I much preferred my lecherous conversational instructor with whom I hung out at cafes drinking wine in the middle of the afternoon.

There was another Australian woman at the language school – a returnee – and we became friends. Sometime in my second week there she confided in me that her instructor mentioned that mine couldn’t understand anything that came out of my mouth. “You talk very quickly,” my friend said.

It was true. I spoke quickly. (I still do.) Like… very quickly. My mouth struggles to keep up with my ADD mind.

But once I realised what the problem was – things changed. English was the third language of my instructor (she spoke Portuguese obviously and Swedish). I became conscious of slowing down my speech (which I should have tried years before!) and not using colloquialisms or slang.

We can be very egocentric – only seeing things as they relate to us. Annoyed we can’t understand others, annoyed visitors to our country don’t speak our language. It doesn’t occur to us that ‘we’ could be the ones who need to change or be more accommodating.

On that first overseas trip, the Portuguese people I met (who spoke English to varying degrees of skill) asked me what other languages I spoke – presumably hoping to converse with me in French or German, rather than English. I know we’re more isolated from other cultures and languages in Australia, but I did eventually wonder why it wasn’t more of a ‘thing’. (And possibly that’s changing!)

My own travel helped me realise that visiting other countries and cultures can affect how we see the world and those who are different. It’s not all about us! There’s an entire world beyond ours (metaphorically, although…)!

I was one of those people who thought I’d rarely use English or hang out with other expats when I travelled and lived overseas. And yet… at the first opportunity I latched onto the nearest English speaker. And I was NEVER more Australian and patriotic than when I lived overseas.

Can anyone else relate?

I’m blogging on Tuesdays with Essentially Jess today.


Extreme massage*

28 July 2014 Life in general

Long time readers of this blog will know that I often have very excellent ideas (my talking Facebook App and Famous Person Bedtime Stories App are just two examples!). Why no one ever approaches me with a chequebook in hand to patent and copyright my brainwaves I do not know… Anyhoo… today’s stroke of genius […]

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Book review: The Girl in 6E

26 July 2014 Books

UPS delivery guy Jeremy is a little in love with the girl from apartment 6E. He’s never seen her and the other tenants in her building tell him she hasn’t left her apartment in the 3 years she’s been there, but… he’s heard her voice and is intrigued. Packages for 6E are addressed to both […]

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So far and yet… not

26 July 2014 Diet Schmiet

Someone asked me recently if I was still ‘dieting’ so I planned to share a post about my health and my eating behaviour this weekend. CliffsNotes version: I quit Weight Watchers nearly 2mths ago having lost 12.5kg over a six month period. After a frightening display of binge and overeating (and lack of movement) I gained over half of […]

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Commonwealth Games – still a thing?

23 July 2014 Life in general

US talk show host John Oliver’s “How is this still a thing?” segment recently dissed the Commonwealth Games. I know, I know…. gazillions of sports lovers all over the Commonwealth are livid. I assume. I have to admit, I’m kinda with the UK-born comedian on this one. In fact, I didn’t even know they were […]

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Girls who wear glasses

22 July 2014 Life in general

I thought about wearing my contact lenses the other day. But it all seemed too hard. I told a friend later and she commented that she’d never known me to wear contacts. That stopped me in my tracks and made me realise how different my life is now… compared to just two years ago. Obviously the […]

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Book review: Dear Daughter

21 July 2014 Books

As an aspiring writer (who doesn’t actually write), I occasionally come across an author who incites a bit of ‘writing envy’. Often there’s no rhyme or reason… and my tastes range from Helen Fielding’s Bridget Jones, to Robert B Parker’s Spenser to Anita Brookner’s constantly magnificent and stylistic prose. And it’s happened again, via Elizabeth […]

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Suck it up sweetheart

18 July 2014 Life in general

Someone in the Aussie Bloggers Facebook Forum recently asked the group how to respond to a very negative comment they received on their blog. I watched for the responses with great interest. Fortunately on the whole I fly under the radar. I do – however – get the occasional unhappy reader or frustrated responder. And. […]

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About change

16 July 2014 Life in general

I’m dealing with a cold or sinus pain or something at the moment – puffy eyes I’m struggling to keep open, blocked nose, cheekbones threatening to explode…. you know, the usual. It’s been hanging around off and on for about a week now so it’s getting a bit old hat. So, cos I’m feeling a tad […]

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Where are they now: Pizza Hut

14 July 2014 Life in general

Although I no longer read my mother’s trashy magazines I *may* read one or two when at the hairdressers. Vogue Schmogue. Give me WHO Weekly. Or OK! magazine. Or similar. There’s nothing like bitching about the latest celebs and their dodgy fashion choices, too fat/thin (or both!) bodies or drunken exploits while I’m sitting in a […]

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Book review: Lost & Found

10 July 2014 Books

My paternal grandmother died before I was born and while my father – who struggled a little with his emotions – talked about her, he never spoke of her death. As a result, when I was a child, the concept of death was scary and confusing. Whenever my parents told me stop doing something, I […]

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Book review: Remember Me This Way

10 July 2014 Books

Early this year I reviewed Sabine Durrant’s first foray into crime fiction, Under Your Skin – which offered a final twist, rendering the oft-quoted Gone Girl a bit of an anticlimax! Durrant’s latest release, Remember Me This Way, offers readers offers another quality psychological thriller – which will keep you guessing until the very end. A year after […]

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Our Cate in crocs & Aussie strippers robbed

8 July 2014 Life in general

Always one to keep up with the latest news I feel compelled to defend ‘Our Cate’ against the naysayers complaining about her beach attire. A rip curl rashie, boardies and some crocs. I mean FFS… you really can’t get much more Aussie than that. I mean, sure I know Cate could have donned some rubber […]

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