I WILL trill my R’s!

Cooking. Algebra. Squats. There are some things I just can’t do. And for years I had convinced myself that trilling my R belonged on the can’t list, something I was perfectly fine with. I’d heard the excuses before–it’s genetic, some people, even native Spanish speakers, just plain can’t do it. Obviously, I was one of those people. I couldn’t roll an R and that was okay.

Until I decided to dust off the old Spanish and dive straight back in. Suddenly, there were all these words I couldn’t say. I was calling dogs buts and I couldn’t do anything about it. Spanish is already hard enough without adding in an entire letter (sound?) I can’t make.

So I started practicing. I watched all the youtube videos, I read all the articles. Nothing came close to working. Again, I came to the conclusion that I was just physically incapable.

But fun fact about me, I HATE being bad at things. At anything. I honestly think this is why Spanish is such a struggle for me–I hate how long it takes to learn the grammatical rules, the vocab. I feel like I’m failing if a week in I can’t read Harry Potter or understand native speakers in Spanish youtube videos. That is obviously the WRONG way to approach learning a language, and I really do think I’m learning to relax into the process, not put too much pressure on myself, and just let the learning happen. That said, I think all my perfectionism and impatience found an outlet by zeroing in on one thing. That thing being the trilled r.

Hence, the practice. For weeks now I’ve been trying. Sometimes I’d think I was close and I’d show my roommate and she’d laugh like a terrible person and I’d realize that only in my head did it sound like anything at all.

But then I realized, you couldn’t hear it (I tested this by recording myself). But I could FEEL it. I could feel my tongue starting to vibrate. I knew I was close. Last night I locked myself in my room and made crazy sounds for HOURS. The more frustrated I got, the crazier I sounded, until I was SURE I was doing it. Spoiler alert: I was not. But I really was close. I showed my roommate, she was a little more encouraging. I sent it to my boyfriend and he was shocked I couldn’t just do it, he didn’t know it was a sound people struggled to make (PS I hate him). I sent it to roommate’s Spanish speaking sister in law, she said I really was close. To move my tongue closer to my teeth.

(This video is highly embarrassing, I was never planning on showing anyone. BUT if it gives just one person hope or insight into the process, then it’s worth it. That said, excuse the crazy hair, terrible angle, and oversized t-shirt.)

I spent all day sitting in my office like a true psycho, trying to whisper a trill to myself. Probably not the most effective method, but it loosened my tongue up. Then I had to run an errand and was so pent up and just READY to have figured it out, I started doing it REALLY loudly. I had read this could help. Also that singing  can make it super easy, and also that it could make it damn near impossible. I started making the sound in gibberish, because it felt like that’s kind of what my tongue should be doing. Basically, I was throwing anything and everything at my alveolar ridge, trying to crush its spirit. (In my head we were in a war.)

And then like magic, something happened. A trilling sound came out. It was almost like I could roll my r. There were all kinds of limitations: only for a few seconds, pretty much only when the word STARTED with an R, and it only worked about 50% of the time. BUT. SOMETHING was happening.

I took a million videos because even though I wasn’t at 100%, I was at something and I was so scared it was a one time occurrence. For one night only, watch Kristen nearly roll an R! But also to remind myself that it IS possible. Obviously I’m not completely there yet, but there’s no anatomical reason why I can’t do it. The only thing holding me back is my own self doubt. Also to maybe give other people hope, because I was pretty much hopeless and lookie here, I’m really kind of doing it!

**Please ignore the fact that I look and sound like a CRAZY person in all of these videos. I can’t really do it unless I go really fast and kind of loudly. They’re gonna love me in Spain.

30 Before 30 – Learn Spanish

This goal is definitely my trickiest one. I think it’ll be even harder than making it to 11 different countries in five different continents, actually. The thing is, I’m just not good at languages. I studied Spanish from 8th – 12th grade and by the end could barely string a sentence together. My classmates seemed to understand it in a way I never could.  I’d listen to them have actual conversations with our professors and not get how they could do it, when we had been in the same class and I DEFINITELY couldn’t. It just did not, and does not, come naturally.

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And that was fine, until I went to Spain, and then Guatemala, and then El Salvador and Mexico. Honestly, even working in a restaurant or living in Los Angeles. Spanish is everywhere. And I want to travel and be able to communicate with people other than Americans and Brits. I want to feel as comfortable walking down the street in Madrid as I do in any random English speaking city. I want to be able to hold a steady conversation with the driver for an entire cab ride. I don’t want to have to think… between… each… word when trying to say something. I want it to be natural.

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So, I have goals. But wanting is not nearly the same as achieving. It’s not even the same as working towards it. For the past year (and for many years before), this has sat on my list as something I really want, and something I’ll get to… some day. Which meant it was future Kristen’s problem–and it’s easy to keep making things future Kristen’s problems, until the only problem is that I failed to even try at something I really want.

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So, the plan. I’m diving into Spanish. This is going to be the start of something real. I bought a grammar book. I bought a beginner’s book that tells a story that I’m finding I can actually read. I’m doing duolingo every day. I’m watching Mi Vida Loca. I’m listening to Notes in Spanish. I’m strongly considering weekly group classes. And at the end of March, no matter what my level is, I’m finding a partner and doing weekly (or more) Skype dates where I speak in Spanish. Because actually speaking Spanish is by far what I’m worst at. Thank god it’s not something necessary to the core of the goal *rolls eyes*.

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I’m going to track my progress, once I have any progress to track. I’m excited/nervous about this one. A huge part of me really believes this is something I just can’t do. And the other, smaller, part of me knows the only way it’s impossible is if I let myself think it is. It’s also so much easier to not try and not fail than to try and be bad. But I just have to let myself struggle, embrace the struggle even, until it all starts clicking a bit. Which it will. It has to.

Wish me luck!

30 Before 30 – Be in a happy and healthy relationship for a year

So I’m a little late blogging about this one, but I can officially check it off. On December 18th, I picked Gareth up at Logan Airport, and we spent the night celebrating our year anniversary. It was so incredibly special to get to spend that day with him, especially because there are so many other important dates we miss.

For our anniversary, we went to Maggiano’s, one of my favorite restaurants in Boston, and spent the night in the Omni Parker House, where JFK is said to have proposed to Jackie. I don’t know if I’ve made this clear yet, but I love JFK!

At the Omni Parker House

At the Omni Parker House

JFK and Jackie

Jack and Jackie

Speaking of guys I love, let’s talk about my boyfriend. I hate being mushy, but this post seems to call for it, so excuse me this one time. When things started with him, they should have felt terrifying and complicated and impossible. He lived on the other side of the world. There was an 8 hour time difference between us. We had also been friends for quite a while and that’s something you have to decide is worth risking. And yet with him, it felt so easy. So simple. I didn’t stress out or overanalyze or see all the reasons it couldn’t work. I never doubted how he felt or that we would work well together, even considering the insane distance between us. It sounds crazy, but it felt like it would have been so much harder for it to not have happened. I’ve never felt so on the same page with someone, never not had someone care more or less than I did. I’ve never been with someone where it felt impossible to not say “I love you” way too soon. And I never felt so incredibly comfortable around someone before.

I feel part of a team and so lucky to have found him. But not just because of how he makes me feel, but because of who he is. He’s accomplished so much in his professional life, I’m overwhelmingly proud of the business and community he has created. He’s the first to help anyone who needs it, and really believes that you’re supposed to leave the world better off than you found it. He is so moral, so caring, and also just really fun to be around. He’s my favorite person to hang out with, and pretty much I can’t wait to celebrate a million more anniversaries with him.

On the ferry from MV

On the ferry from MV

Christmas!

Christmas!

Beating him at darts, FINALLY.

Beating him at darts, FINALLY.

Christmas

Christmas

Me, Gareth, and Jenny

Me, Gareth, and Jenny

Okay, I’m done being mushy, but I’m very glad I can give #19 a big check mark, and I’m so lucky to be able to have done it with him.

Italian Citizenship Update

The last time I posted about this, it was to say that the consulate was taking a crazy long time to process applications, and I was already month past when I was supposed to receive my passport.  In August of 2015 (THREE MONTHS) after I was supposed to hear back), someone contacted the consulate and realized something actually had gone wrong, and they had stopped processing EVERYTHING. This was definitely not ideal, and wasn’t fixed until January. However, someone called in and was told they have caught up a bit, and as of January 22nd were processing September of 2014–only two months before me!

As some time has passed I realize I’m getting closer and closer to it potentially being time to hear something. ANYTHING. And the more I realize this, the more impatient I get. It was hard knowing nothing was happening. But I knew NOTHING was happening, so it was frustrating but there was no impatience. No nerves. Now I’m terrified that the woman who was sent to replace the previous woman is going to retroactively reject my application. Also there haven’t been any updates since January 22nd! Some may say that’s only two and a half weeks, but I’d argue it’s felt more like two and a half YEARS. So I emailed in very broken, Google translated Italian asking for an update. I’d done this once before in English and never heard back, but I’m hoping the Italian will work in my favor. Also they have GOT to be close to processing me by now!

Fingers crossed it all goes quickly and smoothly from here on out. I’ve been working on this for years, and I am SO ready to be a member of the EU.

30 Before 30 – Go to Morocco/Visit Africa – Tangier

Next up, Tangier! Tangier was so much nicer, thank god. We went straight to our hostel, dropped our bags off, and felt the weight literally fall from our shoulders. Tangier is also on the coast, so while it was still about 115 degrees every day, it felt so much more bearable (meaning we could actually step outside).

Our hostel was really cool–I’m confused about my pictures because I feel like I took way more, but I can’t find them! But from what little you can see, not a bad place with not a bad view.

We went to Hotel Continental, which is steeped in artistic history, and was such a cool sight. The whole trip was strange though–we were always the only people wherever we went. Except at the beach! But Hotel Continental is such a tourist destination, it was shocking to find it completely empty. Other than our server we didn’t see one other person in the entire place. Though now it makes sense because I talked to some locals and literally EVERYONE had bailed because of the heat wave. The city was EMPTY.

There was also a cool gift shop run by this guy who knew all the area codes in the major American cities. I got a really cool print, but lost it on the flight home 🙁 I’m trying to contact them to see if I can get a replacement.

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Also, we got a bit lost in the medina (it’s SO confusing), and again a bunch of locals offered to help. Katie, annoyed at being lost and constantly harassed and followed, asked directly how much they wanted to be paid to take us to the hotel. This directness I think caught them off guard, and everyone quickly assured us it was a free offer. We did this the rest of the time and it seemed to work really well.

Below you can see an overhead view of the medina, and what it looks like walking inside–it really is like a maze of alleyways. The bottom two are on the path back to our hostel, which was in the middle of everything.

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Photo credit to Matt Gross for The New York Times

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After a cold drink of water a few rounds of golf, we decided it was still too hot, and we’d head for the beach. This was my first time swimming in an Arabic nation, and it was such a strange experience. I wore a one piece and shorts, and was still completely out of place and honestly, the people there were not happy with me. Then I noticed–women were swimming fully clothed. No special swimwear, nothing. Just jumping in with pants and shirts and everything. (This was when we realized our one piece/shorts combo was a no go, and gave up on the beach.) Also, there was a camel! I’m sure this is for some sad, touristy reason, but it was cool to see. And it was the first time I’ve been in the Med!

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We had a delicious dinner of couscous and tajine, loaded up on local chocolate (try the chocolate of every country should be on my 30 before 30), and went back to the hostel and watched a few episodes of Community while showering in cold water every 15 minutes.

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After a fitful night of sleep (we were on the roof, which was gorgeous, but the only way to have any air flow was to leave the door open… to the roof deck where our fellow travelers were drinking, smoking, and playing guitar until the wee hours of the night), we started seriously considering our next move. We were supposed to head into Fez for a day, which was averaging about 130 degrees, and then Casablanca (about the same as Tangier), and then back to fly out of Marrakech–all in two days. We went through a lot of options–including, honestly, taking a ferry to Spain and getting ourselves a nice, highly air conditioned, room. Eventually we decided to go to Fez as planned, but fly back to London from there a day early. This meant we only missed Casablanca, because as originally planned we got back to Marrakech just in time to catch our flight.

Again, here, we kind of failed. Fez was shockingly hot. I wouldn’t say we had really adjusted at all, but it still blew my mind it could be that hot. It was hard to breathe. No one was outside. One local laughed at us for even being there, saying the people of Fez had left for better weather. We literally couldn’t walk more than a block or MAYBE two without having to stop… you might notice these are all excuses leading to the fact that we found the nearest hotel (pretty far outside the city), got lunch, played golf, I tried a beer, and then went straight to the airport. HOURS and HOURS early, we couldn’t even check in. It was just. so. hot.

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These are the two best pictures I got, and I’m not going to lie to you, they were taken from the cab on the way to the airport.

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We arrived back in London and it was freezing, and I promised myself to never complain about the cold British summers again. I am sad about this trip because I really do think we would have loved Morocco in any other circumstance. It almost feels like cheating to say I’ve been, but then I think about how burned (literally) into my mind it is, and just because I didn’t get to do all the tourist stuff, I definitely experienced Morocco.