EV-9D9: “How many languages do you speak?”
C-3PO: “I am fluent in over six million forms of communication, and can readily…”
EV-9D9: “Splendid! We have been without an interpreter since our master got angry with our last protocol droid and disintegrated him.”
Star Wars VI: Return of the Jedi
Well, let’s be honest. I speak one language, English, and a smattering of Dutch. I can get around a menu, buy some groceries, read a short kids’ book, and be polite, but really speak Dutch… Nah, not so much. I’ve been at this in fits and starts for (shamefully) decades now and have pulled out all the excuses you can imagine: too little time, raising a family, working, no one nearby to speak with anymore, we’ve (not so recently) moved, the damn cat puked on the carpet again, there’s something good on Netflix, I started that new engineering-related website, the usual.
I have, however, recently acquired a commitment from Red Leader in a game of chance to move to Belgium for 3 months (the maximum stay allowed) after Padawan Learner and Wedge Antilles graduate from high school and are off on their own, making their way in the world. Gosh darn it, we’ve earned ourselves a little R&R – a little learning-for-me time – a chance to work towards something lovely and interesting and important for reasons that have nothing to do with college applications, ACT/SAT scores, core competencies, getting child X to activity Y in under Z minutes, or anything so wholly unrelated to us (to mis-quote the brilliant Elizabeth Bennet).
Since Belgium has two national languages (French – her target language) and Flemish (a dialect of Dutch – mine), sits between France and the Netherlands, and is an easy train trip into either language region, it will be ideal for our purposes. She will be able to rely on me in the Dutch-speaking regions and I on her in the French-speaking areas. While we will, of course, visit all the main tourist spots (hello again, Paris and Amsterdam) where English could be spoken if we wanted to – BUT WE WILL NOT WANT TO – learning our target languages well will allow us to visit and enjoy the non-touristy spots that are so often bypassed due to the language barrier.
Because of this travel plan and language-learning need, I am going to be using some of this space for a bit of recording keeping and public accountability. Please feel free to give me grief is I don’t update my progress regularly. I apologize in advance if you just don’t give a hoot about this goal, because you’re going to hear a lot about it.
Obi-Wan Kenobi: ”Our presence here will be invisible, M’Lady. I can assure you.”
Captain Typho: ”I’m Captain Typho of her majesty’s security service. Queen Jamilla has been informed of your assignment. I am very grateful you are here, Master Kenobi. The situation is more dangerous than the Senator will admit.”
Star Wars II: Attack of the Clones
Dad Windu and I, as not to be left behind all alone, headed off to Tucson, AZ to visit his parents who were over-wintering there and get in a bit more Old West history under our tourquoise-encrusted, over-sized, yeah-these-aren’t-to-touristy-right? silver belt buckles. Despite it being COLD there much of the time, we had a lovely time dodging tourists in Tombstone – the historical museum is quite good, by the way, even if the town itself is a collossal waste of time. The drive from Tucson to Tombstone is quite pretty, with lots of long and winding roads through both desert and high mountain passes. Our little rental speeder with approximately 2.9 gungan-power didn’t enjoy the drive much, but we sure did.
We took a roundabout way back and stayed over in Sierra Vista so that we could visit the Military History Museums located within the Fort Huachuca Army Base - only to realize that our rental car company messed up our paperwork so we couldn’t enter the base. In fact, we were technically driving illegally as the rental agent put down the wrong experation date – for the day before we were there! And let me tell you, Fort Huachuca is the ONLY reason to be in Sierra Vista that I could find. It’s one giant ode to Big Box stores and almost every possible National chain. After a bit of hunting and pecking, we did find a delicious, local Mexican restaurant – La Casita – and cute little coffee shop – Gelato Java Stop – where the owner messed up my order a little bit but was so nice and friendly that I didn’t even tell her.
Meeting the receptionist at the The Sierra Vista Convention and Visitors Bureau, however, was worth the lackluster overnight stay, she told us about a few local ghost towns (including which ones required a 4×4 to reach), great restaurants which sadly we didn’t follow up on because we were sooo full from our late lunch at La Casita that we didn’t even want any dinner that night, and even more about the museums at Fort Huachuca. You know, so that we really, really wanted to see them the next day… only to find out that we couldn’t. Grrrr.
On our way back to AZ, we backtracked a bit and stopped to see the ghost town of Fairbank, the closest railstation to Tombstone and several other local mining towns on its way to Tucson and points further west. This really got DW pumped, as it was certainly a place that his Old West “friends” – Virgil and Wyatt Earp, Doc Holiday, and Major Clum to name a few – would have passed through on their travels. There are only a few buildings left, but we roamed around the area for several hours visiting the very untouristy burial grounds atop a high hill with a spectacular, clear view of the surrounding shrub-lands,
the town remnants – please note the sign propped up against one of the buildings – love the quotes around DANGER by the way,
the crumbling rail depot next to the converted rails-to-trails recreational path, and the San Pedro River which was, of course, key to the survival and location of the town.
Anakin Skywalker: “I’d much rather dream of Padme. Just being around her again is… intoxicating.”
Obi-Wan Kenobi: ”Be mindful of your thoughts, Anakin, they betray you.”
Star Wars II: Attack of the Clones
So this update that is long too over-due.
Padawan Learner had a fabulous time on Cataline Island despite – I am told – wanting to kill off many of the people in his group on a regular basis. What can I say, he’s not much of a group tour kind of guy. Apparently not shutting your trap even occassionally is a guaranteed excellent way to get on his Dark Side. I don’t know where he gets that from. The island itself was fairly amazing I’m told with dark, dark skies perfect for star-gazing, crystal-clear lagoons for snorkeling, and complete hillsides just begging for some invasive species removal. He was such a monster at this task that he earned a special badge for his efforts. And to think he used to argue with me about pulling weeds back in our Michigan flower beds.
View from camp. Rough, huh?
An invasive species' worst nightmare
The ropes course
The class was also privy to a behind the scenes Physics of Roller Coasters program at DisneyLand the day before their return home. I am told it was fascinating and also that it also reinforced his previous memory of NOT being a fan of roller coasters in general.
A fun end to a great week