Don't call for your surgeon, even he says it's late
It's not your lungs this time but your heart owns your fate
Don't give me my money back, don't want it anymore
~ Bruce Springsteen, "For You," as performed by Manfred Mann
I'm planning to go on a European adventure. No, I haven't come into sudden wealth or been diagnosed with a terminal illness. But I've decided to live as if I have. Both.
It really stems from a gall bladder attack I had early in December, that had my GP rushing to get me surgery. Suddenly confronted by a medical problem, I realized that my years of ignoring my health could be coming to an end. I thought about my mom, who retired because of an inconvenient condition - nothing big, but enough to make her commute uncomfortable. After she retired, she had a series of heart attacks.
So I decided to go ahead and take the bicycling tour I have been putting off because I was fat, broke and out of shape. I'm less fat now, but just as broke. And who cares? I'd rather go deeper into debt and have the experience of a lifetime, than wait to feel financially ready and find I'm physically unable. Screw the money. Who knows, maybe I'll fall off an Alp and never have to pay it back!
This photo, informatively labeled “Women biking with mountains behind them,” comes from the promotional brochure from Austin Adventures. I don’t think they’ll mind if I do a little promoting for them.
The trip I had lusted after, some years ago - from Vienna to Prague - isn't offered this year. But there is a trip in the Carinthian region of southern Austria (around Klagenfurt) and Slovenia. "Discover Slovenia before the tourists find it!" says the flier. Right. I started by trying to discover it on the map.
It turns out Slovenia is on the Adriatic, between Italy/Austria and Croatia. Between Slovenia and the sea lies Trieste, a meander around the coastline from Venice. My inner enthusiast declared, "We must visit Trieste and Venice! We could bicycle between them, or maybe take a boat! We don't speak Italian! We can learn!"
And this is how I arrived at my first Rosetta Stone Italian lesson this morning.*
Rosetta Stone was a pain to install, but now I understand why. It's not CDs that I could conveniently pop out and babble with in the car. It's an online course, with a headset and microphone and other Italian learners/speakers interacting with it as well. And it's gamified - you have to select one of four cartoons for the statement "la donna mangia," choosing among bambino, bambina and l'uomo performing various simple tasks in the present tense. You don't hear any English - just Italian voices insisting, "la donna mangia."
After la donna went and got herself some oatmeal to mangia, we continued the lesson with some plural forms and some new and intriguing activities. Those donnas and uomos and bambini did some running and swimming in addition to eating, drinking and reading. I can see how this helps solidify phrases and grammar in a very simple way.
So far I'm very pleased with Rosetta Stone, and I hope never to need to install it anywhere, ever again. My accent is ghastly - even I can hear that - but obviously the more exposure I get to good pronunciation, the better I'll get at it. Or at least that's the hope.
Huh. "Hope" is not in the handy travelers' phrase book. Which reminds me of Imaginary Lisa. I told her I might need to be able to say "Where is-a the train-a?" She suggested other phrases I should learn, such as "Where is the rest-a room?" and "You are very beautiful. Do you want to fuck?"
... Speranza. That's the (feminine) word for "hope."
*We don't speak Slovenish** either, but there will be a tour operator for that part of the trip who will presumably handle everything.
**Oh, all right, I looked it up. "The Slavic, Germanic, Romance, and Hungarian languages meet here." There you are: Italian, the Romantic-est of the Romance languages. Woo hoo! I am now free to move about Slovenia and let the population know that la donna speranza to mangia.