Saturday, 25 August 2012

August blues

The bulk of my summer holidays has been uneventful, mainly due to the fact I have no money (well... I have a little bit, but I desperately need to save it). In spite of this, I've tried to keep my chin up and remain productive. It's rare that I'm bored, as I actually have a lot to do at home. But things are just seeming rather drab now, following my exciting trip to Canada.

For instance, I've been stuck indoors working on my German report about my placement in Austria (which is how I will be assessed by my university for this part of the year). I had a head start because I began writing it whilst still there, when it was all fresh in my mind. But ever since I've been at home, it has been getting increasingly difficult to write something coherent in German. It's sad to say, but when you stop practising a language as often, you become less fluent and have trouble forming sentences that are "correct". Instead, you start to translate them, literally, from English. Which is a recipe for embarrassment if you're chatting amongst natives, or for disaster if your grades are counting on it.

There is a word in German, Sprachgefühl, which describes the natural feel you have for a language; for example the instinct that you use a certain preposition in a certain phrase even if you haven't encountered it before, or even syntactic word order (if you've ever learnt German, you will be aware that this can be treacherous territory). When you're in an immersion environment, you get this pretty quickly. And it appears I have already lost some of it. Oh well, I'm sure I will get back into the swing of things once I'm at university again and being cornered by it left, right and centre.

I have begun a hobby, and perhaps it's a little laughable... stamp collecting. I have so many letters and packages lying about, and I can't bear to throw away the pretty stamps. This is is probably just going to end up as another addition to my endless pile of tat, but here is my fledgling collection:

So far: Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Malta, New Zealand, Poland, Slovakia and the USA.

I used to be really into penpalling (is that a verb?). It began when I was eight, and put an ad in the penpal corner in Girl Talk magazine. I got loads of replies, mostly from the UK and Ireland, but one from South Africa, too. Hardly any of them kept up after one letter, and it comes as no surprise that I am not in contact with a single one of them these days, but it did really introduce me to the joy of letter-writing. It's a wonderful way to express yourself - for me, at least, it's often easier to say things on paper than it is out loud. And it's so much nicer than getting an email, or a message on Facebook. Plus, you can take all the time you want to think of something good to say (within reason, obviously). I was also on the site Interpals for a while, and there were some nice people on there with whom I exchanged a couple of letters, but to be honest, I wouldn't recommend that site because for every cool person, you will get 15 creepy men asking you to marry them.

Aside from sticking stamps, essay-writing and watching TV (It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Suburgatory and Wallander), I've just been trying to appreciate where I live, even if it isn't ideal and I certainly wouldn't want to settle here. At least we have a good rail connection, so I'm not really that far from most places, it's just money that stands in the way. However, one advantage of staying with your parents is that they have a car (nope, I can't drive; nor can I ride a bike, in case you were interested). So I can tag along to wherever they may be going, just to get away from the house.

We headed up to Hunstanton on the north Norfolk coast. Hunstanton is a seaside town, and there's nothing particularly special about it. In summer the town itself is a bit touristy and tacky, and in winter everything is closed up - it's a bit glum, coupled with the wind and the rain.

I realised it was actually the first time I had seen the sea since I went to Latvia, during the bleak winter there. I wish I could change that, because visiting the seaside is always very refreshing, but I'm always living so far inland. The beach at Hunstanton is quite nice.

According to my dad, this is the result of some sort of unique geological phenomenon, but I can't remember the ins and outs of it. Sorry! There were lots of little bits of fossils tucked into the rock if you looked closely, though.

We've also been to down to south-east Suffolk, where my grandparents live, and personally one of my favourite areas of England. I lived in the county of Suffolk for most of my childhood, and despite all the places I've lived, this is the one I truly feel a connection with and consider home. Both my grandparents hail from the area, and have lived around there all their lives. The history is really quite interesting - due to being the first place in Britain that boats would have reached from modern-day Germany, lots of Anglo-Saxon relics have been found around there, and there is quite a distinct Dutch influence, due to 15th century immigrants. The local dialect is great, too - my favourite phrase is 'on the huh', which means that something is wonky ('that shelf is sitting on the huh!'). Apparently the accent is so strong that, when on holiday, my grandparents have been asked whether they were Australian.

Next week I'm going to End of the Road festival, which I am looking forward to immensely, so I will have lots to report back. Til then!