Travel Bug

I found out this week that I have more vacation days than I thought and I have to use them by the end of the year. Suddenly, I’m dreaming of all the places in the world that I want to go to and remembering all the wonderful places that I’ve already been (and would like to return to).

Nice, France

I’m leaning towards one or many of the following for this year: New York City, San Francisco, Dallas, Tuscany, London and Nice (really, anywhere in the South of France).

I guess being unsure about where and when to travel is a great problem to have. It could be worse.

Image of Nice, France by NirmalH – (CC: by-nc-nd)

Dreaming in Hindi

Type in DreaDreaming in Hindi Coverming in Hindi on Google and the fifth result is a link to Oprah’s website.

I’ve never purposely read something simply because it was an Oprah’s Book Club suggestion, but somehow I landed on their list of 10 Terrific Reads of 2009 and found out about Katherine Russell Rich’s Dreaming in Hindi.

After losing her job and beating cancer twice, Rich accepts a freelance writing job in India in order to fulfil her dream to become fluent in a second language: Hindi. We read about her journey and as she learns more about India, its customs and the language, we learn more about how language in general defines who you are.

After returning from India, Rich met with professors and linguistic experts to discuss how the human mind deals with languages. So throughout the book, we learn more about her study into the way humans learn languages and what learning a second language does to your mind.

I picked the book up because the summary seemed interesting and I figured if Oprah’s people recommend it, then why not? I was expecting something light like Eat, Pray, Love but a bit more interesting and maybe a little less chick lit.

Well, it certainly wasn’t chick lit.

I enjoyed following Rich’s journey and getting to know the characters (and indeed, they are some unique characters) she met and reading all the random and wacky (and sometimes uncomfortable) things she went through. It was great to read about her adventures, her stories of betrayal, fun and sometimes fear. I even enjoyed learning a bit more about India’s history and customs.

The only downside for me was that I felt she went too deep into the theoretical and scientific side of learning a new language. At the start, I found it really interesting how she interwove her discussions with linguists with her stories of her experience, and it was interesting to learn more about how we learn languages and how it scrambles your brain for a period of time.

But then it just pushed the story on and on – the book just never seemed to end and it started to feel like work just reading it. By about three-quarters into it, I finally gave up and would skip past any of the linguistic parts. I read afterwards that many people gave up on the book because of it.

Most of all, I just wanted to hear more about her time teaching at the school for boys with hearing impairments and what she ended up learning about who she is in another language. She got there in the end, but too late. It was just too dense with too much going on.

Final note:

While I was writing this review, I found this book trailer online. In a way, I’m really glad I didn’t find it before I picked the book up, because I really wouldn’t have read it. I probably wouldn’t have watched the trailer all the way through to the end, where she finally tells us what the book is really about. Eek.

Has anyone else out there read it? What did you think?

Rating: 2.5/5

It just gets better from here

“We are where we are. If we keep moving, we’ll be someplace else. We’ll know when we get there.” – Michael J. Fox.

When I think of Michael J. Fox, I immediately think of Marty McFly, the suave, cute and fun hero from the Back to the Future trilogy.

Then I pause and reality sets in and I think of the man. I think of the passionate advocate who’s devoted to his acting, his family and finding a cure for Parkinson’s Disease (PD) and other degenerative diseases. The man who, because of this disease, is either seen stoically still or the opposite, unable to stop moving all over the place. A man that you start to feel sorry for, but then you find out how PD changed him and how he’s stronger than ever now that he’s fighting for this cause with all these people behind him.

About a year ago, I read his first memoir Lucky Man and was swept into his world as he spoke about his successful and lucky life leading up to his diagnosis. I enjoyed his writing style as he narrated his life story up to that point, including how he got into acting, the start of his family, his battle with alcohol and finally having to come to terms with having PD in his 30s.

It was a book I couldn’t put down and so I knew I had to get my hands on his second book – Always Looking Up – The Adventures of an Incurable Optimist.

I managed to get a copy recently at the library and, like his first book, devoured it within just four days.

The second book is organized into Fox’s four life pillars (work, politics, faith and family), which was a change but still easy to read and interesting. I liked how he would focus on one aspect and share what he did and felt in that arena over time. As the book went on, the four pillars eventually blurred together, drawing a whole picture of the man in my mind.

It was a well-written and moving book. He doesn’t deny his luck and the never-ending support he’s received over time, and he clearly and articulately explains his view on stem cell research without an abundance of bias. We know why he cares, obviously, but he addresses the other side of the debate as well.

It’s been a year since I read his first book, so I can’t tell you which one I think is better. But I can tell you that this was an inspiring read and it’s worth picking up – if only to get a glimpse inside of the life of this inspiring Canadian.

Rating: 4/5

Check this hand ’cause I’m marvelous

Lady Gaga

This weekend, I’m going to see Lady Gaga live in concert as part of her Monster Ball tour.

What I’ve always liked about Gaga is that she never turns the Gaga image and personality off – as crazy, out-there and strange as that may be. At times, it’s even scary…

I always enjoyed the singles I heard on the radio, but I never expected that I would love her album. When I finally took the time to listen to it, it became one of my favourite discoveries from the past year – full of excellent and catchy pop and dance songs. I still can’t stop listening to it.

I’m sure it’s going to be a Gaga-good time – a delight to both the ears and eyes and an unbelievable night of entertainment. I expect no less than a full-on spectacle.

Image source: whittlz (Creative Commons License – BY-NC-ND)