Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Multi-lingual in 9 months?

We began learning Russian in the middle of January and our Russian is going from strength to strength.  Although we are making progress with the Chinese it is so much harder but it was always going to be a challenge!

We have our homework organised for the first three months of the trip which takes the form of learning the basics of two more languages: Vietnamese and Indonesian.  We have "Basic Conversational" level courses from Pimsleur and they are ready to be downloaded onto iPods.  We hope to complete the Russian course by the time we leave London but think that we will still be tackling Mandarin as we travel through Russia and Mongolia to Beijing on the Trans Siberian.  We won't even attempt the basics of Vietnamese until around October, so that's something to look forward to(?).

I do sometimes think we are completely bonkers trying to find our way around so many languages, so different to our native tongue, and in such a short space of time but we are determined to be able to communicate with the locals on even just a very basic level and not perpetuate the widely held belief that most English speakers don't seem to bother.  We know it's not entirely true of all travellers but who hasn't been embarrassed by the Brit idiot abroad who really does believe that English, so long as it is spoken very loudly with every syllable slowly enunciated, is widely understood by every human on the planet!

And we had an opportunity to actually practice our Russian on a REAL Russian at the weekend.  We found a Russian restaurant in central London so we booked a table and spent the evening eating some delicious food (although the caviar eggs were a little overpriced and a bit light on the caviar!) and drinking quite a lot of vodka.  I like to call it acclimatising ourselves to the culture.

In order to acclimatise ourselves further, we have a bottle of Russian Standard vodka in the freezer with two shot glasses.  It's a chore but a necessary evil in our opinion.

In the restaurant, Paul was the braver linguist of the two of us, and for someone who is incredibly shy he is amazingly confident when speaking a foreign language to complete strangers (as he proved when we went to Spain last year).  I was very impressed with his eagerness to attempt a conversation with the Russian waiter, whose stony. albeit polite, exterior melted into downright friendly enthusiasm as soon as Paul started speaking to him in Russian.  It was obvious Mr Waiter was very impressed that we were going to the trouble of learning the language and we are hoping that the effort we are putting in now will help break down the barriers in a similar fashion with local people during our travels.

On a practical note, the new camera has arrived, as has the netbook, and we have on order guide books, maps, a phrase book covering the rest of South East Asia for places where we won't have a basic knowledge, iPod travel speakers and a new iPod for Dawn!  It's like Christmas every other day when the postman knocks!

We also ventured out to north London at the weekend to pick up our rucksacks (and my boots).   Our rucksacks will contain our world for the duration of the trip.  Now we just want to pack up and go - the next 3 and a half months is going to be a killer.

However, there is obviously still a lot to do:  rail tickets for the London to St Petersburg section; visas for Russia, Mongolia and China; packing up the flat and getting rid of lots of rubbish (mainly mine but a car boot sale will help with that);  travel insurance, vaccinations - the list is still endless but if we pay for everything as soon as we can, then what we have left in the kitty and manage to save, will be what we can take with us and will obviously dictate how long we can stay away.

Oh, and we've added the Philippines to the itinerary.  The route beyond Cambodia is, for the main part, a vague guide only (and that's for us) but after some research, it was unanimous that we add the Philippines to the list.  Below are just a couple of photos of this amazing country.

Philippines beach

The Chocolate Hills - Philippines
A bay somewhere in the Philippines

It looks stunning and apparently affordable for budget travellers too!

And finally, the Australia Spouse Visa application has been submitted and, more to the point, they've taken the money from my account (boy, they were quick off the mark there!).  Thank you to Warwick and Suzi for providing Statutory Declarations - it's such an imposition and a complete inconvenience but your help was very much appreciated.  And now the wait begins.  We may have to completely rethink our plans if they decided I am persona non grata down under, even if I am married to one of their own!



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