Here there be dragons...

"I'm telling you stories. Trust me." - Winterson

Spanish spin cycle

Some days...

Had a great Spanish lesson today, but was moderately amused how I swing wildly in degrees of capability and frustration.  Lol like today were talking about significant social issues in Colombia (well everywhere really) -- crime, corruption, and poverty, and what things could be done to break said cycle.  All very good and moderately interesting if not super cheerful.   And then I remember the last time I was in CR (right before the world shut down) and couldn't remember the word for "knife" when I needed more cutlery *sigh*. lol my practical vocabulary swings wildly.

But what I desperately need is conversation and listening practice and I did get that, so deeming it a win.   Why do I need listening practice?  Well I was slightly annoyed w myself the other day when I looked up lyrics to a song I was enjoying in Spanish and realized I knew pretty well all of them, but hadn’t been able to identify any while listening.  *sigh*.  So yeah - definitely need *all* the listening practice (uh and speaking - I figure my speaking is a solid 2 levels below my reading).

On the flip side, lacking anything “real” to read, I picked up one of my learner novels that’s B2 (the level I’m theoretically in as long as I don’t need to talk ;) and was super pleased that I’m finding it quite easy to read.  Esp as I vividly recall not *that* long ago really struggling with the A2 series...  

So pluses and minuses I guess ;).  Trying to focus on the wins and drag the minuses along by sheer stubbornness ;).  Esp as my available time and brain capacity for Spanish study is drastically reduced these days due to the MBA.  Ah well, poco a poco...

Why you should never look through a writer's search history

So I drafted this post way back in 2013, when I was still writing regularly -- it was an ongoing list I figured I'd post someday...   I guess I didn't really expect at that time to stop writing.   And then by the time I realized I had, it was out of date.

This brought back fun memories

But I saw this floating around online the other day and it reminded me of this draft post.   And when I looked at it, it made me realize it was all from one story.  So from way back when, things I had googled recently:

How to hire a hitman
How much does a hit cost
How do snakes kill
What happens when you have multiple snakes together
How big is a burmese python - how long, how heavy
Can you suffocate a snake
How long does acute stress disorder last
What is the slang term for a gay man who's never had sex with a man
How much does it cost to rent an exotic car
What insurance is involved
What kind of cars can you rent
What guns are most often used in russian roulette
What is involved in basic training
Correct way to stand at attention
Interrogation techniques
Psychology of interrogation 
How fast does the average person run
Public storage lockers  (did you know you can't store a corpse?)
Training schedule for 10 k run
Fitness goals for men
Staff fighting (I never thought it could be made boring:  101:   Advanced:
All about guns
Female assassins in comic books (I was amazed how many there were!)
Parapsychology, telepathy
Mind control drugs
What does a gunshot wound feel like?
TOR (aka how to hire a hitman and other various criminal activities online)   Creepy. 
  •  -- scary scary scary!

Lol yeah - the lists would be amazingly different but equally random for some of the other stories - esp magic realism.

Next Stop: the Olympics ;-P

So RBC is a primary sponsor of Run for the Kids, which is a family-friendly event that takes place every year in several major cities around the world.  A walk/run of 2.5, 5, or - I think - 10km.  The primary purpose is to raise money and awareness for kids’ mental health, but in reality there are *many* charities you can pick from to support, all of which have something to do w children, but not all of which have a mental health focus.

So there is a *huge* push at work to be involved every year and every year my contribution is at most monetary - like visit the bake sale level.   Why?  Well...  A) I hate fundraising w a passion.   I did it all in for R2CC but never doing it again would be ideal.  B) My hatred of fundraising is met only by my hatred of commuting, so the odds that I’m getting up early on a wknd day to commute are not favourable.   C) It’s very actively billed as family friendly and generally I avoid situations that involve multiple small people.  D) It’s in the fall and weather could be *very* hit or miss.

So all in, this is very much not my thing.   But this year...   This year it’s 2020.  Which means A) the focus was on participation not fundraising.   I managed to raise about $100 (thanks to my contributors!!!) with my single FB post about it.   B) I don’t currently have to commute so I wouldn’t mind going downtown so much, but *even better* the race was virtual - just do the distance anywhere you want.  Sweet.  C) Social distancing means no children in my world.  And D) Somehow it was a stunningly gorgeous fall day.

So Mum, Bailey, Sasha, and I did just over 5km together, enjoying the weather, and the world was good.

But then!

A few days later I get an email at work...   They’d done a random draw of participants for 3 prizes - and I won one!!!!   Woohoo!!!  Lol I’m not known for my luck w winning anything, so I was disproportionately happy about that.  My prize was admittedly a little random -  a training session w an Olympic athlete.

Sure - why not?  Lol I’ll take any opportunity to improve fitness, although not sure how helpful one session would be but cool.

So I’m put in touch w Olympic sprinter Gavin Smellie, who says we can do the session online or in person - depending how far away (remember RBC is international - the winner could be living in China) and comfort level with COVID concerns.  So it turns out he’s about half an hour away and deemed that an okay drive so came in person.

Which means that today I had a 1-1 training session w an Olympic athlete.   And I suppose years of riding with Olympians on a fairly regular basis has taken any real sheen off of that for me, except of course “that doesn’t count” lol.  I have no idea why, but somehow it’s different when I’m in a gym (even if said gym is in my basement) than on a horse.   Maybe because I’m more confident in my ability to execute the exercises on horseback?  Idk.

Anyways yeah - he came and was super positive.  I think slightly surprised by the setup we have going, but happy enough to modify his plan to use.   He had a whole thing planned out and then used weights etc to help modify difficulty.

Very enthusiastic, very positive.  I was working hard enough to be sweaty (tbh that doesn’t take much) and short of breath (sadly also doesn’t take much these days!) but at no point felt like I was dying.   Nor was I watching the clock.  My abs are sore now though so I suspect I’ll feel them tomorrow ;)

After we were done he gave me some examples of specific exercises to do to strengthen certain areas, which is super helpful, and some hints on how to reach my pull up goals.

So yeah - overall was a great workout and surprisingly enjoyable.  And now I have someone to cheer for in the next Olympics (assuming they get to happen).

FridayFlash #75 – The Letter

"So, have you read it yet?"

Janine looked down, flipping the opened envelope slowly in her hands.  She shook her head.

"Why not?"

She looked up and met my eyes briefly, before flicking away.  "I don't know," she said, her voice hardly more than a whisper, "what if...  what if there's something horrible?"

"There could be," I acknowledged, "but what if there's something amazing?"

She started at the letter, the letter we all get on our 18th birthdays.  I'd get mine next week.  The letter from our future selves.  Written on paper -- for some of us the only actual paper we'd ever own -- every adult got one opportunity, just one, to write a letter to their 18-year-old self.

For some it was an opportunity to change their lives, to undo past mistakes.  For others it was a reassurance that things would turn out okay, or share lessons they wished they'd learned earlier in life.   And there were some who never got the chance.  They either didn't have a letter in waiting when they died, or they'd actively chosen not to send one.  Their younger selves would receive the same envelope, but inside it would simply read "your future is unwritten."   

I was curious both what I'd read and what I'd someday write; theoretically those two were the same, but everyone knew someone who knew someone who said the letter they wrote differed wildly from the one they'd received.  Urban legend or actual fact?  Did it happen, or did we just need to believe it could happen?  I knew I would read mine as soon as it arrived, but there were some who didn't want to know.  It was easier, always easier, not to know how things would end.  And Janine was one who wasn't sure if she'd risk knowing something she'd rather not.

"Do you want me to read it?"  It was taboo to ask someone to read your letter, to put the weight on them of knowing what you might not want to know.  But I could volunteer.  

The envelope shook slightly as she handed it to me.  I pulled out the letter -- it was yellowed, the author had lived many years and likely refolded it many times, and short - she hadn't had much to say.   The paper threatened to tear as I unfolded it; I read quickly and then exhaled the breath I hadn't realized I'd been holding.  

"It's okay," I handed the envelope back with a smile, "nothing to worry about."

Janie's shoulders dropped, and her eyes softened as she took the paper back.  "I'll read it at home," she said as she folded it up to fit in her purse.  She got up and left without so much as a goodbye, walking quickly in the direction of her home.

The following week was both the fastest and the shortest I could ever recall.  And then it was my turn to stand there, Janine at my side, with my envelope.  Despite what I'd always claimed, I still hesitated.  I shook my head to clear my thoughts then tore the top of the envelop pulling out what was inside.

One sheet.  Only one.  It wasn't new at least, but it wasn't wildly aged either.  The paper was folded in three, but not many times over -- it looked like it was one of the rare ones that had been written once, folded, and sent.  

I glanced up at Janine, suddenly glad she was there.  She nodded once, slowly.

I flipped it over and read.  My brow crinkled as I looked up at Janine.

"What does it say?" she asked, head tilted slightly.  I handed her the paper.  She read just as quickly and looked up at me.  "I don't get it."

"I know."

I looked over at the paper she still held.  The most important thing my future self could think of to tell me.

Never Visit:

- The Louvre at Christmas

- The Hopewell Rocks under a full moon

- Hadrian's Wall at Hallowe'en

- Urulu in the rain

- Kilimanjaro in the sun

Today, on my 18th birthday, I'd never been more than two hours from my home town.  Travel seemed a lot of work and effort for no real benefit -- I'd seen all those places in VR.  There was no need to go in person.  There was no reason to imagine I would ever even consider going to one of those places, much less all of them.  So why such a note?  Why warn me against such places.

I pulled out my phone and did some quick searching.  The Louvre wasn't even open at Christmas?  And Urulu, Ayer's Rock, was in a desert.  So the odds of me ever being there, and getting rained on, were pretty slim.   Hadrian's wall was a crumbling relic; there's zero reason I'd ever be there, and Hallowe'en was a child's holiday.  What did that matter?

I shrugged at Janine as I folded the paper and stuck it in my pocket.  "Well, if that's the only advice my future self can give, I guess things will be okay?  I mean, it's not like any of that would ever happen."

"But," Janine hesitated.

"But what?"

"Well, you must've had a reason for writing that...  Which means, somehow, you must've ended up there, at some point.  So maybe just..."

"Just what?" 

"Just keep it in mind.  Someday, if it seems you might be in one of those places, just...  remember.   There must've been a reason."

"Yeah okay."

I tried to put it out of my mind.  Why would I have ever written such a thing?  What would possibly happen if one of those circumstances was to occur?  I was taking a gap year next year.  My parents were pushing me to travel but I’d been planning to work on my music.   But maybe...   Maybe I should go to some of those places at times that were not aligned with the list.  Just to see what the big deal was.   Scotland -- I could go there first, in September, and be long gone by Hallowe'en.  Surely there'd be no risk to that.  And once I'd seen it, there'd never be any reason to go back.  Crisis adverted.

And as I booked the tickets, I wondered, briefly, if future me had any idea the impact that letter might have?

Right.  Well it turns out my future self knew 18-year-old me better than I ever imagined.   For what was the number one way to make me do something?  Tell me not to, under any circumstances, do it.  That letter got me out of my town, showed me the world, and opened my mind to imagination and wonder.  I would never know if future me originally wrote that letter as a reflection of the most important parts of my life, or merely in hopes of making important things happen, but as I sat down to write the letter that would change my life, I'm forever grateful I did.


So potential longer work would be to explore exactly what happens in each of those places with the narrator to impact their life so profoundly, but under the rules of flash, I had to wrap it up quickly ;)

Based off the following writing prompt: