Month: February 2012

I am thinking about writing a book about Spanish / South America

During final exams’ season I always find myself in the same situation: I’ve studied for the upcoming test as much as I am willing to study, so I actually have around 2-3 days of spare time before the test, but I’m too guilt-riddled to do anything useful during that time. So I’m not studying, and I’m not doing anything else that’s productive. Usually this results in me wasting time on The Internets, or generally lounging around, fretting and worrying. This happens with major occasions elsewhere (such as before important work interviews, etc.) is especially conspicuous when school’s out for exams; I take time off of work, and then basically I have entire days to do nothing but wait. And worry.

I think it’s time to try something else. I’d like to find a pet project; one I could cultivate on my spare time.

Relatedly, I recently attended a lecture with Limor, given by the ‘author and philosopher’ [honestly, is there anyone these days who cannot describe himself as such?] Haim Shapira. I could [should?] review the lecture more in-depth elsewhere, but suffice to say it was entertaining. Shapira is a charismatic speaker; he is also – as noted – a self-published author, primarily writing popular ‘science’ books on topics from popular culture to game theory to Ecclesiastes (קהלת). I have recently read his book on game theory, and found it well-written and scientifically sound enough to enjoy reading. It did, however, smack of faint unprofessionalism. This is the nature of most self-published books; they look so.

To make the most of it, however, it resonated with me that hey, I could do that, too. I’m not sure the dead-tree format is the best there is these days, but I’ve always enjoyed writing; ‘reference’ writing (such as technical, scientific, or other non-prose) writing has in recent years proven to be easier for me, for various reasons. (Not the least of which being a defined purpose.)

To come full circle, I also believe a pet writing project could prove a good (and useful) time-filler for those lulls where I dare not do something actually important for fear of later guilt, but am in need of some cognitive exercise.

So I will continue toying (read, ‘developing’) these ideas. The two primary candidates for topics in my mind (to be more extensively reviewed later on) would be (note, both in Hebrew, for reasons of content, and of course free for anyone whom may be interested):

  1. A guide to learning (South American) Spanish.


    I always thought there were very few all-in-one books to learning Spanish (where you could just pick one up and start reading) in Hebrew. Those that exist are certainly not for free, and usually not very good, IMHO. I don’t know all the Spanish there is to know, but I know enough to teach up to a level people won’t be in use of a textbook anymore. I would, (read: do) however, need a mother tongue speaker co-author to serve as a content authority.


  2. A personal perspective story of a [my] South America backpacking trip.

    This is such a well-known cultural rite that it’s surprising how little modern autobiographical literature exists on it. I think my own personal story, though perhaps nothing that would merit a movie made on it, could be interesting to those who travel/ed or are just curious about it. In any case it could be a joy to write, and I am thinking about the proper format. Again, perhaps a co-author to share the text with would make a solid enhancement.

Well, now that I’ve got all these grand plans, there’s nothing to do but dive right in! Or, perhaps I’ll go eat a cookie first.

Future Travels, 1

I want to go backpacking again. Either/both when I hopefully/almost finish my BSc this summer, for a few months, or earlier for a shorter period. Before starting my degree, three years ago, I had backpacked through South America for about 9 months. It was awesome. I am actively spending my time fantasizing about my next destination, quite likely (hopefully) with Limor.

The prime candidate at the moment is Central America for a few months in the next fall. While possibly offering slightly less in terms of globe variation from its more southern counterpart, the main killer factor is the language. I had spent a significant amount of effort in 2008-9 to get a good grasp of Spanish, and it surely made the all difference. I found being able to converse at any level with local people in their own language – and not just with tourism-oriented folk in their broken English, viewing you as a walking money-bag – turns a traveling experience into a much fuller cultural immersion than being stuck on a ‘gringo trail’ (an apt term for tourism world-wide). Personally, planning to travel with Limor, I am sure (from experience) she will be able to grasp the language fast enough to be able to understand and converse with ‘the locals’, which should significantly enhance the experience. The main other venue considered – namely, Southeast Asia – is a plethora of languages, not one of which do Limor or I speak ourselves, and any of which would be harder to learn than Spanish.Central America, however, will have to wait. As we plan/hope/think about spending +-3 months there, this will have to wait until we can both spare our time for that; finish our degrees, and then probably wait until ‘After the Chagim’ (how amusing, to delay plans until ‘after the chagim’, while still in February).

The vagabond’s soul knows no such postponement, however; as a more short-term fantasy, my sights have set on Bulgaria. The origin of Bulgaria as a traveling destination is, how awkward,, where a random post highlighted national nature scenes. Intrigued, minimal research reveals Bulgaria to be [almost] all the good things I am looking for:

  • A cheap flight away from Israel. (On a side note, I am repeatedly amazed there is still no single, easy-to-use website that effectively allows one to find the cheapest way to fly internationally from point a to point b.)
  • Ample nature hiking routes, including – and this is a clincher – potable stream water to drink from on hiking trips. This is what makes Patagonia, in my mind, to be as awesome for hiking as it is.
  • Cheap standard of living.
  • Language one (well, I) could get by on (I speak/read basic Russian, which is close enough to Bulgarian at least to get by.

So, to sum up, I am currently sporting a joint fantasy of backpacking in Central America (next fall, give or take) and hiking in Bulgaria (hopefully sooner). Thank you for listening.