IL’s Morning Recess #7 – Reading and Rancheras

Good morning, good afternoon, good evening, wherever you happen to be in the world. Dan Prescher here, with this edition of International Living’s Morning Recess, where we talk about all things expat and drink coffee all morning.

In today’s episode, Dan looks at how our various correspondents are covering the COVID-19 pandemic in their countries, his latest audiobook purchase, learning Spanish through Children’s TV shows, and plays some country tunes.

Episode 7 Transcript

Good morning, good afternoon, good evening, wherever you happen to be in the world.

Dan Prescher here, with this edition of International Living‘s Morning Recess, where we talk about all things expat and drink coffee all morning.

It’s strange to be talking about all things expat while still grounded here in the U.S., which is where Suzan and I happened to be when we found ourselves frozen geographically. Suzan’s upstairs on a conference call, I’m down here in what passes for my man cave.

We still consider ourselves expats, even though we’re frozen in place right now. We’ve been frozen in other cities for years at a time but all of those have been outside the U.S. Right now, we are on our voluntary lockdown in Omaha, Nebraska.

Right now, I’m also feeling extremely lucky that the expat experience has been broadened and deepened by the internet so much. That’s how we get together every time we meet here on Morning Recess. It makes it so much easier to network, to do your research, to stay in touch with loved ones, as we’re all finding out at the moment.

Here are just a few examples of the stuff that I’ve already been looking at today on the IL Facebook page. This is the International Living main Facebook page, but you can find all the International Living country pages represented there. Or you can go to the specific country page yourself for more info. On the main page right now, there is a story on understanding the pandemic rules in Cuenca, Ecuador. It’s not only interesting reading about how they’re dealing with what’s going on right now but they also compare the results of their approach with the results they’re getting in Florida, which is very interesting reading.

I also stumbled across Kathleen Evans’ video talking about how they’re dealing with things in Costa Rica, and especially in her town of Tamarindo. We visited her in Tamarindo last year and I don’t know if you ever been to one of those places where you just said to yourself—this will do, just retire right here. Just drop anchor. Tamarindo was one of those places. Kathleen has a great take on how they’re dealing with things there and in Costa Rica in general.

Also on the International Living Belize Facebook page, there’s a great story on how they’re dealing with things in Placencia. Placencia had a spot, I believe in the Guinness Book of World Records, for a long time for having the longest pedestrian Main Street of any town on the planet. The Main Street runs right through the middle of town—never been a car or a truck on it. Placencia is that kind of place, it’s beautiful and the way they’re dealing with things right now, helping each other out, keeping everybody’s head above water, is really informative.

It’s a wonderful place the internet. It also helps me personally because I’m a voracious reader and you can now read anything on the internet and because I’m an old geezer and my eyesight’s starting to go, I avail myself of audiobooks and I can get anything I want on the internet. What am I reading now you ask? Well, let me tell you. It’s a book called The Master and his Emissary, by a guy named Ian McGilchrist. I am a sucker for this kind of stuff. It’s right brain, left brain kind of physiology and psychology. I suck this stuff up. I don’t really understand it but I just give it all to my right brain, which is what this book is all about and McGilchrist also happens to live on, and write from, the Isle of Skye. I don’t know why that makes such perfect sense to me but it does. Give it to your right brain and just let it process it as the gestalt put it all together in one piece.

You can also use the internet for language lessons. I hope you’re learning your languages right now while you have the chance. So many great ways to learn a language. Language lessons online, a lot of them are available through International Living. One that comes to mind, not necessarily on the internet, but when I think about it was when we were in Ajijic, Mexico. There was a group of expats that got together once or twice a week to watch Barney in Spanish. A great way to learn basic grammatically correct Spanish, watching Spanish children’s TV.

Another great way that appeals to me personally is music. Learn a song in the local music tradition of the place where you’re living. That just suits me right down to the ground. Suzan and I are residents of Merida, Mexico right now and in Merida, the popular old-time musical connection is with a musical style that actually is from Cuba called Trova. There was a time when Merida and the Yucatan Peninsula, in general, was more closely connected to Cuba and to Europe than it was to the rest of Mexico and that shows in a lot of the cultural traditions there. Trova is one of those beautiful musical styles that is still very popular in Merida. They have a Trova museum, in fact. In Ecuador, it’s dance music that actually descended from waltzes. Absolutely gorgeous, intricate musical styles. Much too intricate for me to attempt to reproduce, which is why I default to simpler tunes—country tunes. And there’s a style in Mexico called Ranchera which suits me to a tee and well, I’m glad you asked, I’ll do a Ranchera for you right now.

There you go. Rancheras originated in the countryside in Mexico, back around the time just before and during the Mexican Revolution. Out in the country is kind of a reaction to the refined and ostentatious styles and tastes of the aristocracy. Suits me fine, I have no trouble doing country tunes at all. It also puts me in mind of a riff that I ran across on Facebook the other day. I don’t know the provenance of it but it has kind of a universal theme to it and it boils down to just how lucky I, and a lot of people are, to have places that we can self-isolate in at all. Homes big enough that we can even self-isolate in the first place. To have running water I can use to wash my hands, to be able to afford hand sanitizer, not to have to go outside every day just for the food that I’m going to eat that day.

Lucky, lucky, lucky, again. Knock on wood, if you can find any around. If you’re in the same happy boat, count your blessings, and help out those who aren’t in any way you can.

Until next time, stay calm, breathe deep, help each other out, maintain situational awareness and I’ll see you later.

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