On Returning

In November 2017, I announced a hiatus, amidst working on my series about Japanese kanji. Two and a half years later, I have decided to return. What happened during this time? A radio silence lasting a couple of years broken by a sudden post, a profile update, a growing urge to return to writing, and to bring a personal touch to languages.

December 2017 – I finally reached my first ever Nordic country, Finland. The first of many countries to come where I traveled with the company of my friends. Witnessing the 100th year of independence on 6 December, 2017, it was definitely a once in a lifetime observation. We went up north to Rovaniemi to embrace the Arctic circle and the joy of a 22-hour night. Coming from the tropics, it was undoubtedly unusual to see the sun rise at 11am, way past waking time, and setting just after lunch, at 1pm. Surrounded by nature and national parks, Lapland offered among the most pristine hiking or cross-country skiing experiences in this season. Disappointingly though, it was one of the warmest winters then, with almost no snow in Helsinki, and temperatures above -10 in Rovaniemi.

13 December 2017. A detour to Tallinn. Boarding the Tallink express from Helsinki, we took possibility the most common route Finns use to travel to Estonia. Tallinn’s old town stood out in an urban sprawl of modern architecture, illuminating its figure as a historic site to explore. The cobbled roads winded through town sections, offering a relatively rustic, picturesque scenery in an otherwise modern and highly urbanised city-scape. I began to notice the similarities and differences between Finnish and Estonian, but in real time. Bookstores, one of my go-to places in any country I visit, offered a nice selection of Estonian textbooks and literature. E Nagu Eesti (E like Estonia) was what I chose. Heading back to Helsinki on the 16th, I made sure to try out their liquor, Vana Tallinn. The last days in Finland were mainly spent in Espoo, where we explored yet another national park, this time hiking along random trails. The snow-blanketed ground and the bare trees concocted a memorable scenery my eyes could not take off. Leaving the Nordic region for the first time, I knew it was going to be the first travels of several, or many to come.

2018 – I resumed my studies in Papiah Kristang with the Kodrah Kristang team, later proposing a possible translation of Le Petit Prince (The Little Prince) into Kristang, to help add to the literary scene of Kristang. The project was put on hold after realising the amount of vocabulary which is not quite represented in Kristang, ranging from scientific concepts like digestion to technology-based words. I was added to Ranchu Jardinggu Kristang, a community dedicated to propose new words to be added to the Kristang online dictionary to close in the gaps of knowledge in such vocabulary.

Thereafter, I got an offer to study biology in London, UK, which I gladly took up and accepted. Ah, London, what an international place. It was not long into settling in when I found a bookstore filled with books in languages from the region, and another stocked with books from right across the Channel.

2019 – I had been dabbling in and out of language and linguistics as I tried to manage them with my university work, occasionally linking all of them together, as with language genes and how we got our concept of a working language.

Travelling to Italy and the Vatican City in March, I realised the beauty of Latin etched into the ruins of Ancient Rome. A brief trip to Ireland in June brought me closer to Irish Gaelic, a Celtic language spoken across Ireland, split into three main variants, Ulster, Munster and Connacht. Aillte an Mhothair stared bravely into the Atlantic, casting a great scenery as far as the eye could see.

In December, I embarked on a trip to my second Baltic nation, Latvia. Riga’s old town, Vecriga, provided a stark contrast of classical architecture to the modern buildings surrounding it, some from the Soviet-era. 19th century wooden architecture dotted the area, and could be occasionally seen across the city. Sigulda, a small town, provided great access to the Gauja national park, allowing us to hike towards the Krimulda castle. Concluding the trip were some essential purchases, the Latvian translation of Le Petit Prince (Mazais princis) and Russian translation of 1984, which I have been curious about for quite some time. With that, it was time to head back to London to welcome…

2020 – Pandemic struck. My plans to head back to Cazaux, France, or travel to Vilnius, Lithuania, the last of the Baltic states, had been shelved, or worse yet, cancelled. However, it provided a great opportunity to recount the time I spent on hiatus, and amidst these trying times, I have turned to writing on this blog again to better spend the time staying home, and to provide you, my readers, essays on language and linguistics to read and think about. Please consider following this blog, I hope you stay safe and healthy, and I will see you in my next post.


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