It’s amazing how quickly the time has gone since we arrived in Burgos two weeks ago. We’ve achieved a lot and yet at the same time we seem to have managed lots of fun activities too like leisurely strolls; it’s too hot for any other kind and swimming outdoors. Jogging along the bubbling Arlanzon River in the early morning cool has been a joy even if there’s no huge improvement to my fitness levels yet.
Visiting the fabulous Museum of Evolution made us think about how different and similar humans and our ancestors are. Early man spent a lot of time learning new skills and encountering new things that became familiar, just like us. Something I’ve noticed in the past few days is how quickly we can become familiar with something, how fast it seems reassuring and a little bit daunting to break away again.
When we arrived here in Burgos we were in a luxury Airbnb flat that was the best equipped place I’ve ever stayed, but it was a 30-40 minute walk to the centre of town and we’d promised ourselves we wanted to live within striking distance of the cathedral – preferably with a view of it. So when we found our new flat just off the cathedral square with an actual view of the cathedral we were delighted and very excited about moving in.
And yet as we were packing up and leaving the old apartment an element of misgiving set in, for me at least. We knew all about the old apartment, what there was, how it worked and where the sun comes up in the morning (this is very important in Spain to get your blinds closed before the sun gets in). What would the new one be like? Would it be noisy at night? Would the neighbours play loud music? Would they be friendly? Where would we hang up our washing?
How quickly we became accustomed to something that seemed new very recently but had became normal. This is a safety feature for human life – to be aware of novelty just in case it turns out to be dangerous but you need to recognise it again because it might be a good place to find food. But the benefit is that those moments remain etched better in your memory because they are tagged with emotional markers like dopamine, adrenaline, cortisol etc. You get a heightened sense of awareness and a richer experience.
I’m trying to use the novelty, familiarity and seeking new novelty in my effort to learn and remember Spanish by trying different ways of learning each week. This week I’ve been driving my husband mad by saying as much as possible out loud in Spanish, or a tortured form of it, just to get some additional words in my vocabulary. Next week I’m going to start some formal one to one, face to face sessions a couple of times a week for August to give me a better formal grounding in grammar and sentence formation.
All of it’s going to need lots of repetition and reinforcement but fortunately all I have to do is go and buy some bread and get involved in the daily life around me. There’s nothing like immersion and constant application for improving a skill.
By the way the neighbours seem lovely and I’ve still not done any washing but that will be another new skills because our washing line is 3 floors up and if I drop the socks it’s a long walk down.
Hasta pronto (see you soon).
Interesting article on familiarity https://www.sciencenews.org/blog/scicurious/familiar-feeling-comes-deep-brain