The next blog I write will be coming to you from not only a country, but a continent I have never been to: in four days time I will be boarding a gravity-defying hunk of metal to move to San Pedro La Laguna, Guatemala.
I am undertaking this journey of almost 9,000 kilometres in order to a) get some sun; b) improve my Spanish; c) help out some friends by running their bar, (I have just seen how a single letter separates ‘running’ from ‘ruining’…); and d) keep up my goal of being in a different country to see in the New Year every year, (this will be my 14th new country in 15 years: it would have been 15 for 15, but I got bored in Italy on December 30th). Plus, I hope to have enough free time for writing in order to make this blog as essential to your weekly routine as looking at youtube clips of babies and cats, and to finally get my novel published.
However, as far as book-reading goes, I have been left with my regular, travel-based quandary, (and who knew there was a second ‘a’ in ‘quandary’ before auto-correct kicked in? Not me!): how many books will the airline, my cheap suitcase and my lower vertebrae allow me to get away with taking with me? And which is more important, a novel I haven’t read or two sticks of deodorant? A collection of George Orwell essays, or three pairs of underwear? (This is, of course, a dilemma similar to the one Orwell wrote about himself in his essay: ‘Books v Cigarettes.’ Luckily for me, I don’t smoke. But I do wear underwear).
Whilst it is true that preliminary investigations have revealed that there are, indeed, a couple of bookshops in the area, (this is fairly advanced research for me, considering that not only did I not know where San Pedro was until last week, I wasn’t at all sure where Guatemala was…and only the obvious meant I had a general idea where Central America is, thanks to having lived in both the North and South versions), I have no idea to what extent I can trust these bookeries. I know the consequences of both under- and over-estimating local book supplies: I took a dozen books with me to London, and returned with around fifty unread, but this may have been influenced by a two week holiday I took on the Philippine island of Boracay a few years ago. I had presumed book supplies would be as plentiful as they had been on Thai islands: I ended up having to read the first two Twilight novels, after the two paperbacks I had taken with me were finished on the flights over and it turned out the only reading people did on Boracay were Barbara Cartland romances and trashy German paperbacks.
Of the several hundred books awaiting my devouring of them, the biggest dilemma is one of size: do I take half a dozen back-breakers, or 30/40 slim paperbacks?
The latter would allow me to boost my monthly reading numbers, and supply plenty of blog-fodder, (or ‘blog-fod’, as I have just decided to start calling it), but runs the risk of me running out of reading material within a month, (I can get through three or four bite-sized books on a long-distance flight, especially given train journeys and airport waiting times).
On the other hand, I often find myself buying mammoth tomes, (from 1,400-page histories of Europe to Roberto Bolaño‘s foot-breaking ‘2666‘, not to mention Stieg Larsson‘s ‘Millennium‘ trilogy, which has followed me to the USA and back and which I am beginning to feel I may never get around to reading), whilst saying to myself: “If someday I get to spend six months on a desert island, I will just take a few of these with and have time to get through them.” Guatemala may not be a desert island exactly, but it’s not far off.
Want to know the results? Tune in next week for my first Guatemalteco blog…(and is there a better adjective in the world than ‘Guatemalteco’?)