I Think I’m Learning Japanese

In my quest to burn through all of my money and leave time at work as quickly as possible, the Polar Pencil Partner and I have booked our next international adventure. This August we’ll be winging it across the Pacific to Japan! As a result, I am taking a pretty big plunge: attempting to learn Japanese.

Trying to learn other languages has always made me feel frustrated and vulnerable, but I think making a good-faith effort to pick up what you can of the local tongue(s) is courteous and respectful when visiting a country whose predominant first language isn’t your own. I bristle when I am abroad and encounter other Americans who so obviously don’t share this viewpoint, and I actually get a little offended when I attempt to start a conversation in the local language and the other party switches to English without at least letting me try. And anyway, from a purely practical standpoint, I’ve found that even if you only know a little bit of the local language, and a local with whom you’re conversing knows only a little bit of yours, you can often meet them halfway and manage to piece together a semi-coherent conversation.

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Presenting: the great Spanish pencil haul of 2019

I am back from this year’s overseas adventure! After a little digging around, Spain turned out to be a great place to pick up some pencils. Somehow I managed to get all of these out of the EU and into the USA without some customs agent thinking that I must be some sort of pencil mule running a black market office supply scheme…

It was actually really interesting, because I had an idea of specific pencil makes or models that I expected to find. For the most part, I didn’t. However, I did find a bunch that I didn’t even know existed.

As you can see, the Staedtler Norris is well-represented. I did keep my eyes peeled for that specific pencil, and found it. In a way, it seems to be the Ticonderoga of Spain (and perhaps the rest of Europe) in that it is pretty ubiquitous and most shops seem to have a little display of them at the checkout stand. I did not find some brands I was thinking I would, such as Viarco, Caran d’Ache, etc. However, I did find pencils from many well-known European makers such as Lyra, including specific models I’d never heard of. I also found a few that are specific to Spain. Many are Chinese exports targeted for the Spanish market, but some — like the Alpino Junior which (spoiler alert) I am growing pretty find of — are made in Spain. There are also some that I still haven’t figured out what they are or where they come from.

So, needless to say, there’s lots of fresh fodder for reviews and it should be fun to work my way through them.

Lapices aqui!

Aquino!! Success. I finally found some pencils in Barcelona. Models which I haven’t found back home. Despite my attempts to look far and wide, the best haul was right around the corner from our house in Gracia at Art Hilgard.

My first impression in Spain is that art supply stores are going to be the best bet for pencils (although I did also find some behind the counter at La Vanguardia, and purchased them once I became confident enough in my spanish to ask). Papelerias would seem like a natural location for them but the pickins tend to be slim. Of course, I’ll keep searching and hope to strike another jackpot.

I think I’m turning Japanese

I went to Seattle again. That means I went to Kinokuniya again. So, look out for some reviews of Japanese-type pencils and notebooks in the near future (or the far future…my stockpile keeps growing and growing ever larger…)

I’m really stoked about the Section notebook. The paper in it just seems…lovely. I’ll explain more when I write my review! The Mono J pencils I picked up because I eventually want to cover every member of the Tombow Mono family, and then do a big comparison post. Same with the Mitsubishi Uni pencils. And the Guildford pad? I think it’s just kind of funny since it’s all like “hey look at me I’m a hoity toity English flip book old chap…just kidding I’m from Japan!”

You think writing with a pencil is “analog”? Please.

If you were really analog, your sketchbook would a beach with a bunch of rocks, and you’d write using bronze-age tools. Check out these examples from the dull edge of analog writing technology:

This post is offered as somewhat of an apology for the relative lack of material I’ve put up recently. I have been traveling a lot, and focused on family and fun rather than computer stuff or playing with pencils. I did have a pencil review 99% ready to go and then lost a big chunk of work during a chaotic last-minute hotel checkout. So, check for that soon. In the meantime, I thought I would quickly share something from my trip that’s cool and at least marginally related to analog writing.

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