Category Archives: kindness
Today is Spanish Friday so this post is in Spanish. If you participated in Spanish Friday on your own blog, leave your link in comments. English translation at the bottom!
Carlos no es tímido, pero es algo antisocial. Uno no pensaría esto si uno lo encuentra porque él es un tipo simpático, agradable, pero la mera neta es que él prefiere pasar el tiempo con la familia y la gente que ya conoce muy bien.
Yo estoy lo contrario. Por naturaleza soy tímida pero me obligo a no actuar en el impulso de quedarme solita. Pasar tiempo alrededor de un montón de gente me agota, pero por iqual, me encanta vivir nuevas experiencias y tengo curiosidad por los demás.
Por eso, yo estaba sorprendida y feliz la semana pasada cuándo Carlos me dijo que unos de sus compañeros de trabajo nos invitaron a su apartamento y después a jugar fútbol. Bueno, ellos nos han invitaron un par de veces antes pero Carlos siempre no queria ir. Esta vez, (no sé por qué) él me preguntó si me gustaría aceptar la invitación. Mi repuesta fue, “Por supuesto! ¡Por fin!”
Así que fuimos viernes por la tarde al apartamento de su compañero, Mando. Ya conocia a él, su eposa e hijo porque fuimos una vez al cumple del niño, pero eso fue ya dos años pasados y ahora ellos están viviendo en un nuevo lugar.
Nos sentamos en las sillas del comedor y Mando abrió las ventanas para que la brisa entrara porque ellos no tienen aire acondicionado. Después, como buen anfitrión, Mando nos ofreció tamales; cuando aceptó con entusiasmo, él desapareció detrás de una cortina que divide la sala y comedor de la cocina.
Miré las paredes de la casa mientras yo esperaba. En una pared desnuda de otro modo había colgado un póster grande en un cuadro plastico. Era el tipo de póster que pueden verse en el pasillo de una escuela. El póster mostraba un águila con una bandera americana ondeando en el fondo – en la parte de abajo en una fuente blanca y con letras mayúsculas, decia: “COURAGE” (coraje) … Me pregunté si sabían lo que significa, ya que no hablan mucho inglés. De cualquier manera, me tocó ver ese póster en su apartamento – Me pareció simbólico.
Mando regresó con un plato de poliestireno lleno de tamales envueltas en papel aluminio. Él puso un vaso en la mesa. “¿Agua?” preguntó, sosteniendo una jarra de líquido morado. Le permití que me sirve un vaso de “agua” morada, aunque yo no tenía idea de lo que era. Resulto ser “agua de uva”, pero Mando y los otros compañeros se refieren a la bebida simplemente como “agua”.
Después de comer, fuimos a la cancha. Allí me senté en la banca con las otras mujeres y niños, mientras que los hombres jugaban. “¿Las mujeres nunca juegan?” le pregunté a la esposa de Mando. Ella me miró como si yo fuera un poco rara, pero con una sonrisa amable ella negó con la cabeza. Me molesto un poco que no podía jugar fútbol también pero lo acepté para no avergonzar a Carlos o hacer incómodos nuestros nuevos amigos.
En vez de jugar, saqué fotos, (lo cual era, probablemente, también una extraña cosa gringa que hacer.)
¡Qué hermosa es la cancha? ¿No están de acuerdo que parece a El Salvador o de algún país lejano? Esto en realidad es Pensilvania.
Pasé la tarde y la noche hablando con las mujeres y jugando con los niños. La esposa de Mando está embarazada y hablamos sobre nombres de bebé entre otras cosas personales. Ella me habló sobre su familia en México y se ofreció a enseñarme cómo hacer una salsa especial que hace. Se sentía bien hacer una amiga, observar cosas nuevas y experimentar la bondad de los demás pero salió la luna y todos los hombres proclamarón que estaban agotados, así que nos regresamos a casa.
Lo mejor? Carlos dice que podemos hacer esto todos los viernes.
Carlos isn’t shy, but he’s kind of antisocial. You wouldn’t think that if you met him because he’s a nice, likeable guy, but the simple truth is that he prefers spending time with family and people he already knows very well.
I’m kind of the opposite. By nature I’m shy but I force myself not to act on the urge to stay to myself. Spending time around a lot of people exhausts me, but just as much, I love new experiences and I’m curious about others.
So I was surprised and happy last week when Carlos told me that one of his co-workers invited us to their apartment and then to play soccer. Well, they have invited us a couple of times before but Carlos has always refused to go. This time, (I don’t know why) Carlos asked me if I wanted to accept the invitation. My response was, “Of course! Finally!”
So Friday afternoon we went to the apartment of his friend, Mando. I had met him, his wife and son before because we went once to the child’s birthday party, but that was already two years ago and now they live in a different place.
We sat in mismatched chairs and Mando opened the windows so the breeze could come in because they don’t have air conditioning. Then, good host that he is, Mando asked if we’d like tamales; when I accepted with enthusiasm, he disappeared behind a curtain that divides the dining and living room from the kitchen.
I looked at the walls of the house while I waited. On an otherwise bare wall hung a large poster in a plastic frame. It was the kind of poster one might see in the hallway of a school. The poster showed an eagle with an American flag waving in the background – at the bottom in a white font and in capital letters, it said: “COURAGE” …I wondered if they know what is says since they don’t speak much English. Either way, it touched me to see that poster in their apartment – It seemed symbolic.
Mando returned with a styrofoam plate filled with foil-wrapped tamales. He put a glass on the table. “Agua?” he asked, holding a jug of purple liquid. I allowed him to serve me a glass of purple “water”, although I had no idea what it was. Turns out it was “agua de uva,” [a type of grape juice] but Mando and the others refer to the drink as simply “agua.”
After we ate, we went to the soccer field. There I sat on the sidelines with the other women and children while the men played. “Do women ever play?” I asked the wife of Mando. She looked at me like I was a bit odd, but with a friendly smile she shook her head. I got a little annoyed that I couldn’t play soccer as well but I accepted it, not wanting to embarrass Carlos or make our new friends uncomfortable.
Instead of playing, I took pictures, (which was probably also a strange gringa thing to do.)
How beautiful is the soccer field? Doesn’t it look like it could be El Salvador or some distant country? This is actually Pennsylvania.
I spent the afternoon and evening talking with the women and playing with the children. Mando’s wife is pregnant and so we talked about baby names and other personal things. She opened up to me about her family in Mexico and offered to teach me how to make a special salsa that she makes. It felt good to make friends, see new things and experience the kindness of others but soon the moon came out and the men proclaimed that they were exhausted, so we went home.
The best part? Carlos says we can do this every Friday.
While we have plenty of people living in poverty here in the United States, it usually isn’t quite so visible, especially if you live in the suburbs.
Going to El Salvador was eye-opening for the boys, and it reminded Carlos and I to be thankful for what we have, too. There were two encounters we had with people that have especially stuck with me.
The first one happened on our way to a mini-carnival. During the first week of August, carnivals pop up all over El Salvador. This one wasn’t well-known or in any way special, but it was close by so we thought we would walk over and ride a few rides one day.
As I climbed the sidewalk which curved up and around into a parking lot where the carnival had been erected, a half-empty 2 liter bottle of Sprite came rolling to a stop at my feet. I picked it up, and awaited the owner, who I knew must only be seconds behind, chasing it down the hill. Sure enough, the owner of the bottle arrived. A little girl, maybe 8 years old, stood before me. Her hair looked like it hadn’t been brushed in days, her face had smears of dirt on it, and her clothes were little more than rags. Next to her stood a little boy, probably her younger brother. He was in a similar condition. Both stood wide-eyed, looking at me, their arms filled with remnants of food they had dug from the trash. I situated the bottle back into the crook of her arm so she wouldn’t drop it. Before I could say anything, she whispered “gracias” and they both disappeared into the crowd.
The second encounter was on our last day. We had walked around the mall buying some last minute souvenirs and then decided to get some paletas. Our youngest son had ordered a paleta de uva and rejected it after his first bite. “This has real grapes in it!” he said, disgusted.
“You ordered grape!” Carlos said angrily.
“But I wanted just regular purple grape,” he said looking sadly at his paleta.
I touched Carlos’s arm gently. “Nene, he didn’t know better. He was expecting artificial grape flavor like American popsicles,” I said.
Carlos sighed, took the paleta for himself even though he didn’t want it, and bought our son another one.
We headed back to the hotel while we ate our paletas. By the time we reached the pasarela stairs, the boys and I had finished ours but Carlos still had a few bites left on the stick.
“Chele,” a woman said to Carlos, as we started up the stairs. She looked up at us, her face pressed between the railings.
“Regalame su paleta,” she said. [Gift me your popsicle.]
Somehow I could tell, the woman wasn’t terribly old, but a rough life had aged her prematurely. She was thin and wrinkled, her hair unwashed for a long time.
Carlos handed her the popsicle.
“Disculpe,” [Forgive me] she said, as she turned away and finished off the paleta.
Carlos and I exchanged looks. We turned back around and rushed to the first fast food counter we could find, ordering her a hot dog and a soda.
When we went back to the pasarela, the woman was still in the area, just down the street a little. I gave our younger son the hot dog and our older son the soda. I wanted them to be the ones to hand it to her so they would remember it.
“Hot dog para usted,” our youngest son said, giving her one of his infectious smiles. Our older son handed her the soda wordlessly.
The boys say her face lit up with a smile and she thanked them.
From the top of the pasarela we watched her for a few minutes. She opened the bag that contained the hot dog and stared into it then closed it up tight. She did this several times. The soda she hid under a nearby bush. We couldn’t really make sense of what she was doing. I told Carlos we should keep walking. Regardless of what she ended up doing with the lunch we gave her, we left feeling that we had done something good and that we had given the boys one of the most valuable souvenirs ever.
I saw a news story years ago about the use of donkeys in some Latin American countries to bring books to remote mountain villages which are difficult to reach by vehicle. The stories of the “Biblioburros” (library donkeys) has always been one of my favorites.
Now the story of the original “Biblioburro” is coming to PBS on July 19th.
“Biblioburro” is the story of a librarian — and a library — like no other. A decade ago, Colombian teacher Luis Soriano was inspired to spend his weekends bringing a modest collection of precious books, via two hard-working donkeys, to the children of a poor and violence-ridden province. As Soriano braves armed bands, drug traffickers, snakes and heat, his library on hooves carries an inspirational message about education and a better future for Colombia. His efforts have attracted worldwide attention — and imitators — but his story has never been better told than in this heartwarming yet unsentimental film.
It’s people like this that make the world an amazing place.
Put in on your calendar so you don’t forget to tune in: Tuesday, July 19, 2011, 10:00-11:00 p.m. ET
Yerko was born in Chile, blind and partially deaf. When his parents discovered his musical talent and grew frustrated with the lack of opportunities for their son in their native country, they sold everything and came to the United States. In New York, Yerko flourished. Fitted with special hearing aids and attending the prestigious La Guardia school of the performing arts, Yerko, an honor roll student, learned to be independent and spent his days pursuing his passion but in October of 2010, U.S. Immigration deported Yerko and his family.
Now living in Chile, Yerko continues with his music, but dreams of coming back to study in the United States some day.
To read more of Yerko’s inspiring story, or to make a donation which will go towards continuing his education, visit the Hear The World foundation.
[English Translation below]
Hay un arbusto en nuestra yarda – mi mamá me lo dio unos años atras. El arbusto, por la mayoría del año, no es nada especial – lo ignoramos… hasta que esta época del año cuando salen los capullos bien redonditos. Ahora lo observamos con anticipación porque sabemos que unas flores bien grandes y lindas con un olor fuerte y dulce van a salir muy pronto.
Recientemente, yo estaba tan ocupada, tan apresurada y distraída, que olvidé completamente de mi arbustito y los capullos que estaban abriendo poco a poco.
Ayer por la tarde, cuando yo estaba lavando los platos de la cena, mi mente ya corría con millones de cosas que tengo que hacer, mi hijito entraba la cocina con una flor en la mano.
Mi primer pensamiento fue: ¿Y qué es esto? ¿Cómo floricían tan rapido? ¿Estaba yo realmente tan ocupada que se me había olvidado de tomar un momentito por chequearlas?
Mi segundo pensamiento fue: ¡Ay! Y mira este niño travieso ya ha arruinado el arbusto! Ni la cortó bien! Casi no hay nada de tronco en esta flor!
Mi hijo me dio la flor a mí. “La corté para tí”, dijo, mirándome con sus grandes ojos cafes y una sonrisa nerviosa.
Tomé una respiración profunda, le dí un abrazo y pusé la flor en un vaso pequeño. Estoy agradecida que no lo castigue. Después de todo, me hubiera perdido de ver las flores en absoluto si él no me hubiera recordado de ellas.
Supone que debo ser la que debo criar y enseñar a mis hijos, pero a veces son ellos los que me enseñan a mí.
There’s a bush in our yard – my mother gave it to me years ago. The bush, for most of the year – is nothing special – we ignore it… until this time of year when perfect little round buds emerge. Now we observe the bush with anticipation because we know the bush will soon give forth big, beautiful flowers with a sweet perfume.
Recently, I’ve been so busy, so hurried and distracted, that I forgot completely about my little bush and the buds that have been opening little by little.
Yesterday evening, while I was washing the dinner plates, my mind already running with a million things I need to do, my youngest son came into the kitchen with a flower in his hand.
My first thought was: And what is this? How did they bloom so quickly? Was I really that busy that I forgot to take even a small moment to check on them?
My second thought was: Oh! Look at this naughty child – he’s already ruined the bush! He didn’t even cut it well! There’s almost no stem on this flower!
My son handed me the flower. “I picked it for you,” he said, looking at me with his big brown eyes and a nervous smile.
I took a deep breath, gave him a hug and put the flower in a small vase. I’m thankful I didn’t chastise him. In the end, I would have completely lost my chance to see the flowers if he hadn’t reminded me of them.
It’s supposed to be me who is raising and teaching my children, but sometimes it is they who teach me.
Este es mi regalo para mi cumple que recibí de mi amiga, Claudia – y como dije a ella, “lo amo, lo amo, lo amo!” …
Es de El Salvador (la bolsa y mi amiga también! jajaja), y mira que lindos colores trae el morral! Con sólo una mirada, me manda a otro lugar en mi mente. Imagino caminando en la playa, mi cabello flotando en la brisa, la arena caliente bajo mis pies, mis chanclas en mi mano y mis pantalones enrollados hasta las rodillas. Colgado en mi hombro, mi linda bolsa. Dentro de la bolsa tendría un buen libro que me gustaría sentarme y leer cuando encuentré el lugar perfecto – un lugar donde no hay demasiada gente y puedo escuchar las olas rompiendo en la orilla mientras estaba sentada bajo el sol.
Volviendo a la realidad: Próximos tres días, frío y lluvioso. El verano no puede llegar suficientemente pronto.
Title: My satchel and a daydream
This is my birthday gift I received from my friend, Claudia – and as I told her, “I love it, love it, love it!” …
It’s from El Salvador, (the bag and my friend too! hahaha), and look how pretty the colors! With just a look, it sends me to another place in my mind. I imagine walking on the beach, my hair flowing in the breeze, warm sand under my feet, my flip-flops swinging in my hand and the legs of my jeans rolled to the knees. Hanging from my shoulder, my beautiful bag. Inside the bag would be a good book that I would sit down to read when I found the perfect place – a place where there aren’t too many people and where I can hear the waves crashing on the shore while sitting in the sun.
Back to reality: Next three days, cold and rainy. Summer can not come soon enough.
There’s a non-profit website run by the United Nations World Food Programme called FreeRice.com … Basically you play educational games and while doing so, you donate food to the hungry. It is completely free.
There are various subjects you can study/play. My favorite is Spanish vocabulary (obvio!) – but they have English, as well as other languages, math, science, and more. There are also different skill levels. My kids love to play and see how much rice they can donate – in the meantime, they’re learning!
I made this video to show you a little more because I wanted to spread the word.
(The video has no audio.)
Go play now! … Don’t forget to add it to your bookmarks/favorites and tell family and friends.
Disclosure: This is not a sponsored post.
It’s that time again! Suegra has been back for quite awhile now but I’m just now getting a chance to blog about all the things she brought. Besides my super chévere typewriter, queso, frijoles and T-shirts, we received many other gifts – and this isn’t even all of them. She has a fully packed suitcase back in El Salvador which she wasn’t able to bring. A visiting Tía will hopefully deliver it to us soon.
Not pictured below is a special chile spice and achiote which I asked her to buy. Apparently TACA confiscated those from her carry-on luggage. Suegra put up a fight, but it was useless – they wouldn’t allow it, (maybe it looks like powdered explosives?) … I pouted about this and the suitcase full of stuff she left behind and Carlos rightfully chastised me. “Look at all this stuff you got! And what did I get?” he asked, looking around.
I held up a plastic baggy with a little bundle of crusty old gauze inside it, “this?” I said, holding up the bag that contained his umbilical cord which Suegra had brought back with her from El Salvador.
“That’s right,” Carlos said, snatching the baggy. “You got a typewriter and I got my old belly button.”
Here are some more of our souvenirs, (no umbilical cord photos included because that’s icky.)
Carlos can’t complain either. He got a Jesus towel. I’m glad this wasn’t gifted to me. I think I’d feel uncomfortable actually using it.
Carlos also got an image of San Antonio, who was his father’s favorite saint.
…And he got his school I.D. from when he was in middle school. Is it wrong that I find him incredibly guapo despite the Menudo hair and the fact that he’s about 13 years old in that photo?
Our younger son got this little bag which is called a “morralito.” Carlos says fútbol players use them to carry their bottled water to the field.
Want to see more souvenirs?
I still really haven’t had closure to the whole Clementino situation. (If you have no idea what I’m talking about, check out Part I and Part II.) What kind of closure am I expecting? I don’t think there can really be any. I’ve tried to put words to how I feel about all this, mostly for myself, so I can untangle it and move on. Unrequited love is one of those tragic things that I find difficult to process, no matter which side of the equation I happen to be on.
This would all be hilarious that I’m suffering all sorts of angst over this piropo if Clementino was just looking for casual sex and doesn’t really love me. I’ve tried to convince myself of that but Suegra told me something that makes me think otherwise.
She went to the market the other day with my older son to buy phone cards. Clementino’s wife was at the counter and Suegra said she could hear Clementino in one of the aisles stocking shelves. Suegra bought the phone cards and then requested to purchase Bubu Lubus, (for me of course.)
Well, Suegra says that as soon as she said the words “Bubu Lubus,” – Clementino raced to the front, almost tripping over himself. He came out to the front counter, and seeing Suegra at the register, started looking around the rest of the store. When he presumably saw that I wasn’t there, he went back to re-stocking shelves.
To make sure Suegra wasn’t just making up stories, I asked my older son and he said that’s exactly what happened.
So anyway, yesterday was Valentine’s Day and I received a package in the mail covered in hearts. The boys hoping there was something for them inside despite my name being on it, watched me open it. I pulled out a 24 pack box of Bubu Lubus.
My youngest son looked at the Bubu Lubus and the hearts all over the envelope and jumped to conclusions.
“Woah!” he said, “Are those from Clementino?”
I assured him they weren’t. Silly cipote. Then Carlos came home and seeing the box of Bubu Lubus and heart patterned envelope raised an eyebrow.
“Who are those from?” he asked.
“My friend, Amanda!”
“….Hm….are you sure?”
I showed him the shipping address as proof. Obviously, Carlos is still thinking about the Clementino situation too.
Read: Clementino Parts 4, 5, 6