El Salvador – The Less Fortunate

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.

$1.70 isn't much to us, but it could mean a lot to someone else.

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.

Herederos del Monte (a guest post!)

Today’s guest post comes to us from my fellow gringa and telenovelera, Amanda of Spanglish Aventuras.

When I became addicted to Telemundo’s Herederos del Monte and encouraged others to check it out – many of you did, and like Amanda, became totally enamoradas – not only with the hermanos del Monte, but with the quality of the production and storyline. It’s been excellent Spanish practice and I’ve picked up a few new catch phrases. (I love saying, “Por Dios Santooo!” and “Válgame” with the same intonation as José. I’ve also learned a dozen ways to tell someone to go away and leave me alone from Paula.)

Herederos, amongst some of the drama, (and yes, cheesiness) common in telenovelas, touched on some serious issues such as alcoholism, rape, mental illness, and spousal abuse.

Some may say telenovelas are mindless entertainment but as Amanda explains, telenovelas can be educational whether providing a fun way to learn a second language, or by teaching some serious real life lessons.


Let the Truth be Known … on Los Herederos del Monte
by Amanda of Spanglish Aventuras

I mentioned in a previous post that my kids and I are watching a novela, Los Herederos del Monte, as part of our “language learning” this year.  As the soap opera is drawing to a close, I have been reflecting on some things, other than Spanish, that we can learn from their story. It all comes down to telling la verdad and not hiding it. That’s a good lesson for our lives too, right?

It seems to me that during Los Herederos del Monte, most of the characters have been hiding something from their friends or familia.  Many times, by simply sharing the information they were trying to disguise, the character could have avoided much of the angst and agony they endured…but then we would not have had a novela to see, would we?!?

It does seem a good rule for life though, “telling the truth and making life easier”.  I thought it would be fun to post about the characters and their truths (though oftentimes hidden at first) as a way to provide a summary for this intriguing “language learning tool” which has entertained so many these past few months.

(Warning….if you have not been keeping up with the storyline, details follow!)
Here goes…

Emilio: Although the father of the herederos was kidnapped and left for dead, he did not actually die.  He later had plastic surgery on purpose, to not appear as he once did, and with the help of his trusted Modesto, Emilio returned to his familia y pueblo as “Pablo”.

Emilio also did not disclose until the end that he knew that Juan was his only biological son and that Paula was not his biological daughter.

It is difficult to keep up with how many amantes Emilio has had throughout his lifetime, but those were secrets too.

Juan: The eldest of the “adopted” sons refused to admit to the other characters at first and even to himself at times later that although at one time (in the beginning) he thought he loved Julieta, he later only stayed with her out of sense of obligation (because at one time she was carrying his child, which she later lost and then Julieta had a terminal medical condition). Juan really only loves Paula.

Julieta:  The eldest daughter of Rosa and Miguel hides her true medical condition and tries numerous methods to make Paula (the supposed biological daughter of Emilio) leave “La Arboleda” and Juan’s sight.  (Remember the scorpions, the shot to make the horse throw Paula, and those chickens let loose in the bedroom?) Julieta has been very sneaky and conniving and there appears to be more coming at the end from her too.

Jose: One of the adopted sons of Emilio finds out early in the show about Paula maybe not being a real “del Monte” AND that Pablo is really Emilio.  Jose also later kidnaps Emilio, Adela, and Paula because he wants Emilio to change the paperwork to say Paula does not get any of the inheritance, to leave more for Jose himself!

Pedro: Another of the adopted sons of Emilio refused to admit for quite a while that he had a serious problem with alcohol.  It is admirable of this character however that he goes after what he wants whether it be Julieta or Berta!

Gaspar: Yet another of Emilio’s adopted sons, who hides for a while that he was the one that left Emilio for dead after the accident (because Gaspar was angry with his father for not having been faithful to Gaspar’s mother). Gaspar has an “attraction” for Adela, whom he later blatantly persues meanwhile he abuses his sweet wife Lupe.

Lucas:  The youngest adopted son of Emilio refuses to admit to himself that Nacho is a bad guy.  He also has trouble accepting that he has a biological family that desires a relationship with him, including Amador.

Consuelo y Rosario:  Julieta’s younger sisters, the daughters of Rosa and Miguel, do not want to admit that they were each raped by Nacho. Consuelo also does not want to admit to her husband Johnny that the baby she is now carrying could possibly be a result of the rape.

Sofia:  Paula’s mother and an amante of Emilio, refuses to share with Paula in the beginning that there may be a possibility that she is not actually a “del Monte”.  Sofia also hides her affair with Miguel for a while.

Lupe:  At first, Guadalupe hides her relationship with her then-boyfriend Gaspar from her father, Eluterio.  Next she hides details about her mom, (who abandoned her at an early age but later returns) from her father. Finally Lupe hides the abuse that she is receiving from her now-husband, Gaspar.

Sidenote….here’s hoping for resolution on the story with Lupe’s mom Ines, who disappeared from the pueblo again after reuniting with Lupe.

Beatriz: In the beginning she hides that she suspects that her son Simon’s actual father isJose del Monte and not her husband Efrain.  Later she refuses to admit to even herself that Jose is abusive.

Miguel:  This father of three daughters and husband of Rosa does not admit his affair with Sofia in the beginning. He also hides that he and Rosa later decide to hide medicine in their daughter Rosario’s food, at the request of her boyfriend Lucas, who got the pills from the evil Nacho.

If they could just tell the truth…..

Of course there are more characters who were important to the novela and also hid things from the other personajes.  Who else would you add to the list? Which story is the most intriguing for you?

Who says language learning can just teach you a language? I say it can teach you life lessons in the process as well!

Here’s hoping for a happy resolution in the Gran Finale on Telemundo at 9pm, this Friday night!

If you say you love fútbol, I hope you’re watching the Women’s World Cup

I am out $40 thanks to the U.S. Men’s team. Hopes were high in the beginning with a two goal lead but Mexico proved too fast and the U.S. team, too disorganized. A sampling of my tweets from last night:

• USA! USA! USA! … Don’t let me down. I’ve got $40 on this game. lol #goldcup #copadeoro

• gooooooooooool USA!

• claro – que viva mexico… pero que gane los EEUU jajaja ;) RT @soonerclone viva mexico!!

• Gooooool #2 USA & Donovan does the chicken dance in celebration lol #copaoro #goldcup

• Now 2-1 US leads MX. Goal by Barrera. #copaoro #goldcup

• Mexico ties it up. 2-2 Chicharito smartly steps over the ball to avoid offsides #goldcup #copaoro

• Mexico takes the lead 3-2 #copaoro #goldcup

• Ayyyysh! stupid porteria!

• Dempsey shouldn’t have done that. Beating up on cute little Chicharito looks bad lol

• Noooooooo :( U.S. COME ON! ergh.

• @UcCaliChic25 LOL… this is difficult to watch. Like a lion slowly eating a gazelle on NatGeo #goldcup

• Felicidades Mexico. Team USA, I’m out $40 because of you. I am disappoint #goldcup

• Carlos is unhappy. Mexican co-workers are texting him to gloat lol …He turned his phone off.


Okay, I wanted to get a photo of the text Carlos received but he is really, really sore about it. He doesn’t find it funny at all. (For one thing, they address him as “Pupusa” – that’s his nickname as the only Salvadoran at work.) … Anyway, he is so far from amused that I actually need a separate post to talk about it – so that has to wait until más tarde.

As for the game, I’m really disappointed but I kind of don’t understand why some people are such sore losers. I’m not just saying this because I like El Tri. I really wanted the U.S. to win, (like I said, I lost money betting on them!) – but in the end, it’s just a game, isn’t it? Look, I get totally passionate about fútbol, but I promise you, it really is just people kicking around a round object. When you think about how insignificant each human is in this universe, it seems rather silly that the inability of a handful of men to kick a ball into a net, should ruin your day.

Besides, there are other things to move on to, like the Women’s World Cup now taking place in Berlin, Germany.

Unfortunately, (*cough* due to gender inequality *cough*) – it’s not as easy to find the Women’s World Cup games on television as it is to find men’s games (of any kind.) … It frustrates me but I also find it strange to think about. The women’s team is not getting the same treatment just based on what is, (or isn’t), in their gym shorts. It’s really baffling when you look at it like that.

Ni modo, here is where you can follow the games if you can’t find them on T.V.


Other interesting links:

FIFA treats women’s game as a burden – FOX sports/JENNIFER DOYLE

Fun fact:

“Until World War I, women players had to keep their hair under a cap or bonnet and hide their legs inside voluminous bloomers. In the 1910’s, when many men were away at war, crowds flocked to see women’s exhibition games. This wider acceptance of ladies’ soccer enabled women’s teams to start wearing soccer outfits that were similar to those worn by men and more suitable for the game.” – pg. 29 / Eyewitness Books: Soccer

…two steps forward, one step back…

“Let the women play in more feminine clothes like they do in volleyball. They could, for example, have tighter shorts. Female players are pretty, if you excuse me for saying so, and they already have some different rules to men – such as playing with a lighter ball. That decision was to create a more female aesthetic, so why not do it in fashion?” – Sepp Blatter, President of FIFA, 2004 (source)

“How good does a female athlete have to be before we just call her an athlete?” – Author Unknown

Drunk on Happiness

It was sometime last year, during the summer, that I stopped at a gas station downtown while out running errands, having found my tank on empty once again.

Suegra happened to be along for the ride, sitting next to me in the passenger seat. I pulled up to the pump and shut the car off. As I blindly rummaged in my bag to find my debit card, I watched a couple cross the parking lot, laughing so hard that they had to hold onto one another for support as they walked. I began to smile, feeling their infectious happiness, but Suegra clicked her tongue.

“Borrachos,” she muttered, shaking her head.
“Drunks?” I said, “Maybe they’re just happy?”
Suegra looked at me like I was stupid. I shrugged my shoulders and got out of the car.

The rest of the day, and even a year later, I still think about that moment because it so clearly demonstrates how one’s outlook on life can change any situation.

10 años

[Scroll down for English Translation]

Los vemos antes de que nos vean. Él es Latino, ella es una gringa – los dos son jóvenes, sin hijos, como nosotros hace más de diez años atrás. Parece que ellos están en un pleito, (de qué, ¿quién sabe?)- peleando sobre algo que no van a recordar en diez años, o aún mañana. El inglés chapurreado de él, y la voz bajita de ella, es como una de mis propias memorias. Ahora, nos ven, otra pareja igual que ellos, pero sonriendo, felices, tomados de la mano, con dos hijos creciendo a nuestro lado. Tal vez vean que una relación como la nuestra, puede funcionar, que todo va a estar bien. Que a pesar de los retos encontrados en un matrimonio como el nuestro, pueden vivir felices para siempre. Ellos caminan en la otra dirección.

Él toma la mano de ella.


English Translation:

10 Years

We see them before they see us. He’s Latino, she’s a gringa – both young, no children, like us over ten years ago. They seem to be arguing, over who knows what – something they won’t remember ten years from now, or even tomorrow. His broken English and her hushed tones sound like a memory. They see us then, another Latino and gringa couple, smiling, happy, holding hands, with two half-grown children by our side. Maybe they see that it can work, that it will be okay. That despite the challenges encountered in a marriage like ours, you can live happily ever after. They walk off in the other direction.

He takes her hand.

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Latin Guru

It’s official – I’m a Latin Guru.

This is a shirt from a company called SPƎNGLISH. I really like the company’s mission statement. Here it is, in part:

“Just like love + happiness = peace, Spanish + English = SPƎNGLISH. The union of two amazing forces results in the creation of a unique identity. To coexist while being able to nurture and accept ones roots, is SPƎNGLISH‘s ultimate purpose. To live a mindful life and practice being fully present, is SPƎNGLISH’s ultimate path.”

The shirt description:

Know that You are a Latin Guru and live by that awareness. Know and never underestimate the power that you possess. Be mindful of the words you choose when they are coming out of your mouth, and be even more conscious about the ones that are already inside your head. In SPƎNGLISH we believe that everyone is a Latin Guru, and everyone holds the powers to change in any direction at any time. We chose “Pele” to represent our Latin Guru because we want to show the world how such a simple man could change the world with his bare feet. He made a sport so popular that would ultimately become a very powerful tool to promote Paz e Amor all over the world.

Chévere, right?

Disclosure: This shirt was given to me by SPƎNGLISH. All opinions are my own.

Flores Olvidadas

[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.

English Translation:

Forgotten Flowers

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.


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