Ancestry DNA: Part 1

ancestry-dna-test-1

Because a few friends have expressed interest and asked me a million questions about this process, I decided I’d do a two part blog post about it. This first one is about taking the test, the second one will be about my results, (which at the time of this writing, I have not yet received.)

First let me just be clear that this DNA test is not a paternity test. A friend of mine joked that Carlos requested this test be done and referenced the cumbia song “Capullo y Sorullo.” — So in case you’re anticipating a Maury Povitch “you are not the father” type of moment, it isn’t that kind of DNA test. This is an ANCESTRY DNA test which will tell me more about where both my mother’s and father’s bloodlines come from.

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Years ago I heard about DNA tests which could tell an individual more about their heritage. I wanted to order one but the tests were way too expensive, and so it’s one of those things I put on my wishlist “for later.”

However, I’m excited to say that “for later” finally came this month!

I discovered that Ancestry.com has a DNA test that was much more affordable than the original one and several friends had already tried it and recommended it. So I asked Carlos if this could be my early birthday present, and he agreed. I ordered my Ancestry DNA test online and then waited. About a week later the small white box arrived in my mailbox.

I opened it up to check out the contents.

ancestry-dna-kit-contents

As you can see, the package contained just a few things: an easy to understand instruction booklet, a collection tube which includes 2 different tops [I’ll explain in a minute], a little ziploc bag, and a pre-paid mailing box to ship the DNA sample back to them for testing.

Seems easy enough, but I was worried I’d do something wrong so I waited for Carlos just to have a second pair of eyes to read the instructions with me, (which is a good thing because I actually ended up needing his help physically thanks to my carpal tunnel-weakened hands.)

So, here are the instructions, page by page.

ancestry-dna-booklet-steps

Basically, you first need to find your unique ID number on the tube and register it on their website, (I blurred mine out in the photo but it’s just above the UPC code.) Registering is super important otherwise you won’t be able to get your results. For good measure, write your unique code down in the booklet. If more than one family member is doing this test at once with their own individual kits, I recommend doing them one-by-one so that nothing gets mixed up. (Carlos didn’t do one with me, but we hope to do his sometime this year.)

Once you’re registered, open the sterile package containing the plastic “collection tube.”

What will you be collecting? Saliva… as in spit. You put the funnel-shaped top on the collection tube and start spitting… They say to go to the black line on the tube. Doing this reminded me of that lollipop commercial and the boy who asks the owl, “How many licks does it take to get to the center of a Tootsie Roll Pop?” … except instead of licks it was spit.

One…(patooey!)
Two…(patooey!)
Three…(patooey!)

I kept spitting and spitting and Carlos kept saying it wasn’t enough. I felt like a llama with dry mouth. Just when I was ready to get the bottle of Tajín to help me out, Carlos declared that I had spit enough. (Sorry, no photos of my spit in the tube. I know you’re thoroughly disappointed.)

By the way, the Tajín was only going to be for smelling in the hopes that in would induce my mouth to water. When you do this test you aren’t supposed to have had anything to eat or drink at least 30 minutes before.

Once the tube had a sufficient amount of spit, I removed the funnel top and tried to follow the directions to replace it with the screw-on top filled with blue liquid to seal it. I had a very difficult time twisting the top on securely enough and was afraid I was going to break the tube, but the instructions said that when it’s screwed on properly, all the blue liquid will flow from the top into the tube, and that hadn’t happened. Carlos managed to get the top on and the blue “stabilizing liquid” flowed down into the spit-filled tube. I shook the tube for five seconds as instructed then put it into the ziploc bag.

The ziploc bag containing the spit-filled tube then goes into the pre-paid mailing box and you send it back for testing. Now the wait begins! In 6-8 weeks I should receive an email with my results. I’m anxious to see if there will be anything unexpected to share with you, (and my family), but until then, we wait.

For more information or to order your own Ancestry DNA kit, visit DNA.Ancestry.com.

Helpful Tip: I used coupon code FREESHIPDNA when I ordered online. I’m not sure if it’s still valid, but you’ll want to give it a try as it’ll save you almost $10.

Disclosure: Just in case you’re wondering, I’m in no way affiliated with Ancestry.com. This is not a sponsored post. I was not given anything free to review or any compensation. This is just something I wanted to try and share with all of you. As always, all opinions are my own.

Agua de Berenjena (Eggplant Water)

eggplant-water

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. Scroll down for English translation!

Con el tiempo Carlos va tomando más responsibilidad en su salud. Hay un edad cuando uno se da cuenta que el pan dulce es para de vez en cuando y no cada día, y lamentablemente esos días están aquí para Carlos y yo.

Una de las preocupaciones Carlos tiene es sobre el colesterol porque es un problema hereditario para él, (y bueno, un amor para hamburguesas no ayuda.)

Recientemente Carlos mencionó la reducción del colesterol a su hermana y ella recomendó el agua de berenjena. Ella dijo que su suegra corta una berenjena en pedazos (con la piel), y la pone en una pichel de agua durante la noche. Durante los próximos días, se bebe una taza de agua berenjena cada día.

Busque alrededor de la internet y parece que esto es un remedio casero muy conocido en la comunidad Latina para todo tipo de problemas de salud. ¿Alguna vez has oído hablar de Agua de Berenjena? ¿Lo has probado?

[ENGLISH TRANSLATION]

As Carlos grows older he takes more and more responsibility with his health. There’s an age when one realizes that pan dulce is a once-in-awhile food, not an everyday food, and unfortunately those days are here for Carlos and myself.

One of Carlos’s concerns is about his cholesterol because cholesterol problems are hereditary in his family, (and well, a love of hamburgers doesn’t help anything.)

Recently Carlos mentioned reducing cholesterol to his sister and she recommended Eggplant Water. She said her mother-in-law cuts an eggplant in pieces (with the skin), and she puts it in a pitcher of water overnight. Over the next few days, her suegra drinks a cup of the Eggplant Water each day.

I looked around the internet and it seems this is a well-known home remedy for all kinds of health issues in the Latino community. Have you heard of Eggplant Water? Have you tried it?

Sopa de Pollo Salvadoreña

Sopa de Pollo Salvadoreña

Carlos has been sick for a week, and on Friday he was so sick that he even took off work. I’ve been doing every home remedy I know of to make him better – Vicks Vaporub on the feet before bed, honey lemon tea, vaporizers, vitamin C, and just plain old bed rest, but nothing seemed to help very much. (I did all these remedios caseros on myself too for prevention and so far, so good.)

On Saturday Carlos asked me to make him Sopa de Pollo, but he didn’t want the Bolivian Chicken Soup recipe I always use. He asked if I’d try to make Salvadoran Chicken Soup “with lots of vegetables” this time. Obviously he was needing a little extra apapachamiento! Of course I always love making a new Salvadoran dish and seeing the way his eyes light up when it’s a success, so I did some research, looked at a handful of recipes, and then headed to the grocery store to get what I needed.

Before the soup was even ready, Carlos was getting excited. He kept calling out to me from the living room where he was on the sofa covered in a blanket, “It smells so good. It smells like I remember…” Then when it was ready, I put the bowl before him at the table and he smiled, “It looks like how I remember!” … Then he tasted it, and I’m not exaggerating, he stood up, kissed me (on the neck so I wouldn’t get his germs) and told me he loved me. Jajaja.

Here’s my recipe in case you know a sick salvadoreño or salvadoreña who could use a little “TLC”, (Cuidado amoroso y tierno.)

Sopa de Pollo Salvadoreño

You need:

10 chicken thighs (boneless, skinless)
2 medium tomatoes, quartered
3 corn cobs, broken in half
1/2 1 small cabbage, cut in chunks
cilantro
basil, (fresh, not dry)
2 to 3 celery stalks with leaves
2 cups baby carrots, (or cut up carrots)
3 green onions, (roots cut off)
2 tablespoons minced garlic
2 small potatoes, cut into bite-size chunks
1 small zucchini, skin removed and chopped in bite-size pieces
1/2 cup uncooked rice or small pasta like “conchitas” (little shells)
1 tsp. salt, plus to taste
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1/2 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. achiote (ground annatto)

Directions:

1. Assemble and prepare all your ingredients, (wash and chop vegetables, etc.)

Note: I used all boneless, skinless chicken thighs because Carlos prefers dark meat and it gives the stock a better flavor, but you can use a whole chicken cut in pieces (remove skin – bones optional as some people like to “chupar el hueso”), or substitute some chicken breasts. As for the vegetables, feel free to experiment. For example, some people use yucca instead of potatoes, and some add chayote/güisquil, broccoli, cauliflower, and/or green pepper.

2. In a large stock pot over medium high heat, add the chicken plus enough water to cover by about 2 inches.

3. Add to the pot: a handful of cilantro, a handful of basil, celery stalks with leaves, garlic, tomatoes, green onions, 1 tsp. salt, cumin, pepper, and achiote.

4. Simmer for 20 minutes or until chicken is completely cooked. Use a slotted spoon to remove and then discard the cilantro, basil, celery, tomatoes and green onions. Use a small sieve to skim off any foam.

5. Add the rice (or pasta), corn cobs, potatoes, and carrots. Cook covered until rice is cooked and vegetables are tender.

6. Remove cover. Add cabbage and zucchini. Simmer for a minute or two and then remove from heat. Allow to cool slightly and then taste. Add additional salt as desired. (I prefer to let each person add more salt to their own individual portion.)

7. Ladle into bowls and top with cilantro if desired. (I like to eat all the meat and vegetables out of it and then eat the broth with crushed Ritz crackers.)

Buen provecho!

Latin American Themed Cellphone Cases

latin-american-cellphones

Disclosure: Latinaish.com has partnered with Cricket Wireless as a 2014 Blog Ambassador. All opinions are my own.

Several years ago I was diagnosed as having carpal tunnel syndrome. It’s a common ailment for writers to develop, and I still haven’t gotten around to having surgery. Besides my hands feeling weak and arthritic at times, one of the worst symptoms of CTS is the increased instance of total butterfinger moments. (Those who have CTS know what I’m talking about!)

For the rest of you, let me explain: I’ll be holding something (an ice cream cone, a book, the remote control) and all of a sudden, my hand will just decide all on its own, that it doesn’t want to hold it anymore. I get no warning whatsoever. A frequent victim of these butterfinger moments is my cellphone.

I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve dropped my phone – and some of them have been from standing position over concrete. Thankfully I have a case on my phone and so far (knock on wood), my Samsung Galaxy s4 hasn’t been damaged. I’m sure that having a case on my phone has been at least partly responsible for protecting it, so I recently decided to invest in another case, as the one I have on it is pretty boring, (just a cheap grey-colored one.) While looking for a new case, I realized that some of you guys would probably love these as much as I do. Want to help me pick out which one I should buy? I narrowed it down to four and I’m having trouble choosing. Let me know in comments which case I should get!

el-salvador-phonecase
El Salvador phone case from Zazzle/AllWorldTees

sugarskulls-case
Sugar Skulls phone case from Zazzle/Thaneeya McArdle

world-map-case
World Map phone case from Zazzle/PMCustomGifts

frida-1-case
Frida Kahlo phone case from FineArtAmerica/Elena Day

For more from Cricket Wireless ambassadors, follow the #VidaConCricket hashtag and @MiCricket on Twitter.

Pachamama

pachamama1
Image source: Dauro Veras

This morning when I remembered it was Earth Day, I started thinking about the concept of “Mother Earth” or “Madre Tierra” – and this in turn reminded me of a word I have always loved – Pachamama. Since it’s Earth Day, this is actually an excellent day to learn, “What or Who, exactly, is Pachamama?”

First, what does “Pachamama” mean, and where does the word come from? Pachamama is an Aymara and Quechua word commonly translated to “Mother Earth” but there isn’t really an exact equivalent in English or Spanish. While “mama” means mother, in Aymara and Quechua, the word “pacha” means far more than “earth” – the word also encompasses the cosmos, universe, time, and space. (On a personal note: I find it interesting that the word “pacha” in Salvadoran slang, which typically comes from Pipil/Nahuat, means “baby bottle” – So it’s another sort of mothering/nurturing word. I wonder if they’re related?)

Pachamama is a goddess of the Inca people and is adored in various areas of Latin America – primarily in Bolivia, Ecuador, and Peru, but also in parts of Chile and Argentina.

pachamama2
Image source: ImagenesDeOcasion

Here are a few quotes about Pachamama that I found interesting:

“It is often difficult for an outsider to understand the devotion of the indigenous people for Pachamama…the principal deity of Andean religion. Pachamama is earth itself, sustainer of all life. In the words of one of the villagers, ‘Pachamama gives us life, she nourishes us throughout our existence on this earth and when we die, we go back to our Pachamama from where we will rise again.’ Pachamama is powerful. She sustains life for animals and plants alike, but she can also kill with devasting earthquakes and allow lightening to strike. Pachamama and the god of thunder and lightening are considered compadres.” – Inge Bolin, Rituals of Respect: The Secret Survival in the High Peruvian Andes

shaman
Description: “Q’eros shaman, called a Paqo, in his ultra-bright traditional poncho and chullo (hat) calling the Apu mountain spirits to bless a mesa, a cloth-wrapped package of special found and collected power objects (like rocks and crystals from places you’ve done ceremony) that a person on the shamanic path carries for ceremonies.” // Image source: McKay Savage

“It is very common for the Pachamama to receive the first serving of beer at social gatherings since believers pour a few drops on the ground before they take their first sip. This is a way to thank and feed the Pachamama.” – Caserita.com

car-pachamama Description: “Decorated Landcruiser – All decorated in honor of Pachamama over the Carnival period. People were doing this all over the Andean countries today.” // Image source: Andy Hares

“According to Mario Rabey and Rodolfo Merlino, Argentine anthropologists who studied the Andean culture from the 1970s to the 1990s, ‘The most important ritual is the challaco. Challaco is a deformation of the Quechua words ‘ch’allay’ and ‘ch’allakuy’, that refer to the action to insistently sprinkle. In the current language of the campesinos of the southern Central Andes, the word challar is used in the sense of ‘to feed and to give drink to the land’. The challaco covers a complex series of ritual steps that begin in the family dwellings the night before. They cook a special food, the tijtincha. The ceremony culminates at a pond or stream, where the people offer a series of tributes to Pachamama, including ‘food, beverage, leaves of coca and cigars.'” – Wikipedia/Pachamama

pachamama-dance Description: “La juventud es parte fundamental del espiritú que aquí se vive, en conjunto. Yo junto a mi novia nos contagiamos del ritmo y la energía de un pueblo que le agradece a su tierra por lo entregado, un verdadero carnaval, donde no hay personas arrastrandose por demostrar su fe, al contrario hay gente saltando y bailando felices de saber que son ellos los hijos del Inti.” // Image source: Pablo Embry

In this quote, the person seems to be referring to the tradition of some Latin American Catholics to crawl on their knees to show their devotion and to thank God and or the Virgin for answered prayer, when he says “…no hay personas arrastrandose por demostrar su fe, al contrario hay gente saltando y bailando felices…” [Translation: “…there are no people crawling to prove their faith, on the contrary, there are people jumping and dancing happily…”] This quote draws a contrast between the two faiths and the way in which they worship, yet there are some who mix their beliefs.

“When the Spanish invaded the Americas, they brought with them their Catholic religion, forcing it upon the indigenous people. But the people, devout to their own gods, resisted these advances…So the Spaniards had to adopt a different plan of attack. As Dr. Cajias says, ‘They then decided to mix Catholic beliefs and figures with native beliefs and figures.’ At the center of this syncretism are Pachamama and the Virgin Mary. Pachamama is an Aymara and Quechuan word loosely meaning ‘Mother Earth.’ The Andean people saw Pachamama as a mother who gave them food, water, and all of nature. She was considered a fertile mother because of the fertile land. And the Catholic figure most resembling a caring mother? The Virgin Mary.” – Source: Patrick Dowling, BolivianExpress

cruz-pachamama Description: “Ofrenda a Pachamama.” // Image source: Thiago Biá

Regardless of your religious beliefs, all of us living on the earth have a responsibility to care for it, and that’s what I take away from the belief in Pachamama. I find it difficult to live in harmony with nature in the modern world, balancing the wants and daily “needs” of American culture with a deeper and truer need to be in balance with everything outside my climate-controlled home which is filled with technology and other conveniences, but I try – and I want to try harder.

Happy Earth Day, Pachamama.

5 Meatless Salvadoran Meals

Vegetarian Salvadoran recipes for Lent

Carlos reminded me that yesterday was Ash Wednesday. Lent (“Cuaresma” in Spanish) is not something I grew up celebrating, but I know that many people do observe various traditions this time of year, such as eating meatless meals. I checked my recipe index and there are several options to choose from that fit this criteria, but I’ve chosen 5 of my favorites to recommend to you. Whether you’re celebrating La Cuaresma or just want to explore some vegetarian Salvadoran cuisine, these are some tasty meals to consider making and enjoying with your familia!

5 Meatless Salvadoran Recipes

casamiento1-302 Casamiento is a delicious marriage of beans and rice, best served with fried plantains and rich Salvadoran cream. Get the recipe here.











desayunouni1-302 Desayuno Universitario isn’t just for hungry university students on a budget. Beans spread on toasted french bread, topped with melted cheese and fresh salsa, make a satisfying and well-balanced meal for anyone. Get the recipe here.









latinaish_pupusas1-302 Pupusas are the national food of El Salvador and many varieties are completely vegetarian-friendly. Try pupusas de queso (cheese), pupusas de queso con frijoles (bean and cheese), or pupusas stuffed with cheese and shredded zucchini. Served with curtido, (the traditional pickled cabbage slaw), and a fresh salsa, even meat lovers will be begging for more. Get the recipe here.






platotipico-302 Plato típico is a traditional breakfast in El Salvador, but breakfast for dinner can be just as delicious. Fried sweet plantains, refried beans, scrambled eggs, Salvadoran cream, and warm, thick, corn tortillas fresh off the comal are perfect washed down with a cup of coffee. Get the recipe here.








rellenosdeejotes_latinaish3-302 Rellenos de Ejotes are a must for cheese lovers. Green beans are encased in slightly salty mozzarella, then dipped in a batter and fried to a golden brown. Serve with fresh salsa and rice and you’ve got yourself a complete meal, my friend. Get the recipe here.



Do you eat vegetarian meals once in awhile? What are your favorite meatless meals?

Cicatrices (Scars)

vaccination-scar

I love scars because behind each scar there is often a story that when told, reveals something about the bearer of that scar; for that reason, Carlos’s scars were one of the things I asked him about early in our relationship when we were still getting to know each other. The differences in our scar stories and the number of scars we each had was pretty representative of the different lives we had led up to that point.

Scars on Carlos’ shin and thigh, the result of a careless delivery man dropping a crate of beer bottles onto him as he slept in a hammock in his mother’s liquor store. The scars on my knees? From the time I checked out too many library books and crashed my bicycle trying to ride home with them in my arms. The scar on his forehead is from the time his brother threw a rock at his face. Thin, lightly raised scars mark the outside of my wrists from the time I tried to hug my grandmother’s short-tempered cat, Charlie.

There is one scar on Carlos’s upper left arm; a roundish mark, pinker than the surrounding skin, and about the size of a small coin.

“What’s that one?” I asked, expecting him to say someone had burned him with a lit cigar because of its appearance.

“From a vaccination. Everyone has them,” he said.

In Carlos’s experience, everyone did have them, but that wasn’t the case in my experience. I don’t have one, my sisters don’t have one and none of my friends growing up had such a scar.

For years I just accepted that Salvadorans, (and many Latin Americans I met), have such a scar, without knowing why. Recently I did some research to satisfy my curiosity about which vaccination caused the mark and why I don’t have one.

Various sources, (websites as well as anecdotal stories from friends) have narrowed it down to various possibilities. Some say they’re certain which vaccination it was, others say they have no idea, and still others think it was a combination of shots they received. The vaccinations most frequently blamed for the scar include tuberculosis (also known as “TB”), polio, and smallpox.

The countries of the people I spoke with who have the scar include:
El Salvador, Mexico, Spain, Portugal, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Argentina, Japan, and The Dominican Republic.

Interestingly enough though, there were also a handful of people born in the United States who have the scar, but all of them were born before my birth year (1979), so it seems to me it’s a vaccine that wasn’t given after a certain year in the U.S. My mother says that both she and my father received the smallpox vaccine but that neither of them scarred and that they had stopped giving that by the time my sisters and I were born.

I managed to dig up my vaccination record and it says that when I was 3 months old I was vaccinated against polio, so, being that I don’t have a scar, perhaps we’ve narrowed it down to “TB” and/or smallpox – or it’s possible that like my parents, my skin doesn’t scar when it comes to vaccinations. A friend from Mexico further convinced me to eliminate polio as a possible source of the scar when she told me that the vaccination for polio, at least in her experience, is not a shot, but given orally along with sugar water. Obviously an oral vaccination wouldn’t cause a scar on the arm.

This website, Descubre Aprende (hat tip to my friend, Eliana!) says that these scars are caused by the TB vaccination which is called “BBG” – One of my Salvadoran friends stated that he was 100% certain that this was correct.

What do you think? Do you have a vaccination scar either on your upper arm or upper outer thigh? Do you know what it was from, in which country you received it and what year? Leave a comment!