Banana Envy

Image source: keepon

I mentioned before that the Mexican guys Carlos works with often give him a hard time as the lone Salvadoran. It doesn’t help that most of them are somehow related – (brothers and cousins), and that most of them live together, so it’s natural for them to gang up on him.

His first week working there, they tested the waters with Carlos, to see how far they could go with their teasing.

“Ey, Don,” one of them said to him at lunch time as they sat across the table from each other. (“Don” is what they call him when they don’t call him “Pupusa.”)

“Tengo una lancha. Tal vez quieres montarla un día?” (“I have a boat. Maybe you’d like to ride it one day?”)

Carlos politely agreed, sure, he’d love to take a ride on his lancha some day.

All the Mexican guys started laughing. It took Carlos a minute to realize that “lancha” is slang for “penis” – or at least it is within their group.

This is the “art” of the Mexican “albur.”

“In Mexico, an albur is a pun or a double entendre in which one of the possible meanings usually carries sexual undertones.”
– Wikipedia.

Carlos has a sense of humor so usually he doesn’t let it get to him, even if it annoys him to be their permanent piñata. (I really hope his boss hires some Salvadorans for Carlos’s “team” though, so at least it will be an evenly matched fight.)

Many of the on-going jokes occur at lunch time and revolve around food. Whenever Carlos brings a less than impressive lunch, they tease him and say, “I guess Sancho is eating all the good food at your house” – (implying that I’m cheating on him and making all the good food for my lover, while leaving the scraps for Carlos.)

The bananas are apparently also always a source of amusement. (Not much has changed since middle school, I see.)

The bananas we buy, (which are perfectly normal-sized bananas from a perfectly normal grocery store), are much smaller than the gigantic bananas the Mexican guys bring in their lunch. Carlos texted me this photo at lunch time:

Carlos's banana on the left. A Mexican co-worker's banana on the right.

I will have to reassure Carlos that the size of his banana is totally normal, above average even, and that I like it just the way it is. Besides, things could always be much, much worse.

Image source: cthoyes

More posts about my husband’s co-workers:

El Lechero (The Milkman)
Mexicans vs. Salvadorans
Lunch Envy

Miami, regresaré!

(Today is Spanish Friday so the following post is en español. Don’t speak Spanish? No problema! Just scroll down to the English translation below.)

Por tres días no puedo parar de sonreir. ¿Quieres saber por qué? Porque recibí una invitación de Telemundo por venir a Miami para los Billboard Latin Music Awards!

Me cuesta mucho buscar las palabras por explicar cómo me siento yo ahorita – (¡aún en inglés!) … Es casi el mismo sentido que uno siente cuándo está enamorado. No puedo pensar en nada salvo los Billboard Latin Music Awards. No tengo nada de hambre, no tengo sueño – sólo tengo mis ensueños de caminar en la carpeta roja con un vestidito super lindo, la playa que me recuerda mucho, la música, mis amigas, y estar rodeada de hispanohablantes y la cultura Latina – Miami y este evento son nada menos que el paraíso!

¿Y sabes qué? Espinoza Paz está nominado en varias categorías! Ay mi madre! Sí está mi Espinoza, y sí tengo el chance de conocerlo cara a cara – me muero! (Pero me muero feliz!)

La unica cosa es que quiero llevar Carlos conmigo. Él tiene muchos años trabajando fuerte sin irse en vacaciónes y lo merece mucho. Carlos no conoce Miami y ya sé que va a enamorar de la ciudad como yo lo hice el año pasado. Entonces, estoy buscando más trabajo, (escribiendo), y Carlos buscando trabajo en cortar grama o cualquier cosa que puede encontrar fuera de su trabajo regular, para que ahorramos un poco extra por comprar el boleto que necesita.

Así que, a trabajar voy, mis amigos! … Y Miami, mi amor, regresaré muy pronto!

Te dejo con un video: Armada Latina – Cypress Hill featuring Pitbull and Marc Anthony.

Pitbull está tan lindo y chistoso en este video. Chécalo!


For three days I haven’t been able to stop smiling. Want to know why? Because I received an invitation from Telemundo to come to Miami for the Billboard Latin Music Awards!

It’s difficult for me to find the words to explain how I feel right now – (even in English!) … It’s almost the same feeling one feels when they’re in love. I can’t think of anything except the Billboard Latin Music Awards. I’m not hungry, I’m not tired – I just have my daydreams about walking on the red carpet dressed in a super cute gown, the beautiful beach I often think of, the music, my friends, and being surrounded by Spanish speakers and the Latin culture – Miami and this event are nothing less than paradise!

And guess what? Espinoza Paz is nominated in various categories! If my Espinoza is there, and if I have the chance to meet him face-to-face – I will die! (But I’ll die happy!)

The only thing is that I want to bring Carlos with me. He has spent a lot of years working hard without going on a single vacation and he really deserves it. Carlos has never been to Miami and I know he’ll fall in love with the city like I did last year. So, I’m looking for more work, (writing), and Carlos is looking for more work, cutting grass or whatever he can find outside his regular work, so we can save a little extra that we need to buy his ticket.

So then, back to work I go, my friends! … And Miami, my love, I’m coming back real soon!

I leave you with a video: Armada Latina – Cypress Hill featuring Pitbull and Marc Anthony.

Pitbull is so cute and funny in this video. Check it out!


Did you participate in Spanish Friday? Leave your link in comments!
Participaste en Spanish Friday? Deja tu link en comentarios!

Hablar o No Hablar?

My mother ordered a freezer to be delivered to my house this morning. I don’t really want a freezer since there isn’t room in our casita, but the reason my mother wanted us to have it is so that she can put food in it, y en todo honestidad, when someone offers us comida, we don’t turn it down.

Anyone with a blue collar job like my husband, particularly in any sort of construction-related industry, pueden decirte, the winter months are difficult. They cut hours at work and think nothing of sending everyone home for an entire week, (which is what we’re looking at end of December. A whole week without a pay check! Feliz Navidad, right?)

Ni modo, we always manage to survive. Some would say Padre Dios is looking out for us, others might say we’ve got hustle, a little suerte doesn’t hurt either – pero la pura neta es que, it’s all of those things – and we have good familia that care about us on top of it.

So anyway, the freezer – I told Carlos last night that it would be delivered and he says, “Behave yourself.”
“What does that mean?”
“With the delivery guys.”
“You know they’re going to be Latino.”
“Carlos! No sabes! Don’t stereotype.”
“I guarantee they’ll be Latino… behave…”

Typical Carlos. Siempre celoso! Well, the delivery time was between the hours of 9 am and 11 am, but I’ve had too many delivery men show up early when I’m half-naked, so I got ready early this morning. Sure enough, at 8:30 am, without even a phone call for warning, the doorbell rings. I open the door and there is the delivery guy … Latino, por supuesto, and looking sort of like Tito El Bambino.

Here’s the thing, Carlos knows, as shy as I am and even though I think he trusts me, I can be a flirt, and that’s why he told me to “behave”. So when the delivery guy asked me in a thick accent if he should use the back door or front door (not a euphemism! Don’t be malpensados!), I had to resist the urge to break out the Spanish. I knew that if I started speaking Spanish then the delivery would become less business-like and I would end up chatting, (even though one of the first things I tell people, by way of explanation for why I’m a Spanish-speaking gringa, is “Mi esposo es de El Salvador”.)

So the guy disappears back to the truck to get the freezer, and returns with his partner, (another Latino but not particularly cute.) They bring the freezer in and he asks me where I want it, (again, not a euphemism!) …I tell him in halting English, (because the word “cocina” almost stumbled off my tongue), that the kitchen is fine. I sign my name on his clipboard, and I can tell he’s dying to ask me. He keeps looking me in the eye, curiously glancing around the house, (papel picado, a Virgin of Guadalupe vela, a wall hanging that says “Dios bendiga este hogar”, maracas hanging on a door knob, a game of Lotería on the bookshelf)…then he looks at my signature, (how I love the little accent over the ó in López!), smiles, and tells me to have a good day, while giving me a backward glance – one last chance to out myself, but I closed the door without speaking a word of Spanish.

So, you can tell Carlos, I “behaved”, but this got me thinking… Do any of you ever have difficulty deciding in which language to conduct yourself when among others who are bilingual? Sometimes when I meet someone I don’t know who begins speaking heavily accented English, and I can safely assume they are Latino – I’m not sure whether it’s an insult to switch to Spanish or not? (As if I’m implying their English isn’t good enough.) I’ve done it before, and people usually seem relieved, smile and open up so much more once they can speak their native language.

Pero, here’s the thing – when I’m speaking Spanish and the person I’m talking to responds in English, I become really annoyed. There’s this chica at one of the Latino markets, (una creída que me cae mal) who does this to me every pinche time. It looks like the most ridiculous thing in the world – me speaking Spanish, and her responding in English. It’s frustrating and I feel avergonzada in front of the other customers.

(This situation not to be confused with switching back and forth between English and Spanish with friends. That is part of a comfortable flow of conversation which I enjoy.)

Okay, what are your thoughts? Hablar o no hablar? That is the question…

A man named Ángel

Last night a man Suegra knows showed up on our doorstep. His name is Ángel. He entered the house shyly, apologizing for disturbing us, and only sat down in the living room at our insistence. “I’m not here to stay,” he said, “I only have something I’d like you to bring with you back to El Salvador, to deliver to my family,” he said to Suegra.

So as not to be rude, I sat down, too. I was only being polite, was anxious for him to leave so I could get back to the kitchen where a pot of Sopa de Res simmered. Suegra and Ángel began to talk though and within minutes I forgot about the soup, becoming completely lost in his story. He stayed for over an hour, and during that time I came close tears. His story is not unique, which makes it sadder still. If you don’t have the opportunity to meet someone like Ángel, allow me to introduce you. The following was inspired by him.


deserving of the name,
works another day in the factory
the acrid chemicals burn his lungs
the scent of hot melted plastic
made into fancy bathtubs for rich people.
He sends money to his family in El Salvador,
even as he coughs up blood.

He finds work in a kitchen instead,
worries the bathtub factory has already taken years off his life,
(“pero ójala que no” and “Primero a Dios” he says)
At the restaurant, he washes dishes in hot soapy water,
and talks like a Mexican,
“No por vergüenza,” he says, “Pero, sólo que los Mexicanos no me joden, entiendes?”
And with his raw red hands,
he sends money to his family in El Salvador,

He works and sleeps, doesn’t have a girlfriend like some men he knows.
“I’m not like that,” he says, showing us a photo of his family.
With the money he sends to El Salvador,
a nice house has been built, in a neighborhood with no pandilleros,
a house where his children are growing up without him,
and his wife sleeps alone, (he hopes.)

Sometimes in the middle of the night
he remembers his journey through the desert years ago,
the days were hot-hot,
and the nights cold-cold,
but nothing is colder than this quiet apartment in the United States,
just a place to sleep before another day of work,
so he can send money to his family in El Salvador.

Lunch Envy

I’m in a little competition with the wives of my husband’s co-workers … except nobody knows it but me.

His co-workers from Mexico like to give my husband, the only Salvadoran among them, a hard time. The ribbing is out of affection, but sometimes my husband, (who they’ve nicknamed “Pupusa”), tells me the stories and I feel an instinctive need to help him look good the next day.

My husband says a lot of the silliness and teasing happens at lunch time. First they made fun of him because his banana is always smaller than their bananas, (and yes, while they are talking about fruit, they’re also implying what you think they are.) … I offered to send a plantain in my husband’s lunch box, but he declined.

Then his co-workers noted that he eats rice almost every day, so when my husband tried to grow a beard and mustache, they called him “Fu Manchu” because it made him look more Asian with his ojos chinos. (He later shaved, but he always ends up doing that.)

None of this bothers my husband, who comes from a family of people that like to “joke hard” as he says. The only thing he has mentioned that bothers me, is that the other guys bring such good food for lunch all the time. They bring seafood, beef, chicken, homemade salsa, tortillas, frijoles, caldos … always something different, always an entire meal worthy of la última cena.

I really can’t compete with the other wives. We can’t afford to buy the ingredients to make such varied banquets within the same week, (his co-workers’s families live together and share expenses as well as a dinner table.)

Nevertheless, each week I try to make something new and worthy of envy. Last night it was “Arroz a la Tumbada“, a regional dish from the co-workers home of Veracruz, Mexico. Take that, co-workers-wives-who-don’t- know-me-very-well-and-have-no-idea-a-random-gringa-is-jealous-of-you.

All paths lead to fútbol

Surrounded by Christmas presents including my first soccer ball. 1979.

My father played soccer before I was born. The dusty trophies on a shelf in the basement and a few faded sepia-tinted photographs were all I knew of it. I don’t remember my father ever watching soccer while I was growing up and though I was given a soccer ball for my first Christmas, the game was only played casually in our yard, just another ball that was part of our collection of toys, piled in a box along with cob-webbed baseball bats, tennis rackets, and flat basketballs.

It wasn’t until I started working at a little Italian restaurant that fútbol fever took over. The owner was from Italy, and as any good Italian should, he loved soccer, (“calcio” in Italian.) Business was often slow and he was infamous for working us hard, always reminding us in his thick accent, “If you can’t find something to do, I will find something for you. I am not paying you for nothing.” But during the World Cup, he allowed us to sit with him at the wobbly uneven-legged tables in the dinning room once in awhile to watch the games play on the little TV up in the corner, (though we had to re-fill ketchup bottles and salt shakers while we watched.) Sometimes he even forgot to complain that we were taking advantage of his generous “unlimited fountain drinks for employees” benefit.

It was during this time that I really fell in love with the game, and not just because it offered a momentary respite from scrubbing floor tiles with a toothbrush. The actual game itself is beautiful; there is beauty in the skill in which the men move the ball down the field, but also in the ball itself. Such a humble object, so humble that people have been known to create them out of trash in the most dire circumstances. There is beauty in the fact that the game is accessible to all, and that no matter our differences, for a brief time, it can bring the world together in a common love.

One of the few photos of his childhood. My husband and his father (lower right), with the team. 1978.

My husband’s love of fútbol is a very different story, (as is almost every story which directly compares our childhoods.) Growing up in El Salvador during a bloody civil war, with the sounds of helicopters and gunfire as background noise, he still ran out to kick the ball around with his friends. His father was the coach of a second division team, and my husband was the team mascot. Sometimes they would go to the crowded stadium to watch games, which could often times be dangerous as it was common for passionate, (and sometimes intoxicated) fans, to become violent. The Football War, (La guerra del fútbol), between El Salvador and Honduras happened before my husband’s time, but that just goes to show the passion they have for the game.

Though my husband has told me he wasn’t given toys as a child, and his Christmas present was usually a pair of shoes, (purposefully bought a few sizes too big so they would last), somehow he remembers having the official FIFA World Cup sticker albums. While I collected puffy, sparkly, and scratch-and-sniff stickers like most American children of the 1980’s, my husband collected stickers of futbolistas and it’s one of very few fond childhood memories he has.

So this year, as the 2010 World Cup in South Africa fast approaches, I encouraged my husband to buy the sticker album. He was at first reluctant, saying that there was no one to trade stickers with, but after I found out some friends would be buying the albums, he agreed. It didn’t take long for my husband’s enthusiasm to be re-ignited. When we bought the album at one of the local Latino markets, we bought a few of the sticker packets with it. The next day, he came home from work with more packets in hand, having stopped at the store on the way. Watching him open the packets and sort through them gives me a glimpse of the little boy he used to be.

We began brainwashing our niños at an early age. Our oldest son. 1998.

We also like sharing this experience with our boys. At first it was just to force our love of fútbol on them, but it turns out, the album provides a great opportunity for practicing Spanish. The pages are multi-lingual, listing the names of the countries and other vocabulary in a dozen or so languages.

As for the stickers, so far we’ve got three doubles. We’ve got an extra Sebastian Abreu (Uruguay/Sticker #86.), Maxi Rodriguez (Argentina/Sticker #117), and Hendry Thomas (Honduras/Sticker #612). Who wants to trade? :)

¡El Patrón!

Nope, I’m not talking about Tito El Bambino, I’m talking about my husband!

After only 3 months on the job, his jefe told him he’s getting a raise and a promotion. He is now the official supervisor of all the Spanish-speaking employees!

¡Qué orgullosa estoy!

El Lechero (The Milkman)

My husband calls me multiple times per day from work. He calls on his break time, at lunch time, and then before he leaves to come home. He’s done this our entire marriage. As a chica who values her space, sometimes I’ve become annoyed because I felt he was being controlling but he insists he just misses me, and so I’ve grown accustomed to it. At this point, if he doesn’t call me for some reason, I become worried that something has happened to him.

Well, my husband has been working at the new job for a month now and the Mexican guys he works with have become comfortable enough with him to give him a hard time. They’ve noticed his phone habits and now they tease him. While we’re on the phone, his co-workers do lewd things with bananas from their lunch boxes. Then when he gets off the phone with me they ask him, “So, how is your woman? Is the lechero doing a good job with her?” (They think he is checking on me for macho reasons, so they like to insinuate that I’m not faithful in the hopes of getting him a bit riled up, I guess.)

Yesterday, the littlest guy in the group, Marcos, decided to tell a joke which he dedicated to Mr. López. I don’t know if he made it up or not. Here it is:

There is a man who is unemployed and his wife is complaining to him that he needs to find work. She nags him all morning to hurry up and get dressed and go job hunting. She pushes him out the door with a quick kiss on the cheek saying, “Good luck, my love! … Remember, don’t come back until you’ve found work.”

So the husband leaves but shortly the doorbell rings and another man arrives. The woman begins kissing him passionately as soon as he comes in the door. They go to the bedroom, but then the doorbell rings again.

“Hurry!” she says, “Go hide up on the top of the canopy of the bed and don’t come down until I say so.”

So the man climbs up to the top of the bed and hides.

Another man is at the door. He comes in and the woman begins kissing him passionately, too. They come into the bedroom but soon they hear the front door opening.

“Quick!” she says, “Go hide under the bed and don’t come out until I say so.”

So the second man crawls under the bed and hides just in time before the husband comes in.

“What are you doing home so soon?” the wife says. “I told you not to come back until you found work!”

The husband comes into the bedroom, throws his keys on the table and takes off his jacket. “I looked everywhere already. There’s no work out there.”

The wife begins to nag him, “But how will we pay the rent and all our bills? We don’t have enough money!”

The husband hugs his wife and reassures her, “Don’t worry, The Big Man Upstairs will take care of it.”

The man on top of the bed speaks up, “Hey! If I have to help with the bills, the guy under the bed has to chip in, too!”

No soy de aquí, ni soy de allá

The other day my oldest son told me that at school he had to fill out a form which directed him to “Check only one” for his race. He had a decision to make. There was no bi-racial or multi-racial box. He looked back and forth between Caucasian and Latino, discovering for the first time how this world insists on trying to package us in neat little boxes which we can never comfortably fit into.

Mr. López faced a similar dilemma at his new job, which thankfully, he loves, despite the story I’m about to tell. At lunch time, his co-workers self-segregate to separate tables. The Mexicans sit at one table, and the Anglos sit at another. Where should he sit? He would have fit in with either group. He can speak English and talk sports with the Anglos, but he can speak Spanish and talk telenovelas with the Mexicans, (yeah, these machos watch soap operas every night, but it’s not a girly one. It’s called “El Capo” and it’s got drugs and guns and and stuff blowing up, apparently.)

If Mr. López decided where to sit based on race, perhaps he would choose to sit with the Latinos, but he’s Salvadoran not Mexican. If he chose based on nationality, as an American citizen, he would find himself at the Anglo table, but he wasn’t born here like they were. I joked that perhaps he needs to set up a little card table right in the middle of them both.

He ended up sitting with the Mexicans because he felt that if he didn’t, they would see him as a traitor and think that he felt superior to them, (because he speaks English and they don’t.) Also, Mr. López knew the Anglo guys couldn’t care less where he sat. The thing is, he wants to stay on everyone’s good side, because he is the unofficial interpreter and is constantly being called away from his work to translate between co-workers. He doesn’t mind this, except that in casual conversation, the Anglos complain about the Mexicans to him, and of course, the Mexicans complain about the Anglos to him. He just listens and nods, neither agreeing or disagreeing, feeling that he is neither here nor there.