Carlos el inventor

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 below!

En las últimas semanas, los pájaros se han vuelto locos. Cómo es primavera, los pájaritos están peleando, enamorando, y buscando lugar a dónde pueden hacer el nido. Bueno, uno de los pájaros es más tonto que los otros, y sigue tratando de entrar a la ventilación del horno que está en el exterior de la casa. Cada mañana escucho unos sonidos de rascando y de alas furiosas del pájaro tratando de entrar. Cada mañana salgo de la casa gritando, “Nooo! Vete! Vete ya, pájaro bobo!”

Un día tuve la idea ingeniosa de dibujar un búho, y coloque el dibujo con cinta adhesiva cerca de la ventilación. A la mañana siguiente, el pájaro estaba haciendo la misma cosa – no tuvo miedo de mi dibujo. Tal vez no es tan bobo como pensé. Mi siguiente idea fue colgar cerca un carillón, pero eso tampoco funcionó.

Carlos me había visto luchar con este problema y me preguntó si quería ayuda. A veces puedo ser terca y quiero hacer las cosas solita, pero esta vez acepté. Carlos se quedó mirando la ventilación, pensó por un momento y luego entró a la casa. Segundos más tarde regresó con la bolsa de los limones que es una malla de plástico. Sin herramientas, con no más que sus manos, sujetó la malla cubriendo la ventilación.

Gracias al ingenio de los salvadoreños, no he oído el pájaro desde entonces.


Carlos the inventor

In recent weeks the birds have gone crazy. Since it’s spring, the birds are fighting, falling in love, and looking for a place where they can build their nest. Well, one of the birds is a little stupider than the others, and it keeps trying to enter the oven vent on the outside of the house. Each morning I hear the sound of scratching and the beating of furious wings as the bird tries to come in. Every morning I run out of the house screaming, “Nooo! Go away Go away, stupid bird!”

One day I had the idea to draw an owl and tape the drawing near the vent. The next morning, the bird was doing the same thing – not at all afraid of my drawing. Maybe it’s not as dumb as I thought. My next idea was to hang a wind chime nearby, but that didn’t work either.

Carlos watched me struggle with this problem and asked if I wanted help. Sometimes I can be stubborn and prefer to do things by myself, but this time I agreed. Carlos stared at the ventilation, thought for a moment, and then went into the house. Seconds later Carlos returned with the bag from the lemons which is a plastic net. Without tools, with nothing more than his hands, he attached the plastic net around the vent.

Thanks to the ingenuity of Salvadorans, I have not heard the bird since.

Wii Fútbol

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 below!

Ultimamente Carlos y los niños han jugado un juego de FIFA fútbol en Wii. A mi me encanta mucho el fútbol pero no entiendo cómo uno puede pensar que este juego de video es divertido. Agitando un control remote de el Wii no tiene nada que ver con pateando una pelota de fútbol, pero Carlos y los niños sigan gritando “gooooool!” como están ganando la Copa Mundial.



Lately Carlos and the boys have been playing a FIFA soccer game on the Wii. I love soccer very much but I don’t understand how one can think that this video game is fun. Shaking a Wii remote control has nothing to do with kicking a soccer ball, but Carlos and the boys continue shouting “goooooal!” as if they’re winning the World Cup.

Check it out!

El Guiño (The Wink)

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 below!

En su trabajo, Carlos se ha hecho muy amigo con uno de sus compañeros mexicanos que se llama Benjamín. Juntos, ellos le gustan hacer burlas a otro compañero quién es gringo. Carlos y Benjamín comenzaron con un chiste de guiñar uno al otro porque se hace incomodo para el gringo.

Bueno, a pesar de que Benjamín es su amigo, le gusta engañar a Carlos también. El otro día, con su teléfono celular oculto, Benjamin hizo un guiño a Carlos y luego grabó en video Carlos guiñando en repuesta para poder chantajearlo.

Por suerte, Carlos no siente nada de vergüenza y no le importa si Benjamín muestra el video a sus hermanos y primos que trabajan con ellos. Carlos hasta dijo que puedo compartir el video aquí. Supongo que Benjamin tendrá que intentarlo de nuevo para capturar a Carlos haciendo algo más vergonzoso.


At work, Carlos has become good friends with one of his Mexican co-workers named Benjamín. Together, they like to play jokes on a gringo co-worker. Carlos and Benjamín started a joke where they wink at each other because it makes the gringo uncomfortable.

Well, even though Benjamín is his friend, he likes to trick Carlos as well. The other day, with his cellphone hidden from sight, Benjamín winked at Carlos and then video taped Carlos winking back, with plans to use the video as blackmail.

Luckily Carlos didn’t feel at all ashamed about the video and he didn’t care if Benjamín showed it to his brothers and cousins who also work there. Carlos even said I could share the video here. I guess Benjamín will have to try again to catch Carlos doing something more embarrassing.

Other posts about Carlos’s co-workers:

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

Feminine Strength vs. Machismo

Image source: Ray Larabie

In high school we would have one week of gym class that we spent in the weight lifting room. It was in a dark, windowless room down a forgotten hallway. Students were allowed access to it after school but it was often forgotten, except by the jocks. The girls stood in a corner talking, watching the boys, examining their nails and refusing to do anything other than a minute on the rowing machine – preferring to take a zero for the day. I, however, loved our week in the weight lifting room.

Already known for challenging boys to arm wrestling contests at lunch time, (and sometimes winning), my reputation was further sealed by my behavior in the weight lifting room. The boys gathered around to see how much I could bench press, taking bets that I wouldn’t be able to do it each time the peg was moved lower and the weight got heavier. I fed on their pessimism. I loved being underestimated. I took a deep breath, felt the muscles ripping but pushed, pushed, pushed, my lips closed tight, my nostrils flaring. I heard them say knowingly to each other, “She can’t lift it” – as I struggled. My arms shook and I pushed harder still until I would feel the weight give way and my arms straightened above me in victory.

I didn’t care that I wasn’t the kind of girl you ask to the prom, but instead the kind of girl you ask to help push the car when it breaks down. I come from a family of strong women. My mother is well-known for re-decorating while my father is at work – sometimes moving heavy furniture up and down two flights of stairs by herself.

I associated femininity with weakness and wanted no part of it, but I realized how simplistic this point of view was when I gave birth to my first child. Giving birth is an act that is simultaneously the height of femininity and strength. Now, as the mother of two boys, the lone female in a household full of males, I value my feminine side more than I did growing up. Being married to Carlos though, has made me examine my femininity from a cultural perspective. It hasn’t been easy to sort out.

I will try to open a jar of pickles. Carlos will offer to help, reach his hand out for the jar, and I’ll turn away with the jar, stubbornly determined to do it myself. This is when Carlos will tell me I’m like my mother or say, “Why do you have to be so American?!” … to which I’d reply, “Why is it an insult to your manhood for me to open the pickles myself?!”

Over the years, I’ve learned to (usually), hand over the jar of pickles. It makes Carlos feel good to do it for me. I never pretend I can’t do anything, but if it’s difficult, why not give him the satisfaction of feeling that he takes care of me?

I thought that over the years, Carlos and I had mostly ironed out this one cultural wrinkle. We both have made compromises. I let him open jars of pickles that are difficult for me to open, (damn you, carpal tunnel) – and he doesn’t expect me to act completely helpless – fair enough… but at the grocery store while I was unloading the cart at the cash register, I retrieved the case of bottled water from the bottom of the cart and hefted it up and onto the conveyor belt. I thought nothing of it but Carlos whispered through clenched teeth, “Hey, you should have asked me to do it. You’re embarrassing me.”

Embarrassing Carlos was not my intention or even something I had considered – I just wanted to get the groceries checked out so we could go home, (and for the record, the cashier seemed completely unaware of the battle going on right in front of her.) I guess the lesson here is that Carlos and I will always have cultural issues to work on – nothing is ever resolved so completely that it won’t pop up again, so ingrained are the traits we bring from our two different backgrounds.

What is your take and your experiences on the topic of feminine strength vs. machismo?

Cinco de Yuca

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!

Tener el pelo largo significa que tengo que buscar formas creativas para atarme el pelo, especialmente en invierno cuándo mi pelo está mojado después de bañarme y me da frío sentirlo tocando mi piel. Usualmente hago un moño desordenado pero a veces trato algo diferente, incluyendo trenzas.

La única cosa es que Carlos se pone un poco raro conmigo cuando me ve con dos trenzas. Su rostro se ve como cuando nos conocimos, sus mejillas cambian a color rojo y sus ojos brillan. “Te ves tan bonita”, me dice, tirando las trenzas. Pensé que me veo un poco ridícula con trenzas. Yo ni siquiera salgo a la calle así, pero si Carlos le gusta, me decido a aceptar sus piropos.

El otro día, cuando tenía el pelo en dos trenzas, Carlos actuó de la misma manera, y luego me llamó su “cinco de yuca”.

“¿Cinco de yuca?” dije, “¿Qué es eso?

Carlos me enseño un video, “La Cinco de Yuca” por Los Caballeros del Sabor.

Ahora sé por qué se pone tan tontito sobre las trenzas!


Having long hair means I have to find creative ways to tie it back, especially in winter when it’s wet from the shower and it makes me cold to feel it touch my skin. I usually do a messy bun but sometimes I try something different, including braids.

The only thing is that Carlos gets a little weird with me when I wear my hair in two braids. His face looks like when we first met, his cheeks turn red and his eyes sparkle. “You look so pretty,” he says, pulling my braids. I always thought I look a bit ridiculous with braids – I don’t even go out in public like that, but if Carlos likes it, I decided, I will accept his flirtations.

The other day, when I had my hair in two braids, Carlos acted the same as he’s been acting, but then he called me his “cinco de yuca.”

“Cinco de yuca?” I said, “What is that?

Carlos showed me a video, “La Cinco de Yuca” by Los Caballeros del Sabor.

Now I know why he gets so silly about the braids!

“Pass the Vacuum” and other Carlos-isms

Carlos "passing the vacuum"

If you’ve raised a child, you know that as they’re learning to speak, they make a lot of really cute mistakes. It could be a grammatical error, or a word misunderstood and used inappropriately, but for someone like me who adores everything about linguistics, it’s one of my very favorite things about childhood. (Raising bilingual children means one gets a double dose of these sweet slip-ups!)

At some point though, your children get older and their language abilities improve. The mistakes become few and far between so when they make one, maybe, just maybe, you don’t correct them. You can’t stop them from growing up, but you can selfishly make it last a little longer.

I still remember years ago at the table. My younger son asked what we were having for dinner.

“Enchiladas,” I said.

“Lavas? I hate lavas,” he responded, crossing his little arms over his chest.

My older son, ever the know-it-all, corrected him, “Not LAVAS! EnchiLADAS!… Geez, if it was lavas you’d burn your mouth all up!”

But that was about eight years ago. At thirteen and ten years old, my boys are growing up and those days are fading fast. Fortunately, I still have Carlos.

Don’t get me wrong – Carlos’s English is fantastically proficient these days, but there are still a few words and phrases that I haven’t really corrected over all these years. Here are a few I wrote down the past couple weeks. (It took me a couple weeks to listen to him in daily conversation and compile the list because at this point, some of this phrasing is starting to sound normal to me!)

Wings – Carlos never uses the word “underarm” or “armpit” – instead he uses, “wings.” … In Spanish, it is accepted slang to refer to them as such. (At least in El Salvador.) And so he’s just directly translated “alas” – the Spanish word for “wings.” This one has even caught on with my Anglo parents. When they heard him use it with our first son as a baby, they couldn’t resist adopting its use into their own lexicon.

Example: [Said to one of our sons before they shower] – “Don’t forget to clean your wings! You smell a little stinky.”

Pass the vacuum – This is another direct translation. In Spanish there isn’t a verb for vacuum. You say “Pasar la aspiradora” (or more common in the United States, the Spanglish version, “Pasar el vacuum.”) Because of Carlos, the kids actually say “pass the vacuum” in English and think it’s totally normal.

Example: “I’m going to pass the vacuum. The boys got dirt on the carpet.”

Joke hard – I’m not even totally sure about this one because I’ve started to use it over the years, too. What is meant by ‘joke hard’ is to joke around with someone and tease them in such a way that you’re almost crossing the line into making them angry.

Example: “That guy likes to joke hard with people, but he doesn’t like it when others make fun of him.”

You passed me your insert illness! – This might be acceptable in English although I would say we only use it to refer to cold/flu germs. Whenever Carlos falls sick or has any sort of injury though, you can be sure he will be blaming family members left and right, telling them that they ‘passed’ their illness onto him, whatever that illness might be.

Example: “My back hurts. You passed me your back problems!”

They exaggerate too much! – In Spanish, it’s common to say “los precios son exagerados” – (the prices are exaggerated) – so I think that’s where he got this one from.

Example: “Are they kidding? Ten dollars for that?! They exaggerate too much!”

Your shirt looks like a cow chewed on it. – Carlos has no patience for wrinkled clothing. Wrinkled clothing is totally unacceptable. This weird phrasing is the direct translation of “Parece que la vaca masticó tu camisa” – which apparently is a perfectly normal way to make fun of someone’s wrinkled shirt in El Salvador.

Example: “You can’t wear that to school! Look at it! It looks like a cow chewed your shirt!”

Respect the table! – If the boys are being rude at the dinner table, it’s not tolerated. Like Carlos, I expect good manners, but when Carlos shouts, “Respect the table!” – it is terribly difficult to keep a straight face. The boys also want to giggle, but they don’t dare. “Respeta la mesa” is a normal request in Spanish but in English it would be better to say, “Mind your manners!”

Example: Hey. HEY! Respect the table! I don’t think you want me to take off my chancla.