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!

Té de Miel y Limón

honey-lemon-tea

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!

Últimamente parece que cada día una amiga diferente me dice que está enferma. Creo que es un buen momento para compartir mi secreto para combatir el virus del resfriado. Hace muchos años Carlos insistió que tomará un “té” de miel y limón cuando tuviera un dolor de garganta; mucha gente en El Salvador beben esto cuando están enfermos. Yo era escéptica, pero con los años descubrí que ayuda y ahora, cada vez que siento los primeros síntomas de un resfriado, empiezo a beber este té varias veces al día hasta sentirme mejor. El limón proporciona Vitamina C y la miel es un antibiótico natural, además de que sabe bien y se siente bien beberlo. Salud!

Té de Miel y Limón

Necesitas:

una rodaja de limón
una taza de agua muy caliente
miel

Instrucciones:

Exprimir el limón en el agua caliente. Añadir una o dos cucharadas de miel y revuelva. Servir.

Opcional: Últimamente también he ido añadiendo una pizca de jengibre molido que añade sabor y también tiene beneficios médicos.

[ENGLISH TRANSLATION]

Lately it seems that each day a different friend tells me she’s sick. I think it’s a good time to share my secret for combating the cold virus. Many years ago Carlos insisted I drink a “tea” made ​​from honey and lemon when I had a sore throat; many people in El Salvador drink this when they’re sick. I was skeptical, but over the years I found that it helps and now, whenever I feel the first symptoms of a cold, I start drinking this tea several times a day until I feel better. The lemon provides Vitamin C and honey is a natural antibiotic, plus it tastes good and feels good drink. To your health!

Honey Lemon Tea

You need:

a slice of lemon
a cup of very hot water
honey

Directions:

Squeeze the lemon into the hot water. Add one or two tablespoons of honey and stir. Serve.

Optional: Lately I’ve also been adding a pinch of ground ginger which adds flavor and also has medical benefits.

Noticias en Caliche

mas-sv

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!

Recientemente Carlos me introdujo a un sitio salvadoreño de noticias que se llama MAS.SV. La ventaja de leer MAS.SV no es sólo saber de eventos actuales en El Salvador y en todo el mundo – también es aprender vocabulario salvadoreño porque el sitio está escrito en “caliche” (el dialecto de El Salvador.) Son bien divertidos los titulares:

• Roban cel y luego se toman fotos cuando estaban haciendo picardías
• Conocé a Chantel Jeffries, la chica que iba con Justin Bieber cuando lo enchucharon
• Abunda la cochinada

También hay artículos chistosos y interesantes como, Pueblos españoles con nombres graciosos y Didga, el gato skater que causa furor en la web. Chécalo y diviértete!

[ENGLISH TRANSLATION]

Carlos recently introduced me to a Salvadoran news website called MAS.SV. The advantage of reading it is not just knowing current events in El Salvador and around the world, but learning Salvadoran vocabulary because the site is written in “caliche” (Salvadoran slang.) The headlines are really funny:

[I’ll try my best to translate the Salvadoran slang words.]

• Roban cel y luego se toman fotos cuando estaban haciendo picardías
(They stole a cellphone then took photos when they were “messing around” (sexual connotation.)

• Conocé a Chantel Jeffries, la chica que iba con Justin Bieber cuando lo enchucharon
(Meet Chantel Jeffries, the girl who was with Justin Bieber when they “got him/arrested him/put him in handcuffs.”)

• Abunda la cochinada
(“Dirtiness” abounds)

There are also humorous and interesting articles like Spanish towns with funny names and Didga, the skater cat causing excitement on the web. Check it out and enjoy!

Té de Canela

TedeCanela

Cinnamon is believed to have a lot of health benefits – from boosting the immune system, aiding digestion, and lowering blood sugar to relieving arthritis, fighting bacterial infections and promoting brain function. I’m not a doctor and can’t say for sure if any of this is true, but it’s an easy and refreshing drink when chilled and served over ice.

Té de Canela

Ingredients:

2 cinnamon sticks
2 cups of water
3 tablespoons white table sugar

Directions:

Bring ingredients to a boil then lower to a simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool. Pour through a sieve and serve over ice. Makes two to three glasses.

Note: Cinnamon has been shown to cause medical problems for some people. Talk to your doctor before self-medicating or consuming cinnamon in large quantities or for an extended period of time.

Tribal Wives

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!

Image source: Link TV

Image source: Link TV

No miro mucha televisión pero de vez en cuando descubro un programa que me encanta. Eso es lo que pasó con el programa, “Tribal Wives” en Link TV.

El primer episodio que vi fue sobre una mujer de Inglaterra que se llama Sass y ella fue a vivir con el tribu Kuna de Panamá. Me gustó ver las interacciones entre ella y los miembros del tribu, en particular con la figura materna, Ana Lida. El show, “Tribal Wives”, realmente tocó mi corazón y me hizo pensar.

Después de ver este episodio y otro, fui a buscar más información en línea sobre el programa. Encontré mucho comentario inteligente pero opinones muy diferentes. Había gente que cree que el show está explotando los indígenas y no están de acuerdo con él.

Entiendo la perspectiva y tal vez haya un grano de verdad en esta opinión, pero también me alegra ver gente de culturas diferentes aprendiendo unos de otros y teniendo amistades.

¿Has visto el programa? ¿Qué piensas tú? ¿Es ético grabar un “reality show” así?

[ENGLISH TRANSLATION]

I don’t watch a lot of television but once in awhile I discover a program I love. This is what happened with the program “Tribal Wives” on Link TV.

The first episode I saw was about an English woman named Sass and she went to live with the Kuna tribe in Panama. I liked to watch the interactions between her and the tribe, particularly with the mother figure, Ana Lida. The show, “Tribal Wives,” really touched my heart and made me think.

After watching this episode and another, I went online to find more information about the program. I found a lot of intelligent commentary but really different opinions. There were people who felt the show exploits indigenous people and they didn’t agree with it.

I understand the perspective and maybe there is a grain of truth in that opinion, but it also makes me happy to see people of different cultures learn from each other and make friendships.

Have you seen the program? What do you think? Is it ethical to film a “reality show” like this?

Onions and Unintentional Racism

The onion I wanted to throw at a clueless woman's head.

The onion I wanted to throw at a clueless woman’s head.

I know, it’s a strange title, but I wasn’t sure how else to sum up our visit to the grocery store today.

Carlos and I walked through the produce section as I checked my list.

“I need onions,” I said.

Carlos steered the cart and followed me to the onions.

“Whoa!” I said, when I came to the onions, because they were the biggest onions I’d ever seen.

“Those are huge,” Carlos said.

“Do you think they’re like, genetically modified onions or something?” I joked, picking one up.

“I don’t know. One onion is enough for a whole week.”

“Hey, quick, take a picture of it,” I said, holding it up.

Carlos obliged without question because he’s become accustomed to my odd photo requests over the years. Carlos snapped the photo and then that’s when everything went downhill.

A middle-aged blond woman standing nearby smiled at us. Her blond child sat in the cart and several more stood behind her.

“Where are you from?” the woman asked, turning her attention to Carlos, still smiling.

I glared at her while setting the onion down. Carlos shuffled uncomfortably as he put his cellphone back in his pocket.

“El Salvador,” he answered.

“You must not have onions that big there, huh?” the woman said in a voice that reminded me of a Kindergarten teacher speaking to one of her 5 year old students. She wasn’t trying to be insulting… She wasn’t trying to be.

“Um, no, not really,” Carlos said, shifting his eyes to make eye contact with me ever so briefly. Carlos and I didn’t need words, didn’t need to speak, to know we were thinking the same thing.

I bit my tongue, resisted the urge to ask the woman where she was from. I wanted to tell her that Carlos had lived in the United States for 15 years now, that he’s an American Citizen, not some onion-photographing foreign tourist. I wanted to lob one of the onions at her head but she was oblivious to her white privilege, her unintentional racism, how she had made Carlos feel “other” … She didn’t realize that if another white person had been taking a photo in the grocery store she would not have asked or even wondered where they are from.

“We just went to Thailand. We love anything international!” the woman exclaimed.

The awkwardness was unbearable.

I wondered in my head how she would have reacted if I blurted out something equally as random. “Tea and crumpets are amazing!” is what I wanted to say. I bit my tongue harder.

“That’s nice?” Carlos said, unsure, as was I, what she expected us to respond.

I looped my arm through Carlos’s, forced myself to smile at the woman and we walked away. I kept quiet because I still don’t know how to explain white privilege to other white people.

What would you have done? How would you have responded?

Foreign Accent Syndrome

accent

A car crash, dental surgery, a migraine, hit by shrapnel, a seizure – all these incidents led to the same condition in different people and that condition is Foreign Accent Syndrome, (FAS.)

Of the approximately 60 to 70 recorded cases of FAS, patients include one Australian woman who began speaking with a French accent after a car crash; a British woman who began speaking with a Chinese accent after a serious migraine; and an American woman who began speaking in a mix of Irish, English and other European accents after dental surgery. The very first recorded case occurred in 1941 after a young Norwegian woman suffered a shrapnel injury to the brain during an air raid – she began speaking with a German accent afterward and was ostracized as a result by people who thought she was faking the accent.

A common misconception among people meeting someone with FAS is that the FAS patient is able to speak a second language. Most FAS patients are actually monolingual and none of them acquire the ability to speak the language from which their accent derives. (There is one case, which is probably not considered FAS, of a Croatian girl who fell into a coma and woke up having lost the ability to speak Croatian but being able to speak fluent German.) [source]

I found it interesting as I researched that most of the cases I encountered were of Anglo women, but then I discovered the case of a man in England who began to speak with an Italian or Greek accent and an Australian boy who spoke with an American accent. Still, the vast majority of people with FAS seem to be women and I’m unable to find information of this occurring in Latin America, Asia, and Africa. Whether this means it hasn’t occurred there or simply that the cases weren’t recorded as FAS, remains to be seen. (I can imagine that some cases could have been disregarded as mental illness.)

For some people this condition is a source of depression, frustration and embarrassment. Some people feel like they’ve lost a part of their identity – other people embrace it as a new identity.

How do you think you’d react to one day waking up with Foreign Accent Syndrome? Is there an accent you wouldn’t mind having? Which accent would you not want to have? How do you think it would affect your daily life?

Related Articles and Videos:

CNN – Australian Car Crash Victim Acquires French Accent

CNN – Video: Instant New Accent/Jeanne Moos reports

NPR – A Curious Case of Foreign Accent Syndrome

Video: Embarrassing Bodies – Foreign Accent Syndrome

Common Features of FAS

Video: Foreign Accent Syndrome on My Strange Brain – Part I
Video: Foreign Accent Syndrome on My Strange Brain – Part II
Video: Foreign Accent Syndrome on My Strange Brain – Part III