Tag Archives: Spanish

Step 1, Find Wings. Step 2, FLY!!

28 Jan

I can’t remember really hating winter until recently, but at the present moment I am sick of it, fed up, through, soooo over it (omg, sooo sorry to go “valley girl” on you guys!). It probably has something to do with the fact that last winter was the snowiest one we’ve had on the east coast (USA) in several years and this winter itself has (probably) broken some records — not to mention the fact that the majority of the winters in my life were spent as a schoolboy, who reveled in the wonder of a snowy forest behind my house and the joy of a day off school (Virginia schools are pretty notorious for shutting down if there’s snow accumulation of more than 1/8″) — but I won’t bore you guys with my ranting and complaining about forces beyond my control BECAUSE:

I have great news for our readers that will warm you right up! (1) I am headed places warm and wonderful in the very near future, and (2) I am about to regain my title as World Traveler Extraordinaire. I’m sure it’s well-known by now that anyone bearing  a World Traveler title must leave his homeland at regular intervals to maintain it, and for an Extraordinaire-level traveler, this obligation must be fulfilled at least once a year (OK, that sounds dumb, but hopefully in an entertaining kind of way?). I almost didn’t make it last year — and my brief, business-related trip to Toronto in the autumn only barely counted as international travel (don’t get me wrong, I absolutely LOVED the city — but I was only there two days, and there wasn’t much of a cultural contrast or linguistic challenge for me).

So, without further ado (adue, adieu? These “set phrases” are annoying; if I were a more dedicated linguist I would probably do the research and find out where that even comes from…), sans further delay, I shall unveil my plans:

Paso uno: Mini-vacation in West Palm Beach, mid-February. I’m just taking a few days off to chill by the water, hang out with a really good friend who’s working at a baseball stadium down there, and maybe even scuba dive (no steps have yet been taken to ascertain whether this third pursuit is even remotely possible in the month of February — don’t all the cool-looking fish migrate to the Caribbean, or hibernate in an abyss somewhere during winter? — but it definitely sounds cool and tropical to mention (and might make a few of you envious?). Yet while therapeutic and relaxing and extremely awesome, this trip, of course, does nothing to further my reputation as a World Traveler, which is why I just recently decided to take:

Passo dois (lit. paso dos, “step two”. Guess the language, and you’ll have narrowed down the places I might be going to two — or three if you’re informed enough to know the official language of Angola): 10-day vacation to the great city of Rio de Janeiro! I have a good friend there who’s been inviting me to come visit for a couple years now, and I actually had it in the back of my mind that this would be the year — if I could find the right price, of course. Well, I was talking to my amigo Marcos on Tuesday night — remembering our adventures together in Europe, catching up on recent happenings in our lives, comparing how miserable the weather is here and how absolutely gorgeous it is there, etc. — and I started thinking about how much I really want to go visit, and how I’d hate to look back in a few years and wonder why I let silly things like money and time be used as excuses for never taking the adventure — and, prob. more than anything, I was thinking about what an absolute blast Marcos and I used to have together when we were studying in Madrid, whether it was touring Andalucía, booking a last-minute trip to Brussels for a day because the price was right, or playing soccer in a Metro station where I kicked the ball into a lamp, which sent us into a frantic flight to the other side of the city to avoid transportation authorities [Author’s Note: Yes, I realize what an incredibly ridiculous run-on sentence this is, but I hope it’s serving its purpose in conveying my building excitement] — and so I took another look at flights for the end of March, using all the cheesy travel discount websites that are out there, and I found a round-trip flight that would be covered by the tax refund I’ll be receiving later this month [I wish I could insert a <hyperlink> here to a blog entry about filing my taxes this year…], so I made sure Marcos was going to be in town that week and bought it within the hour!

After making the purchase, I must admit that I had a little “Oh no, what have I done??!!!” moment — Was this an impulse buy? Had I really considered fully the risks of traveling to such a crime-ridden city as a white American tourist with little knowledge of the Portuguese language? Who does something like this, and is there a reason that most people don’t? Why hadn’t I researched the requirements for visiting the country before buying the ticket? (I found out later that night that US citizens are required to have a Tourist Visa to even enter Brazil, which I should have expected… But it should be no biggie if I get started on the application process this weekend, because I can get it within a month, and the price will almost be covered by the dinero I’ll be getting back from my state taxes…) — but then I realized that I was being smarter than I realized: I had made sure I had the money for it first, I had paid a little extra for a light travel insurance plan to cover me if I get stranded in an airport on one of my connecting flights or lose my job right before the trip and need to cancel it last-minute, and I have a really great friend waiting for me there who “has my back”, and it sounds like his family won’t let me starve, with the feast they’re already planning in my honor!

Really, I think it’s just the kind of adventure I need, after a year landlocked in central VA and tied down to a full time job. I’m looking forward to good times, learning a lot of Portuguese, enjoying new foods and drinks, hearing some authentic Bossa Nova, Samba and Choro played by Brazilians… I may decide not to come back! (Except for the fact that the only way I can take this trip in the first place is because of this full-time job that’s tying me down… A job which I really do enjoy most days!)

OK, so now we’re reaching the end of the post, and you’re probably asking yourself, why did he say this is “good news” for me the reader? Simply put, you benefit because you will be the ones that will be able to read the awesome posts about my trips — perhaps even while they’re going on, depending on internet availability — without ever having to leave your house! FOR FREE! What’s not to like? 😉


Ties That Bind: Nickelodeon and the Fantastic Fast Food Four

3 Aug

First off, I realize that the notion behind this blog is quite cliché; it is no secret that US entrepeneurs have been spreading the fatty, greasy elements of our nation’s contemporary culture around the globe for years. Even the poorest, most microscopic tribe of nomads wandering the Sahara Desert is familiar with the concept of a McDonald’s Drive-Thru (although I imagine height adjustments must be made to the standard windows to accomodate load-bearing camels)… No, I wasn’t surprised at all to find McDonald’s and its sumo-wrestler rival Burger King here in Santiago (obviously, Micky D and BK’s efforts to fatten the global population are all driven by plans for a worldwide sumo match in the near future). But KFC and Pizza Hut? Who knew…

But anyway, the real impetus for this blog was a conversation I had last night with two Chileans about our favorite Nickelodeon shows from childhood. I was visiting a couple of friends in the suburbs of Santiago last night for “merienda” (an evening meal that consists of a beverage and sandwich supplies… literally, a “snack” that replaces dinner in this country),  and once the parents and siblings went to bed, we had the longest conversation I’ve had yet here–in English, so they could practice (I suppose I should refrain from mentioning how impressed these friends and their family members were with my level of  Spanish, the language of our merienda conversation…)–a conversation dealing primarily with Nickelodeon, the beloved television network of all American children growing up in the 90s, before Disney Channel began corrupting the minds of youth… My amigos had seen and loved all of my favorites: Doug, Hey Arnold, Rugrats, Angry Beavers, Cat-Dog, Clarissa Explains It All, Rocko’s Modern Life… it was an incredible bond with a people of a different hemisphere. Halfway through the conversation, Pame’s mom, who hardly speaks a word of English, came down to clean up the kitchen and immediately realized what we were talking about– Chook-E, Caht-Dowg, Hhhail-gah–and began reminiscing with us en español. It was a very surreal experience, and it made me feel at the same time comforted that elements from home exist so far away and embarrassed that my fellow countrymen are stripping remote areas of their rich regional cultures in order to make money spreading what were once uniquely American ideas and experiences…

Needless to say, I had a lot to ponder during the half-hour night-bus ride to the Metro station, the 45-minute Metro-ride to the station nearest my hostel, and the 15-minute walk (I made a wrong turn at one point) back to the greasy, smelly hostel where I’m staying for the week.

Chapped lips smeared with yellow mayonnaise on the 29th of July

29 Jul

I have found that a sudden shift from the Northern Hemisphere to the Southern is hardest on one’s lips than on any other part of his body. Less than one week ago, my lips were basking in the warmth of summer, lathering themselves with cold ice cream and sweetened iced tea during moments of much-needed respite… They laughed effortlessly at the passing fluffy clouds and blew jovial bubbles in any swimming pool.

Then, suddenly, they found themselves, through no fault of their own, gasping for air and moisture on the cold, dry asphalt of the Chilean capital city. They quivered in frigid fear as they were carried out of the SCL airport, blowing clouds of water vapor into the sky, and they began to feel themselves contorted in ways they hadn’t for a long time in efforts to utter a language not their own. The chapping began almost immediately, and even an occasional application of Chap Stick was not enough to reverse their decay…

As they sought familiar foods in this foreign landscape, they were shocked to find that even their old amigo mayonnaise was not what they expected. She  was completely yellow, almost like mustard, and her flavor was different, although they couldn’t describe how. They began to crave warm coffee, instead of iced tea, and no relief was found in their beloved ice cream.

But as the days passed, the contortions grew easier; new friends made them smile; and “pisco sour” made them pucker.  And as they adjusted, these lips  began to prepare for a new assignment in this unknown land, that of dancing their native language much more slowly and clearly. They were to serve as models for younger lips that wanted desperately to be able to use these dance moves on their own… But as the days past and July approached its end, they were still chapped and cold, longing for the warmth of their home.