One day while we were walking I tried to buy some local sweets. A shop employee asked me what I was looking for and I asked for the local specialty. I used Spanish without thought. The next thing I knew I was chatting with an Italian. I was thrilled and told her I had no idea Italian would be easy to understand. Then she told me were speaking Spanish. Uh. Duh.
We left Amalfi via the scenic shore side road. This two lane highway snaked around the cliffs of Amalfi and was packed with drivers. My bother did a great job of staying calm and being assertive enough to get the job done. The scenery is fun but I passed the time watching the faces of the oncoming drivers. A lot is revealed behind the wheel in a high stress situation. I wondered about the professional drivers here. They would need a rare combination of bravado and calm to do the job every day, all day. This LINK shows a spectacular but not common event. One guide book said the road is super safe because every one is so scared they pay better attention. I couldn’t find data on the actual number of crashes. In general Italy is known for its horrible drivers and dangerous roads so maybe Amalfi doesn’t stand out.
So now we are back in Rome. It wasn’t planned but that’s where we wound up. There’s lots more to see so let’s go.
Internal dialogue day. Remember this? If you don’t have anything nice to say don’t say anything at all. Ugh. Morning must be bleeped out. Irritable, annoyed, confused, cold.
Walking to yoga, pep talk. You can do it. Was I supposed to stop for Prissy? She didn’t answer my texts. Did she say she was walking? I could stop by on my way. Ooooh, I don’t want to wake her. What if I misunderstood? She was talking so fast. I think she said she wanted to walk with me. I texted her. I think she said yes. I think she’d answer a text….I guess I’ll keep walking. I wonder if I should have stopped. I should have stopped. Why didn’t I stop? WTF. I could’ve stopped.
Ahh, yoga. There’s Rosemary. Let’s look at that bird. Uh oh. There’s Prissy. oops. She’s giving me the business. I was supposed to stop. Morning not going smoothly.
Ahhhh, actually doing yoga. Breathe in, breathe out. Stretch. Did Myra say, “Tenemos calambres.” hahaha. Oops everyone is looking at me funny. Why did I laugh? Calambres is cramps. I laughed because I recognized it. Rosemary is leaving class. She thinks I laughed at her. Rosemary nooonooonooo. I was laughing at funny sounding word. Calamaties, cramps, english/spanish translator in head has a laugh glitch. No Rosemary! Come back. Don’t be mad. Do I chase Rosemary? Do yoga. Rosemary is a solid friend she didn’t think you were laughing. More yoga. More worries. Where is Rosemary? Must chase Rosemary? Chasing Rosemary. Are you okay Rosemary? Ohh, your tummy hurt. Sorry, thought you were mad that I laughed. Oh, you didn’t know I laughed. Oh, right, it is not about me. Sorry your tummy hurts. I cannot figure out how to be in this world. More yoga. World is perplexing.
Prissy wants to walk tomorrow. Can I remember? We’ll walk together. Can I have a ride home, since you drove? Haha. My evil plan worked. Now I can get a ride home since Prissy had to drive. She was waiting for me so long she had to drive. I am such a loser. How could I not stop? Prissy is smiling. I don’t think she is mad.
It only took six weeks and four meetings to gather together community forces and start the first music classes for kids in Pescadero. Last year when Burt and I were singing with kids in a neighboring town I wondered, “Why are we doing this over here? We should do this in our town.” The bigger, more affluent, more diverse town of Todos Santos has a very successful group called La Sociedad de la Palapa or the Palapa Society. The Palapa Society is well funded and offers an array of classes for kids and adults. There’s even a library. They’re even building a school of their own. More power to them. Meanwhile eight miles away in Pescadero our local kids have not much outside of school. There are no English classes or art classes. No music. There is no Palapa Society in Pescadero but there is a group of people trying to change things. The local government wants to change things. There’s another group of people that want to change things. Some teachers want to change things. There’s a variety of what we used to call at EPA ‘stakeholders.’ Hence the four meetings and six weeks before I could start classes.
A person can’t just start classes without a room. I needed a room. The various groups around town had ideas on a room but all factions were concerned that no faction get credit or control over the free music classes or any other future classes. At least that’s what I understood while I listened at the meetings. We were finally given a room next door to the police station.The giving of the room was so sudden that Burt and I had to do a major cramming session of Spanish tunes for kids this weekend. Back in February I was taking it bit by bit but I lost interest as the meetings drug on. I began to doubt we’d be teaching a single child. So suddenly I was scheduled to teach classes and I had no tunes to sing. We fixed that.
Our classroom is in a central location and fairly neutral territory and I think the police next door will help keep the kids under control. In Mexico almost all buildings are made of concrete block. Concrete cubes are terrible for music. Sound bounces all over and pretty soon your lilting melodies feel like battering rams pounding your temples. Our new space has a patio. It’s the same as the police’s patio. Today we sang on the patio. I had five students and three helpers. Two students showed up because they wanted to be there. Three students were kidnapped by my neighbor April. It was nearly a one on one student/teacher ratio. I hear the finer schools only manage a five to one ratio so we’re ahead on that. The police were conspicuously absent. They were probably out soliciting morditas. I’m uncertain whether or not getting to know the police is a good thing.
We sang and danced and laughed and Hokey Pokeyed. I think it went well. Nobody was arrested nor injured. Many thanks to everyone who made this happen. April, Rafa, Janet, Priscila, Artemisa, Burt….
I have pictures but once again I can’t get them to load. Burt has been steadily applying himself to Spanish class. I, as usual, have been too. Yesterday there was a Spanish/English Intercambio at the Palapa Society of Todos Santos. Adult learners of both languages gathered under the palapa and learned a bit about each other and played some games. Surprising connections can be made in these diverse socioeconomic groups. Perhaps twenty-five people ranging in age and occupation showed up. There were 18 year old maids and middle aged mechanics and twenty-something gardeners and restaurant workers. There were a lot of white haired retired people from places north. I was paired with a very young hotel maid and an older female business owner. La dueña is the owner of an ice cream shop. I consider that a very useful connection. The young hotel maid was there with two of her sisters. The entire family had moved to the area recently for work. I appreciate learning more about what life is like for the people that work here. Learning English is one way to get a better job. My teacher Ivonne lead the event and she made it hilarious and lighthearted.
Burt enjoyed his companion and also met a mechanic. Mechanics are always good to know. Our current guy is working well but as he says: he’s a very bad man and a very good mechanic. Someday the man might overtake the mechanic and we’ll need a new guy.
After the games and chats the Gypsy Carpenters showed up and played a few tunes in Spanish. We burned down the palapa. We also found an incredible singer that new the traditional tunes we sang. That can’t be beat. Oh LOOK. Here’s the pics.
Last night we had our first show in Mexico last night. We arrived to find three Canadian fans in a mostly empty restaurant. As usual we wondered if anybody was really coming. Within half an hour the place was filled and there were only two people we hadn’t met before. Despite our usual misgivings about performing after a period of time off the singing and playing went smoothly. I even told a story. I’ve been meaning to share it here and so now I will.
Last week we were invited to lunch at Priscila’s house. Mexicans and gringos eat on radically different schedules. Lunch in Mexico is in mid-afternoon. For Priscila and her husband Cornelio lunch is at 3:00 PM everyday. When we are asked to eat with Mexican friends (it’s only happened a few times) we have to carefully adjust our eating so we don’t faint from low blood sugar or blow up from eating 4 huge meals in a day. On this particular day we planned well. We had a regular breakfast and then chips and guacamole at 11:00. Around 2:30 we roused ourselves from our midday stupor. It’s been warm here. Time to get ready to go see Priscila and Cornelio. They live 2 minutes away by car. We drove because we were bringing instruments so we could sing some songs. At 2:40 we left the house because we wanted to fill up our garafons with drinking water. The water plant is owned by Priscila and Cornelio’s son. It is right next to their house. At 2:45 we had our water. It was too early to knock on their door and we had run out of time wasters. Showing up early is really not the way here. An hour late is on time to most events here. That said, just last week Priscila was telling me that 5 minutes early is on time and on time is late and late is like you never even showed up. I teased her that I had heard that saying in the US but never in Mexico. Mexico is the land of mañana.
So there we were in a cultural conundrum. Not wanting to show up early and be the doofus gringos we stalled. It’s hard to make 10 minutes pass when your right outside somebody’s house. We dragged our feet and parked the car slowly. We unloaded our instruments like we were underwater. We moved to the door and stood outside for 1 minute. The house is behind a 10′ concrete wall. They couldn’t see us standing there. At 2:55 I rang the doorbell. I figured I could apply the 5 minute rule that Priscila shared with me. The door was flung open by Cornelio. Priscila came running: Where have you been? I’ve been texting you! Cornelio came home early for lunch and we’ve been waiting for you!!! Cornelio does not like to wait for lunch. The moral of this story is…keep your phone handy.
This was an uncomfortable start to our always stilted visits. While Priscila and I can chat pretty well, Cornelio’s accent is nearly impenetrable and he has no patience for our faulty Spanish. We focused on the food. First soup, then fried grouper, quinoa, and salad. Dessert was baked plantains with butter, sugar and Cinnamon topped with mango ice cream. Things warmed up when, after asking the word for burp, Priscila told a naughty saying about burps that come from the other end of the body. I didn’t quite get the details of the saying but I was able to reveal that I knew the word for fart (pedo). This made Cornelio smile for the first time. As usual, potty jokes bridge the cultural gap.
These photos are from yesterday’s warm-up concert at the Jardin de los Niños. In 20 minutes we covered The Hokey Pokey, Old McDonald Had a Farm. The Wheels on the Bus, Cielito Lindo, Cancion Mixteca, and the Barney song. No surprise that the kids LOVED the Hokey Pokey. No language barriers in that song.
That’s me in the purple top. I didn’t wind up there because I failed to follow instructions. I made it through three hours of advanced yoga in Spanish and did exactly as I was told to do. That position is downward facing dog. The teacher is actually lightening the load by acting as a human flying buttress. Buttressing my butt. The posture looks extreme but it felt pretty darn nice. After an entire day in Spanish speaking company I can say by the end of the day I achieved muteness. Immersion leads to exhaustion, physical and mental. I hardly understood anything Priscila said on the drive home. I had been up since 6 AM and it was headed to 10 PM. Mayra had to interpret. Kinda of embarrassing but also part of the road to fluency. Mental overload.
Today I can hardly move and I have not said so much as an hola. Tomorrow the real pain will set in. It’s just muscle soreness. No permanent damage done despite the cartwheels, handstands, and headstands. Like the language skills I think I helped, I’m optimistic some physical progress was made even though the body was overloaded.
I am headed out on a road trip to La Paz with my yoga teacher Mayra and my friend Priscila. We’ll be attending a three hour workshop on inversions. Inversions for you non-yogis or yoginis is the upside down stuff. Meanwhile it’s all in Spanish. I could be in for some serious pretzeling if I get my ups and downs and lefts and rights mixed up. So language issues, deep yoga issues and there’s some cultural issues, too. Mexicans eat on a very different schedule. To keep fueled and get in time with my friends I have to eat later or eat more frequently. So far I have chosen to eat two lunches rather than starve from 7:00 AM until 3:00 PM.
Aside from worries of ‘when do I eat?’ there’s ‘what do I wear?’ The few times I’ve seen my friends outside of yoga they were decked out with hair and makeup on. High heels, too. I can’t do this. There’s is no chance I can pass as a Mexicana. I have to go as me, slightly stylish and slightly askew gringa. Huge gringa, too. Time to clean up and get ready. I’ll let you know how it goes.
Burt wanted Almond Roca for his 60th birthday and so I made a batch. As usual I mentioned it on Facebook. My friend Priscila saw this picture and asked for the recipe in Spanish. Ack. Translating a recipe is an idiomatic and scientific task. How to say spread, stir, add, and toast? Candy making is dangerous, too.
I decided to give it a go as a generally good language exercise. Late last night, after a Gypsy Carpenter’s show and a lichen lecture, I wrote a translation and stupidly or shamelessly or bravely posted it to Facebook. I expected a lot of laughs from my bilingual friends. Here’s what happened. According to one friend it was so bad that she said to send her the recipe in English and she would translate it to Spanish. By the time I typed her the recipe in English my friend Prissy wrote to say that it was great and she understood everything. According to Prissy my Spanish was very good. And there it stands. It’s likely really bad and comical but understandable. It must read like it was written by an illiterate that knows how to cook.
Here are both for your reading or cooking pleasure:
2-12 ounce packages of chocolate chips
2 cups butter
1 pound ( or 2 1/4 cups) brown sugar
1 cup toasted and chopped almonds, divided
1. Grease a 14 x 18 cookie sheet. Sprinkle with 12 ounces of chocolate chips. Place I warm oven until chips melt. About 5 minutes. Spread chips over bottom of pan. Set aside.
2. In a large heavy sauce pan on medium high heat combine butter and sugar. Stir constantly until the temperature reaches 300-310 F or 149-154 C. Remove from heat and stir in 2/3 of the almonds. Pour into pan of chocolate and spread evenly.
3. Sprinkle remaining chips over the candy layer. Heat from the candy will melt the chips. Spread the chocolate evenly. Sprinkle with remaining almonds.
4. Cut into squares while warm or allow to cool completely and break into pieces.
Roca de Almendras
2 1/4 taza azucar moreno
2 taza de mantequilla
24 onzes de chipes de chocolate (2 bolsas)
1 taza de almendras tostadas y picado
1 sarten del galletas (12″ x 18″ mas o memos)
Necesitas un termómetro de dulces.
1. Espolvorea los chipes en el sarten de galletas. Applica aceite antes. Ponga el sarten en un horno calentito. Solamente hasta los chipes se empezar a fundirse. Con una cuchara unta el chocolate en todo el sarten como una capa de chocolate. Enfria al sarten.
2. En un sarten profundo y pesado ponga la mantequilla y el azucar. Sobre fuego de media (casi alta) intensidad se funde los dos juntos. Revolve constantemente hasta la pasta tiene la temperatura de 300-310 F. Quita del fuego. Añade 2/3 de los almendras. Inmediatemente applica la mezcla sobre el sarten de chocolate y unta.
3. Aplica el resto del chipes sobre el pasta. El calor del pasta va a detector el chocolate en pocos minutos. Con una cuchara unta el chocolate. Applica el resto del almendres. Enfria hasta todo es dura.
I had my last Spanish class today with Ivonne. We read a funny piece she had written about one of her first experiences in Baja. Just like English, Spanish is full of idoimatic expressions and these words and phrases vary depending on where you are. Ivonne grew up on the mainland of Mexico in Guanajuato. Choyeros (residents of southern Baja, so named because of the ever present cholla cactus) have a different way of speaking. And one might say they are a little more ‘red neck’ than citizens of the mainland. After this story you too might agree things are a little rough and tumble around here.
Over in Mexico (in Baja we call the mainland Mexico) you can buy a large bottle of beer. This large bottle of beer is about 2 1/2 regular beers. In Mexico they call it a caguama. A caguama is a sea turtle. In Baja they call the large bottle of beer a ballena or ‘whale.’ One fine day about six years ago Ivonne and her friends were picnicking on a remote beach in Baja when they realized they had forgotten the beer. Ivonne and a friend offered to drive off and find some beer. I think it might have been Ivonne who had forgotten to load the beer in the car. Six years ago roads around here were very rough and a five mile drive to the store could take an hour to get there and back but off they went.
After a short bit Ivonne saw two guys and a truck parked by the side of the road. They decided to stop and ask where they could by beer. After making the usual polite greetings Ivonne asked, “Where can I buy a caguama?” The guy looked funny and said, “A caguama?” “Sí, queremos dos o tres caguamas.” We want two or three turtles. The guy told her he’d call a friend and let her know. Ivonne thought it kind of weird that the guy didn’t know where to by beer, but okay. She watched the guy talk on his cell to a friend. The guy hung up and said I can get you two caguamas in about three hours. Now, Ivonne was wondering why would she wait three hours when she could drive to town and back in one. The guy was wondering why she thought she could get two turtles so quickly from some random guy on the side of the road. More words and no understanding. These turtles would come with their shells. Shells? What shells? Why do they have shells? Is that some Baja thing? They continued on in a “Who’s on first?” manner for a while. Eventually Ivonne asked how much the caguamas were going to cost. The answer shocked her. A caguama was $800 pesos or about $75 US. Now Ivonne realized something was really wrong and she asked him why she had to pay $800 pesos for a bottle of beer. The guy told her she asked for turtles and he was getting her turtles. “But we want beer!” Another phone call was made cancelling the turtle order and the men offered to sell Ivonne and her friend some beer they happened to have in a cooler. And Ivonne learned that a big bottle of beer was a whale and not a turtle.
Selling turtles is illegal in Mexico but apparently to little effect. According to our sources if you have the money you can dine on turtle soup any time you wish. I did not like learning this but the story was funny. It also is reassuring to remember that communication is difficult even when we think we are speaking the same language.
Mimi occasionally appears to have kitty dementia. Two nights ago she was a restless and shared her feelings with everyone by mewing and pacing across our bodies. Relentlessly. A younger cat might be gently flung off the bed in this situation and after a few or 40 flings a younger cat might get the idea that nobody wants to hear about its problems. Mimi is a rickety bag of bones with bad balance and poor eyesight. Mimi must be handled with care. If she shakes her head too hard she falls over. There is no moving Mimi in a manner to express displeasure. In fact I can’t think of a safe way to express my disinterest or displeasure. I could gently move Mimi off my head one hundred times and she would come back for one hundred and one. She makes it seem like she doesn’t even remember the previous five score times I removed her from my head.
Mimi once was a cat that slept apart and only showed interest when there was food or a small bird available for killing. A mild scolding would send her into hiding for hours. After spending one third of her life in the trailer she is now very cozy, maybe needy. She wants full body contact at all times. She begs relentlessly. She tells the dogs what to do. She dominates us. Now she is perambulating on our bodies and singing while we try to sleep. Somebody suggested Rescue Remedy when I said I was considering extreme measures. I cleaned out her litter box instead. I regularly clean her box. Living in a trailer requires vigilance but I’d forgotten for a day and it was a little overfull. Mimi seemed satisfied and last night passed peacefully until she started begging for breakfast. Not her breakfast but mine. I’ve created a monster.
Below are pictures of the school my Spanish teacher Ivonne owns. Ivonne runs her own private bilingual school for kids with a staff of teachers and she teaches Spanish to adults. She is also a single mom and working on her first book. My hat is tipped to her and her hard work and great teaching.