Me he mudado, ¡Síganme!…I Have Moved, Follow Me! …..



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Me gusta acostarme con mis estudiantes – I Like to Couch My Students

You didn´t think I was going to leave that last post at that did you?  Really?  How long have you been reading my Blogs?  Oh, nooooo, now it´s ‘balance the books’ time.

So I am with Luis in front of a rather large gathering of prospective students that we have just served a couple of glasses of wine.  We used to have “Free Sample Classes con Piqueo” to attract potential students … but when one class brought in a guy with a gun in his boot who was considering classes so that he could “get” the Surenos (Latino Gang) that had killed his son in a gang related dispute and we had a hard time getting him out of our house cause he was crying so hard, and another guy straight from Moldova (honest to goodness, this is a country, check your map of the Soviet Union) looking like the folks wardrobed for Shindlers List who when he moved through our house changed everything from color to black and white and who stopped half way down our spiral staircase and broke out in Italian Opera, and about 15 other groups who came with their friends for an afternoon of free food and wine sort of like the way people go to those posh weekends for the cost of listening to the Time Share pitch but have absolutely NO intention of taking classes…..we quite having them…..the Free Sample Classes with Piqueo I mean.

So anyway, we have the formal Sample class behind us, we are into the Piqueo (Peruvian term for appetisers or small bites) and are on our second bottle of wine.  Things are getting more relaxed and we can tell these people feel comfortable, maybe even like us.  We are just chatting informally and then one of them asks Luis to sum up in a nut shell, his teaching philosophy.  He looks up, thinks.  Looks to the side, thinks some more.  Looks down and I am getting irritated…..okay, ‘we get that you are reflecting…..what already?  Give us the d… philosophy in a whatever kinda shell!’

The moment finally seems right and he says;  “I Like to couch my students just like my parents couched me.”

If  it’s possible to feel such a thing …. I felt my face go white.  There is this distinct sensation of a color drain beginning with the follicles of my crown and continuing in even levels down to my freshly painted toe nails. 

Well, you can imagine, the half drunk potential students looked to ME for clarification and reassurance and the truth is, I was not in a position to give it to them.  I was as stunned as they were. 

When Luis gets talking, it takes a while for him to take a breath and so he was paddling on while we were all battling the images that were invading our alcohol tenderized brains …. until one of our guests, who had caught enough of his exhaustive explanation to be able to deduce what he had meant to say…..  if I remember right, she was a Minneapolis Police Officer.

“Oh, you mean COACH your students,  you COACH them.”

“Yeah, that’s what I said, couch.”

Well, needless to say, we didn’t get any new students that time either.                        Aquí estamos,  Joan

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¿Tienes tu pene? – Do You Have Your Penis?

No, No!  This is not an X rated Blog!  This is an honest Blog about the rough and rocky road that one must take in order to learn another´s language.

When I asked Luis this question he whirled around and looked at me with a combination of horror and true confusion.  I could see his mouth in mid-answer ….. “ye….s”  but he didn´t quite give it to me, his face was not, shall we say…it was not in concordance.  This of course had me confused and I insisted….”Siempre te olivdas tu pene y cuando llegamos al carro tu me preguntas si yo lo tengo.”  (You are always forgetting your penis and when we get to the car you ask me if I have it.) 

By now the horror on his face is complete, the confusion has just left altogether.

Let me allow you into the deep labyrinths of my psych for just a moment.  Don’t worry, it’s just for a quick second, just to help you understand what was happening with me as I demanded a serious answer to my question.  You see, it´s exhausting being married to my Spanish teacher.  He lets nothing pass, I always (it seems)  have one little thing wrong, be it an ‘a’ instead of an ‘o’, or a ‘this tense’ over a ‘that tense’ or my pronunciation is messed up and I have to repeat until I sound more “native” at which point I can’t even remember what I was trying to say….. and to be honest I think this one is about not wanting to hear what I was trying to say……and THIS is what had the death hold on me when I was challenging him in so many words with, “it’s 8 PM do you know where your penis is?”

I had decided that I was going to insist this time.  I was not going to let him get me off track with all of his infuriating corrections. I was saying everything right, doggone it and I was going to insist that he understand me.  Now where I ever came up with the idea that this technique would work as well with a language as it did when I successfully returned that pair of pants I bought too small the day before they went on sale and could no longer be returned….is somewhere deep in that psych you guys are now privileged to.

Anyway, he breaks away from Spanish….I hate when he does that with me …. it’s just another way to castigate me (careful, careful) for my Spanish.  He says;  “You have to tell me what you just said again, but please honey, you look so beautiful tonight, I love your eyes…blah, blah, blah….tell me in English.” 

Yeah I know, the sweet talk gets me every time.  Geese, give me a break, at 50 whatever, my days are numbered for these types of adorations….I buckle.  I say;  “I saaaiiiidddddd……DO……YOU……..HAVE……..YOUR……..COOOOMMB?

He loses it.  He starts laughing and can not get control.  I have already lost mine as well and so this is not a pretty moment for us.  I hear the neighborhood go suddenly silent….I know that without a doubt that Mrs. Hill down the street is completely motionless, just straining so as not to miss a single sylable that’s to follow.

“Honey, amor, bebé es PEINE, no PENE.  Peine es comb, pene es penis.

Grrrrr  %&$#”                                                                                  Aquí estamos,   Joan


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Viája a Nicaragua con Jessica – Travel to Nicaragua with Jessica

Today I am going to do something a little different and really fun for me.  I am going to introduce you to a student of ours that became a friend and now is more a friend than a student but that doesn´t mean that she has stopped studying with us, only that we could lose her as a student and still be okay, because you know, sometimes students move on and well,  that´s understandable and something we have to live with, but to have a friend move on? – well that would fall into a catagory all together different called ‘really sad’  so I hope it won´t happen, at least for a very long time if it happens at all.  We love it when our students become dear friends! 

JessJessica in Kayakica  runs a business called Un Buen Viaje and the second I can get away I’m taking one of her trips without a doubt.  In fact she’s got some coming up in the fall, and I may find myself on one of them……so anyway everybody…….. Heeeeeeeeerrrrrrre’s Jessica!

Joan:  Jessica, tell us about Un Buen Viaje.

Jessica:  ¡Un Buen Viaje! is my way of giving back to the country that has given me so much. After four years of research and a continuously vivid dream, I launched Together with two dependable local guides we are a small group travel company leading tours in Nicaragua. We take individuaP5170637ls, couples, families, photographers, birders, kayakers, hikers, history buffs, coffee lovers, foodies, really anyone who is adventurous enough to step out of their comfort zone and into this colorful, big-hearted country.

Our focus is on being responsible travelers. We emphasize this by engaging our guests in the communities in which we travel and encouraging active involvement. Our travelers learn about Nicaragua from the inside out, through the voices of its people, its complex history, and rich culture. It’s more than just a ‘place’ to visit or a ‘thing’ to do. It’s about treading lightly in our host’s backyard and showing thanks for their invitation to visit. Como la gente dice siempre, “a la orden.”

Joan:  HikingWhy Nicaragua?  What attracts you to this country in particular?

Jessica:  Nicaragua chose me, in a way. In 2002 Peace Corps sent me to the largest country in Central America as a sustainable agriculture volunteer, introducing me to a land of lakes, volcanoes, cloud forests, beaches, curious creatures, and vibrant and socially active gente with a complicated past. While I did not remain in Peace Corps, Nicaragua remained in my heart. It’s the incredible beauty, diversity, and perseverance of the people that keeps me going back for more. I can’t imagine ever running out of things to explore.

Joan:  Tell us about your experience in creating a Business in a country that has a language different than yours? P5070292

Jessica:  Most of the ‘business’ takes place here in my Minneapolis office. Starting a small international travel company is a lot like starting any other small business. Same hoops. Same hurdles. Getting to travel in Nicaragua is the reward for the hard work.

When I use P5150577my Spanish here in Minneapolis it’s mainly to connect with Nicaraguan businesses, organizations and individuals to ask for information or advice in their area of expertise. A lot of this communication is done via e-mail so I’ve definitely noticed an improvement in my written skills.

Of course, once we touch down in Managua, Nicaragua’s capital city, it’s all Spanish. Bilingual Nicaraguans are in the minority and English is practically non-existent outside of the capital city and Granada, Nicaragua’s hotbed for expats. In-country is where I’m most challenged and when the practice (Spanish class with Luis, e-mails, Twitter, surfing Spanish language websites) pays off. There are taxis to be called, reservations to be made, friends to visit, drinks to be ordered! I love nothing more than being in the moment, making it all happen with my second language.

Joan:  What if I don’t know Spanish and have no interest in learning it, can I still enjoy a trip with Un Buen Viaje?

The awesome thing about communication is that it is so much bigger than words. Imagine a handshake, a wink, a wrinkle of the nose or the forehead, a smile, a laugh, an “Ah ha!” I sometimes think those with a lesser understanding of the Spanish language than me often have an easier time communicating as it comes more from the heart than the head. Anyone with an open mind is sure to enjoy traveling with us.P5190693

Joan:  What if I am passionate about the Spanish language and culture, what in particular, does your trip have to offer someone like me?

Jessica:  Because only a minority of Nicaraguans speak English you are likely to find yourself immersed in the language and culture the moment you step foot in the land of lakes and volcanoes (and poets!). Our tours our designed to highlight Nicaragua’s diverse landscape, annual festivities, and musical and theatrical expression throughout the country. We create itineraries around these special occasions ensuring the opportunity for our guests to get a glimpse of life as it is lived by the people. One of our most favorite events in all of Nicaragua is Diriamba’s patron saint festival, which celebrates San Sebastian and takes place at the end of January. During the festivities, El Güegüense (Macho Raton), a satirical drama well known throughout Nicaragua, is performed in the city streets. It’s a synthesis of Indigenous and Spanish cultures combining theater, dance and music, and is considered one of Latin America’s most distinctive colonial-era expressions.

While NicP5210754aragua is not Peru nor Guatemala with their prevalent indigenous populations, massive ruins, and woven handbags, Nicaragua IS full of action. Nicaraguans always seem to be moving and shaking to their own rhythm, and they are more than happy to have you join in. Ya, estoy lista para ir!

Joan:  When is your next trip and when do I need to be in touch with you in order to travel with you?

Jessica:  We have several upcoming affordable tours and it’s not too late to make your travel plans with us. If you are looking for a custom itinerary or would like to choose your own travel dates, feel free to contact us to discuss the options. Vamanos!

October 24-November 4, 2009 (12 days)
November 21-29, 2009 (9 days)
December 2-13, 2009 (12 days)
December 16-27, 2009 (12 days) CHRISTMAS IN NICARAGUA!

Joan:  Thanks Jessica.  I’m thinking December 2 – 13….. hey, by-the-way, you and Michael wanna come over for dinner sometime next week?  Jessica?  Jessica?  Hey Jessica…..I guess she had to run…..

So anyway, there you have it!  My friend Jessica and her tour company Un Buen Viaje.  Here are some additional links that will connect you to all the action! (blog)  ¡Un Buen Viaje! on Facebook                        Aquí estamos,  Joan

add to : Add to Blinkslist : add to furl : Digg it : add to ma.gnolia : Stumble It! : add to simpy : seed the vine : : : TailRank : post to facebook


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Dicen que ahogarse no es tan malo – They Say That Drowning is Not So Bad

Now who “they” might be and “how” “they” might even be in a position to pass on this little ray of sunshine is a bit of a mystery in and of itself.  We need to overlook the teensy issue that this popular myth assumes that the Internal-consistency method of estimating reliability was employed to reach a conclusion which is just simply impossible in both method or outcome.  That is, if we were divide a group of dead people into two groups, those that died by drowning and those that died from other causes, and then we put to them the question; among the ways one could die, which would you rate as “not so bad” ….. well any live person can see that there are problems with this particular statistical method already.  Even if we could remember how we did that cool séance at that one junior high slumber party, we would still have the problem that one can only die, like really die, one time, and so the comparison between expiration methods is just not likely.

But let’s not be so literal.  Let’s take a look at the spirit of this myth and how we can apply it to our life here and today.  Yes, I have been up since 4 AM pondering this. 

It was actually something that came to mind at some point close to midnight on Saturday, August 1st, minutes before the publication deadline of our new edition of La Casa Rojas would have been missed.  A new edition is due out on the 1st and on the 15th of each month.  Now I, Joan, German, take this to mean “on the 1st and the 15th”.  Luis, him, Peruvian, takes this to mean “en el 1 y el 15 más o menos“.  And I know this.  Luis and I have been together for 7 years now.  I´ve developed heart problems over the issue and he’s developed tics.  So between my assuring him in precisely articulated syllables that he is to blame for giving me this latest heart attack and his jumping and twitching at first site of me when all I want to know is “how it’s  going”, we are well aware of the chasm that lies between on us on this issue.

There is always more work than we think there will be, but to this I say;  “We already know this, let´s give ourselves the room we need to accommodate the unexpected.”  “Don´t worry, it will get out,”  replies his modus operandi.   

So I struggle and flail and gasp and scream until I reach a point where I realize, anew, that all of that spent energy only delays un poquito, the inevitable.   And though I do hate to admit it, there  is something peaceful about that moment when we just give up and give in and relax to the forces greater than us.  No, no, I am not saying that I lose and Luis wins.  I would never say that…..I am saying  that there will always be that tension between Luis and I on our perception of time.  He’s more of a marathoner, I am more of a sprinter.  He’d rather pace himself and enjoy the view along the way, I’d rather get it over with so that I can kick back and forget about it.  He’s not right, but neither am I.  There are simply style differences. 

And so, though I will never be able to compare and contrast  the best method to die, I can tell you that if the myth about drowning holds any water at all, it’s all in the metaphor.  All the flailing and carrying on will not change the outcome, so when it’s you against the 30 foot swells just relax and ride it.  Peace is just on the other side of all your fussing.    Aquí estamos,  Joan

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¿Lo dices en serio? – Are You Serious?


Joan at her computer, readying the next group of articles.  Luis and René (friend and video editor of Viajando en Español)  at her back talking as though she weren’t there.

Luis:  ¿Como está Paola?  ¿Como va su embarazo?  (How is Paola? (René´s wife) How is the pregnancy going?)

René:  Bien, normal …  (good, as would be expected)

Joan:  body turned toward computer as though in deep concentration, however if you were listening carefully you would have heard the hydraulic of her internal satellite dish reorienting to fix itself directly over these two guys that seem to heading toward thin ice.

René: (continuing with a tone of exasperated authority as though covering well trod territory):  “….quejandose acerca del dolor en su cadera …. pero pasa así … el bebé crece más rapido en el primer trimestre que en los otros y las caderas necesitan expandirse para acomodar la creatura.” (…..complaining about the pain in her hips, but that´s the way it is, the baby grows faster and bigger in the first trimester than in any other and the hips need to expand in order to accommodate the baby.)

Luis (Bio: neither father, gynecologist nor obstetrician): “¿Está con nausea y mal humor?  Siempre es así con todos los cambios en el cuerpo y por las hormonas.”  (Is she nauseous and crabby?  With all the changes in her body because of the hormones, it´s always like that.)

René:  “No con nausea pero con dolor de la cabeza y siempre está pensando, con cada sensacion en el cuerpo, que algo malo está pasando pero yo le dije que todo lo que está sentiendo es normal.”  (No, she doesn’t have nausea, but she does have headaches and with every little thing she feels she thinks that something is wrong but I told her that she is feeling what all pregnant women feel.)

Luis:  “Sí es así.  Ellas necesitan mucho consuelo, como niñas”  (Yah, that’s the way it is.  They need a lot of reassurance, like little girls.)

Joan:  (rrrrrrrrr, sound of satellite returning to it’s original position)


Now one might conclude that what was said was not nearly as bad as what my first husband said to me. (In fact it was a series of these that lead him to receiving the number before his title)  When #1 heard me recounting to a friend how utterly painful labor was he said in all honest to god seriousness;  “You weren’t in pain!  Giving birth is like having the biggest orgasm possible.”  (What?  Hello?  You weren’t in that room with me?  Oh ya that’s right, you kept trying to sneak out to get something to eat!  You were the one experiencing discomfort and pain.  You must have missed my screaming and crying out and begging for a cesarean! )  To this ridiculous myth deserving sure and immediate death I retorted;  “Yeah, “big” in the same way pooping out an 8 lb watermelon is.”

So it wasn’t that bad what Luis and René had to say.  Still, there was an irritating attitude of  ‘all-knowing’ as these guys discussed what it was like to be pregnant.  I am THERE, in the room with them, natural birth mother of two, listening in …  and not even a ceremonial consultation for accuracy.  Man ….   But do you know what was the first thing that came to my mind?   It was NOT that all men every where act as if they had been female in a previous life,  because this is a truly perplexing and horrifying universal phenomenon across cultures.  NO!  Instead, the first thing I thought was; “Oh my gosh.  They are speaking in Spanish about this because they don’t want me to know what they are saying.  They know that they are fools and they know that I would totally bust them if I heard what they were saying so all boys-clubby like.  They don’t think that I can understand them!”  

Yes, it was insecurity over my Spanish!  Can you believe that!  My “I am woman, hear me roar”, took a back seat to what I perceived as their critique of my Spanish!  Rather than being amused (I’m too old to be outraged at this kinda stuff anymore) by the universal folly men seem to demonstrate about all things female, I was instead completly crushed about what I thought, they thought about my Spanish.

Holy cow, I’ve said it before and I’ll probably say it a thousand times more …. three steps forward, one step back.  (But psst…lean in a little…..would you think me petty and childish if I were to tell you that I felt a little better this morning when Luis asked me;  “What does it mean to ‘jump sheep’?”   Biting the inside of my mouth I said with all the respect I could muster; “That’s ‘jump ship’ honey, ‘jump ship’.     Seguimos adelante,  Joan


Filed under Learning Attitude, Of Some Things Human, The Petri Dish

Pasión u Obsesión, esa es la pregunta – Passion or Obsession; That is the Question

…the question put to Luis and I by a new friend and fellow Spanish language enthusiast.  Well, the complete question went something like, “What is the difference between having passion for something and being obsessed by something?” 

It was a question posed innocently enough, over dinner, the four of us present;  she, her husband, Luis and me.  But appearances are sometimes crafted to camoflage  intentions and my amygdala went on full alert as I got a whiff of our 5th diner – danger.  Something about this question seemed loaded and the dynamics between her and her husband upon it’s uttering let me know that I was right.  Subtle dynamics to be sure, subtle in a taut kind of way that betrayed the self talk just below the surface;  “Keep the emotion out of your voice.  Appear ‘devil may care’.  Stay cool – we don’t know these people very well.” 

Well, I was hooked immediately.  Was it the dynamic across the table from me?  Or was it the question itself?  I knew the inquiry had to do with her interest in learning all things related to the Spanish language and the cultures within which it lives, but knowing this had more to do with ‘Spanish’ being the reason we had met for the first time only 2 hours before and were now having dinner together, not because the word “Spanish” had actually had been articulated.  It was one of those questions understood for the context.

While my amygdala was doing a scan of the area, I ventured cautiously;  “Good question, hmmm, I don’t really know.”  Yes, it was a cagey and clever response.  So complete in it’s simplicity that upon additional hemming and hawing, I came up with nothing more eloquent.

A couple of days have passed since the initial posing and I’ve used the question as a litmus test for a variety of situations just to get a full 360 view.  While arranging the same 3 flowers in a vase for the 8th time, I asked myself, am I passionate about how flora evokes mood or am I obsessed with spacial relationships.  While trying to decide when I should knock off work for the day, is the fact that I have to even entertain this question an indication of my passion and love for what I do, or is it my obsession to demolish my competition. 

And after some intense reflection, enhanced with the tiniest spot of Limoncello, I think I’ve come up with something. 

I think maybe “passion” is the internal experience ‘one’ has when they feel strongly for something.  This strong feeling could be manifest in behavior or not – that part doesn’t matter.  The strength of the feeling and how it probably lights up the pleasure centers of the brain when one thinks about it, is more the key here. 

“Obsession” on the other hand is merely the same thing identified from the opposite perspective.  That is, from the outside.  If I observed your “passion”, I would probably call it “obsession”. 

The difference between the two can be distilled down to a love of something being experienced from the inside, verses being observed from the outside.  The notion that there is a dichotomy inherent; a good vs. bad, a health vs. pathology is more misnomer.  Remember folks, the “map is not the territory”, its simply an instrument employed to make sense of something far greater than ourselves.

What moves us and why is one of life’s mysteries.  And though I am probably more apt to gravitate toward people who share my passions, I find people passionate about just about anything, captivating.  They epitomize vitality and fertility and promise and possibility, they have things to do, people to meet, places to go, more to experience, goals to accomplish.  Passion has it’s musk to be sure.  I would way rather be around someone who was ignited and on fire and heading in unexpected directions, than someone who still tells the same joke 15 years on.  Just kill me now if you know that we’ll be still talking in 50.

Yah, give me dynamics any day of the week.  I want the thrill of the chase, the romance of the unexpected turns, the mystery that keeps me seeking and at every satiating summit I want to know beyond a shadow of a doubt that I staved off putrification and defeated death (of some kind) to get here.  

Maybe my trying to perfect a foreign language is your flying a 757.  It takes audacity to believe it can be done, courage to take it on and constant work to be sure that you are ready for whatever might come at you.  Even more, maybe my speaking Spanish and you flying a 757 means we couldn’t be more perfectly matched given our nature to take on any challenge and stick to it regardless of the odds we play and the fate we tempt.  Success is defined by challenge.   And if you are reading this Blog – at least one of your 757’s is Spanish or is it the other way around.  ¡Qué será!  Pasión es buena, ¿No?  Aliméntala –       Joan

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