2020 has been a year fraught with stress and surprises. One thing that has been helpful to me has been to focus inward.
For years, I promised myself that I would become fluent in four languages before I die. It is a bucket list goal that I have nurtured since youth. In high school, I studied French. I learned a great deal from my one year of study. In years later, I maintained my knowledge through different techniques. But, I was far from fluent.
A few years ago, my husband and I traveled to the Dominican Republic. There, we met and connected with a couple from Brazil. Although neither of them knew English, I was able to communicate with them by speaking in Spanish. And, my Spanish speaking skills somehow facilitated my ability to understand their Portuguese.
Fast forward to the pandemic lockdown in March and April; I decided to pursue an item from my bucket list. I began to learn a foreign language, Portuguese, with Duolingo.
My language practice became very important to me. I appreciated the consistency that this program has given me during these last few months. And, I am happy to finally be working towards a long-time goal. I do believe that my Portuguese-speaking skills have been aided by my prior knowledge of Spanish. Nonetheless, my progress has been substantial. I am able to comprehend a large amount of Portuguese. More importantly, I am finding great joy in my studies.
If you are interested in investing in yourself, consider the following:
I have paid for a Duolingo membership. I practice 10-30 minutes each day. This program gives me a solid base on which I am building daily. But, there are applications that I have already been paying for that I can now use to enhance my language skills. I am watching Portuguese movies on Netflix and other streaming services.
As stated above, I work on my language skills about 10 to 30 minutes daily. However, there are other ways that I invest time on my new language skills. I have enjoyed watching Brazilian programs on streaming networks. When I do use a TV show or movie to “study” I do two things. I watch the same movie twice. I read it with Portuguese subtitles and English language. Then, I watch with Portugues dubbing and English subtitles.
I listen to podcasts on Apple. The programs run between nine to twenty minutes. They are great commuting material. However, it is a good idea to go back and listen to the podcast one more time. I like to stop the podcast to practice with the podcaster. It gives me another opportunity to improve.
Another way in which I invest a little time is by reading Portuguese magazines, newspapers, and websites. Even 5 to 10 minutes daily of this type of reading, once or twice per week improves my language comprehension.
Invest in People
Of course, no language skill can be complete without investing in speaking and social opportunities. After all, the purpose of acquiring a new language is to increase your ability to connect with other humans. I have had it a little easier than most in this department. One of my co-workers speaks Portuguese. As such, I am able to engage in light conversation with him.
In time, I will need to actively create more speaking opportunities for myself. At that point, I foresee scheduling coffee talks with my colleague in person. Additionally, I have a Brazilian friend that I want to engage with remotely via Zoom.
I hope you will excuse my language-laden post. But, I promise you can apply the ideas that I shared here to any goal you may have. Once you decide to invest in yourself, your next step is to decide how you will invest your time and money into this goal. And, if you need someone to brainstorm, hit me up in the comments. I would love to help you create a plan.
The truth is that you are worth investing time, money and attention. You can start today by asking yourself…
May has always been a special month to me. It is the month in which my youngest brother was born. For me, it is the month that signals the beginning of summer and the hope of good days to come.
May is also a word filled with meaning. May can express possibility, I may go running this afternoon. It can express opportunity, You may win. It can express contingencies, you may have to take an alternate route. It expresses wishes, May your life be long and prosperous. For that reason, May is the month of magic.
Use this month to explore your possibilities and express your potential. That’s what I will do. This month’s posts will discuss potential and what it takes to go for it. I hope you enjoy them. And… May you have a wonderful Spring.
With the stay at home orders that have been issued as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, I have been longing for the comfort that my parents provided for me in youth.
One of the ways in which I, and probably many people, transport myself to different times or feelings is through the use of food. The smells emanating from the kitchen and the flavors that hit your taste buds, can act as a time machine to take your mind to memories of safety, security, and love.
This week I did exactly that when I decided to re-create my father’s Mexican shrimp cocktail or cóctel de camarón. And, although it wasn’t an exact match, it was enough to cause those feelings to flood back into my heart and mind.
I was glad to have asked my mom for the recipe; she texted me a list of ingredients. I had a good laugh after I called her to ask for the precise measurements. “No measures, just make it taste good for you.”
When I pressed her a little further about this she gave me the most logical explanation in the world. “Look,” mama said in Spanish, “when papi makes for us he puts four jalapeños in it.” I felt my eyes widen at the thought of that much spice. “But, when you’re home maybe two jalapeños. You see?” And I did.
To that end, I hope you enjoy my papa’s cóctel de camarón recipe. Remember that the most important thing is to make it taste good for you.
1- 1 ½ pounds of shrimp
1 bottle of Clamato
1/2 cup of Ketchup (I maybe added a third as ketchup is not one of my favorite flavors)
Juice squeezed from 2 limes (you can also use lime juice from a bottle but I think fresh ingredients are just better.)
2 jalapeños (remember that you can reduce the spice by removing the seeds)
1 tomato and
cilantro to your liking.
If it’s not pre-cooked, boil your shrimp. I boiled large shrimp in water and lime (the juice of one lime was used for the shrimp boiling.) Next, drain the water and return the shrimp to the same pot.
Add the Clamato and ketchup to the pot and turn on a low heat.
Now, add your lime, tomato, onion, jalapeño, and cilantro. Let the flavors meld on a low heat for 5-10 minutes max. It doesn’t necessarily have to be cooked because you pre-cooked the shrimp. But, the cooking process does help the flavors blend together nicely.
When you’re ready to eat, add your avocado; my papa’s recipe calls for the avocado to be included during the cooking/melding process. But since I am the only person in my family that would eat this meal, I chose not to add the avocado so that I could refrigerate a portion of it and eat it at a later time. I reasoned that if the avocado turned brown by the next day, it would reduce my enjoyment of the leftovers.
A few notes about how to eat and enjoy this delicious meal:
Cóctel de camarón can be eaten immediately from the stove or you can choose to put it in the refrigerator for a little while to make it a little colder. I like it colder because I associate this as a summer meal. The leftovers I ate the next day without warming it up. The day I cooked it, I ladled some into a bowl and ate it immediately. I learned that, straight off the stove, the distinct flavor notes are more evident.
I like to chop vegetables into small uniform pieces, as you can see from the accompanying photo. However, your taste buds and chopping skills can dictate how you cut them up.
The cilantro is not a dealbreaker. If you are among the percentage of the population that tastes soap when you eat cilantro, omit it and enjoy the meal without the soapy taste.
I also like to eat saltine crackers with it as that is how I grew up eating this meal. However, the crackers are a filler and do not really add to the experience.
In conclusion, I hope you enjoy this meal and please share any modifications you may have done to it with me by adding a comment to this post. I would love to know how you have made my papa’s recipe your own.
I am an avid consumer of popular culture. I love movies and television. In fact, it was thanks to American television growing up that I learned some of the finer nuances of American culture.
As an adult, nothing makes me feel connected to my Latin roots like Spanish based movies and music. If you, like me, like to use your Spanish skills to enjoy this type of media then here is a list to inspire you. This list includes movies from the 1980s to 2000s.
Like Water for Chocolate
Como El Agua Para el Chocolate is a 1992 film based on the 1989 novel by Laura Esquivel. This is an arthouse movie that is set during the Mexican Civil War of 1910.
This story is complex and beautiful. It is a deeply symbolic movie is about star-crossed lovers. It also features a highly toxic relationship between mother and daughter. There is some nudity so don’t be alarmed by the front nudity featuring major 80s bush.
Under the Same Moon
Bajo la Misma Luna is a 2007 journey’s hero movie focusing on a young boy. After the death of his grandmother who is raising him in Mexico, he travels unaccompanied to Los Angeles where he hopes to find his mother played by Kate Del Castillo. You will cry. That is… if you have a soul.
The Motorcycle Diaries
This movie came out in 2004 and it features one of my favorite actors, Gabriel Garcia Bernal. If you do not already know him, you are missing out. Garcia Bernal portrays a young Ernesto “Che” Guevara in this dramatic biopic. The movie is based on the real life events that led to Guevara’s enlightenment and acknowledgment of social injustice.
1992 movie. I watched this movie when I was entirely too young! Belle Epoque is about a young Spanish Army deserter who has sex with four sisters. As sexist and gross as that sounds, this movie was actually highly acclaimed and features a young Penelope Cruz as Luz, the youngest sister who ultimately marries the adorable, army-deserting loser.
Love is a Bitch
Amorres Perros or (2000). This excellent movie stars Gabriel Garcia Bernal in a dramatic ensemble about a people linked together by a horrific car accident. It is Crash before Crash came out.
Ladron Que Roba Ladron (2007)
This movie is a Robin Hood-esque, heist comedy. In addition to having a premise that will help you justify cheering for the “bad guy” robbers, you will enjoying Gabriel Soto’s beautiful body as he sweats and digs a tunnel.