Language Orgy on this Leaping Thought Wednesday

Why? Because I like to indulge...

Sesquipedalian feast:

About three weeks ago, I came upon this interesting article in the BBC News Magazine about a man who read all 20 volumes of the Oxford English Dictionary for fun. Afterward, readers of the story were asked to name a few of their own favorite words. 50 best were chosen and I have to say that from the list, I became immediately enamored of the word Tmesis. Pronounced [tuh-mee-sis], it means to break up a word by interpolating another between its parts. For example: dis-bloomin-graceful is a perfect example of a British-y sounding Tmesis. And now, for the very first time, I have a word that describes a phenomenon I'm exceptionally partial to. Isn't that abso-frikin'-lutely wonderful?

Gems? Jams?

Sometime back in April, Ron Davison of Rwrld put up a post titled Inexplicable Fragments of Imagined Lives. In it there was this particular fragment which I simply loved.

Once again, Fred peered into the fridge and wondered, did the woman pay no attention at all? Did she have “buy pickles” on a monthly grocery shopping list? Did she not realize that the pickles were building up in the space behind the leftovers? And didn’t she realize that with his Freudian training this act of passive hostility would take on inescapable meaning? Oh why couldn’t he have studied Jungian psychology instead? It seemed as though it would be so much easier to laugh off her idiosyncratic behaviors if only he’d chosen differently in grad school.

Having discovered since reading that particular passage that I myself must pay no attention either because I have a buy quince jam line perennially engraved in my own grocery list. And that currently I am five jars deep into quince jam inside my pantry, I do wonder what anyone's psychoanalytic training would make of my passive accumulation of jams - quince to be precise. Anyone? Jan?

Listen, I don't care if you are Freudian, Jungian or plain ole crazy yourself. Just tell me, what do you think all that quince means?

A pain in the Royal Coccydynia:

I should know. I have had a fractured coccyx bone and it ain't fun. Took forever to mend and I had to sit on a doughnut like cushion for just about ever. Insulting indeed.

More wonderful words that make for disparaging as well as entertaining fare at Neatorama.

Untranslatable words from around the world

Photo by Joi

The one below means that you must turn the other cheek twice. "2" being the magic number to withstand but, all bets are off after that. Give 'em hell!

From the Tshiluba language spoken in south-eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, this word has been chosen by numerous translators as the world’s most untranslatable word. Ilunga indicates a person who is ready to forgive any abuse the first time it occurs, to tolerate it the second time, but to neither forgive nor tolerate a third offense.

There are more words that defy translation at Alta Blog.

I love Anagrams - Naive as Glamor

original                   anagram
****** ******
dormitory..................dirty room
evangelist.................evil's agent
desperation................a rope ends it
the Morse Code.............here come dots
slot machines..............cash lost in 'em
animosity..................is no amity
mother-in-law..............woman Hitler
snooze alarms..............alas! no more Zs
Alec Guinness..............genuine class
Semolina...................is no meal
the public art galleries...large picture halls, I bet
a decimal point............I'm a dot in place
the earthquakes............that queer shake
eleven plus two............twelve plus one
contradiction..............accord not in it
I wish I could say these came out of my head but alas, I cannot. They came from the kitcar website or from the wackiest biter - take your pick.

Dying languages. There's a documentary subject if I ever heard one.

La pièce de résistance - It is a REAL place. And of course the name had to be Welsh
I absolutely dare you to mispronounce it.



It is all one word by the way. I had to break it up so that it would fit in here.


P.S. I'm very sorry I was gone for so long. I hope you forgive the absence. I needed and took some time off.



Into the Heart of Poverty - A Blog Action Day Post

Photo by Ricky

Rarely now, the image of the little boy pops into my head but when it does, I remember him so distinctly that recalling the tilt of his thin face, the threadbare shirt he wore, the longing look in his eyes against the background of an overcast Caribbean day, requires no real effort. That is because somehow that particular moment in time, when he stood waving goodbye to Alejandra and I, became deeply embedded into my psyche.

It had been our last day in Bluefields, Nicaragua when we met him. We'd been sent down from Washington D.C. as a video production team by the Inter-American Development Bank to shoot footage in this isolated enclave of Nicaragua's Atlantic coast.

When I first heard of Bluefields, I was warned of its poverty - abject poverty to be precise. Nevertheless, I really didn't think that there was anything there I wouldn't recognize in terms of scarcity. In my native Panama and elsewhere, I had at times witnessed what it was to live a life where the most basic of necessities were lacking. Personally, I had experienced deprivation and knew what it felt like to have no money, and to have to manage the day to day with painful economies. This place I thought, would have nothing that could surprise me.

We flew out to Bluefields from the capital city of Managua on an ancient little plane that looked like it was being held together by the grace of God and duct tape. Even so, all the proprieties had been observed within its narrow dilapidated aisles. For example, there was a gloved and uniformed stewardess who paraded a rickety cart offering a selection of canned national beverages for the passengers. Her actions would have looked ridiculous had it not been for the fact that the effort felt so poignantly sincere; somewhat like trying to impress someone with a fancy dinner when all there is to serve are soda crackers. That flight however, was to be the most comfort and luxury we would know for the next few days.

In trying to think of words that would best describe to you what I saw as we drove into town, I mentally place myself first inside the car that took us over the potholed roads framed by run down buildings whose peeling paints, and warped wooden foundations were the perfect metaphor for the harshness of a world stripped of advantages; an existence mired within the confines of the bare minimums - Bluefields was a dirty, depressing and worn at the seams kind of place. Still, because the outward face of poverty was not unknown to me, I was sure I could handle our stay there with the aplomb of one who understood the transient nature of our time there. And so for the next three days I handled, and this is what I came away with from that effort: Any deprivation which I have ever experienced does. not. constitute. poverty.

Poverty, is a state of being that overtakes all strata of life, for the 24 hours of every single day over a protracted period of time. Poverty goes beyond not having the money to purchase things whether they be basic or superfluous and, it is a condition that settles deeply into a place where the hopelessness of life is an insurmountable wall that a vast majority of people never even attempt to overcome because, they have never known the luxury of options. There is never anything better nor anything different in poverty. It is even keeled and steady in its abjectness. Living in poverty is an everyday chore which most of us who have not been born or grown into it, would characterize as plain ole surviving.

With this recognition in hand, I ventured forth that last day holding my video camera while Alejandra stood by my side to conduct the street interviews. We asked the expected questions. In retrospect, I feel that they were the wrong questions to ask. You may imagine what they could be in the context of one who looks in with curiosity on the underprivileged. How do you manage like this? What would you do if you were given... They were intrusive questions, inadvertently designed to highlight what was so obviously lacking for those whom we approached.

So many years later I know that we are missing something fundamental in our worldwide approach to eradicating poverty. Having worked for the kind of institution that spent inordinate amounts of time, money and personnel resources on examining the problem from every angle, I would agree that there is no one approach, no single formula that can consistently be applied everywhere. It is true however that there are basic cornerstones that must be met to propel the fight in a direction where some difference is readily visible. To name a few, a minimum standard of living, access to basic education, a stable government that foments the kinds of programs that prioritizes the interests of its citizenry and more importantly, that vies for the interests of the youth that will someday take over from the present generation because everyday, the divide grows wider and every day, more fall by the wayside, forgotten and ignored. But here is the single most important notion which I think is lacking in all this questioning of the problem. I'm talking about a recognition of something that is lost that must somehow be regained - Hope.

The problem of poverty can be partially solved by addressing the issues of what tangible options we can give that might serve to better empower the poor. They do not address however the intangible necessity of hope. And this last realization is what brings me to that little boy I mentioned earlier in this post. He broke my heart. And what I remember most about him is that in such a young person, there was no flare of expectation and a very visible acceptance that his barren life was all there would ever be for him. When asked what he wanted most for himself he answered quite simply that all he wished for was a little white car to play with. In articulating his desire it was very obvious that he believed it to be an impossible dream that one should ever come into his possession.

When we finally put the camera and microphone away, Alejandra and I looked at each other and without saying a word we set out to hunt for a white car that we could bring back to him. In a small business selling all manner of cheap wares along the main street, we chanced upon a Chinese made package that held the car of his dreams and we purchased it, went back, and set it in his hands.

That action only made us feel moderately better. He was happy, true. Disbelieving that someone would do something nice for him with no strings attached, yes. Grateful to the point of tears, absolutely but, in that moment of handing him his perceived heart's desire, Alejandra and I reenacted a microcosm of how we continually attempt to address the issue of poverty without tackling the fundamental lack and acute need for sustained hope. Giving him the car made us and him feel briefly better but ultimately, it did nothing to help him out of his desperate life situation. What little hope might have flared in him, surely died a speedy death with our departure and the unrelenting constancy of his poverty siphoning off whatever joy we were able to give him.

I have a little boy myself. Today he is only slightly younger than the boy in Bluefields was when we interviewed him so many years ago. Had my son existed then and I been able to stand him next to my Bluefields child, you would see immediately beyond the differences of quality of dress, nourishment and health, to that one marked and unmistakable distinction of how they look out into the world. R's eyes shine with the promise of a hope he doesn't even recognize he owns. That security in the rightness of his world was glaringly absent in my little Bluefields boy.

Afterward, his image haunted me for the longest time. Whenever I would tell someone of what I had encountered in Bluefields my eyes watered in remembrance of him whose name I cannot even recall. Only much later did I come to recognize why this was the case. With all my heart, my desire would have been the ability to continually paint his world full of hope. To have shown him what he could have longed for in life beyond his little white car.

For more information on why the subject of poverty inspired this post, please click here.


What I can and cannot do...

Photo by jaycoxfilm

For the most part, I'm one of those people who is incapable of subterfuge and lies. It is not that I have a moral imperative against either one really. It's just that I just plain stink at both. I'm good at many things and reasonably adequate at others but lying and disguising my true intent do not even begin to fall under either one of these two capacities.

As a child growing up I was deathly afraid of my mother's wrath. Had you been her child you would have been too. Look up the straight and narrow path and you will find an image of my mother indelibly tattooed there. How it came about I don't know, but somewhere along her motherly way, she made a special promise to herself that neither one of her daughters would ever lie, cheat or steal. With my sister she failed dismally in the lying department. When necessity demanded, Alex was an inventive and accomplished liar. I, on the other hand, was her triumphant poster child for dishonesty failure.

You know, for the longest time I was utterly convinced that she was a witch. Always, always she had caught me whenever I had tried to lie. Always. No matter what I did to work or spin the tale. Before long I surmised that superpowers had to be fueling that lie radar of hers. If anything, that incorrect supposition made things worse for me. Believing I was up against the unbeatable only made my attempts all the more self-defeating.

The truth of it was that the woman had eyes, that's all. And I had the kind of face that trumpeted its lying intent from cosmic distances. How infuriating it felt to me when I finally caught on to the dearth of my mother's uncanny abilities, and recognized my singular lack of talent. How come sis could manage it and I couldn't? That unanswered question spurred me to newer and additional efforts to beat my unlucky lying streak but, it was all for naught. This was not a simple matter of a bad run. No. I'd been jinxed well and good. Somewhere ingrained in a tally book, my name stood below the heading "terrible liar."

Monsieur Bertrand had asked us to memorize L'alligateur and I'd forgotten about the assignment. The whole matter galled me no end. In French class I was one of the better students not to mention Professeur Bertrand's special pet. This was my kind of preferred homework and I'd flubbed the opportunity to show off my good pronounciation skills. What to do? Lizbeth Cal suggested writing the poem on the palm of my hand in faint ink. From Prof. Bertrand's vantage point he'd never realize I was reading from my semi-permanent cheat sheet.

Oh no, I can't do that.

Why not?

I can't lie. I always get caught. He'll know I'm cheating just from looking at me.

Don't be an idiot. I do this all the time. He won't know a thing! Do you understand that I've never memorized a single poem for his class? I always read direct from my hand.


Yes! Look, just write it down at least and if you find you can then do it. Then go for it. He'll never know. Listen to what I'm telling you. Just act cool, stand there and read.

Against my better knowledge of the utter stupidity of what I was planning to do. I copied the verse lines I'd been unable to memorize.

In stentorian tones for he was one of those French Professors who relished the melody of his vowels, Monsieur Bertrand called me.

Mademoiselle Meeee-liiii-na...

The wobbling of my knees made it nearly impossible for me to walk to the front of the classroom without visibly trembling. There was some tittering going on in the back where the smart-aleck students normally clustered. Many knew my lying disability and were waiting to see what transpired.

Honestly I cannot say how much I managed to read off before Monsieur Bertrand rose from his desk and grabbed my hand to look. I'd botched it of course and he had noticed what I'd tried to do.

Regarde! mes enfants ce que Mademoiselle Meee-liina a fait...

It took the length of those words alone for me to envision the consequences of what I'd brought upon myself for lying and cheating. My mother would kill me and when she was done, my father would frown upon me with disappointment til the end of my days and quite frankly, I did not know which of those two was a worse thing to have to live through. And so I fainted. From the fright. Right there and then. It all went black.

I awoke lying down on the bench in the school's front office. Monsieur Bertrand's concerned face was the first thing that swam into my teary view.

Are you alright? I nodded. Mee-lina why did you just not tell me you'd forgotten to memorize the poem? Why lie? Indeed, I thought. Why lie? I knew immediately what you were up to. That figures... This is not you Mee-lina... I thought I could do it...

And then I just began to cry.
Ta mère se facherá terriblement avec toi.

Even Monsieur Bertrand was aware of how strict my mother was with me. She was going to be very angry with me. No one expected anything less.

I must have looked so pitiful that he felt compelled to pat me awkwardly on the shoulder. In a soft voice he told me not to worry. That everything would be alright.

You know what happened? He never told on me to my parents and in return, I had to promise I wouldn't lie to him ever again. If I forgot a class assignment I would just say so and bear the consequences of a bad grade or a make-up date but, there would be no cheating and no lying.


Absolutely I understood the reprieve he'd given me and I never betrayed his trust again. I think it was then that I made my peace with the fact that I lacked both knack and affinity for fudging the truth. Not only that, I did not sit well with me. Lying actually makes me sick to my stomach. I agonize over an untruth like someone worries over a hole left by a tooth that has been pulled out. In retrospect, I've made less of a mess of my life on those occasions when I could have ruined it, by simply sticking with the truth even when the overriding impulse has been to bury it deep.

Still I'm no saint. I won't spoil this post by lying to you and say I never lie. Of course I do. Sometimes lying is necessary. You'll probably agree with me. Over the years I've gotten more adept at it too. The simpler the better I have found. No whoppers. Keep a straight face. Think truthful thoughts. They cover the lie in a patina of truth... at least I believe it does. When possible, do not lie at all, just distract from the matter at hand. Omission is a form of lying I know, but hey... technicalities schmalities, they exist for a reason don't you think? I never fainted again. Thank God for that. It felt ridiculous.

In spite of my acquired bag of fib-telling tricks, I still get caught more often than not. Somebody built me not to lie. I'd like to get my hands on him and give him a piece of my mind someday.


Snippets for this Leaping Thought Wednesday

The lawyerly approach:

R was crying because his father was trying to put his swim shorts on.

Babi no!

-Why not?

Piscina (pool) is dirty!!

Very matter of fact, his father replied:
-We are not going to our own piscina R. We're going to someone else's piscina. That piscina is clean. Always remember to get your facts straight straight before you decide to cry janum.

I heard a pause, one last sniff, then R said - Ok Babi. And just like that, The kid stopped crying.

Note to self: Remember to confound the kid with logic next time. It works!

The reasonable approach:

R was upset because one section of his scrambled egg looked like a crocodile.

Mami take it away!


It's a crocodile. It eat me!!

Very matter of factly, I replied:
-It is not a crocodile R, it is a bit of scrambled egg. Now eat the egg because eggs do not eat you. It is YOU who eats the EGG. Always remember to look twice before you start saying eggs are crocodiles janum.

R paused, looked at his egg again, screamed, then started crying in earnest.

Truth to self: It actually did look like a crocodile. Gotta hand it to the kid. He's got sharp eyes.

Question for Babi: How come the trick never works when I try it?

On the return of normalcy...

Our electricity came back last Wednesday evening. It was the 12th day since Ike had passed through Houston. We jumped around like crazies before our dignity overcame us.

I swore right then and there that I would never take my electricity for granted ever again but, it is only one week later and I already have.

Note to self: Some promises are easier kept when not made.

On Choices to be made...

So, Sarah Palin... Madre de Dios y todo los Santos! A qué está llegando este mundo que una mujer tal puede aspirar a la Vice-Presidencia de este país? Translation: Should the lady and her partner win, I'll move to up Svalbard and brave the polar bears.

Note to self: It will be better to freeze with the seeds than see another Bush-like term.

Note to self 2: There might be dissenting commenters. Let their comments stand (unless impolite or incoherent). I believe in the democratic values of my blog.


100th Post!

Granted, for it being a landmark moment in my self-blogging history, this is not much of a post. More of a mashup really but, I'd only just begun to recover from the ordeal of everything Ike related when my little boy fell ill. It has been a hard three weeks here in Houston land.

Note to self: Remember to not whine. It is unbecoming.


Tell me you don't wish you could do this...

Note to self: Walk away from the yo-yo Milena. You'll only break something...


Something hauntingly lovely for you to listen to:

Philip Glass Metamorphosis #2 performed by Branca Parlic

Question: In what award winning movie what this composition by Glass used? A gift for whomever names the film first as a commemoration of my blog anniversary.


Image poetry. Days with my father by Phillip Toledano.

Worth a look. It is quite moving and very beautiful. Listen to the Glass piece as you look at the images.

If there is a soul, it is a mistake to believe that it is given to us fully created. It is created here, throughout a whole life. And living is nothing else but that long and painful bringing forth. Albert Camus