Posts Tagged With: English

Finding THAT Connection

Sometimes most all of us would benefit from a good whack in the head to be reminded that we need more perspective in our lives! Lazaro 8The whack that just caught me upside my head was Lazaro Arbos and his American Idol audition. Lazaro, a 21 year-old ice cream scooper from Florida, has had a stutter since age 6 that has deeply impacted his life. I cannot imagine the courage it took for this brave young man, with a pretty severe stutter, to sit in front of television cameras and share his story. By the end of the audition he had tears of joy dripping from his chin – and so did I.

What an indomitable spirit he must have! His family immigrated to Florida from Cuba when he was 10 years-old Lazaro 16and his parents still speak Spanish. This would make me guess that he learned English well after the stuttering began and is now bilingual. Reared all of my live in the United States, at 40 I immigrated to Colombia, South America, and have had GREAT difficulty learning the local language of Spanish and I do not have a stutter to overcome. This young man has whacked me in the head reminding me I have to stop making excuses and learn Spanish or this inspirational moment will have been wasted.

At one point he says – things that “normal” people would think are so easy becomes so hard for him. I do not doubt that a lot of things are more Lazaro 7difficult for him, but I hope he misspoke using the term “normal” people in a way that could exclude him from being “normal”. My brief moment of sympathy was quickly followed by shock. This guy that just inspired not only me but thousands, does he feel he is not “normal”? Watching it the first time, I just wanted to give him a big hug. Watching it again, I wanted to shake him and say, “NEVER feel you are not ‘normal’!” But the confidence, courage, strength and intelligence he must posses to be bilingual while having a stutter and giving such a heartfelt performance convinces me, and I hope, he just misspoke.

I am such an easy target for a story like his because I have a real empathy for his situation. I had hearing difficulties as a lazaro 14child and out of a necessity created my own language. It was actually the official language of the little world I lived in – within my own little head. Lazaro’s mother Gisela says she often had to speak for him. My little world also had a translator, my older sister Darlene. People would listen to me jabber on and on (one thing that has not changed about me), not understanding a word, then ask Darlene, “What did he say?” Then she would relay my message perfectly in English. She was really the only one that truly understood me, having to also translate for Mom and Dad at times! At age five, I began to learn to speak English, the language of the people in my new world. I no longer had to live in my isolated world and began to FEEL more and more connected to this much bigger world outside my little head.

My translator Darlene & Me

My translator Darlene & Me

Acting as my translator, Darlene and I built a unique bond. Now we are adults, we often argue and fight. In thinking about this I have come to a realization why – I struggle wanting her to understand me to help translate who I am to a part of the world that does not understand me – my family! Our rifts are about religion, politics, as well as lifestyle. While she and my family remain very religious, conservative, and content; I, on the other hand lost my religion, tend to be liberal (I really think I am what they now call a Progressive), I am openly gay and live what I have convinced myself is an adventurous life given the constraints of a life dealing with limitations because of Multiple Sclerosis. So I try and hope for her to understand me so that she can translate so I can feel a connection with my family again. We do make real effort, but for now… I am still jabbering on and on in my own language and feel I NEED that ONE person that understands me to help the world (outside of my little head) understand me!

Seeing this video surprised me because I felt I was witnessing Lazaro’s moment, the moment he found “MUSIC” was his translator and people beyond his Lazarofamily could understand and connect with the world he has been isolated in for so long.  He found his Darlene!  I think he FEELS he has connected; others see, feel, and understand his world a little more. Not only is music his translator – he sees that it is an APPRECIATED talent. He has found some of the respect he has craved and deserves.  Feeling this connection has to be incredible! He has been actualized as a member of the bigger world. The talent that until now has been comfort in his isolated world can now be shared – WORLD, MEET LAZARO!

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/01/18/american-idol-lazaro-arbo-stutter-video_n_2501225.html?ncid=webmail19

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Categories: Life | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Tolerance Is the Same in ANY Language

I am still so surprised to see how willing people are to wear their intolerance and hatred as a badge of honor in 2012.  They say it is their first amendment right and its free speech!  I agree!  But I also know free speech has a price!  That is right, I feel free speech is not always free.  Just as anyone has the right to say whatever they want, someone else has the right to say just the opposite and they may be able to say it louder and even have more voices joining in support.  The price that comes with the freedom of speech is to  listen or to exercise  the responsibility to know when it is just best to shut up!  Each time I write a blog, I expect opposition.  I am a realist and understand not everyone (maybe very few) will agree with me.  I am a little late to the game to discuss Kirk Cameron’s insensitive comments about gays, Rush Limbaugh’s attack on Sandra Fluke and then Patricia Heaton insulting Ms Fluke even further.  But what I have to say is timeless (and correct)!!  lol

Kirk Cameron feels he speaks for ALL Christians when he berates gays saying homosexuality is  “unnatural … I think it’s detrimental, and ultimately destructive to so many of the foundations of civilization.”  But when gays and activist for gay causes were outraged, he defend himself by saying, “”I should be able to express moral views on social issues, especially those that have been the underpinning of Western civilization for 2,000 years—without being slandered, accused of hate speech, and told from those who preach ‘tolerance’ that I need to either bend my beliefs to their moral standards or be silent when I’m in the public square,”  WHAT AN IDIOT!!  No one said he did not have the RIGHT to say what he did, people just expressed their own “moral views on social views” that opposed his.  He was not a victim… he just learned he did not speak for all Americans just the ones with his narrow opinions.

Now Rush Limbaugh on the other hand is used to controversy over things he says as a political commentator.  But I think even he was surprised at the backlash after calling Sandra Fluke a “slut” and a “prostitute” after she testified before Congress in favor of  drug coverage for contraception.  Advertisers used their freedom of speech (money) to say we do not want our product associated with your program.  But he also learned an apology is not always enough to make Americans forget.  I support his right to say what he wants just as I support the advertisers right to distance themselves from his program.  As he questions drug coverage paying for contraception for women, I question drug coverage paying for his Viagra.  Being the crazy liberal I am, I think drug coverage should cover both.

Patrica Heaton is an Actress and tried to ignite her own role as a commentator by firing off at least five mean-spirited Tweets like, “If every Tweaton sent Georgetown Gal one condom, her parents wouldn’t have to cancel basic cable, & she would never reproduce – sound good?”  Or this one,”G-Gal: you’ve given yer folks great gift for Mother’s/Father’s Day! Got up in front of whole world & said I’m having tons of sex- pay 4 it!”  That is only two of the five I read.  She later apologized.  It was easy for me to remove her ABC show “The Middle” from my dvr because if she had tweeted one hateful thing, I would accept her apology as sincere, but since she Tweeted so many, I felt she was apologizing because of the PR mess not because she truly meant it.

I am happy we live in a nation where even these three small-minded people mentioned can share their thoughts.  Just as I am happy that in America I have the freedom to write and comment on their actions from a more open-minded perspective.  Sandra Fluke was not deterred in her attempt to share her opinion even after such brutal attacks as I continue to enlighten others of the rights of gays.  I am not sure what Sandra Flukes view are regarding homosexuality, but I would sure welcome such a smart, strong, and fearless woman also defending my cause.

The fear I do have is that all of this intolerance and hatred is being understood by kids, youth, and even young adults as acceptable.  Many Americans are concerned about bullying in schools and many parents say – they did not learn to act that way at home.  I ask, or did they learn it at home?  When you make insensitive comments about immigrant’s limited language, use terms like MY country instead of OUR country, or say things like “those people” when referring to gays, black people, or disabled people; you are teaching the universal language of intolerance!  No one in the United States is even FORCED to learn and use English properly, so there should not be any fear of being FORCED to LEARN anything in America.  Like learning proper English or a foreign language – LEARNING the language of tolerance is voluntary for individuals, but necessary for society!

http://www.newser.com/story/141020/kirk-cameron-homosexuality-is-destructive.html

http://www.newser.com/story/141199/kirk-cameron-defends-his-anti-gay-comments.html

http://www.newser.com/story/141235/doc-are-we-paying-for-limbaughs-viagra.html

http://www.newser.com/story/141095/patricia-heaton-attacks-sandra-fluke-deletes-twitter.html

http://www.newser.com/story/141163/heaton-back-on-twitter-with-message-for-sandra-fluke.html

http://www.newser.com/story/141699/sandra-fluke-name-calling-wont-silence-us.html

Categories: Life | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

My Life and the Knife

Day time photo of the location of my robbery attempt.

Talking tough has become second nature to me.  Moving to Bogotá, Colombia, was evidence I was tough enough to challenge the preconceived ideas most people have about Colombia.  I have become accustomed to defending my life decisions and opinions regarding politics, religion, lifestyle and philosophy.  But 8:05pm, Wednesday night, June 9,2010, I had to defend my life as someone attempted to rob me using a buck knife with a 6 inch blade.  I have had self-defense training, but had never needed to use it.  The training was also like 20 years ago.  In the crisis…it came back to me.  I learned I am not all talk – I AM tough!

Buck Knife with 6 inch blade.

I was walking on Caracas Avenida (a main street in Bogotá) between Calle 47 and Calle 45a (avenida is avenue and calle is street  in Spanish).  I was returning a phone call to a friend.  I had been warned talking on my cellphone in English while walking alone could be risky, but I was by the Catholic University of Colombia that had security and I was close to my apartment, so I felt no risk.  Afterall Colombia’s tourism motto is, “Colombia, the only risk is wanting to stay.”

Generally when I walk in Bogotá I am walking with a purpose.  I walk fast, I try to avoid eye contact and I do not talk with strangers.  So, as a guy walking next to me said something to me, I ignored him without even looking thinking he was a bum asking for money.  I continued my conversation and I heard blah, blah – Gringo.  I kept walking and turned to him and said, “I am on the phone!”  He was about 5′ 9″ and looked like a typical college student.  Again I heard blah, blah, blah – Gringo and then he grabbed my phone.

FLASHBACK – A little more than a week earlier, while trying to renew my visa, a guy grabbed my phone.  I was holding the phone in my left hand.  instinctively I used my right hand to latch on to his arm and I stuck out my leg and threw him to the ground.  I am not sure if this was instinct or not, but I gave him a strong kick and shouted, “¡Váyase!” (Spanish for “GO AWAY!”).  He did.  Actually he was running full speed before he was even fully upright! haha

The Krzr phone that seems to be in BIG demand in Bogota!

Now as the guy on Caracas was holding my hand as well as my phone, I think he began to realize I was not just going to let him have the phone.  It is and old Motorola Krzr phone with no real value and now for the second time within 2 weeks someone was trying to steal it.  My God – what would happen if I had an i-phone?  Anyone reading my blog regularly knows I do not have the money to buy another cellphone … I do not have the money to even buy my plane ticket home.  So my rage of I am not letting a thief take something I do not have the money to replace.  This rage helped tighten my grip. This let him know for sure, if he wanted this phone – he was going to have to do more to take it.

This is when he took his stand and in his left hand he raised the buck knife.  My grip on th phone grew tighter because it also my grip on his right hand.  Knowing he could not use his right hand now and my right hand free I drew back and swung my fist.  I made direct contact with the center of his chest.  I heard a solid thud.  He fell back a let go of the phone. Then  he elevated his left hand with the knife.  I had a quick flash visualizing the knife enter my chest and I was NOT going to let that happen!  I no longer was defending my property, I was defending my life!

At this point I threw my backpack to the ground freeing my arms completely.  I drew my right arm back with a white knuckled fist ready to fly.  Pointing with my left hand with the phone still in my grip, I the announced loudly, “You better be willing to kill me!”  If I had been Superman, red lasers would have been shooting from my eyes.  The look on my face, the tone of my voice, I knew he understood me even if he did not understand English.  Our eyes locked. I must have looked cross-eyed because I was staring at the knife and looking in his eyes at the same time.  Again I visualized him charging me and sticking the knife in my chest.  Then I saw he make his next move – RETREAT!  He ran away.

This is the moment I realized my friend had been on the phone for the entire altercation.  The sad thing is his English is not good and had no idea what had happened.  I told him, “A guy just tried to rob me with a knife!” His response was simply, “Que?”  (que is Spanish for what?)  I said I would call him back later and pick up my backpack.  I walked to my friend’s café on the next block and began reporting my story.  One guy there called me a hero, but I already knew I fell short of being a hero.  Once again in my life –  I found myself a survivor!  Okay…. A TOUGH SURVIVOR!! lol

Categories: Bogota, Colombia, Life | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

The Edge

The Edge… there is no honest way to explain it because the only people who really know where it is are the ones who have gone over. – Hunter S. Thompson

My friend Pat posted that on his Facebook page.  I felt I was on the edge.  I was writing about a very difficult part of my life when I read this and felt if I looked to see if I could see over the edge, I may fall!  So this put things in prospective for me… maybe I am not as close to the edge as I thought.  Most once thought the Earth was flat and if someone expanded their boundaries, they ran the risk of falling off the Earth.  But isn’t life close to the edge so much more fun?  The view is so much better than most realize!

Life is more exciting to me when boundaries are challenged.  I start my day usually with a cup of Colombian coffee like a lot of Americans do….but I am drinking my Colombian coffee IN Colombia.  I buy my bread at a bakery instead of WalMart.  I have no need for a car so when I go anywhere, I usually walk and see things I would never notice if I were in a car.  I buy my vegetables at a farmer’s market not at a grocery store.  I have created for myself a healthier lifestyle.  As different as my life may be, life here is routine.  Going to the bakery, going to the farmer’s market, walking where I need to go is typical to me now.  I feel I have adapted.

My weakness living here is my lack of Spanish….that I have not adapted to.  I also live in an English bubble here.  My friends all speak English and I know just enough Spanish to get by.  I feel this is a weakness of most Americans.  We feel everyone should speak English.  I have friends that get upset because they have to press 1 for English and there is even an option to have services in Spanish in the U.S.  I feel this is a beauty of American life… LAND OF THE FREE!!  Everyone is free to speak their own language.  Many Americans do not realize that English is NOT the official language of the U.S.  There actually is no “official” language, just English is the most common.  Why do we have such an arrogant attitude that everyone should speak OUR language?  Why can’t American say, “it would be good for me to know another language”?

Beyond the benefit of knowing another language… people could learn about other cultures.  After my first visit, I was ashamed of how little I knew and understood about Colombia and the Latin culture.  Most Americans only think drugs, jungles and guerrillas.  Knowledge is not something to be afraid of.  I know with school, I learned what I needed to pass and get by.  Sometimes even using Cliff Notes instead of reading the books assigned.  Now I am older and learning is more difficult, I regret that I did not make more of an effort when I was young.  Sarah Palin running for vice-president referred to the country of Africa…. I bet she wishes she made more effort also!!  I do not feel Sarah and I are alone.

If we expand our horizons – know more learn more – then our world become larger.

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