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Monthly Archives: May 2011

My Teacher Is In Paris. And I Find It Time to Make A Confession.

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So there was no class for me last week because I had to go to a seminar.  It was required.  That’s all I’m going to say about that on this blog, because, yes, it is a happy blog.

So I wrote the Lovely Deolinda, and she says SHE’S NOT HAVING CLASS THIS WEEK BECAUSE SHE’S IN PARIS.

Paris.

Paris.

PPPPPAAAAARRRRISSS!

Oh England, you are an evil mistress! Kind of like Final Cut Pro!

I’m sure she is there on a mission of great Lusophone importance, for the woman is a walking tornado of Lusophone advocacy.  However, my reaction….not so Lusophilic.

My reaction was “WHO MOVED MY CREPES????”

I, after a fifteen year separation, miss France.  I didn’t explore Paris as much as I would have liked, either, when I was an exchange student in Toulouse.  Sure, I have a certain affection for Toulouse that will never be denied, but PARIS, oh PARIS!

I would not mind a night spent reading at Sherpa right about now either….

If you have no clue what that means, you just had to be there.  Your Gauloise burning in one hand, fork dipping into your Nutella crepe with the other…..  As your heart bursts with the recognition of a kindred medieval soul as you read Charles D’Orleans.   He was the Moz of his time.  

And this brings me to my confession:  I cheat on Portugal, the motherland, on a regular basis.  It’s like I tell my mother I’m not hungry, and then go eat at my neighbor’s house who is serving twinkies and poprocks.    It’s like signing up for millitary duty and being discharged for not showing up for duty because of an X-Box addiction.    It’s part of being a second generation American, but it’s still…. sad.  

There are those Americans who by no reason of genetics, birth, or faith, just end up obsessed with certain cultures?  I’m the proud daughter of one of those Americans.  My dad should not be the guru of French thought.  He should not be getting rave reviews from French writers about his analysis of Candide; he’s a beach rat from LA, with the suspicious moles to prove it.  But that kid was on the beach reading ten cent editions of Plato, so you could see where that was going pretty early.  But still, he has two children with French names (though I would argue that MINE is more of a pain in the ass than the other, owing to punctuation…. and the fact that he ‘forgot’ to spell my brother’s name the foreign way at the hospital because he was ‘so sick’ at the time) and lives in a virtual palace of French and Spanish art knockoffs, surrounded by books in, you guessed it, Portuguese.  For now.  Because he’s teaching a class.  And I’m sure he told his students how the French invented the world.  He’s a bit like Checkov on Star Trek in that way….

But Dad cheats on nothing.  He is no less American for reading a French book.  America is a bit like vanilla ice cream;  you decide the toppings.

But I was born with a flavor, a second culture, a second language, and what did I do?  I poured on the French and British sauce like it was nobody’s business.

I have not been to Portugal in 15 years.   Family has passed away.  Children have been born.  Portuguese has faded.  BUT:

I have been to the Glastonbury Festival in Glastonbury, England, FOUR TIMES since I last saw Lisbon.

How come she has to be from GREECE?

I have held jobs in the UK for weeks at a time over the summer of 1997.  Jobs in Portugal: Zero! Though I did try to tell kids’ parents that they were “malcriados” when I was a teacher.  That counts!!!!

I did not attend my godfather’s ordination as bishop in Lisbon in 1998.    I think I was worried I’d blow my PHOTOSHOP final.  Honestly.  Who knew as a visual arts professional I’d be taking PHOTOSHOP CLASSES FOR THE REST OF MY LIFE!!!

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I have flown to England to watch Suede break up and play their last show.

Suede recently (#@#%!@) reformed.  WTF?  IF I HAD MORE STEADY EMPLOYMENT, I would have followed the herd down to Coachella and caught them if it meant wrestling tickets from the sick and weak in those lines….

If Portugal has glam bands that fit into the birth of Britpop , it’s news to me.

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I have been to a wedding in Scotland of a close English friend.  I have no idea if anyone has gotten married in Portugal.  I think not, but I could just be out of the loop.

I have spent hours on the phone with said friend.  But have not spoken to one person in Portugal in God only knows how long.  Geez, though.. It’s scary when you’re guilty and the only word in your head is the word “socks.”

I spent the week after staring at comedy shows in Edinburgh, trying to forget how horrific my teaching career was…

I did not visit my family in Portugal – because I was lazy and wanted to watch comedy shows.  Since then, TWO of my favorite people there passed away.  Somehow, the fact that I saw a comedy show skewering the Harry Potter series does not make up for that.

I further spent four days in London after Edinburgh, mostly to go to the Borderline, an indie club, one of the few decent ones left.  This was soooo much more important than Portugal; dancing to music I already own with fat 40 year old Englishmen.  

Don’t get me wrong, I loved every second of it.  And Portugal has been there for 800 years, and how long will I be Britpopping?  Not. Much.  Longer.  
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Instead of studying abroad in Portugal, I studied in France.  Granted the program in Portugal was kind of do-it-yourself, and I was too wussy to navigate it.

Plus the UC wanted you to do two years of Spanish and then go to a Portuguese university cold turkey.  This is an unbelievably stupid idea, especially if you’re not a foreign language major.  So it’s not my fault.   But I still kick ass at French verbs compared to Portuguese verbs….

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Damon albarn

Damon stole my culture!! DAMN!

I once flew to London just because I was pissed off at my life in the States. It was extremely passive-aggressive and immature.  In fact, his one has happened more than once, especially the year that British Airways was selling $200 tickets from SFO-LON.  I was going to stay.  I chickened out and went home instead. Again,  instead of going to Portugal, where maybe a relative could have talked some sense into me, I got piss drunk at the Borderline.   

I didn’t seek solace in Portugal because well, I knew my relatives would force  (well, not FORCE, maybe CONVINCE) me to be less passive-aggressive and immature.  Not. What.  I.  Was.  Looking.  For.  

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I have spent countless hours in record stores buying Britpop Cds, photographing Britpop bands at meet-and-greets, trying to start up conversations with hot skinny English boys.  Number of times I’ve seen the movie “Fado?”  ZERO.

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I can write an essay in French about Medieval poets.  Ironically, this is made easier by my knowledge of  Portuguese and the fact that my Medieval prof kept picking the right Franco-Provençal dialects for that.  

I have written detailed analyses of Chaucer and the Sir Gawain and the Green Knight written in the  Northern Dialect.

In Portuguese, I can barely write an essay about how my cat lives in my apartment, despite his having a Portuguese name that’s easy to spell.

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I know my way around London.

I have no clue how to get around Lisbon without a family chauffeur.  I’m pretty sure I can manage the train from Estoril, though.

I can tell you my opinions on all of the Astoria youth hostels in London.

Portugal has youth hostels?  I thought they just had your tia’s back bedroom!  

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Here is a list of British bands I’ve seen that I can think of offhand:
The Charlatans (8 times) * Trash Can Sinatras (4 x, including in London) * Jesus and Mary Chain (3x) * Stereolab (4x at least) * Belle and Sebastian (5x) * Blur (5x minimum) * Camera Obscura (2x) * Stereophonics (9 times- THIS WAS AN ACCIDENT.)  * Super Furry Animals (4x) * Ladytron (3x, including once when the opening band fondled donuts) * Catatonia (2x, once just listening in a tent) * Gene (2x) * Stone Roses (Once in France!!) * Coldplay (2 times.  At festivals) * Pulp (only once -tears!!- at Glastonbury) * Delgados (2x) * Catherine Wheel * Ride * Medicine * Inspiral Carpets (2x) * My Bloody Valentine (pension show) * Suede (3x- never on American soil) * Cast * Mark Gardner (2x) * Radiohead (3x) * the Bluetones * Ash (3x) * Babybird * theaudience * Drugstore * Broadcast * Gomez (2x) * Spiritualized (2x) * Curve * Squeeze * Echo and the Bunnymen * The Levellers* The Tindersticks* Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci * Dubstar * Echobelly * Manic Street Preachers (2x) * James * Mogwai * Primal Scream (but not in its prime- DAMN!!) * Franz Ferdinand (2x) * Starsailor * Teenage Fanclub * Travis * Mansun (for five minutes) * Cornershop * the Beta Band * idlewild* Mull Historical Society * Sons and Daughters * Billy Bragg * Supergrass * Terrorvision * The Longpigs (2x) * 60 Ft Dolls * Symposium (2x) * Doves * Clinic (3x) * Rialto * Beth Orton * Space (2x) *

Portuguese Bands:

I saw a guy singing at an IDES hall when I was taking photos of dancers.

I heard a great traditional singer of folk songs at a symposium in 2001.

Both involved driving less than 45 minutes.

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I really hope this at least has made you laugh a bit; what else can you do?  I can’t visit either place at the moment…. and it’s time!  This time I’ll divide my time equally between the rest of the British Museum AND the Gulbenkian.

Whole Lotta Port-o-Luv?

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Last night, one of my new friends for my blog, Joey Medeiros, who owns the Euro Cafe in Clairemont, California posts this:

So first of all,  I, like everyone with a heartfelt connection to Portugal, basked in the Lusophone delight of the list of momentous and unique things Portugal and its people have done.  And marveled at the things that Portugal is doing.  Aren’t we all grand?  I did not know Portugal had the “most advanced science centre in the field of health.”  It might have been nice if the video had named it, but that would just be fodder for the counter-attack.

Take that, whoever put that Portuguese guy beating a computer on those “The Perfect European Is…” postcards.  HA!  My people invented the prepaid cell phone card!  Yeah! Every time you get a Slurpee, you walk a by whole aisle of OUR inventions!  When you come to America anyway….

Beat the computer, meu pé!

So then, after my heart had swollen bigger than the Grinch’s when he heard the Whos singing on Christmas morning, the media student who lives somewhere in my head started pestering the proud Portuguese in me who was busy sticking her chest out over the invention of maritime equipment I’ve only ever seen in a museum.  Media Student pokes Chest Thruster in the back and shouts “Wait! Who made this?  And better yet, WHY???”

Chest Thruster doesn’t want to think about it.  But concedes to begin googling.

Things have gotten busy around here, so I (blush) had no idea why Portugal should give a rat’s ass about what the Finnish think of them.   Portugal has been hurting of late and much of what the video focuses on is in the rearview mirror, but the Finnish?   Surely Finnish isn’t beating French as a frequent language of the internet.

Oh.  Ooooooooooooh!  Google gives.  There was an election.  And the Finns are holding the cards to the Portuguese bailout.  Hence the video above, which was shown at the end of the Estoril Conferences, which focus on issues surrounding globalization.  I’m not sure how it is going to do more than rally the Portuguese, at home and abroad.  On YouTube.   There, it’s a total success; it is currently being slapped all over YouTube and Facebook and email like wildfire.  And the parodies are flowing in, too.  Not to mention the… um… rebuttal from Finns.

From what I’ve personally witnessed online, this is not warming the cockles of many Finnish hearts, or getting those hearts to take a Finnish pause.  When a government entity facing elections is looking at a huge bill that will impact its people, who are feeling stingy, knowing “arigato” is a corruption of “obrigado” probably won’t set its members at ease.   It won’t quell the tide of voters who feel like they’re being taken for a ride (whether that is a perception or reality), either.  So what was the point?

Is it a case of misconstruing the audience?  Are the Finns the real audience, or is it attempting to give the Portuguese people a boost when times are dark? Is it a coincidence that there are elections in Portugal coming up?  Or is it just a ploy to get people talking?    I’m going to go out on a limb here and question what kind of talking that this is going to generate.  I’m thinking it might not be too intellectual and solution-oriented, either.

Seriously.   Behold the power of iMovie.

I’m not out to totally disparage the (original) piece; it had its fun facts, and it had its completely surprising moments.  It is taking on, however vaguely, a very real and serious problem.

The point that really hit me was just how many Portuguese there are outside Portugal.

Portuguese people make up that much of Paris?  And Luxembourg?  It makes me wonder if these scattered populations have any clout in their residential countries, at least as a presence.   If the Portuguese are everywhere, does it mean something in those countries if Portugal gets the shaft?  Is there not strength in numbers?  Perhaps rallying the Portuguese everywhere is this piece’s end purpose, after all.   They at least have to be a significant buying power and television audience in the countries in which they reside, even if they are not in powerful positions, right? Bye, Nokia phones…. but is that enough to matter?  If Portugal gets no help, won’t there be many, many more people immigrating to these countries as well?

It’s true, though, that there would not be such populations without some serious job stagnation, among other problems, in Portugal itself.  There are also more than a few parodies mentioning corrupt officials in Portugal, and more than a few actual news articles from writers who aren’t posturing or crazy.

As for the bailout, it seems a weakness of the EU that for all the unanimity, in the end the power to turn away plans can end up falling in a small minority’s lap.  How does Finland get this powerful?  To grant a bailout to Portugal, or anyone else, there must be unanimous approval from the member states.  Finland’s parliament also has the right to vote on requests for bailouts, unlike other member states. (Guardian, 18 April.  Must. Start. Reading. Sooner!)  And since the anti-EU, anti-immigrant True Finns in Finland cleaned up in their election (though they are not the majority party) and aren’t cooperative, Portugal is, quite possibly, toast.

Isn’t the end just peachy?

Then again, who am I kidding?  I’m from the United States.  A couple of  Tea Partiers  on a power bender can almost shut down the entire government over peanuts.

Seriously, though, the fact that the Portuguese feel the need to address the Finns’ national elections really says something about the balance of economic and political power in Europe.   After all, mistakes (euphemism alert) were made over the whole of Europe, and the world.  Why does it seem to be affecting poorer countries so sharply?

And what would I do differently if it were me making this video?  I’m not sure I could think of something more effective to say if I was going to try to remind people that Portugal is important.  Not anything that would mollify the loss of a kabillion dollars, anyway.

Or there’s this approach:

Hey!  That’s not very nice!!  What about all the clothes and cereal?

Portuguese II at Fresno City College

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This is a montage of stills I took as a stop-time animation kinda thing of my Dad’s Portuguese II class.

I was fortunate to be allowed to be there, and they were fortunate to have a Portuguese II (wah!).  Today is their last day picnic before the final- and I hope they enjoy this little video I scrounged together last night.  And yes, that’s me taking pictures in the background noise, drowning out some of the students.  My Bad.

They are a sweet bunch and I’m sure my dad will miss them.  I am very grateful of their generosity in allowing me to be there.  Thanks!

A.

A Tribute to My Portuguese Mother

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My mom and grandma sharing a birthday cake in 1966.

My mom and Grandma. Two amazing Portuguese moms.

My grandparents sent my mother to America in 1959 to learn English,  and then turn around, and come back to Portugal to work in the American Embassy.

As you can see from the date, on the picture, that didn’t happen.

And my mom (right) was busy doing things that I will always not only admire, but scarcely believe are possible, except in that my mom is proof.    She got the opportunity to go to university in California, and she knew the tuition was expensive (though nothing at all like what it is now!!)  so she went to work up in Sequoia National Park cleaning hotel rooms.    A lot of foreign students worked up there;  Mexican students, Japanese students, an Indian guy whom she still laughs about how funny he was, but how equally sure she was he had a wife somewhere in the Old Country.

So you’re wondering, how can anyone pay their entire tuition on cleaning hotel rooms?  And Elsa, my mother, realized the same thing.  So she summoned her courage and asked for a job in the poshy-posh restaurant.  And she got it and spent her summers and weekends there for years.

Leslie Caron in the 60s

Elsa! May I pleeeze have my ham and eggs now?

She even once served the great Leslie Caron.   Caron’s family requested my mom day
after day, because she was the only one who was businesslike enough to not swoon and act like an imbecile in front of a Hollywood giant.  That’s my mom; polite, kind, and she will take care of you because you deserve it, without being impressed by your star credentials.

She finally became a Spanish and French teacher in Easton, California.  It was not an easy assignment at first; they gave her English students who were beyond remedial and the school seriously expected her, as a foreigner, to teach them to read.  And to recognize grammar.  And by golly, in the great tradition of her grandmother and great-grandmother who were English teachers, she did!  She is the only foreigner I know who can accurately correct people’s English.  She can sit there in front of the television, with a look of dismay, and correct grammar better than the ad campaign writers ever will.  And she’s (arrrgh!) always frigging right!  She also made sure I got my BA, even when it was hard for me to stay in school.  And she has supported all of my Don Quixote career dreams.

My grandma (left) was amazing, too.  She wasn’t allowed by her parents to attend high school.  That sounds like child abuse, but you have to remember my grandma was born in 1907 in Portugal.   It wasn’t that her parents were being cruel, or locking her in the basement until she was 30.  It just wasn’t necessary to get a job at the time.  Teachers at her primary school begged her parents to let her go, but her parents were concerned she would get a little too big-headed, since they had fourteen children, and none ever had gone, and everybody was doing just fine.  So Grandma was sent to work.  But my grandma, Irene, she didn’t last long at the factory without being moved up into bigger and bigger jobs.  This was a woman who taught herself to read Spanish so she could read the “Great Books” that weren’t published yet in Portuguese.  She ended up being what would be an equivalent of a day-to-day manager of an office of a German pharmaceutical company in Lisbon.   A boy who was sweeping her offices began to drive her crazy at one point in the 50’s with rehearsing plays at work, and marched in  with no more and got him a spot at the drama school in Lisbon.  He now owns a world-class theater in Cascais.  She finally did go to high school, and graduated weeks before I was born.  There even was a streaker at her graduation.

My mom at her High School Graduation

All Grandma ever wanted for us- right there!

Both these women made their own way and made their childrens’ education the most important gift of their lives.  I’m always grateful for all they’ve given me.  Their strength inspires me to go on, to keep trying, to keep getting my work out there, even in this ridiculous economy, even with all the strikes I have against me.    I come from great, strong, accomplished women who overcame much.   I must do the same.  I will.  I have to.

I was going to write a funny post about my Portuguese mom feeding me too much, and how, I’m willing to bet, when I come home from her taking care of me after my surgery in June, I will be the first person to have surgery and gain 50 pounds of meaty muscle, but how could I do that when the strength and heart of my Portuguese mom has given me so much more than the meals have?

So it’s more important that I say “Thanks” to my two favorite Portuguese mothers, instead of laughing about the meat-obsessed quest of the Portuguese mom in stuffing the throat of her adult children like baby birds.

Thanks Mom for everything you did, and everything you do!   I only hope someday that I really knock it out of the park.  But I know you love me the way that I am.   And thank you Grandma- I miss you more than anything, every day!  Without your strength and your stories, I would have long given up.  You keep me going.  You both keep me going.

So now I go to call my mom, apologize for not calling earlier because I took a nap after class (I worked like 12 hours Saturday, gimme a break!) and thank her for all the pushing, all the grammar correcting, and all the love that like a circle, never ends.

little heart

Love MOM!!!