Tuesday, July 22, 2014

'Go fry asparagus' and other weird things we say

Have you guys ever thought about all the idiomatic expressions we use in English and how confusing these must be to a non-native speaker? Think about how you would explain to someone what it means to 'hold your horses' or 'keep your hair on' or 'paint the town red.' Imagine how someone might look at you if you told them to bring an umbrella because it's raining cats and dogs outside. Because I teach English here in Barcelona, I encounter a lot of this confusion with my students and it's hard not to laugh a little as I try to explain something that really makes no sense at all. So let's turn the tables, shall we? I recently discovered a Spanish company that literally translates Spanish idiomatic expressions into English with hilarious results. Here are a few of my favorites (all revolving around food!). Let's see if you can guess what they really mean!

This is my absolute favorite one, I have to admit. In Spanish this expression would be, 'Ve a freir esparragos' but it's not literal so don't put any oil in the pan just yet! This is basically a more polite way of telling someone to go away, or, as we would say idiomatically in English, 'Go fly a kite'. If you want to be vulgar you could say, 'Vete a la mierda' which in English would be the same as telling someone to go f*** themselves. But I prefer the asparagus, don't you?

This is a super adorable expression--one that could easily go on a Valentine's day card or in your wedding vows (in Spain anyway. In English this would be a bit strange). In Spanish this expression is, 'Contigo pan y cebolla', and  it means something like 'With you through thick and thin' or 'in good times and bad'. Sweet, huh?

In Spain, everything is about milk. This expression, is 'Hoy va a ser la leche' which means today is going to be awesome. If you want to tell someone that you really like them or that they're really cool, you can also say, 'Eres la leche' or 'You are the milk'.  If someone is in a particularly bad mood, you can say 'Tiene mala leche' or literally, 'He has bad milk'. What is behind all this milk talk? I have no idea. Being lactose intolerant, I can't see the appeal, I guess. 

You can probably guess what this means, right? In Spanish it would be 'me importa un huevo' which basically means 'I couldn't care less.' Or, more vulgarly, I could give a f***.  I've also heard people say 'Me importa tres pepinos,' which I like even more. This translates to, 'I could give three cucumbers.' Let's all start saying that. It could be a thing!

I hope you guys got a kick out of these. Got any favorites? Please share below!

P.S. If you guys like these, there are tons more on the A Truth As A Temple website. They print these graphics and phrases on mugs, aprons, notebooks, tote bags and more. Check them out! 

Friday, June 27, 2014

Scenes from our weekend

Summer is officially upon us! Over the weekend in Catalonia, we celebrated the summer solstice and then the day of Sant Joan on Monday evening by stuffing our faces with coca which I first wrote about here. Apart from these festivities, we found other ways to celebrate summer by attending the Music for Families Day at Parc de Pedralbes. Every summer, the park hosts a series of concerts by a bunch of notable artists (this year's performers include Kool and the Gang, Tom Jones, Blondie, Carla Bruni, among others), and this year's Family Day had concerts for little ones as well and a bunch of other fun activities. 

Here are some scenes from our weekend:

For some reason, summer is synonymous with bubbles -- at least it is for children. When we arrived at the park, it was tremendously hot and sunny so playing by the fountain with the bubbles seemed like a good idea. It's really amazing how much little ones love bubbles, isn't it? It's just soap and water and yet they can be entertained for hours. While I don't find it as fun as the kids do, I still think it's so lovely to see the bubbles floating lazily around like spirits of summer.  


When we got tired of the bubbles, we made our way to the shade to discover that some giraffes had come out to play! Not real ones of course. These are people walking on stitlts wearing giraffe costumes. I felt so bad for them because it was a real scorcher but the kids were utterly captivated. 


Here's a closeup of the giraffe man with a smiling little one. We really do have to give them credit for this idea, it was a winner!

Since this was a music day, they had various stations set up throughout the park where kids could engage with music in different ways. They had some swing dancers dancing with the kids, some music activities set up on iPads in the tech section, a craft station to make your own instruments and finally, this area, for the smaller littles where there were a bunch of instruments like maracas, triangles, and drums where the kids could basically practice making a racket. Roman was so excited but he was a bit confused at first, 'So you're saying to pick up this stick and just mercilessly bang on this round thing? Okay!' 


Lately, Roman loves, I mean LOVES, balloons. It's so funny because he inverts the 'a' and 'oo' sound so instead of saying balloon he says boola and always with great excitement, as in 'Boola, Boola!'. He loves them so much that over the long weekend, we showed him the classic French movie, The Red Balloon and, predictably, he was enchanted. My little one is a cinephile. I'm so proud of him! 

 I never got to discover what this was about because it was blocked off while we were there, but I loved the Alice and Wonderland tribute. 

I think this was my favorite moment of the day-story hour in the bamboo forest. It was a nice opportunity to sit and rest in the shade especially since by that time we were all pretty beat. We headed home soon after but we thoroughly enjoyed our day in the park. 

So that's what we've been up to lately. What about you guys?

P.S. Here's what we did last weekend in case you missed it.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

A happy event



So you may have noticed that I didn't write a 'Scenes from our weekend' post this week. That's because nothing happened last weekend. Apart from dining out with the Professor's colleagues one evening, we mostly stayed in and cleaned the house, did laundry, made zeppole and spoke to our parents on Skype.
Those kinds of weekends, while boring, are so restorative in my opinion. Do you agree?

I did want to share with you guys one thing from our weekend however. On Sunday afternoon, while the little one and his papa were napping, I was browsing Netflix very noncommittally, when I decided to watch a movie I'd never heard of. It's a French film called 'A Happy Event' (Un heureux évenément) which tells the story of a young couple who meet, fall in love, and decide to have a baby. It's an honest, intimate, and deep account of what it's like to become a parent and the joys and challenges that come along with that. I found the movie very accurate and there were a few scenes that reminded me exactly of my first year with my son. It's similar to Knocked Up but the storyline is not as 'Hollywood' and the characters are much more relatable and less caricatural. Here is a line that stood out for me in the movie as the mother describes how her daughter changed her life:

She upended my love, she drove me into a corner then forced me to go beyond my limits. She made me confront the absolute: love, sacrifice, tenderness, abandonment. She dislocated me. Transformed me.  

Profound, right? Anyway, I just wanted to share this gem with you guys in case you too are sitting at home bored and wondering what to watch. If you do see it, come back and tell me what you think, ok?

Friday, May 30, 2014

Scenes from our weekend

Last Friday afternoon, a friend and I were chatting about my blog and I mentioned to her that one of the reasons I started the 'Scenes from our weekend' series was so that I have an incentive to get up, get dressed and actually leave my apartment. I have hermit-like tendencies and I can't tell you how many weekend mornings the Professor asks me, 'What do you want to do today, love?' And I look up at him from my book or the TV, cup of tea in hand and say, 'I'm already doing it,dear.' So this series gives me the nudge I need (or kick in the pants more like) to make plans and follow through. With that goal in mind, we had some friends over Friday night for a FIFA video game tournament (USA vs. Mexico), went to a Beatles concert Saturday night, ate chocolate and hazelnut crepes, and caught an impromptu show in the park. Not too shabby for a recluse, eh?

Here are some scenes from our weekend:

Ladies and gentleman, I give you THE BEATLES! Or actually a Catalan cover band but a really good one. I found out about this concert called, 'The Beatles for kids', from the website Petit Explorador (if you live in Barcelona and have children, I recommend you check it out!). The band covered a bunch of the major Beatles hits from their early pop days like Love Me Do and Baby You Can Drive My Car but also some more mature songs for the parents like Strawberry Fields Forever and Hey Jude. There were so many babies, kids and parents singing along and dancing with their kids. Such fun!

This adorable spectacle happened when the band called for some volunteers from the audience to help them out as they sang 'All together now.' The kids were told to hold up the number or letter when they were mentioned in the song but as you can see, this was a bit much for some of the kids to understand and they just held up their sign whenever they wanted or not at all (ahem, number 3). 

The Professor and I were singing along and swaying in our seats but the little one's reaction was one more of, 'What's going on here? I don't understand.' He just stared with bewilderment and disinterest at the spectacle and rejected every single one of our attempts to get him to dance, clap or sing. The only time he showed any enthusiasm was when he discovered he could run up and down the aisles. So this he did. And he made us chase him as he squealed with delight. So the Professor and I spent twenty minutes of the concert chasing our baby to the tune of 'All you need is love.'

One of the great things about living here is there is always something going on but most of the time you don't know about it. You just go about your normal day and you stumble upon cool and weird things. Like men on stilts and a band on a wagon made up of two bicycles playing some swing type music at the park. Nice and unexpected, just the way we like it.

So that's what we've been up to lately. What did you guys do?

P.S. Here's what we did last weekend in case you missed it. 

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Scenes from our weekend

This past Saturday was the Night of the Museums which is an annual cultural event across Europe in which many museums stay open late into the night and offer free admission so that people can discover how amazing they are. In Barcelona, over 70 museums participated in the event and many of them even had special shows or exhibits just for the occasion. The city even put together agendas for people who wanted to visit several museums in the same night (museum hopping, if you will) and the streets were packed with people. Since the Professor and I have already visited several of the major art museums in Barcelona, we wanted to do something a little different that Roman would enjoy as well so we picked the Maritime Museum which was such a great choice for us and everyone had a great time.

Here are some scenes from our weekend:

Before we get into a recap of Museum Night, I have to mention what happened earlier that day, saddening though it may be. Barcelona suffered a disappointing defeat against Atletico Madrid who ended up winning La Liga. This was a home game too so you can imagine the level of depression in the city. Here you can see some heartbroken kids, dressed in their Barça best, regrouping after the loss. 

As you can see, the little one took his disappointment in stride. The Professor had been playing the FC Barcelona anthem most of that morning and the little one can actually do part of the chorus but instead of saying ´Barça, barça!' he says, 'Busa, busa!'

Onto the Maritime Museum! The museum is in this beautiful, old building that used to be the main shipyard of the city. There was this enormous and incredibly ornate ship right in the middle and Roman was delighted to see it. Unlike artwork and sculptures, boats are actually something he recognizes and appreciates--I think Jake and the Neverland Pirates has something to do with that. 

 This is the front of the same ship. Pretty nice huh? 

This museum was very child friendly because it's pretty big and spread out so the kids can run around without knocking stuff over or running into anything and they can also touch the boats as long as they don't try to climb into them which almost happened. This isn't a very good picture, but this is a shot of Roman sitting in his stroller with his arm and index finger extended, excitedly crying out, ´Boat!', 'Boat!'  

They also had this cute little display of the Vikings made of Playmobil figures. I don't know if these toys are popular in the U.S. but every European kid I know has an enormous collection of these little figurines. 

There was stuff for the grown ups too. There was an orchestra set up playing some wonderful music including some very recognizable songs from Hollywood movies like the theme from Jurassic Park, Beauty and the Beast, and Star Wars. It was so nice to sit in the crowd, in the dark, in such a lovely atmosphere to take in some music. It was a fun night for all of us although the little one did start to get a little cranky after a bit because it was past his bed time. So we called it a night and walked around and around Las Ramblas for a bit while Roman fussed and whined in his stroller. He finally fell asleep in the metro on the way home and actually let us sleep in the next morning because he had exhausted himself thoroughly the day before.

So that's what we've been up to lately. What did you guys do?

(P.S. Here's what we did last weekend, in case you missed it.)  

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Scenes from our weekend

As you may know, this past Sunday was Mother's Day in the U.S. (a belated Happy Mother's Day to all the mamas out there!), but you may not know that the week before was Mother's Day here in Spain. We skipped celebrating the Spanish Mother's Day mostly for mundane reasons: the Professor had a basketball game and the little one's nap ran too long. But we actually discovered that Spanish Mother's Day is not that big a deal here anyway. When I asked most of my Spanish friends what they planned to do last weekend on their special day, most of them gave a shrug and said probably nothing. Now, I don't expect a lot on this day either but it's nice to have a little bit of acknowledgement and maybe a nice little surprise. In my case, the surprise was flowers, a framed photo of me and my baby and a finger painting by the little one. What more could I want?

Here are some scenes from our weekend:

For lunch on Sunday, we headed out to Kibuka, a Japanese restaurant in Gracia. The Professor and I are suckers for sushi but I'm also the kind of person who can never resist a steaming bowl of soup. This magical udon dish definitely hit the spot. 

On Saturday, we happened upon a street fair a few blocks away and along with the usual street foods (olives, cheese, beer, an assortment of hams), many Spanish street fairs have some fried fish or seafood. This plate of cuttlefish (called sepia in Spanish) was so tender and tasty not at all like the greasy, rubbery stuff you sometimes get in restaurants.

I've written before about the Catalan tradition of forming human pyramids, called castellers. We've seen them often enough now that it's not that big a deal anymore but I remember the first time we saw one, we were a bit taken aback. It's impressive, sure. But it's also a bit terrifying especially as the highest tiers normally have small children. Sometimes the whole thing starts swaying slightly and you can see the bottom tiers wobbling a bit and it seems like everyone in the crowd is holding their breath. But then the little girl gets to the top, everyone cheers and then she quickly scrambles down. 

At the street fair, we found this vintage foosball table that had players dressed in FC Barcelona kits playing against their longtime rivals, Real Madrid. The Professor would love to own this table especially since Barcelona's had a disappointing season so far and at least in foosball you could get the players to do what you want. 

Finally, a shot of me and my little monkey clowning around. You know what's so sweet? Roman's just learning now how to kiss and how to hug. If you asked him for a kiss before, he would just kind of bring his cheek to your mouth so you could kiss him. But now he purses his lips together and makes a smacking sound on your face which is close enough. And when you ask him for a hug, he'll wrap his arms around you and lay his head inside the crook of your neck.It's the most heart melting thing in the world. I guess he figured out how to do it just in time for Mother's Day. :) 

So that's what we've been up to lately. What about you guys?

P.S. Here's what we did last weekend in case you missed it. 

Friday, May 9, 2014

Avoiding embarrassing (but funny!) mistakes when speaking Spanish


A few weeks ago the Professor and I invited some friends over for brunch and our talk turned to all the embarrassing mistakes you can make when you're learning Spanish. After a few minutes, we were cracking up about all the instances where we thought we were saying one thing but we were actually saying another. There are tons of words in English and Spanish that sound really similar but have totally different meanings. In linguistics, these are called false friends or false cognates. A lot of them are really innocent: 'libreria' sounds like it should mean 'library' but it actually means 'bookstore', 'fabrica' sounds like the Spanish word for 'fabric' but it actually means 'factory', 'realizar' sounds like 'to realize' but it means 'achieve'.

But some of them are not that innocent and if you say one word thinking it means something else, you could either be saying something kind of dirty or giving some one way too much information. Here is a list of a few I've thought of so far:

1.  constipado: It sounds like this word means constipated, right? But if your friend tells you 'Estoy constipado', they're not being overly open with you. They're telling you they have a cold. The correct word for constipated in Spanish is estreñido.

2.  miembro: You might think this word means 'member' but it actually refers to a part of the male anatomy. So if you want to join a gym, don't say, 'Quiero ser miembro' (eeps!), say instead 'Quiero ser socio'.

3.  preservativo: I actually didn't learn the meaning of this word until I came to Spain. In Spain, 'preservativo' means 'condom', but in the rest of South America, condom is 'condón' which is the word I used to use for this. However, a native English speaker might think this word means 'preservative' as in 'There are no preservatives in this bread.' But the correct word for that in Spanish is, 'No hay conservantes en este pan'.  Also the word 'conservantes' might sound like it refers to a member of the Conservative party but the correct word for a conservative person is a 'conservador'.

4. molestar: My students find this one hilarious but it can really lead to misunderstandings. If someone says to you, 'Juan me molesta', they're not accusing Juan of sexual assault. They're saying that Juan bothers or annoys them. The correct word for molest in Spanish is 'acosar'.

5. embarazada: This is another really common one. If you say 'Estoy embarazada' you're telling people that you're pregnant. If you instead wanted to say 'I'm embarrassed', say 'Estoy avergonzado/a' but if there is an embarrasing situation, you can say ' Es un momento embarazoso'.

6. excitar: Okay, this is a tricky one so it's probably best to avoid using it altogether if you're just learning the language. Because in some cases, this word means 'to excite' or 'to stimulate' as in 'The book stimulated her imagination'. But in other cases, this word means to excite sexually or turn someone on. So for the love of God, don't say 'Estoy excitada' unless you're in an intimate setting.

That's all I can think of for now. Have you guys ever made any of these mistakes? Can you think of any examples I forgot to list?

(Photo: Laughing women)