Un poco de Espanol – Mexicano vs Castellano

Posted by Cila Warncke

Estoy intentando a aprender Español, pero sigo a paso de tortuga. En este momento estoy abusando el verbo “ir” para describir mis planes. Siempre empiezo mi frases con “Voy a…..”

A paso de tortuga

A paso de tortuga

Normalmente, en un dia, “voy a correr,” “voy a desayunar,” “voy a trabajar,” “voy a la tienda,” “voy a cocinar” y “voy a dormer.” Y algunas veces “voy al centro,” “voy al biblioteca” o “voy al parque.”

No es elegante pero es bastante útil. Espero que un dia voy a mejorar… jeje.

Pues, poco a poco entiendo mas y tambien aprendo varios palabras de Español Mexicano que distintas desde Castellano. Por ejemplo, en España todo la gente siempre dice: “venga!” Literalamente significa “come on” en Ingles, pero es utilizado como un interjección – “venga, hasta luego!” “Venga, gracias” (siempre juntos). Pero in Mexico nunca oí.

Acá tenemos “mande!” (de “mandar” – to tell). Si no entiende alguien, dice “mande?” Es igual a “perdón” en Castellano.

Otra frase muy útil es “con permiso” y la respuesta, “pase!” Un ejemplo, cuando paso por la cocina y el dueño esta cocinando hablamos un poco entonces, cuando él va a salir, dice “con permiso”, por cortesía. Y digo: “pase!”

Bueno, algunas otras:

Ingles / Castellano / Mexicano

Cool! / Güay! / Que chido!

Annoying / Pesado / Fastidioso

To chat / Charlar / Platicar

To rent / Alquilar / Rentar

Internet (service) / Wi-fi / Albarca o Inalambrico

Real Estate (agent) / Inmobilaria / Bienes raíces

Computer / Ordenandor / Computadora

To park (car) / Aparcar / Estacionar

Ticket (train, etc) / Billete / Boleto

Mushroom / Champiñón / Honga

Apricot / Albaricoque / Chabacano

Pea / Guisante / Chícharo

Sweet corn / Maíz dulce / Elote

Juice / Zumo / Jugo

Prawns / Gambas / Camarones

(Sun) Glasses / Gafas (del sol) / Lentes

Grapefruit / Pomelo / Toronjo
Cuando encuentro otras, voy a añadirlas!

Carnival, Merida Style

Posted by Cila Warncke

Superheroes on parade

Superheroes on parade

Parties are a great way to get close to people, or places. Something always comes out in the wash of booze and adrenaline. I’d half forgotten about carnival until I went for a walk and found myself in the middle of it, camera in hand. Children, naturally, are everywhere, elbow deep in candyfloss and grease, scuttling between feet. A massive soundstage has drawn a crowd so I work my way through to see the action (not difficult, as I’m a foot taller than anyone here). Across the top of a sea of camera phones I catch what passes for Sunday afternoon family entertainment: a row of girls in go-go boots having a ‘sexy’ dance-off. In the middle of the blur of yellow bottoms and white breasts (the diversion is sponsored, loudly, by Sol beer) stands a middle aged man, high-waisted jeans belted around his ample beer gut, sporting a smug grin as the girls – young enough to be his daughters – thrust their humps, rumps and lovely lady lumps at him. On a massive LED screen next to the stage the Call On Me video is playing, offering larger than life gusset shots for the gentlemen at the back. Wriggling out of audience I feel sorry for the really beautiful little girls running around. They have serious Indian faces, jet black hair and obsidian eyes. It is going to take a lot of bleach and gunk plastered across their mahogany skin to make them look anything like the pornified, dyed blonde ‘beauties’ on stage. I am not optimistic, in the circumstances, that they will spot this press-on-nail femininity for the big fat patriarchal sham that it is.

Objectifica-fun for the whole family

Objectifica-fun for the whole family

Moving along the main street, Pasejo Montejo, the crowd gets more animated. There are stages set up at regular intervals and audience participation is in full flow. There’s sort of thrash/reggae band going on one stage, with a big knot of drunk teenagers in front of it. The singer has enormously long, dirty-looking dreadlocks and a bright robe. He is delivering an impassioned rant about smokers’ rights. “No necesitamos guerra contra narcos. No necesitamos ejercito en nuestros calles!” (We don’t need a war against drugs, we don’t the army in our streets). The band kicks off a rather catchy tune whose chorus runs “rasta solo ganja/rasta solo marijuana”. The occupying army is entirely indifferent to this call for their removal. A police watchtower next to the stage only comes to life when a kid in a blue-and-silver wrestling mask takes a wild swing at someone dancing next to him. The police whistle someone over to break it up the flurry of fists.

Notwithstanding the heavily armed police a man walks past me smoking a huge spliff. It is the only evidence I see of any so-called illicit substances. Everyone is just plain drunk. Sol, despite the heavy duty marketing, is lagging behind Modelo Especial and Tecate as the lager of choice. There is a lot of the slightly wall-eyed, wobbling drunkenness that happens after too much beer in the afternoon. Girls are propping up their staggering boyfriends and children drift after parents who are lost in their own world. In front of the stages playing sentimental Mexican pop everyone is dancing. The Meridians (if that’s a word) are – as one put to me – “small and fat” but that doesn’t stop them getting their groove on. Couples ranging in age from toddlers to grandparents are shuffling in cheerful circles through the detritus of beer tins and Styrofoam food cartons.

Swing your partner 'round

Swing your partner 'round

Everywhere I turn someone is selling something deep fried. Mexico is a cardiologist’s nightmare (or dream, depending on how mercenary he/she is). It rivals Scotland in its fascination with hot oil as a primary method of food preparation. I can almost understand the whole hot-and-battered business north of the border but I don’t understand how people can wolf churros, chips, taquitos, quesadillas and what appear to be pork cracklings in Merida’s tropical heat. An enormous chunk of sienna-orange meat rotates on a doner spit, making me glad I’m a vegetarian. The obsession with fried meat is matched by a passionate attachment to sugar. Paradoxically, they cut the sweetness of fruit by dousing it in salt, fresh lime and chilli powder but they pile sugar into everything else. Even plain yogurt, which took me by surprise; I thought my carton of Activia had gone off until I read the ingredients and realised it was packed with azucar. These lethal dietary attachments explain the general barrel-shapedness. Face it: even rangy, big-boned North Americans swell up like Violet Beauregard on this fare; diminutive Mayans don’t stand a chance.

A lot of dead something

A lot of dead something

As a comparatively lanky drink of water I find myself being steered involuntarily here and there as the low-centre-of-gravity contingent chart their courses. I also keep nearly stepping on children, they’re cute, and I feel bad. Lots of them are dressed up for the occasion. I see a Snow White pulling terrible faces from the kerb. A baby in a cat costume trails along behind her mother while a bumblebee catches the scene from his dad’s arms. The hustle magically melts away when I shy into a cross street. Police barriers at either end keep the traffic off. There is a good-sized knot of curious bystanders at this intersection, though, because there’s a fire two blocks down. Smoke is pouring from a building and there is a moderate but appreciative audience. Everything is a spectacle today. As I walk north three or four teenage boys appear to be changing their tops as they stand on the pavement, then they all duck behind the façade of the hospital. They’re wearing white tee-shirts hand painted with names and an affiliation. Fifty or so metres on, at traffic lights, police appear to have just broken up a fight. The matching tee-shirt crowd storm off down the street, their girlfriends flapping in their wake. If it’s gang violence it looks neither organised nor particularly violent. I can’t even tell who they were fighting with. Some of the tactically retreating party look like they’re still looking for trouble, but none of the bystanders hanging out watching the show take it seriously.

Smoke and twilight

Smoke and twilight

Back in my neighbourhood all is calm and bright. There are families hanging out in front of their houses. At one, two little boys hold bright green parakeets while their father looks on. The paint shop is shut, as is the tortillaria, but Restaurante 7 Mares is open, television blaring above the conversations. The world rumbles on. Merida abides.

Tattoos – More Than Skin Deep

Posted by Cila Warncke

It seems there is a segment of the population who think women who have tattoos are white trash hos. I refuse to take this personally since, on principle, I disregard the opinions of people whose IQs are lower than their waist measurement.

Tattoos 1 & 4

Tattoos 1 & 4

Anyway, I love my tattoos. They each have a very specific and personal meaning and I remember with what is, for me, uncanny clarity the situation and circumstance of each one. My first was 6 March, 2000, my bestest friend and biggest crush Andy’s 21st birthday. Partially out of bravado, I think, I went to Camden Town with my friend Miranda and had an Aquarius symbol tattooed on my right shoulder blade. It cost £55. I was petrified, but I survived. That night I went to Andy’s birthday drinks wearing a hot pink Oasis vest. I have no idea if he noticed my tattoo.

Giddy with my own courage I went with my friend and drinking buddy Lucy to get my second, at the end of term that year. We went to a place on Berwick Street, Soho, that was roughly twice the size of a phone box. I went first, getting an infinity symbol tattooed on my left hip. It was a blazing hot day and I remember looking over at myself in the mirror. I was literally as white as a sheet, sweat pouring off my face. Agony.

The next time the impulse took me was back in Philadelphia, the following autumn, during my final year of university. I persuaded my two roommates to come to a dingy little tattoo place on 43rd and Chestnut. They were good middle-class girls and didn’t take long to refuse to get involved with ink and needles. I wanted a tiny crescent moon on the top of my right thigh. It was a Saturday night and the parlour was full of West Philly hoodrats, goofing around. I had to drop my trousers and sit in the middle of all that, trying to look nonchalant — which at least took my mind off the pain.

After that I eased off. Three seemed like a nice number and I didn’t have a blinding urge to get any more work done. Then I moved to Ibiza. Surrounded by gorgeous bodies adorned with stunning tattoos I started to crave another. One of my all-time favourites is DC10 DJ Tania Vulcano’s tattoo. She is one of those striking woomen who don’t mess with makeup, hair fripperies or, heaven forbid, dresses. She’s always in jeans and a tee-shirt, with just this fabulous tattoo around her right elbow. I wanted one too. My first mission to find the right artist didn’t go well. Inkadelic is the dudely tattoo parlour of choice in Ibiza, where I met Luca. I told him what I wanted and his reaction was: “if you were a big hairy lesbian I might do it, but I think you should have something more feminine. How about flowers?” I could hardly speak for scraping my jaw off the floor and, needless to say, never went back.

Then I happened across an article about Tahiti Tiki Tattoo founder Sandra. She talked about the spiritual and emotional significance of tattoos, how each one she creates is designed for the individual. Curious as hell, I wandered up Calle de Virgen one night, about 1AM, and leafed through her booklet. Unlike Luca who was rude, combative and arrogant from the moment he opened his mouth Sandra projected tranquilty. Ibicenco tattoo parlours at 1AM are inherently hectic, but hers was a sacred space. I felt safe, welcome and understood.

A couple of weeks later I went back for the tattoo, equipped with a mantra to get me through the pain. It’s a line from Lawrence of Arabia

“The trick is… not minding that it hurts.”

Armed with this wisdom, I lay down, took a deep breath and let the needle sink in. After about five minutes my hands went numb. After half-an-hour I started shaking involuntarily. Sandra very calmly told me to relax; somehow, just hearing her say it helped. We talked about Ibiza, about her daughter, about tattoos. Then, before I’d dared hope, she said, you’re done. I walked the two miles home in the warm Ibiza night, elbow sweating in clingfilm, goofy on adrenaline and pride.

This was more than a tattoo, it was an achievement; my gift to myself for surviving my first summer in Ibiza, for daring to leave London and everything I’d called my own for five years to start somewhere new. Sandra designed it on the spot, drawing freehand onto my arm as we talked. The pattern unites Tahitian symbols for freedom and creativity. It is my badge of courage — and an invocation for the future.

My most recent tattoo is another of Sandra’s masterpieces, done in spring 2008. Once again, it’s an affirmation of what I choose. This time, borrowing the lyric ‘like a rolling stone’ from Bob Dylan. Only, as it’s an Ibiza tattoo, it had to be in Spanish. Sandra’s first languages are French and Italian so we spent a week or so settling on the right translation, eventually agreeing on: ‘rodando como una piedra.’ It’s a literal, rather than a literary, translation but the sound and feel and freight of it is exactly right.

Sandra creating tattoo 5

Sandra creating tattoo 5

Kat was visiting at the time and sat by me, bless her, for over an hour while I went pale, fidgeted, gnawed a lollipop stick to a pulp and talked utter nonsense to take my mind off it. When it was done I had that now-familiar rush of delight. It’s dangerous to get addicted to the adrenaline hit, but I’m hooked on more than that. My tattoos are precious because they mean something. They remind me of where I’ve been, how I’ve felt, what I love, who I am and what I want to be. For me, at least, a little ink goes a long way.


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Merida – The Good Stuff

Posted by Cila Warncke

There are an awful lot of things I could write here. I am more entranced by Merida every day. Moving somewhere I’d never even heard of a month ago could have gone wrong in so many ways, but I fell right on my flip flopped feet, it seems.

A little slice of Merida

A little slice of Merida

I want to say this as a counterpoint to my entirely justified rant over at Irresponsibility about the male gaze. That’s as it is. And it sucks. The good people of Merida shouldn’t be tarred with the same brush though, and they are the majority. It is the duenos and duenas of the little tiendas who are the city’s best ambassadors. I’ve popped into several shops today and in each was greeted with genuine warmth and – when I spoke Spanish – friendly curiousity. The shopkeepers, without fail, smiled, chatted and sent me on my way with warmest wishes. I feel sure if I returned I would be hailed as a friend, which is a nice feeling in a new town.

A Place Called Home

Posted by Cila Warncke

HQ

HQ

It is finally, slowly, occurring to me that perhaps I’m not quite the wandering wonder I long to be. Though I am surprisingly okay with my wardrobe consisting of two dresses, three pair of yoga trousers, two bikinis, three vests and a Gap hoodie my spirit doesn’t exactly thrill at being in someone else’s space. Possibly I learned a little too well at Sunday school that it is better to give than to receive; in any case, I am a guilt-riddled guest. So far on my aventura Mexicana I’ve stayed at two hotels of middling quality and with two very lovely host families who have put me up in much finer style.

The niggling fact remains I’d rather live in my own cold-water shack than in someone else’s mansion. Hence my cross country flight (literally) from the seaside splendour of Troncones to my new home in Merida, Yucatan.

It sticky-hot, the plaster is cracked, the sidewalks are crumbling and I had to kill a giant cockroach in the sink before I could make breakfast yesterday, but it is, for now, home. So far I’ve learned that the cranky cat, Domino, who lives out back never shuts up – not even if you feed him – and that the internet is not to be relied upon (it bounces like one of those awful fairground balls they strap idiots into before flinging them skywards on giant rubber bands).

All of this is relatively insignificant next to the fact I have a big box of a room with a not-uncomfortable bed and two large, unprepossessing wooden tables I can strew with the usual litter of pens, notebooks, sunglasses, slips of paper, water bottles, dictionaries and USB cables. I have rearranged all the furniture so my bed is in the corner, surrounded by desks, leaving a big empty swathe of tile floor. My domain to survey from my queen-sized look-out post.

There’s no getting around the general bugginess of the place, or the smell of drains from the alley behind my en suite, or the mild panic of having to do something about paying the rent, but I like it. I like it because it’s mine. Perhaps I should reconsider that ‘property is theft’ tattoo. Or perhaps not.

Facing up to the narcotic appeal of having a place where I can just be, where I can spend a night being quietly ill from eating off frijoles refritos without interference, where – if so inclined – I can spend the whole day sprawled on my bed in my pants seeing and speaking to no-one, tends to make me more socialist. This psychological kick isn’t a privilege; it’s a right. A right which is, unfortunately, denied to vast swathes of the world’s population by the capitalism junkies who insist people earn a room of their own.

The way I see it, property is still theft. The sense of wellbeing I gain from this room has nothing to do with ownership. It doesn’t belong to me and would make no difference if it did. It could be owned by the government, aliens or an cohort of super-intelligent arthropods for all I care; all that matters is I have the right to stay here and, also, to go.

That is all that’s required. Ownership, deeds, papers are all simply used to buttress excess. People with overblown houses want locks on the doors and legal documents to protect them from the righteous impulses of those who have no house at all. In a state of equality, where everyone was comfortable and had the same basic rights of access and egress, there would be no privilege in ownership.

I didn’t mean to veer off into property rights, but that’s what happens when you have a space where you can sit and think: you do. Maybe that’s why the powers that be would rather keep the masses hustling for rent. It means they never have a chance to sit back and question the fucked-up system that has one hand around their windpipe and the other in their wallet.

What I was going to say is that I have discovered possibly my favourite food-spot in the world. Two minutes away is a tortilleria where you can get a dozen fresh-from the-griddle tortillas for 2 pesos. Tomorrow morning I’ll get up and shuffle around the corner. Dona Mary will fill a plastic bag with a palm-high stack of rich, earthy-smelling corn tortillas. I’ll walk home, warming my hands on the bag, then make a big pan of spicy scrambled eggs, a black coffee and sit cross-legged on my bed, smiling, and eat the lot.

Daily Pennsylvanian: The Politics of Protest

Originally published in The Daily Pennsylvanian, Autumn 2000

Hirsute masses camped around Washington, D.C.’s Reflecting Pool. Stormy-faced libbers incinerating lingerie. Stoic figures reeling under the barrage of fire hoses. And perhaps the most horrific, memorable image of all: stunned Kent State students staring at their compatriots’ bodies on a day that will live in infamy.

Somehow, between the so-called idealism of the ’60s and the hustle-bustle/every-person-for-himself world of the ’80s and ’90s, the word “protest” became just a little bit dirty.

Dirty like an apple cart-upsetting urchin, a useless nose-thumbing at the powers that be, the value of which – if any – is both marginal and decidedly historical.

After all, didn’t the protesters of the ’60s settle down, cut their hair, quit smoking dope and – on their way to becoming our parents – turn into the respectable, law-abiding citizens of today’s USA? That is evidence, we are led to believe, that they eventually recognized just how foolish they looked with their flowers and peace signs.

Implicit in this version of history is the idea that the problems which confronted America in the ’60s – racial inequality, an unjust war, sexual inequality and all the rest – have no present-day counterparts. A dangerous heresy that hints that mass protest is a social relic, irrelevant to our modern age.

The subtle message is that protesting is something of an anachronism. Sure, we still have problems – there are still some social injustices and minor governmental cock-ups – but nothing worthy of making a big, noisy, grubby traffic-halting fuss. Demonstrating – with all the accompanying banner waving, fist pumping and commerce interrupting – is hopelessly naïve and out-dated.

Or is that just what the government and media would like us to believe?

In the backlash of the anti-establishment ’60s, it must have become the Establishment’s top priority to stop any further social upheaval. With women and people of color demanding rights and nice middle-class children standing up to the government and demanding to know what right it had to go bombing a poor Asian country back into the Stone Age, it must have been an ulcer-inducing epoch for the denizens of power in Washington, D.C.

So, how to forestall the upheavals? Well, the easiest way was to convince the next generation that all their parents did was waste a lot of time and look a little silly in the process. Remind them of the peccadilloes, the disorganization, the selfishness, the stubborn idealism, remind them that those hippies were all just doped up to their eyeballs anyway.

Most of all, remind them how inefficient it all was, how messy and unnecessary. Imply, if you don’t actually come out and say it, that the government would have sorted out all the social ills a lot more quickly if officials hadn’t had to waste their time trying to keep well-meaning but daft protesters from wrecking political conventions or getting beaten up by racist rednecks.

Apparently, this approach has succeeded. When was the last time you saw a massive student rally? A serious political protest of any kind? Chances are, even if there was one, the media systemically ignored or belittled it. Remember the Million Man March? Recall that rather than discussing the social and ideological implications the media focused most of its attention on the rather silly post-march controversy over whether or not there were actually a million men, imputing that the whole thing was merely a bizarre ego-gratification exercise for Louis Farrakhan.

More recently, in London, more than 15,000 students rallied to protest against expensive tuition fees. It was a peaceful, organized and generally serious demonstration — which the media just ignored.
It is inexcusable, though, that our generation should submit to such treatment, that we should allow ourselves to be indoctrinated into apathy. There are still battles to be fought for justice, equality and political accountability. All of us have different passions and it is of paramount importance that we educate ourselves to stand up for what we believe in — and to resist what we find objectionable.

Unless we learn, now, to band together and hold up a dignified middle finger to the establishment that would like to convince us of our collective impotence, we will someday find injustice being meted out not to others but to us — and by then it will be too late.

Daily Pennsylvanian: Taking Aim at Gun Violence

Originally published in The Daily Pennsylvanian, Autumn 2000

Columbine. I remember the day that name became a national byword, much in the same way I remember the day Princess Diana died or the way those slightly older than I remember the Challenger disaster.

They didn’t know, at first, how many were dead; estimates ran up to three digits. There were no commercials, I recall. And the images didn’t change much, as they obviously couldn’t get cameras inside the building. As the afternoon trickled on they began interviewing survivors, weeping schoolgirls, football players still trying to be macho through their residual terror.

Fifteen dead, including the two kamikaze killers whose innocent-seeming faces would stare posthumously from the covers of every major newsmagazine in the country. Faces whose secrets the world would try, too late, to understand. Blame TV, heavy metal, black trench coats, video games, lax parenting or poor social skills. Invoke the word “evil,” so long out of fashion until now.

Whatever you do, though, don’t blame guns. Guns don’t kill people, people do. To take the guns out of peoples’ hands, to prevent mere children from purchasing weapons, that would be an unreasonable — unconstitutional — infringement of civil liberties.

Americans are not the only ones, though, who have seen hell break out in their schoolyards. Just three years before Columbine, in the little Scottish town of Dunblane, Thomas Hamilton walked into a primary school with four handguns and hundreds of rounds of ammunition. Minutes later, 16 kindergarteners and their teacher were dead. Hamilton committed suicide.

Stunned, shattered, the nation and the government were determined it would never happen again. The parents of the murdered children threw themselves into a campaign to ban handguns. “Impossible,” an American would say. “Unfair!” cried the sport-shooting lobby in Britain. Yet the government implemented a ban on high-caliber handguns, resulting in more than 100,000 weapons being surrendered to the authorities. By early 1998, the ban was extended to all .22-caliber and lower handguns as well.

This legislation was in no way universally popular. Shooting aficionados were outraged at having to give up their weapons. Gun enthusiasts rightly protested that they — the responsible sportsmen — were not the problem. But in the end, despite their feeling that injustice had been served, they handed over their guns and got on with it.

Nearly four years have passed since Dunblane and nearly two since the legislation banning handguns came into effect. The shooting fans are still grumbling, yes. There is still gun-related crime, yes. However, there has been no second Dunblane.

Will we be able to say the same thing four years after Columbine? I doubt it.

Because it wasn’t just Columbine. It was Jonesboro, Ark.; Springfield, Ore.; West Paducah, Ky.; Pearl, Miss. A trail of blood and anguish, the children with guns in their hands and blank eyes. And every time it happened we were horrified, the images running together in a montage of huddled parents, weeping children, stone-faced politicians.

Those were just the disasters epic enough in proportion to become catch phrases. In mild-mannered Portland, Ore., a boy was stopped outside my brother’s school, the trunk of his car full of guns. In South Dakota, my friend’s sister got the day off of school because of a bomb threat. Multiply that by thousands, the number of incidents that border on the knife-edge between near miss and front-page horror show.

This is all because Americans cannot live with the idea that their precious right to bear arms might be infringed. Even if it means that the litany of names will continue into a new century — the names of the dead, the names of the guilty, the names of the communities devastated by violence.

In Britain there is one name — Dunblane — and there was one reaction: banning handguns. A knee-jerk reaction, some have said, but since then no one has turned on the BBC evening news and seen blood-soaked children fleeing out of schools — unless they were watching the Columbine coverage, of course.

Like it or not, the ban seems to have worked, and it stands as a rebuke to America’s selfish unwillingness to make radical change in the face of tragic persuasion.