Thursday, January 22, 2015


Whew, I have my evenings back.
The telenovela (or should I say miniseries) I have been glued to since my return from South Africa in October (!) had its grand finale last Monday night, January 12th 2015.
I was channel surfing one night last year when I saw the name, Pablo Escobar el Patron de Mal on KSFS. That was it, I was hooked from the moment I clicked on - every monday to friday at 9 p.m.  I put off writing, phone conversations, dates - I recorded it if I couldn't, for some outstanding reason, watch. The only productive thing I did do was knit while I watched. I knitted a baby blanket for the soon to be arrival of my nephew's baby - I knitted baby hats and finished scarves.
This miniseries was made in Colombia - where Pablo Escobar, the notorious narco trafficker, terrorized Colombians during the 80's and 90's. It was without subtitles. The spanish was Colombian - different from the spanish I am familiar with. Furthermore, it was spanish spoken by gangsters from Medellin, but somehow I followed the whole thing and soon added many new words to my repertoire: words for hitmen, bodyguards, kidnappings, extradition, "plata o plomo' - (money or lead/bullets) used by these charming people to bribe everyone from judges to journalists, police etc.
It is very violent, quite often causing me to gasp at the coldblooded manner in which they killed people, anyone - women, children, old people, judges, journalists, policemen, their colleagues whom they double crossed or tired of, brought down planes.  That is how they remained in power for so long, but I am not here to write a critique of the series, no, I am here to say that I am inordinately proud that I watched and understood.
Growing up in south africa we barely knew there was such thing as a spanish language.
I learned spanish when I began my work in healthcare, first with homebound adults, then in early intervention.
This was way before the use of apps for absolutely anything and everything. I now rely on s-translate.
I had Pimsleur learning cassettes in my car. At that time I drove long distances, to Antioch, Pittsburg, Brentwood - way out in East Contra Costa County. I spent so much time in my car repeating words and phrases in spanish, that within a couple of months I deemed myself ready to advance from beginners to intermediate spanish. I also attended classes in conversational spanish at Centro Latino in Berkeley.
I carried a notebook with all my other paperwork and wrote down new words. It is very interesting to scan over them now, because I can tell what subjects I was talking about with the families and caregivers. Food and recipes dominated many of our conversations, then when I began to work with the babies I quickly learned words like farts, diarrhea, constipation, diapers, pacifiers, bottles, nursing, and so on.
I remained living in the here and now for a long time. If I wanted to indicate something in the future I pointed ahead of me and for the past I gestured behind me. When I reached this juncture I decided to go to adult school to learn grammar, but quickly I understood that this is not the way in which I learn. For many people it is fine, but I simply cannot learn by reciting verbs and their exceptions, I learn through immersion, and that is how I have been learning every since, up to the point where I can follow Pablo Escobar, El Patron de Mal.
TV is a wonderful way to learn - most of the latino families - (all of them, in fact) seem to have TV on all day, a permanent background fixture. In this way I began to watch "Casos de la Vida Real" in the mornings at 11. I arranged my schedule so that I would be at a house to watch it without having to leave in the middle of the show. These were enactments of events in women's lives - mostly heartbreaking, involving domestic violence, child abuse, poverty, desperation,  somehow all very familiar and universal.
That lasted for years, but has since been replaced by "Rosa de Guadalupe" - more heartening events occasioned by the miraculous interventions of the Virgin of Guadalupe. The problem with this is I now only see a few children, just one day a week. The little girl I see at the time when Rosa de Guadalupe comes on is watched over by her father who insists on watching football!
I am not yet staying home to watch on the mornings I am not working - I have managed to stay away from spanish TV and still lead a life, attending the gym, art classes, and such, and hope I can continue to stay away - with the help of the intervention of the Virgin!

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