Portuguese

One thing I regret is that I never learned Portuguese. I think it’s the most beautiful language in the world. Just the way it sounds mesmerizes me.
I envy people who learn languages easily. I’m not one of them, though. For me, learning to speak Spanish so fast and so well required such an effort that my brain still hurts when I think about it. I don’t see the point of learning the basics of a language. If I can’t get to the point of complete fluency, then why bother?

Learning a new language requires that you open up a space within your mind, within your personality for this new identity that will speak it, feel it, and breathe it. Sadly, at this point there is no space in me for Portuguese.

Dreiser and Me

When I was four, my parents took me to the beach. I was entertaining myself with a huge, heavy volume by Theodore Dreiser.

“You have a very strange child,” a lady on the beach said to my parents. “She just sits there staring into this huge book for hours. And there aren’t even any pictures in it.”

“Oh no,” my mother said. “She’s reading. Come here, honey, tell us what the book is about.”

After I retold to the lady the beginning of Dreiser’s novel, she looked at me terrified and never came up to us again.

And I still love Dreiser passionately. I read his novel An American Tragedy over a dozen times and I can quote parts of it by heart.

Kids of the Technology Generation

Kids today are born into a world where technology is ubiquitous. Toddlers learn to press buttons and operate the iPad before they learn to walk. There is nothing inherently bad about this, of course. However, if I could give one piece of advice as an educator to young parents, it would be please please teach your kids to read before you sit them in front of the TV or a computer.

My students who were born in the nineties are subdivided into two groups: those who can read and are capable of enjoying the process and those who don’t have the physical capacity to keep their eyes on a page of text. They need something to flash, make noises and show animated images that change all the time to be able to pay attention. Guess which group manages to graduate and find good employment? Exactly.

There are people who send their kids to school without having taught them to read. This, in my opinion, is the pinnacle of irresponsibility. It’s easy to blame the schools and the teachers for not fulfilling what is, ultimately, the parents’ role. A kid who learns to enjoy books before discovering the pleasures of an iPad will have a lot more doors open than the one who doesn’t.

Through the Eyes of a Stranger: Good Love Versus Bad Love

The English language has developed a very ample terminology for romantic feelings that is impossible to translate to many other languages. In love, in lust, infatuated, obsessed – all these gradations of emotion are opposed to what is considered to be “real love.”

Real love is, supposedly, what happens once the relationship loses every trace of uncontrollable and dangerous sexual passion. “When the buzz wears off”, as one reader put it recently. Only when a relationship reaches a stage where the feelings towards your partner are the same you normally feel towards a relative, then the real love American way can begin.

In the contemptuous “he isn’t in love with her, he is just in lust” one can hear the echoes of the Puritan forebears who condemn every trace of human sexuality.

What Would You Do If. . .

. . . you knew people who receive unemployment benefit and use it to go traveling in Europe? (Obviously, these are people who have ample untaxed income). This isn’t a theoretical question. I really want to know what is the acceptable North American way of reacting to such things.

The Purpose of Emigration

People often seem to assume that immigrants leave their countries because they want to improve their lives financially. If we are talking about those who emigrate out of a situation of dire poverty, that assertion is true. However, a person who has a middle class existence in their own country mostly loses out financially as a result of emigration.

I lost a lot in terms of my economic status when I emigrated. I was very aware when I made the decision to emigrate that I would never achieve a comparable level of economic well-being in North America. It didn’t matter to me because I’m not materialistic, so I emigrated anyways.

Anybody who emigrates from a middle-class (or higher) existence in their own country with the express purpose of enriching themselves is very unintelligent.

P.S. If you are an immigrant from an FSU country and you want to make an argument that you are better off financially in North America, please ask yourself the following: Who owns the place where you live? How much do you owe on your mortgage? On your car? On your credit cards? And how much did you owe back in your country?

I rest my case.