Monday, November 24, 2008

María está aprendiendo hablar español

"I'm going to learn Spanish!"

I've said this so many times that no one listens to me anymore. Whenever I proclaim my renewed intention to become fluent in Spanish, my kids roll their eyes and mock me for my lack of initiative, knowing that it will never happen. At least I think they're deriding me but, since they talk about me in their secret language -- Spanish -- I'm never sure whether I should be offended by their words, or proud that they are becoming proficient en español. I've shed tears in foreign countries because I couldn't speak Spanish but, still, I stand mute and embarrassed when my littlest daughter greets me after school. "Hola, Mama. Cómo está?" "Mmmmm, bueno? bien? mucho bueno? muchas bien? I'm good. How was school?"

It's not like I haven't tried to learn the language. From Spanish for Dummies to Lonely Planet phrasebooks to Berlitz and Rosetta Stone, I've tried. I've really tried. But somehow I get bored or discouraged and put my brand new books and CDs aside, vowing that I'll never visit another Latin American country again.

Well, my hope has been renewed. I've stumbled upon the perfect program -- LiveMocha. It's a cross between Spanish class and Facebook. The curriculum is divided into courses, units, and easily-digestible lessons. The lessons are divided in learning, reading, writing, speaking. For each writing and speaking assignment, other students -- usually native Spanish speakers learning another language -- provide instruction and feedback within hours, sometimes minutes. I have an opportunity to review the work of those learning English. I can engage in online chats with other students to become conversant, or help them become conversant in English. If I'm not interested in chitchat, I set my status to "busy" and study in peace.

LiveMocha offers courses in many languages (Russian, Chinese, Icelandic and Hindi to name a few) and everything is available for free.

A friend once told me that she attended a weekly Bible study to receive instruction and encouragement, to be challenged to think and grow, and to be held accountable by her teachers and peers. She said that reading the Bible and trying to be good on her own was futile. I recall thinking that it was unfortunate that she didn't have enough faith in herself to go it alone. Now I think I understand the concept of a support group as an impetus to lasting change. I am hopeful that Ana and Jorge and Mauricio and the rest of my new friends will inspire me to stick with the program.

Maybe I'll even attend Bible study at Our Lady of Guadalupe and kill two birds with one stone. Fluent in Spanish and righteous by the year's end. People are sure to run when they see me coming.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Three great finds

Souvenirs from my mini-vacation in Breckenridge:

1. Why I Write by George Orwell

2. Poet Sharon Olds' letter to Laura Bush

3. The Weather Underground, co-founded by Bill Ayers

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Poolside haiku

a swirling eddy
frothy seaweed eyes emerge
disembodied head

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Rocky Mountain medicine

Political language -- and with variations this is true of all political parties, from Conservatives to Anarchists -- is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind. One cannot change this all in a moment, but one can at least change one's own habits, and from time to time one can even. . .cocoon for long periods of time, away from televisions and computers, to spare oneself the exquisite torture of an American Presidential Election.
~George Orwell and Marie Walden

Am I happy Obama won? Yes. Do I think he'll bring significant change? No. The tender-hearted idealist in me is buried under mountains of rhetoric, hyperbole and outright bullshit.

I'm emerging slowly, squinting at the sun, trying to find Pollyanna.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008