Friday, August 23, 2013


Well… since I am not a cow, I guess what I mean to say is that I am “pondering” about many things…

It all started during one of those ESL classes which I have the pleasure to give. The book for this particular class requires some serious work on “perfect tenses”. You know… the pesky could’ve… would’ve… should’ve… and all those assorted verbs with “have” as the assistant. But as we delved into the topic, there were some questions within the lesson which actually sparked some interesting and, at times, insightful conversation… all in English, of course…

One in particular dealt with a person’s self perceived weaknesses and strengths. Another with dreams not accomplished yet and a third simply asked… “Have you had a difficult moment which has helped you learn something important?” As you can imagine, the people who come to these evening classes (mostly adults with some baggage in their trunks, so to speak – including their teacher) don’t really expect to walk into a semi-confessional moment but being a small and well knit group, they all responded truthfully.

There were stories about childhoods lost or fondly remembered; about the difficulty in adapting to a new culture, about challenges met … some with success and others with failure… friends made and friends lost… Dreams of starting or increasing an owned business… of traveling to exotic and not so exotic locales… Actually, the two evenings turned out to be quite interesting  

Perhaps the most telling answers were to the last question about that difficult moment in life which sparked a positive learning experience. I am not about to put on paper what these trusting folks said and shared with us, in closed quarters. But being the "nice" person I am, what came to my own mind and which was shared (only fair, right? ... they did ask me) with the class, will be also shared with you.

Actually the words came almost without much thought to my mind and, with perhaps too short a time, flowed through to my mouth and out they went…

-“Having Cancer was a blessing” I said… at which point they all looked at me with a questioning, almost a “ha ha… here comes another typical comment…” look. But no, I held their gaze and said -“yes, it was” and added -“obviously, surviving was the biggest blessing, but having gone through the process was also a blessing of a different kind”…

Well… it is true, all of it. Even if to my own mind I didn't go through the pain and suffering many who have had this illness have experienced, it was an eye opener. The people I met; those who showed courage in the face of probable death and those whose reaction was to sink into a mental funk. To many this last response could be understandable, to me… never.

I learned that the mind is a wonderful instrument, it can be our biggest ally and it can also be our bitterest enemy. In my case, a new zest for life was found, a new way to look at everyone around me; the fact that every moment has to be enjoyed, lived and the realization that, regardless of the road we may find ourselves on at any given time, ‘tis the road life has put us on and it has to be traveled. Might as well enjoy it!!

This last was brought home with the untimely death of my son; we never do know when we will be taken away from this life and it is a shame we leave so many possibilities and probabilities untried and stones unturned… all because we may be going through an unhappy, selfish moment or because we think that we deserve better. Maybe we do… then again, maybe we don’t.

So yes, this was a blessed event. My eyes were reopened to the wonders of my life, to all the good had and yet to be had, to all the learning moments and the people who helped me learn. Also, to those who have gone but whose wonderful, warm and loving memories will stay with me as long as I breathe.

In fact, every moment we live it is a wonderful learning and enjoyment opportunity… don’t miss it!!  

Be Well … Be Back!!!

Final Notes:
  • Pray for those who are fighting an illness which may take them away from their loved ones… Every request is heard, and counts!!
  • Follow us on Twitter … @RJAsPandora
  • Any comments please send to
  • “La Otra Caja de Pandora”… The Spanish language Blog… “”Bienvenidos!!!

Monday, August 12, 2013

From Wally’s Pond… Round 2 (or) 3…

Sometime ago, the idea of calling an entry “Introspective Philosophy Entry” was a bit too much, so it came to me … Why don’t I just call it “From Wally’s Pond”? Sort of a tribute to “On Walden Pond…” I think there were one or two entries under that heading, and the contents of this one actually qualify… I think…

If you have read some of these posts over the years (well… we are going on the 4th year of the blog…), you know there has been no intention ever to hide the fact that I do believe in the Spiritual aspects of our persona. My upbringing was somewhat eclectic, for it was based on a heavy dose of Catholicism, cushioned by a Mason grandfather as well as an everyday dose of “Spiritism” as practiced by both, my grandfather and my mother, as well as a number of domestic employees with whom I grew my infant years.

Early in my life, I was present and participant –though with limitations- at many sessions of these practices, as evidenced in some earlier blogs where this has been discussed at length… As I grew into my adulthood and eventually welcomed (well… what other choice?) my “olderhood”, there have been many occasions to discuss religion and spiritual as well as philosophical ideologies. It has been a blessing; also an eye opener, since in most instances at the end of these most civilized discussions, most come to realize that the cloth from which we all have been cut is pretty much the same and that “religion” such as it is practiced, is more of a human structure. Yes, based on higher leanings but human nonetheless.

I believe. I say this without any glimmer of mists, hidden meanings, or of being blasé about the concept. I believe in God and in Christ. I have felt the strength of their loving company at times when, alone, I would have faltered and completely fallen. They took me by the hand when I was alone and destitute; when I faced cancer and through the ultimate healing of the same and then during the most terrible moment of my life, when my son died in an accident. I know for a fact that, in being spiritually alone, I would have not made it.

Some will say this is an emotional crutch; that explanation is also Ok because indeed it is that as well. But it goes beyond this easy concept. It goes much farther and further than what can be expressed in easy-to-crow platitudes.   

One of the religions I have had the chance to discuss in good detail during my travels is the Hindu Religion. There are many spiritual guidance laws and these "laws" which follow, are specifically direct and much deeper in meaning than what appears at first look. They are meant to help us understand that when something happens, it is not life’s specific intention to bother you or me specifically; for, in the end, we are pretty cosmically insignificant as individuals. But not so as part of that beyond the physical grasp whole... If understood, it teaches that when something happens we have to accept it and take what it brings, learn from it and when it goes, we have to let go without regrets.

The First Law says:
"The person who comes into your life is the right person” No one comes into our life by happenstance; everyone around us, who interacts with us, is there for a reason, to help us learn and advance in each situation.

The Second Law says:
"What happens, is the only thing that could have happened” Absolutely nothing of what goes on in our lives could have happened in a different manner. Not even the most insignificant detail. There is no… “If I could have done something different… perhaps something else might have happened” Not so. What did happen is the only thing that could have happened, and it had to be that way so we could learn a lesson and go on. Every situation in our lives is perfect … even though our ego and mind resist this as reality and often may choose not to accept it.
The Third Law says:
"At any moment that something begins, is just the right moment for it to do so". Everything begins at the right moment… not before, not later. When we are ready, and only then, for something new to begin… it will do so.

The Fourth and Last: 
"When something ends… it ends”. Just that. If something or someone has ended its/his/her part in our lives, it is life telling us to evolve; it is better to leave it at that, to accept the experience and to move forward enriched by it. 

I don’t think it is a coincidence you are reading this; if this text is coming to you today, it is because you are ready to understand that no two snowflakes are the same and that none will fall in the wrong place.

Be Well … Be Back!!!

Final Notes:

  • Pray for those who are fighting an illness which may take them away from their loved ones… Every request is heard, and counts!!
  • Follow us on Twitter … @RJAsPandora
  • Any comments please send to
  • “La Otra Caja de Pandora”… The Spanish language Blog… “”Bienvenidos!!!

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Flowing Words

There is something to be said about words and what they convey… happiness … fear … sadness … joy… 

English is a language which encourages communication at a straightforward level; some might say basic level. While I do think it is somewhat simpler than Spanish, I disagree with its being lacking in nuances… just read some of the Bard’s work and it is plainly seen that it can have indeed many shades.

Spanish… well… it seems to have been created by confused and somewhat scrambled minds, longing to shout out to the world this is a language for lovers and dreamers; a language best used to describe the stars and the universe which holds them in its bosom… Why the preceding? Some of these passages come from the Spanish blog… Interestingly, when I sit down to translate, there is a lot of poetic license to be had… luckily… I get along well with the original writer. He won’t charge me royalties.

Nature... a gift...
Mentalists who claim to know, tell us that nothing is impossible in this life …nothing we really want to do is outside our reach. Just imagine… if you want to reach the moon and give it a try… and you only make it halfway… think of all you have seen and learned along that truncated trip… all that you didn't know before. Just knowing you can try, allows you to dream, to look to a possibly better and different future and to a road full of wonders, new thoughts and views…

An old saying asks us to stop along the way and take the time to smell the flowers that Mother Nature gives us for free… In our “Oh So Busy” day-to-day world, we rarely take a moment to do it. When we do take it, we are given names like “dreamers” and “fools” who waste precious time. We worry so much about what others may think or say that our lives become unwittingly defensive and somewhat lost.

Unfortunately, it takes many years of survival and learning to be able to get to the point when we can honestly say we do not worry about what others may think … When we have accumulated enough emotional and maturity mileage to be able to say (and mean) “If you don’t like what I do… how I look or how I think … then… LOOK THE OTHER WAY!!! What a shame it takes for most people so much needless wear and tear and so much of life’s time to get to this important understanding…

Take the time...
Many friends and acquaintances of mine have issues and problems to spare, and precious little time in which to deal with them. I can’t truly say, no matter how much I would like to, that I am free of that weight; yet, those problems I carry along have materialized due to decisions made and I accept this. Along the way I have tried to walk a road that, because it has been longer and more difficult, has taken me to many places and people I would have never known otherwise. Is this a fair exchange? I will always think so, although I am sure this is not the right road for all to follow.  

I am anxious to meet the worlds I have yet to see while remembering with happiness the ones I have already lived; each has had its joyful moments and its painful moments; each one is the master of its own story line where we become a mere player within a continuing saga. Sometimes we are in a Fairy Tale… sometimes in a bit of history… sometimes in an incredulously sinister passage… Each one has its reason to be and each one requires us to pay a price of admission; if we are willing to pay it and to allow ourselves to be led, we can perhaps find ourselves in a comedy, maybe a horror story or who knows?... a beautiful love tale.

To enjoy it... 

Some years (OK… OK… many!) ago, during the end of my first infancy in Cuba, I had a radio show. There was this introductory verse I wrote to start the show and which I then re-wrote and adapted in English, to do the same for the shows I later hosted in CT and NYC… a very promising but sadly truncated “radio personality” career…

“Take my hands … Come with me…
Dare to dream… Dare to fly…
Don’t be afraid, I will not let you fall,
Let’s fly together in joy and peace
And explore what may be…

I promise you will not regret it…
Take my hands … Come with me…
Dare to dream… Dare to fly”

Fifty some years later, this is still my life’s motto… I hope it will never change.

Be Well … Be Back!!!

Final Notes:

  • Pray for those who are fighting an illness which may take them away from their loved ones… Every request is heard, and counts!!
  • Follow us on Twitter … @RJAsPandora
  • Any comments please send to
  • “La Otra Caja de Pandora”… The Spanish language Blog… “”Bienvenidos!!!

Saturday, August 10, 2013

The “Knickers” of Juanita la Mulata.

When we grew up in a country of those called from the “Third World”, in simpler times long gone, we had the chance to live experiences which in the so called “First World” countries would never happen…

But… before we go any further, I want to establish we are all inhabitants of the “Third World”… the coveted first world is a little too close to the sun and we would all burn to a crisp in seconds…

In my childhood years, in that beautiful island of Cuba, we lived a very different World then than what we have here, or there, or anywhere for that matter. We could roam the streets freely, the worst fear being that of becoming distracted somewhere and getting home late or, in a worst case, being the victim of a very unusual street accident… We could play with our friends, family and neighbors, constantly making someone else (or becoming ourselves) the butt of what now would be … GASP!!!... a politically incorrect joke. My Lord… to call someone “Negro” (Black) or “mulatto” (Mixed blood) to their own face!!!  To us, it simply was (and still is) an endearment term. But… how would all those who now turn red just by uttering “African-American” react? Methinks we tend to exaggerate far too many of the ideologies which are in vogue and which do nothing but create a fence around our minds, effectively cutting down the opportunity for direct, simple and open communication.

In those early years of mine, in that beautiful island to which I refer, there was social and racial prejudice. To say the contrary, would be to say a lie… But he thing is we did not have the brand of explosive and vitriolic prejudice which we tend to find in this, our adopted culture. 

¡Ah…  Juanita la Mulata! Even to my then still somewhat innocent eyes (Well… they were, you know…) as a young “old” child, she was a beautiful and very voluptuous woman in the prime of her sensual life... and she lived across the street from us. Setting the stage… my family lived in an old house, one of those houses built around the turn of the century (last century, that is), that you’ll find in the center of old towns. My dear grandfather, God Rest His Soul, had rented this shortly after his marriage, somewhen in the early 20’s… The rent was frozen (not just in NYC this happens, you know) and over the years it became a very low rent for a centrally located house.

My grandfather could have easily bought a house in then fashionable Punta Gorda area, with a beautiful view to the bay but… as a thrifty man, he opted to save his money for business investments and for his grandchildren’s education (including me)… something which I am sure the Castro bros. appreciated when they confiscated all the private bank accounts (as well as the banks) in the country. Besides, as a traditional “old-timer” he preferred to remain in that house, full of memories and where his only son grew his short years in this life, before a bout of TB took him away… He liked to walk every day, going the 2 blocks to Central park (Parque  Martí) and crossing it, in order to get to his office on the far side… this route took him by the Cathedral which was not only his “business” block neighbor but an old spiritual and ideological antagonist.

In these older quarters of the city, we had the “cuarterías”. These were older, large homes, which had been sectioned into “sub mini-apartments” where one or two of the original home’s room(s) became an apartment for a family. From here, the name “cuartería” since “cuarto”, in Cuba, was the name given to a room. In the city of Mexico they are called “vecindad” (vicinity) which lends the place a higher degree of given “sophistication”…

Well… let’s get back to Cienfuegos, which is the focal point of this discussion… Right across the street from my house, there was one of these cuarterias. The resulting mix of its inhabitants was more than interesting for it contained whites, blacks, mulattoes… even a Chinese family or two. Some of my childhood playmates came from this veritable mansion, although if truth be said… set in decadent ways… and they came in an assortment of sizes, colors, sounds and flavors. Maybe this is why some of my private school classmates didn't come to visit me at home often… too bad… they lost the opportunity to get to know Juana La Mulata…

In a country and culture based on restrictions born of an even earlier era and very dominated by the church, the concept of “sex” and Gasp!!!... to openly talk about this was a decided taboo. We could be excommunicated for life (all of them, here and thereafter…) It was also taboo to exhibit the totally indecorous female intimate clothing, for all the youthful flights of fancy they might engender. This was a moral challenge which had to be resolved in the practical aspect, when during summer mornings the knickers of Juana la Mulata were openly hung from the drying ropes to sway in the breeze, waving like a proud multi-color clan flag, while they would slowly dry in the tender care of the morning air.

The neighborhood kids, much like stealthy little bandit apprentices, took our turns to eavesdrop on these forbidden sights while imagining them covering, like chaste guardians (though easily removable from their post... that is... we heard...) those intimate parts of Juana la Mulata, this magnificent specimen of the Caribbean woman. Especially those ample buttocks which, when covered by these scant knickers and a very flimsy summer dress, would drive the neighborhood men (and several of the older kids as well) crazy as she walked by… each side moving like a small boat… up and down with every step… I mean… wave.

What delights!! To have been born in that “underprivileged” third world… To have shared in that crazy lifestyle which gave me such an unfair advantage over my eventual friends in that coveted “first world”. Not all are memories of the club or school or family gatherings. 

Many of these memories take me to a different world, a different plane; seems the world where I now live everything must be measured and categorized by what and how we say it… pasteurized, homogenized and deprived of flavor. 

Be Well … Be Back!!!

Final Notes:
  • Pray for those who are fighting an illness which may take them away from their loved ones… Every request is heard, and counts!!
  • Follow us on Twitter … @RJAsPandora
  • Any comments please send to
  • “La Otra Caja de Pandora”… The Spanish language Blog… “”Bienvenidos!!!

Thursday, August 8, 2013

May The Good Lord Bless Them and Keep Them… Away From Me

Did you ever hear someone say this? … I bet you have!!! In Spanish we have one that goes something like… “May He Bless Them, But not Multiply Them…!” 

This is the story… well… perhaps an anecdote… of Paco and his Paramour… Although a bedside story, is not one of those you might read your children to put them to sleep…

It was many years ago, somewhen in he 1950’s, in a beautiful city on the south shore of Cuba, that I met Don Paco. He was the scion and head of one of the branches of a very well off family, with big Holdings in the area of farming and cattle. Paco was the oldest of three brothers who managed the family business and he, very appropriately perhaps, was the head of the milking side of the house.

I still remember those delivery trucks, painted a deep, bright yellow… so yellow and so bright that in one of those sunny Caribbean mornings you had to look at them from behind your dark sunglasses. In our island folklore, we refer to any and all cars painted that bright yellow as “lecheros”… milk trucks… those  flashy folk who today choose to paint their expensive cars this color, don’t realize that when those of us who come from that island see them cruising, we are just waiting to see when they are going to make their next stop and deliver a bottle of milk.

Let’s get back to the story, shall we? ... Paco, as we all knew him, was a family friend and a constant participant, with his wife Dolores, in our nightly family “tertulias” (family and friends pre-electronic-era gatherings to… talk … wow, what a thought!) which took place at my Great Uncle’s house. There I met him and there I became acquainted with the story of present interest. 

Turns out that Paco, now already into his latter years and with more than 30 married years to his name, had found himself totally lost and madly in love with a young lady (we shall be charitable here, folks) of 25 years of age who was very good at feeding him but… without really knowing how to cook. She was a beautiful dark hair doll, with all the right curves in the right places, about 5’6” and … well… very friendly. I am giving you this information based on my own personal observations and not on hearsay, having met the aforementioned lady at some point later on..… Paco rescued her from the “lowly worlds” of exchanging very special favors for money and food … she came out at least physically, but mentally… she never left that world. He fed her, put her into a house (along with her mom) and paid her a salary so she would never have to see anyone else but him.

I have made, along the way, my share of mistakes and then some; I cannot be a moral Judge. In our culture, you are called a “cornudo” (cuernos are horns… thereby living the term “horny” and added dimension) when you partner sees someone else behind your back. We, the family’s younger generation, gave this young lady the nickname of “toreta” (female bull… I know… I know…) because of all the cuernos she gave Paco on a regular basis… besides, we could refer to her in the middle of the conversations and his wife would be none the wiser… and better she would not, for she was a head taller than Paco and probably outweighed him by 40 pounds… Her name, Dolores, means “Pains” and she, I remember well, had a habit of honoring the essence of her name whenever possible…

In the company of my cousin, some ten years older than I, we went to visit la Toreta in several occasions. The immediate friends of my cousin, who were in on the story line, were given to try the house delights of said young lady… sometimes behind Paco’s back… sometimes not. After all… Viagra was still a long way off and a man of 60 or so years found his labors not enough to quench the fires of an ardent 25 year old young lady… I suppose, in retrospect, that he thought the inevitable adventurous encounters best be had with people who were known and whose personal habits were not in question…

I would like to say that all lived happily ever after… but those endings are best left to fairy tales. The incoming government took over, as it did with all private business, the ownership of the farms and milk business. When the field denizens were lost, so was the city bound toreta lost… Paco could no longer afford to give her the green pastures her heart so desired…

Eventually, he and his family moved to Miami, where I understand they lived on for a few years full of memories and longings (at least on his part I‘m sure) There he died peacefully, to be followed by his wife Dolores in a short time… I am sure somewhere in the ethereal pastures, she is still following him, giving him an eternal headache…

His Toreta? Never knew anymore… maybe she stayed in Cuba, maybe she came out… It was a love story… in a small way, like those that engender those epic tomes which we sometimes read, and sometimes use as heavy paperweights… In this case? … Just a little footnote in a not so epic blog.

Be Well … Be Back!!!

Final Notes:
  • Pray for those who are fighting an illness which may take them away from their loved ones… Every request is heard, and counts!!
  • Follow us on Twitter … @RJAsPandora
  • Any comments please send to
  • “La Otra Caja de Pandora”… The Spanish language Blog… “”Bienvenidos!!!

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

The Hidden Drawer of Tia (Auntie) Georgina...

Auntie Georgina is that aunt we all have… or had at one time or another… the one who never married… or the one who has decades of forced “widowhood”… the one who lives in her own world of memories, ideas… her “things”…

This is really an open letter to all those Aunt Georginas in our World… after all, they spoiled us as children and we loved them very much…

Dear Auntie Georgie:
We are closing in on a very special day… your birthday. This year has been pretty much of a mixed bag; some good things which made us laugh and some others… not so good and which made us cry… Do you remember so many years ago when we were children, and you gave us special candy with a sip of your special drink, in hiding so the grandparents would not see us? … when everything was so easy and we laughed so freely at so many foolish things? … What happened Auntie? Where did those beautiful, simple times go?

It has been a long while since my laughter has run so freely and, at times, I have felt like crying in silence… I know I am no longer that child, that these intervening years have brought on worries and pain… including the suffering of having lost very, very dear people… Those memories your image brings!!! How they keep me going today Dear Auntie!! Some with the honey of happiness, some with the bitter taste of the hard times.

But Auntie… you know what? Those things are beyond you now… they can’t bother you anymore… Look!! You who always sang at the drop of a note… I will close my eyes and you sing for me one of those songs you sang when I was a child, one of those that helped me fall asleep peacefully and with a smile in my heart… Do you remember?

Yes… I know much has happened in these years… I miss you so much Auntie!! I miss that person who always brought sunshine and hope, who made us laugh so much… Especially in difficult moments, those moments when we thought our innocent world was at an end… you always made me see this as “just one more step into growing up” and lifted my spirits.

I don’t like to see sadness Auntie… everyday we can begin anew, we can erase many of those things which seem to just hang in the air, around us… to put them into a box and seal it with love … remember how you used to tell me that doing this would allow us to face the new sun with a smile worth of the Gods…. Remember? 

I want to sing for you today Auntie… my songs of hope, of love; I want to tell you about all the good things and the bad things so we can share this coming time in love and life, not in that “petite death” which all bad memories bring to us and which force us to relive each one every time we let them come into our minds and hearts…

Let me do it Auntie!! Let me be, just once again, that little clown who made you laugh with his tricks and his jumps; who made you forget your bad moments, who helped you smile again and get up and go forward, ready to face anything which came your way… anything that dared bother you. I need to, you know… become like you, in a way…

Do you remember your “hidden drawer”? The special drawer where you would hide your papers and all those poems and stories you used to write in your early years… in a time when a woman was not supposed to “think”? I would give anything to be able to rummage through that drawer, to get lost in that wonderland world just one more time… with you as my guide and confidant.

Well Auntie Georgie… you know love you very much… I promise we’ll see each other again some day and that we will then have all the time we may need to do all these things that so many years ago you taught me to do… those things we enjoyed so much!! Remember me… that I am still here, that I think about you and that as you taught me, I don’t give up easily.

A Kiss Auntie… from here, to there… wherever you may now be, my dearest aunt…

Your Favorite nephew… Me!!!

Be Well … Be Back!!!

Final Notes:
  • Pray for those who are fighting an illness which may take them away from their loved ones… Every request is heard, and counts!!
  • Follow us on Twitter … @RJAsPandora
  • Any comments please send to
  • “La Otra Caja de Pandora”… The Spanish language Blog… “”Bienvenidos!!!

Monday, August 5, 2013

This Language We Speak…

Oral communication is an art which is very exacting except, of course, for those available inflections, subtleties, nuances and variables…

After more than 30 years of traveling over 3 million miles doing business around the world and dealing with folk who speak several languages, I am more than ever convinced of the fact that we should all speak at least two languages. Even if we never leave our country of birth. What mind doors this knowledge opens!!! You can spend time in a country or with people from that country and actually get to know it, its customs and culture. You can read history and stories in their original language and learn and absorb all this without the need of going through others.

Besides… it is now an established medical fact that the effort spent learning a new language as we get older, will help our brain battle potentially devastating illnesses like Alzheimer’s. A fantastic added benefit!!

All is well and good if you learn out of wanting to know but… what happens when you find yourself living in a new country by either choice or happenstance, where a different language than yours is spoken? Then the choice of learning is out of your hands. In fact, there is no choice; you must learn your new country’s language. If you want to be able to work and socialize and not be restricted to a relative few people, then the only avenue is to learn… learn… learn…

During my working life there have been several times (like the present) when I have functioned as a teacher of English for those foreign born adults who are here and need to communicate, even at a basic level. For some it is a struggle to learn. For others it is very easy to learn by rote yet, it becomes difficult to free form sentences in conversation. For a lucky few, they grasp the basic principles and in doing what they have to do, come out swinging… and talking. What makes a difference? Those who do what they have to do and those who only find excuses so as not to do it.

Everyone looks for a “magic wand” approach. There isn't such a thing. You cannot learn a language in “10 easy lessons” or in 20 days of easy practice. It takes time and it takes dedication. I have come to realize that when learning a new language (although my experience is with English, this would apply to all) there are some basic rules of thumb which should be followed and, because I know some of my students read this blog (no, not an imposed homework!!!) they are herein repeated… again!!!  

There are some pointers which have been accumulated over the 15 years or so I have taught ESL (English as a Second Language) students whenever I can do so.

  1. Speak slowly. Just remember the language you are learning is not your native tongue and until there is a good amount of experience accumulated (flying time, so to speak) to try and speak fast will only cause a mob scene at the tip of your tongue…
  2. Treat every word as a tasty bit. Enjoy it, swish it around your mouth, lips and tongue just like you would good wine and when that last little bit is taken, don’t forget that end letter which we (especially Latin languages speakers) tend to leave out because … well, we just don’t bother with it back home.
  3. Just because in our language we don’t have those pesky auxiliaries like “don’t”, “would” and “will” doesn't mean they can be left out at will. Son of a gun!!! We need them just to say “no” or ask “why” and make sense…
  4. Listen to and imitate the flow of the language. Every language has a flow and this makes it easier for us to use it and to be understood by the native speaker…
  5. Until you have experience in the language, speak in simple terms, with simple words. You know… “15 cent” or less words… leave the “25 cent” ones for later on…
  6. Practice… practice… practice. With your family, the neighbor, the dog, the cat, your friend… with anyone who’ll put up with it… and you. Every word you practice is one more step taken. 
Last but never least… NEVER be afraid to make a mistake when you talk. Most people will go along with you and understand… those who will make fun… well, they aren't worth your worry and, besides, when you learn your new language, you will be able to express yourself in two languages and they will still be mired in one…

Be Well … Be Back!!!

Final Notes:
  • Pray for those who are fighting an illness which may take them away from their loved ones… Every request is heard, and counts!!
  • Follow us on Twitter … @RJAsPandora
  • Any comments please send to
  • “La Otra Caja de Pandora”… The Spanish language Blog… “”Bienvenidos!!!

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Los Gavilanes… (The Hawks)

Lost right at the bottom of the belly of that alligator shaped island that is Cuba, there was this little patch of land…

Just there, right where the belly of that mythical beast would be scratching Mother Earth, east of the Bay of Cienfuegos and half way to the town of Trinidad, just about half a mile on the right side of the main road there was a little hill, a “colina” and, sitting at the top of that little hill, there was and old country house, Worden walls and floor, open to the breezes of the countryside.

But the most beautiful detail of this old house was the wrap-around porch; one of those you see in the old manor homes in the south of the US and in many countryside homes around the world. Especially in warm climates. This was the late afternoon and evening meeting ground, a place from which the green countryside, the hills, the blue skies and the shape forming clouds could be seen and enjoyed, where early evening stories, after the sun would hide behind the mountains, were told in the light and shadows of candles and kerosene lamps made the easing into night a little better.

Escambray, as seen from the farmhouse
From the front of the house you could see Sierra del Escambray, (The Escambray Mountain range, in the south-middle of the island) the (in)famous second front of the revolution which would deeply sink this beautiful country into decades of dictatorship. Where perhaps the only decent leader of this epic fraud, Camilo Cienfuegos (nothing to do with the city where I was born) made his presence known. From the back of the house, a veritable mansion to my child’s eyes, you could see as far as… well, as far as the eye could see. Green campiña (countryside) fading into a gorgeous sky blue, skies which you can probably only see in the Caribbean…  Ok…Ok… I am partial to this part of the world… can’t hide it…

But… from this backside of the house you could also let your eyes wonder down the hillside, following the green pastures and watching all the inhabitants of the same… horses, cows, bulls, calves resting their weary bodies while quietly munching on well served grass. As you followed this line of sight into the horizon, your eyes would come upon a deeper blue, a blue which was different that the lighter, limpid sky blue… the blue of the Caribbean seas… a unique blue.

This was my summer refuge; a refuge which allowed me to get away (at the early age of 9) from everyone and everything. “Los Gavilanes” was the farm which belonged to my stepfather’s family and where I would spend at least one month every summer. No, it wasn’t a refuge for a “rich boy”… this was an active and working farm and where I had to earn my stay. There I learned to get up at 4am in order to milk the cows we had rounded up the night before. I remember my eyes would, until they became used to these “excesses”, complain loudly about the early morning routine. There I learned to ride horses, to make cheese, and also to manage a small Fergusson tractor which was so old it probably was an early prototype. I learned to respect the animals on which we depended for our daily nourishment and which provided a living for those who managed the farm.  

An inlet, much like the one we enjoyed
There was this small field-house where the riding equipment was kept. This too had a porch, smaller by comparison, but under a zinc roof. On those lazy rainy afternoons which are wont to happen in these latitudes, there was this hammock which hung diagonally across the porch… and in those moments, after lunch, I would lie down on the hammock and listen to the rain’s patter on the zinc roof… to a seeming beat of cha-cha-cha and rumba… and I would drift off for a grand nap…

On other occasions, alter finishing the day’s work (since we started at 4am, we were often finished by 2pm) and before the early evening roundup, the young working folk who inhabited the farm (meaning myself and the 3 children of Paco, the farm administrator) would get on our horses and head off to the seashore we could see from the top of the hill… it was some 2 miles through the meandering ways amongst grass, trees and wild fruit groves.

The old road by the farmhouse
By the time we got to the shore, our faces would be dripping with the juices of the different fruits we’d pick up right from the horse, without breaking a stride. I remember guava Groves, bananas, mangoes and, closer to the shore, there were some “mamoncillo” trees (being a regional name, not sure what they are in English… smallish round fruits with a green hardish peel, where the off white, sweet pulp would be wrapped around a good sized round seed). Our private beach was a horseshoe shaped inlet, about 20 meters wide and with incredibly clear water over sparkling white sand, which never went much above our waist. We would spend a couple of hours there swimming and then drying in the very balmy breeze coming in from the water, while we finished whatever fruits which had not been devoured by then.

Shoreline at dusk.
Our return would be in the late afternoon after truly enjoying what was, unbeknownst to us then, a true idyllic mini-paradise. On those nights which followed these outings, sweet, warm and tranquil sleep was easy to come by. I have yet to experience again that kind of truly, fully relaxing and restorative sleep.

Many friends ask me how, after more than 50 years, I still remember those times with such vivid memories. How could I not remember them? Those moments were, along with many other such “stills” and old time reel films (mental, that is) the moments and experiences which formed the person, the moments that establish those “not open to negotiation” roots which are dug deeply and surely; those are “me” in the forming moments of my life.                                                                              

I gladly share these precious moments with you; I don’t really want them lost in time and space. But they are also shared in the hope you, in reading them, will also bring forward and remember with fondness your own moments of memories and childhood. They may be “only” memories at this time, but they are your memories, as these are mine. They are and will remain beautiful.

Be Well … Be Back!!!

Final Notes:
  • Pray for those who are fighting an illness which may take them away from their loved ones… Every request is heard, and counts!!
  • Follow us on Twitter … @RJAsPandora
  • Any comments please send to
  • “La Otra Caja de Pandora”… The Spanish language Blog… “”Bienvenidos!!!

Doña América and other memories.

I know she has already been mentioned somewhen along this line of sometimes unhinged memories as they relate to moments of my life , but y...