Gifts from one cousin to another

16 08 2011

It wasn’t just my sister who brought gifts¬†for Sweet Pea, also O’s sister and niece brought presents and here are some of them:

5-year old M had chosen both the ducks (from the shop Casa) and the elephant (H&M) for her new cousin. I asked her if the elephant had a name and she told me that her name is Elly, like the elephant in Pocoyo. The ducks actually came in a set of 5 but M wanted to keep the “rosa fuchsia” one as that was her favourite ūüėČ

The crocheted (?) teddy bear is actually a Christmas present for myself from my mother that I got a few years ago – it was sold by the Children’s Cancer fund in Sweden and I thought that it was so cute. I have more crocheted toys from Anne-Claire Petit, a Dutch designer that I really like, and Sweet Pea will get them as well of course.


For those of you who wonder who / what Pocoyo is, check out this short film:

Pocoyo exists in different languages but we know¬†him of course only in Spanish… Another big favourite of M’s is Caillou, which she watched every evening on Youtube. During the day she would watch cartoons in French or Dutch on the various children’s tv-channels we have. There was one cartoon that she recognised from Spain, about a handy man and his tools that can talk, can’t remember his name Handy Manny (thanks Mary T!),¬†and he was partly speaking in Spanish even though the cartoon was in French. I guess like Dora, the Explorer, but a version for boys!?

Update: I was going to show some cute baby clothes that Sweet Pea also got from his Spanish tía (aunt) and prima (cousin) but I have problems with uploading the photos to the computer. Or rather, they get uploaded, I can look at them but then they all of a sudden disappear from the folder. When I then try to upload them again, the computer says that they already exist but they are not visible!!? Help!!

Los patos y la tripa

10 08 2011

I will try to update properly as soon as possible but sitting up is becoming more and more uncomfortable as the baby is pushing on my ribs. Reading book No 23 now, and all our family members have gone back to Sweden and Spain.

It’s been so nice with some company and help with the housekeeping ūüėȬ† and everything went well with the two families meeting and even communicating a little bit. My sister has written about her Brussels visit on her blog (in Swedish, but you can always try to google translate if you don’t understand) and how she will never forget the Spanish word for duck thanks to O’s 5-year old niece M…

Los patos y la tripa (the ducks and the belly) – my sister and O’s niece playing around…

Rebeca & Camilla

2 02 2011

Rebeca and Camilla – two girls’ names, you’d think… Nope, rebeca means cardigan in Spanish and camilla is a¬†stretcher / gurney (b√•r).

Do you know that you can subscribe to Spanish word of the day? Actually, English word of the day for that matter too. It’s great, you get an email every day with a new Spanish / English word with meanings, examples etc. And today, rebeca is the word! Apparently it comes from Daphne Du Maurier‚Äôs famous book, Rebecca, whose young heroine was particularly fond of wearing a cardigan.

Camilla* was also a new word for me, but I learnt it yesterday from having Spanish subtitles on Grey’s Anatomy! We usually watch dvds with the English subtitles, call us lazy if you want. Anyway, as O was complaining that they were using too much medical lingo, I changed to Spanish subtitles.¬†Of course¬†it didn’t make any difference as¬†the Spanish use the same medical terms… in¬†Latin ¬†ūüėČ

When looking up the word camilla in my favourite on-line dictionary,, I learnt that it can also refer to a Spanish round table with space for a heater underneath. And what do you know, I actually have a photo of one!

A camilla table
Not the safest way of heating; you would fill the plate underneath the table with burning coals and then¬†cover the whole thing with a table cloth. O has told me that lots of accidents happened in the old days as the table cloth¬†or people’s trousers¬†/ skirts would catch fire…

Which other names are used as nouns?

I can only think of Ulrik, which was used as slang for vomit when I was in high school (both¬†noun and verb)!¬†Maybe that was just something local for Sk√•ne though!? It used to be a disclaimer¬†on the posters for the¬†high school parties¬†that took place in clubs in small villages in the countryside and¬†for which¬†transport had to be organised for the students. “Ulrik in the bus,¬†500 SEK”**¬†– what you would¬†have to pay¬†for the¬†cleaning up if you fell sick in the bus.

And in Danish, the name Alfons is slang for a¬†pimp! Somehow I prefer Rebeca and Camilla, than Ulrik and Alfons…

*) The girl’s name is written with one l in Spanish – Camila!
**) At the start of high school, my friends and I didn’t understand why poor Ulrik would have to pay more than everybody else! ūüėČ

After fauna comes flora…

22 07 2010

Roble amarillo at the end of March

Or not really, at least in Swedish I think we say “flora & fauna”, not the other way around but since my last blog post was dedicated to animals and insects I thought I would make this the flora post:

Similar tree in April – less leaves…

Photo taken in May – almost no leaves left

Help me, how do you search for names of trees and flowers on the internet? I never seem to make succesful searches for flora, nor fauna actually. However, thanks to¬†Britta, I now know that the tree I showed last week is called roble amarillo / plateado in Puerto Rico.¬†The name¬†could be translated as yellow¬†/ silver oak. But is that really how¬†the tree¬†is called in English?¬†It definitely doesn’t look like the oaks I am used to in Europe… Apparently the tree also exists in pink – both in Puerto Rico and in Egypt according to Marianne.

Flowers of the roble amarillo…

A walk in a Spanish village

14 01 2010

Has anyone seen Pedro Almod√≥var’s film “Volver”? I always think of it when I walk alone in the narrow streets of O’s village in Spain… It is usually very windy and it is quite deserted – just an occasional old se√Īora or se√Īor who sometimes say hello to me, or rather they say “Hasta luego” which for me is a strange greeting (See you soon).

Village street

The village is situated in the region of Aragón, on 599 m above sea level and has almost 3,400 inhabitants. The village is surrounded by mountains, the so-called Sistema Ibérico with peaks such as the Moncayo (2,313 m). A river runs through the village and there is an old Roman bridge crossing it.

The village seen from the nearest mountain

The view from the closest mountain on New Year’s Eve. I had a need for some peace and quiet and O took me to this view point – the air was so fresh and smelled of thyme!

The river

My “sobrina” (niece[-in-law]), 3¬Ĺ-year-old M and I went for a walk in the village one day just after Christmas and we had lots of fun. We crossed the bridge, walked along the river…

On a Spanish swing

and used the swings at the playground.

Plantation by the river

A fruit and vegetable plantation close to the river

The sports centre

We discussed how many and which colours the rings had on the “pabell√≥n” (sports centre)… At every street corner we tried to remember to look to the right and left before crossing, but I don’t think that “Barnens Trafikklubb” has ever existed in Spain¬† ūüėÄ


M thought that we should also have an “angelito” on the house, or why not a big inflatable Pap√° Noel? The “angelito” (small angel) is actually baby Jesus and is the banner of one of the religious associations in the village – I have to ask O to explain it better to me…

Spanish fika

However, it was quite cold in the wind so we were very pleased when el tío (uncle) O proposed a fika afterwards in the local pastelería (café).

Trying on la tía's cap
Trying on la t√≠a’s cap – practical when it is windy outside

The same day we went out for a second walk when the Swedish t√≠a P didn’t want little M to ride in the car, without a car seat, even if it was only to the next village…

Village library
The village library that used to be the teachers’ accommodation, and then post office… It has just been renovated – at least the interior¬† ūüėČ

It was already dark but I wanted to explore more of the village so we walked aimlessly towards the church through the winding streets and alleys, past one of the four (?) supermarkets, a greengrocer’s, a bread shop (that only sells bread, which is baked in another village – there are of course also several real bakeries in the village), one of the three fish shops, a butcher’s, some derelict houses, a few collapsed buildings and a couple of bars that looked abandoned… It is incredible how many shops and businesses there are in a village the size of my birth village Veber√∂d in Sk√•ne!

Village bar
One of the bars that is still actually open…

If you want to practise a foreign language, my tip is to spend time with an inquisitive 3-year-old! Many questions about porqué (why) and what is that?

Village street

The closer to the church we got, the more deserted the village seemed and the houses older and in a worse state. The wind increased, a window shutter was squeaking and my young companion started talking about las brujas (witches)… Just when we reached the church, the bells started ringing and the church door slowly swung open but we didn’t see anybody. Then an old woman in black appeared and mumbled something I didn’t catch. A little jumpy we turned down a dark narrow alley and started counting together the steps leading down to the centre of the village again.

Hm, did I let a 3-year-old play with my imagination or have I watched too many spooky Spanish films (thanks Saltis for The Orphanage, ha ha)?

Old house
It is not always obvious whether the house is still in use…

And speaking of our stay in O’s village, I have completely forgotten to tell you that I was interviewed on the radio in Spain! Well, not the Spanish radio, but Radio Sol y Mar, which is a Swedish radio station in M√°laga. My blog friend Anna, who used to have a great blog about the life in Spain as a Swedish expat, interviewed me by phone just after Christmas and we talked about my impressions of celebrating the holidays in Spain for the first time. Unfortunately the programme is not available on-line anymore.

¬ŅEstamos ready? Spanglish in Puerto Rico

1 10 2009

Learning Spanish in Puerto Rico can be a very interesting experience. First of all because a lot of people insist on speaking English to foreigners – regardless of whether the foreigners¬†are English-speaking or not (happened to my blond but very Spanish brother-in-law C who doesn’t speak English*) and regardless of their own level of English (the Puerto Rican accent in English is not always easy to understand)¬†and secondly because the Puerto Rican Spanish is full of Anglicisms, or maybe¬†rather Americanisms!

Find the Spanglish at the Car wash
Spot the Spanglish at the car wash!

When it comes to the first issue, I just consequently say ¬ŅPerd√≥n? when somebody talks to me in English, and if they insist on English, I show my stubbornness by replying in Spanish… It happened to me twice on Monday; first a taxi driver came up to me on¬†the way to Starbucks and said something which I didn’t actually hear,¬†and¬†he didn’t change language after my ¬ŅPerd√≥n? but continued by¬†asking¬†“Why not take a taxi instead of walking” – I replied “Voy solamente a Starbucks, no est√° lejos…” (I am only going to Starbucks, it is not far). When I arrived to the caf√©, the girl behind the counter spoke to me in English but did actually change to Spanish when I said ¬ŅPerd√≥n? Sometimes I feel like Don Quijote fighting against wind mills – why do I even bother? Well, maybe because I insist on practising my Spanish…

Anyway, I am used to this kind of bilingual conversations from Belgium where every now and then people would detect my foreign accent in French and try to speak to me in English! However, I was also aware of the fact that there are Belgians who prefer speaking English (most Flemish-speaking Belgians for example) and the same is the case in Puerto Rico. I just figured out a few weeks ago that one of the shop assistants in a local shop is probably an English-speaking American woman so maybe I should just stop insisting on speaking Spanish to her.

Spanglish at the car wash
More Spanglish…

I get an enormous¬†sense of well-being and am happy for the rest of the day** when people speak to me in Spanish and don’t switch languages ūüôā It happens more and more, which my Spanish teacher told me is a good indication that my Spanish has improved! Nevertheless, speaking Spanish in Spain is much more rewarding and less stressful, since the Spaniards, at least in Zaragoza, don’t have the same reflex to speak English to foreigners. Of course, this is probably because there are a lot fewer tourists in Arag√≥n than in my area of San Juan…

The Spanglish is another matter: I find the Puerto Rican¬†habit of using English words in Spanish, or making English words into Spanish¬† fascinating and creative, while O thinks it is shocking the way the Puerto Ricans mistreat his and their¬†mother tongue! Of course I can understand that it is¬†quite tragic how perfectly adequate Spanish words are being replaced by Spanglish ones, but I also believe that it is the way languages have evolved since the beginning of times…

  • fresa is¬†sometimes called strawberi,¬†and ar√°ndano rojo agrio¬†is simply cranberi (maybe not surprising since cranberry is not a locally grown berry in Spain nor in Puerto Rico)
  • picotear (to snack) is replaced by snackear – oh yes, I saw it on a billboard this weekend,¬†but unfortunately I didn’t have time to¬†take a photo!¬†
  • Sorry¬†is used almost as much as perd√≥n¬†
  • Hangear (to hang out) and chatear (to chat) are common verbs¬†
  • El¬†beauty (as in beauty parlour) and¬†el blower (which I already mentioned yesterday is called le brushing in French, i.e blow-drying your hair and getting it styled at the hairdresser’s) are popular words in Puerto Rico
  • Su√©ter is a wonderfully phonetic word for “sweater” in Puerto Rico, just like the Spanish¬†spell whisky g√ľisqui and pronunce their word for sweater [xer’sei] (actually jersey)
  • ¬ŅEstamos ready? was heard during the Beach cleaning event a few weeks ago! (Are we ready?)

When I once asked among a group of Puerto Ricans and Mexicans how to say “coaster”, it caused a big discussion… The Puerto Ricans looked at each other and said “¬Ņcoaster?”.¬†We had to call O from the kitchen (where he was cooking, while I was entertaining the guests)¬†to get the “proper” Spanish word –¬†“portavaso”¬†but then the Mexicans said¬†“posavaso“! Does the coaster carry / bear the glass or is the glass put on the coaster?¬†According to Wordreference the Mexicans were right, so maybe we can’t trust O’s expertise in Spanish?

And before we judge the Puerto Ricans, or Spaniards for that matter (I mean [xer’sei]??), remember that Swedes have made French words into Swedish ones with a more local spelling: bureau is “byr√•”, portefeuille is “portf√∂lj” and fauteuil is “f√•t√∂lj”, and the French say le week-end¬† and spell the word¬†with a hyphen that doesn’t exist in English. When I visited Bosnia in 2001, I saw a menu¬†with cizburger and cikenburger. The list goes on and on…

Misspelt sign in Marshalls
Spanglish is one thing but there is no excuse for misspelt signs in Spanish, such as this one that we saw in more than one¬†Marshalls shop – kitchen is cocina in Spanish! That the sign continues in English is another matter…

*) The situation was really absurd as he then thought that the¬†Puerto Rican¬†talking to him in English didn’t speak Spanish, so he made an attempt to communicate in broken English…
**) Anyone out there recognising that quote??

Nationality? Citizenship? Ethnic group?

18 08 2009

Yesterday, just before boarding the plane to Newark, there was an improvised passport control which was quite surprising since you are not passing any borders between Puerto Rico and the United States. The¬†control actually confused a few Puerto¬†Rican¬†passengers who didn’t know how to answer when asked by the immigration officers:

– ¬ŅCiudadan√≠a? (citizenship)

After a few seconds of confusion, they answered¬†hesitantly¬†¬ŅAmericana? and then corrected themselves and said ¬°Estadounidense!”

Flags at the San Cristobal fortress, San Juan

Flags at the San Cristobal Fortress in San Juan –¬†a Spanish Naval flag (the so-called Burgundy Cross), the Puerto Rican flag and the flag of the United States

I found the whole exchange very interesting for two reasons:

1) Quite a few Puerto Ricans see themselves as puertorrique√Īo even though officially there is no such citizenship*. Puerto Ricans are American citizens and carry American passports (for good or for bad, I don’t want to get into a political discussion here)… which leads to the second reason:

2) In Spanish you make a distinction between “americano / a” and “estadounidense”, which is actually the most correct way to express yourself since everybody who lives in America – North, South and Central –¬†is American! Only citizens of the United States of America are “estadounidenses”.

Is there any other language that makes this distinction or could it be that because Spanish is spoken in South America, there’s been a need¬†to¬†create¬†a distinction between Americans from the USA and the rest of the two continents?

The American flag

The American / United States flag

I assume that most of us wouldn’t have any¬†trouble with knowing what our nationality is, nor our citizenship, which usually is the same. However, some people have dual citizenships (two passports,¬†sometimes even more!). Do they make the distinction between nationality and citizenship? Instinctively I would say that even if I became for example¬†a Spanish or American citizen, I would still feel that my nationality is Swedish.

The definitions of the two terms, according to, are as follows:

Citizenship – the state of being vested with the rights, privileges, and duties of a citizen.

Nationality – the status of belonging to a particular nation, whether by birth or naturalization: the nationality of an immigrant.

No mention of emotions or feeling a nationality of course, but would you agree with me that nationality is more emotional than citizenship? And did you know that since the introduction of the Maastricht Treaty in 1992, there is an European citizenship? You might not feel European (I do, though) but if you are a citizen of a member state of the European Union, you are automatically an European citizen as well. So, in a way you could say that all Europeans have dual citizenship!

A street sign in NJ

Street sign in New Jersey – apparently Spanish-speaking persons don’t drive cars, only ride bikes or skateboards!? (since the “No parking when road is snow covered” isn’t translated)

Another confusion arose the other day when O was filling out a form for a work project and the box¬†“Ethnic / racial group” had to be checked. He asked me,¬†“Am I¬†“hispanic / latino” or “white / caucasian” as a Spaniard? Well, I understand that for him the instinct would be to check “Hispanic” but I think that he is expected to¬†refer to himself as “white”. Hispanic¬†or¬†latino for O refers to the fact that he is a Spaniard¬†(from the Iberian (Hispania) peninsula) speaking a Latin language.¬†I googled it and according to the Wikipedia entry (link above), various government agencies in the United States define “hispanic” differently – sometimes including people from Spain and Portugal, sometimes not.

A Spaniard - hispanic or not?

Filling out a form… A very American form for an European

For most Europeans it is quite strange to have to define your ethnic / racial group. I think that I have only done it once, except for filling out all those¬†forms for the US Immigration, and that was when applying for a job in Great Britain. I don’t know if Europe is heading towards the American and British way of categorising people, but I am not sure that I like putting ethnic / racial labels on people. Nevertheless, I¬†am aware¬†that people are labelled, regardless of whether or not they have checked a box – a name is deemed “foreign” and the job application is put in a certain pile, a person sees¬†a head scarf or turban and associates it with something unwanted… And I guess the checking of a box is supposed to help avoid discrimination, but it all seems¬†very arbitrary.

*) However Puerto Rican athletes can compete under the Puerto Rican flag and today for the first time ever, did a Puerto Rican win a medal in a World Championships in Athletics – Javier Culson won silver in 400 metres hurdles! Felicidades! (and thanks to my dad for telling me the news!)