Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Alphameme: A-Z

Greg from Greg's Brain just tagged me for this meme. It requires a post with one entry or comment for every letter of the alphabet. The rules are:

Each player starts with some random facts/habits about himself/herself. As you are tagged you need to post the rules and your responses on your own blog. At the end of your post, you need to choose some people to tag, list their names and, of course, leave them a comment, telling they have been tagged and they need to read your blog for more information.

Greg's interpretation of this meme is very much in his style, and is a great read. Go check it out.
I will do my best to complete the meme in a way that reflects who I am, so it will inevitably turn bilingual. For instance, you will notice my alphabet has 27 letters, as opposed to the 26 you are used to. That is because I am using the Spanish alphabet, which is what I learned when I was growing up.

1- A: Awareness is key. I start off with a cliche, but it is one I truly, deeply subscribe to. One of my goals in life is to learn better what makes me tick; to understand the patterns of my behavior, the triggers to my moods (both high and low). By stepping outside myself and examining my behavior, I get more attuned to my perception of the world. It helps ground me.

I am not necessarily as interested in finding out the why of my behaviors. It is something I may never know. Some people are fond of going back in time and analyzing their personal history. I say memory is a construct, often unreliable, and the significance of a small, trivial occurrence may escape the adult mind obsessed with finding the great markers of the past. Also, two people may go through similar life experiences and react in completely different ways, so the past is not necessarily a guarantee of present behavior.

2- B: Boricua. I am a proud boricua and always will be. But although it may have points in common with other people's, my definition of what a boricua is applies only to myself. My experience as a Puerto Rican growing up middle class on the island, with college educated, liberal arts oriented folks, is very different from that of someone who grew up in New York or Chicago, different from contemporaries of mine who grew up poor, wealthy or Christian; and different from my daughters' experience growing up middle class in Texas. It is also different to the experience of my nieces, who both grew up and still live on the island. The differences are due in part to location, economics, and moment in time. Also, to a certain extent, to personality.
I can't claim to have a stronger boricua identity than someone who was born and grew up outside the island. By the same token, I should not be seen as less authentic because I write a blog in English and married a gringo.

3- C: Cámara, por favor. When I was growing up in Puerto Rico in the 1970's, every afternoon after school I would watch Cine Recreo con Pacheco on WAPA TV, channel 4. Pacheco (real name Joaquín Monserrat) was originally from Barcelona, Cataluña. He came to Puerto Rico by way of Cuba and remained on the island to become a popular children's TV personality. He was Puerto Rican TV's closest thing to Mr. Rogers, someone warm and kind to the children, beloved by generations. He basically acted as an MC for the afternoon cartoon hour, but he had kids as guests of the show, and every day he read letters and showed pictures mailed to him by audience members, taking the opportunity to impart some lessons in the process, like on this clip, where he cautions kids to not fly kites near power lines. At the end of the clip you'll hear Pacheco say his catchphrase cámara, por favor, which was the cue to segue into either commercials or cartoons.

4- Dios (God). I don't believe in God, such as the major religions portray him. I am not presumptuous enough as to assume there is absolutely nothing. The most I can do is accept that I can't possibly know with certainty whether there is a divinity or not, and try to develop a sense of spirituality that is grounded (pun intended) in this world.

5- E: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is one of my favorite movies. Every time I stumble upon it on TV, I stop whatever it is I am doing and sit down to watch it. I always cry, and I always cherish that bittersweet ending, the sense that it is better to go for it and take a chance at love, even if it's almost guaranteed to end in heartache, than to not take a risk at all.

6- F: Fuck. Fuck, fuck fuck fuck. Fuck! There is no point to this opening, other than to show I am quite fond of saying fuck. It's my blog and I'll curse if I want to. The truth is curse words serve a function as a means of expression that no watered down version can substitute. It is important to learn what are the appropriate environments to use the various kinds of jargon we speak. I don't use curse words at work, for example. But outside of work it's every mouth for itself.

7- G: Gabriel. He's my husband, my partner, my equal.

8- H: Home improvements. We are currently getting quotes and applying for a home improvement loan so we can rip out the carpets and replace them with bamboo floors. We have been warned by some people that the percentage of home buyers in our area that like bamboo floors is not very high (depending on who you listen to, it's either 10% or 35%). Still, I will not consider any other wood. At least bamboo grows faster and regenerates; the same can't be said for the trees they cut down to make those beautiful wood floors home buyers are so fond of.

9- I: Isla del Encanto/Isla del Espanto. Puerto Rico is also known as la isla del encanto, or the Island of Enchantment. I don't know where it originated, although I want to say it came from a song. I am sure one of my readers from the island will know. If I am not wrong, la isla del encanto is also the official slogan of the government, used in tourism ads and on local license plates.

Isla del Espanto (Dreadful Island or Frightening Island), on the other hand, is the way locals turned the official slogan on its head. A play on the similarity of the sound of the words encanto and espanto, it is used to highlight the many ills and things that go wrong on the island.

10- J: Jello. The girls love it. I have always hated it. What is the point of Jello? Don't even get me started on the ones with fruit stuck inside. Fochi (Yuck).

11- K: Kangaroo. The kangaroo is one of my favorite animals. Some day I hope to go to Australia and see kangaroos in the wild.

12- L: Lili. My sister's name is Liliana. Her nickname is Lili. My sister and I are not as close as I would like. I know I should seek her out more, and I feel bad that I don't.

13- M: Mallorca. Besides being the common name of a popular pastry in Puerto Rico and one of my favorites ever, Mallorca (English spelling Majorca) is also the biggest of the Balearic islands in the Mediterranean, a part of Spain. The pastry I so adore is original from the island from which it borrows the name we know it by in Puerto Rico.

It is believed that most of the Spanish immigrants who came to Puerto Rico were from Cataluña, Asturias, Galicia, the Balearic islands, the Canary Islands, and the Andalucía region in Southern Spain; this last region in particular has a very strong Arab heritage. Together with immigrants from other countries, as well as the large African slave population (most of which came from from the Gold Coast, Nigeria and Dahomey); and the Taíno Indians (who seemed to stick around longer than traditional historical narrations suggest), they comprise our genetic makeup.

In short, the majority of Puerto Ricans are mutts, very mixed and mostly unable to trace back our ancestry (at least beyond the 19th-20th century) the way Americans are so fond of doing, because of scarce, poor or nonexistent demographic records.

14- N: Nanowrimo. It starts tomorrow. Yikes! What have I gotten myself into?

15- Ñ (sounds like GN): El Ñame is my favorite fake news site (in Spanish, from Puerto Rico).

16- O: Oprah. I am at work, so I don't watch. But even if I was at home, I would not watch her show. Just because everybody else does. I refuse.

17- P: Plany al mar (lamento al mar). In the early seventies, years before it became fashionable to speak of global warming or being ecologically conscious, the magnificent Joan Manuel Serrat wrote this very beautiful, sad song. Sung in his native Catalan, it is a lament on the state of his beloved, increasingly depleted and polluted Mediterranean Sea. On a separate clip prior to the song, Serrat translates the lyrics of the song into Spanish and speaks about the inspiration to write it. I listened to this song growing up, its haunting melody never failing to move me to tears.

18- Q: Queso de Bola. A large number of Puerto Ricans (on the island at least) are quite fond of aged Edam cheese from Holland. I am sure it's a Spanish heritage thing. Back home you can walk into any supermarket and buy Edam, but in Texas I can never find it. When I find Edam cheese it is not from Holland, it is not aged, or both. People here seem to be more fond of Gouda, and you can find aged Gouda here. But I don't like it as much.

19- R: ROI. I hope when I am old and infirm my daughters will take care of me.

20- S: Sonia. My mother's name is Sonia. She turns 68 next month. I still have a hard time wrapping my head around that fact. In my mental image of my mom, she is stuck in age sometime around the early nineties, not long after my father's passing.

21- T: Toño. My brother's name is Antonio. His nickname is Toño (pronounced Togno). My brother is going through a bit of a hard time lately. After 20-something years of marriage, his wife and him have separated. The relationship is over, but they are on good terms and have not gone ahead with divorce plans yet. Although it will come. Lately I have been in touch with him to express my love and to let him know I am there for him no matter what.

22- U: UPR (la iupi). I am a proud alum of the University of Puerto Rico, Río Piedras campus, class of 1990. I very much enjoyed my college years. It was a time of awakening and exposure to mind opening ideas and people. Sure, not everything was perfect. But the good outweighed the bad by far.

23- V: Volatile. Although in English the term volatile seems to be mostly used in the realms of science and economics, in Spanish we use the term volátil to designate someone who has quite the mutable character. It is not quite exactly the same as saying someone is unstable, though. It's more like being quick-tempered.

24- W: Working. It's what I should have been doing instead of writing this. Deadlines keep looming, people!

25- X. Xenophobia. When people try to justify xenophobia by saying it's an evolutionary trait, it kinda sickens me.

26- Y: Yoruba. The development of the Santeria religion is generally attributed to the Yoruba people of Southwestern Nigeria and Benin, who co-opted important figures of the Catholic religion they were imposed, and syncretized them to represent the main attributes of the gods they believed in. This allowed them to practice their religion right under the noses of their owners and the priests of the Catholic Church.

It is generally accepted that Santeria originated in Cuba and came to Puerto Rico by way of immigrants, especially after the Cuban Revolution. Or at least that is the common belief among many Puerto Ricans, especially those who look down upon Santeria as primitive or the realm of the uneducated, refusing to accept a part of their cultural heritage. Personally, I have a hard time believing that the slaves in Puerto Rico did not hit upon the same idea as the ones in Cuba. After all, the ones in Haiti and the Dominican Republic did.

27- Z: Zoologist. It's what Paula says she wants to be when she grows up. She loves animals. When Flower died on Meerkat Manor, Paula was inconsolable. By the way, those meerkats are dropping life flies lately. As soon as Paula came to me crying last Friday evening, I knew something was wrong. "Who died now?"- I asked. "Mozart"- said Paula between sobs. Flower, Kinkajou, and now Mozart. Kinkajou's death did not affect Paula much, but she was as attached to Mozart, the survivor, as she was to Flower. She sure is learning a lot about the reality of life in the wild.

I had a lot of fun answering this meme and I am now tagging Pen and the Sword, Paisley and MPJ. Should they choose to accept the challenge, I think each of them can do a great interpretation of the A-Z parameter.


  1. Ingrid! This is amazing! I am sure it took quite some time to get this post together. You should put a link to it on your home page - it's the quintessential guide to all things Ingrid!

  2. I just did Megan. Thanks for the idea!

  3. Oh My God..... you toad-ily ROCKED this meme!!

    This must have taken alot of time and thought to put together!

    great job.

  4. Thanks, Meleah! I had yours and Greg's to look up to, so I knew I had to do a good job.

  5. Thanks, I like what you did here.

    D: Why is it an assumption to assume nothing, but not an assumption to assume something? Wouldn't either case be an assumption? In such a case, the target of inquiry is outside of reality.

    F: Curse words used to be actually that, words that were thought to place a curse on someone. It's easy to forget the history behind the word and wonder why people are so uptight about it. The hexes went away, but the societal norm behind the words continued to be taught and passed on to future generations.

    O: Oprah made getting rich on the unfortunes of others an art and got people to love her for it. I lump her and Jerry Springer, and Dr. Phil, and all the lesser known exploiters together. They're the stick substance on the sole of humanity.

    X: It is an evolutionary trait (at least partly derived from the evolutionary process), but that has nothing to do with morality. There are a lot of things about evolution that don't fit well with most systems of morality. Think about death in general; that kind of sucks from a certain perspective. Evolution is misinterpreted by many people, including biologists. Most don't consider the nurturing aspects behind it and assume it is all genetic. But if there was a method of creating a cultural break between generations, future generations would be quite different because a lot of what is attributed or assumed to be genetic, is actually learned behavior. Genetics accounts for very primitive reactions or stimuli, not anything complex, like xenophobia, for example. But xenophobic reactions derive from a base programming for secure shelter. Those generations who learn to be cautious of others, even dominate others, historically had a better chance of survival. Most of this behavior is taught indirectly through cultural upbringing. But even though this isn't genetic, it is still part of the evolutionary mechanism. Humanity has just recently, from the perspective of the human timeline, reached a point where this behavior is actually detrimental to survival because our world works at a global scale now, and we have really evolved past the points of individuals and into functional units of larger communities and societies. So xenophobia is part of evolution, but that doesn't make it right or wrong, this only gives it a context.

  6. Thanks, Greg. I was looking forward to your comments.

    D: Yes, assumption of the existence of a higher being and assumption of the non-existence are both assumptions.

    I also think that whoever assumes the existence of something has a bigger burden of proof than someone who assumes the non-existence of something. Unless we are talking about those freaks who deny the Holocaust ever existed.

    X: You said "Genetics accounts for very primitive reactions or stimuli, not anything complex, like xenophobia, for example." This is why I get upset when people try to attribute this behavior to genetics. I see ulterior motives there, a desire to justify status quo, a kind of "we can't help being bigots, it's in our genes" kind of mentality.

  7. Oo, what a fun meme -- I love what you did with it. And thanks for the tag! Sorry I'm so far behind on my blog reading. I'll do this one this week.

  8. I'm sorry it took me so long to find this awesome post: it is quite a feat to find something interesting to say for every letter of the alphabet! :-)

    Also, I must commend you on your excellent choice for the "Ñ," hahaha. ;-)