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Alt. Latino, a podcast on NPR hosted by Argentinian Jasmine Garsd and Mexican-American Felix Contreras, is one of the best podcasts I have ever listened to–it is full of colorful music and voices, providing a developed cultural background for each of the new artists that they cover.

Hosts Garsd, right, and Contreras, left.

Today I listened to the Ana Tijoux interview, an artist which I previously mentioned in my post about Café con Música (the CD that I bought from a local Starbucks). Throughout the course of the podcast, Ana told her life story through music, including a thorough explanation of her issues of national identification which served as an inspiration for many of her songs: the daughter of Chileans exiled from Pinochet’s reign, she was raised in France, where issues of xenophobia and immigration are hot-button topics even today.

Give it a listen–no Spanish necessary!

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I have finally found a worthwhile internet site to teach me Chinese. Memrise is a site that appears to be mostly dedicated to Mandarin Chinese education, although since users are allowed to upload study sets full of vocabulary and phrases, French, Spanish, Italian, and German are also burgeoning.

Memrise illustrates Chinese characters with moving pictures that make it nearly impossible for you to forget the form of a character–interestingly, the pronunciation of each character is about twice as hard to remember than the pictures themselves. I think that gaining basic reading fluency wouldn’t be too difficult if you learned 15 characters a day for a few weeks (or, at the very least, you’ll be able to figure out whether you are pointing to fish or beef on a menu!).

The layout of the site is pretty intuitive, and is based on a strategy of continuous practice–they want you to learn and relearn the words/characters, committing them first to short term memory and then, perhaps 3 days later, to long term memory. It’s definitely working so far.

Duolingo is still working well–but I think that duolingo fits best if you’re starting from level one (as I did in German). It can be a little boring trying to pass through levels to get to the grammatical lessons at the very end. I will certainly be using it once it comes out with Portuguese (should be less than a month, if the internet is to be believed).

Things like this are just getting me unbelievably excited to study abroad in Beijing. Less than two months and I will be in completely foreign surroundings–exactly where I feel most at home.

Found via the online art journal, Anarty: http://anartyblog.wordpress.com

Cecilia Paredes is a Peruvian artist who paints herself (i.e. her own skin) into the lush flora of various wallpapers behind her. Paredes describes it as an extension of her search for identity after a life of “displacement and migration.”

In many of her works, her hair and/or her eyes are often the only element present that betrays her presence: the wallpaper’s harmony is broken by the slight mismatch of lines and white pop of Paredes’ stare. Despite how it may appear at first glance, Paredes is, in fact, a part of the visual landscape, the representation of herself life-size within the 4’x 4′ frame.

Paredes exemplifies the issues of identity often seen within modern Latin American art: from Pepón Osorio, who struggles to evaluate his role within a Puerto Rican community as a black man and again as a Puerto Rican within the states, and Michael Manjarris, whose work reflects his mixed upbringing as both a Mexican and American citizen (even his name drops the Spanish pronunciation: man-harris becomes man-gerris), to larger concepts of identification as a nation that are common in the work of artists such as Fernando Botero and Diego Rivera. Anarty also likens her work to that of Frida Kahlo in visual style.

(But I still wonder if there is a link between her last name (Paredes is wall in Spanish) and chosen subject matter… no mention in any websites as of yet.)

Lagrimas caían por sus mejillas mientras me decía un no deseado adiós. Sus mejillas un poco rojizas por la emoción, emoción por nuestro amor y su continua expresión que se vería interrumpida por la distancia entre los dos. Era momento de irme, y mi destino era Chile.

Con toda la tristeza de mi corazón, y sin ninguna gana alguna de irme, me di vuelta mientras ella se iba caminando con su abuela, y me puse en fila para pasar el control migratorio. No se en que momento llegaron las personas que ahora estaban delante de mi, pero ahí estaban, y sus papeles de identificación eran, al parecer, difíciles de entender. La oficial llamo a un supervisor que sabia español para que viera si la identificación que llevaba el pasajero era legitima. El oficial, rubio de pelo corto y de estatura mediana, lo llevo hacia un costado. Transcurrieron unos segundos, y comencé a avanzar hacia la inspección, cuando, derrepente, escuche unos distinguidos, rápidos, y suaves pasos viniendo hacia mi. Alicia corría hacia mi con sus ojos preciosos en un momento de tiempo relativo. Corría hacia mi y toda la ternura de mi corazón se reunía en un solo elemento para recibirla. Corría hacia mi en cámara lenta un cuerpo hermoso lleno de amor y estaba cada vez mas cerca, mas cerca, mas cerca. Como con un destello de intensidad y amor se detuvo el momento en el que tras un abrazo nuestras narices se tocaron para acercar nuestros labios. Los suyos y los míos, cerca, comenzando a tocarse. Nunca quise que ese segundo de mi vida, esa intensidad de mi corazón, de mi alma, pasado presente y futuro se detuviera. Mi amor, Alicia, y yo disfrutábamos de un ultimo hermoso, mágico, pero triste beso. Nuestra separación era inminente. Yo iría a Chile por el verano y ella se quedaría en Monroe, Louisiana. La veré en tres meses, cuando me reciba en Beijing, China.
That was the nicest farewell of my life.
—-
Tears fell down her cheeks when she bid me an unwanted farewell. Her cheeks were red with emotion, emotion brought on my our love and its continuous expression that would be interrupted by the distance between us. It was time to go, and my destination was Chile.
With all the sadness in my heart, and without any desire to leave, I turned while she walked back to her grandmother, getting back in line to pass through the gate. I don’t remember when the people around me arrived, but there they were, and their identification papers were, apparently, hard to understand. The employee at the gate called her spanish-speaking supervisor so that she could see if the documents were legitimate. The employee, blond with short hair and of medium stature, led him to one side. Seconds passed, and I began to walk towards the gate, when, all of a sudden, I heard distinct, rapid, fast steps coming towards me. Alicia ran towards me; her eyes in that moment are frozen in my mind’s eye. She ran towards me and all of the tenderness in my heart reunited with her in a single element, ready to receive her.  She ran towards me, in slow motion, her body filled with love and ever-approaching, approaching, approaching. With a flash of intensity and love, the moment froze in an embrace, our noses touching so that our lips could meet. Hers and mine, together, beginning to kiss. I never wanted that second of my life, that intensity of my heart, of my soul, past, present, and future, to stop. My love, Alicia, and I savoring the last beautiful, magical, yet sad kiss. Our separation was imminent. I would go to Chile for the summer and she would stay in Monroe, Lousiana. I will see her in three months, when she greets me in Beijing.
That was the nicest farewell of my life.

Duolingo.com has been mentioned on all of the major sites I browse as a fantastic new tool for language learning. Available so far in Spanish and German to a select group of beta users, Duolingo allows its users to translate available text on the internet into their native language and vice versa, while native speakers double check learners’ progress (at least that is what I have gleaned from the introductory video offered on their website). They are constantly inviting more and more users to join, so if you’re interested I would check out the site as soon as possible to sign up.