Thursday, May 18, 2023

Seaweed Salad

The weirdest food experience I’ve ever had was seaweed salad. Or better to say the first time I tried it. Good thing it happened in a pretty close environment so I was not really obligated to stay excessively polite. There were my mom, her best friend and me. I was around 12 years old. My mom tried it for the first time the same day and had pretty much the same reaction. So her bestie assumed that my reaction was motivated by mom’s. It could be true. But I think it was not. I remember that I needed to rinse my mouth after that. The seaweed salad was store bought so I think I didn’t look rude rejecting another spoonful and urgently using a restroom compared to if it was a homemade dish.

As a person who was not a fan of any seafood at that moment, I realised that seaweed salad was my least favourite food. It was salty enough and had its distinctive seaweed flavour which I have no idea how to describe. It smelled awful to me. It tasted even worse. Since then my taste buds have changed a bit and now I love a lot of seafood, especially sushi, but my relationship with seaweed salad didn’t get any better. Although I know how healthy and nutritious this food is I still do my best not to have it on my plate even by accident. As they say: tastes differ!
Daria - Ukraine

Tuesday, May 2, 2023

Good Food, Beyond the Taste

When we hear about terrible food we always think about TASTE. But food goes beyond the taste.

But in my case it is different, because for me a terrible food is food that is not good for your body and your health. I don’t know why but most of the time the good food doesn't taste good. This is ironic.

Based on my theory, one day, when I met my mother-in-law, she invited me to lunch. I was very nervous and excited at the same time. When I went to my boyfriend’s house that day he told me, “My mother is not a good cook.” And I remember I told him that food goes beyond the taste. Food is always good if you use good ingredients.

Oh my God! I tried to eat it but I couldn’t. The food was salty and spicy. I could only take a bite and drink a lot of water. That was the first time I lied to my mother-in-law and I told her that I was allergic to spicy food.
Jennifer - Dominican Republic

Thursday, April 27, 2023

Fear of Medicine

A year ago I was working in a chemical company in Mexico. Each year, all the girls were entitled to take a free medical test. One day the doctor in charge called us to schedule an appointment. It was a PAP smear  which is a procedure to test for cervical cancer in women.

That was my first time hearing this acronym, PAP. I had to ask a lot of questions that day, like what it was, and how it happened. After everything was explained to me I decided to schedule an appointment to do it. When the day came I didn't go. I was so scared because of the way this test is carried out and the pain that follows after.

At work everybody was asking me if I did the test. I said yes. I lied to them. But when all the results came, the doctor didn’t see my name on the list. He called me to ask what happened to me? Why didn't I go to the appointment? I told him the truth, that I was scared of doing it. He talked to me for a long time, telling me how important this test is. So I asked him to reschedule another one for me. I put my fear aside and I took the test.

This type of test is important for us girls. It is important to know that we are in good health and everything is working perfectly. The girls who have already done this know the steps. I almost lost a good opportunity because of fear. Don’t let fear ruin your life.
Farah Rejouis - Haiti

Tuesday, April 25, 2023

Rabbit Rabbit

An example of a superstition is if you say the phrase “Rabbit Rabbit” as your first two words to people on the first day of the month. Then it will bring you good luck for the rest of the month. I heard this from a weekly chat group in the US.

It is a conversation group I joined a few years ago. We can talk about anything or share our daily life experiences. We are from different countries, and working to improve our English skills through talking. One day in the meeting, a Japanese girlfriend told us about this superstition, “Rabbit Rabbit”. When I heard about this, I immediately had to ask if it was true. That was a magical and interesting thing and we wanted to know more, but no one knew. So, we talked for a while and then changed to other topics.

After the meeting, I researched this “Rabbit Rabbit '' rumor on the internet and finally found more information. The phrase comes from an old English tradition. Even Mr. Franklin D. Roosevelt, the President of the US, also said that phrase every month for good luck. I couldn’t fact-check it. But I would love to believe it works.

Since then, I have tried to say “Rabbit Rabbit” to someone every month. The feeling was so exciting and fresh. Maybe it’s because I am assuming I’m going to be lucky, so I feel comfortable – like something is protecting me.

Even now, saying these two words is an important task for me. I mark it on my calendar. On each last day of the month, I write a couple of Post-it notes on my desk to remind me to say them. Sometimes, I feel like I am a magician who knows how to say magic words. Feeling cool!


Shuk - Hong Kong

Tuesday, March 21, 2023

Class Reading of Eleven

Class members of Advanced Reading and Writing at the Providence Public Library have created a video reading Eleven by Sandra Cisneros. Thanks to all who have a few minutes to follow this link to the video on YouTube.

The original introduction was written and read by Natalie. All of the readers, Margo, Jennifer, Sabira, Yan, Maria, and Ania, along with Natalie came together to bring this story to life in their second, and sometimes third or fourth, language.

Wednesday, January 25, 2023

Is Love Online Possible? Could it be Real?

Consuelo is my grandmother. She is almost 90 years old and usually tells me that the world and people are not the same as in her youth. I usually reply by asking why she thinks that, and her answer is always the same, “People are here without being here, always glued to their cellphones.” I can say that I may understand my grandma’s point of view. You just need to see a family reunion. After 5 to 10 minutes of talking, at least one of her daughters or grandchildren start to check their phones and get lost in it. We need to realize there are people who don’t use them. I know it is hard to believe, but people like my grandma who didn’t grow up with smartphones consider this rude and disrespectful and it may be that she just doesn’t understand how to use a phone or has a different mindset about modern socialization and connection, or perhaps we really are the ones who are losing ourselves in the virtual world.

Reality shows us that more and more people spend most of their time online due to work, studies, entertainment, social media, business, you name it. Since COVID-19 and the lockdown, companies and schools that weren’t originally designed for online interactions were transformed to incorporate one in order to keep up with the times. Now we are “free” again, and even though COVID is still here with numerous, more aggressive variants, thanks to massive vaccination efforts we are returning to “normal life.” This pandemic reminded us of our social nature as human beings, which means that we need to be connected with others, and technology can help make this possible.

The new reality of “normal life” teaches us a double moral lesson, that we need connection but should still be concerned with our own safety. Perhaps what my grandma doesn’t understand is the fact that we can create connections beyond our neighborhoods. We may have friends and coworkers overseas, even on the opposite side of the world, people that we may love as if they were our own family, people that we may not have physically met, but with whom we have strong emotional connections, sometimes even stronger relationships than with our own relatives.

This didn’t only start with the onset of COVID-19. Perhaps we can go all the way back to 1973 when Doug Brown and David Woolley invented the “Talkomatic”, the first online chat, which is probably the earliest predecessor of chats and social media as we know it nowadays. Even before that time, people have always been looking for ways to be connected and to facilitate communication.

When I was a teenager between 14 and 15 years old, my mom used to tell me that online chats made me a target, exposing my personal information. She told me it was dangerous, and it really could be, but when you are a teenager you love the forbidden. So, like any other introverted kid who likes adventures, I started to explore online chats. Meeting people around the world with different beliefs, perspectives, cultures, etc., was just delightful. I met people with good and bad intentions, people who wanted to have virtual sex, ones who used others like a therapist, people who pretended to be whomever they wanted to be in their own fantasy environment, people who just wanted company, people looking for love, those who just wanted to be heard, people wanting to play board games and others who looked for a match based on interests to find friendship, which was my case.

After some years interacting with all kinds of people who use the online chats or social media, I realized there are major things to watch out for: there are people out there with nefarious intentions, sometimes pretending to be someone else, (be careful to not get catfished), and the second is that even when there are millions of people online, you can’t have a real connection with them all. Like in the real world, even when you are surrounded by thousands of people, you might still feel alone.

We always have an agenda, whether we are looking for love, avoiding loneliness, wanting to interact with others far away, whether we are looking for amusement, or trying to fulfill social needs, etc. One of the first things you have to do when you meet someone, virtually or face to face, is to discover their real intentions. When you clarify them, you can decide if you want to continue the relationship or not, gearing interactions around the type of relationship you are looking for, if you desire to establish one. These relationships can be fleeting or could last a lifetime.

When the intention is to love and be loved, or to have a real friendship, I learned one needs to be open and honest about it. If you want the relationship to grow you will need to invest a lot of your time with that person to build a strong and durable relationship. When it is an online relationship, this is even more necessary because the “dates” will become long chats on the phone even until you fall asleep. It is difficult to maintain that kind of relationship but it is not impossible.

I once had a boyfriend for 5 years, whom I started dating online and after we met in person, but we were living in different countries so our in-person interactions were limited. At the end, we ended the relationship because we realized we were looking to live different, incompatible lifestyles. I don’t regret the experience as I learned and matured with him, and it is fun to see how destiny works because he led me to meet my husband, also online, but that story we will leave for later.

For now, a short answer to the lingering question regarding whether love online is possible or real is yes, it is possible, but will require extra effort to make it work, but establishing it and letting it run naturally should not feel forced, with faith and trust.
Maria Sonntag - Mexico

Monday, January 23, 2023

Story of My Life

I was three years old when my father passed away and we were four school-age children. When I finished my fourth year at school, at the time obligatory and free, my mother chose to send the two boys to study, while my sister and I stayed at home. She did not have the resources to send everyone to school and we lived far from the city ​​of Nova Sintra, but I never let go of the desire to learn and go back to school.

When I was little, I was always a good student and when I saw my classmates who continued to study in the preparatory circle because at the time there was no high school on my island, I often cried in secret.

In 1998, at the age of 18, I left my island, Brava, to look for work on the island of Santiago. I always wanted to be independent, but on my island, there were no job opportunities because it is a small island.

While in the City of Praia, I heard that the third phase of literacy class started on Brava, in teaching for adults. I returned as soon as possible, but I couldn't get in because they were already advanced, and I missed the first year. However, the following year, another class opened and I decided to go. I did the fifth and sixth years in an integrated way.

At the time, many people considered me crazy for going to study at night as an adult, but I didn’t give up and always had the support of my ex-boyfriend, the father of my daughter, with whom I was living at the time.

I was lucky because as soon as I finished literacy in 1999, two seventh-year post-work classes opened at the high school and there were many applicants, because, normally in Brava, the seventh-year classes will start with adults, but many didn't make it to the end because they gave up.

I received the prize for best student and the Literacy Program supported me with 50% of the tuition and the city council provided the remaining 50%.

At the same time, they happened to open a competition for a kindergarten teacher, so I went to take the test, passed, and started working in 2001 while still studying at night. In that same year my daughter was born. I was 21 years old.

The decision that impacted my life forever:

When I finished the 12th year with good grades, having even gone to the honor roll, I enrolled at the Instituto Superior de Education in the city of Praia to train in the area of childhood education or in the Portuguese language, however, the opportunity arose to go to Portugal.

The director of the high school contacted me, saying that there were some vacancies for courses in Portugal because he knew that I had dreams of continuing my studies. Having finished high school with the best grade for both day and night students, they soon gave me the priority in choosing the course I wanted to take.

After talking to all my family members and my boyfriend at the time about the opportunity to go to Portugal, they all supported me, but the hardest part was having to leave my daughter behind. They all encouraged me to take the opportunity and promised to take care of my little girl who was 4 years old at the time. So, I made a big decision that would impact my life forever.

In 2005, at the age of 25, I and 3 people much younger than me left for the City of Leiria, in Portugal. With the support of the City Council, I was going to take the business management course.

I stayed in Portugal for almost 5 years and there were several difficulties, including adaptation, financial hardship, some health problems, and the hardest of all, having to stay away from my little princess. If I didn't have the willpower, I would have given up right away. During the course, I worked at night in one of the school canteens, and I managed to go on vacation twice to visit my daughter.

As I am an Aries I didn't give up and in 2010, of the 4 students who left together, I was the only one to return to my home island with my CV already sent to several companies, but from the City Council I got a second three-month internship in the areas of accounting and human resources.

Afterward, I was hired to be in charge of human resources, and soon after, I accepted the invitation to work as Municipal Secretary.

From that date on, I joined a political party and started an active political life, with the idea of ​​being able to make a difference and help people. In the meantime, I participated in the electoral campaigns on the list for the National Assembly of the Republic, so with the city council change, I lost my job. Then I ran for the position of Manager of the National Program to Combat Poverty, a government program that operated in 7 of the 10 islands that make up the Cape Verde Archipelago. I was hired to manage the Technical Unit on my island, and I stayed there from 2014 to 2019. During the period I worked as a Program Manager, we helped many families create a source of income.

I had the opportunity to do several technical and professional training actions, and I had the opportunity to work with many young people and women on the islands of Brava, Fogo and Santiago, providing training and consultancy to those who wanted to create and implement a business idea and to those who wanted to develop a business.

I had the opportunity to replace my colleague in the National Assembly of the Republic and in 2020 I ran for President of the Municipal Assembly of my beloved island, but I lost the election, thus getting the position of vice president.

After that, with my daughter and my current husband living in the United States, I decided it was time to gather and build my family and I decided to come and live here at the age of 41. I arrived at the decision that I would build a new story here.

On my island, I am a reference for many people, including young people and women

because I always tell my story to young people and other women to never deprive themselves of their dreams. Education, studies, and knowledge are goods that no one can take away from us and that make us feel good in society.

Making the decision back then was the beginning of becoming the WOMAN I AM TODAY. An Empowering Woman, with her own will, fearless, who never gets tired of looking for new knowledge and learning.

Margarida Rodrigues - Cape Verde

Seaweed Salad

The weirdest food experience I’ve ever had was seaweed salad. Or better to say the first time I tried it. Good thing it happened in a pretty...