Archive for February 2012

The power of Ño

There's a Cuban word that is pretty widely used by all 13 million (and counting) of us. However, children are not supposed to be using it. It is not a curse word, but it is one of those that is borderline. I mean, in other countries it may be a curse word, depends on who you ask. But at least the short version of the word, the one we use mostly, is totally fine everywhere. The abbreviation, or short version is: Ño.

When someone does something amazing, we say ño!

When someone does something awful, we say ño!

When someone is bothering us, we say ño, no jodas más! (ño, stop messing around!)

As you can see, Cubans say ño for almost any occasion in life. Almost every moment is a ño moment. That previous sentence sounds like a phrase I should trademark. Anyhow, I don't say ño all the time, but my grandfather is the King of Ño. He pretty much uses that word at least a hundred times a day. He never allows an opportunity to slip by without using the word. Maybe that's whom I first heard it from, but who really knows?

The picture above belongs to a store in the city of Hialeah. The city of Hialeah is composed of mostly Cubans, so I wasn't surprised when one morning I was driving around the area and saw the Ñooo Que Barato store. "Que Barato" means, "how cheap." I've never been inside the store, something that I regret now, but I know that you can find almost anything in there. Think of it like a Cuban dollar store, where everything is so cheap, and hopefully so good, that when you leave, there's only one thing you can say, Ñooooo!

Now, when you finish reading this post, and you plan on telling your friends, I hope you end up telling them, "Ño what a great story!"

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Rice: A true love story

Rice (or arroz), ah, what a wonderful thing. Being Cuban means that you love rice. If there was a way that it would be safe for newborns to have rice, I'm sure that I would have had some 10 minutes after birth. We like our rice white and dry, or at least I like it dry. I can't stand moist rice. To me, moist rice is quite the abomination.

Anyway, I can pretty much eat rice with anything, and I probably have. When living in Miami, my wife freaked out one night when my aunt served us rice and meatballs for dinner. Yes, rice and meatballs. It was delicious. I've also had rice with spam, rice with vienna sausage, and pretty much with anything that is meat, or resembles meat. What is spam anyway?

Being the great wife that she is, Elena makes sure I get my fix of rice at least once a week. This is a challenge because our rice cooker has a mind of its own. At times, just a few minutes after plugging it in, it stops cooking. No cooking means no rice, and no rice means you have to call FEMA and the FBI because there will be an emergency up in this place!

A typical, fast and easy lunch would be rice and scrambled eggs. Whenever Elena runs out of options, she knows that rice and scrambled eggs will always satisfy my hunger. It's a Cuban default meal. You can always rely on it being good. Now, if you add some black beans in the mix, then you have a party. But black beans deserve a whole entry just for themselves. Suffice to say that if you are planning to have us over for dinner, you can make some rice and scrambled eggs. And, if you are really adventurous, then you can try making some black beans a la cubana.

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Cubanisms # 3

Hi there friends, your favorite Spanish lessons are back! In no time, you'll be speaking Cuban!

Lit* means literals

Trans* means transalation

"Aquí hay gato encerrado"
Lit: There's a cat locked in here
Trans: There's something mysterious going on here

"Tu eres más rollo que película"
Lit: You are more reel than film
Trans: Said to a person who talks a lot, but doesn't act on things

"Le patina el coco"
Lit: His coconut skates
Trans: He's crazy

"Voló como Matías Perez"
Lit: He flew like Matias Perez
Trans: That person disappeared. Haven't seen him in a long time.

"Ese tipo es un filtro"
Lit: That guy is a filter
Trans: He's really smart

"Pasar el Niágara en bicicleta"

Lit: To travel the Niagara falls on a bicycle"

Trans: Said when doing something difficult, or during tough times

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Adventures outside the job

So, I finally have a job! Thanks to all those who responded to my earlier blog spot asking for help (read Micah), but thank God that I finally have an income and can support my family. Where do I work, you may ask? Well, I work at the Revisor of Statutes at the Capitol building in Topeka. Who would have thought that a boy from Cuba would end up working in the State Capitol of a city I hadn't even thought of until I met Elena? That's life for you.

Anyway, I do enjoy my job very much and I like the people I work with. Basically, I proofread bills and amendments all day long, but I'm not supposed to talk to anyone about what I read in there. The first rule of the Revisor of Statutes is you do not talk about the Revisor of Statutes. In fact, I've already said too much.

What I really want to talk about is my travails outside of work. First of all, one morning I woke up and there was snow everywhere. According to my fellow Topekans, "it was nothing, barely an inch." To me, however, that inch of snow looked like an avalanche had come to destroy all that's good and lovely in this world. I also had the pleasure, please note the sarcasm, of scraping the ice off of all the windows in my entire car. On my first attemp to open the door, it wouldn't even move, that's how frozen it was.

On another frozen day, after I got to work, we got word that the entire staff lot, where I had just parked my icy car, had been shut down. There were bomb squad vehicles and everything. The word out on the town was that a suspicious truck had been found. At first, the reports claimed that they had found IED's, but days later, they turned out to be illegal fireworks. Either way, it was a scary situation. Fortunately, no one got hurt by a premature Fourth of July celebration.

I'm looking forward to better weather days, where I can go out with having to wear five layers of clothing, and where my car hasn't been covered by the North Pole.

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Cubanisms #2

Friends, once again I'm here to update you on the wonderful world of Cubanisms. If you take notes and pay attention, your next trip to Miami will be very succesful. Dale!*

*Lit: means literal
*Trans: means translation

"Pa' su escopeta!"
Lit: To his rifle!
Trans: Wow!

"Mete tremenda muela"
Lit: He puts a lot of molars
Trans: He speaks a lot

"Es un bárbaro!"
Lit: He's a barbarian!
Trans: He's an expert!

"Voy a jugar bombero"
Lit: I'm going to play firefighter
Trans: I'm going to take a shower

"Te la comiste"
Lit: You ate it
Trans: You did something amazing

"Me la pusiste en China"
Lit: You put it in China
Trans: You have made things hard for me

*Dale is not someone's name, but it's a Cuban expression that means something like "Let's go!"

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