Tag Archives: funny

Can you hear me now?

23 Dec

After “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie”

If you get a cell phone in Cuba…

Then you will need to ask your friend to put the number in his name.

If he puts the number in his name…

Then it will cost $40 for just the SIM card, number and some credit.

If he goes to the Cubacel office…

You all will wait in line for three hours.

If you finally get the SIM card…

You will need to put it in a phone.

If you buy a phone in Cuba…

It will cost $135.

If you bring a phone from home…

It will need to be unlocked.

If you try to unlock it…

You will have to find someone who can get the code.

If that someone gets the code…

It will take him a whole day.

If you go back after that time…

You’ll find out that your code takes three more days to be downloaded.

If you ask your parents to do it for you using first world Internet…

You’ll discover that you have to pay a company for the code.

If you try to get a cheap phone for your friend…

The sketchy “Movil Land” men will find one for you.

If you go to pick up your cheap phone…

You will be welcomed by a black out.

If the lights come back on…

The “Movil Landers” will give you a phone.

If you want to use the phone…

It only works on speakerphone.

If you decide to come back later for a different one…

You will ride your bike for an hour there and an hour back.

If you get a different phone…

It will work, but have no charger.

If you try to get a charger that doesn’t belong to the phone…

The phone will be ruined and rendered useless.

If you finally get the phone and its proper charger…

You will pay $0.45 a minute to make calls and $0.09 per text.

If you run out of credit on your phone…

You will wait in line again to buy more.

If you don’t buy $5 every month…

You will lose all of your credit and the line itself (after two months).

If you lose the line because you don’t put credit on it, you’ll have to ask that friend to put another in his name. All because you tried to get a cell phone in Cuba.

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My good neighbor

17 Sep

I saw a quote that said “Outside books, we avoid colorful characters.” I couldn’t disagree more. A colorful cast of characters is what makes life interesting and exciting, and I’d like to introduce you to my housemate, Kyle, one of the most unique personalities I’ve met in a while.

On the surface, he’s just another fratty College of Charleston business school graduate—tan, blonde and wearing the requisite uniform of a pastel polo and some Vineyard Vines buttercup yellow shorts. But thinking that Kyle is just a frat boy is like thinking that 50 Shades of Grey is a how-to manual for painters.

A few days after I moved into my new apartment, I walked in the living room to find him on the couch, intently focused on his iPhone, a homemade water balloon launcher sitting on the coffee table. I politely asked about his day, and was regaled with a tale of him spending the better part of his Sunday hungover and hunting the supplies to create his own water balloon launcher when failed in his attempt to buy one from Target. This was a solid investment for Kyle since, as he informed me, many of his Friday and Saturday evenings are spent on the roof of our house throwing water balloons at the drunk bitches that stumble down the street, unaware that a sniper lies in wait.

I was impressed by his craftiness and tenacity in assembling his own launcher; traits I would soon learn very well characterize Kyle and his bizarre assortment of hobbies, that include combing a nearby river for fossilized sharks teeth and selling rare animal pelts.

Kyle’s tenacity really shines through with his passion for spear fishing. I was treated to the fruits of his labor one evening when I came home and found my roommate, Tessa (a phenomenal cook), in the kitchen with pounds and pounds of freshly caught fish, compliments of Kyle. Apparently, he had gone out into the ocean, free dove with a semi-automatic weapon, and shot the hell out of five different species of fish, which Tessa then turned into a mind-blowing succulent four course dinner. Kyle spear fishes recreationally, but makes a nice little income with his hobby, occasionally selling his catches to some of Charleston’s finest restaurants.

Though I think Kyle’s future is bright, I really love to hear about his childhood in Colorado, where he was a champion laser tag player in his local arena and was selected to have his image on a Boy Crazy trading card.

That’s right. Fourteen-year-old Kyle (spiked blonde hair and all) was chosen from dozens of hopefuls at a mall in Colorado one fateful day to have his picture, and relevant information (height, Zodiac sign and favorite activities) put on a trading card that was then marketed to teenage girls across the nation. Boys from every state, ages about 13 to 22, were put on these cards, which I guess the creators thought would be the equivalent of Pokemon cards for tweenie girls. Somehow Boy Crazy didn’t take off, maybe because once you traded a couple of Johns from Kentucky for a Stuart from Nebraska, there wasn’t much else to do, but Kyle holds on to his Boy Crazy trading cards and somehow manages to use them to pick up girls (pity date maybe?).

Kyle is unpredictable, at times simultaneously incredibly sweet and incredibly douchey, but easily one of the most fascinating housemates I’ve ever had, and probably ever will.

Step aside octo mom: we have the duodecimal mom

30 Jun

This was a post that I co-wrote with my dear friend Levi Vonk, of  Viva La Vonk fame, about our Cuban house mother.

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Many people share a name with a country, state or other geographical site and the nickname we have given our Cuban mother places her among those people. We call her La China, or for non-Spanish speakers, The China.

This is not because she is of a diminutive stature (she is) or because she has dark hair and eyes (she does) or because we can’t understand her (we can’t).

It’s because, like China, you can get everything you need from her.

We hired China to cook and clean for us during the week but little did we know that along with a Thanksgiving feast daily, we would also get her remarkable ability to get anything you could want in Cuba.

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When we say anything, we really do mean anything. She outfitted our apartment with the necessary pots, pans and accoutrements and knows the best and cheapest places to buy five dozen eggs at one time. She comes into our house with bags of meat that are as mysterious as any meat you’d get from a Chinese restaurant and somehow got us an entire rum bottle of local, raw honey for less than $3.  Not going to question how she acquired this.  Might be a murder involved.

However, if we ever try and engage in these back-alley dealings ourselves, we get the full force of La China’s rage, all four feet and 11 inches of it.

No es sanitario! No sabes como lo hacen!” she will shriek when we come in proudly brandishing a turron de mani, a bar of mashed peanuts and sugar that are sold on the street.

“That’s not sanitary! You don’t know how they make it!”

Right China, because we know exactly which person’s backyard you strangled that chicken in, and for all we know, we could be eating one of the hundreds of stray cats that wander the streets.

Not sure how sanitary this stuff is either. I've seen rats running around on the produce before. True story.

Not sure how sanitary this stuff is either. I’ve seen rats running around on the produce before. True story.

But whatever the mystery meat du jour is, it is pretty tasty. Tasty in the way that Sunday after-church picnic food is, made with recipes from the 60s that call for enough butter, mayonnaise, and spam to fuel a small diesel-powered tractor. La China’s meals always follow the same basic formula: A bottomless pot of rice, sometimes peppered with vegetables, beans or bits of cut-up hot dog; a “salad” of shredded raw cabbage, tomatoes and on lucky days, cucumbers; and some form of over-salted mystery meat.

China doesn’t give us chewable Flinstones vitamins- she has a better method of dosage. She throws whatever fruit we have on hand ( usually guava, pineapple and papaya) in the blender with a healthy pound of sugar and voila—Vitamin C and type two diabetes.

Levi scavenging for ingredients.

Levi scavenging for ingredients for one of China’s infamous meals.

She’s a crazy, sassy bustling ball of energy. Like all moms, she can be exasperating and critical. One of the girls in our group painted her nails and China asked her if she painted them during the earthquake in Haiti. If you don’t clear your plate and go back for seconds, she threatens to stop cooking for us. She busts in the door in the morning, throws off your covers, slaps you in the face with one hand and hugs you with the other.

But the truth of the matter is that without her, we would be as emaciated as runway models and living in a pig sty. So we deal.

Extreme Ballet: Cuban Edition

29 Jun

March 4, 2012

Dancing through Cuba, pt. 1

 

I’ve been dancing for over thirteen years and have experienced the gamut of dance teachers, from a six-and-a-half foot tall gay man wearing pointe shoes the size of my forearms to a Baroque-dance reenactment teacher who game in full regalia, high-heeled shoes, waistcoat and all.

Taking ballet classes makes people touching you on your chest and ass more commonplace than at a high school prom and you learn to be unfazed by pretty much anything. I thought I had seen it all, until I started taking classes at the Ballet Nacional de Cuba’s Catedra de Danza.

Setting up my classes with the school was an adventure in and of itself.

I found the office of the director of the school, in the second floor of a building behind the main building, and scaled the steep and rickety stairs lined with old pictures of the famous Cuban ballerinas and founder of the NBC, Alicia Alonso. I could hear the soft tinkle of piano keys drifting from upstairs and seeping through the walls of the main building as I rounded a corner into the director’s office.

A woman with a perfectly S-shaped back was hunched over what I think was one of the first personal computers ever made, industriously puffing on a cigarette that emitted smoke that was the same color as the dirty grey monitor.

She turned to me slowly and peered at me over square glasses.

Digame,” she croaked in a voice that sounded like she might have gargled with glass shards.

I explained myself, in Spanish, and she reached for a giant manila folder with stapled sheets of paper and extricated my series of e-mails that I had sent to the director of the ballet school. She took down all of my information and the schedule of classes I wanted to take and gave me my “credential” to get into the ballet school: a piece of cardstock about the size of a business card with the ballet’s logo printed with faded ink and my name hastily scrawled on a line. I was officially a student of one of the most renowned ballet school’s in the world.

The first day of class I arrived, already sweating through my pink tights and black leotard and was directed to a tiny studio where the international students take class. It was 15 minutes before the class was supposed to start and there was only one girl in the studio, stretching in a corner. In the neighboring studio, I could see company members already well into rehearsals even though it was only 9:45 in the morning.

I snagged a spot at the barre and started warming up as one of the tallest Cubans I’ve met (though probably still under six feet) walked in. Through his short mustache he asked me in accented English, “Are you Georgia?”

I confirmed that I was indeed and he introduced himself as Daniel. Another girl arrived and went to the barre as the pianist sat down and began playing through some chords.

It was time for class to begin. Within the first 30 seconds of class, Daniel swooped down on me, forcibly molding my foot into the correct position while turning my legs out more, pushing my butt under while pushing my stomach in and telling me to “grow!, grow!, grow!.” It happened in the space of one exhale and then he moved on to the next girl, sculpting her like PlayDoh.

Within 15 minutes, I was dripping and trembling. I know I’m not the best dancer but I’m certainly not the worst, yet Daniel had me thinking that I had missed some crucial lessons in my early training. During every exercise he barked commands at us in English and Spanish while maneuvering our bodies into the closest version of perfect for every position.

“Do you not like pain?” he drawled at one point, “Then perhaps you should not be ballerina. A ballerina’s life is pain. Do not take pills or run from the pain, learn from it, learn what you are doing wrong.”

I felt like I had been dropped into some Cuban ballet fight club and this was my trial by fire. Even though I was scared shitless, it was also pretty hilarious. Daniel was tough but under that exterior, we all knew it was good-natured. If he didn’t care and didn’t want us to improve he wouldn’t have given us as many corrections.

We barely paused in between combinations, doing complicated sequences of turns and releves in every imaginable direction all under Daniel’s watchful and critical eye.

As a ballerina, I’m no stranger to hard work, but after an hour-and-a-half of Daniel’s non-air conditioned class, I felt like I had run a marathon across the Sahara.

I’ve had my fair share of tough teachers, but never in such a concentrated setting. I completely understand, though, why the Cuban ballet dancers are so phenomenal — they won’t accept anything less than perfection and aren’t afraid to do what it takes to get there. Although I can take criticism, (it comes with the territory) I think a lot of American dance teachers have to stay P.C., and not completely rip their students apart because the schools need to make money to stay afloat. In a government-supported setting like the Ballet Nacional de Cuba, the focus is not on profit but on producing the highest quality product possible.

Though I haven’t had the benefit of Cuban teachers for my whole life, I think that after my two and a half months at BNC I’ll definitely be a higher-quality product than I was going in. It will just be a matter of a little hard work.

During class Daniel stalked over to me and said, “We have a case of needing a little P.T.C. Do you know what that is?”

Bewildered, I said the first thing that came to mind. “Parent-teacher conference?”

“No. Practice. I think your parents are a little too far for that,” he replied.

Although I’m not really sure how P.T.C. translates to practice (practice ‘til cardiac arrest?) I’m willing to give it a try- I don’t think my parents would be able to get into Cuba for a P.T.C. with Daniel.

 

Jorge Uno y Jorge Dos

29 Jun

June 17, 2011

My name lends itself well to nicknames. George. Georgie. Georgina. When I was in high school, my sister and her friends called me by what they decided was my Spanish name: Jorgina. Sometimes they would shorten it to just Jorge.
Even though the name is pretty common here in Mexico, Jorge still holds special significance for me, more so now since one of my teachers AND my tutor are named Jorge. Everything about my trip is making a lasting impression, don’t get me wrong, but the Jorge’s are in a category of their own.
Jorge Uno, as I call him, is an almost-30-year-old gay Mexican doctor who teaches Spanish Medical Terminology to our class of three girls.
He comes in every day, a healthy 30 minutes late, with a Pepsi Kick, some over-processed bread product, and his cell phone that looks exactly like a Flip Cam. He has a little paunchy belly, black beard and mustache, slicked back hair, and wears black pinstriped pants as often as he is late to class.
Hands down, the best part about Jorge Uno is his voice when he speaks English, which unfortunately I can’t recreate here. It reminds me of Speedy Gonzalez- high pitched, a little squeaky and accenting odd syllables. Luckily for me, I can imitate it pretty well, because he speaks in English all the time. Ask him a question in Spanish, and he will answer in English.
“Jorge, que vamos a hacer hoy?” we asked him one Friday when we went to his clinic for a “practicum.
“Well, gurrrrlzzz. Today we are going to be making the practice with my PASH-ENS that have the feet of diabetes.”
(A quick side note about diabetic feet: I imagine that diabetes is treated often enough in the U.S. that people don’t develop diabetic feet- whatever language you speak, its pretty nasty. Jorge proudly showed us pictures of him amputating the toes of his diabetic-footed patients.
It looked like they had frostbite, except that is physically impossible here in Mexico. I won’t go into the graphic details of the pictures, except to say that you could see bones. And tendons. And gooey stuff.)
It was in fact, in that same day, when he was showing us pictures of the amputation, that he told us about his sexuality. He was showing us pictures on his computer, when suddenly a shot came up of a Latino guy wearing a colonial-era dress, blonde wig, and enough make-up to give Dolly Parton a run for her money.
“That. That is my boy-friend.” Jorge announced nonchalantly. “He is an actor.”
Of course he is. Of course Jorge is dating an “actor.” Jorge later revealed that his boyfriend, Jose, runs the dance studio located on the second-floor of the clinic, goes to school for acting, and is 23.
Jorge and Jose want to adopt children and get married, but can’t because, according to Jorge “The depu-taties have sheeet in their brains and are making the rules that say we cannot adopt the children. But you do not need a pen-is and vah-heen to raise a child. You just need the love and the ability.”
This was followed by a 30-minute rant about gay rights in Mexico, which segued into a rant about the steps that people need to take to have the “safety sex,” as he calls it.
Even though it took every ounce of strength I had to not laugh out loud throughout this ENTIRE conversation, I couldn’t help but being impressed with Jorge. He is a progressive-thinking man and is working his butt off to make other people’s lives better.
His clinic is in a slightly rough neighborhood, and offers discounted, free, or government-subsidized services to poor people, especially in the surrounding Mayan pueblos. Jorge runs a community service volunteer program at the medical school in Merida, providing free clinics for disadvantaged people every Saturday morning.
He also has a passion for promoting safe sex, like I mentioned earlier. He showed us a box of (no joke) 5,000 condoms that he picked up (for free) at the Ministry of Health that he’s going to give out “to save the boys and girls.” Jorge is almost evangelical about promoting “safety sex.” He told us that he gives them to as many people as he can: at conferences, meetings, classes, as prizes. I am envisioning Jorge hosting a foam party, except instead of showering the party-goers in bubbles, he would make it rain condoms.
However, Jorge said that those free condoms only taste like lubricant, not the flavored ones that he recommended we buy for our boyfriends when we asked him what a good gift for our men would be.
“No Jorge, we want something you can ONLY get in Merida, Mexico.”
“Chile-jabanero flavored condons of course.” Was his matter-of-fact reply.
He considered our question a little more seriously.
“You have boyfriend in the States? Why you not have Mayan pygmy boyfriends? You do not like the pygmies? What about African pygmies? Or any pygmies at all?”
I’m not really sure what Jorge’s fixation with pygmies is, but he talks about them all the time. When he was driving us to a bus stop after our practicum, he pointed out everyone walking on the street.
“Look. There is police-pygmy. And pygmy on motorcycle. And pygmy lady sitting down.”
I thought I was going to asphyxiate I was laughing so hard. Or I thought I would “matar de risa” as my tutor Jorge Dos taught me.
Jorge Dos is not as flamboyant a character as his predecessor, but I think, besides maybe my host mom, he will be the person that I have spoken the most consistent Spanish with by the time I go home.
Every day for two hours, my friend and I sit in a little study room and hang out with Jorge Dos. At first glance, he’s pretty normal and unassuming. Average height (for a Mexican), dark hair, jeans, and t-shirt.
Even though he’s studying history, I think he has more patience than whoever invented claymation stop-action cinematography. Which I have a feeling he is a fan of.
See, Jorge Dos is, as we say in the English AND Spanish-speaking countries, a nerd.
A patient nerd. A nerd with enough patience to sit in a room for two hours every day and listen to grown, intelligent, college-educated girls struggle through basic conversations with more stuttering than Porky Pig.
As much as I know he is dying to laugh at us as much as we laugh at Jorge Uno, somehow he holds it in.
I like to think we have pretty good conversations, even if they are a little one-sided sometimes. Some highlights: We spend a lot of time talking about holidays. We talked about our Halloween costumes, which is when Jorge Dos revealed that he wanted to buy a Legolas costume the time he visited Miami, but the box was too big to get on the plane (he also revealed that day that he has a Lord of the Rings action-figure set).
When it came time to describe Christmas traditions, it took a solid 10 minutes to describe glitter to him.
“You know. Bright. Shiny. Sparkly. Powder. Lady Gaga bathes in it…”
He figured it out eventually, and was the most amused I’ve ever seen him when I told him that some people mix glitter and oatmeal and put it in their front yards to signal to Santa’s reindeer.
“So you create a landing strip for the reindeer.”
Sure, Jorge. Even though he hadn’t seen “It’s a Wonderful Life,” Jorge had seen a lot of other American movies.
He is actually a movie buff- apparently he has a VIP card to the movie theater and can buy his tickets to the new Harry Potter movie before everyone else.
He also references “The Hangover” movies a lot. He told us he has to plan his friend’s Bachelor Party, and, though inspired by the antics in the film, wanted a more “tranquilo” time in Cancun for the “despidida de soltero” party (goodbye to singleness).
Jorge is always giving us nifty little cultural nuggets like that. Like the fact that he drives everywhere because, according to him, if you walk in the street here, people will think you are crazy or poor.
I walk everywhere that I can, so who knows what the population here thinks of me.
Jorge Dos understands most of our questions in English, so my new goal is to get him to actually SPEAK in English. Maybe it will be as awesome as when Jorge Uno does…
I can just imagine him, like Jorge Uno “Ok guuuurlzzz, be happy, enjoy your lives, and find a nice pygmy.”