Tag Archives: Puerto Rico

So how’s Goal Two going?

“Soy primeramente Boricua, Americana Segunda.”

Those words are pretty important to me when people ask about my background, since many still struggle to understand that Puerto Rico is part of the United States. It translates to “I am Puerto Rican first, American second.” and while that sounds more harsh in English it’s just our explanation that we love our island, and align with our culture more than the American culture.

So when I explain to people at my site that I am Puerto Rican most don’t even know where that is. So I pull out my trusty little phone map and show them that it is off the coast of Florida, then I explain further and say that the USVI is also part of America, just further out. This helps many understand the concept much more, and even when they don’t fully understand it most just say “Okay.” and move on from the subject. They know that I am still the volunteer that they signed up for, and I feel happy because I got to share my culture for a bit.

What else has been done to share my Puerto Rican side, well some methods are very low-key. As simple as making my classroom playlist consist of albums like “Marc Anthony for Babies”, some students enjoy it, while others don’t know what to make of it. Even when I’m getting ready and hanging out in my classroom most of the visitors are welcomed by some form of salsa, bomba y plena, or reggaeton. Then for the adults when we are out on the town and they want to cheers we take the second to learn how to cheers in English, and in Spanish, saying loudly and for the first couple of tries messing it up. But at the end of the night everyone is saying “Arriba, Abajo, Al Centro, Pa Dentro!”

Then there’s other times where my Puerto Rican influence goes all out. It’s going to take a killer experience to overshadow the night that my host family and I gathered in the kitchen to make Mofongo and Coquito. With my aunt and I managing the Pilon, my Yai handling the fryer, and my mom peeling all the plantains, it was a wonderful time where I got to explain to my family how Puerto Rican culture is. Why we use plantains in most of our food, what else do Puerto Ricans eat? Why is mofongo called mofongo? and one question that had nothing to do with food but I could tell was driving them crazy since day one I told them I was Puerto Rican. What is Puerto Rico? No matter how odd the question was I answered it, and shared my culture and stories with them. Did they enjoy the mofongo you may ask? No they didn’t really care for it, they wanted spicier food and that got answered with “Most Puerto Rican food isn’t spicy”

I am a Puerto Rican first, an American second, in Thailand. The joy of travel is the sharing of cultures and I’m happy to be in a country so intrigued by mine, I can’t wait to share more and see the connections that it can make. Who knows maybe my school will have the first Bomba Club in Thailand.

Con Sabai Sabai

What do you get when you mix Thai enthusiasm with Puerto Rican zest? You get a wild cooking night.

So this past week the Peace Corps 131 had American Day, a lovely day meant to share our culture with our Thai Families. I took this opportunity to show my family one of my favorite foods. Mofongo. Now if you’ve ever even met a Puerto Rican you’ve probably heard of this dish but for those who haven’t it’s mashed plantains (or unripe bananas because Thailand doesn’t have plantains), seasoned with an abundance of garlic and onion, deep fried and covered with olive oil or garlic butter. All together it’s absolutely delicious.

So I assumed that my family wouldn’t want to cook this because of how labor intensive it is but I was so pleased to come home to my host mom, host aunt and grandmother all at the ready. Mom peeled the bananas, grandma handled the fryer, and auntie mashed. We talked for around 6 hours while making around 50 mofongos. I explained how the dish came to be and they laughed at the pronunciation each time I said it. We giggled about how our boobs would sag if we spent too much time mashing the plantains.

All together it was a wonderful experience and reminded me how thankful I am to have such a fantastic host family. It truly completes the experience and they will always have a special place in my heart for being able to welcome this strange Puerto Rican into their home.

The Problems with Bilingualism

Being bilingual has a certain number of perks. Mostly the fact that I can converse with a variety of people and be accepted among two different groups. It makes life very easy regardless of where I go. Plus job opportunities are always available in a variety of fields, and places. Then talk about relationships, I can date people in any Spanish speaking country and have them fully understand me.

So where’s the problem? Well, living in the states try speaking a non-preferred language and you face a certain amount of backlash. I’ve been told a number of times to speak English, which the only appropriate response is “I wasn’t talking to you” and to move on. What could one of the other downsides be? Well if English is your second language then you run into the problem of having an accent, and again if you are stateside then this creates the issue of people believing that you aren’t truly bilingual, that you are just a fresh off the boat person; and with that comes a plethora of obstacles. I’ve been in this situation before and it is not by any means a fun one. Stateside people will begin to discredit any kind of knowledge you may have; because while they ask you a question and wait for the answer you have two (or more) languages swimming around in your head as you search for the correct phrases, words, and order to form the sentence needed. As your languages do this dance, your conversation partner sits waiting and begins to try and ask other questions or the worse option, say the same question just louder as if the problem was that you’re deaf.

Being bilingual is fantastic and I suggest everyone to learn at least one more language or at least make the attempt, if not for your own benefit but to understand and be able to sympathize with the next person you encounter who has to go through both of their mental dictionary’s to make a simple sentence. If there is anything that you can take away from this it’s to remember to never judge someones level of intelligence because they struggle to find the words to say and don’t do the thing where you just say the sentence louder, say it slower.