Archive for the ‘culture’ Category

how do you pronounce the french “r”?

July 18, 2008

The letter R is probably the most difficult sound in the French language. I have looked high and low for tips or instructions on how to pronounce it from an English speaker’s point of view. And here’s the best answer I have found so far:

Make the sound in your throat that you would make if you were gargling a liquid, like mouthwash. But without liquid.

Sort of a ghghgh sound…



dancing with freud

October 11, 2007

When I was searching for apartments to rent in Buenos Aires last year, I noticed that a good number of the apartments for rent had a chair right next to the bed. The first word that came to my mind was psychiatrists. Are psychiatrists common in Buenos Aires? I dismissed this thought until I stumbled upon this old New York Times article published on May 29, 1998:

There are more psychologists in Argentina per capita than in any country in the world except Uruguay, Argentina’s small neighbor. New York and Buenos Aires are neck-and-neck for the distinction of being the city with the most psychotherapists, including psychologists and psychiatrists, over all.

”Argentines are passionate about understanding themselves and making their lives better and happier through self-knowledge,” said Lucia R. Martinto de Paschero, president of the Argentine Psychoanalytic Association.

Television and radio talk shows featuring psychologists fill the airwaves with daily psychobabble. Pagina 12, a leading Buenos Aires newspaper, devotes two pages of coverage to psychological matters every Thursday. A hot rock band in Argentina calls itself The Paranoid Rats, while another is known as The Crazy Old Ladies.

One neighborhood in Buenos Aires, a part of the Palermo district, has so many psychologists as residents that it has come to be known as Villa Freud. The neighborhood is graced by a popular restaurant that goes by the name Bar Sigi and serves a concoction of cognac and vanilla named after the father of psychoanalysis.

Argentines talk about going to their therapist as openly as they discuss going to the butcher, and expensive therapy is as much a part of middle-class life as a summer weekend on the beaches of Mar del Plata or a season opera ticket at the Teatro Colon.

But Argentine interest in psychology goes beyond the middle class. There are inexpensive psychology clinics in virtually every neighborhood of Buenos Aires, social security covers mental health problems, and elementary schools typically send young children with reading problems to psychologists as a first course of remedial education.

”There is still no systematic sociological or anthropological study that explains why there is such an interest in psychology here,” said Modesto M. Alonso, a leading Argentine psychologist. ”There are only theories.”

Felipe A. Noguera, a political analyst and pollster, speculated that ”Argentina is a very frustrated society because it has long suffered a crisis of expectations.” That crisis, he said, is rooted in a long period of economic expansion between 1880 and 1930, followed by a 60-year slump characterized by political instability, recession and hyperinflation.

”Until very recently,” he added, ”people would say, ‘I work hard but I can’t own a home. I study hard but I have a limited future.’ So many years of frustration created an archetype of negativity, a world view of things being a disaster in Argentina.”

In the 1970’s the right-wing military junta singled out psychology as a national problem, blaming psychologists and psychoanalysts for the country’s negativity and navel-gazing. Several prominent psychologists disappeared.

Argentina first became a world-class center for psychotherapy in the 1940’s, when a wave of European immigrants included several prominent Jewish psychoanalysts from Germany and Austria. Today a large proportion of the country’s psychotherapists and patients are Jews, whose population of 250,000 is one of the largest in the world outside Israel and the United States.

Newspaper reading was the domain of the intelligentsia and upper class in Argentina until the 1930’s, when the tabloid Critica vastly expanded its circulation by inviting readers to send in contributions describing their dreams. Soon after, a popular publishing house known for distributing translations of Tarzan books put out a serial collection of books called ‘Freud for All‘ that became a national sensation.

”That showed that the entire Argentine public is disposed to an interest in psychology, and not just the intellectuals,” said Hugo Vezzetti, a psychology professor at the University of Buenos Aires.

slow-cooked travel

September 21, 2007

Here are some “words of wisdom” from someone who shares my traveling philosophy:

Hello everyone!

Angelina here from Persephone’s Bees. Just came back from Russia where I spent 4 fantastic weeks. I’m refreshed, rested and un- programmed again. The thing about staying in one place and not traveling much is that no matter how much brains you’ve got and how much you disagree with things, you get sucked into a certain way of being and living, get influenced by your surroundings, family, friends, enemies etc. Most of the time it’s a good thing : ) Programming makes life a little easier. But then…the most beautiful thing happens, you get on a plane/train/zeppelin/parachute and get transformed somewhere far away into a different life and all of a sudden you’re free from all the bullshit (pardon my language) you’re stuck with. That’s why traveling is highly recommended.

Stop and smell the roses…

aussie slang

September 6, 2007

From Holidays Allover, an Australian travel agency:

“G’day!” is the old Australian favourite. It means “good day” and is only used informally. These days, however, you are more likely to be greeted with “hi!” or”hello!” or even the execrable”Yo!”.

Australians tend to shorten many words. Take “Australian”, for example. It takes too long to say you see, so it gets abbreviated to Aussie, Barbeque becomes barbie (not the doll). Football = footy (and the t turns into a d sound half the time). Never call us consistent, because Mr. Johnson will most likely be Johnno if he is considered a good bloke. We are also more likely to have a smoko instead of a tea break (even if we don’t smoke) whilst drinking a cuppa (coffee).

Here are my favorite Aussie slang words courtesy of Student Services at Charles Sturt University:

a tiff: a small fight or argument
bloke: male
blow a fuse: get angry
bludger: someone who doesn’t like working very hard
chock-a-block: full
chook: chicken
dill: someone who isn’t very bright or has done something silly
crook: feeling sick or not good (e.g. I am feeling crook)
dunny: toilet/bathroom
esky: a portable container that is insulated and keeps your food/drinks cool
fair go: to give someone a chance
g’day: hello
grog: alcohol
hold on a tick: wait a minute
mossies: mosquitos
sanger: sandwich (e.g. steak sanger)
sheila: female
uni: university
ute: a type of car

i am fine, thank you

August 18, 2007

What is baik? It is one of the first few words that you will get familiar with when you’re starting to learn Bahasa Indonesia. The Indonesian language has no specific equivalent to our “hello”, but often, the greeting Apa kabar? or “What’s news?” will be used. So when someone asks you Apa kabar? or the Indonesian equivalent of “How are you?”, you can respond with Kabar baik or simply baik. Note that the “k” is almost silent, so you essentially pronounce it “Bi”.

By the way, a better response would be Baik baik saja, terima kasih or “I’m just fine, thank you”.

There are many other ways baik is used in everyday conversations in Indonesia. Here is an excellent list of commonly used words.

Terima kasih

August 17, 2007

I found this excellent quick and practical guide to learning basic sentences in Bahasa Indonesia that you can use as soon as you get to Indonesia. You will learn only a few words, but this guide will get you far if you want to make a good impression with the locals.

learning bahasa indonesia

August 14, 2007

I am currently learning Spanish for the past several months now, since I was gearing up for a month-long vacation to Chile over the Christmas holidays. Well, the tides of opportunity have turned and I may instead spend 2-3 weeks in Indonesia. I have traveled to a good number of countries over the years that I have come to value knowing the language and culture of the country I plan to visit. So know I am warming up to the idea of learning Bahasa Indonesia.

Has anyone ever tried learning Bahasa Indonesia as a second language? I would like to hear from you.

coffee with legs???

August 14, 2007

Café con Piernas or “coffee with legs” is “a cafe where young women, with minimum dress, serve cafe and rejuvenate the spirits of men”.

Why do I want to know about this place? Here’s why… In Chile and its next-door neighbor Argentina, coffee is usually instant, Nescafe if you’re lucky. Last year I stayed at a misleadingly advertised hosteria in Calafate, and the place served instant coffee with curdled cream. So ladies, if you are truly desperate for that brewed cup of joe, shock the locals and go inside. I have been reading some blogs about these coffee houses in Santiago, and so far the consensus is that coffee at Café con Piernas is by far the best in Chile. So either go for it, or consider yourself forewarned.