This Little Piggy

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I came across ¡Pío Peep! Rimas Tradicionales en Español (Traditional Spanish Nursery Rhymes) and was immediately struck by the unique adaptations of the rhymes. They are clearly not straight translations and made me wonder what makes a rhyme work in two languages and what is lost and what is found in the process of adapting–especially when rhyme is a central part of the experience.

In Spanish, “El sol es de oro” is, although concise in both languages, very different in English.

El sol es de oro

El sol es de oro

la luna es de plate

y las estrellitas

son de hoja de lata.

Directly translated:

The sun is of gold

the moon is of silver

and the little stars

are of tin.


The English adaptation, on the other hand,

The Sun’s a Gold Medallion

The sun’s a gold medallion.

The moon’s a silver ball.

The little stars are only tin;

I love them best of all.

Clearly different.

One that was closest in translation was unfamiliar except for the form. This one seemed to be counted on the hand as the more familiar (to me at least) “This Little Piggy” is counted on toes.

Aquí puso la pajarita el huevo

Aquí puso la pajarita el huevo.

Éste lo agarró,

éste lo partió,

éste lo cocinó,

éste le echó la sal,

y este pícaro gordo

se lo comió.


Here the Bird Laid the Egg

Here the bird laid one round egg.

This one found it,

this one cracked it,

this one cooked it,

this one put salt on it,

and this fat rascal

gobbled it up!

from ¡Pío Peep! Rimas Tradicionales en Español (Traditional Spanish Nursery Rhymes)

  • What is lost and found in translation? How does this rob or enrich you or a character? What happens when we try to rely on literal translation?


dogslikebabiesAs I am traveling, one of the ways I cope with culture shock is to make lists of experiences that I would never encounter in the US: entire pineapples hucked out to the crowd at a Guelaguetza show, a shopping cart with a bbq to heat bananas, wide-open holes on a busy sidewalk, or fireworks set off in the middle of a crowd.

When I return home, I can’t help but note things that are uniquely American: enormous plates of food (think turkey platters of jambalaya from Cheesecake Factory) and these sweet dogs suspended from their owners as babies.

Photography is an immediate reaction, drawing is a meditation. –Henri Cartier-Bresson



The other day as I was navigating an unfamiliar street and preparing for an unusual conversation, I must have had a serious look on my face. A man commanded me in Spanish and then English to smile. I had to laugh at how serious I was with my errand, how I had been rehearsing my lines. Always concerned about being appropriately polite, I also wasn’t so sure if the words for what I wanted.

Of course, I smiled. In fact, I practically laughed at the irony because, especially in photos (or drawings), Oaxacans often assume a serious posture that typically does not include a smile. They may be grinning up to the minute the shot is taken, but almost always, this neutral to serious face appears, provoking me to want to command: Smile.






Watching another fifteen-year-old emerge from Santo Domingo Church as a woman with her little sister by her side dreaming of her day, I can remember my sixteenth birthday. I celebrated sixteen in London while on a thirty-eight day tour with the People to People program. We visited Russia, Finland, Sweden, Denmark, West Germany, Scotland, England, and Washington DC.

I didn’t drive until I was twenty-one. I didn’t even begin to learn until I was eighteen, so sixteen wasn’t the same rite of passage many people in the US experience. It was something equally impressive though.

At the same time, I can’t remember fifteen at all. I certainly can’t recall feeling as if I’d become a woman. (Sometimes I still don’t feel adult yet.)

Having a birthday in the summer is great. Birthdays in general are among my favorite holidays. I especially liked going to the public pool, something we’d do a couple of times a week in the summer anyway and having Thrifty ice cream. Once mom brought a bowl from home and had them fill it with a scoop of every flavor.

Instead of an elaborate celebration (which is, of course, perfect for some people), my parents planted the seed of travel and the value of celebrating what I have.




It’s a small world…


This mural is being produced by an artist named Jobe. He was happy to permit photos and to let me witness his process.

As he spoke, he spoke English clearly and interrogated me as much as I him. In fact, upon learning I live in Sacramento, he offered that he has a large mural in Davis. He told me where to find it (near Monsanto). I told him I’d check it out.

Many places are commissioning murals to cut down graffiti. We need more beauty such as this.



Hard Work

hardworkI am only half joking when I say that I maintain a list of things that happen in Oaxaca tat would never occur in the United States.  Among them: dancing with swinging turkeys as a partner; throwing whole pineapples to a crowd; disregarding sirens; riding in the back of a truck; taking the whole family of four out (at the same time) on a single motorcycle; igniting fireworks into a crowd; I could go on.

One of the most peculiar things to me, an (how shall we say it?) ungraceful person is the amount of hazards that are visible to me, but are not hazards at all for locals.  Take this scene here.  Three men push this support beam while another secures it and I stand below with the guys holding the pole at the middle of the tent.

As I take this in, I realize, for my own sake, I need to move.

The tent, of course, goes up, and all is well.  There was, in the end, no need for concern.