International Online Language Exchange

Thanks to Covid-19, the in-person language exchange I last hosted at Madrid’s VIPs Velásquez has become a not-in-person international event online, with regular log-ins from three continents. Every weekend I greet familiar faces signing in from Madrid, Barcelona, London, Toronto, New York, Santiago, Buenos Aires, Houston, Chicago, Mexico City, Los Angeles. One faithful user joins…

Extremadura: Spain Covid Road Trip #1

Remote, poor, sparsely-populated Extremadura is the unrespected Rodney Dangerfield of Spain tourist destinations. It didn’t make Planetware’s top fifteen list for the country, or, for that matter, U.S. News’ top twenty. Rick Steves’ Spain ‘at a glance’ map represents the autonomous community’s 41,000+ square kilometers as a big blank area between Portugal and Toledo. Transit…

Spanish Loanwords: My Nominations

What follows is an incomplete list of Spanish words and sayings that might rate utterance by English speakers. The German weltschmerz, zeitgeist and schadenfreude get occasional play in the U.S. media because no English words so ably cover the same turf. Why not pagafantas and hombretón? I have discussed all candidates below with Spain born-and-raiseds,…

Madrid Quarantine

Once a week I shop. This is the only time I leave the building during the coronavirus quarantine in Madrid, practically the only time I leave my apartment. If I have to tote trash and recycling to the bins by the stairs I hold my breath until I’m back in the apartment with the door…

Italki Online Language Learning: a Review

italki is a global internet platform that links language learners with language instructors. A big, well-established platform: the about page claims five million students parsing verbs in one hundred thirty languages with ten thousand teachers.  Thirteen years old now, founded by two Shanghai entrepreneurs.  Betcha you’ve never heard of it. Spain’s coronavirus quarantine has made…

USA Expats: Vote Abroad in 2020

You can! You want to! You should! And I did. Like this: (♦) Go to fvap.gov and click the big red Request an Absentee Ballot button. Gotta do it fresh every year. Sorry. Not my fault. (♦) Clicking the big red button starts the Federal Post Card Application process, which will not include, require or produce…

A Week in Egypt

‘But is it safe to travel Egypt alone?’ Conocidos usually asked this question before any cheery yak about pyramids and King Tut. To many, ‘Egypt’ today means Arab Spring, mass protests, soldiers, mayhem, a coup d’état. Kalashnikov-toting riot police might misunderstand an elderly tourist’s intentions with a selfie stick. Couldn’t an old codger like me…

A Few Days in Doha

Doha is the capital city of Qatar, a pint-sized, filthy rich monarchy that juts into the Persian Gulf from the eastern flank of Saudi Arabia. I’ll wager that most Americans have never heard of it, and that the few exceptions associate it instantáneamente with Qatar’s sponsorship of powerhouse international news broadcaster Al Jazeera. I suggest…