B1, B2, story

A boat resident in Rio de Janeiro

The following is a conversation I had with the owner and “resident” of a sailboat. I met him when I booked an Airbnb experience, which was a private boat tour around isolated beaches in Paraty, Rio de Janeiro. The tour also included a kayaking and snorkeling experience as well.

– Your sailboat is so cool, how long have you been sailing?

– I wasn’t always a sailor, I learned to sail on Youtube, watching tutorials. I’m still learning, I’m by no means an experienced sailor, I don’t have anything to teach haha.

His frankness was so refreshing! There he was talking to a client (whom you would normally try to impress in order to get a good Airbnb review) and explaining how he hadn’t been a sailor for long and how he learned the few sailing skills he had from Youtube. As a client, I was a little scared that he might not know what to do in a storm in the middle of nowhere. As a teacher, I was in awe, my admiration for his self-learning skills motivated me do this mini interview.

– Wow! That’s impressive! So where do you live?

– Here

– Here in Paraty?

– Here on this boat.

And to prove it he gave me a tour of his home.

– I’ve never met someone who lives on a boat before, how interesting! Is there a tax associated to living on a boat?

– You pay to dock, but you don’t ever have to dock.

– (You have my attention now! I’ve always admired people who know how to beat the system.) What do you eat?

– I fish for food.

– Sounds like you won’t be running out of food anytime soon! What did you use to do before you decided to become a sailor and live on this boat?

– I haven’t been a sailor for long… I used to be a jockey, my dad wanted me to ride horses but that wasn’t my true calling. I worked from 11 to 42 years old and I don’t miss it, I never had days off, I would always work on holidays.

– Who gave you the idea of offering Airbnb experiences?

– I got the idea from the guys who are doing the same thing. At first I didn’t think of it as a business, though, my goal was just to live the cheapest way possible, rent-free, tax-free, not spending a lot on money on food.

– Do you get many clients?

– Enough haha. If I work for 6 or 7 days in a row, I block my calendar and take a break. The truth is I don’t want more clients because I don’t want to work more. My girlfriend wants to work a lot but I don’t.

– What do you mean, does she want this business to grow?

– She does, she’s always suggesting marketing ideas and ways to get bigger and better but I’ve told her “You make your plans but don’t include me in them”, hahaha.

– You mentioned earlier you had a son, does he have a regular life?

– Yes, he does, at least for now. He lives in Sao Paulo with his mom, too bad he doesn’t love the sun like I do.

– Do you ever feel lonely?

– Not really, I have a girlfriend, she lives in Sao Paulo but even when she comes to visit me, she knows I need my space. She takes the kayak, goes snorkeling somewhere while I stay on the boat. We are cool living like that.

– How have you been spending your free time lately?

– I’ve been very busy fixing my boat. I had to fix the engine, install stuff, things like that…

– (Interesting to know the engine wasn’t working well not too long ago!) How do you spend your free time?

– I like doing nothing, you know? I like to take my time to spend on myself, contemplating nature, sleeping… When my friends come and ask me to do stuff with them, more often than not my answer is “I can’t, I’m busy”, they go “but you’re doing nothing”, I say “I need this time to do nothing!”.

It seems that our friend cracked the code to happiness! He lives a happy, stress-free life without the hustle and bustle of the city. What about saving for the future? building a credit history? He aims to live on his boat for good, the doesn’t need to make monthly mortgage payments for 20 years until he owns a place to reside, what about a car? he can get to places by boat or take taxis, which are affordable in Paraty, what about health insurance? healthcare is free in Brazil, this is true, I have first-hand experience as I’ve used healthcare as a tourist in Brazil, cost: 0 reais! (If you want to know more about my experience, look for my blog post I didn’t have health insurance and this happened to me in Brazil.)

This lifestyle is not for everyone but I applaud people who take the plunge and decide to live the best life possible for them. I know people who have all of the above, a big house, a nice car, a well-paid job, good health insurance, etc who aren’t half as happy as this man is.

Wondering what the tour was like? It’s one of the best boat tours I’ve ever taken in my life.

Remember my fears? Well, there WAS a storm! My guide didn’t seem to be too worried about it, though. Fortunately, he knew what to do (thank you YouTube!), we got on the boat and sailed back to safety.

So what did I learn from this experience?

  • That it’s never too late to follow your true calling.
  • That there are ways of beating the system.
  • That you can learn anything from Youtube!
  • That there are people in the world who don’t care about money, and they tend to be the most interesting people to chat with!
  • That kayaking looks easy and feels easy until the next day when you wake up with sore muscles.
  • That Airbnb experiences are cheaper and better than tours booked through agencies.

If you go to Rio de Janeiro, don’t skip Paraty! The boat tours are just one of the many activities you can do there. I’m already looking forward to going back!

B2, story

My healthcare experience in the USA

Me: So how much is a visit?

Receptionist: 176 dollars

Me: Oh, but I have insurance (me being as naive as a new American resident can be)

Receptionist: Yes, I know, the price you see on the website, 60 dollars for a consultation, is the price you pay only after reaching your deductible.

I got a sense of relief “Oh then, there WILL be a time when I only pay 60 dollars for a visit, ok, that’s not too bad”. The conversation continued:

Me: So what’s my deductible?

Receptionist: USD 1500 dollars. That means that after you spend 1500 dollars on healthcare, you will have reached your deductible and from then on you will only pay 60 dollars for a regular visit, 70 dollars for urgent care.

Me: (Silence. I started to imagine scenarios that would require me to spend 1500 dollars on doctors and medicine, a broken leg? an infection? food poisoning? I was doing the math and thinking how many times I had to go to the doctor to start paying 60 dollars for a visit.)

Receptionist: Are you still there?

Me: Yes, I have another question, I know I need a test to find out if I have asthma or not.

Receptionist: That’s a pulmonary test, it’s 198.25 dollars.

Me: Ok, so it would be 374.25 for both, the visit and the pulmonary function test, correct?

Receptionist: Correct.

So if you read the blog post I wrote in February, you know how it started. If you didn’t, I’ll sum it up for you. I started coughing and was short of breath, was prescribed prednisone, amoxicillin and antihistamines, the diagnostics: bronchitis. I got better after taking the medicine but relapsed two weeks after. I figured if I bought the same medicine I would get better again, I mean, that made a lot of sense since I had the same symptoms, right? and so I did, I used the same prescription and bought the same medicine. I did get better and I did relapse about 14 days after taking the medicine. It was difficult to get treated as I was living as a digital nomad, I saw doctors in the countries I was living in, Brazil, Peru, Guatemala but couldn’t have a primary care doctor, a doctor that had my history and knew me and my symptoms. When my husband and I moved to Florida, I decided “Now that I’m going to be living in the USA, it’s time to get a regular doctor and get tested for asthma”,  which was suggested by a doctor in Brazil.

People had warned me, they’d told me what health care is like in the US, but you don’t fully understand it until you experience it first hand. I went to my appointment, was ready for the PFT (pulmonary function test) and it made me a bit nervous to see the doctor writing down a bunch of tests on her notes as she said the names of the tests aloud. She said I needed a pulmonary test, a test called “SHAPE”, X-rays… I asked how much all that was, she said she had no idea and that I would find out when I checked out. I was reluctant to get any tests done before I knew exactly how much I had to pay for them. So the doctor sent me to the reception and this is how the conversation went:

Me: I was wondering how much the tests are.

Receptionist: The pulmonary function test is 198.25

Me: Oh Ok, I knew the price for that one, that’s the one I came for today.

Receptionist: The SHAPE test (Submaximal Heart And Pulmonary Evaluation) is 162.47 and the follow-up visit is 133.40.

Me: (She didn’t give me the price for the X-rays, to be honest I didn’t want to know)

I’d like to have the pulmonary function test today, that’s the one I came here for.

Receptionist: Oh, you can’t do that one now, you need to make an appointment so we can schedule a technician.

Me: (Trying to understand why  that information wasn’t shared over the phone when I made the appointment)

Receptionist: She continued… and first you need to book a follow-up visit, which is 133.40

Me: Wait, what? Why can’t I just pay for the test? I would be coming for the test only. I had the visit today.

Receptionist: No, you can’t. You need to have a follow-up visit when you come to take the test, so that would be 198.25 for the test plus 133.40 for the visit, 331.65 in total.

I didn’t want to leave without having done a test, after all that’s the only reason I was there for, so I asked “is there any other test that can be done now?”, and there was, the “SHAPE” test could be performed right away. “Perfect”, I said, “let’s do that one”. So the receptionist performed the test herself. Yes, you read that well, the receptionist performed the test on me. Maybe in this country people double up?

The following is conversation I overheard while I was waiting for my test results:

Receptionist: The results aren’t showing…. (I couldn’t understand what they said) Do we do the test again?

Doctor: No, there’s no need, just reboot the machine after the patient leaves.

Then the doctor came in with another doctor (a male doctor) and he said “there are some signs of asthma but we will know if there’s obstruction with the other test” then the female doctor continued “in the meantime we will give you an inhaler, which you have to use 30 minutes before you exercise”. I’d like to point out that neither doctor explained the reading to me.

Some signs? an inhaler? Where are my test results? Will you at least explain to me what that blue line and that red line mean? Will you at least tell me what kind of medicine is in the inhaler? Aren’t there like 20 different types of inhalers? Those are questions I SHOULD have asked, I was so overwhelmed and upset by them not telling me that I had to book the pulmonary test in advance that I didn’t ask those questions when the doctors gave me that vague information.

I left convinced that I didn’t want to go back to those scammers. I ordered a taxi and the taxi driver asked the wrong question, “how are you today? “

Poor guy, nothing could have warned him for what happened after, I started venting about what had happened, spoke nonstop for I don’t even know how long, I mentioned I was from Peru, then he switched to Spanish (he was Argentinean), and we both started venting together. He’d had an infection and had been hospitalized for three days, how much? 10,000 dollars. Yes, that’s the amount he had to pay because he didn’t have health insurance. I had to pay 338WITH insurancefor a visit plus a test with no results read, a vague diagnostic and no explanation of what kind of medicine I was prescribed.

I had gotten it off my chest by the time I arrived home, or that’s why I’d thought, but the moment I saw my husband, I started venting my frustration again. Even now, after talking to him , I still need to write about it to get it off my mind. Health care in the US sucks. Asthma isn’t a critical medical condition, I wonder what the people with major illnesses on minimum wage do, die? If you are looking to move to the US and you have a serious medical condition and get free healthcare in your country, DO NOT come, unless you have a well-paid job waiting for you the moment you land. Health care is way too expensive and it isn’t even good.

I felt lucky when I explained that my company was going to pay 100% of my healthcare. However, I didn’t know that I had to reach a deductible, that the deductible was 1500 dollars and that until that happened, a visit to a pulmonologist would cost 176 dollars. Not feeling so lucky now…

That’s healthcare in the US for you.

Vocabulary for English learners:

get it off my chest: to tell someone about something that has been worrying or annoying you for a long time, so that you feel better afterwards

inhaler: a small plastic tube containing medicine that you breathe in, in order to make breathing easier

minimum wage: the lowest amount of money that an employer can legally pay to a worker

naive: not having much experience of how complicated life is, so that you trust people too much and believe that good things will always happen → innocent

prescription: a piece of paper on which a doctor writes what medicine a sick person should have, so that they can get it from a pharmacist

relapse: to become ill again after you have seemed to improve

scam: a clever but dishonest plan, usually to get money

vent: to express feelings of anger, hatred etc, especially by doing something violent or harmful

B2, story

I didn’t have health insurance and this happened to me in Brazil

I started coughing one evening. Being a teacher, I’m always talking and I usually get sore throats or even laryngitis. In Peru I would always get antibiotics or a shot of Megacilin and that was enough to stop the cough and itchy throat.

I was in Sao Paulo and went to a drugstore on a mission to get antibiotics. “Antibioticos, por favor.” I assumed the word would be the same in Portuguese. The clerk said something in Portuguese, which I didn’t understand, then I started using sign language (not the real sign language that deaf people use, just moving my hands in an attempt to get the message across). I touched my throat, tos, antibioticos, duele, algo fuerte, por favor. The clerk showed my a piece of paper and I understood that I couldn’t get them without a prescription. “I should have bought some in Lima”, I regretted.

I still needed to alleviate the pain so I got over-the-counter medicine knowing it wouldn’t really help. I bought a bottle of cough syrup, lozenges and antihistamine, as the clerk suggested. After two days of taking that medication, my cough hadn’t stopped (as expected). It got worse, my throat was tomato red and I would always wake up coughing in the middle of the night. Lying down was an impossible task for me to perform since every time I tried to do it, the cough would come back stronger.

“Should I go to the hospital?”, I wondered. I’d heard the horror stories about people going for a cold and leaving with COVID. “What if I get infected with COVID?”, “What if it IS COVID”?, “How will I communicate with the doctor if I don’t speak Portuguese?”, I pondered for a while. I’d read about clinics trying to take advantage of tourists by charging more than they’re supposed to for simple procedures. I decided not to go.

The funny thing was I felt great during the day and terrible at night. My cough seemed to have a biological clock that activated after my body got ready for deep sleep. Every morning I thought “why go to the doctor now?, I’m feeling better!”. Every night I would be like “I’m going to the doctor now, it’s getting worse”.

By the fourth night I couldn’t take it anymore, I regretted not going in the morning, it was three in the morning and on top of all the very good reasons I had for not going to the hospital, I added the risk of bumping into drug addicts, prostitutes or thieves, I’d seen them from my balcony, they always came out at night.

Off we were, my husband and I walking down Republica Avenue heading to a hospital that had good reviews. After walking for about five blocks, we finally saw the building. It was a private hospital and looked fancy and reliable… too bad it was only for people who had insurance there. The security guard pointed at the corner and said there was another hospital within walking distance.

This other hospital looked like a public one, it reminded me of Hospital Loayza in Peru, it was old and the furniture inside it looked that it’d been there since the place was built. Little did I care about the furniture or the building, I needed a doctor, so I went in. There was a lady at the reception. I asked where I could get a doctor and she said no with her hands and closed her little window in front of her all without making eye contact. Not a good sign.

The guy next to her was assigned to note down my clinic history. I wrote my name and last name in a piece of paper and handed it to him. He was much nicer and had a smile on his face. He wasn’t wearing the mask properly-he had it under the nose-and I thought how crazy that was coming from a staff member in a hospital.

He handed me a paper slip and sent me to another area to wait for a doctor. There was only one other person waiting in the same room, I scanned her carefully waiting to see if she had COVID symptoms. I didn’t want to get infected. She never coughed, apparently she was waiting for someone who was already been seen by a doctor.

What do you do when you’re waiting? Of course, you torture yourself and watch the clock every few minutes, and that’s exactly what I did. The ticking of the clock was a constant reminder that I had a bus to Rio de Janeiro at 6:30am and that if I wasn’t called in the following 10 minutes, I would surely miss my bus. I’d waited for 45 minutes before a doctor finally said my name out loud. I jumped out of my seat immediately and said the only phrase I know in Portuguese Não falo Portuguese.

The doctor led me to the consultation room. Some of the words were similar to Spanish and I understood instructions like open your mouth, breath in, breath out, say ah. The doctor was a nice young man who made sure I understood what he was doing and why he was doing it. “Now I’m going to take your pulse, now I’m going to use a pulse oximeter to measure the oxygen saturation level of your blood, now I’m going to do such and such in order to detect such and such”. He made me feel at ease and looked like someone I could trust.

He prescribed Amoxicillin, Loratadine, Prednisona… and a COVID test. He said the symptoms I had might or might not be related to COVID, that the new variant had totally different symptoms compared to the other variants and that taking the test was an extra measure just to rule out the virus.

The tough part, paying for the service

Me: How much is the consultation?

Doctor: (frowning) What was that?

Me: How much, money, how much do I have to pay? where do I pay?

Doctor: Ohhhh, no, no, no. You don’t pay, the government pays.

(Maybe I wasn’t listening well. Maybe the language barrier didn’t help him get the message across.)

Me: You mean I don’t have to pay?

Doctor: No, you don’t have to pay anything (using body language to make sure I got it). As a matter of fact, the medicine is also free provided that you go to this specific drugstore.

I wanted to hug the doctor, the receptionist who didn’t use his mask properly, the angry receptionist who ignored me, the security guard and all the staff in the hospital. I thought I was a tourist who had no right to health care. Little did I know. I was deeply moved by the way I was treated in that hospital in Sao Paulo, like a human being. I imagined a scenario where the same had happened to me in another country, like in the US, where they would have happily stripped me from all my life savings in exchange for a consultation… so much for a first world country.

I started this trip thinking Sao Paulo was an incredibly dangerous city that I could get robbed anytime but the city decided to prove me wrong, it showed me kindness, good hearted doctors devoted to helping people when they need it the most. It’s a relief to be living in a country where health care isn’t denied to anyone, I am profoundly grateful to Brazil for having helped me when I needed it the most. Thank you Brazil.

B2, story, travel tips

My first impressions of Sao Paulo 

We landed in Sao Paulo at 9:30pm. After a five-hour flight I was ready and excited to get to know a new city. Unlike the process to get into other countries, like the USA, passing through security and immigrations was incredibly smooth. I wasn’t even asked the reason for my trip or where I would be staying. The immigration officer just looked at me, made sure my face matched the photo on my passport and that was it.

By 10:15pm Chris and I were ordering an Uber. By 11pm we were still waiting for an Uber.
Here’s how the conversation went.

As you can see, we didn’t want to cancel. It’s the person who doesn’t want the service the one who should cancel, right? But he kept saying that he wasn’t able to do it and that there was no fee for me if I did it. Of course there’s a fee! I’ve canceled before and been charged a penalty for it. We kept playing this game for 15 minutes. I even thought about having dinner at the airport to kill time until he canceled… But he never did, we had to cancel.

Then we got another Uber… Or so I’d thought until he asked “which neighborhood are you going to?”. Wait a second, didn’t the first driver ask the same question? Don’t they know where they’re taking you before they accept the ride? A thought crossed my mind, maybe the neighborhood we’re going to is dangerous, that’s why nobody wants to take us there. I decided not to reply-I didn’t want to risk losing this ride too-so I waited. Fortunately, our driver arrived.

We drove past a park full of tents. Are they camping? What’s going on here? A man on bear foot emerged from one of the tents, he was scruffy and looked like he hadn’t had a shower in a long time. They weren’t camping, they were living in the tents. A few blocks away I saw the not so lucky people who didn’t have tents and were sleeping on mattresses on the street. Who would have thought, there is also a social status in the homeless community. The high class homeless people own a mattress, a tent and some even enjoy luxuries like stoves, radios and pillows! The middle class only own a mattress, sometimes a shopping cart and the poor ones don’t even own shoes and sleep on the floor.

Our driver took us to our apartment, which we booked through Airbnb, and my first thought was “I’m going to get robbed in this neighborhood”. Shady people everywhere! The receptionist of the complex didn’t let us in right away. He was asking questions through the intercom and we don’t speak a word of Portuguese “no falo Portuguese, do you speak English? Spanish?” . Deep down I was praying to different gods that he open the door soon. There was a shady individual  scanning us as we waited by the gate with our luggage. I was ready to put my hands up and say “please take everything, don’t hurt us”. Later that night my husband confessed he was having similar thoughts, even though he looked calm at the time. He did a great job pretending!

There was a buzz and the door opened. We walked in and waited for the second door to open. Yes, there’s a second door that only opens when the first door closes. I loved the security measures! I was relieved, only for a second before I came to the realization that there’s only this kind of security in a place where it’s needed.
Well, this is my first impression. I am sure I have a lot to explore to have an objective opinion about Sao Paulo.

New vocabulary

  • fee: an amount of money that you pay to do something or that you pay to a professional person for their work
  • mattress: the soft part of a bed that you lie on
  • ride: a journey in a vehicle, when you are not driving
  • shady: probably dishonest or illegal SYN suspicious
  • scruffy: dirty and untidy
  • tent: a shelter consisting of a sheet of cloth supported by poles and ropes, used especially for camping
B1, story

My older friends

People often hang out with people their same age, that makes sense since people your generation tend to have similar interests, but since I can remember I’ve always had friends who are older than me.

When I was in my 20’s I befriended a lovely lady, who was first friends with my parents. Sol was in her 50’s and somehow we hit it off and became friends. One day I was using the title “usted” (in English “you”), which we use in Spanish to address people who are older than you to show respect and the next day I was using “tu” (also “you”), which we use with friends and people our age. She used to sell make-up and I became her client, then somewhere along the way we started texting and we even went shopping for clothes together once when we lived in Lima. She moved to New Jersey and we lost touch for a few years but reconnected recently and I’m so happy we did.

This year I befriended two adorable guys who are at least 30 years older than me. Bertran and Gaytan were my neighbors in Playa del Carmen, where I was staying for a couple of months earlier this year. I would see them on the rooftop sunbathing or having what I thought were healthy smoothies (I found out later they were smoothies with rum haha). Once we got talking at the pool and I found them to be very sweet and easy-going and after I realized that we had a lot in common—like our desire to travel the world, living like nomads and not making plans for the following day—it only felt right to have them home for dinner. I’m not a great cook but did my best to cook ají de gallina (a Peruvian typical dish) for them. They brought wine and had a nice chat, we got to know them better and they also offered to cook dinner for us! Our relationship is not like the kind of small-talk interaction you have with a regular neighbor you bump into at the supermarket, it’s rather a let’s-get-together-in-Portugal-to-celebrate-our-anniversary kind of friendship. My two lovely brand-new friends and I got along so well that they invited my husband and I to meet in a different country, Portugal, where they were going to be celebrating their 25th wedding anniversary. It’s a pity we won’t be able to go but I’m sure we’ll find the way to meet again.

Well today I just wanted to share that with you. Have you tried befriending people older than you? If not, you might me missing out!

In this blog you’ll find both, stories and learning materials. You have just read a story and can check out similar ones below.

B2, Blog, story

Beto, the pot-headed crazy chef

Level: B1-B2

One night in Playa del Carmen, Mexico.

  • Let’s call Beto!
  • I texted him but he didn’t reply.
  • This guy… he’s playing with our feelings.
  • I know… he’s turned us into pasta addicts and then he ghosts us.

Who is Beto? Beto is this guy who makes amazing pasta dishes and lives around the corner from our apartment.

One Saturday evening…

Hungry and desperate Chris and I were walking down the road looking for a restaurant. We’d seen Beto’s restaurant before but it was closed then. The guy living next door said “take a brochure, he cooks Italian food and also delivers!” We put the brochure away and decided to call him the next day.

And so we did. We texted him and ordered an Amatriciana (a tomato-based pasta dish with bacon, onions and chilies) and a Four-cheese pasta (I think there’s no need to explain this one). The food was mouthwatering, it smelled and tasted delicious. We made a promise to ourselves to have it at least 3 times a week, I mean, $4 dollars for home-made, fresh pasta? Why in the world would I cook ever again?

Three days later…

We texted Beto. He didn’t reply. I insisted and texted again, called him twice, I was acting like a drug addict desperate for a fix. He didn’t reply until the following day “I apologize, I had to handle some family matters and couldn’t work yesterday. I’ll open again tomorrow”, it turns out he was lying! He didn’t open the day after, either.

The following Thursday…

Trying not to keep our hopes up, we texted him again but this time he was cooking! We got Amatriciana and Carbonara this time. Again, he had lived up to our expectations. Happy that he was back, we decided to fulfill the plan of getting his food delivered every day I had to teach back to back with no time to prepare dinner.

The Thursday after that…

We texted him again. Fifteen, thirty, forty-five minutes later, no reply. Hopeless, we left the house and embarked ourselves on a journey to get good food for a reasonable price, which wasn’t tacos or anything with a tortilla in it. As we were walking past Beto’s house, we saw him smoking weed with his friends in the living room of his house—doors and windows wide open. I stopped and demanded my pasta.

  • Why haven’t you replied to my messages? (with a sense of entitlement)
  • I’m sorry, you really don’t want me to cook right now. (holding on to a lamppost to keep his balance)
  • How about tomorrow? Will you open tomorrow?
  • Tomorrow I’ll definitely open. Sorry again!
  • Ok, Beto. I’ll text you tomorrow!

So, he was busy smoking weed, I get it, the guy has his own business and works when he wants to… I guess it’s his right. You should have seen me demanding my pasta from a guy that was totally high. Never in my wildest dream did I imagine I would be begging for food from a pothead. A very humbling experience, I have to say. I couldn’t help it, though. It’s like he gave us heroine to get us addicted and then left us wanting more (I’ve never tried heroine but I’m pretty sure it’s like that)

The following day…

  • Text him.
  • I just did.
  • (10 minutes later…) He hasn’t even seen the message.
  • I’ll try texting from a different number.

I had been texting Beto from Chris’s phone, thinking maybe he was overwhelmed by us, I tried contacting him from a different number. The message got through but he never replied.

The next day he had seen both our messages, two blue checks, yet, no response from him.

We’d been totally ignored, but we didn’t care, we were hungry and wanted his pasta. I swallowed my pride and called him again, he didn’t pick up the phone.

Three days later the brochure had been removed from the door… Why, Beto! why did you have to go? To this day we still dream of Beto’s pasta. I’m sure we’ll be reminded of this when we go back to the US and fail to find reasonably priced, fresh Italian food.

We’ll miss you, Beto the pot-headed crazy chef.


  • mouthwatering:food that is mouth-watering looks or smells extremely good
  • pothead: a person who smokes marijuana, especially habitually
  • demand: to ask for something very firmly, especially because you think you have a right to do this
  • entitlement: the official right to have or do something, or the amount that you have a right to receive
  • get through: to succed in speaking to someone on the telephone
B1, B2, Podcast, story

Episode 1: Shopping in Indonesia – Compras en Indonesia

This podcast presents everyday conversations in English and Spanish and is hosted by myself, Ayleen, and Chris, from London. What is different about this podcast is that you will listen to a conversation in both languages, I will be speaking Spanish and Chris, English.

Our content will help you improve your listening skills in the language you are currently studying. This podcast is for you if:
a) You are an English speaker learning Spanish
b) You are a Spanish speaker learning English
c) You have a different native language but are studying English and Spanish.

In this episode Chris and I talk about our impressions on shopping in Indonesia. Tune in to learn about the tactics Indonesian people use when trying to sell an item and how we feel about it.

Episode 1: Shopping in Indonesia – Compras en Indonesia.

advice, Blog, story, travel tips

Public transportation in Dubai Vs. Public transportation in Peru

We had one day to explore Dubai before flying to Thailand -Dubai was a one-day stopover- and decided to go to a mall, not too far from the airport. We got on the train a little unsure whether we’d jumped on the right line, so my fiance asks ‘Does this train take you to the mall?’ Everybody looks at him, nobody answers. He asks again, ‘can someone tell me if this is the train to the mall?’ Silence.

They were all staring at him, so they did acknowledge his presence but didn’t respond. After the doors closed behind us, a woman says ‘yes, this line takes you to the mall.’ I was thinking ‘has the cat got their tongues?’ Maybe they just don’t understand any English…

We kept speculating about the reasons why they didn’t respond and were still staring at him. Well, the answer had been in front of our noses the whole time. There was a sign that read “Are you in the right cabin? 100 Dirhms fine.”
It turned out we were in the women and children cabin, where, of course, men are not allowed. According to the sign if a man were found in the wrong cabin, he would have to pay 100 Dirhms (about USD 27). These women were staring at him and looked shocked because he wasn’t supposed to be there, he was an intruder.

Almost immediately after realizing he was in the wrong cabin, the same -and only- woman who gave us information said ‘you are in the wrong cabin, men go over there’, pointing at the adjacent cabin.

Everything made sense. These women must have felt their space was being invaded by an intruder who didn’t know the rules. My fiance went to the men cabin, which does allow women (at last we have more choices than them!)
I wonder why men and women can’t be together, religious reasons? Dubai is a Muslim city, so could it be an Islamic thing?

I don’t know the reasons but I love the fact that cabins are separated. So far Dubai has been the one city where I’ve felt really uncomfortable because of men looking at women as if they were a piece of meat. It would be unfair to generalize -I’m not judging or blaming the entire population in this city- but many men on the streets show this kind of offensive behavior.

This blog compares cultures and for me it hurts to admit that this behavior is comparable to the one observed in my country, Peru, where this occurs mainly because of the fact that Peru is a chauvinistic country whose culture lets men engage in this action and get away with it.

Unfortunately, outrage of modesty and street harassment is something every Peruvian women, teenager and child has to deal with when using public transportation. According to the Peruvian newspaper Perú 21, seven out of ten women have been harassed on public transportation. Nevertheless, the law is still lenient with offenders.

Only after Peruvian actress Magaly Solier was a victim of this outrage of modesty on Metropolitano, did street harassment make it to the headlines and called for a new law to be passed. Unfortunately, according to the Ombudsman’s office, to this date six regional governments and three ministries still haven’t approved the regulations for these cases. Out of 21 cases reported to Regional governments, the Judiciary and the Ministry of Public affairs, only two culprits were punished.

We would feel safer if there were assigned cabins for men and women (I speak for all my female friends and relatives). Now I’m not in my country but would love to see some sort of solution or at least an attempt to tackle this problem in a near future.


  • Outrage of modesty: a term commonly seen in the papers – for example, where a man gropes a woman inappropriately
  • Dirhm: currency in Dubai

References (material in Spanish)



Blog, story, travel tips

I discovered this interesting fact in Barcelona…

Today I found out that La Barceloneta beach, one of the most popular tourist attractions in Barcelona is, in fact, man-made. The fact that it’s not a natural beach doesn’t make it less beautiful, though. Locals and tourists come here to sunbathe, play beach volleyball, go for a swim , go bike riding, roller-skating or just people-watch. You can also come visit it for lunch or dinner, there are countless restaurants that offer fish and seafood dishes and of course, the popular Tapas.

When I asked my tour guide about the history of this beach, she said the sand was imported from arab countries and that the area used to be full of rudimentary houses and factories. It was the Olympic games in 1992 what triggered development in this area. In an attempt to increase the city’s popularity with tourists, the Spanish government took up the challenge of turning Barcelona into a must-visit touristic destination in Spain by dramatically transforming it into a beach town that offered a laid-back lifestyle to complement the already bohemian Barcelona.

As advertised, I enjoyed a nice walk and the most delicious Paella in one of the many restaurants along the beach.

Eating Paella at a local restaurant by La Barceloneta

Now, this isn’t a travel blog but an English learning blog which uses my travel experiences to explain vocabulary and grammar, so let’s go over the definition of the new word introduced in this story. As you read in the first sentence, La Barceloneta is “man-made.”

This word has two definitions, the first refers to the materials or substances that are not natural. For example I like cotton because it’s natural, I don’t like man-made fabrics.

The second definition refers to something made by people rather than by natural processes. For example The Barceloneta is a man-made beach. We can also say the beach is “artificial”, that would be a synonym.

This interesting fact reminded me of another man-made feature in my country. For instance, Oasis Huacachina in Perú had once a natural lagoon but it started to sink due to underwater consumption, today we can say that the lagoon is man-made. Well,  it’s “almost entirely” man-made since at least 70% of the water is pumped into the lagoon regularly to keep it from drying up.

What are some man-made features in your country?

If you are interested in learning English with real examples taken from my trips around the world, join me on social media. I am on Instagram and Facebook as @wespeakonline.english and on Twitter as @wespeak_online

To watch this lesson on Instagram in video format please click here

B2, Blog, story

Jamaican me happy – Negril

Conversation one:

A: First time in Jamaica?

B: No, I’ve been here once before.

A: Oh, welcome back! (fist bump) You want some good quality weed? Look for me.

B: We will. Thank you!

Conversation two:

A: Wah Gwaan? Want some Ganja?

B: No, thanks.

* Wah Gwaan: Jaimaican slang for “What’s going on?”
*Ganja: another name for weed

Conversation three:

A: Where you from?

B: England and Peru.

A: Yeah mon (fist bump). My wife is from Wembley. Here, a little gift for you (handing us a joint).

B: How much is it?

A: Just give me a donation.

*Yeah mon: a phrase commonly used in Jamaica to show confirmation of understanding a statement or approval of an action

Our first interactions with Jamaicans were all conversations in which there was weed being offered. Ironically, marijuana isn’t legal here. Surprised? Maybe the first thing that comes to your mind when you think of Jamaica is Bob Marley and weed; nevertheless, it isn’t legal in this country.

Then, why does everyone seem to be dealing? We’ve been offered weed at the beach, at restaurants, at hostels, by taxi drivers, street vendors, food sellers, teens, adults, and even elders! There isn’t a place where “ganja” isn’t sold. Born and raised in Negril, a local taxi driver – “Big Ross”, as he calls himself – was telling us that business isn’t as easy as it used to be now that there are many locals offering rides, tours, and weed. He continued,

People multitask to get an extra income because a regular job isn’t enough to make ends meet.

Weed, ganja, kush

If you are a smoker, welcome to paradise! This must be the most accessible country to buy weed. There’s no need to sneak into a dark alley, you can get it at daylight in plain view of passersby. I mean, you can get it as easily in places like Holland and some states in the USA where it is legal; the funny thing here is that, although in 2015 Drug law amendments partially decriminalized small amounts of pot, the drug is still illegal.

For new readers, this blog intends to show cultural differences between English and Spanish speaking countries. In this case, I can compare the weed situation in Jamaica to that of my country of origin, Perú, since carrying a small amount of ganja (possession of two ounces or less), smoking it, or possessing pipes or other smoking utensils is legal, but selling it or possessing big amounts of it isn’t.

In 2014, we amended our criminal records legislation to provide that personal use would no longer attract a criminal record in Jamaica and to provide for automatic expungement of all processes in the past that had a criminal record for personal use,

declared Mr. Mark Golding at the Marijuana Reform Conference.

If you are more interested about Marijuana Reform, watch Mr. Mark Golding at the Drug Policy Reform Conference in 2015 here.

Unless you are staying at a five-star hotel, you need to know that people will approach you and offer you a number of products or services, weed, other drugs, braids, massage, taxi rides, tours, etc. My boyfriend and I were approached by at least 10 people on our first two days in the coastal town of Negril, located on the west side of the country. If that is something you would be bothered by, it’s best you stay in an all-inclusive hotel and avoid walking around public beaches. That’s going to happen, and you can’t avoid it.

A few tips on how to buy in Jamaica

Always have local currency with you. US dollars are accepted everywhere, but you should know that the exchange rate is the worst in commercial establishments, and if you’re buying from street vendors, you are very likely to get ripped off. We got some street food – jerk chicken – on our first day. The guy said it cost $6.00 US dollars; however, when we gave him $10.00 US dollars, he tried to give us $2.00 US dollars change. Needless to say, we never went back there again.

I can’t generalize and say everybody is the same. On our third night, we bumped into “Mr. Spice”, who is famous for selling the best jerk food on the street at $5.00 dollars the portion. We had $10.00 dollars, but he didn’t have change, so he let us give him the loose change we had: only $4.00 dollars. We even got double bread! If you come to Jamaica, look for him. He follows the crowds and shows up at concerts or other events in Negril. He’s never at the same spot, though, so good luck finding him!

If you appreciate good, local cuisine, you can’t miss Best in the West. There we had the best red snapper and, of course, their signature jerk is amazing, too. Go there for jerk chicken – unless you are lucky enough to find Mr. Spice – or Scovitch fish (it’s funny how this word sounds so similar to escabeche, a typical Peruvian dish which tastes very similar). I can say their fried chicken is even better than Willie Mae’s in New Orleans, which goes down to second place in my ranking now.

My next tip is to bargain. I am Peruvian, so this comes naturally to me. If you come from a country where bargaining isn’t customary, start getting some training. Jamaicans will give you a price based on whether you look like a tourist or not. For example, to get one side of my head braided, I was asked for $10.00 dollars. Two women gave me the same price; it seemed to be standard. However, I was very honest and told the second woman that in my country I could get it done for $5.00 dollars. After thinking about it for a while, she agreed. This proves they are ready to lower their prices. So, you just need to bargain!

New vocabulary: amendment, approach, bothered, bump into, decriminalize, expungement, ganja, pot.

Level: B1 – B2