Duolingo with Owen

I try and learn at least a little of the local language before traveling to a foreign country. For Japan, even though I was with a group, I learned some Japanese. For Germany, I am trying to bring back my once excellent German–ressurecting it from an almost dead state. For both trips, I used the Duolingo app to practice.

While the cute little owl, Duo, is cute, that isn’t enough to justify the success of this language app. According to Wikipedia, “As of October 2018, the language-learning website and app offer 81 different language courses across 37 languages. The app has about 300 million registered users across the world.”

What I found

I like Duolingo a lot for reviewing German. I found it useful but not as good for Japanese. The difference was that in german, I had a basic grounding in the language so I had an understanding of the grammar and sentence structure. In Japanese, I had nothing, and between that lack, and the inherent difficulty of learning a language with multiple character sets, I found Duolingo helpful but incomplete for learning Japanese.

Based on my experience, I would add a copy of the “Idiot’s Guide to (insert language here)” to Duolingo if learning a language from scratch. Those guides provide a solid grounding in the language fundamentals and grammar. Combined with the Duolingo app, they provide everything you need to learn a language.

If you’re reviewing a language where you have already learned the basics, like me with German, Duolingo can be used as a standalone language learning tool.

In either case, duolingo is a fun, free (with ads), app that can help you get ready for your next travel adventure.

Japanese Fashion–Art on the Runway

Issey Miyake dress

I will admit that when I went to Japan, I was only familiar with a handful of their many famous clothing designers. Since I love perfume, I was familiar with Kenzo, and Miyake since they had crossed over into perfume. But we’re missing some fun, sometimes outrageous, other times stunningly sculptural clothes, if we ignore Japanese fashion designers. Check out this exhibition from the Metropolitan museum, for example. Make sure you click through the pictures; they are exceptional.

Many of Yohji Yamamoto’s clothes use historical references as part of new designs

The newer designers have a lighter, younger style. Check it out here:
https://theculturetrip.com/asia/japan/articles/top-10-japanese-fashion-designers-you-should-know/

So do you like Japanese fashion? Or just enjoy the detailing but would never wear it?

Owen & the Breaking Bad Tour

Blue “meth” candy from the candy lady in old town

Great excitement for Breaking Bad fans — the New Mexico Film Office announced that a major Sony Studios film will begin production in Albuquerque in a few weeks. Industry leaks indicate that this will be the long awaited big screen presentation of the iconic TV show Breaking Bad.

Owen was tugging on the leash to check out a discarded taco on a street in Albuquerque’s Old Town, recently, when we spotted a sign for a guided tour of important Breaking Bad production sites in and around the city. Owen’s interest waned when this particular tour meant spending three hours in a simulation of the Breaking Bad RV with strangers. Not in his nor the tourists’ best interest.

However, we Googled up several web sites that mapped the sites for key filming locations for those who wanted to drive around the area and find them without a guide. Here’s an example.

Perhaps, after walking in the Bosque, from time to time, we’ll use a shooting location map take in some Breaking Bad sites.

Not just Paper

We tried origami while in Japan. Unfortunately, ours weren’t as tidy as this one but we had fun. Since then, I’ve discovered several sites with easier orugami. The sites are meant for kids but we all know that I’m a kid at heart. These sites are a great place to start an origami journey.

I made this origami fish for my youngest grandson and I’m happy to say that it came out well and that he loved it. Origami animals are always a hit with grandchildren and these are easy enough for beginners. These photo tutorials are for slightly more sophisticated origami but are so clear that anyone can achieve them.

So are you going to try making origami?

Day of the dead

In Albuquerque, as in many Latino communities, we celebrate Day of the Dead as well as Halloween. It’s a lovely holiday that allows us to feel close to our departed loved ones. We build altars commemorating their lives, use marigolds to invite their spirits to visit and decorate with sugar skulls and other day of the dead regalia.

Instead of the scary aspect of Halloween, Day of the Dead celebrations are more like a celebration with family of loved ones.

Some additional activities in the area.

Santa fe celebration

Zuni Fetishes

Zuni fetishes are beautiful art pieces which also have great meaning in Zuni culture. Each animal has particular powers to help people.

New Mexico Bead and Fetish in Old Town New Mexico has an extensive selection of beautiful hand crafted, artist authenticated fetishes. So recently, we made a visit there to pick up some specific fetishes for loved ones. They make great gifts, especially when a loved one is going through a difficult time.

Owen & NM Green Chiles

Owen’s job around the homestead is security, and he takes it seriously. No trash/mail/delivery truck goes unnoticed and un-barked at. The sound of their jaengines arouse him to race through the house to the front gate, grumblings in his basset-derived chest. But, Owen also keeps the ground squirrels from raiding our green chile patch.

We set aside a small part of the backyard for flowers and a few New Mexico green chile plants. The rest is a place for indigenous flora and fauna of the high Chihuahua Desert to play out the roles prescribed by nature. New Mexico is renowned for its green chiles that the locals use to season stews, and add zest to other recipes.

The chiles from the area around the farm town of Hatch in the Mesilla region on the lower Rio Grande River have trademarked their product.

However, Hispanic farm communities throughout the state claim unique properties to their chiles and preserve the seeds that have been passed down since the Spanish introduced chiles into New Mexico centuries ago. LINK

And not just the Hispanics are aficionados of the chile. A Jemez Pueblo friend gave me a chile that had been passed down in his family since the mid-18th century.

Jemez State Monument, preserving the ruins of a 17th century Spanish mission and 13th century Indian pueblo,

The peppers from those seeds rated 10 (maximum hot) on the chile heat scale. Chefs around the state compete for the blue ribbon at the state fair that is awarded to the best green chile cheeseburger. Owen loves green chile cheesburgers.

Locals buy their stash of green chiles at supermarrkets, road side stands, and at the farm. In early fall, the air is filled the scent of chiles being roasted in store parking lots and roadside stands.

Roaster

We harvested a few chiles from the three plants in our garden.

We popped them under the broiler.

Turned them every few minutes, and out they came, ready to be peeled, de-seeded, and ready to be added to home made green chile stew.

Owen finds the chiles uninteresting as a diet item, but the green chile cheeseburgers are a hit with him.