Tag Archives: culture

London Theatre Pietro Place Peter Jones

London Theatre

Every time that I go to London, I try to see a play.  Last time I was there, I went to The Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, the indoor Globe theatre.  I saw Shakespeare’s Cymbeline . It is still playing actually.  At the Wanamaker, there is no electrical lighting inside of the theatre and only candles and candelabras on pulleys.  It is classic London Theatere: good old Elizabethan fare served up on bare sets with traditional music in the background. Catch any performance there if you can.  It is like no experience I have experienced.

This time, I was invited by a friend of mine, Lee Curran, to go see a play at the Royal Court Theatre in Sloane Square.  Lee is the lighting director; a “creative artistic type” that lights up much of London and Stratford with his art.  The play was Linda, a play by Penelope Skinner and starring Noma Dumezweni.  She plays an award-winning business woman promoting beauty products while facing the hypocrisy of how beauty is marketed to women.  This was a play originally starring Kim Cattrall of Sex in the City fame but she pulled out with just a week to go before preview.  Noma stepped in out of the blue, out of nowhere really, and pulled off one of the greatest tour de forces in acting.  Talk about a crash course in learning lines. She was amazing, as was the play.

For me the real buzz was that I got to sit in the tech box with Lee high above the performance and watch the play through his critical eye.  That was a first.  It felt a bit like being in the cockpit of an airplane next to the pilot.  We saw the next to last performance of the play.  I got to meet the star and even got to grab an Indian meal afterwards.  A truly perfect night in London.

London Theatre Pietro Place Peter Jones

Cultural Bridge Building

Teachers: Pioneers of Cultural Bridge Building

Recently at the ACTFL conference in San Diego we listened to Rick Steves talk about the power of travel. It was a compelling conversation that got me thinking a lot about language and the pioneers of cultural bridge building that we call teachers. I am not sure we focus enough on the power of teaching languages in schools, the impact of immersing the student in a culture and giving them a set of tools so that they can communicate in that culture. How encouraging it is to see how students’ lives and career decisions can change as a result of a teachers guidance, enthusiasm, and care.

I remember my French teacher to this day and I wasn’t a great student. He taught me the power to take chances, to take risks in communicating, and he told me never to feel foolish. Mistakes are part of the fun in coming to grips with the language. I have made many mistakes – some funny and some with dire shopping consequences! But it never stopped me from going for it!

We had a reception that evening in San Diego and I said that for me it all started with a verb conjugation. It was sort of like getting your passport. It opened up the world and then I got to connect all of those things that I had memorized (and I had to memorize a lot) into real life situations – being there, practicing, making mistakes, and understanding that it was fun. Here’s the thing, language cannot be taught effectively in a vacuum. Yes you may get a 10/10 on the test, but if you have not experienced the interactions, smelled the scents of a marketplace, taken the risk of talking to a vendor, or asked directions, then what purpose is the language for. In this day and age especially.

So I say, imagine a world where we all get a 10/10 for our Spanish, French, German, and Italian, but we never actually speak to a Spanish, French, German, or Italian person. We had never connected nor ever experienced the culture. It all started and basically ended with a verb. Not good. Travel is essential to connect the dots and connect the culture.  Sometimes to go bravely where “no man” has been before a la Captain Kirk.  What fun it is to hack at a language, make a complete fool of oneself, and yet somehow, the miracle of miracles, through a combination of sign language and mimicry, we get there.  1/10 on the language test but 10/10 for the connection that you make. 


The Feast of the Jamon

The Feast of the Jamón

My daughter recently got married and among the many things that we had to eat, we elected to have a serrano ham on the bone as part of the entertainment. Why the Feast of the Jamón? Jamón serrano is a true cornerstone of Spanish gastronomy. It is a type of cured ham that is generally cut into very thin slices and can be seen at any good tapas bar in Spain.

So the wedding was fabulous and the food was delectable. As I had predicted, the jamón was getting a lot of activity. I have two dear Spanish friends who live in Madrid and were at the wedding. At one point, one of my friends noted that the catering assistant, which the caterer had respectfully provided, was not properly cutting the jamón. He stated, “I cannot take it anymore. I have to give this guy a red card and get him off the job. He’s killing the ham!” (Which was already dead of course). Within 5 minutes, he came back with a bright red t-shirt, and his brother sharpened up the knife but remained in his suit, sending the assistant on his way. The cutting of the ham began in earnest. In quite an extraordinary display of expertise, no matter how many times people came to the ham, because of the thinness of the cut and the way that he moved around the bone, we had ham all night long.

There was only one glitch, someone came up to him and said, “I love prosciutto.” He looked at them appalled and said, quite defiantly, “This is the feast of the jamón and prosciutto is for sandwiches. Jamón is to be consumed with the finest red wine. Prosciutto can be complimented with Coca-Cola!”

I got my ham from LaTienda.com. It was fabulous. If you really want to splash out and pay serious money you can get the jamón iberico but for me, the serrano was fine. Best of all, we all got to see an artist perform for the best part of 3 to 4 hours. Thank god the party went on until the early morning!

The Feast of the Jamon

The Feast of the Jamon The Feast of the Jamon