San Antonio Sabbatical

Posts Tagged ‘movies

  • In: Diversions
  • Comments Off on Books, Food, and a Movie

I’ve recently read some more Spanish children’s books in order to practice using the language and to learn about Hispanic/Latino culture.  Most of these books were picked up at my local public library (Cody branch), but I also made a special trip to the Central Library downtown in order to read a recommended book that was not allowed to be checked out.  As mentioned in a previous post, even children’s books in a foreign language can be challenging due to unknown words, regional dialect, and creative sentence structure.  On a positive note, this batch of books was easier to get through than the last batch; I guess the practice helped.  I recently read six books:  (1) Sopa de frijoles: una poema para cocinar/Bean Soup: A Cooking Poem (bilingual) by Jorge Argueta and Rafael Yockteng; (2) In My Family/En mi familia (bilingual) by Carmen Lomas Garza; (3) A Gift from Papá Diego/Un regalo de Papá Diego (bilingual) by Benjamin Alire Sáenz and Geronimo Garcia; (4) The Empanadas that Abuela Made/Las empanadas que hacía la abuela (bilingual) by Diane Gonzales Bertrand and Alex Pardo DeLange; (5) Dancing Miranda/Baile, Miranda, baile (bilingual) by Diana de Anda and Lamberto Alvarez; and (6) The Everything Kids’ Learning Spanish Book: Fun exercises to help you learn español by Laura K. Lawless.

On a related note, when I stopped by the SEFLA office yesterday to pick up my diploma for successfully completing my course, I was pleasantly surprised.  I received a grade of A+ for Advanced Conversational Spanish.  I really enjoyed my weekly lessons with Elvia.  These private lessons were an added out-of-pocket expense, but they were definitely worth it.  Although several native speakers have told me that I speak Spanish very well, I still don’t have the comfort I would like in using the language.  This will come with more practice and time.

Earlier this week on the way home from my clinic practicum, I had take-out food again from El Pollo Loco.  I ordered their 2-piece chicken meal (leg & thigh) that came with two sides (I chose the broccoli, cauliflower, and carrot veggie mix and a corn cobette).  The meal came with tortillas.  I also ordered an individual serving of chocolate cake.  This dinner was delicious; it was very tasty for fast food.  I like this restaurant chain but we don’t have it up north where I live.  Yesterday, on the way to SEFLA, I picked up a take-out Chinese food lunch from Beijing Express (5203 Fredericksburg Rd. at Callaghan), a new restaurant for me.  I decided to try a different dish than usual so I ordered the Almond Chicken lunch special; it came with fried rice and an egg roll.  This meal was okay (Chinese food is not my favorite but I do like a few select items and order them occasionally).

This morning I went to AMC Huebner Oaks 24 to see Katherine Heigl’s new movie, “Life As We Know It”.  Since the movie start time was 11:30 a.m., I got the before-noon ticket price of $5.00 — a good deal.  But, the small popcorn I ordered was $5.75.  It cost more than the movie!  I remember reading recent survey results in which Americans named movie theater popcorn as being the most overpriced food.  I would have to agree.  Anyway, this movie — a comedy/drama — was entertaining, although I’m getting tired of seeing Katherine Heigl play the same type of movie role.  I really liked her on the TV series “Grey’s Anatomy”.

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  • Comments Off on Sightseeing Tour: San Antonio Mission Trail

Okay, so I’ve taken another tour.  This latest tour was of four of San Antonio’s Catholic missions; it did not include the Alamo, which I had visited on a previous trip.  The San Antonio Mission Trail Tour is operated by Historic Texas Tours and costs $35 (there’s a reduced rate of $30 for San Antonio residents).  Thursday’s tour began with our pickup at Alamo Plaza and lasted for 4 hours, and had five participants (including a honeymooning couple).  Our tour guide was Alex Reynolds, the same friendly guy who conducted my foodie tour almost two weeks ago.  The weather was comfortably cool for our 9:00 a.m. departure, and then it warmed up throughout the day.  San Antonio is rich in history and the Spanish missions — which reflect the conflict between Spaniards and American Indians — are a large part of it.  These missions are part of the National Park Service; their churches have active congregations.  Alex shared his knowledge of the area and its history as he drove us to Mission Concepción, Mission San José, Mission San Juan, and Mission Espada.  We toured the grounds and saw inside the churches that weren’t holding services (there was a funeral service in progress at one of them which included drum playing and other traditional ceremonial rituals).  Informational brochures were available at the missions.  At Mission San José, the largest of the four, we saw a 23-minute film, “Gente de Razón”, which gave some good background information about the missions.  Along our ½-day San Antonio Mission Trail Tour, we saw a grist mill, an aqueduct, acequias (drainage ditches), and prickly pear cactus with cochineal bugs that are used in juices.  The buildings’ Spanish colonial architecture, detailed artwork (for example, the wall paintings — “frescoes”), and overall splendor of these historical sites is just amazing.  The San Antonio Mission Trail Tour is a wonderful outing, and will leave you with a greater appreciation for the history and culture of the area.

After the tour ended, I saw a movie — the new comedy, “Morning Glory” at AMC Huebner Oaks 24 theater.  Then I went to the OLLU campus for the evening kickoff of the NLPA conference (more to come in a future post).  What a busy day! 

The day before the tour, I attended another Spanish Language Meetup.  We met at 7:00 p.m. at España Bar de Tapas (because we needed a larger meeting space), a restaurant that I had not been to yet.  I hadn’t planned on attending this month because our usual Thursday meeting would have conflicted with my NLPA conference this week.  But because Thursday was a holiday (Veterans’ Day), Ricardo arranged for us to meet on Wednesday instead.  So, I was in luck.  I’m so glad that I went.  There were 12 attendees (several were new) and we met for about 1¼ hours.  Surprisingly, I spoke a lot — in Spanish!  I had several short conversations about a variety of topics with different people.  It was fun.  Despite the negative reviews online about España Bar de Tapas, I found the food and service to be very good on the night of my Spanish Language Meetup.  I ordered the Tortilla Española (potato, onion, and egg omelet), Chorizo al Vino (chorizo sausage cooked in red wine), and an iced tea.  The chorizo was too spicy for my taste, but all in all, this tapas meal was satisfying.  I like this meetup because it allows me to practice my Spanish.  Unfortunately, it was my last one.  I won’t be able to attend the December meeting because I will be moving.

  • In: Diversions
  • Comments Off on Another Busy Week

Whew!  After an activity-filled few days, I finally have a little bit of time to rest.  On Tuesday afternoon I attended my afternoon practicum as usual; the clinic team was treated to “pan de muerto” (bread) in honor of El Día de Los Muertos.  Then afterward, Clinic Team Supervisor and five team members went to El Pollo Loco (the crazy chicken, in English), a fast food restaurant specializing in flame-grilled chicken, for dinner before going to campus for a special evening lecture.  This was my first time visiting El Pollo Loco — and it was a very good visit.  Their menu contains a nice selection of items.  I ordered “The Original Pollo Bowl” which consists of chicken breast, pinto beans, rice, onions, cilantro and pico de gallo.  I enjoyed my meal and plan to return to this restaurant (which will be easy to do since it’s located near the clinic where I’m doing my Spanish Team practicum).

The Tuesday evening lecture (November 2nd at 7:00 p.m.) was held at Our Lady of the Lake University‘s Thiry Auditorium and attendance was required by Classroom Professor (she canceled the previous day’s class so that students could attend this special presentation instead; I had planned to attend anyway).  The two-hour program was titled, “Immigration Reform: A Catholic Response” and featured Bishop John C. Wester (Chairman of U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Migration and Refugee Services) as the main speaker with additional perspectives by Bernadette Solórzano, Psy.D. (OLLU assistant professor of Psychology and director of the University’s Community Counseling Service) speaking about “Advocacy for Immigrants”, and Jorge Valadez, Ph.D. (OLLU professor of Philosophy) speaking about “Immigration Reform: A World View”.  OLLU‘s president, Tessa Martinez Pollack, Ph.D., gave the official welcome and Bishop Oscar Cantú introduced the main speaker.  This was an interesting and informative guest lecture.  I’m so glad I attended.  Given the big immigration debate currently happening in the U.S. and the focus on legal, economic, political, and social issues, I hadn’t really given much thought to the religious aspect of this issue until now.  OLLU is a Catholic institution so it makes sense for them to sponsor a guest lecture which addresses the issue of immigration from a Catholic perspective.  (I’m not Catholic, but I am a Christian so there is overlap between my own beliefs and values and those professed by the Catholic church).

In addition to taking a few educational handouts that were provided at the entrance, I wrote six pages of notes during the presentations.  I won’t relay all of the details here in this blog post.  The main points addressed by Bishop John C. Wester focused on why the church is involved in this immigration issue.  He mentioned that our immigration system is broken, gave a list of important principles to consider in dealing with this issue, and stated that comprehensive immigration reform is needed and what this should entail.  Bishop Wester also mentioned common objections and debunked some myths about immigrants.  The next two speakers added additional perspectives.  Dr. Bernadette Solórzano mentioned the immigration issues she sees in her clinic and how she advocates for her clients by conducting evaluations to prove extreme psychological hardship on immigrants being separated from their families.  Dr. Jorge Valadez spoke of nation states, territorial powers, and reciprocity, and suggested systematically integrating migration into the policies of countries, especially the poor countries.  He noted that we should listen to the concerns of others and not be too quick to judge the motives of others.  Following the speakers, there was a brief question-and-answer session.  OLLU President Tessa Martinez Pollack provided closing remarks and commented on the timing of this lecture which is being held on Election Day and El Día de Los Muertos on which many people have honored their immigrant families.  This was an excellent guest lecture.

On Wednesday afternoon, I observed the other Spanish Team at the clinic and plan to return for another observation in two weeks (I’ll write about it in another post).  Wednesday evening was when I had to turn the heat on in my apartment for the first time and put a quilt on my bed.  Nighttime temperatures have dropped into the 30s.  Yes, it does get cold here in Texas.  I wasn’t expecting this so I may have to do a little shopping for more fall clothes.  I didn’t bring a lot of heavy clothes with me since I was warned about the Texas heat (I arrived in San Antonio in mid-August).  This current weather reminds me of what I experienced while living in New York, Massachusetts, and Pennsylvania.  San Antonio‘s recent daytime temperatures have often been in the 70s, but there is a significant drop at night (there have been freeze warnings in the northern parts of Texas).

Thursday was my monthly luncheon for Newcomers of San Antonio.  This time we dined at Silo Elevated Cuisine and Bar.  Like last month, several members attended, but this restaurant’s set-up was better (i.e., tables of 8 in a separate room with more space) and this made it easier to mingle and feel comfortable.  The group’s president (Donna Lee Conkwright) made some announcements and conducted the general meeting, then we ate lunch, and then we listened to a speaker.  The lunch was flavorful.  I selected the Wood Grilled Atlantic Salmon with roasted corn and red pepper polenta, grilled asparagus, and basil crab beurre blanc, and for dessert I had a delicious dark chocolate truffle mousse.  A house salad and bread were served prior to the entree; black currant iced tea was served as an optional beverage.  I really like this restaurant — great atmosphere and food, although our service was slow (it took almost an hour before everyone was served; my table was one of the last ones served).  During dessert we heard a 40-minute presentation by Donna Simon, a local artist (painter) and founding board member of SAY Sí.  She discussed “Contemporary Art in San Antonio” and showed slides of various types of art made by local artists.  I really enjoyed this presentation.  At the end, I took one of her flyers and business cards and contacted her to register for one of the Studio Art Tours she offers each month where she takes participants to artists’ studios and galleries in San Antonio.  I enjoy dabbling in art and viewing the artwork of others, and am excited about this opportunity.  My Studio Art Tour is scheduled to take place on the morning of Tuesday, November 9th.

Friday marked the release of Tyler Perry‘s new movie, “For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf“.  I went to the 11:10 a.m. showing at AMC Huebner Oaks 24 and was pleasantly surprised that tickets for showtimes before noon cost only $5.00.  What a great deal.  Anyway, “For Colored Girls…” (which is based upon a 1970s play) is intense — so many deep and troubling issues; an emotional two hours.  Despite the harsh content (which reflects these ladies’ lives), I liked the movie.

On Friday evening, I went to Elvia’s (my SEFLA Spanish teacher) house so that we could attend the SAY Sí Mueritos Fest First Friday, a special event for El Día de Los Muertos.  When I arrived at Elvia’s house around 5:30 p.m., I gave her flowers and a box of Pepperidge Farm cookies that she loves.  She thanked me and invited me inside.  We chatted briefly and she introduced me to her husband (who loves to tango dance).  Then we walked for a few blocks to the event.  SAY Sí (San Antonio Youth – Yes) is an arts organization that helps the area’s children.  For the 4th Annual Mueritos Fest there were art exhibits in various media; vendors selling jewelry, crafts, and foods; and some entertainment.  Elvia and I watched a short shadow box performance by theater students  from a local school.  Afterward, we went outside and saw a variety of regional Mexican dances being performed by dancers wearing traditional dress.  The talent and creativity on display were amazing.  Elvia then took me to the Blue Star Contemporary Art Center which is famous for its art gallery; the Blue Star Brewing Company Restaurant and Bar next door is a popular hangout spot for the locals who come listen to the live entertainment.  This neighborhood houses many artists — they live here and have their studios here.  Elvia and I went inside the gallery and looked around at some of the art exhibits; as we passed by the Blue Star restaurant we ran into one of Elvia’s neighbors and stopped and talked for a while.

As we walked along S. Alamo Street in search of a place to eat, Elvia explained that we were in the historic King William district and the Southtown area known for its history, culture, food, art, and music.  This is San Antonio‘s arts district and there are many restaurants, shops, museums, and galleries here.  At my request, we went inside of Pulquerios’ Jewelry, Art, Beads & Eclectica and I purchased a small curio display box of a Día de Los Muertos scene.  It’s cute, artsy, and small enough to carry with me when I move in six weeks.  We ate at a nearby restaurant, Liberty Bar.  Elvia had eaten here before and really liked it.  Liberty Bar is a nice sit-down restaurant with a great atmosphere and diverse menu that changes daily.  It was so busy that night that we had a 20-minute wait for a table (not bad).  When we were finally seated, we ended up at a table near more of Elvia’s neighbors.  A couple of them came over to our table and Elvia introduced me.  Everybody seems so friendly, just like Elvia.  This meal was Elvia’s gift to me.  For dinner I ordered Hummus Bi Tahini with Pita Toast, a small Mixed Green Salad with Vinaigrette, and a small Fresh-Squeezed Orange Juice.  Later I got a cup of Leek and Chickpea Soup to go because it looked so good when Elvia was eating it in the restaurant.  The food was delicious (I especially loved the soup that I ate once I got home).  I really enjoyed this meal and having the chance to talk with Elvia.  We spoke in English because this was a lot easier for me and this wasn’t an official lesson, just a fun outing.  This was a really nice evening and the first time I had been to this part of San Antonio.  I thanked Elvia for sharing it with me.  We parted ways around 10:35 p.m. and I arrived home twenty minutes later.  I was tired, but satisfied.  I had my fill of art and culture for the night.  ¡Qué bueno!

  • In: Diversions
  • Comments Off on Newcomers, Book Club, and a Movie

Yesterday I attended two activities, a Newcomers of San Antonio coffee and tea at 10:00 a.m. and a San Antonio Public Library book discussion at noon.

Every month the Newcomers group has a “Coffee, Tea and YOU!” gathering at a member’s home.  Members take turns hosting this social event that allows time for casual mingling with each other while snacking on tasty goodies (the coffee cake was delicious).  The general membership meeting is also held during this time.  The October “Coffee, Tea and YOU!” took place at the house of the Newcomers of San Antonio president, Donna Lee.  I got to see a different area of San Antonio and had conversations with several people, including a few other new members.  (Side note:  I am officially a member now; I joined and paid my dues after attending the monthly luncheon earlier this month).  There were 41 attendees yesterday.  This is such a diverse group of women with interesting backgrounds.  A common theme is moving to San Antonio after their husband received a new job or job transfer.  That’s not my story so I’m unique in that sense.  After about an hour of mingling, we gathered in the living room for the general meeting.  The group was welcomed, members were thanked for their participation and assistance, a list of upcoming activities was reviewed, and new and prospective members were asked to introduce themselves.  Once the business items had been covered, there was a prize giveaway in which the winner was the person with the closest guess for the number of candy corns in a jar.  Then, there was a fun activity in which members had to guess the name taped onto their backs by asking only two yes-or-no questions.  Although this seemed like fun, I didn’t stay to play because I had to get to my next meeting.  I enjoyed this second opportunity to chat with Newcomers members and learn more about the group.  I’m looking forward to attending November’s luncheon and coffee/tea session.

I drove to the Cody Library for the monthly Thursday Book Club.  Upon nearing the parking lot, I was surprised to encounter a sea of political campaign signs on the lawn.  I also had difficulty finding a parking spot.  This all made sense when I learned that the early voting was taking place at that time inside the library (mid-term elections will occur across the country in early November).  Anyway, once I arrived at the book discussion — I had e-mailed the group leader ahead of time to inform her that I would be a few minutes late — I listened to some background information on the author and his book, Hunger of Memory: The Education of Richard Rodriguez (an autobiography).  This month’s co-leaders presented this summary and then the group offered their opinions.  I found out that I wasn’t alone in my feelings about this controversial book.  While most of us appreciated the exposure to social issues regarding bilingual education, affirmative action, and class issues, we had a hard time reading this book because of the author’s many internal conflicts and awkward writing style.  Seventeen members were in attendance — a good size for a lively discussion.  A few members discussed the public education system in Texas and Europe as contrasted with California where Rodriguez was educated.  This book selection and the related discussion gave me some things to think about.  Unfortunately, I won’t be able to attend our November book discussion due to a schedule conflict.

This afternoon I went to the movies again (AMC Huebner Oaks 24).  I saw the recently-released movie, “The Social Network“, a comedy/drama about Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of the popular social networking website Facebook.  I’m not on Facebook, but several people are and this includes the college students with whom I work.  Since I had little previous knowledge about the invention of Facebook, this movie was informative.  Social networks of various types exist and they are common sources of relationships.  In fact, I wrote an article about this a couple of years ago.  It’s called “Expand Your Social Support Network” and was published in the December 2008 e-newsletter of the Pennsylvania Psychological Association.

That’s all for now.  I have a few cultural posts planned for the coming week.  Stay tuned for these educational posts.

I’ve attended a couple of Meetup gatherings within the last few days.

First, on Thursday evening at 6:30 p.m. I was at La Taza Coffee House again for my Spanish Language Meetup.  We had a bigger group this month.  There were 14 members in attendance, including several new members.  While drinking iced green tea and eating chocolate-filled cookies, I chatted with several people.  We started out having one large conversation in Spanish about news events (the rescued miners in Chile), then broke off into smaller groups or one-on-ones.  During these individual conversations I spoke mostly in English because the people with whom I was speaking had less knowledge of Spanish that I do.  The conversations with two women in particular — (1) a returned Peace Corps volunteer and social worker who is new to San Antonio, and (2) a long-time resident of San Antonio with a strong desire to travel and learn Spanish — were particularly satisfying.  We have things in common and shared some resources.  We also exchanged contact information and plan to keep in touch.  After the 1½ hour official Spanish Language Meetup meeting had ended, I stayed for an additional 1¾ hours in order to talk with them individually.

Second, on Friday (yesterday) my Book Lovers Meetup group met at 5:30 for “happy hour” at El Jarro de Arturo Mexican Restaurant.  This was a new restaurant for me so I was really looking forward to attending.  Initially, there was some confusion regarding seating because we didn’t have a reservation (there were ten of us) and we ended up being placed together at small tables inside the restaurant rather than out on the patio as several of us wanted.  Despite this glitch, which was clearly our fault, our El Jarro experience was a good one.  The service was very good and the food was delicious.  I ordered a virgin Strawberry Margarita (I don’t like alcohol) and the Sombrero Salad (crispy flour tortilla bowl with lettuce, tomatoes, jicama, and beef taco meat — no cheese).  Others in the group ordered drinks, appetizers, and entrees.  We enjoyed casual conversations about an assortment of topics such as work, home, books, news, hobbies, and travel.  I appreciated getting to know some of the group members a little better.  I was pleasantly surprised to meet another writer.

I’m glad that I was able to attend these latest Meetup activities because I won’t be able to attend my regularly scheduled Meetup meetings in November due to a schedule conflict.  The NLPA conference will be held during those times.

Other recent activities I’ve done include reading another book and watching a movie.  The book was a memoir, Weekends at Bellevue: Nine Years on the Night Shift at the Psych ER by Julie Holland, M.D. (2009, Bantam  Books/Random House).  The movie, which I saw this morning after doing my grocery shopping, was Waiting for Superman (2010).  Both the book and the movie contained troubling “deep thought” content.  Weekends at Bellevue is a chronicle of a psychiatrist’s professional and personal struggles.  Waiting for Superman is a documentary about the failing public school system in the United States.  I usually read books and watch movies as entertainment, however, these most recent selections were so emotionally gripping that they were more freaky than fun.  But, sadly, this is the world in which we live and sometimes reality is harsh.

(Slightly Off Topic) — A Good News Story:  Wednesday, October 13th marked the completion of the successful rescue of 33 miners trapped underground for 70 days in Copiapó, Chile.  This incredible feat is unprecedented and gained worldwide attention.  These men are a hardy bunch and they and their rescuers deserve the praise they are getting.  So glad this story had a happy ending.  ¡Gracias a Dios!



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