Spanish and salsa at LASO
Whenever I meet an international student from Latin America, I always ask them a million questions. I want to know everything — from the ingredients of Peru’s famous Inca Kola soft drink to the latest fashion crazes in Bolivia’s Santa Cruz district.
My obsession with everything Spanish led me to form a friendship with Concordia international student Fernando Barbosa, a Bolivian who has dreams of helping develop his country’s economy. My newfound friend introduced me to his group of fellow Bolivians, who are also studying at Concordia. His hombres, cousin Pepi and good friend Diego, are part of Concordia’s Latin American Student Organization (LASO). After hearing all about this great club, I decided to check it out for myself.
LASO’s co-presidents Lucia Gallardo and Julia Ramos invited me to their office at 2010 Mackay St., where they regularly offer salsa and Spanish lessons to Concordia students. Finally, I thought, my inner-Latin American will be able to respirar (breathe) and baillar (dance)!
Wearing my three-piece suit, and feeling slightly overdressed for the occasion, I watched as Lucia and her colleague, Denisse Malky, excitedly searched for a song from their playlist. I asked them each to play a something from their native country (Denisse was born in Bolivia and Lucia in Honduras).
As I lined up in between these two chicas bonitas to learn my first salsa steps, my corazon (heart) was beating a mile a minute. “So you could do a double tap with your feet when you lift both knees,” said Denisse as she swung her legs in a sideways motion. Just the simple side step of salsa alone was making me dizzy. Noticing my light-headedness, Lucia joked that astronauts dance salsa to prepare for space. I guess I won’t be ready for my first moonwalk anytime soon!
“Oh! Procura! This is one of my favorite songs,” exclaimed Lucia as she spun around several times with ease. Suddenly our rhythmic dance session was interrupted when Juliana entered the office with buckets of paint in hand. “We’re planning on building a library here in the office for our conversation meetings,” she said pointing to an empty bookshelf. “But first, let’s teach you some Spanish.”
The first game we played was called !Trabalenguas, known in English as tongue twisters. Great, I sighed to myself, I can’t even play this game in English and now I have to gargle my way through a Spanish version!
“Erre con erre cigarro / erre con erre barril / Rapido corren los carros / Cargados de azucar del ferrocarril,” rhymed Juliana with ease. Recognizing the word “cigarro,” I imagined myself sitting on a tropical beach blowing smoke rings …
I snapped back to reality, and tried once again to repeat Juliana’s allegedly simple tongue twister. “Eche con eche cigarro …”
Before I could continue, Juliana stopped me; “It’s ‘erre’. Feel the R! Bring out your inner cat!” I tried to be as ferocious as possible, but my “erre” sounded more like a dry cough. I just couldn’t get my tongue to roll around the R. “Eche con eche …” I said hopelessly.
This time it was Lucia who cut me off. “Alright, you’ll get there. Now, repeat after me: Pepe puso un peso en el piso del pozo/ En el piso del poso / Pepe puso un peso!”
Watch the video of my visit to Concordia's Latin American Student Organization:
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• Latin American Student Organization