How Spanish guidebooks describe my city.. NY, NY!


En el terreno cultural del ultimo siglo siempre ha side una ciudad puntera con movimientos como el expresionismo abstracto en pintura, renacimiento de Harlem en artes visuales y literatura, el punk, el hip-hop y el documentalismo fotografico entre otros muchos.

En la actualidad, sus habitantes se componen de un crisol de culturas variopintas (judios, alemanes, italianos, chinos, hispanos y asiaticos entre otros) que han llegado a esta ciudad en busca del sueno americano en una epoca algo convulsa, ya que la ciudad parece un poco adormecida desde los ataques del 11 de septiembre sumados a la crisis financiera del 2009.

The last century has changed the cultural landscape of New York City. 

The city has experienced movements like abstract expressionism in painting, the Harlem Renaissance in visual arts and literature, the punk revolution, hip-hopculture, documentary photography and much more.  

Today, its inhabitants are composed of a melting pot (Jews, Germans, Italians, Chinese, Hispanic and Asian and others) who have come to this city in search of the American dream in a somewhat turbulent fashion, as the city seems a little numb from the Sept. 11 attacks combined with the financial crisis of 2009.

Is this an accurate description?  Does it shed light on the dynamics of New York City in a positive light?

I think it is so difficult to accurately describe the dynamics and capture the rhythm of New York City in so few words.  We not only have a melting pot of people, but languages, food, clothing, music, customs.  In education, teachers must be sensitive to the cultural differences and background of each child.  Teaching in the tri-state area is so enjoyable because I work with children and families from all over the world.  Adapting and implementing multicultural classroom lessons is very interesting for myself and the children.  These classroom exercises translate to lifelong lessons of compassion, generosity, understanding and patience.  What a privilege it is to be from such a great city! 

Is this effective?

"Smoking can cause a slow and painful death".  Will people stop smoking with this graphic image or message?  Or will smokers choose other brands without such images?  Do smokers have a right to buy a product without such graphic messages?  Or do non-smokers have more of a right to live without second-hand smoke and pollution?

"Smoking during pregnancy will jeopardize the health of your child."
"Smoke contains benzene, nitrosamines, formaldehyde and hydrogen cyanide."

Spanish Kids Playing Fútbol

Healthy Eating Habits

Worst Foods to Eat and BETTER options to remember!

Pre-packaged/fast food Hamburgers-processed meat contains high levels of monosodium glutamate (MSG) a flavor additive that causes headaches, allergic reactions and up to 1,800 grams of sodium.  Cheeseburgers exceed total daily recommended fat intake.  Better bet? Veggie burgers with hummus instead of cheese.  End result? More protein, less fat and less sodium.

Hot Dogs-contain nitrites, which are thought to cause cancer.  In addition, fillers and non-meat binders such as cereal and dry milk add extra carbohydrates to your diet.  Better bet? Grilled vegetable kebabs at your next BBQ.  Increased intake of essential vitamins and minerals.

French Fries-high fat content from oil, and high glycemic index; body converts fries to sugar very quickly. Final result: "Crash and burn" after lunch.  Better bet?  Fiber-filling lunch which will keep you satisfied and alert until dinner.

Oreo cookies-Three cookies contain 160 calories, seven grams of fat and 14 grams of sugar (or about 7 packets of sugar).  The high sugar content depletes your immune system and creates inflammation in the body.  Better bet? Granny Smith apple with low-fat peanut butter.  These tart green apples have lower sugar levels, and the peanut butter packs a protein punch.  This combination will satisfy your sweet tooth without terrorizing your pancreas.

Commercial/frozen pizza- contains enriched white flour that's been bleached of its natural vitamins and minerals.  Toppings include processed cheese and meats, which are high in unhealthy saturated or trans fat. Better bet?  Whole wheat pita bread with homemade tomato sauce, chopped veggies and low-fat , skim milk ricotta cheese.

Soft drinks-liquid candy.  Enough said.  Avoid drinks with corn syrup as it is high in fructose, which is stored in the body as fat.  Better bet?  Drink water with lemon!

Chicken nuggets-mystery meat, anyone? Frozen, breaded "chicken" is usually made of unusable chicken parts rather than whole white meat.  The breaded coating is very high in carbohydrates.  There have also been traces of aluminum found in certain brands, which is toxic to the body.  Better bet?  Spinach nuggets that are breaded with whole wheat, and contains the recommended daily intake of iron.

Ice cream-is delicious but also high in sugar and fat.  Better bet?  Choose italian ice or frozen low-fat yogurt.  If ice cream is your vice, take care to enjoy it in small doses and choose ice cream with nuts like pistachio or peanut so at least you'll get protein intake.

Donuts-the average donut contains about 300 calories and more than half of the recommended daily carbohydrate intake.  They may be sweet, but donuts are often high in salt and deep-friend in fatty oil.  Better bet?  Eat yogurt with granola for breakfast.  The granola has fiber which will keep you full until lunch, and the yogurt contains calcium and essential vitamins and minerals especially beneficial for women's health.

Potato chips-on average, one small bag has 300 calories, high in saturated fat and high in sodium.  It takes four pounds of potatoes to make one pound of potato chips making this popular snack very calorie dense.  Better bet?  Baby carrots with Baba Ghanoush.  The carrots provide the crunchy texture of chips with added nutritional value of vitamin A and betacarotine, while the roasted eggplant dip provides fiber,  magnesium, potassium, and vitamin C.

World Youth Day in Madrid

From August 16th to August 21st, Madrid will host the World Youth Day.  As you can see in the postcard below, the Catholic church is seeking Madrilenos to host young pilgrims for the week.  It is an excellent opportunity for young people to gather in a major international city and share cultural experiences and faith in humanity.  I will be in Shanghai at this time, yet I hope this event is a huge success.

Streetball in Madrid

This past weekend, the neighborhood of Lavapies hosted a streetball/basketball tournament for young people who had travelled from all over the world. With this, the barrio bounced to a new beat. I was surprised to see the turnout of Madrileños, and the number of people interested in the hip-hop/street culture of NYC basketball. It was a well-organized, interesting event, complete with freestyle hip-hop music (MC Carlitos Wey), film (Samantha Casoleri) and photography (Patrick Buckley). This event was organized by Jose Gonzalez, director of Lenguaje Perfecto.

When extranjeros first think of Spain, most visualize imagery of bull fighting, flamenco and sangria. Although these are customs that have been treasured (and over-sensationalized in the media) for decades, times are changing. With each new generation, each new group of immigrants, and each new song uploaded onto YouTube, young Spaniards are re-inventing the rhythm of Spanish culture.

Events such as the "Streetfest" resonate with young people here struggling to find employment and a better way of life, just as streetball played an important role in the development of African-American culture in LA and NYC. Hip-hop, breakdancing and graffiti are all means of expression that allow people to interact within their peer groups in the cities.  Graffiti is all over the city, and all over Spain.  Although many murals are simple scribble, others are works of art.  On any given day here in Madrid, you can walk down the street and see young Spaniards rapping with their earphones on, or cars passing by blasting Eminem.  A cultural event with influences of America allow Spaniards to travel without moving.  This event was an insider's glimpse into the influence of street culture in the city of New York. In turn, it was an opportunity to take note of similarities and differences that exist in both places.

It is important to note that Lavapies is a neighborhood with a strong character and personality.  If you walk its streets you will find street art, graffiti, small cultural venues, and families using the public space to fully interact with the city.  Lavapies is an example of street culture in development; a barrio with a flavor for every type of person. 

Like young people in America, many young Spaniards are frustrated by the economic situation. The newspaper El Pais recently reported that 21% (in the first quarter of 2011) of the nation is unemployed (9.6 million people). 95% of these people are between the ages of 18-30 (9.1 million). New laws have been passed making parents responsible for their adult children until the age of 27! People are looking to the government for support, but there's only so much the government can do.

Events like "Streetfest" can inspire young people to use their talents in athletics, art, music or whichever medium of expression to share their thoughts and concerns and influence change in their individual neighborhoods. This in turn will have a long lasting effect on the country overall.  Streetball is exactly what the doctor ordered to cure disenfranchised youth.

Vegetarian/Vegan Food in Madrid!

It seems almost impossible to believe, in the city of jamón serrano, that a lovely natural foods store could exist in a commercial area of southern Madrid, but one does!!

This beautiful little gem is in the neighborhood of Príncipe Pío, which is located near Casa de Campo and Palacio Real.  "El Vergel" is also a vegetarian/vegan restaurant, but I came to this shop to find all natural beauty products, and some flavored tofu.  Luckily, I found both!  

El Vergel also had a large selection of animal-friendly cleaning products.  For the most part, food was bottled in glass jars (yay! no BPA-lined cans!) and they also had a large selection of Asian and Turkish food.  I've been dying to make cupcakes since finding out while teaching that Spaniards don't make Christmas cookies or cupcakes as children--so deprived, these people! :)  Imagine how happy I was when I saw El Vergel carried cake mix!

But I got less excited when I saw the cake mix was almost 6 Euros!?!? I have to say, that was the only unfortunate thing about El Vergel, but that's always the case with natural food stores.  We all have to start voting more with our wallets for healthier products than supporting companies that manufacture processed foods!

Also worth mentioning was the cute Arabic tea shop a few doors down.  I love when different cultures can co-exist peacefully!  Pictures are below.

So I leave you with this thought today... Do your part to stop animal cruelty and try to abstain from animal products!  It's a small effort that will influence worldwide, effective change.

Bilingualism in Children

In our global, interconnected society, it's more important than ever for children to acquire multiple language intelligences.  As a bilingual educator, I strive to help my students gain proficiency in both English and Spanish.  It is my hope that the popularity of bilingualism will continue to grow in our public schools.  

I will be instructing children's fitness classes this summer at local camps in Nassau county.  The twist is, I will be teaching in Spanish, using Spanish games, songs, props and themes to engage bilingual learners.
Please contact me at for more information.

Did you know that..

..between the ages of 18 months and 6 years, the average child learns more than 14,000 words?  That's an average of 9 words per day!

..the critical period for children to acquire native-like language skills in more than one language ends around age 7.  It's best to begin learning a second language at 0-3 years.

..reading to and with your children is one of the best ways to foster language development and imagination!

..bilingual books are a great way to interact with your kids and reinforce their language skills!

..your child's reading skills are the best indicator of future success in school.'s never too early to read to your baby!  In one study, shared book reading at 8 months was linked to more advanced language abilities at 12 and 16 months.

..children's attitudes toward reading and language is strongly influenced by their parents and other caretakers.  DON'T FORGET TO READ TO YOUR KIDS EVERYDAY!

Niños + Amor + Educación= FUTURO!


I am here in Spain, but as an American and New Yorker,  today is an emotional day for me.  I woke up this morning to the news that Osama Bin Laden has been killed in Pakistan.  Finally, justice is served!  God Bless our military, and God Bless America.  I will be home for Memorial Day, and look forward to the opportunity to attend my town's parade, and stand proudly with my fellow Americans.

9-11-2001... we will never forget!  RIP Jeff Shaw.. this day is for you and your family!