Saying “you” three different ways in Spanish

In my youth it was acceptable to address most everyone (except children) with “Usted” but the reverse usage of “tu” was not true; this  appears to have changed. Language seems to have become much less formal and I find everyone addressing me as “tu” and I have to remember to do the same. Do you and Alicia agree? (Alicia…what a great name… tell her that is the name of the heroine in my novel!)I first learned Spanish in Colombia and then moved to Costa Rica where they use “vos”. I have dropped it as “tu” is more common, but didn’t realize it IS so widely used.
I’m a language lover myself and would like to repost this.
Saludos, Cinda

Fine Roadkill Cuisine

As a linguist, and having grown up reading the King James Bible and Shakespeare, I get extremely irritated when ignorant people goof around with “thou” conjugation and add “-eth” or “-est” to adjectives, nouns, wherever they think it might be funny. There is a mystique associated with “thou” because of its use in the King James. But its use was not complicated, although its conjugation can be. “Thou” was originally the singular form, and “you” plural. With time, “thou” became the familiar form and “you” the respectful form. By the late 1600s, “thou” fell into disuse, and now we use “you” for everyone.

Spanish has a more complicated pronoun history, and remains more complex than English. In school you were taught “tú” and “usted” for “you”. “Usted” conjugates with “él/ella” and is the respectful form, “tú” is the familiar, paralleling “you” and “thou”.

However, in real life, vast sections of…

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Books make nice Christmas presents!

Books make nice Christmas presents so I am discounting 10 copies of A PLACE IN THE WORLD  through December ($10.00 via PayPal ).  I will be happy to autograph the book to whomever you designate. If you want one, contact me below . ( See reviews at:


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IWillTravel: Expat File #5

The last stop on our blog tour is with IWillTravel.

Will Castillo says his blogging mission is to get people to see things differently from the norm, or though a different set of glasses.  Originally from Nicaragua and now living in Canada, he is a BIG traveler.  He plans to move to Colombia next year.  (You may be sick of interviews  with me over the last month, but) – check out his interesting blog with pictures from his travels around the world!  (Below is an excerpt from his post.)

INTRODUCTION To Will:Will Castillo

I was born in Nicaragua and lived there until the age of eleven.  Due to the economical and political crisis in Nicaragua, my family and I were left with no choice but to emigrate.  After having lived in Toronto for twenty-five years now I’ve grown accustomed to its way of life.  Yes, it’s a place I call home but deep within me I still have no sense of belonging or patriotism.  I have yet to find my place in the world.   I am faced with a challenge that (I believe) other people also face, and that is the challenge of finding a place to call home, not only because it’s where we physically reside but also because it’s where our soul can truly belong. This confession leads me to this month’s interview with Cinda MacKinnon, author of A Place In The World, a romantic-adventure story of a young biologist and a multicultural cast of characters.

(WC) : Cinda, could you begin by  giving us an introduction about yourself and the different places in the world you’ve had the privilege to live in?

(CCM): My dad worked for the US  government during the Cold War and shortly after I was born we moved to Salonika, Greece; a couple of years later to Germany.  From there we moved to Bogotá, Colombia and Dad became an attaché with the embassy.  We were lucky (except for a revolution!) to live there for 6 years.  But Costa Rica proved to be a welcoming and nurturing place and my parents retired there – putting a hiatus to our nomadic life. I came to the States for college, feeling very much like “fish out of water” culturally and after graduation moved with my husband to New Zealand. Thus I didn’t really begin living in the US until my early thirties.  I have now been here long enough to put down roots and feel like a northern Californian.

Cinda and husband at Montserrate with  Bogota in background.

Cinda and husband at Montserrate with Bogota in background.


Cinda as a kid in Bogota

You lived the longest time in Colombia and Costa Rica.  Why did you pick Colombia as the backdrop for your book?

Both are beautiful places that I love. Colombia was  where dramatic things were happening from 1970 through the 1990’s – when the book takes place. The coffee market was volatile, but the guerillas and drug lords looming in the background made everyday life hazardous.  A story needs conflict and action to be interesting – if I just wrote about the happy Carvallo family it would’ve been boring.Calendario_L0108

You love creating fictional characters but just how much of the book is from events in your own life and experiences?

Everyone writes “what they know” i.e. from their own experiences or those of people they knew. The novel is fictional, but many of the scenes were prompted by life and then expanded or exaggerated.  For example, my family lived through a volcanic eruption that mimics the one in the story and I have friends who own a coffee finca.  Don Felipe, Pepe and Jorge are men who could very well exist in Latin America and remind me of men I knew – in a general sense.  Carmen is the one character who is modeled after two remarkable women I knew who had tough lives, but managed to remain warm and cheerful. Other than that, all scenes and dialogues are strictly products of my imagination.

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I know there are people out there that still have not found their place in the world, me being one of them.  What advice or comfort can you offer us?

In the story Alicia decides that it isn’t the place itself that matters so much as the people you surround yourself with.  I think you have to appreciate wherever you live without losing your own sense of identity and roots.  Time and acceptance helped me.  Actually I think you have been an expat all your life – YOU can probably tell your readers as much as I.   I suspect you are a man who has learned to fit in anywhere.  I know you are moving to Colombia and hope with time you will feel at home there – maybe even closer to family?

Site to see some great photos of the rainforests and Colombia:

To see reviews or to buy the book (available in various formats) :

The Winners of the contest held by The Displaced Nation

The Winners of the contest by The Displaced Nation website –  are:
Roadkill Spatula” ( his blogger handle!) and
Diahann Reyes.

(Following Cinda MacKinnon’s interview on TDN, a contest was held for the most interesting comments. ) I am writing to inform you that each of you has been chosen to win an e-copy of her novel, A Place in the World. I can assure you you’re in for a treat, as I’m reading it right now myself, and am completely addicted!!!
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ML Awanohara
on behalf of TDN


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The blog tour for my novel started last month  with author/blogger  Then we stopped at The Displaced Nation– the cyber home for global nomads, travelers and expats.  Next we visited Strolling South America. and the Daily (W)rite, at damyantiwrites, in Singapore. This week we  are going to IWillTravel.  Originally from Nicaragua and now living in Canada, Will Castillo is a BIG traveler – check out his interesting blog!

Here is the schedule to date:

  • Crissi Langwell Oct. 14 – introducing A Place in the World
  • Displaced Nation Oct. 17-   an interview from the expat perspective
  • Strolling South America Oct. 22  – Tidbits on Colombia (…of coffee and history)
  • Daily write Oct 24th  – an interview from the writers’ perspective
  • IWillTravel  Nov. 15 – an interview.  Will’s mission is “to get people to see things differently from the norm, or though a different set of glasses”.

Colombian tidbits and book giveaway

Re-blogged from: strollingsouthamerica

Cinda C. MacKinnon is a writer who grew up in Colombia and Costa Rica and wrote a novel…In this post she talks about something many of us love about Colombia: coffee – as well as an interesting tidbit about Colombia and the Panama Canal.

A brief History of Colombian Coffee:
Colombia is the second largest coffee producer in the world…second only to Brazil. The geography however made it difficult to transport the beans to market in the past, as most of the best regions were the least accessible. It is a boom-bust industry at the mercy of weather, politics and markets. Many growers fought to remain solvent in the last century and Latin American countries were asked to adhere to quotas – to which they bitterly agreed.


Coffee beans drying in the sun.

In 1975 a disaster in Brazil, the Black Frost, ironically aided the Colombian coffee market. When a terrible freeze killed over half of their coffee plants and ruined the crop, demand went way up for Colombian coffee. Brazilians quickly began planting the species because it grows fastest. The Arabica variety however, which Colombia is known for, is the higher quality coffee; this made Colombia the leader for the most sought after coffee. (I personally think Costa Rica is in the same league.) In more recent years Vietnam has become an equal contender in terms of quantity.

The Panamanian connection:
Everyone knows Colombia is famous for coffee, after all they invented Juan Valdez – but this excerpt tells a story you may not know about Colombia’s history with Panama and the United States over the canal….(click above for more)

Book love: A Place in the World

I’m happy to answer any questions related to this post or about the book. … just ask me!

Crissi Langwell

If your taste in fiction runs from literary to romance with a bit of adventure sprinkled in, I have a new book to recommend:  A Place in the World by Cinda Crabbe MacKinnon.  Here is the story line:

When her Colombian husband deserts her on his family’s coffee farm in a remote part of the Andes, Alicia struggles to make a life there for herself and her son even as guerrilla uprisings begin to threaten the area, and a nearby volcano rumbles to life. The passionate story, about a young biologist and a multinational cast of characters, is like a South American Out of Africa in the final decades of 1900’s.

This multicultural indie novel has been getting good reviews on Amazon since it came out a few months ago.  For more reviews and to read the first two chapters of the book go to:  

Reviews – by…

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ExPat File #4: Looking for Her Place in the World

Born of Colombian parents, but raised in the US, Jisel Perilla, spent several years in Colombia searching for her roots.  Here is her Guest Post.



During my early days in Bogotá, I was enthralled by life abroad. I was on a sensory high and I couldn’t get enough. I found joy and novelty in exploring neighborhoods, traveling, drinking chocolate con queso with my grandmother and her old lady friends and writing for hours at tiny, atmospheric cafes. I was fascinated by the culture, the differences, the similarities, the art and the mindset. There were always new foods to try, street music to enjoy, parties to go to, sites to be seen and observations to be made. Life was fascinating and fulfilling and as a writer, I felt I had more than enough material to last a life time. Because my parents are Colombian, I felt like I’d finally come home in many ways; like I’d discovered the missing link that differentiated me from “long-time” Americans with generations of roots in the States. In my early days (2009) in Bogotá I wrote:

There are elegant, neoclassical bureaucratic buildings just a few blocks from mountain shanty-town invasions, grand avenues running parallel to  unkempt, abandoned dead-end streets and important-looking men in expensive looking suits walking alongside ancient women with head shawls and long wool skirts selling candy and cigarettes from tiny, makeshift wooden stands.

Slums of Bogota

Slums of Bogotá



But of course, that level of wonder and excitement was impossible to maintain, at least for me at the time.  About a year into my stint in Bogotá, the novelty began wearing off and loneliness started creeping in. Because I worked mostly as a travel writer and as an English teacher, I spent much of my time alone – traveling around, dining out, visiting hotels, writing in cafes – and while this was in many ways the dream life, it left little time to form meaningful relationships with other people. I started longing for the U.S.; missing everything about it, even the things I’d once claimed to hate (the suburbs, strip malls, the necessity of having a car, etc). In fact, when I look through my blog, I can see my attitude changing from one of joyful enthrallment to nostalgic longing for the home I’d left behind. I suppose you could say that my time abroad taught me to love the U.S. In the excerpt below, you can see my mindset changing.

 I used to feel I was moving forward here. I felt passionate about Colombia. I don’t have that feeling anymore. Maybe it’s all more familiar now. Even in the most passionate of romances, love fades. Or maybe living abroad for the better part of three years has made me realize I enjoy being American. In fact, I am realizing lately how very American my mindset is, and how I’m trying to impose my U.S mentality on my life in Colombia.”


I’ve been back in the U.S now for nearly two years and exploring my changing views about life abroad. Was it Colombia? Was it me? Were we just ultimately irreconcilably incompatible? Was the draw of the U.S – of my family, of the comfortable and the familiar – just too great to resist? Do I regret my time abroad as years lost, or was it an integral component in shaping the person I am today?

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Jisel having a tipico breakfast bogotano

The truth is, I wanted so badly to love Colombia, to feel like I belonged there and to know there was finally a place I belonged. Because I honestly believed you were supposed to look for happiness in places, that you carved it out in some specific geographical location and if you found the perfect spot it stayed with you forever. That’s why I traveled and moved around so much in my early to mid-twenties; I was on an unofficial quest. At the time I wrote the excerpt above, it was slowly dawning on me that Colombia might not be that place – in fact, no place was that place – and that my whole theory on happiness was hopelessly flawed. I know now that happiness in a very general sense is the ability to be happy just about anywhere. But back then, once the novelty wore off, I was only willing to understand Colombia through an American perspective and I was uncompromising. If I’d been more flexible and open-minded I probably would’ve enjoyed my time in Bogotá more. But the past is the one facet of time that you can’t change, so the only thing I can do now is to be thankful that I’ve realized that you can be happy – or unhappy – just about anywhere. I like to think that my years abroad taught me that lesson.

You can read more at of Jisel’s blogs at :

A Place in the World was reviewed on “Best-Book-Review” in the United Kingdom

“The descriptive language is evocative and at times beautiful in painting word pictures of the rain forest and cloud forest. There is a great deal of botanical knowledge on the part of the writer as she describes the flora of the region, which gives the book an authentic flavour.

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The story line gives a good insight into clashes of culture and the difficulties therein, including language and the role of women in Colombia and other South American countries. The characters are strongly depicted and Alicia develops, as the book unfolds, from being a young misfit with no real home, to being a very strong and determined woman who lives in a remote area and copes with all that life throws at her including an erupting volcano.

I enjoyed the book very much. At first I was not sure if the main theme of the story was a romance or a general family saga. In fact I found it a bit of both and a lot more. The book is well written and the pace is good. The ending has a few surprises.”

Reviewed by Janette Skinner, Best-Book-Review, UK.


Cinda notes:

Gentle Readers: Please write me if you have read A Place in the World and tell me what you liked and didn’t like about it.  I will gladly answer any questions you have.  You might consider writing a review for Amazon or Goodreads which helps other readers decide whether they want to read it (and helps me publicize the book  🙂   A Free Ebook is available to anyone willing to write a review. (To contact me click on “Author”  and scroll down to leave message).

Note the top of my webpage has a section marked “For Bookclubs” which delves into the themes and characters.

From the Email bag:    Is Kindle the only eBook format you have for the book?

CCM: I did have an exclusive 90-day contract with Amazon but when it expired, A Place in the World became available to all online eBook retailers, including Apple iPAd, Barnes & Noble, Sony, Kobo and others.

Here are several URLs :

Email from Amy:   I like to have an actual book in my hands.  How do I order one?

CCM: Soft cover print books are available on Amazon (above) or directly from the printer

Email from Patricia : how to order from my local bookstore?

CCM: The title, A Place in the World,  and author name might be sufficient, but to make it easy on them give them the ISBN #: 978-0-9888483-0-6 .  Tell them Multicultural Press/VBookworm will give the store a “bookstore discount” if they ask for it.

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A PLACE IN THE WORLD has some Press

The San Francisco Writer’s Conference just posted this in their newsletter:

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Award winning author Cinda Crabbe MacKinnon’s new  book, A Place in the World  (a multicultural-literary novel with a bit of romance, a bit of adventure and a scary ending), is now available as an eBook with all online eBook retailers, including Amazon’s Kindle, Apple iPAd, Barnes & Noble, Sony, Kobo and others.  Also available in soft cover. Here is a blurb:
  •  “When her Colombian husband deserts her on his family’s coffee farm high in the Andes, Alicia struggles to make a life there for herself and her son even as guerrilla uprisings begin to threaten the area, and a nearby volcano rumbles to life. This passionate story, about a young biologist and a multicultural cast of characters, is like a South American ‘Out of Africa’ in the final decades of the 1900’s.”

See reviews  and browse the book at   A Free copy is available to anyone interested in writing a review.

  (My note: to contact me, click “About the Author” on top of this page and scroll down to the “Comment” box.)