Free Upcoming Virtual Events You Won’t Want to Miss

[Updated: September 26, 2020]

This is not a sponsored post.

Image: Pexels

Are you learning a new language? Are you on WordPress? Want to enjoy a French language/cultural experience from the comfort of home?

If so, then you may be interested in these FREE upcoming virtual events and experiences.


Duolingo, the popular language learning app, hosted their second DuoCon, a FREE all-virtual conference on Saturday, September 26, 2020.

There were presentations and live Q&As from innovators in language, learning, and technology, and announcements of new Duolingo products and features. Duolingo’s founder and CEO, Luis von Ahn, gave an update on the state of Duolingo.

I enjoyed the talk by Dr. Anne Charity Hudley of UC Santa Barbara called “Black Languages Matter: Learning the Languages and Language Varieties of The Black Diaspora.”

ICYMI: Watch a complete recording of the entire conference here.

WordCamp Los Angeles (WCLAX 2020)

Saturday-Sunday, October 17-18, 2020

Have you ever wanted to attend WordCamp, a conference about all things WordPress?

This is your chance to check it out.

Register for your FREE General Admission ticket and you’ll get to participate in the networking and discussion channels on both days (October 17-18, 2020). When you register, you have the option to put your photo, social media link, and website link on their Attendees page. That means more exposure for you and your website or blog.

A couple of talks on the WCLAX 2020 schedule that I’m eager to check out are:

  • Creating content for everyone: Tips for ensuring your digital presence is accessible (by Natalie MacLees, founder + principal of Digitally)
  • Importance of Readability for SEO Copywriting (by Marieke van de Rakt, CEO of Yoast)

I went to my first WordCamp last year – you can read my Notes from WordCamp Sacramento 2019.


Ongoing; visit their website to view upcoming experiences

Do you want to learn French? Enjoy immersive language experiences from the comfort of home with Depaysio.

I recently got an email from American expat and entrepreneur, Stefanie Kouatchet announcing the launch of her company called Depaysio. (The name takes its name from the French word dépaysement, which describes the feeling of being in a foreign country or environment.)

Based in France, Depaysio offers immersive language and cultural experiences online, such as small-group cooking lessons, drawing workshops, and virtual Paris tours led by native French experts.

Most experiences are available in two formats: 100% French immersion OR mostly in English with relevant vocabulary and expressions in French.

If you sign up for Depaysio’s newsletter, you can try your first experience for FREE!


I’ve signed up and marked my calendar. Maybe I’ll see you at these virtual events! Until then, take care and stay safe.

The Results of My DNA Test


The results of the DNA test I took recently have arrived!

Before I show my results, I want to share my list of predictions that I had written before I mailed my sample for testing:

A word about ‘Oriental’

Both of my parents were born in the Philippines, but on my birth certificate, my parents’ “color or race” was listed as “Oriental”.

Although the word basically refers to something “from the East” (relative to Europe), when used to describe people, it historically had pejorative, offensive, and derogatory connotations.

Imagine that: I have a document that captures the implicit bias and subtle institutional racism that was prevalent in the 1970’s!

For me, “Oriental” wasn’t a part of my identity growing up. On the rare occasion the word would come up, I’d joke and tell people, “I’m not Oriental, rugs are!”

However, by the time my brother was born, in 1977, they stopped using “Oriental” and his birth certificate shows our parents as “Filipino.” What a difference a few years make! Although Filipino is not a color or race, this change was a sign of progress.

from my birth certificate issued in San Francisco (1973)

It was only in 2016 that a bill was signed to eliminate the term “Oriental” from federal law. The term was replaced with “Asian American”.

>> video: PBS Origin of Everything “Why Do We Say “Asian American” Not “Oriental”? (7 minutes)

In my opinion, even the term “Asian American” is too broad. On the rare occasion when I’m asked about my heritage, I say I’m Filipino. But will that change after I see the results of my DNA test?

Here are the results of my DNA test:


As I expected, my results show I’m Filipino (Filipino & Austronesian 94.4%):


It appears there was some truth to those family stories and legends about having Portuguese ancestry, after all! (Spanish & Portuguese 0.5%) That makes sense as the Philippines were under Spanish colonial rule for over 300 years (1565-1898):


I was surprised to learn that I have Bengali & Northeast Indian (0.4%) and a trace of Southern East African (0.2%) ancestry. I find these particular results fascinating, but I wonder: from which side, though? (Family’s got some ‘splainin’ to do…)



The results of my DNA test also came with predicted trait characteristics, based on my genetics, such as:

My preferred ice cream flavor:

Correct! I love chocolate

Wake-up Time:

Spot on! I am a night owl

But sometimes the predictions were a little off, like the following about cheek dimples:

Now that I have ancestry results, what’s next?

While the results of my DNA test mostly confirm what I’ve known to be true, the information about me having Bengali & Northeast Indian and Southern East African ancestry has piqued my interest. I want to learn more about those regions and their respective histories, cultures, traditions, food, music, and languages.

I’m also inspired to add “take a genealogy trip” to my big book of dreams!

As I take a moment to reflect on the past, I think about my ancestors from five to eight generations ago. Beyond what they looked like, I wonder what their lives were like. Of course, I also feel immense gratitude, for without any of them, I wouldn’t be here.

At the present time, however, I have no interest in finding possible genetic relatives.

It sounds cold, but for me, I don’t yet see the value in trying to connect with genetically similar, but distant relatives, when I have blood relatives nearby with whom I don’t spend nearly enough time! Same goes for good, close friends: family isn’t always blood, as they say.

Finally, how will I identify going forward? No change: I’m Darlene, an American of Filipino ancestry. 🧬

[updated: February 2021]

Have you taken a DNA test or done some ancestry travel? Tell me in the comments below!

Faire la bise: the Kiss Greeting

🎶« Fais-moi la bise comme un aristocrate » 🎶

(Translation: “kiss me on the cheeks like an aristocrat”)

Heuss L’Enfoiré – “Aristocrate” (from his 2019 début album, “En Esprit”):

from YouTube | All rights reserved

Faire la bise is the French term for the act of cheek kissing as a greeting.

In France, it’s customary to greet friends, family, and sometimes colleagues with a kiss on both cheeks. Generally, French people do not hug.

Interestingly, however, the French word “embrasser” means “to hug.” For example, one could close a letter with “je t’embrasse” (“I hug/ embrace you”), but in this context, it would means “kisses” similar to signing with an “x” or the kiss emoji: 😘!

I know, I found it confusing, too!

One time at workcamp…

In 1995, I spent almost a month in France at a workcamp (the commonly used term for international volunteer projects that I participated in). I remember one of the participants from Poland was shocked when a local teenage boy greeted her with la bise! She even wagged a disapproving finger at him!

Witnessing the culture clash between my new friends at the workcamp taught me that cheek kissing is not embraced by all of Europe as I had presumed.

However, many people from other countries practice cheek kissing as a form of greeting, as well.

For instance, during the workcamp, we visited another workcamp taking place nearby. There, I witnessed the group leader from Morocco greet our group leader from Québec, Canada with not one or two, but three kisses on the cheeks. It taught me about regional differences in the number of kisses in la bise.

In Latin American countries, cheek kisses are exchanged between women, and between men and women. In Argentina in South America, men also greet each other with a beso (Spanish for “kiss”).

In the Philippines, the cheek kiss is called beso-beso, which is Spanish for (you guessed it!) “kiss-kiss.” My family and I practice this custom by greeting one another with one kiss on the cheek and a quick hug.

I greet my girlfriends with an air kiss on one cheek, but hug them farewell. I’ve been told that I get particularly “huggy” after a few drinks. (Well, that’s a story for another time!)

As for colleagues or other professional acquaintances, I stick to the formal handshake. I work in human resources and we’re trained to refrain from even complimenting someone’s new hairstyle or clothing as it could be misconstrued as harassment. It’s not worth the risk! Better safe than sorry. Yeah, it’s pretty cold.

But the French people I’ve met are warm and welcoming. That’s one of the things I like about the French culture. In France, you could meet someone for the first time and faire la bise. It’s intimate, but not romantic. It signals respect, but not distance.

In French class, I recall practicing greetings and introductions with my classmates. We’d say to each other, “Enchanté de faire votre connaissance” (“it’s nice to meet you/ it’s nice to make your acquaintance”).

But I recall doing this exercise with handshakes – not with la bise! It’s French with an “American” accent, I suppose?

How to faire la bise

News correspondent, Florence Villeminot of France24 shows how to faire la bise in the following video:

La bise: do’s and don’ts

from YouTube | All rights reserved

à bientôt, je t’embrasse,

Darlene xx 😚 😚

How do you greet friends? Family? Colleagues? Tell me in the comments below!

A Francophile is Born

Bonjour! This is my 30th post!

To celebrate reaching this mini-goal that I’d set for myself when I started this blog about eight months ago (January 2018), I thought it’d be a good idea to go to the very beginning and share my story about how I became a fan of all things French!

my constant companion in college

The year was 1985. I was at SFO waiting for a relative’s flight to arrive. To pass the time, I went to one of the many airport shops with the sole intent to buy some Flicks, those chocolate candy disks sold in cardboard tubes.

Photo: All About the 1970s (at) blogspot

While in the store, I flipped through some magazines and perused the paperbacks. Then a French-English phrasebook caught my eye. I looked through it and I was entranced.

  • It seemed like many of the letters were not pronounced; lots of silent h’s and t’s
  • Some words had interesting accent marks, like hats over vowels (ô) or a squiggle under the letter c (ç)
  • Many words had the letters q, x, and z in them, which is rare in English
  • And did I mention those fascinating accent marks?

I was hooked. This new language was like a puzzle I wanted to put together. It was a code I wanted to crack.

Around the same time, I discovered the music of Corey Hart, one of my all-time favorite singer/songwriters. Although his hits like, Sunglasses At Night and Never Surrender are in English, he was quoted in a teen magazine saying that he was bilingual in English and French since he’s from Montréal, a city in the French-speaking region of Québec, Canada.

Soon after that, I started watching a new program on PBS, called French In Action. In each episode of the instructional series, characters named Mireille, Marie-Laure, and Robert would act out the grammar lessons in the Capretz Method. It was fun to see all the Parisian sights featured in the episodes, too.

Photos from IMDb

It seemed to me that all of these signs were leading me somewhere…I wanted to know more. A Francophile is born! But it wasn’t enough. I decided I wanted to learn how to speak French, too!

I took my first French class as a freshman in high school. Madame P. had each of us pick a French name, which would be our name while in French class. I picked Catherine (pronounced kat-treen!)

Several years later, on my first trip to France, imagine my delight as I met my seat neighbor and learned her name was Catherine! She had been working as an au pair and she was returning to Bordeaux. We became fast friends and talked during the entire flight.

Back to Mme P. … I absolutely adored her: she was an energetic, patient, and kind teacher. As I was preparing to graduate from college with a bachelor’s degree in international relations and French (double-major), I sent Mme P. a note (in English) to thank her for inspiring me to continue my French studies. A few days later, I could not contain my tears when I received a note back from her written entirely in French!

These days, I continue my study of French in less formal ways. For instance, I listen to French pop music, watch French movies with English subtitles, and read French novels and magazines.

In addition, I have visited a few Francophone places, where I continue to learn stuff they don’t teach you in school. In Montréal, Québec, for example, they use religious symbols as curse words! Who knew a communion wafer could be a profanity! I didn’t know that. Not at all. (Pas du tout. Or should I say, Pantoute!)

I also feel my Francophilia is spreading to a new generation! When my older daughter was younger, we would have French Fridays and I would teach her basic words and phrases. Today, she is taking advanced French classes in high school and she’s teaching me new vocabulary!

I also taught my younger daughter some French phrases. If she asked for something without saying please, for instance, I’d gently ask her what the magic word was and she’d reply « s’il vous plaît »! So cute!

Believe it or not, I am not forcing either of them to learn French. But let’s just say that if they wanted to pursue it, I wouldn’t exactly discourage them either!

In the same manner that food has the ability to gather people together, I believe language opens the door to a deeper understanding of another culture.

There is so much to learn, so I am careful not to generalize or believe stereotypes about French people and culture. I feel fortunate that I’ve had opportunities to visit big cities in France, like Paris and Toulouse, as well as her small villages in the countryside. Those unforgettable experiences have helped reinforce my French studies from all those years ago. Without a doubt, those experiences have also piqued my curiosity and appreciation even more.

I could have studied any other language, but I chose French. Or did it choose me?

Perhaps it is a mutual affinity, who knows! What I know for sure is that it’s an enduring relationship that began more than three decades ago.

Thanks for reading my story. Are you a Francophile? Tell me your story! Who/what inspired you to become a Francophile?

For more information:

  • Corey Hart – Never Surrender (link)
  • Corey Hart – Sunglasses At Night (link) 🕶
  • French In Action series (link)
  • Québécois expressions (link)

Paris: Strolling Around the Marais

With its street art, colorful doors, and famous square, it’s easy to be charmed by the picturesque and historic Marais neighborhood in Paris.

Strolling with M. Didier around the 3rd and 4th arrondissements, or administrative districts, I found myself surrounded by beauty at every turn.

street art on Impasse Guéménée

Rue Saint-Antoine / Lycée des Francs-Bourgeois (private school)

Rue Saint-Antoine

Rue des Tournelles

The courtyard of Hôtel de Lamoignon, which houses…

…the BHVP, public library specializing in the history of Paris

Rue Payenne / Square Georges-Cain

“In an old house in Paris that was covered in vines, lived twelve little girls in two straight lines…The smallest one was Madeline.” -Ludwig Bemelmans

I’m convinced this is the Madeline house:

Rue du Parc Royal / Square Léopold-Achille

Rue de Sévigné

Place des Vosges

I asked M. Didier what his favorite place in Paris was and without hesitation, he said, “Place des Vosges!” And now it’s become one of my favorites, too.

What’s your favorite place in Paris to take a stroll?