Drinking Problems

Costa Rica takes their coffee very seriously. Since 1989, the government has forbidden the growing of the lesser coffee, Coffea canephora (robusta). It is only legal to cultivate Coffea arabica, which is considered the superior coffee because its lower caffeine content decreases bitterness and allows for more subtle flavors. If you buy specialty coffee, you’re buying arabica!

So let’s talk about coffee. Every day, we consume over 2.25 billion cups of coffee worldwide. Such a massive market has far-reaching consequences, and we ought to consider those impacts before making purchases in order to be responsible consumers.
(I realize that this already sounds tedious and sanctimonious, so I promise that there will be a cute frog picture if you make it to the end.)

There’s a whole host of problems when it comes to the pricing and distribution of coffee. The short of it is that large coffee companies like Nestle, Kraft, Proctor&Gamble and Sara Lee end up with 90% of the profit, while 10% goes to their farmers. That small cut is not nearly enough to live on, which is why it’s important to purchase fair trade coffee that offers reasonable prices for the growers.

We’re all familiar with that cause. Buy fair trade. …But you’re not off the hook yet. What about the environmental impacts of coffee here in the tropics?

Coffee plants themselves are no great problem: these small, scrubby plants can grow in topographies that don’t suit other crops, and they’re often grown in high altitude areas where they help to reduce erosion, encourage the accumulation of leaf litter nutrients, and increase rainwater retention in the soil.

But these benefits are often overshadowed by the problems caused by large-scale farms, which prompt the next great debate: sun coffee vs. shade coffee.

Many farmers prefer sun-grown coffee for its fewer pest problems and high (short term) bean production, but this ultimately depletes soil nutrients and the large swathes of cropland fragment old-growth tropical forests.
Shade coffee, on the other hand, is grown in the forest understory, which allows some animal habitat to persist and assists natural pollinators in doing their job, both with the coffee plants and in the surrounding environment. The shade coffee plants produce fewer beans, but do so for much longer before they burn out and require labor-intensive replacement. The leaf drop from plants overhead also assists with faster nutrient turnover, creating healthier, richer soils. It unfortunately requires some extra work on the part of the farmer, and sometimes the additional application of agrochemicals as there is no harsh sun to keep the insects at bay, but it’s significantly better for our world’s vanishing tropical forests.

To drive this point home, we had the pleasure of visiting local sun- and shade- coffee farms while we’re here in Costa Rica! The sun plantation was about what you would expect; rows upon rows of bushy plants baking in the dry heat, rooted in cracked, bare soil. Let’s not dwell on it.
But the shade coffee plantation, run by our host Don Roberto, was truly fascinating. In addition to shading his crops with tree-like banana plants, he digs pits along the coffee rows to help catch dropped leaves and keep soil nutrients cycling, and grows everything in terraces to help avoid erosion and runoff. Click on the photos below to expand them and read their captions!

So, in conclusion: buy fair trade and shade grown coffee, or you’re a horrible person.
I kid, I kid. But if you enjoy a hot cup of morning drugs, perhaps consider looking into where it’s coming from. Your dollars are shaping the lives of people across the world, which is both amazing and terrifying. And if you’re already happy with your coffee buying habits, maybe read up on your favorite brands anyway. It’s an interesting business to learn about!

You made it to the end! Here’s that cute frog picture, as promised. This fella was lurking in the forest around the Las Cruces Biological Station.

P.S. If you scrolled straight to the bottom for the frog photo, you are a cheater. Our deal was that you read.
God is watching.

Eiffel Tower Picnic!

After attending another IES orientation for French culture in the morning, the entire IES business group decided to head to the Eiffel Tower for a picnic. A picnic on the famous lawn in front of the Eiffel Tower is pretty high on my bucket list, so I was super excited for this! We bought some French baguettes and headed for the lawn space in front of the Eiffel Tower. After eating a freshly made French baguette, I will never be pleased with American bread ever again! Freshly made French bread is like nothing I have ever tasted, and eating it in front of the tower made it even more special!

Since we live in the 15th arrondissement and the Eiffel Tower is in the 7th arrondissement, we had to take the metro for the first time. There are multiple lines and the stops can get confusing, so the metro was very difficult to navigate. After getting lost for a few moments, we eventually found the correct stop. We are slowly getting better at reading the maps, but I think getting lost is part of the fun of discovering new places. Something unique to Paris is that each metro entrance is decorated differently depending on the area.  These are two of my favorite entrances below:

Since one can never get tired of looking at the Eiffel Tower, we decided to go back to the tower for sunset. We watched the sunset from the opposite side of the Seine River and the view was fantastic. We also stayed long enough to watch the tower light up and sparkle at night, which was definitely one of the coolest sights I have ever seen. I am in love with Paris!

Ciao!

-Alissa Smith

 

 

 

First Day in Paris!

After months of preparing and the excitement leading up to studying abroad, I’m finally here in the famous Ville de Lumiéres (City of Lights)!  After an eight hour flight, I managed to navigate the massive Charles de Gaulle airport and catch a taxi to my apartment in the 15th arrondissement of Paris.  My apartment is above a fantastic boulangerie, or bakery, where I purchased my first baguette.  French baguettes are like nothing I have ever tasted before.  Something unique to Paris that I love is that it is completely normal to walk down the street eating a giant baguette with a bottle of wine.

   

Photos of my apartment and room on Rue de la Convention, 15th arrondissement (the old green doors are my favorite!)

After unpacking, I headed to my first Paris outdoor café with my roommates Karlie, Ann, and Nanxi.  At first, we struggled to order food in French and were very unsure of how to politely get our waiter’s attention.  We quickly learned it is a custom in Paris to spend hours eating a meal, where the waiters will only come to the table if you call them over.  There is no tipping waiters in French culture, and the staff will get offended if you don’t finish your meal (lesson learned).  Despite the stereotype that French people often face, Parisians are some of the most polite and friendly people I have met.  Everyone so far has been completely willing to help us with our French and speak to us in English.  In fact, a few Parisians told us they were excited to meet Americans because they wanted to practice their English skills.

Later on, we had orientation at the IES center.  Meeting the rest of the students in the program was a blast and I can’t wait to get to know everyone!  After a long travel day, I am very excited to be in a place I have never been before and experience everything Paris has to offer!

Au revoir!

-Alissa Smith

P.S. I never get tired of looking at the Eiffel Tower!

Good Eats

My whole life I have been surrounded by creative cooks. From my mom fixing up schnitzel and spaghetti carbonara in the kitchen to my boyfriend, Daniel, mixing up a new pastry or challenging dish, I am never without a new treat to try. In Oman I am surrounded by new foods, but there is a simplicity in the palate that I’m not used to—unless I’m eating at an Indian restaurant where they bring on the spice. The important element of meals is not necessarily what is on the plate, but who you are sharing the plate with. There are some treats that I grab on my way to meeting someone, and other meals that center on sharing them with your neighbors or family. However, every Omani dish I have had was in a hospitable, friendly setting.

Dinner together outside

In a typical Omani home, a specific room called a majilis is designated simply for hosting. I have been to a few different majilis and each one is different. Otherwise, we would share a meal in the hadeeka (garden). Men and women typically eat separately and typically in a home if possible there will be a men’s and a women’s majilis. This took some getting used to, and I will admit to not enjoying every flavor of every food, but the time to sit and have conversation is where I learned most about Omani culture and Islamic tradition.

Some of these items are not unique to Oman, but either brought from Indian cuisine or a general favorite across the Arab world. I’ll do my best to dish out which is what. I’ve had these prepared in many ways and every time they have tasted different. I cannot hope to replicate the dishes, but I’ve enjoyed sampling. Let’s start with dessert….

Dessert

Halwa is the most traditional dish for a sweet bite and is uniquely Omani. It’s a unique combination of tapioca, spices such as saffron, ghee, cardamom and nutmeg as well as rose water, and assorted nuts. The consistency is similar to sticky jello. Sometimes fruit or date paste is added. The best halwa I had was fresh at the Muscat festival. The picture is warmed and wrapped around and around a hot bowl like taffy. Fresh is the best when it comes to halwa, but I have been offered a free bite from every tourist spot and bakery.

Drinks

            Qahwah (coffee), Chai Karak (tea), and juice are all offered in every “coffee shop” around Oman. Each is a social drink and consumed several times daily in small paper cups. It’s hard to imagine coffee when it’s not in a big mug, however the cardamom coffee that is unique to the region is hard to take in big quantities. So, little porcelain cups in homes are used to share coffee with guests. Traditionally, guests shouldn’t drink more than three cups when visiting. I will miss the karak tea most because it is sweet and the first drink Shah brought me when we met. No two cups of karak taste the same. When my language partner made me some in Ibri, I almost didn’t recognize the combination of spices she used versus the coffee shop on the Mutrah corniche. But, one thing is guaranteed: the tea will be sweet.

Snacks

My absolute favorite snack in Oman is samosas. Samosas are most famous as a side to your Indian restaurant’s main course. However, they are found all over the Arabian Peninsula as well. Samosas can be stuffed with anything from vegetables to chicken. My favorite were in Ibri right across from my language school. These were stuffed with potatoes, onions, cilantro and a combination of spices. It took everything I had in me not to get a couple every day. By the time I left, the men in the shop knew me and always asked “samosa?” when I walked in. In Muscat, we get plenty of smaller, crispy samosas when we visit Shah. These are made of a lighter dough and are always fresh when we get them from the coffee shop on the corniche.

Tabouleh is a salad with a parsley and garlic base, cucumbers, tomatoes and lemon. I was familiar with this snack from home, but the garlic is much heavier here in Oman. Occasionally I feel I am not getting enough grain from my normal diet so I’ll go grab tabbouleh to boost my iron. I just might brush my teeth four times that day!

Litchi, Bananas and coconut are my fruits to throw in my bag for a snack. Coconuts are grown more in the southern city of Salalah. For part of my spring break I spent a few days in the sun and my taxi driver dropped me off on the side of the road to have a vendor chop off the top of a fresh coconut for a drink, and hand me a banana. Litchi is a fruit I never have back home. I feel as if I’m eating a rose, and I love litchi juice as well!

Meat, Meat, Meat

For lunch with guests, fresh goat and rice are typically the first pick. After sharing qahwah  the main meal will come out. On one occasion on a visit to a farm, our group was met with a huge platter of rice and meat. Half the goat went to the women, and the other to the men. We all stayed around the platter and pulled off the meat with our hands and some of the women helped us scoop with our hands. Out of this struggle came laughter and joking and fun memories. I also had a bit of the brain…how’s that for a cultural experience?

Among with goat meat, camel kabobs and chicken are common to find in town. In Salalah we tried some camel from a shop off the road. During the week in Ibri, camel kabobs hit the spot when we wanted some added protein. A man just down the road would grill up the kabobs next to his car and smother them in a spicy sauce before smiling and handing us our lunch.

Shwarma is a great combination of chicken, sauces and maybe some veggies wrapped in pita. It’s great for a lunch or late-night snack and has definitely become a part of my weekly diet in Muscat along with a large watermelon or lemon mint juice.

Honorable Mention

One of the best places for dinner in Mutrah we refer to as “Plate o’ meat”. The mixed grill of lamb, beef and chicken along with hummus, pita and a side of fatoush (basic green salad with fried pita chips on top) is perfect for a big meal. This is a typical middle eastern mix of dishes along with mint tea to finish.

…and don’t forget the Dates

            Of course, I have to finish with the most popular part of the Omani diet: dates. I’ve mentioned them before and I’ll mention them again because every Omani home has a stash. When visiting Nizwa, I saw more dates than I will probably ever see again in many, many varieties. The date trade has been present in Oman for centuries and most are still picked off the palm trees individually. On one visit to a farm, try the process of wiggling up the trunk of a palm tree as a date farmer would. I finished with nothing but several scratches to show for it.

 

Faith in Freiburg

Southern Germany, Freiburg included, has been a stronghold of German Catholic Christianity for over 1,700 years, and especially after Charlemagne (742-814 AD) united Germany and France into the Holy Roman Empire under the auspices of the Pope. Even after the Reformation, the south stayed true to the Roman pontiff. In Freiburg, this history has a physical presence: construction of the Freiburg Cathedral of Our Lady (known colloquially as the “Münster”) began as early as 1120 AD, though the original building was much smaller than today’s impressive red, Gothic masterpiece. Even after bombings during both World Wars, the Münster is 90% original- even the stained glass windows date back to the 1400s, when local trade guilds funded their construction.

The side of the Freiburger Munster. The stained glass is original from the 1400s, and the red shield with 3 white shields represents the guild that sponsored the window.

When you walk into the dim, cool interior of the Münster, it’s like you’ve been transported back in time. People light votive candles, pray in pews, and worship in much the same way that they have been for a thousand years. The continuity is striking. Compared to America, where everything is mostly 300 years old or younger, the Christian in Germany has a more tangible sense of timelessness.

The main altar of the Freiburger Munster. The large tapestry in the back dates from 1612 and is one of the oldest such tapestries remaining. This one shows the crucifixion, and is hung in the back of the church during the season of Lent.

Germany has nowhere near the religious diversity that the U.S. has.  About 55% of the German population identifies as Christian, and that number is pretty evenly split between Catholics and Lutherans: to an extent, it seems that groups besides these two main ones aren’t noticed by the public at large.

It can be difficult for me to try to explain to Germans what it’s like in America or at Hope with so many different denominations, because the language doesn’t avail itself to subtleties. I believe the large absence of other denominations is because of Europe’s tradition of national churches- after the Reformation got the ball rolling, kingdoms in Northern Europe created national churches under the authority of the monarchy. Examples of this would be the Church of England, the Church of Sweden, the Church of Scotland, the Dutch Reformed Church, and the Lutheran Church in Germany. Because these were associated with a specific European nation, they didn’t spread into other European nations, whereas colonies on other continents were “fair game” for missionary work and pilgrims.

This former Benedictine Abbey is a famous feature of the Black Forest. The monastery was first founded in 1073 AD, and still serves the locals today.

Another unique feature of the religious landscape in Germany is their separation of Church and State- or lack thereof. The strongest political party (both historically since the founding of the Bundesrepublik after WWII and currently, though they’ve weakened significantly in the past couple decades) is the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), of which Chancellor Angela Merkel is the chairwoman. While today the CDU has backed away from being overtly Christian in favor of plurality, its foundations and worldview are still Christian. Interestingly, the CDU (and economists from Freiburg University) are responsible for the current prevailing economic theory and the modern economics system: the “social market economy,” which they like to call “caring capitalism”. A great effort is made to insist that this system isn’t socialist or communist, because the government does not control the economy, but rather regulates the private sector to ensure that people are treated fairly. “Treating people fairly,” however, may often look somewhat socialist to Americans, but Germans are quick to correct you that these policies of wealth-redistribution, mandatory state-run health insurance, and regulations regarding the dismissal of employees are social, not socialist. This leads to further linguistic confusion: when Americans talk about “social issues,” we mean things like LGBT+ issues, race relations, religious liberty controversies, etc., whereas Germans consider “social issues” to mean unemployment assistance, welfare programs, Social Security pension programs, etc. The Christian element in German politics has translated into a government that concerns itself that the “downs” in life don’t destroy people, that no one has to live in inhumane conditions, and that creation is protected.

This mosaic of the Lamb of God (John 1:29) is just randomly embedded into the city streets.

The Christian heritage of Freiburg is also obvious in day-to-day life. The Munster has been the center of the city for centuries, and it’s Gothic spire is considered the symbol of Freiburg. The skyline would be incomplete without it!

The Freiburger Munster is the most iconic building in the city and still towers above all other buildings.
An Epiphany blessing chalked above the door of a house in Freiburg.

Many doors in Germany have the same little chalk inscriptions on them. There’s a German tradition where every year on the Feast of the Epiphany on January 6th (also called the Twelfth Day of Christmas or Three Kings Day), priests go around blessing homes for the New Year. The letters written have two meanings: one is the initials of the three kings who came to honor the Baby Jesus (Caspar, Melchior, and Balthazar), and the second is the Latin phrase “Christus mansionem benedicat”, which means “Christ bless this house.” The numbers are the years since the birth of Jesus (aka the current year), and the crosses are a symbol of Christ.

Every day of the week except Sunday, an outdoor market sets up around the Munster selling all kinds of things- flowers, produce, candles, bread, sausage, and toys are just some of what you can find. This market has been going on since 1120, and there’s still carvings in the doorway of the Munster that show the standard measurements used by the medievals. Having this market was a big deal for Freiburg in the early days and helped to develop the city as a center for trade- and all of it is centered around the Munster.

These carvings are found in the doorway of the Munster, and give the standard measurements for the most important product of the medieval world- bread! There were two different shapes- round or almond- and two sizes- large or small.

Public holidays in Germany are more frequently also Christian holidays. Christmas Eve, Christmas, Good Friday, Easter Monday, the Ascension of Christ, Pentacost, Corpus Christi, and All Saint’s Day are all public holidays. On these holidays and on every Sunday, most businesses close and public transportation runs on reduced schedules. If you need to go grocery shopping on a Sunday, you’re basically out of luck, even in the city!

Personally, I find Sacred Heart Church to be charmingly “black forest”, and it’s one of my favorite churches in the city (aesthetically speaking). It overlooks a park next to the main train station.

A further entanglement between Church and State is the “Church Tax”. Every month, Christian citizens have a tithe automatically deducted  by the government from their paycheck to go to a federally recognized religious congregation. In Germany, the Church and the government have historically had a fairly close relationship, in which both mutually relied upon and benefited from each other’s administrative structures- the Church Tax is simply a continuation of this symbiosis.

Do you spy the two icons of the Virgin Mary in this photo? There’s actually a third just out of the frame on the right. These buildings are on the Munster square in the heart of Freiburg, but they’re just normal stores and apartments, despite having religious depictions on them.

Because of the Church Tax, churches in Germany are relatively well funded and rich compared to America. However, secularism is on the rise in Germany, especially in the former socialist German Democratic Republic (East Germany), where Christianity was discouraged by the government. Slightly over 50% of German youths aren’t religious, and it shows when I go to church here- most people are rather elderly, the pews aren’t full, and there’s not as many families with children as I see in America.

Nevertheless, I have been able to find ways to get involved with the local faith community here in Freiburg. I joined one of the 5 choirs at the Munster, which has helped me meet a lot of people. The age range is really broad (about 20 to 65), but everyone is very friendly and nice, so I don’t feel out of place. (I’m planning a post specifically about my involvement in the choir later.)

A photo I took during the young adult praise & worship service at a local church, St. Martin’s.

I also found a young adults prayer group that meets every other week at a church in the city center. Everyone has been really welcoming, even inviting me to other events to hang out with them. After an hour of praise & worship, we hang out with cookies and tea. It’s been a great opportunity to meet faithful young adults and practice my German, since all of them are native Germans! (And a few are now reading my blog, so shout-out to them!)

This is a flyer for the young adult prayer group I found- I was lucky that I happened to notice the flyers, or else I wouldn’t have found it!

I’ve found that Germans in general tend to not approach strangers, but are really quite friendly once you approach them. For my first few weeks in Freiburg, no one talked to me after church at all (except for one fellow, who vanished quite fast once I told him I had a boyfriend). Even the clergy don’t tend to shake hands or chat after the service, and I’ve never seen an offer of donuts and coffee. I had to put in very intentional effort to involve myself, but once I did, the Germans are just as chatty, curious, and kind as Americans.

The University Church also offers a service in English once per month, but so far I’ve happened to miss it every time. Luckily, I do alright with the German services. I can understand most of what’s said now, especially since I’m already familiar with the Bible readings. Oftentimes the sermons escape me, though, because of the echo. One German tradition that I think is an interesting and nice touch is ending sermons with “Amen,” as if the sermon was one long prayer.

This head”stone” in the main cemetery displays an example of traditional German woodcarving. This depiction in particular is known as the Bavarian Madonna.

German ecclesial language is a little bit different and more formal than the kind of “everyday” German we learn in school, so sometimes I don’t know specific biblical or theological terms. I always find it amusing when someone refers to “Jesus and His disciples,” because in German it’s “Jesus und seine Jüngern” which sounds an awful lot like “Jesus und seine Jungen,” which means “boys”. Every time I hear a German say that, I hear it as a story about”Jesus and his ‘boyz'” getting up to some new adventure in ancient Israel. As Church history teaches us, one letter makes a world of difference.

I’m also not entirely convinced that Germans haven’t tried to make one big pun out of communion- the priest says to each person “Der Leib Christi” (the Body of Christ) before giving them the sacramental bread. However, the German word for a loaf of bread is “Laib“, which is pronounced exactly the same as “Leib” (body), and they could have very easily stuck with the word from Latin, “Körper” (like “corpus“). This coupled with the Germans’ love for puns makes me mighty suspicious.

In keeping with their austere persona, German kneelers are usually just plain wood or stone, whereas American kneelers are always plushly padded.

Click on the circles below to see photo collages of some of the churches around Freiburg!

For various German Christian art, click on the circular thumbnails below:

Matějská Pout’ – St. Matthew’s Fair

NOTICE: Due to a high volume of both homework and travel, the events described in this blog post (and most that will follow) occurred multiple weeks ago.  Please enjoy regardless 🙂

Nothing boosts my motivation to conquer a hefty to-do list more than the necessity of completing it in order to enjoy a planned activity.  To break from a half-hearted homework session, my friend Jillian and I decided to check out St. Matthew’s Fair (Matějská Pouť) since it was one of the few weekends we’d stayed in Prague.  Scoping it out a bit had us quite stoked but we refrained from lingering for very long.  We knew it would be better to return the following day because of the weather.  For the first time in ages, the little icon on the forecast for the subsequent day displayed a sun rather than a cloud.  The joyful anticipation generated the most productive mid-term paper writing of my college career.

When we returned the next day, my excitement lifted my feet from the ground and carried me through the gate rather than allowing me to walk in nonchalantly.  It was the type of elation that steals your oxygen away and stifles your ability to speak.  The sunny blue skies and stimulating atmosphere sent my spirit into a higher realm of happiness.  A distantly familiar sense of pure child-like joy engulfed every bit of adulthood that had been governing my days.  I transformed back into a kid as I walked amongst dozens of rides that so distinctly dwell in my memories.  I could recall the names of each one I’d conquered countless times such as The Sizzler, The Zipper, and MaxAir.

Feeling venturesome, I ordered a potato pancake, or a “bramborák” as Czechs would say.  Let me tell you a little something about Czech food . . . it is heavy.  Combining the heaviness of an average Czech dish with the greasiness of fair food results in a satisfying meal, yet one that can only be stomached once in a blue moon.  Oodles of napkins later, we continued to explore.

Every corner we turned offered a new platform for adventure until we reached the ultimate adversary: 80 meter (262 feet) tall swings.  We shrieked with delight as we were lifted above the humming festivities to the most unique perspective of Prague we’ve seen yet.  It’s truly shocking I didn’t throw up the cheesey and potatoey ingredients of the bramborák I’d consumed less than an hour earlier.   We celebrated our triumphant (and puke-less) flight with five of the best foods that exist all combined into one delicious concoction: a bubble waffle overflowing with Nutella, strawberries, Kinder chocolate, and ice cream.  The day, which provided us with the first genuine hope of springtime, was one of my favorites spent in Prague.  I was, once again, reminded about the gems hidden within the vicinity of our own backyards.

 

La Marcha de Mujeres del 8 de Marzo/ The Woman’s March on March 8th

Castellano:

Con mis amigos minutos antes de marchar. With my friends minutes before beginning to march.

Como muchos de usted saben el 8 de marzo es el día internacional de la mujer. Así es que todo aquel o aquella que no acogió a las mujeres importantes en su vida, muy mal. Pero yo no soy nadie para decirlo, porque yo no lo hice con mi mamá o hermanita pero ellas saben cuánto las amo y las adoro así es que es algo que ni se tiene que decir. Pero venga, que el 8 de marzo Madrid se puso de gala. Bueno, quizás no tanto de gala pero sí retacado de gente, como yo jamás lo había visto.

El 8 de marzo se reunieron manifestantes en el distrito de Atocha y marcharon hacia Plaza España, pasando en su trayecto puntos muy importantes e históricos en Madrid. Es una huelga anual que ocurre en muchas partes del mundo. Pero este año fue distinto en Madrid porque la marcha creció a una escala abrumadora. Tanto que el gobierno Español decidió reducir la circulación del transporte público en Madrid y Barcelona.

Un brassiere hecho para la demostración. A bra made for the demonstration.

El incremento en asistencia a la huelga no es producto de simple casualidad, sino que esta fecha, hoy en día, esta cargada políticamente. La verdad es que la incorporación de la política y la desigualdad de las mujeres aquí en España me resulta muy complejo, así es que intentaré explicarlo, a ver si no meto la pata. Lo que si sé es que el PP (Partido Popular) se planteó firmemente contra la huelga, llegando hasta el punto de divulgar un documento de todas las razones por las cuales se oponen. El partido se opone abiertamente desde Galicia hasta la presidenta de la comunidad de Madrid: Cristina Cifuentes. La misma Cifuentes que ahorita se encuentra enredada en un drama por declaraciones de que su máster de la Universidad Rey Juan Carlos fue falsificado. Pero volviendo al tema, los integrantes del PP se han opuesto tan abiertamente que la ministra García Tejerina declaró que iba a hacer una “huelga a la japonesa” para “demostrar las capacidades que tenemos las mujeres en este país”. Esto significa que va a trabajar aún más de lo habitual. Lo cual me parece muy ridículo porque el punto de la huelga es que la sociedad vea que tan importantes son las mujeres, notando su ausencia. Que la gente aprecie a la mujer cuando no esta haciendo sus labores de día a día.

Lo que el partido dice es que la huelga quiere “romper nuestro modelo de sociedad occidental”, aislando la manifestación como una protesta anarquista. La verdad es que si se vió y escuchó un poco con ideales anarquistas durante la marcha. Pero también el punto principal de la marcha recalcaba la importancia de la mujer en la sociedad, un ser que no siempre es tan apreciado como sus compañeros masculinos. La desigualdad para la mujer es evidente tanto en España, como en EEUU y como en el mundo entero. 

La marcha no fue perfecta; éramos mucha gente para intentar organizar una sola cosa. Cada grupo gritaba y demandaba sus propias peticiones para las mujeres y por el cambio del gobierno. Aun así, a mi me encanta ver un montón de gente reunida en las calles por la misma causa. Demuestra que como seres humanos podemos unirnos para intentar mejorar los problemas que nos rodean. 

English: 

Unos señores nos pidieron que les ayudáramos a levantar su cartel. Some people asked us to help them carry their banner.

As many of you know, March 8 is International Women’s Day. So to whoever didn’t hug the important women in their life, very bad of you. But I’m not anyone to say it, because I did not do it with my mom or sister but they know how much I love them so it’s something that goes without saying. On March 8th Madrid was dressed for the occasion. It packed with people, like I had never seen it before.

On March 8th demonstrators met in the district of Atocha and marched to Plaza España, walking past important and historical landmarks in Madrid. It is an annual strike that occurs in many parts of the world. But this year was different in Madrid because the march grew on an overwhelming scale. So much so that the Spanish government decided to reduce the circulation of public transport in Madrid and Barcelona.

The increase in attendance at the strike is not mere coincidence, the date today is politically charged. The truth is that the interconnection between politics and the inequality of women here in Spain is very complex, so I will try to explain it, I hope I don’t screw it up. What I do know is that the PP (Popular Party) was strongly opposed to the strike, even to the point of disclosing a document of all the reasons for which they oppose it. The party is openly opposed from Galicia to the president of the community of Madrid: Cristina Cifuentes. This is the same Cifuentes that is right now entangled in a drama regarding statements of many who say that her master’s degree at the Rey Juan Carlos University is falsified. But going back to the issue, the members of the PP have been so openly opposed that Minister García Tejerina declared that she was going to “protest like the Japanese” to “demonstrate the capabilities that women have in this country.” This means that she will work even more than usual. I find this stance very ridiculous because the point of the strike is for society to see how important women are, by noting their absence. Let people appreciate the woman when she is not doing her day-to-day work.

El cartel lo dice todo. The poster says it all.

What the party says is that the strike wants to “break our model of Western society,” isolating the demonstration as an anarchist protest. The truth is that  I did see and hear some anarchist ideals during the march. But also the main point of the march stressed the importance of women in society, a being that is not always as appreciated as their male counterparts. Inequality for women is evident in both Spain and the U.S., as well as the entire world.

The march was not perfect; we were too many people to try to organize for a single, united thing. Each group shouted and demanded their own requests for women and for a change in the government. Although it was not the most organized protest, I love seeing a lot of people gathered in the streets for the same reason. It shows that as human beings we can unite to try to improve the problems that surround us.