Life is Life is Life

When you walk into my room, you see a shelf above my bed with a picture of my mom, dad, and I. By its side is a candle from Paradise Funeral Home. Below it there’s the dream catcher that hung in my dad’s car when he used to take me to school. These things were essential to my packing list for Spain.

A year ago, my dad passed away. It was spring  semester, during winter break, and I had just arrived to Ann Arbor the night before. That day we got a call from my mom, she was crying hysterically, and I already knew what she was going to say. I knew this day was coming, but nothing could have prepared me for February 10th, 2018. Afterwards, I often felt mood swings as the 10th of every month would approach. There was always a combination of thoughts and emotions that triggered this behavior. The semester before he passed, my mom had left him, I was in an emotionally abusive relationship, and I was constantly struggling to be who I thought I was at the time.  It felt like everything that kept me grounded was now being cracked by the earth’s surface. Subconsciously, I was experiencing everything all at once, however, my mind could only process everything one at a time.

Three months after he passed, I was preparing to go abroad for the first time. I had just finished the semester and I felt like I had nothing left to give because I was drained. ¬†I experienced so much loss. Multiple friendships disappeared before my eyes, family members went into the shadows, classwork piled on me, new people came into my life, I cried, and I felt so much anger that I cried some more. I experienced a lot of loss, and still carry it with me. You might even be thinking why didn’t I take a break or give up. ¬†I had no choice. I‚Äôm a young black woman from a poor community. What other choice did I have but to keep going? I have generations of black women and men, like my father, who spent their lives in oppression and hoped that their children could live a life that is just a little bit better than them. This is what helped me push through.

My da was born to sharecroppers in small city in Arkansas. He said that he could remember working fields with them. The stories that I have of my da are a little choppy. I only got these stories from my mama. I wasn’t really close to da. To me, he was always this mysteriously big, ‚Äúlittle‚ÄĚ chocolate man. We called him da, (dah), not dad, daddy, pops, or father. He was just da. I knew that he loved to draw when he was a kid, that he always had a supernatural gift, and that he never could sit down for more than 20 minutes without falling asleep or getting up to go somewhere. There‚Äôs much more that I started to realize that da and I have in common, especially after he passed. Such as my curiosity about other cultures and a deep desire to share with others my experiences and wisdom. Without a doubt, it’s what led me here to Spain. Right after he died, I wrote down memories I had of him and lessons he taught me, good and bad, just so that I won‚Äôt forget them when I‚Äôm older. I wrote them as if I was telling him the story and thanking him for his time with me.¬†

His heart was always in the right place and he taught me to follow my intuition. Even when I was irritated by him as a teen, I knew that he just wanted to help. He would always say, ‚ÄúAww Cherish, you kno dah-d don mean no ha-m.‚ÄĚAs I started going to a majority white school in high school, I was so embarrassed by the way he spoke. Now that I‚Äôm older and research the language, I feel so much closer to him. There were times that I misunderstood him as a kid, and it was because I was looking at him often through someone else‚Äôs lense. Whether it be the lense of the world or a family member. However if there‚Äôs anything I learned in this past year, it‚Äôs that at the end of the day your intuition points you in the right direction. You already have the power and knowledge within yourself to understand others and most importantly yourself.

So how do I feel now, you may wonder? Well, I realized that it’s not something you can explain. This week, was a rough week as it led up to the anniversary of his passing. Two days ago, I felt tears coming on and just let them out. This is completely okay, but the problem was that I‚Äôm in a foreign country with people I only met two weeks ago. So I talked with family and called some friends from back home and cried with them. However, I realized that it didn’t really matter that I am abroad at the same time as the anniversary. It would have been hard no matter where I am in the world. Life is Life is Life. I have to trust those who don’t necessarily understand, like my friends from back home and the new people in my life here in Spain. This continues to be hard for me since my relationship with trust has been reevaluated so many times by family members, significant others, close friends, and strangers. I had to realize that trust is earned, but also you have to give it in small instances like this one. It‚Äôs the only way to live a life that‚Äôs more than just worthwhile.

As many people say, death is inevitable. Most people only think of their own death when they hear this statement. However, the truth is that it’s bigger than our own deaths, but the deaths of the people around us, hopes, and dreams. We can‚Äôt escape pain in this life, but there are resources for healing. Vulnerability is not weak, but courageous. It‚Äôs not about what people think about you, but what you think about yourself. You are daring to be seen and heard in a world where most people we encounter are only waiting to be loved. The beauty in the bitterness of a loved one‚Äôs death is to know that their being now lives on through you as love. We‚Äôve all learned at some point in our lives that energy can never be destroyed nor created. Therefore, love is love is love. No matter where we are in this world, life still goes on and the things of our past continue to be with us.

 

Ya estoy en Espa√Īa!

**English Below**

¬ŅLa √ļltima vez que he estado en este pa√≠s? El 12 de agosto. Me acuerdo de los sentimientos pesados. No quer√≠a volverme a los EE.UU. ¬ŅPor que? Pues, a ver‚Ķ

Hablando de mis primeras impresiones de Espa√Īa, yo estaba enamorada de la cultura, la gente, y el estilo de vida. El primer d√≠a sent√≠ una especie de sobrecogimiento cuando finalmente llegu√© a Valencia. Durante el verano, especialmente en la costa, Espa√Īa es maravillosa. Puede ver las monta√Īas y las palmeras de cualquier sitio. La playa no est√° tan lejos del centro. Hab√≠a fiesta del jueves al domingo. Siempre la comida es fresca y¬† se acompa√Īa con un vino tinto o una copa de cerveza con lim√≥n. A partir de la segunda semana, la gente espa√Īola me mostr√≥ que ‚Äúse vive‚ÄĚ en Espa√Īa.

Es una locura que ¬†todo eso hace 4 meses y estoy en Espa√Īa de nuevo. ¬ŅSabes que? No me siento como hace 4 meses. Desde el momento que ha aterrizado el avi√≥n, me siento como hace 2 semanas que estuve en este pa√≠s. ¬ŅSe lo cree? Pues, yo tampoco. Esperaba que hubiera tenido un choque cultural. Cuando conoc√≠ a las personas de mi programa, enseguida, comenz√© a hablar en espa√Īol con ellos. Estaba llena de emoci√≥n y quer√≠a comenzar la experiencia con confianza en m√≠ misma. Si quiere mejorar un aspecto de vida, hay que tener confianza en s√≠ mismo. Esto es clave en un ambiente distinto. Sin embargo, el tener confianza en s√≠ mismo no significa no necesitar la ayuda de otros. Tambi√©n esto es clave.

Solo he estado en Espa√Īa durante una semana. Todav√≠a estoy enamorada con el pa√≠s, especialmente la ciudad de Madrid. Si quieres saber mas de mi experiencia durante el verano, eche un vistazo a mi blog en tumblr (enlace). Tambien, estar√© cargando unos videos bisemanales, m√°s o menos. Abajo tengo la primera semana ya. ¬†Espero que disfrute los blogs y videos. ¬°Hasta pronto!

 

English

The last time I was in this country? It was August 12th. I remember this heavy feeling. I didn’t want to go back home. Why? Well, let‚Äôs see‚Ķ

My first impressions of Spain were those of a love affair. I was in love with the culture, the people, and the way of life. The first day I was in awe when I finally arrived in Valencia. Over the summer, especially on the coast, Spain is magnificently beautiful. You can see the mountains and palm trees from anywhere. The beach isn’t too far from the city. There were fiestas from Thursday to Sunday. The food is always fresh and they eat it with a glass of red wine or a beer mixed with lemon juice. From the second week on, Spanish people showed me that ‚Äúone lives‚ÄĚ life in Spain.

It‚Äôs crazy to think this was all 4 months ago and now I‚Äôm back again. You know what? I didn’t feel like it had been 4 months ago. From the moment the plane landed, I felt like it had only been 2 weeks ago that I was in Spain. Can you believe it? Me either. I was expecting to feel a culture shock. When I met people in my program, I immediately began speaking in Spanish. I was filled with excitement and I wanted to start off on the right foot with confidence. If you want to improve an aspect of your life, you have to have confidence in yourself. This is key in a new environment. However, this doesn’t mean that you don‚Äôt need the help of others. This is also really important.

I‚Äôve only been in Madrid for a week. I‚Äôm still in love with the country, especially the city of Madrid. If you want to know more about my experience over the summer, check out my blog on tumblr. Also, I‚Äôll try to upload videos every two weeks or so. Below is a video from the first week. I hope that you enjoy my blogs and videos! See y’all soon!

 

 

Pre-Departure Thoughts

I leave in TWO days!!?? Don‚Äôt get me wrong, I‚Äôm really excited. But now that it‚Äôs here, I‚Äôm afraid something will go awry. I mean, I‚Äôm just a black girl from a poor black community in Saginaw, Michigan. You’ve probably never heard of the city, it‚Äôs next to Flint. Yeah, the place known for the on-going water crisis. Okay, this is sounding a lot more depressing than I intended. Wait, just let me backup a moment. Espera‚Ķ

The day I met the enthusiastic and wide-smiling Karl from Hope Admissions was the day that actually changed the course of my next four years. I was a junior in high school at the first ever career fair at my school. This guy was too excited; I had to figure out what he was smiling about. He told me that he went to Hope College and majored in both Spanish and International Studies. This idea immediately caught my attention. I loved Spanish and at the time I was thinking of diplomacy in a foreign country. He went on about the opportunities to study abroad, his time in Argentina, and the ability to double major and finish in two years at Hope. I was down! Fast Forward to freshman year at Hope, I was already talking with Amy Otis at the Center for Global Engagement. I knew that I wanted to go to Europe, preferably Spain or France. I kept this idea in my head for a while, but I honestly did not believe it was going to be possible. You know my background, poor black girl from a small town in Michigan and it’s only reference point is in relation to one of the nation’s biggest scandals. But to my surprise, the universe had something different aligned.

 

Let’s dwell in the past for a bit longer. Sophomore year, fall semester, I was highly encouraged to apply for the Art/History May term in Paris, France. I applied, and the scholarships came rolling in. By December I was sure that I was going. Then, I thought, I should truly make the best out if this opportunity. I’m still not sure that it’s possible for me to go abroad my junior year. Espera… there’s a way for me to do a cultural exchange in Spain. I decided to look for a Spanish family near a town where a summer friend of mine, Carmen, was going to school at the time. Long story short, it all worked out. I had the best four months of my life traveling across Europe.

Now you say, why am I so nervous? To be honest, as I think about how I get here, there is no reason for me to be nervous. I have beaten all the odds against me repeatedly, and I am not just talking about being the black girl from a poor community. My experience abroad gave me a new appreciation of the meaning to live life to the fullest. Confidence is a big part of living. And I am not talking about the egotistical kind. True confidence comes from the center of our desires and is nothing without faith. Confidence is just faith wrapped in a smile and laughs. It’s the willingness to be vulnerable and reveal your fears and desires. So here I am. Are you coming?

***Heads Up, Spanish in Future Blogs with English translation***

Viajando alrededor del sur de Francia/ Traveling around the south of France

Castellano: 

El siguiente blog trata sobre un periodo de aproximadamente diez días a finales de marzo y principios de abril llamados Semana Santa. Es una semana muy importante porque los Latinos y muchos cristianos nos pasamos mucho tiempo durante esta semana celebrando la muerte y resurrección de Cristo. Yo originalmente tenía pensado quedarme aquí en Madrid pero al llegar al programa me indicaron que se requiere que los estudiantes dejen su alojamiento durante la semana. Entonces pues a buscar que hacer durante Semana Santa. 

Sab√≠a que ten√≠a dos primos aqu√≠ en Europa que estaban estudiando en Francia y pues esto me daba una buena oportunidad de poder conocer por lo menos uno de ellos. Lo bueno de ser mexicano es que tenemos familia por doquier y aunque no sea un familiar de la forma m√°s directa, somos familia. Tengo varios recuerdos de cuando llegaba a alguna fiesta o reuni√≥n familiar y mi mam√° o pap√° me se√Īalaba a un se√Īor o se√Īora que no conoc√≠a y me dec√≠an: “saluda a tu t√≠a” o “tu primo”. A final de cuentas se encuentra familia hasta en los parientes m√°s lejanos en M√©xico.

(Haz click en las fotos para verlas en grande/ Click on photos below to enlarge them)

Entonces al empezar la Semana Santa abord√© mi vuelo del aeropuerto Barajas aqu√≠ en Madrid hac√≠a el aeropuerto Toulouse-Blagnac en el sur de Francia. El vuelo fue de aproximadamente una hora y me dieron cacahuates abordo. Bueno, pues llegu√© a Toulouse y entre que comprend√≠a como funcionaba el tram y por fin llegu√© a la estaci√≥n indicada, por fin conoc√≠ a Miguel. Miguel, gracias a Dios, es un chavo criado a la mexicana. Es s√ļper buena onda, paciente, trabajador, entre muchas otras cosas. Lo bueno de ser mexicano es que donde cabe uno, caben dos; todos somos familia y todos somos buena onda. La verdad es que ya no queda escribir mucho m√°s¬†— el sur de Francia es hermoso y mi primo me cay√≥ muy bien.¬†

English: 

The following blog is about a period of about ten days in late March through early April called Holy Week. It is a very important week because Latinos and many Christians spend a lot of time during this week celebrating the death and resurrection of Christ. I had originally planned to stay here in Madrid but when I arrived at the official program they indicated that this would not be the case. They required students to leave their housing accommodation during the week. So I had to look for something to do during Holy Week.

I knew that I had two cousins ‚Äč‚Äčhere in Europe studying in France and this gave me a good opportunity to get to know at least one of them. The good thing about being Mexican is that we have family everywhere even if it is not a family member in the most direct way we are all family. I have several memories of¬†me¬†arriving¬†to a party or family reunion and my mom or dad pointing me to a man or lady I did not know and saying: “greet your aunt” or “your cousin”. At the end of the day family is found even in the most distant relatives in Mexico.

(Click on photos below to enlarge them / Haz click en las fotos para verlas en grande)

At the start of Holy Week I boarded my flight from Barajas airport here in Madrid to Toulouse-Blagnac airport in the south of France. The flight was about an hour and I was given peanuts on board. I arrived in Toulouse and after figuring out how the tram worked I finally arrived at the station where I was going to meet my cousin, Miguel. Miguel, praise be to God, is a guy who is very Mexican. He is super cool, patient and hard working, among many other things. The good thing about being Mexican is that no matter what, we are all family, and we all have good vibes. There is not much more to write other than that the south of France is beautiful and meeting my cousin was a great experience.

 

Las Fallas de Vàlencia/ The Falles of Vàlencia

Castellano:

Antes de llegar a Espa√Īa, como todos aquellos que estudian en el extranjero,¬†investigu√©¬†sobre cosas que se pueden hacer en estas nuevas fronteras. As√≠ encontr√© much√≠simos eventos y fiestas que me llamaron la atenci√≥n. Pero luego vi una fiesta que ca√≠a a mediados de marzo en la ciudad costera de V√†lencia. Una fiesta sobre la cual hab√≠amos hablado en mi clase de espa√Īol en la prepa. Recuerdo cuando mi profesora en aquel entonces, la se√Īorita Browne, nos cont√≥ sobre una fiesta donde el pueblo se reun√≠a para hacer grand√≠simas estructuras de madera en todas partes de la ciudad para luego quemarlas al final de la fiesta. Cuando nos explic√≥ el concepto yo supuse que las estructuras iban a ser algo¬†hecho muy de prisa y sin mucha atenci√≥n, como a final de cuentas se iban a quemar. Pero luego nos mostr√≥ unas fotos y qued√© verdaderamente asombrado de las maravillosas estructuras que pod√≠an hacer los valencianos. Eran verdaderas obras de arte que estaban destinadas a ser quemadas. Esto era algo que ten√≠a que ver con mis propios ojos.¬†

La falla ganadora.

Las Fallas: Lo primero que vi al llegar a V√†lencia fueron las Fallas, estructuras de cart√≥n y madera hechas por vecindarios enteros de valencianos. Algunos se tardan alrededor de todo un a√Īo para hacer semejante estructura.¬†

Masclet√†: Es la exposici√≥n de “petardos,” como le dicen aqu√≠, que hacen en la plaza hist√≥rica de V√†lencia. Petardos, para todos mis mexicanos, son cohetes, pero cohetes de ruido como las palomas mexicanas.¬†La masclet√† ocurre¬†durante cada d√≠a de la fallas a las dos de la tarde.

L’Ofrena de flors: Significa la ofrenda de flores en valenciano. Esta sucede del 17 al 18 de marzo, cuando cada casal faller le lleva flores para decorar una reproducci√≥n de la Virgen Mar√≠a. Por cierto una casal faller es el grupo de falleros que hacen una falla. Por lo regular cada casal faller esta compuesta de vecinos y gente que vive en la misma vecindad.¬†

La Cremà: Significa la finalización de la fiesta. Ocurre en la madrugada del 19 de marzo. A las diez de la noche del 18 de marzo se empiezan a quemar las fallas infantiles que se ubican a escasos metros de las principales. Después, empezando alrededor de la media noche se empiezan a quemar a diferentes horas las fallas principales. Culminando con la quema de la falla municipal en la plaza histórica. Por cierto el nombre falla proviene de la palabra castellana de antorcha, por eso el nombre de las estructuras. 

La Nit del Foc: Si la crem√† es la finalizaci√≥n de la fiesta, la nit del foc es la celebraci√≥n de ella. Es una serie de cohetes que se truenan y explotan en el cielo que se traduce al castellano en la noche de fuego. Es el √ļltimo acto de la fiesta y marca el comienzo de otro a√Īo entero antes de la pr√≥xima fiesta.¬†

Me encant√≥ poder ir a una fiesta tan extraordinaria aqu√≠ en Espa√Īa. Cuando aprend√≠ sobre las Fallas en mi segundo a√Īo de prepa yo jam√°s pens√© que iba a poder ver con mis propios ojos esas grand√≠simas estructuras. Gracias a Dios y a mis padres he podido ver las estructuras¬†erguidas y como se quemaron hasta el piso. Ese par de d√≠as en V√†lencia jam√°s se me olvidaran.¬†

English:

Before arriving in Spain like all those who study abroad I did a little research on the things that I could do within these new borders. While doing my research I found many events and parties that caught my attention. I then saw a party that fell on mid-March in the coastal city of Válencia. A party that we had discussed in my Spanish class in high school. I remember when my teacher at that time, Mrs.Browne told us about a party where the town got together to make huge wooden structures all over the city, only to burn them at the end of the party. When she explained the concept, I assumed that the structures were going to be something done very hastily and very rough, as in the end they would be burned. Then she showed us some pictures and I was truly amazed with the wonderful structures that the Valencians could make. They were true works of art that were designed to be burned. That was something I had to see with my own eyes.

The winning falla.

Las Fallas: The first thing I saw upon arriving at Vàlencia were the Fallas, cardboard and wooden structures made by entire Valencian neighborhoods. Some groups take around a whole year to make such a structure.

Masclet√†: It is the exhibition of firecrackers as they say here, which they do in the historical square of V√†lencia. The masclet√† occurs during each day of the¬† fallas at two o’clock in the afternoon.

L’Ofrena de flors: It means the offering of flowers in Valencian. This takes place from March 17 to 18, when each house faller brings flowers to decorate a reproduction of the Virgin Mary. By the way, a faller house is the group of falleros that make a falla. Usually, each house makes a falla, composed of neighbors and people who live in the same neighborhood.

La Crem√†:¬†Signifies¬†the end of the party. It happens in the early hours of March 19th. At ten o’clock on the night of March 18th, the children’s fallas that are located a few meters from the main ones begin to burn. Starting around midnight, the main fallas begin to burn at different times. Culminating with the burning of the municipal falla in the historic plaza. By the way the name falla comes from the Castilian word torch, giving the structures their names.

La Nit del Foc: If the cremà is the end of the party, the Nit del Foc is the celebration of it. It is a series of fireworks that thunder and explode in the sky, this translates into the night of fire in Castilian. It is the last act of the party and marks the beginning of another whole year before the next party.

I loved being able to go to such an extraordinary party here in Spain. When I learned about the Fallas in my second year of high school, I never thought I would be able to see these huge structures with my own eyes. Thanks to God and my parents I have been able to see the structures erected and later burned to the ground. Those were a couple of days in Vàlencia I will never forget. 

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 Espa√Īa, pasando en su trayecto puntos muy importantes e hist√≥ricos en Madrid. Es una huelga anual que ocurre en muchas partes del mundo. Pero este a√Īo fue distinto en Madrid porque la marcha creci√≥¬†a¬†una escala abrumadora. Tanto que el gobierno Espa√Īol decidi√≥ reducir la circulaci√≥n del transporte p√ļblico 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 d√≠a, esta cargada pol√≠ticamente. La verdad es que la incorporaci√≥n de la pol√≠tica y la desigualdad de las mujeres aqu√≠ en Espa√Īa me resulta muy complejo, as√≠ es que intentar√© explicarlo, a ver si no meto la pata. Lo que si s√© es que el PP (Partido Popular) se plante√≥ 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 m√°ster¬†de la Universidad Rey Juan Carlos¬†fue falsificado. Pero volviendo al tema, los integrantes del PP se han opuesto tan abiertamente que la ministra Garc√≠a Tejerina declar√≥ que iba a hacer una “huelga a la japonesa” para “demostrar las capacidades que tenemos las mujeres en este pa√≠s”. Esto significa que va a trabajar a√ļn m√°s de lo habitual. Lo cual me parece muy rid√≠culo 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 d√≠a a d√≠a.

Lo que el partido dice es que la huelga quiere “romper nuestro modelo de sociedad occidental”, aislando la manifestaci√≥n como una protesta anarquista. La verdad es que si se vi√≥ y escuch√≥ un poco con ideales anarquistas durante la marcha. Pero tambi√©n 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 compa√Īeros masculinos. La desigualdad para la mujer es evidente tanto en Espa√Īa, 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 se√Īores nos pidieron que les ayud√°ramos 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 Espa√Īa, 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 Garc√≠a 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.

The Wolves

 

This past weekend, I had the pleasure of traveling to one of Spain’s finest national parks: Lago de Sanabria. Even though our program has 35 students, only a select 12 could go, given the awesome, peculiar nature of this trip. We were going to a place of natural solace, a place with distinct beauty, a place where we would need silence; we were going to track the Iberian wolf.

We made the two-hour-and-some trek to Lago de Sanabria where we eagerly unloaded all of our things into the homey, small, wooden cabins there in the mountains. The first thing I noticed was, lamentably, that I had not been in real, honest-to-God nature for such a long time. Finally, I was around pine trees, ancient moss covered oaks, clear lakes, and mountains. Whew, this was well needed! I am happy to report that my mental health improved by leagues as we stepped on to our first trail in the snow peaked mountains.

We spent the weekend in a natural paradise. The first morning we got to take a guided tour on the world’s first 100% ecological (motor) boat. It makes no sound, no waves, and is 100% powered by solar panels and wind power. As this is one of the most protected lakes in the country, the only way they would allow a boat on the water was, well, if they made one. Later, we went on another hike through the snow-frosted peaks of the area, passing through small mountainous villages as we went.

On the last day of the trip, we woke up early and headed to the wolf reservation. These animals, a species of grey wolf only native to the Iberian peninsula, used to roam most of Western Europe. Today about 2,000 remain. Needless to say, many of them live in protected environments in Lago de Sanabria. The problem is, however, they remains ‚Äúundomesticated‚ÄĚ and, consequently, extremely skittish. To see the wolves is to hide yourself entirely from their sight‚Ķ and, even more challenging, out of their ear‚Äôs reach. We went at sunset, feeding time for the Iberian wolf. We hunkered down in a specialized camouflaged bunker, set on a tree line where the alphas are said to roam. Here, the rest would come. We just had to wait. So we waited, and waited, and then, out of the tree line came the wolves. They dominated the terrain. Inexplicably, they navigated so cautiously, so powerfully, so surely, that they had probably heard us before we had seen them. They had come to eat. It was if they had an internal clock. No sooner than it had turned exactly the hour, the wolves came. They knew. We were blown away by these animals and their intelligence. Most of all, we were amazed at how, in many ways, the wolf was more human than we were. Learning of their behaviours, family structures, and lifestyle, it became clear how special these animals were. We sat there in silence and awe as the beasts devoured their evening meal, and as the Spanish sunset put itself out on their backs.

Below is a poem I wrote (in Spanish) about the event. It was impactful in ways I couldn’t really sum up in a different way. I hope you all enjoy it, but be cautious of what you read on Google Translate. You can’t trust everything you see on the Internet.

Best,

El Lobo

Los bosques de Espa√Īa llaman a unas pocas personas

Que se atreven a responder

Entre la sombra caminan, sin camino, sin saber

Adónde van, qué quieren, qué van a hacer

Como todo el mundo, en su vida resulta igual,

los que con la voluntad de buscar

Les encontrar√°n menos mal

Pero en la compa√Ī√≠a de los √°rboles, entre su ventosa conversaci√≥n,

Tenemos claro lo que nos falta

Nos aparece nuestra aparición

Cómo suenan los ríos, qué bonitos son!

En su riqueza descansamos, su poder nos inspiró

Aunque son sencillos, sin vuelta, con patrón

Siempre hay mis pensamientos, allí, en montón   

Sobre todo vamos caminando, pase lo que pase

Por las lagunas, vamos, por las piedras y tal

Nos acuerda del peque√Īez, la grandeza, de la vida real

Allí lo vimos, en su reino de robles y musgo,

Lo saludamos por su gracia

Viviendo escondido en sus tierras de vieja

One of the visitors centers that welcomed us at the park
This was one of the most beautiful animals I had seen. She was relaxing after her sunset meal.
Solar powered. Wind powered. Noiseless. Like a boat-Prius.
Just a couple of kids and a cliff, overlooking Lago de Sanabria, the largest glacial lake on the Iberian Peninsula.
I am debating with this guide about the efficiency of wearing 6 coats wrapped around my waist while hiking up hill. I did not win.
Here’s the group at the lake.
One of the “paths” up the mountain.
Here’s a wolf “hideout”. We had to view them through holes in camouflaged wood.
Here are two of the non-alpha females. As you can see, we were very close to the animals.

 

¬°Fui a un Espect√°culo de Flamenco!/ I went to a Flamenco Show!

Castellano:

Espa√Īa es un pa√≠s que gracias a Dios tiene una gran cultura que difunde mundialmente. Como¬†mencion√©¬†en el √ļltimo blog hay muchas regiones dentro de tan peque√Īo pa√≠s y cada regi√≥n con su propia cultura. Cultura que proviene desde tiempos en los que √©stas regiones eran sus propios reinos con costumbres √ļnicas, que luego fueron tejidas bajo una sola bandera espa√Īola. Hoy en d√≠a, esta unidad de culturas se refleja en cuanto a la cuesti√≥n del baile, porque cuando cualquiera piensa en baile t√≠pico de Espa√Īa hay solo una palabra que domina: Flamenco.¬†

El Flamenco es un baile que proviene de la regi√≥n de Andaluc√≠a que queda en el sur del pa√≠s, pegando con el Estrecho de Gibraltar y √Āfrica. Es una de las regiones m√°s ricas en cuesti√≥n de cultura Espa√Īola. Andaluc√≠a fue la √ļltima regi√≥n espa√Īola que fue reconquistada por los reyes Cat√≥licos. Por eso gran parte de la historia de esta regi√≥n fue te√Īida con rasgos √°rabes m√°s que¬†otras partes del pa√≠s. Esa gran influencia¬†en esta¬†regi√≥n tanto de lo √°rabes, romanos y posteriormente del reino espa√Īol, causaron que hubiese convergencia de culturas y que de ellas florecieran muy bellas tradiciones y expresiones del arte.¬†

Para todo aquel que sabe de Flamenco, sabe que es un arte que trasciende mucho m√°s que el baile y la m√ļsica, en verdad es todo un espect√°culo. El flamenco esta compuesto de varias partes, incluyendo: canto, toque de guitarra, baile, jaleo (vocalizaciones), palmas y pitos (no lo que piensan mis paisanos, sino tronar¬†los dedos). Yo la verdad no estaba enterado que todo movimiento desde los aplausos hasta el trueno de dedos era parte integral del Flamenco. Eso lo aprend√≠ hace unas cuantas semanas cuando fui a un espect√°culo de Flamenco¬†junto con mi programa. Fue una experiencia s√ļper chida que de seguro no hubiese tenido sino fuera por el programa. S√≠ vali√≥ la pena haberme perdido en el metro de Madrid intentando buscar el teatro.

English:

Spain is a country that, by God’s glory, has a vast culture that it diffuses worldwide. As I said in my previous post there are so many different regions in such a small country, each with its own culture. Culture that derives from times when these individual regions were their own kingdoms with their unique customs, that were later all sewn together under a single Spanish flag. Today this unification of cultures is reflected in terms of dance, because when one thinks of a typical Spanish dance only one word dominates the conversation: Flamenco.

Flamenco is a dance that comes from the region of Andalusia which lies in the south of the country next to the Strait of Gibraltar and Africa. In terms of culture it is one of Spain’s richest regions. Andalusia was the last Spanish region reconquered by the Catholic kings. For this reason a great part of the history of this region is splattered with Arab similarity, more than other regions of the country. This great Arab influence as well as the Roman’s footprint and later the Spanish empire caused a grand convergence of cultures from which erupted different traditions and artistic expressions.

If you ask anyone that knows about Flamenco, they will tell you that it is an art form that transcends much more than dance and music, it is a real show. Flamenco is composed of several parts, including: song, guitar playing, dance, vocals, clapping, and finger snapping. I wasn’t aware that every component from the clapping to the finger snapping was actually integral to Flamenco. I learned all of this a few weeks ago when I went to a Flamenco show through my program. It was a very cool experience that I definitely wouldn’t have had if I wasn’t in the program. It was definitely worth getting lost on the Madrid metro attempting to find the theater.

 

Cheira Bem, Cheira a Lisboa

 

Lisbon, Portugal

This past weekend IES took us on a trip to Portugal. To be completely honest, as far as weather is concerned, the last two or three weeks in Salamanca have been‚Ķ less than ideal. That‚Äôs to say, every single day for a pretty much constant 18-21 days, we have enjoyed a frigid cold rain. I can‚Äôt really complain, right? I mean a couple days of rain and temperature hovering around the 40‚Äôs is really nothing compared to what my compadres in Michigan are currently dealing with (sorry, Holland folks). Besides, I‚Äôm in Spain! Needless to say, a weekend bus ride out of the rain to coastal Portugal seemed to all 30 of us as a welcomed relief. Just at that perfect moment, you know, when you‚Äôre really excited about something, we all got an email: Severe thunder and rain storms moving through Portugal, Spain. Look out for floods. Rain all weekend. ‚ÄúSweet‚ÄĚ, we thought. At least we would be getting drenched by Portuguese rain, which, as I‚Äôve heard, is a better, less wet, kind of rain.

The bus ride was about 7 hours to Lisbon, but we made a stop about half way – in rainy Coimbra, Salamanca‚Äôs sister city in Portugal. We had to do our planned guided tour from inside the bus (on account of the rain); we didn‚Äôt mind. We had a few hours of free time where most of us decided to split up and head to the cafes. I sat down, excited to try pasteis de nata (a typical and delicious Portuguese dessert), and instinctually ordered myself a coffee, ‚Äú¬ŅQu√© tal, t√≠o, me pones un caf√© americano solo, y un‚Ķ.?‚ÄĚ Then it hit me. I had just ordered my coffee in Spanish – only catching myself by not knowing how to say ‚Äúpasteis de nata‚ÄĚ in Spanish. The waiter looked at me in my sincere state of confusion. I stared at him for 10 seconds in silence as my brain decided whether or not we spoke Portuguese. Deciding we didn’t, ‚Äúyou, uh‚Ķ you speak English?‚ÄĚ, I said.

‚ÄúYeah, man. What do you want?‚ÄĚ

It was not when we crossed the border, not when I stepped off the bus in Portugal, and not when I walked around Coimbra, that I realized I had finally left Spain. You see, I hadn‚Äôt even realized that for two months I had not left the country. Spain had been my only home for these eight or nine weeks and it had conditioned me to speak Spanish at all times in public places. Well, lucky for us, the Portuguese have an excellent and obligatory English education in their primary schools. They all speak English pretty well. With my first Portuguese ‚Äúcultural collision‚ÄĚ out of the way, we headed to Portugal‚Äôs capital city.

The first thing you‚Äôll notice about the magnificent Lisbon is that it is oddly similar to San Francisco. From the dark-red suspension bridge, to the constant climbing and descending of hills, to the windy weather, Lisbon was an entirely captivating place. Although our first night in Lisbon was spent in a hotel listening to rain, (parts of) our next two days were unexpectedly lovely. Blue skies, t-shirt weather, and the sunny bay of Lisbon – it was truly a gorgeous experience. We got a great view of the city from the tallest point (a castle), we watched a Fado show (Portugal‚Äôs ‚Äúflamenco‚ÄĚ), we dined Portugal style (you must try the Bacalao), we saw incredible coastal cliffs, we enjoyed the marvel of Portugal‚Äôs monuments, churches, and basilicas; we did it all. Without spoiling too much of the experience for others who may venture to go, I will simply say that I adore this city and its charm, and only wish that I had more than two days to explore it and enjoy.¬† I will, without a doubt, be coming back to Lisbon. And IF you do come, among the countless pleasures that exist here, I cannot overstate my love of the food. For, as the traditional Portuguese song reminds us, cheira bem, cheira a¬†Lisboa¬†(It smells good, it smells like Lisbon).

Coimbra. We stopped here for a rainy bus-tour of the city’s quaint university.
We got a dinner and a show our first night in Portugal! Here, the performers blew the crowd away with a traditional style of Portuguese singing called “fado”. It was breathtaking.
Candid photo of yours truly having an episodic experience on top of this ancient fortress. I think in this photo I was listening to the “Pirates of the Caribbean” soundtrack and pretending I was a pirate. Don’t knock it until you try it.
These cliffs on Lisbon’s coast were one of the coolest things I have ever seen. The name does not overstate itself, “Boca del Infierno” (Mouth of Hell). Here, the waves crashed with such immense force that salty spray would hit you from hundreds of yards away.
Here’s another view of Lisbon from on top of the castle. Check out the bridge in the background. It was built by a California bridge company AFTER the Golden Gate after Portugal had experienced some devastating earthquakes. The suspension bridge appealed to them as much for safety as for style. This castle was positioned¬†for defending the port (pictured above), and still has cannons to this day watching over the main plaza (the square part touching the bay without buildings).
In Lisbon, the peacocks are as abundant as the fresh air.
Pasteis de nata (right). I would describe them as: flaky outside, custard inside. Worth the trip alone.
Again, Lisbon. Here the city is pictured during one of our brief hours with sun.

 

Lisbon’s “Central Park”

 

Hell’s Mouth. The raw power was mesmerizing; I sat entranced for an hour watching the crashing of the waves.

 

Un pa√≠s m√°s peque√Īo que el estado Tejano/ A country smaller than the Texan state

Castellano:

El imperio Espa√Īol ya tiene varios a√Īos que caduc√≥. El poder controlar colonias a miles de kil√≥metros de Madrid result√≥ ser imposible por obvias razones. El imperio que alguna vez domin√≥ la mayor√≠a de Am√©rica Latina y muchas partes de Europa a lo largo de su historia ha sido disminuido a un terreno que cabe dentro del estado de Tejas. El pa√≠s espa√Īol¬†s√≠ es peque√Īo, pero igual es impresionante la diversidad que uno puede encontrar dentro de sus fronteras. Porque puedes viajar unas cuantas horas en cualquier direcci√≥n desde Madrid y llegar a un lugar donde todo es completamente distinto a lo que dejaste atr√°s. Yo creo que tanta riqueza cultural en tan peque√Īo pa√≠s proviene de la larga historia que tiene Espa√Īa. Una historia que se ve por doquier¬†en calles, catedrales, alc√°zares, mezquitas y, por lo tanto, en cada tabique que construye esta bella ciudad.

Yo, gracias a Dios, pude venir a Espa√Īa a mis muy cortitos veinte a√Īos. Me siento muy agradecido con Dios y mi familia que me han podido brindar estas oportunidades. Porque la verdad es algo muy distinto poder venir a Espa√Īa a los veinte a√Īos con chavos Americanos de mi edad a visitar este pa√≠s en un punto m√°s avanzado en mi vida. Gracias al momento en que vine y por las intenciones con las que vengo, he vivido experiencias que no hubiese vivido en otro punto de mi vida. Por ejemplo, por parte del programa de¬†intercambio escolar he podido viajar a sitios como C√°ceres, M√©rida y Segovia, sitios muy bonitos que quiz√°s no hubiera visitado si no hubiese sido por mi programa de intercambio. Estas experiencias que estoy viviendo aqu√≠ en Espa√Īa me recuerdan a cuando ando por mi bello pa√≠s de M√©xico. Perm√≠tanme explicarles la paralela; cuando voy a M√©xico, muy seguido voy tanto a la CDMX y Toluca como tambi√©n a los pueblos m√°s peque√Īos de donde son mis papas: Bejucos¬†y Caja de Agua. Para todos los que son del Estado de M√©xico, vaya que s√≠ saben las enormes diferencias entre la Ciudad de M√©xico y un pueblo como Caja de Agua. Obviamente no es el mismo ambiente que se siente entre los pueblos y las ciudades aqu√≠ en Espa√Īa pero es mucho m√°s parecido el estilo de vida de aqu√≠ a, por ejemplo, las ciudades y pueblos en EEUU. Es que a final de cuentas le debemos mucha de nuestra cultura contempor√°nea a los Espa√Īoles y si es bonito ver esas similitudes entre pa√≠ses tan lejanos. Por ejemplo en mi clase de historia del arte el otro d√≠a vimos un cuadro de un pintor muy reconocido aqu√≠ en Espa√Īa que toca temas t√≠picos Espa√Īoles y varios de sus cuadros me recordaron a M√©xico.

    • Interior por Rusi√Īol (1892).

Los que son de pueblos de M√©xico creo que concordar√°n conmigo que este cuadro podr√≠a estar mostrando una casa mexicana como tambi√©n una espa√Īola.¬†

    Those that are from Mexican pueblos will agree with me that this painting could be displaying a Mexican house or a Spanish house.

En especial los que tocaban temas de los campesinos, por la ropa que llevaban las figuras, la arquitectura y muchos otros aspectos me recuerdan a mis experiencias en M√©xico. Por lo tanto, lo mismo se puede apreciar en los pueblos como San¬†Miguel¬†de Allende o Taxco que son ciudades mexicanas¬†muy semejantes¬†a ciudades como Segovia o C√°ceres aqu√≠ en Espa√Īa. La verdad es que est√°s comparaciones no dejar√°n de aparecer en mis blogs porque es un tema que me fascina; las similitudes y diferencias de los pa√≠ses y la gente que los habita.¬†

Pero bueno, ya dejo de estar platique y platique de los mismo y vamos a lo chido. El resto de este blog se tratar√° sobre las visitas que he hecho a trav√©s del programa a comunidades afuera de Madrid aqu√≠ en Espa√Īa. El primer sitio¬†que visitamos¬†fue Segovia que es una ciudad justo al otro lado de la Sierra de Madrid. Es un muy buen sitio para visitar en una tarde porque es muy accesible desde Madrid y es un ambiente completamente diferente pero muy cercano a la ciudad. La raz√≥n por las cuales visitamos los sitios fue¬†por su gran importancia hist√≥rica pero yo la neta no los quiero aburrir as√≠ es que solo incluir√© fotos y algunos datos curiosos de los sitios que visitamos. ¬°Vamos a darle!

El Alcázar de Segovia. Walt Disney utilizó este alcázar como inspiración para su castillo de Disney World. The Alcazar in Segovia. Walt Disney drew inspiration from this alcázar for his Disney World castle.
Contemplando el pueblo como una vez lo hizo la familia real en Segovia. El alcázar fue utilizado por varios reinos incluyendo el Romano, Musulmán y el de Castilla . Contemplating the town like the royal family once did in Segovia. The alcazar was used by several empires including the Roman, Muslim and Castile.
Un sujeto muy guapo posa en frente del acueducto de Segovia, acueducto que fue construido en tiempos Romanos. A very good looking guy in front of the aqueduct in Segovia, an aqueduct that was built in Roman times.

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English:

The Spanish empire expired several years ago. The power to control colonies thousands of miles from Madrid turned out to be impossible to retain for obvious reasons. The empire that once ruled over most of Latin America and several parts of Europe throughout its history has been diminished to a plot of land that fits within the state of Texas. The country is small, but it is still very impressive how much diversity you can find within its borders. You can travel a few hours in any direction from Madrid and arrive in a location that is completely different from what you left behind. I think that so much cultural richness in such a small country comes from the long history that Spain has found itself involved in. A history that can be seen everywhere from its streets, cathedrals, alc√°zares, mosques and for that matter in every brick that builds this beautiful city.

I have been blessed by God to be able to visit Spain at my short age of twenty. I am very thankful with God and my family who have been able to provide me with these opportunities. The truth is that it is a very different experience to come to Spain when you are twenty years old and are coming with people that are your same age than when you are older and you are visiting the country¬†at another more advanced point in your life. For example through the program I have been able to to visit places like C√°ceres, M√©rida and Segovia. All of which are places that are very beautiful, but that I might not have visited if it had not been for the program.¬†A lot of the experiences that I have lived in Spain remind me of when I visit my beautiful country of Mexico. Let me explain the parallel; when I visit Mexico, I often go to Mexico City and Toluca as well as the pueblos my parents are from: Bejucos and Caja de Agua. For everyone that is from the State of Mexico, y’all definitely know about the differences between a city like Mexico City and a small pueblo like Caja de Agua. Obviously it is not exactly the same atmosphere that you feel between the cities and pueblos here in Spain, but it is a much more similar experience than when you compare American cities and towns to cities and pueblos in Mexico. This is because we owe a lot of our contemporary culture to the Spanish and it is wonderful to be able to make connections between countries that are thousands of miles apart. For example in my art history class the other day we saw a painting by a very famous Spanish artist that touches upon very typical Spanish themes and several of his pieces reminded me of Mexico.¬†Those that are from Mexican pueblos would agree with me that the painting could be showing a Mexican theme just as well as a Spanish one.¬†Especially the ones that touched upon rural life, through the clothing, the architecture and many other aspects they remind me of my experiences in Mexico. For that reason we can see some cities in Mexico like San Miguel de Allende or Taxco which are Mexican cities with a grand resemblance to Segovia or C√°ceres here in Spain. The truth is that these comparisons won’t stop appearing in my blogs, because¬†it is a topic that fascinates me; the similarities and differences between the countries and the people that live within them.

Well, I will now stop talking so much about the same old thing and lets get to the good part! The rest of this blog post will be about the trips I have made across Spain through the program in communities outside of Madrid. The first place we went to was Segovia, which is a city that is separated from Madrid¬†by a mountain range. It is a very good place to for a day trip because it is very accessible from Madrid and has a completely different atmosphere from the city. The reason we went to the places we did was for their historical significance, but I don’t want to bore y’all so I will include photos and some interesting facts about the places that we visited. Let’s do this!

Con mis amigos en Mérida. With my friends in Mérida.
Otra foto de un bello sujeto esta vez in C√°ceres. Another photo of a lovely subject this time in C√°ceres.
Teatro Romano en M√©rida. Este teatro lleva desde el a√Īo 16 antes de Cristo en este mundo. Roman theater in M√©rida. This theater has been on this earth since 16 years before Christ’s birth.