The Grass is Always Greener

17 Oct

With the American election looming in the not-so-distant future, we are constantly bombarded with political news. Living in a key swing state, I thought that to be the reason. Never have I been so eager to leave the country pre-election to escape the phone harassment, dodging every unknown caller, and the constant “I approve this message” that echos through my head. Then I moved to Spain. Surely in Spain there wouldn’t be political commercials between every show, but as I don’t have a television, I can’t really confirm that to be 100% true. Not to worry, even without the television the election has followed me.

The election has followed me every time I log on to the internet – whether the publication I’m reading be British, Spanish or American.

The election has followed me every time that a teacher, a friend or a passerby asks me about the polls. Many of which couldn’t point out my state on a map are eager to learn I’m from Ohio and tell me what an important swing state it is. I dare you to name the president and ruling political parties in Spain. Or Britain. Or any other country in Europe or the world. How is it that they all know so much about our elections while we know so little about theirs? I’m impressed about their political knowledge and the impact our elections have on people all over the world, not just within our boarders.

The election has followed me every time I meet someone that is unemployed – a number that has reached 25 percent of the population in Spain and soars far higher for those in their twenties. It has gotten so bad that many people my age are leaving their beloved country and searching for jobs wherever they can. They are fleeing to other countries and paying me for English classes to improve their resume, because they find themselves with a master’s degree and still unable to find work.

The election has followed me every time I hear about the austerity measures being talked about throughout Europe. I have watched as teachers, who are public employees, continually take the brunt of a flawed political system. Payments are frozen for government employees at the same time as teachers’ hours have been increased – some up to 5 hours more per week. I have watched as teachers who have been guaranteed a job for life are now told that they must move and change due to the budget cuts. I have seen my own teaching program drastically cut and in some places hocked all together. And those lucky enough to keep their job have seen class sizes increase well beyond the previous cap of 30 students per high school class.

In Spain they refer to this time as “La Crisis”. A name I thought was slightly dramatic at first. But after more reflection, I don’t find it all that inappropriate. Spain is in a crisis right now, but so are we and so is the rest of the world.

I’ve been asked frequently this year to reflect on if I’m better off than I was 4 years ago, but in all honesty, is anyone? I know that Spain isn’t better off than it was 4 years ago. Nor are most places in the world. But only after I removed myself from the U.S. could I see that 8 percent unemployment (while not ok) seems a lot less when you compare it to 25 percent here in Spain. And only now can I see that constant government budget cuts are not what we need to improve our situation in the U.S.

So as I sit here thinking about my absentee ballot vote, there are many things factoring into my decision. As much as I would like to say my vote isn’t about social issues, as a woman I fear to think how my rights could be affected if a certain party gained control. But more than the social issues, my vote is for who I think can continue to improve our country. For the president who has shown his leadership during the time of a crisis and who can continue to lead us in the right economic direction. For the president who has allowed me to still have my parents health coverage at the age of 24 so I’m not afraid to see a doctor when I come back home. For the president who still inspires me every time he picks up the microphone. For all my foreign friends who don’t get a chance to vote for the American president, for our international reputation and for the international effect of our election.

There are so many things wavering through my mind in the count down to election, but there is one thing that is not. I can honestly tell you there is no doubt in mind as to who my vote will be for, but then again, I don’t think there ever was.


Adios Cincinnati

12 Sep

And I’m off! Just a few last minute things to shove in my carry on before I head on the plane. A few packs of skyline chili and a Cincinnati Reds travel mug and my bags are complete. Hasta Luego Cincinnati!

Today’s Word: el avion (n.): plane; as in: I’m about to head on the avion for Paris.


El Primer Pueblo Pitufo del Mundo

1 May

Scattered throughout the hills, its hard not to miss Juzcar

About a year ago, if you mentioned the pueblo of Juzcar, you probably wouldn’t get much of a response. It was just one of many white towns scattered in the hills and mountains of Andalusia. Although beautiful in it’s own right, there was nothing distinct that set the town apart from any of the surrounding villages.

But then something happened. And some very little people made some pretty big changes.

All thanks to one movie: the smurfs.

In honor of the opening of the new movie in Summer of 2011, Juzcar got a bit of a make-over with a thick coat of blue paint.

The official plaque of the first smurf town

No building could escape. From dilapidated houses to the church and from the library to the cemetery, everything became, well, “smurfed.”

And after the paint came the surfs – painted on balconies, poking out from behind walls, and even leaving their footsteps in paint to lead you to the best tea shop in town. (Let’s be honest it’s probably the only tea shop in town. This place is tiny!)

There was no denying the “smurfiness” that Juzcar had achieved and on June 16, 2011 it officially became the “Primer Pueblo Pitufo del Mundo”: the First Smurf Town in the World.

Word of the Day: Pitufo (n.): Smurf, as in: “How many pitufoscan you spot in the following photos?”

The old church with a new makeover

The English Plural according to George Carlin

24 Apr

We’ll begin with a box, and the plural is boxes,
But the plural of ox becomes oxen, not oxes;
One fowl is a goose, but two are called geese,
Yet the plural of moose should never be meese;
You may find a lone mouse or a nest full of mice,
Yet the plural of house is houses, not hice.

If the plural of man is always called men,
Why shouldn’t the plural of pan be called pen ?
If I speak of my foot and show you my feet,
And I give you a boot, would a pair be called beet ?
If one is a tooth and a whole set are teeth,
Why shouldn’t the plural of booth be called beeth ?

Then one may be that, & this would be those,
Yet hat in the plural would never be hose;
And the plural of cat is cats, not cose.
We speak of a brother & also of brethren,
But though we say mother, we never say methren.
Then the masculine pronouns are he, his & him,
But imagine the feminine: she, shis & shim !

Let’s face it – English is a crazy language.
There is no egg in eggplant nor ham in hamburger;
Neither apple nor pine in pineapple.
English muffins weren’t invented in England.

We take English for granted,
but if we explore its paradoxes,
We find that quicksand can work slowly,
boxing rings are square;
A guinea pig is neither from Guinea nor is it a pig.
Why is it that writers write, but fingers don’t fing,
Grocers don’t groce & hammers don’t ham ?

Doesn’t it seem crazy that …
you can make amends but not one amend ?
If you have a bunch of odds and ends …
and get rid of all but one of them,
What do you call it ?

If teachers taught, why didn’t preachers praught ?
If a vegetarian eats vegetables,
what does a humanitarian eat ?

Sometimes I think all people who speak English
Should be in an asylum for the verbally insane.
In what other language do people recite at a play,
and play at a recital ?

We ship by truck but send cargo by ship …
We have noses that run & feet that smell;
We park in a driveway & drive in a parkway.
And how can a slim chance & a fat chance be the same,
while a wise man & a wise guy are opposites ?

You have to marvel at the unique lunacy of a language
in which your house can burn up as it burns down;
In which you fill in a form by filling it out,
& in which an alarm goes off by going on.
And in closing ….

If Father is Pop .

how come
Mother’s not Mop ? ? ? ?

Today’s Word: Genio (n.): genius; an exceptionally brilliant person, as in: “George Carlin was clearly a genio for writing such a clever piece on the English language”

[George Carlin (1937 – 2008) was an American comedian, author, writer and actor who won several Grammy awards for his comedy albums. In addition to his comments on the English language, he also wrote about politics, religion and psychology among other racy topics.]

The art of the “English Attack”

20 Apr

Yesterday, I had a moment, as one often does, where you suddenly realize how ridiculous something is.

It all started with a field trip with the 7th graders to Malaga – the heart of the Costa del Sol (Coast of the Sun). Ironically, it was dreary and rather cold.

Being a big city, Malaga has a lot of foreigners and English-speaking tourists. Much to my surprise, my students were actually eager to speak English and jumped at the chance to shout “Hello!” at nearly every person who looked like (maybe) they spoke English. I assure you, this is every bit as annoying as you can imagine. But this time, something was different.

As I normally find myself on the other end of this elusive “English Attack” (the end that is constantly getting “Hello!” and “Goodmorning!” shouted at my face), I’m ashamed to say I was amused at being in the group of assailants. And low and behold, some of my students were practically begging me to tell them how to say things so they could use them to scream at a blue-eyed, fair-skinned passerby. (Ok, begging might be a bit of an exaggeration. But, they were interested in learning!)

I couldn’t help but enjoy this “English Attack”. The high point coming when one of my students shouted, “Hello. How do you say?” with such excitement, vigor and haste, that she was overcome with laughter as she ran back to tell me her great success. Only there was one problem with this particular example: she had no idea what she was saying.

Lost in the moment, with adrenaline pumping, she realized only later that she didn’t know what that particular question meant. When I told her the meaning, we were both tickled over the occurrence. I, at least, was happy to have drilled something into their heads this year! Now if only I could get them to remember what it means.

Later, on the bus ride home, I had some time to properly reflect on the day’s events. Staring at the passing rows of olive trees, I found myself asking: Why do some Spaniards feel the need to shout at foreigners? Does this only happen in English? What are the necessary components of this “English Attack”?

As a frequent victim, I have decided to put my experiences to some good and outline the important components necessary for any decent “English Attack.” Not only will this serve for future field trips, but it will also allow all those who may never get to experience an “English Attack” to share in this beautiful experience.

The first, and most important, rule of the “English Attack” is that it must only be carried out on complete strangers. It’s not necessary to actually confirm that said stranger speaks English before attacking, either. You can normally just make a guess based on any combination of height, eye color, dress, hair style, skin color, etc. A guiri shouldn’t be too hard for you spot, but it will get easier with practice.

The second rule is that this attack must be fast and unpredicted. You’re not trying to make friends here. Shout the few English words that remain somewhere buried deep in the back of your brain. Remember, you most likely wouldn’t be able to respond or hold a conversation even if these people did respond to you. So get in, get out, and move on chuckling at your cleverness.

Finally, the third rule – and this is normally pretty key – is that you should probably say something wrong, or at the very least mispronounce it. Whether you’re shouting “how do you say?” instead of “how do you do?”, or yelling “goodmorning” at 6 p.m., it’s all just part of the effect. It only makes the “English Attack” stronger.

There are some cases, when the English attacking is so good that it elicits a response from the victim. Whether it be a “hello” in return or just simple acknowledgement, these cases are usually best dealt with by some form of follow up. You’ve already got their attention, so now its time to really get them going. Why not throw in a bad word or a profanity? But remember, this is only in extreme cases.

Thus concludes the most important rules of the “English Attack”. I can only assume that the following month and half that remain of my time in Spain will allow me to conduct further research. In the event of a new discovery, I will be sure to come back and amend the rules.

Today’s Word(s): “Cómo se dice…?”: “How do you say…?”, as in: “The tourist didn’t know how to react when the young girl looked at him and shouted, ‘Comó se dice?'”


20 Apr

Rather than try to recap 3 months of inactivity, I’m just going to jump back into blogging as if no time has passed at all. Besides traveling to a new continent, hosting approximately 17 friends/family at our house and being the busiest part-time worker around, life is pretty much the same.

So now that I’ve gotten this off my chest, I think I can successfully get back to doing some writing!

La Cabalgata

7 Jan

¡Feliz dia de los tres Reyes! And Happy Three Kings Day to those of you who didn’t understand the first part! Well, technically it was yesterday – January 6 – but I couldn’t possibly have written yesterday because I was far too busy opening my presents, eating king cake and nursing my hangover from the mass amounts of sweets that were eaten at the Cabalgata.

So what, you may ask yourself, is a cabalgata?

The cabalgata could most easily be described as a parade held every 5th of January in honor of the Three Kings (or Three Wise Men as we would probably call it!). The most famous cabalgata takes place in Madrid, but there are parades of all sizes that take place all over the cities and pueblos of Spain. Here in Lucena, people spend months decorating floats that take to the streets, accompanied by bands and of course the Three Kings themselves – Baltazar, Melchor, and Gaspar -each with their own elaborate float. 

Keep in mind that these were the guys that brought gifts to baby Jesus, so they always bring gifts with them to throw out at the parade. Forgoing the traditional gifts of Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh, modern day gifts usually include balls, stuffed animals and many many “caramelos” or sweets.

After a long night at the parade, the excited kids go home and eagerly await the arrival of the Kings the next day, being sure to leave out some cookies and snacks for the Kings and a little water for their camels too, of course. For most kids in Spain, January 6th is when they get their Christmas presents, although some now get gifts from santa on Christmas Day.

Another tradition that accompanies Three Kings Day is King Cake or rosca de reyes. This round cake usually comes with gifts hidden inside for the people who are lucky enough to get a slice with a gift. My gift this year? A little figurine of Maggie Simpson. Now that’s what I call lucky!

Today’s Word: Cabalgata (n.): Three Kings Parade; as in: “Hope you don’t get a cavity after eating all the sweets you caught at the cabalgata!”