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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.

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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.

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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.]

Warning:

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!

Barcelona

9 Jun

Barcelona. 

The name conjures up images of mediterranean life, late summer nights that turn into sunrises on the beach, tiny narrow streets in the gothic quarter, and watching my dad thwart pickpocketers one at a time.  (nope, I’m never going to stop talking about Tim Norris :P)

Precariously dropped between mountains and sea, the thriving city is a popular destination for tourists. Almost too popular as the city can become a little over-crowded, But it is a great hub for cheap airline flights, which is why I find myself sitting in the Barcelona airport. 

But that being said, Barcelona
has a lot of charm and I would be fool not to enjoy a few days in the big city.

This being my 4th trip to Barcelona, I decided to venture out of the Gothic quarters where I stayed in the past and opted to explore the Passieg de Gracia, the wealthy area to the north of Placa Catalunya and home to Gaudi’s most famous architecture.

The area of the city was really nice, and – ironically – the hostel was really not. But better that way so that Lauren and I spent most of our time out in the city despite the rain.

Some of my new adventures from this trip include:

Drinking Moritz beer (Barcelona’s oldest beer!) while exploring the nightlife in the Gracia neighborhood in the pouring rain.

Entering into a record number of three churches in one day – including the cathedral – while wandering nearly the entire old city (known as Barcino).

Paying for tapas (remember that those are free in Jaen), discovering an unusual skatepark, and stumbling upon the giant cat in the Raval neighborhood. 

Finally seeing the inside of Casa Batllo – one of Gaudi’s most famous works. The inside was as equally impressive as the whimsical, dragon-like outside. I don’t think I saw a single right angle or straight line in the entire house, but I enjoyed the curving, colorful walls all bathed in natural light. Gaudi was greatly inspired by nature; which was easy to see as wandering through the house felt more like an underwater excursion than looking at a former residence. At 14.50€ for a student entrance/audioguide, it was one of the more expensive things I have done, but well worth it! 

Next stop: DUBLIN, capital of the emerald isle, where I’m looking forward to drinking some Irish pints and meeting up with my friend Jamie for the first time on a year! Let the Eurotrip begin! 

Hasta luego Jaen

7 Jun

Has it really been 8 months? As the end of May rapidly approached, I found myself in a little bit of denial. There was no way that year was coming to an end so quickly! No puede ser! 

But after many goodbyes and farewells to other friends, I now find myself to be the one leaving. It’s been a heck of a school year – one that I will not soon forget – but I guess all things must come to an end! 

But I couldn’t possibly leave Europe without seeing a few more places now could I? So off I go: 1 month, 6 countries and a whole lot of adventure await! 

First stop: BARCELONA – the catalunyan capital that’s home to Gaudi architecture, the infamous rambla and a pretty damn good futbol team! 

Un Mar de Olivos

13 May

As you climb to the top of Santa Catalina Castle in Jaén captial, the views are breathtaking. Below lies the compact city with its high rise buildings, nestled in between the sprawling hills of olive trees. The sheer number of olive trees engulfing the countryside, clinging to steep mountains and forming neat, clean lines for miles, is indescribable. And from this vantage point, it’s easy to see why Jaén is the world capital of olive oil. In fact, I’m not sure how I have spent nearly 8 months here in Jaén without commenting on what keeps the city thriving.

But in all reality, olives are more than a source of income here. They’re a way of life. There are olives for snacking as you sit around at the bar. There are stuffed olives, spicy olives, pitted olives, round olives, oval olives – more olives varieties than I knew existed. My body wash is olive scented, my lotion is made of olives and I even brush my teeth with olive toothpaste. (ok, just kidding about the toothpaste part, but you get the point.)

And most important is the product that comes from the olives: aceite (olive oil). What would Spanish cooking be without olive oil? For breakfast there is toast drenched with olive oil and tomatoes. For salads there is olive oil, not ranch or italian dressing. Your sandwich is a little dry? Why not put a little olive oil on it? And olive oil is essential to some of the best and most traditional Spanish food, like gaspacho soup, or the spanish tortilla.

But what struck me the most upon arriving was the sheer amount of oil that is used in cooking. Coming from the U.S., where olive oil is often tossed aside for more affordable products like butter, I used olive oil sparingly. A few drops on my salad, a few drops for cooking some veggies. However I watched on as my roommates dumped olive oil on everything – bottle after bottle being piled up in the recycling.

So now my new quest is to embrace olive oil like a Spaniard and I’ve got just the thing to help me get started: a 5-liter jug of olive oil (about 1.3 gallons). A gift from the director of my department at school, the jug of olive oil came from his very own olive trees. After sending all the olives to a cooperative to be turned to olive oil, he had the opportunity to receive his payments in cash or olive oil. Lucky for me and my other co-workers, he chose olive oil.

My Lesson of the Day: For an olive oil to be labeled ‘Extra Virgin’ (the highest classification of oil) it must be able to meet more that 20 standards, including a taste test by the International Olive Council.