Monday, October 17, 2005

The Tragedies of a Dictatorship

To give a really fast synopsis of Spanish history in the 21st century from 1936-1939 there was a civil war between the Nationalists (Fascist) and Republicans (Socialists and Communists)which resulted in the 40 year rule of the Fascist Dictator Francisco Franco. Since Franco´s death in 1975 the country has been converted into a democratic monarchy and has greatly developed.

That may all sound pretty textbookish on paper but now that I am in Spain and getting to know the culture and people it is starting to impact me a lot more closely and I am learning exactly what living under a dictatorship can mean. It was a really bloody time and many intellectuals were murdered and also many people who had any connection to the Rebulican party during the civil war. But everyone was affected; for example, my profesor of politics (who is around the same age as my dad) this morning told us his experiences under Franco´s rule. He became involved in the opposition of Franco early on and it resulted in much persecution from the Guardia Civil (the national police force) including his imprisionment and the murder of his girlfriend. It really brought things into perspective for me. The dictatorship ended not quite 10 years before I was born...this is really recent history.

All this makes me wonder when the dictatorship of Fidel Castro will finally be over and how long it will take for that country to reunite and some other form of government that allows all persons to have the truly equal rights. I have just finished reading the memiors of Reinaldo Arenas, ¨Before the Night Falls¨, he was a Cuban writer who was severly persecuted (jailed, enforced to do slave labor, beaten, etc.) for his political beliefs and homosexual lifestyle for more than 20 years before he was able to escape from the island and move to the US as a refugee where he spent the rest of his life in near poverty although he was already a world reknowned author.

Now I´m reading a book called Blood Diamonds about the diamond trade in the Sierra Leone and the total abuse of the people there by enforcing them to work 14 hour days in the mines for pennies and chopping the hands off those who won´t comply. It has been kind of a depressing week so far. Next time I´ll have to read something uplifting.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

An update on the fashion world

So I´ve been shopping around some and every time I walk into a store I get a little jolt of terror that the worst of every 80´s fashion has come back with a vengence. Not only are tapered pants to be seen in all the stores but worse yet...MC hammer pants. Which I´ve also started calling Maja pants because one of my friends of that name has a pair that she wears all the time. It is a sad state of affairs here. Another curious trend I´ve seen is girls wearing those tall boxing shoes that look completely idiotic but apparently no one has bothered to tell them. There is a lot of really nice clothes here as well, just certain stuff that looks really bad. It is also really popular to have english sayings on your clothes that make absolutely no sense for example: We are in the magic forest. I have no idea what that is supposed to mean but it was on a shirt at one of the most popular stores here. The funniest is when they use horrible grammar because then it makes even less sense.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Arabic Tea Room

Yesterday Malika, Christy and I went to this place called Cafetín Arabe to study for our first test. It is this really nice place that has lots of low couches and pillows on the floor with low tables. Their menu has all these different kinds of tea and coffee from all over the world and they also have these middle eastern sweets. I had a turkish coffee and something similar to Baklava but it had almonds in the middle of it, both were really delicious. They were playing really good music in there and it was a really nice place to study until tons of people started coming in and talking and smoking cigarettes and hooka. It was ok though because we were sick of studying by that time anyway. We decided to go back there after our test tomorrow because it is a super nice atmosphere and we want to try some more coffees and teas.

Today in class one of the girls taught me how to write my last name in Chinese characters. It was really neat, she said that my name is some kind of tree that grows in China. I am trying to learn how to pronounce her Chinese name but it is very difficult. All the Chinese girls crack up whenever I try to say anything in Mandarin. They taught me how to say thank-you the other day, it is written in Roman letters like this: Xie Xie, now you try to pronounce that.

My new roommate is Stevie and she is from Alaska. I think we are going to get along even though we are pretty different. She sounds like she has had a really interesting life. Her biological dad is a ballet dancer in Las Vegas and she has lived in Arizona, Hawaii, Wyoming and now Alaska, and she has also studied in Granada and Costa Rica.

Ok, well I feel like I can´t write in English today because it has been ruined from speaking so much Spanish...which is good I suppose but it makes all my english sentences come out very simple and sounding like mush so I´m just going to shut up now.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Blah

I don´t really have much to say today, except that my first wave of homesickness hit me about 40 minutues ago when I was reading my emails from home. Then to make matters worse I was trying to send an email and I couldn´t get it to work for anything and the lady that works at the cyber café thingy looked at me like I was retarded but then it took her like 20 minutes to figure it out...all of those minutes which I will be paying dearly for. I think I just haven´t had enough time to myself, because someone is always inviting me to go to this or that place and I never get to go exploring on my own and I´m just getting a bit grumpy.

Ok, enough of the complaining. Otherwise I´m doing pretty good and so thankful that we don´t have school tomorrow. Hopefully my next post will be more interesting and uplifting.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Tapas

Today after class the coordinator for our program, Roberto, gave us a list of really good places to go get tapas here and said he would try to join us later so we went out in search of some good tapas for lunch. We ended up at this place close the the Plaza de las Flores with some strange name but I can´t remember exactly what it is called. We had the waiter bring us a plate of basically thier house tapas. Here is what he brought us: a plate of tomatoes and green olives soaked in olive oil, a plate of little sandwiches filled with sausages, hams, and anchovies, a plate of marineras which is a version of potatoe salad placed on a hard bread stick and topped with an anchovie, and a plate of sliced ham with pepper and covered in olive oil. I also had a glass of wine because it was cheaper than a pop. My overall opinion of the food is that it is quite good, except the meat is a bit frightening sometimes. When you walk into bars and restaurants it is all hanging up behind the counter and they usually have a pigs leg stuck in this contraption on the counter ready for them to slice meat off of it. A bit strange for me. I have also checked out places where the sell meat and you can buy a whole leg of pig or cow for like €120 which is pretty expensive. I´m sure in a few months it will just become part of daily life though.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Chocolate Chip Cookies Rock My Socks Off

So today after class I made choc. chip cookie bars and they were so good. It was very comical to improvise with what little I have in my kitchen. I used a big pot as a mixing bowl and a miniture plastic cup as a measuring cup. They turned out quite good too. I gave one to my landlord and also to a Senegalese woman that braids hair around the corner from where I live at this open air flea market.

Right now the city festival is going on and so there are fiestas and desfiles almost every night and tons of good food and all these hand crafts to try. Next tuesday is a city wide holiday celebrating the city saint so I don´t have school and I´m thinking about participating in this little trek that the older people make up to this mountain nearby carrying a statue of the saint back to her normal spot in the sanctuary on top of the mountain. Then later that night there are most fiestas in Murcia which should be pretty cool too.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

I was mistaken

Since the my last blog entry I have seen about 3 girls here rocking the mullet so apparently it is for everyone. In Sweden tapered pants are all the rage right now and I sincerely hope that that trend does not become popular in the rest of the world because my body is certainly not built for tapered pants. But my Swedish roommate, Ana, is one of the neatest girls ever. We speak in English a lot with Spanish blended in every once in awhile and sometimes she gets really frustrated and just speaks in Swedish and we just laugh about it.

Last night I went to Lindsey´s apartment which is in the building next to mine and we made a pizza and 2 bottles of wine. It is amazing how cheap wine is here, the majority of it is probably cheaper than bottled water is back in the states. There was a festival/re-enactment of what happened between the Christians and the Moors in Murcia that took place 2 blocks from our apartment so we went there after dinner last night. Everyone was dressed in costumes and there was all kinds of singing and dancing, it was really entertaining. Although not so much when I was trying to fall asleep about an hour later and couldn´t because they were making so much noise and there was no way I was closing my window in 85degree weather with no air conditioning. Good times.