31 December 2011
24 December 2011
23 December 2011
"Truly He taught us to love one another,His Law is love, and His Gospel is peace.Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother,And in His name all oppression shall cease."
22 December 2011
Then there was the time a few years ago when I had to "sleep" in my aunt's "office," where she keeps all of her magic supplies--crystal balls, various useful materials for seances, books on voodoo, magic and spirits. As hard as I tried not to be mortified by the thought of the strange spirits that my aunt evoked in that space, I couldn't for the life of me free myself from the sensation that I wasn't alone in that room. And I didn't like it. I don't know that I've stayed in bed so still and wide-eyed with fear since I was a little kid afraid of the dark. All I wanted to do was get out, but I was too afraid to move.
Most recently, I had a different kind of frightening experience the first night I spent in Porto, Portugal a couple weeks ago. This particular scary night had less to do with dreams and imaginary(?) spirits and much more to do with the two random roommates I was sharing the hostel dorm with.
To try my best to make a long story short (though generally I am much more adept at making short stories long...):
When I went to bed around midnight on the top of one of the two bunk beds, no one else was in the room. So, my first introduction came at 4:30am when one of them flung open the door, half crazy and (I assume) quite drunk. He woke up his friend (who had come in earlier and gone straight to sleep), and me, asking for empanadas which apparently he suspected the other roommate had, or perhaps had eaten. This was all going on in Spanish, and while I was half asleep. I tried to ignore the arguing, until I heard a large crash and, peering over the edge of my bunk bed, witnessed an all out brawl as the formerly sleeping roommated pummelled the other guy, and then vise versa. I think I interjected a few feeble, "what are you doing?"s and "what is going on?"s. And then continued to stare wide eyed and opened mouthed at this unbelievable scene from my loft above. After they stopped hitting each other, the sleepy roommate started getting dressed and throwing things around the room and threatening to turn the other guy in to the police. The other one told him he was making a fool of himself and that he'd kill sleepy if he went to the police. They argued for awhile longer, until the sleepy one left (to go the police??) and I realized I was still staring at this random guy (who I now realized was a potential killer). I quickly lied down tried to look like I was sleeping, as the guy got into his bed and said "sorry" before turning out the light. I confess I found his apology rather feeble and insufficient given the situation at hand! But I let it go.
For the next twenty minuted I stayed in bed half trying to sleep/half contemplating the likelihood that this guy sleeping two feet away from me might be a dangerous criminal. Finding it impossible to sleep under these circumstances I finally crept out of bed and sneaked (why can't it be snuck??) out of the room as stealthily as possible... just in case! When I got down stairs to the lobby the hostel worker looked at my half asleep, dishevelled, barefooted self as if I was crazy. And when I explained that I was having trouble sleeping after being awakened by a rather noisy fight and threats between my roommates he helped me get some tea and eventually found me another place to sleep for the night.
Being as it was 6:30 in the morning before I went back to bed, and that I spent most of my remaining hours of sleep wondering how I was going to get back into the room with the scary strangers to collect my things in the morning, it was overall a rather tiring night.
But by the morning, it didn't seem quite as scary, and I felt perhaps I had slightly overreacted with my hasty escape during the night (though I still checked to make sure I would have different roommates the next night and crept quietly into the room in order not to wake anyone up when I went back for my things). So, when I was getting some hot chocolate in the kitchen after breakfast and some guy who I asked to pass the milk apologized to me for last night, I thought perhaps he had confused me with someone else. Until I realized--"Eres tu!" The dangerous criminal from the night before was there before my eyes, speaking to me quite politely and looking much more like a very embarrassed and sleepy young man than a murder. So after embarrassing him a bit more by recounting and questioning him about the events of the previous night in front of everyone at the table, I felt quite alright about forgiving him entirely. I mean, I might not have gotten much sleep, but at least I had an interesting adventure.
And the next night my roommates were girls who went to sleep before I did! Which reminds me of something I heard once-- a hostel is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you're going to get. Or something like that, anyway.
16 December 2011
Yes, that's right: "Mi español no es muy bueno."
When this clip came on the news, Dulia, the woman I live with, laughed and said, "It sounds like you when you speak Spanish!" Then, perhaps to soften the blow, she added, "You speak a little better, but you have the same accent!"
13 December 2011
Part of my life in Spain is that some things seem to be pretty much out of my control. The food I eat (since I eat with the familyI live with), my schedule (since I have to rely on public transportation), and especially the kids in my classes. They are CRAZY (sometimes)!!!
I have one classes that was starting to drive me nuts. The teacher and I decided to teach together today rather than splitting the class in half like we usually do. I decided to see what techniques he used to control the class and get the kids to listen. What he did was: NOTHING! He didn't control the class or make them be quiet and listen or ask them to put away their homework for other classes or participate as a class. He just let them be, and then walked around the class talking to the students. And honestly, I think everyone was much happier than in my classes when I insist on everyone behaving properly. But maybe part of my cultural experience is understanding that in some classes, the kids just aren't going to be perfect angels, and that the teachers don't expect them to be.
For me, it's hard not to feel like I am failing as a teacher if my students aren't listening attentively, participating and concentrating on our class material. But maybe that is just prideful. And maybe, it really is okay to let go of a little control and just go with the flow. This shall be my new experiment.
12 December 2011
29 November 2011
28 November 2011
I am also grateful for this beautiful work of art from a girl I knew once upon a time in college. She is an incredible woman, and I have been inspired by her since we first had a class together a few years ago. Now, she is a beautiful mother and an inspiring artist who has created this lovely tribute to a some strong, faithful, independent, and generally amazing women who inspire her. I love it!
23 November 2011
20 November 2011
15 November 2011
13 November 2011
12 November 2011
"Disapproving of the systems won’t be enough to change them. I was taught to think that racism could end if white individuals changed their attitudes. (But) a “white” skin in the United States opens many doors for whites whether or not we approve of the way dominance has been conferred on us. Individual acts can palliate, but cannot end, these problems. . ."To redesign social systems we need first to acknowledge their colossal unseen dimensions. The silences and denials surrounding privilege are the key political tool here. They keep the thinking about equality or equity incomplete, protecting unearned advantage and conferred dominance by making these taboo subjects. . ."It seems to me that obliviousness about white advantage, like obliviousness about male advantage, is kept strongly inculturated in the United States so as to maintain the myth of meritocracy, the myth that democratic choice is equally available to all. Keeping most people unaware that freedom of confident action is there for just a small number of people props up those in power, and serves to keep power in the hands of the same groups that have most of it already."
I wonder what can be done be bring people to look within themselves, both black and white and human in general, to question their (my) preconcieved notions about the world and the people they interact with? I believe that I as an person born in the U.S., even as an African American female, have many hidden privleges that others do not. Not only do I think think there are privleges with being White, but I think there are hidden (and obvious) privleges with being able to speak English in the U.S., or being "educated", or having health insurance for instance. How do we bridge the gap? How do we address the issue of communities not feeling that they can be in a position of authority, even though there has not been anyone that looks like them doing it? How we change the way people think? There are so many comforts that people would not want to give up. It just makes me want to re-assess how I view others and work to be more concious of the biases I carry and work to change them, because I definiely have them.
05 November 2011
Incredibly, I played basketball on Wednesday night. I don't even know how many years it has been since I played b-ball... probably at least 5. But a friend called me to see if I wanted to play, and honestly, I would have done anything! I mean, my social life here in Spain isn't exactly keeping me overly busy right now. So, even knowing that basketball is always a very humbling experience for me, I readily agreed.
So, it was joyously unexpected when I WON!!!
Yes, folks, you read that correctly. I won... while playing basketball. And I didn't even cheat. Nor, in fact, was I very good. What happened was, we played "21" and I got 21 first! How could that be, you ask?? Well, both of my opponents missed 21 (and thus had to score 31, then 41 and even 51 points in order to win because you can only win with EXACTLY 21 points). So, with less than half as many points as the other players, I won. And you know what, I'm perfectly happy with that.
01 November 2011
30 October 2011
Is economic development the best contraception? Or is voluntary contraception the best form of development? Does the world need a bigger pie (more productive technologies) or fewer forks (slower population growth through voluntary contraception) or better manners (fewer inequities, less violence and corruption, freer trade and mobility, more rule of law, less material-intensive consumption)? Or is education of better quality and greater availability a key ingredient of all other strategies?
All these approaches have value. However much we would like one, there is no panacea, though some priorities are clear: voluntary contraception and support services, universal primary and secondary education, and food for pregnant and lactating mothers and children under 5.
These priorities are mutually reinforcing, and they are affordable. Providing modern family planning methods to all people with unmet needs would cost about $6.7 billion a year, slightly less than the $6.9 billion Americans are expected to spend for Halloween this year. By one estimate, achieving universal primary and secondary education by 2015 would cost anywhere from $35 billion to $70 billion in additional spending per year.
IF we spend our wealth — our material, environmental, human and financial capital — faster than we increase it by savings and investment, we will shift the costs of the prosperity that some enjoy today onto future generations. The mismatch between the short-term incentives that guide our political and economic institutions and even our families, on one hand, and our long-term aspirations, on the other, is severe.
We must increase the probability that every child born will be wanted and well cared for and have decent prospects for a good life. We must conserve more, and more wisely use, the energy, water, land, materials and biological diversity with which we are blessed.
Henceforth we need to measure our growth in prosperity: not by the sheer number of people who inhabit the earth, and not by flawed measurements like G.D.P., but by how well we satisfy basic human needs; by how well we foster dignity, creativity, community and cooperation; by how well we care for our biological and physical environment, our only home.
1) people are basically good and everyone is capable of doing something that will benefit the world; and...2) we are innately self-centered and naturally less aware of those around us than we are of ourselves (and perhaps our family member or those who we are very close to).
14 October 2011
13 October 2011
09 October 2011
06 October 2011
05 October 2011
30 September 2011
29 September 2011
23 September 2011
19 August 2011
Everything is packed, and I mean packed, into every corner and crevice of my car. Somehow, I managed to make it all fit. I've cleaned, sorted, organized and de-cluttered for weeks (albeit sporadically). The bike rack I bought and assembled is (persumably) securely attached to the trunk of my car with my bike (hopefully) safely in place (a miracle in and of itself). I've tried my best to say a few goodbyes and tie up loose ends. And now all I have to do is get in the car and go.
I will wake up in the morning and leave as early as I can to make the 12 hour drive to my parent's home in Tucson, AZ as safely and smoothly as possible.
I will sit behind the wheel of my poor little car, crammed with more junk than I ever thought it could hold, and I will drive like hell, and hope that I'll make it out of Provo before I'm too afraid to go and before I try to change my mind or go back or before I let myself cry so much I can't see the road.
Because it's time to go. Because I have to. Because, as much as I hate change and goodbyes and not knowing when I'll be back or when I'll see some of these beautiful people who I love so much again, I know that now it is time to move on and do something new. Because Provo has been so good to me, but I've gained what I came here to gain, and so SO much more, and I am finally ready to see what another little corner of the world can teach me.
And so, Provo, farewell.
10 August 2011
Yesterday I went to the Utah State Capitol Building, and I was completely captivated!
There were the impressive columns carved out of smooth, cool, gray marble, decorated with intricately carved flowers; paintings, new and old, depicting various scenes from Utah's history; huge, solid stone statues representing immigration & settlement, land & community, science & technology, art & education; grand doors and winding stair banisters all of a deep, rich mahogany; the ceilings were laced with gold and accented in pale pink and blue; busts of famous people, from Abraham Lincoln to the first man to invent TV, Philo Farnsworth, and many in between lined the halls; there were even recycling bins, which bolstered my hope for Utah's future significantly (in Provo the anti-recycling bug has a firm grip... maybe other parts of the state are doing better. One can only hope!).
But, of course, my favorite part of all was the display detailing the history of women's suffrage in Utah. As we know, women were not granted the right to vote nationally in the United States until 1920. However, in Utah women first officially gained the vote in 1870. This right was revoked later (in 1887) by the federal government in the Edmunds-Tucker Act, and was not reinstated until Utah was officially granted statehood in1896, at which time the vote for women was included as part of the state constitution. This makes Utah one of the first states to officially adopt women's suffrage. Pretty awesome!
I enjoyed that little history lesson, as well as learning a bit about some of the strong female voices in Utah during that time--Emmeline B. Wells, Martha "Mattie" Hughes Cannon, Seraph Young, Ruth May Fox and others. Aside from fighting for the vote, voting and even being elected into the state legislature, these women also set a standard, as have women throughout the United States and the world, for those of us who benefit from their legacy. These women exemplify the bravery, strength, hard work and determination that we should all have in standing up for our rights and the rights of those around us! I am inspired by the suffragists from all parts of our country and the world, and it is exciting to know a bit about a few from my current home in Utah! These are some pretty upstanding ladies! I kind of love them.
06 August 2011
It was stranger still that I actually ran the race, and liked it.
Now, I'm training for another half marathon. This time I will run with my aunt. And this time, I haven't been training as well I should have.
So today, when I should probably have been running 8-9 miles, it was a struggle to make myself complete the 5 1/2 or so miles that I ran. But, during that hour this morning, I remembered an important lesson that running has taught me:
Simple, right? But the funny thing about running is that I always think I can't make it. Yet I do. I always think I'm going to have to stop. But when I don't leave myself that option, I don't stop. I run all the way home, and I think, that wasn't so hard!
I've learned that, when running, the most important part is just to keep going. When you feel like you have to give up, don't, because, pretty soon, it doesn't seem so hard any more. It's like something in your brain just decides to let you go. You stop feeling, or thinking about, being in pain or being tired or hot or thirsty or anything else. It's amazing!
And, for me at least, the pain comes back. And on a long run I'll have to "just keep going" time and again before I reach the end. But every time there are hidden stores of energy that I somehow tap into when I just make myself go onward a little longer.
I've learned and relearned that lesson many times while running. And while it doesn't really get easier to keep going--I always get tired!--when you know that you can do it, because you've done it before, it does get easier to tell yourself to push on a little further. And it works. You keep going. You finish. And it's awesome!
What I haven't learned yet is to apply that lesson in other aspects of my life. I give up too fast. I don't push myself hard enough. As soon as I hit the first road block I just turn around and limp lamely home (metaphorically speaking, usually). But if running has taught me anything, I should know that as soon as I get over that bump in the road, I'll be thrilled to see how much easier things seem, if only just for a moment. And it's worth it! No matter how hard it feels, it's worth it in the end to know that you not only go where you wanted to go, but that you made it through every obstacle in your way, even when it seemed impossible. It's worth it to know that you are capable of "impossible!" It starts to feel like anything might be possible... I mean, if I can run a half marathon-- me, run a half marathon!-- what else can I do?
That's how I want to live. I don't want to give up when it's hard. I don't want to stop trying because I'm afraid I wont make it to the end. I want to do my best and work my hardest and tell myself every step of the way, you can do this! Because I can. We all can. We just have to believe it's possible when it is the hardest to believe.
It's a miracle... just like me running!
04 August 2011
Here we see 4 year old Kaya in Japan.... and her bedroom.
See more here.
30 July 2011
But I haven't been able to stay away from the subject for long (I do eat (at least) 3 times a day, after all). And eating meat is pretty common in the culture I live in. So, I keep coming back to the question: to eat meat or not to eat meat?
Lately, this has been on my mind more urgently, so I grabbed a book from the library that a few friends have suggested to me: Eating Animals, by Jonathan Safran Foer. For me, this was the push I needed to rededicating myself to what I consider a humane way of eating--avoiding meat and, now, most dairy products. The truth is, I can't stomach the knowledge that I am participating in creating a life of torture and abuse of millions of animals. Not to mention the gruesome deaths they suffer.
Part of the reason I have decided to more fully live a vegetarian/vegan lifestyle, and why I am sharing that decision with you, is because I believe it is one small step I can make towards influencing the world around me in a positive way.
I don't know about anyone else, but for me, there are so many problems in the world that sometimes I feel helpless to make an impact or contribute to the solution. But occasionally there is something I know I can do that matters. In this case, for me, it's as simple as not eating meat. Here are a few of the specific reasons I am choosing to avoid meat and dairy:
- The obvious: I don't want to participate in the systematized torture and abuse of animals that occurs on a large scale in our country (99% of the meat produced in the US comes from a factory farm. If you don't know what that meas for animals, it isn't hard to find out--read Eating Animals, watch undercover videos taken at these factories. The horrible truth is actually pretty readily available if our eyes are open.).
- I am opposed to the human rights abuses imposed upon many factory farm workers (often immigrants or others who have very few financial opportunities and may not feel they have access to legal protection).
- It helps the environment. The production and use of meat on a large scale is extremely harmful to the environment, using up resources and land, and creating enormous amounts of waste and pollution. Especially factory farming, which can decrease the value of land for miles surrounding these disease breading, stench producing places.
- It plays an important role in global famine and poverty. We may not always think of it this way, but the more meat we eat, the more of the precious grains and food resources are not being fed to human beings (and there are people all over the world starving--as we speak, the worst drought in 60 years is happening in the Horn of Africa, producing a huge food crisis). It takes 26 calories of grain consumed by animals to produce 1 calorie of meat for consumption. That is terribly inefficient and means that many more people could be fed and nourished by the grains that animals are eating than will be fed by the animals themselves. (Not to mention the fact that, in traditional farming animals graze and eat grasses and plants that are not always fit for human consumption, not so with the ever prevalent factory farm.)
- It's good for our health. Not only does meat naturally leech certain vitamins and minerals from out bodies, but the meat we eat today is pumped with chemicals and antibiotics, many of which we do not yet know the consequences of for the human body. Also, when animals are raised in such unclean, disease infested places, we can be certain that we are not entirely immune to the consequences of increased spreading of these germs (anyone remember the swine flu (H1N1) epidemic a few years ago.... well, scientists predict that the factory farm may be a breading ground for even more severe influenzas and other diseases in the future.).
I end with one final quote (a long one) from Foer. And with this: every small act of charity and love matters. Whether it is choosing not to eat meat, lending service to a friend or the championing of an important cause, our choices matter and they say something about us and what matters to us, and they influence others around us. For me, meat, and the consequences of meat, matters. And I wanted to share that with you.
We have grander legacies than the quest for cheap products. Martin Luther King Jr. wrote passionately about the time when "one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular." Sometimes we simply have to make a decision because "one's conscience tells one that is right." These famous words of King's, and the efforts of Chávez's United Farm Workers, are also our legacy. We might want to say that these social-justice movements have nothing to do with the situation of the factory farm. Human oppression is not animal abuse. King and Chávez were moved by a concern for suffering humanity, not suffering chickens or global warming. Fair enough. One can certainly quibble with, or even become enraged by, the comparison implicit in invoking them here, but it is worth noting that César Chávez and King's wife, Coretta Scott King, were vegans, as is King's son Dexter. We interpret the Chavez and King legacies--we interpret America's legacy--too narrowly if we assume in advance that they cannot speak against the oppression of the factory farm."
-Jonathan Safran Foer, Eating Animals