Guns don’t kill people, guns do

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Before you attack my syntax, let me explain. Obviously I’m playing off of the ever-so-easy fall out of “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people”. Well, um… yeah… we know that. In fact, if we want to go back in time, the first human ever to be born on this earth was a murderer.  And even if you don’t believe that the Bible is true, and just know it as a human mythology, there’s a reason that the story is there. It explains us. And going back to the first recorded sins, that’s a pretty large degree of separation if you ask me. Something like the third story in the Bible is about murder!! But it’s interesting, isn’t it? I mean, it wasn’t a progression, as people like to put it out there: “In my day…. Back when things were good… In the good old days…” No, there were never ‘good old days’. People kill people and they always have. People are capable of the most beautiful and wonderful things, and at the same time, the most horrific and ugly things.

Now, let’s get back to the weapon part of it. Did Cain have a gun? No, of course not. Was Cain jealous, hateful, and selfish, and killed his brother, despite not having a gun? Yes. The first sons of man set up a dichotomy of a sort of tangible good and evil. They set up a relatable story of a loving family with territorial problems, daddy issues, and anger. Sadly, horrifically, regretfully, this is the way life is. This is the way humans are. They are good, and evil, and both at the same time. So let’s put aside the argument that ‘guns don’t kill people, people kill people’. This is a moot point in so many ways.

Let’s talk about the gun problem in America. And yes, America DOES have a gun problem. Or, as this educational video explains so poignantly, America has multiple gun problems. But I’ll get to the details of that statement later.  What I want to say now, to introduce these ideas, is that it’s not the machine that kills people, it’s people that kill people. WAIT, WHAT DID I JUST SAY?! DID I JUST GO BACK TO… Yes, I did. But let me explain what the “people” problem is and what I really mean by that, and why it’s really not what you’re thinking. It’s people, it’s a culture, it’s a community, it’s a nation that is so systematically wired to think that they need guns, that in the end, they do actually ‘need’ guns. I will explain this later, but what I want to say, what my whole point is all about, is that America needs gun reform, because gun reform is about systematically changing the dependency on guns and systematically changing the ideology and culture that gun dependency entails. This is it. This is what gun laws will do. It won’t fix the problem in a day, in a month, in a year, or maybe even 10 years. But it WILL fix the problem. Because guns make people do bad things. Because guns make people kill people. Gun reform will change the way we think, and therefore, the way we act. Gun reform will systematically change the way the people of America think,  it will systematically change the way criminals (and non-criminal) act,  it will lead to fewer deaths across the board, and  it will ultimately bring a nation together, one that has been ripped apart.

Gun reform will systematically change the way the people of America think.

America (the World, really) is as divided as Cain and Abel, good and bad, jealous and virtuous, with and without daddy problems, and all of the other human things that people deal with. And why do I keep mentioning daddy issues? I’m simultaneously sticking with the Oedipus complex and keeping away from our good friend Freud with this one. What this complex is all about isn’t really about sex (or guns), it’s about the psychology behind it and the power that comes from independence. It’s not really about Freud or Jung, anyway. It’s more basic than that. It’s about kicking the authority figure off his pedestal because “I’m old enough and independent enough to know what’s good for me”. It’s this constant yearn for an authority, and at the same time, a break-away from it. It’s in our American blood to rip away from the power-figure and make it on our own, sticking it to the man, and in turn, become the powerful, independent and free! We didn’t trust that the government, the father, wouldn’t screw us in the end (because he tries really hard). We have the RIGHT TO BEAR ARMS so that no one can ever take away our freedom; the freedom we won with guns anyway!

Ok, yes. That happened. And yes, I am an independent, free-thinking American woman who has (serious) authority issues and struggled for my place in the world because of my fight, because of my will, because I educated myself (read: I’m white and went to a decent school taught by people who believed in me, and even though I was on food stamps  and from a broken family as a kid… privileged), and even though I dropped out of college that one time (OK, fine, it was twice. Geeze, leave me alone!), I climbed to the top and got two Master’s and a PhD. Of course I did, it’s the way I was bred! Americans are taught to be independent. They are taught to be free! They are taught to make a goal and attain it! Perseverance! Innovation! Freedom! Don’t get me wrong, I’m proud of this. I’m proud to be an American (despite the fact that I ran away and fled my country). I love Americans! But I also am frighteningly aware of the fact that I’m scared to be around Americans too.

Back on track. Americans feel a deep-seated need to defend their independence. I tell this to people all the time in Europe. America is still too young to have rid itself of its ‘recent’ past (I mean, I have a book on my shelf that’s older than my country, and the gun-slinging days of the Wild West was like two days ago). We’re babies. Well, we’re teenagers fighting, still, to keep tabs on the authority that we praise and hate at the same time. We love our ‘family’, our unity, what it means to be a community, what it means to be a pack who fights for each other, but at the same time have a fear and hate for our family members, a fear of our government, a fear of our father, a fear of our brother. We are afraid of each other! Because what’s mine is mine, and I earned it. Because ‘united and independent’ doesn’t work. We want it to, and it could, but the way things are now, it’s not working. Because guns. Actually, because we ‘need’ guns.

Why do we use the excuse of the ‘right to bear arms’ when really we’re using them on each other and ourselves? Do you really think that your gun is going to stop the evil government from screwing you? Look at the government. They kill you with lies and corruption and secrets. They don’t control you with guns. And, sorry to say, if the American government tried to overtake you with force, you would lose, plain and simple. Your gun isn’t going to do anything against the American military, period. Our gun culture created the most powerful military force in the world. Your right to bear arms has nothing to do with a coup. It has nothing to do with the way your government is controlling you. Instead, we use them to kill each other. We were supposed to use guns to fight the authority and bring the littles together. Instead, we are killing off our fellow littles, one by one. The right to bear arms has become something else.

“Ok:, you say. “Fine. I can’t take back my country with a gun, but I can protect my property and my family with it”. Here’s where it gets tricky. You’re actually killing more of your friends and family with the guns than you are the people who are trying to take them away from you (more about them later). Research shows that access to guns greatly increases the risk of death and firearm-related violence. A gun in the home is twelve times more likely to result in the death of a household member or visitor than an intruder. And even if you counter this argument according to the numbers, even if it’s not 12 times more likely to happen, it still happens way more than if you didn’t have a gun. I personally know two people who have died from an accidental gun-related incidents. And at the moment, they were not defending themselves. They had never had a gun pulled on them, or had someone come into their house, or since then, for that matter. They were horrific, terrible, and sad events. They would still be alive if it weren’t for those guns.

Then you say, “Well, I’m still willing to risk having a gun in my home because if someone comes to kill us and I don’t have it, then what?”

That brings me to my second point, which is really, the supporting argument for my first. Gun reform will systematically change the people of America think, and therefore, systematically change the way criminals act. That’s right. A criminal, not a psychopath (remember we can’t get away from those) does not want to kill you. He wants free stuff. She wants YOUR stuff. They don’t want to take your life. Really, think about it. Their aim is to get stuff, walk away, and never get caught. They don’t want a murder, or a mess to clean up. Then why do they have guns? BECAUSE YOU DO!  And they think you’ll use it on them if they get caught (and you will). Crime rates are not that different in the U.S. than in other countries comparatively. They are just more lethal. You have a gun because you think the intruder will have a gun. He has a gun because he thinks you will have a gun. Take away the guns, and you have less deaths (remember the intruder’s not the one dying in the end, statistically). A mugger on the street wants your purse. A knife in his hand is intimidating, but less lethal than a gun. The mace in your purse will get him off you (in the situation where no one has guns) but not kill him. If no one thinks the other one has a gun, they won’t think they need one and the circle of less-deaths continues.

Police violence (both on blue and off) will decrease. Every police officer in America has a gun because they know that we all  (maybe) do too. In Europe, not all police officers carry guns. You might think this is crazy, but it’s true. They don’t need guns to control or subdue someone. They don’t need one because the person they’re trying to subdue or control doesn’t have one either.

But then you say “A psychopath will find a gun no matter what. Taking away guns won’t stop them”. No, it won’t stop all of them. But it will stop many of them. Do the math. If it’s easy for ANYONE to get a gun, then it’s easy for ALL killers to get one. If it’s hard for everyone to get a gun, then you could reduce the mass shootings by at least half, if not more!

Fewer guns equal fewer deaths, period. If the bad guy doesn’t need a gun, then neither do you, and the cop doesn’t feel trigger happy either. If you don’t have a gun in your house for safety, then needless deaths don’t happen. If you don’t fear that someone has a gun, you can defend yourself in other ways. If you don’t need a gun, you won’t assume someone is trying to kill you, and in turn, try to kill them.

Will gun reform stop crime? No.

Will gun reform stop murders? No.

Gun reform is about systematically changing the way that Americans think, and therefore act. It will lead to fewer deaths across the board, and  it will ultimately bring a nation together, one that has been ripped apart. I love America, but where I live, I am not afraid to teach. I am not afraid to go to a movie theatre. I’m not afraid to walk down the street (I’ve been mugged once, and stolen from another and it never even crossed my mind that I could also die). Do crimes happen where I live? Yes! Are they gun-related with multiple murder victims? NO!!! I’m not afraid of the people around me, and they are not afraid of me. I’m not afraid that they can kill me in an instant. I’m not afraid! I’m not afraid! In fact, I feel more safe and (oh god, will I say it?) more free outside of the U.S. than in it, and that’s the truth.

Cain was the first, but he won’t be the last. So many American people are dying and afraid. So many American people hate each other, are fearful of each other, and form false bonds between groups that don’t really exist.

Because guns don’t kill (a lot of) people, (a lot of) guns do.

I’m not in Kansas… uh, Spain… anymore!

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So, as most of you know, I am spending my summer in Cambridge, England for the summer working on some (to me, super exciting) research!  After living in Spain for 9 months, I really forgot what it’s like to move to another country (I know, sounds strange).  I have only been here for 6 days, but already there is so much to share with you.  Let’s start from the beginning!

I arrived in Cambridge with a very warm welcome at Homerton College, a college a little outside of the city center.  The campus is absolutely beautiful and people here are really nice.  There are 31 colleges (I think) at Cambridge and even though this one is the “reject” college (the rich kids with important daddies are placed in the ‘cool’ colleges), I think that it is the perfect fit for me!  The students here are super nice, the staff and porters (doormen: people who take care of general building and are present at reception) are extremely helpful.  When I walked through the door with my suitcase, they greeted me by name (I guess I was the only newbie that day) and made sure that I was comfortable.

When I walked into the student residency halls, at the risk of sounding cliché, I really felt like I was Harry Potter.  The College buildings are huge and old and beautiful. The huge wooden front doors are automatic so when I walked up I snickered to myself a little bit imagining some Hogwarts magic happening (haha).  The Great Hall, which is basically the dining hall is amazing as well.  It has a huge stained glass window that looms over the high-ceiling room with wooden tables and chairs. Minus the ceiling that magically turns into the sky above, and the fact that it’s quite a bit smaller, the Great Hall again reminded me of Harry and all of his ‘mates’.

My room is quite nice, and it even has a cute little fireplace. Aaaaand, we even have house-elves that clean our rooms and change our sheets and towels (okay, there are no house-elves but a nice woman named Hillary with the cutest accent I’ve ever heard and a huge heart for the students who live in the Hall).  I feel very, very comfortable here, and honestly, a bit spoiled.

Homerton College, Cambridge

Homerton College, Cambridge

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Homerton College, Cambridge

Homerton College, Cambridge

Great Hall, Homerton College (clearly I did not take this picture)

Great Hall, Homerton College (clearly I did not take this picture)

Great Hall, Homerton College (clearly I did not take this picture)

Great Hall, Homerton College (clearly I did not take this picture)

Cute little fireplace in my room

Cute little fireplace in my room

I spent most of Friday running around getting things in order, most of Saturday sleeping and resting (my god, it’s been a long year!) and Sunday I spent roaming around the charming city of Cambridge.  It’s such a lovely town and the sights are wonderful.  Cambridge is an old university town with Colleges spread throughout the city.  There is no ‘one central campus’ but rather different department buildings and colleges, so most streets are filled with students and tourists.  I think my favorite place so far is at “The Backs“, which are the beautiful back sides of some of the oldest colleges that run along the river.

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The town is full of life and quaintness and I really think that I will enjoy my time here!

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Pretty much the only picture I have of myself so far (taken by kind tourist)

Pretty much the only picture I have of myself so far (taken by kind tourist)

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How does this one not scream Harry Potter? Hog's Head, anyone?

How does this one not scream Harry Potter? Hog’s Head, anyone?

On Monday, I decided to start in on my academic affairs and get to work. This means a visit to the University Library. Holy crap, the library! It. Is. Huge!!! It is so huge, in fact, that I couldn’t get it all in my camera frame, so you will have to settle for an image leeched off the internet.  This library holds over 8 million items and it is one of the three legal deposit university libraries in England, therefore it is entitled to request a free copy of every book published in the UK and Ireland. That is a lot of books, people! In reality, the library itself isn’t so glamorous.  The main floor is quite elegant but the elevators to the other floors seem like prison cells and the shelves are so tightly snugged together that there is hardly any light. It’s kind of scary, actually! Before I went I was talking with some of the students at Homerton who were prepping me for my first UL experience and telling me that it has an “Auschwitz” fell to it.  I wouldn’t go quite that far, but yeah… it’s kind of oppressive feeling. When you look out the tiny windows there is wire to keep the birds away and the sound of silence and florescent  lights kind of make you go crazy. But hey, you grab your book from the scary towers, jump back in a prison cell that will take you back to the main floor, and you’re back to library bliss! Back on the main floor, there are shelves and shelves of books, quaint little nooks, huge reading rooms, and library goodness.  Just don’t spend too much time anywhere else!

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scary as hell North Tower!  This picture is actually quite nice in comparison with reality! Do not find yourself alone here!

scary as hell North Tower! This picture is actually quite nice in comparison with reality! Do not find yourself alone here!

I’ve only been here for 6 days, but I’ve already found myself a routine.  Most mornings are calm. Most of my days are spent in the library, and my evenings give me time to either go for a run along the river or spend some time in the dance studio at Homerton.  I absolutely love the dance studio! It’s open whenever I want it and most of the time I’m the only one there! I have spent hours already dancing my heart out and loving it!

In the dance studio ready to rock out

In the dance studio ready to rock out

So, this is my life so far and I am loving it. It’s a tad lonely, however. Most students are finishing exams. They are either studying like mad for exams they are about to take, or partying like mad because they’ve completed exams. Either way, they don’t have much time for a newbie 🙂 I did make one friend, however. The porters thought that I was Spanish (not only because I come from a Spanish university, but apparently they think I speak English like a Spaniard too… right… Crazy Brits) so they hunted down the one Spanish student in Homerton so that we could meet.

So, that’s my life and routine at the moment. But what about the differences between England and Spain, you ask?  Many people have asked me if it’s strange to be back in an English speaking country. Well, yes, it is.  For one, the English is hard for me to understand.  It’s kind of funny because I’m a language nerd but have a hard time with my own! My husband, Patrick, makes fun of me because often when we watch a film from the UK, I have to put subtitles on because I can’t understand what they’re saying! And it’s not only the accent, it’s the vocabulary.  Mailboxes are called “pigeon holes”, trucks are called “lorries”, I can’t figure out if a “coach”  is a bus or a train, “jumpers” are sweaters, “anti-clockwise” is counter-clockwise, a “chemist’s shop” is a pharmacy or drugstore, a crosswalk is called a “zebra crossing” (I know, ridiculous, right?), a “biscuit” is a cookie, a wallet is a “purse”, and a purse is a “bag”.

I was in the Homerton Library one afternoon and a librarian walked up to me and said “They’re squashin’ biscuits downstairs”.  I didn’t understand why anyone would squash a biscuit in the library. She then explained to me that “squash” is juice and that there are “squash and biscuits” provided to students every day at 3:30.  Ooooooooooh, now I get it… kind of.

Squash (juice) and biscuits, not "squashing biscuits".  This is very important.

Squash (juice) and biscuits (cookies), not “squashing biscuits”. This is very important.

There are other differences too. For one, you all know that they drive on the other side of the road here.  I have a mild heart attack each time I cross the street. I get so confused! Even when I know which way I’m supposed to look, my instincts scream “Amanda, for Pete’s sake, look the other way, you’re going to be squashed like a biscuit!!!”

I am also often confused, and piss off other cyclists/runners, on the trails as well.  It feels strange for bodies to be moving on the other side of the path. At least in England, people actually notice you and get out of your way when your barreling past them on the trail.  In Spain, they wait until they are millimeters away until there is even a hint that they care about you crashing into them. That’s another thing.  I forgot about “personal space” for a while there.  Spaniards’ “personal bubbles” are much, much smaller than those in the UK and US cultures.  I forgot that when it even seems like you may bump into someone you have to say “sorry” for potentially invading their space.  In Spain, you don’t often hear “sorry” or “excuse me” unless there are mild concussions or arms out of sockets involved in the collision.

Look right, even if everything in your body and soul tell you to look left!

Look right, even if everything in your body and soul tell you to look left!

There is also the whole “what happens at what time of day” thing.  Mostly this is has to do with eating schedules but also the time of day people wake up and go to bed. In general, Spaniards stay up way later than those in the US and UK.  In Spain, a normal lunch time is between 2-3 in the afternoon and a normal dinner time would be around 9-10 (and could be even later if you’re going out to eat at a restaurant).  In England, like the US, lunch is at noon and dinner is at six.  The dinner hall here at Homerton closes at 7:30.  In Spain, you wouldn’t even be able to sit down to eat that early, the kitchen wouldn’t even be open!   I’m also not used to most stores and libraries being open all day long and until 11:00 p.m and even open on Sundays! In Spain, most places close for a couple of hours during lunch time and on Sundays there are very few places open for business.  That is one thing I actually miss, everyone being on a similar schedule. Most people eat around the same time and on Sunday, there’s not much else to do other than to rest, no errands, no shopping, no business.

Well, folks. That’s all for now, I’ve got some work to do.  I hope to post again at some point soon. Cheerio!

Ten ways you know you’re in Spain

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Hey, folks! It’s been a little while but I thought this edition should be a fun way of talking about some of the cultural things that I love and hate about Spain (but mostly love). This is the third time that I’ve lived here and I learn more and more each time I come. Here are some of my favorite things to comment, complain, admire and smirk about:

1. Ham. Everywhere. Ham.

The food that is nearest and dearest to most Spaniards is the ham. They put it in everything and have giant ham legs hanging in stores and rest stops. In Salamanca you can purchase premium ham that costs more than $100.00 a kilo…  Take a look at this blog post called “Spanish ham, sweet Spanish ham” for fun details.

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Yes, we love ham so much that our small children bathe in it! HAM!!!

Yes, we love ham so much that our small children bathe in it! HAM!!!

2. You go out to a restaurant for an “early” dinner at 9:00 p.m.

This is hard for Americans to get used to. The normal time to eat lunch is between 2 and 4 p.m. Spanish don’t eat dinner until around 9:00 if they’re at home. If you’re going out to eat at a restaurant, don’t expect to go before 9:30 or 10:00 and it’s not super strange to not even start by 11:00. Most restaurants don’t even open for dinner until after 8:00 p.m. If you go at that time, the kitchen probably won’t be ready and you’ll literally be the only ones in the place! Here are some more Spanish eating customs.

In Spain, getting back home before 3:00 am.m isn't going out (to party). It's going to dinner.

In Spain, getting back home before 3:00 am.m isn’t going out. It’s going to dinner.

3. The entire city shuts down from 2:30-4:30 every day.

SIESTA required after FIESTA! In Spain, the old custom of taking a nap after the mid-day meal isn’t always practiced anymore (but it’s there if you need it!) but the shops still close down for two hours a day for lunch. I love this! It’s the polar opposite of the American way: Go take your 30 minute lunch break either at your desk while still working, or in the stinky employee room that has corporate propaganda and safety notices on the wall. In Spain, it can be hard at first to want to “get something done” (copies, bank, food shopping etc.) at this time but in the end I’m really thankful that there is a time of the day that I’m forced to slow down, eat, rest, and just “be.”  The work days are longer because of this break but I think that in the end, people have more energy after work because it’s been broken up and they have a minute (more like 120) to rest.

Take a break. It won't kill you. In fact, it will probably help you live longer!

Take a break. It won’t kill you. In fact, it will probably help you live longer!

4. wine and beer is cheaper than water

Firstly, I’d like to say that I really don’t understand how Spanish can function with so little water consumption! Seriously, there are no drinking fountains anywhere, you don’t sit down and get a free water with any meal or drink purchase and the Nalgene bottle is a foreign concept. Really, wine and beer are cheaper than water at restaurants and cafes. How are these people not peeing neon yellow?! Drink water people, drink!

Here, kid. We can't afford water. Have a beer.

Here, kid. We can’t afford water. Have a beer.

5. If you put your hand up to stop an elevator door your hand gets smashed.

The first time I tried to stop an elevator door to let a friend jump in, I put my hand out to stop it… It didn’t work out very well. My friend laughed at me and said:

“Amanda, elevators are universal. It’s not a third world country, use the ‘open door’ button.”

Me: “Um, no. They are not universal. Where I come from (the land of law suits and sue-happy citizens), the doors have automatic sensors that know if someone’s about to get decapitated and opens back up.”

Friend: “We just use the button.”

Later I found out that there is a sensor, but it’s at the bottom. If you stick your leg out it will open. But then you risk falling or kicking the person who you’re trying to let it, so just use the button. I still say it’s easier to stick your hand out. Anyone who has ever tried to find the “open door” button in the Newberger Hall elevator at PSU (which has two doors that don’t stop at all floors) knows that it’s not that simple!

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Quick, your grandmother is trying to get through the elevator door. She’s going to get smashed in about 2.2 seconds but it will take her at least 2.2 more minutes to get her walker off the ground. CRAP! Wich is the right button?! Oops… Sorry grandma!

6. When you see someone you know in passing you say “goodbye” instead of “hello”.

I’ve actually always loved this. It’s really funny to me how the smallest cultural differences can be so interesting. To me, you can’t say “goodbye” unless you’ve said “hello” first. Not here. If you say “hello” most of the time you’re inviting a conversation. If you just say “goodbye” or “see you later” than you have greeted the person (don’t ever pass by someone you know without greeting them!) without having to stop for a conversation. The greeting customs are actually more complicated here too. When you enter a room, no matter where you are nor who you know or don’t,  you say hello and when you leave you say goodbye. This happens with strangers at doctor offices, schools, etc. I was in the copy room at the university one day and a secretary I knew had come in to get some copies. She left and about 30 seconds later came back in because she had forgotten to say goodbye to me.

What’s also fun is listening to the different variations of “see you later”. In Spanish “hasta luego” becomes: “Talogo,” “Staluego,” “T’logo” and sometimes just “tuooo”.

And what do we say at the end of every class? HASTA LUEEEEEEGOOO!

And what do we say at the end of every class? HASTA LUEEEEEEGOOO!

(If you have never seen Community with our dear Señor Chan the Spanish teacher, click on this link… crap, Hulu doesn’t work in Spain. Go to Hulu and type in “Community Senor Chan)

7. Time is not of the essence.

Americans are obsessed with timeliness and efficiency.  “Time is money,” “Don’t waste my time,” “While we keep a man waiting, he reflects on our shortcomings,” and as my grandmother always says: “If you’re not five minutes early, you’re five minutes late!”

The concept of timeliness here is much more relaxed. Sometimes this drives me nuts and sometimes I love it. If you’re off to a meeting and run into a friend who wants to talk, you stop to talk with them. If you’re running late, you don’t show this to the person you’re with because it’s rude. There are less clocks around and people just aren’t that concerned about it (compared to my culture). It’s not important because other things are. Time is used to be where you are when you are. Why are we so concerned about that minute hand on the clock?

Don't run so much, time doesn't run out.

Don’t run so much, time doesn’t run out.

8. You say “yes” whenever anyone asks you if you’ve eaten lunch. Even if you haven’t.

Food is very important to Spanish culture. Eating and staying healthy is important. Staying on a similar eating schedule is important. If you tell a Spaniard that you haven’t eaten (they ask because it’s important), they will drill you to find out when you are planning on eating and not stop until they are satisfied with the answer. I was in the library from about 11:00 and at 3:00  and when I was still sitting there (all the other students had left to go eat), the librarian asked me when I was going to eat. I told him that I needed to finish things and that I’d eat later… Mistake. He hounded me until I told him that I would leave in 20 minutes to eat and then I’d come back after a sufficient amount of time for eating. This has happened with classmates, professors and the landlady that I saw on the street, all with similar scoldings and reactions. Now, I just answer “yes” when they ask. This goes back to the siesta customs and I really like it. Although I’m used to people not being concerned about other people’s habits and it can be a bit annoying at times (only sometimes) but in the end I really appreciate it.

People don’t eat at their desks or in the libraries either. Sometimes I sneak in a sandwich so I don’t have to leave. I remember in my undergrad ordering a pizza to the library with a friend of mine so we could keep cramming. It’s a funny memory but that would NEVER happen here. Take a break when you eat. It’s healthier and it’s cleaner. There’s a time and a place for everything…

eating in library

9. There is a time and a place, and an order for everything. At least for everything that is considered worthy of such order.

As mentioned before, people don’t eat in class, at work, on the streets (mostly) or in the car. You eat at a table like a civilized person. Just as there is a time and place for eating, there is also a time and place for most everything. In the public libraries, you can only sit and read in a section if the book you’re reading is from that section. There could be 10 seats available in the art section but if the poetry section is full, you can’t sit there. Dining places and cafes are for eating and drinking, not studying, reading or working.  When you go to a tapas bar, you must first order your drink, and then your tapa. DO NOT MESS WITH THIS ORDER. It always seems too, that whenever you go to an office or government building to get anything done, you’ve always forgotten to do something that you were supposed to, get something signed that you were supposed to, staple the paper at a certain angle like you were supposed to, and if you didn’t do these things in the right order… you’re screwed! I’m not going to get more into the Spanish red tape but just know… THERE IS AN ORDER TO EVERYTHING.

It seems that there it is always the time and place for children. You will see children almost everywhere at all times of the day. It’s okay if your kids are not in their seats at a restaurant. It’s okay if your kids are running around the plaza when you’re sitting with friends. Most people look out for other children anyway and they’re not seen as a bother to most people. I like this.

There is an order to everything, except for when there’s not! For example, if you are old, you can cut in line, there is no order for you except for your own. If you  are waiting at a bar, the bartender will make up his own order and call whomever he wants to first to ask for the drink/food. And, one thing that I wish there was an order to (I’m sure there is but I just haven’t figured it out yet… and this is my third time living here) is they normal way in which people walk down the street. Seriously, there seems to be no rhyme or reason to it and head on collisions are just waiting to happen. You can’t just walk on the right side while others walk toward you on the left. It seems that any part of the sidewalk is fair game. Old ladies will be three wide chatting about their cats and then all of a sudden stop in dramatic pause about how fluffy didn’t come out of the closet for two days (it’s because you’re crazy, lady!). You can have eye contact with someone and suddenly they will change direction 30 degrees to come right towards you. You’ll be behind someone that is walking in a straight line, try to pass them, and then BAM, halt and to the right oblique. Walking down the sidewalk like a Spaniard. It’s a skill I still haven’t learned.

sidewalk wars

10. You are socially obligated to be socially aware.

I will spare my views on politics but I will say that one of the main reasons that we came to Spain was because of the part of the culture that is concerned about the whole rather than the individual in some very important areas. People like to be with each other. They like to gather. They like to stand together for causes. They like to know that everyone is taken care of and see it as a basic right.  In the three months that I’ve been in Salamanca, the school has closed twice due to strikes. One was a student strike and one was a national general strike. People know that the government is sucking at their job and they want to do something about it. Austerity measures aren’t working (I don’t think they ever would) and people are telling the government to change! People think it’s crazy that Americans don’t have universal healthcare. Patrick and I pay about 40 Euro a month (because we’re not eligible for ‘free’ healthcare) and get absolutely everything payed for when at the doctors. We recently received a bill from the U.S. for  $800.00 from when Pat broke his arm (and we had really good insurance in the States). The insurance would only pay part of it. That is unheard of here. Everyone has insurance and everyone is taken care of. There is no fear of going to the doctor because of the crazy co-pays and the inevitable “after bill” from what wasn’t covered.

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Just as the Bull Fighter kills the bull, the Spanish government is killing the workers.

Just as the Bull Fighter kills the bull, the Spanish government is killing the workers.

Another example is a small one that says a lot. One of my Spanish friends told me a story of when her daughter was in school. She came home upset because her best friend was cheating off her paper. Her mom asked her “Is she your friend?” and when the daughter said yes, she replied: “If she is your friend then you help her. You let her copy. One day you will need something from her and she will help you. You help your friends.” This conversation would never happen in the U.S., at least no mother would admit to telling her daughter that. Where I’m from, you don’t let anyone else take credit for what you’ve done. Your work is your work (even though you’ve been helped along the way and don’t give credit to others for it) and you wouldn’t sacrifice that even for your friend.

One of the things that made moving here for good that much less scary was the knowledge that no matter what, my friends will be here for me. I have friends all over Spain and I know that they would do anything for me. I hope that they know I’d do anything for them too!

Asturias: paraíso natural

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After a couple of weeks of fighting through the Forest of Despair (ridden with Rodents of Unusual Size) that is the bureaucracy of Spain, and cutting myself quite a few times on Samurai Sword it took to cut the red tape, we were finally getting settled in Salamanca. Despite the exaggerations  of the previous sentence (or are they?), we’d actually had an amazing time in Salamanca so far. The feria of Salamanca was  a wonderful way to be welcomed into our new town and was finally winding down when we got on a bus and rode up to the wonderful world of Asturias, in the north.

Exactly ten years ago, when I when I had just turned 20 and had become a sophomore in college, I moved to the city of Oviedo in Asturias Spain to study abroad. That year changed my life in so many ways, and really is the beginnings of why we’re here in Spain today. I immediately fell in love with Asturias, its people, its history, its culture, its language, its food, its climate (the green sites and gray rain are so similar to the N.W.) and the amazing friends that I met along the way! Oviedo became a second home to me quite quickly. I actually remember the moment when I was coming home from a trip outside the city on a bus and when we entered Oviedo I had the calm feeling one gets when they’re finally home after a long trip. When I realized that Oviedo was my home it was the strangest, yet most comforting feeling that I could never quite describe. Oviedo became so much a part of me, and me of it, that even to this day I can see the footprints that I left there. A few years ago, in front of the Eiffel Tower in Paris, a man was strangely watching me. He finally approached me tentatively and asked if I used to live in Oviedo. I was blown away at this question and his recollection of me. He had worked at a coffee shop that I used to go to often and remembered. Oviedo is and will always be a very special place in the world for me and both Patrick and I were so excited to take a trip up to see everyone that we love!

Goofing off in the city with Miguel and Fran (notice Fran’s Oregon hoodie!!! ¡Vamos Patos!)

Asturias 2003

La Ruta de las Xanas 2003

Fran and I getting ready for a ‘football’ game! Oviedo 2003

Gijón 2002

Gijón 2002

María, Miguel y yo en la playa de Gijón (2002)

Oviedo has a very long and fascinating history and has pre-romanesque architecture including Santa María del Naranco (848), San Miguel de Lillo (848) and San Julian de los Prados (830). It is also a very modern city and is the home of a world famous orchestra a university, and other monuments and museums. It is such a beautiful and captivating city that filmmaker  Woody Allen (you can see some of his work here), says that:

“Oviedo is Delicious, Exotic, Beautiful, Clean, Pleasant, Peaceful, and Kind to Pedestrians. It’s as if it doesn’t belong to this world, as if it could not possibly exist … Oviedo is like a Fairy Tale” (I must agree, dear Woody)

Woody has been so inspired by the beauty and tranquility of Oviedo that he wrote it into the script his film Vicky Cristina Barcelona (2008) and Oviedo was so honored they even made a statue of him! Music bands such as Blind Pilot have also included the mysteries and beauty of Oviedo in their work as well. Vocalist Isreal Nebeker, who is an Oregon native (coincidentally the brother of one of my former students), studied abroad in Oviedo like myself and wrote a very poetic song about his experience (If you’re ever curious about the lyrics I can explain them to you…mostly). I’m telling you, Oviedo is an amazing place!

My friend Woody and I hanging out together like old friends

Back to our trip…

Oviedo is and will always be a very special place in the world for me and both Patrick and I were so excited to take a trip up to see everyone that we love! We started out the trip by getting on a bus and heading north. As soon as we passed through the mountains via the Negrón Tunnel I immediately felt at home with the views of lovely Asturias. When coming into the city limits of Oviedo I couldn’t have been more excited to be there! We met our dear friend Miguel at the bus station and went home to drop off our bags and then we were off for the night! We arrived just in time for the festivals of San Mateo that happen each year during the third week of September. This wasn’t a coincidence! Many of our good friends came back to Oviedo to celebrate the festival from all over Spain (two even came from Nicaragua back to their hometown of Oviedo!) so it was a great chance to see everyone all together! Mostly by night we enjoyed the festival. Here you can see a bit of the city and how packed it gets at night with everyone having a good time! During the day they had events going on as well like the Parade (skip around the video to see representations of Asturians in the Americas) in honor of America Day and other family events. We also spent our time being turists and having fun visiting the city.

One day our friend Miguel took us up to a beautiful place in Asturias which I had been to a couple of times but that was the first time for Patrick. This place is called Covadonga. If you’re a cycling fan you may already know about this because of the Vuelta a España bike race that climbs up past the shrine and ends at Lagos de Covadonga. We of course took the car but it it is a popular climb for cyclists from all over the world.

Covadonga is a very important place in Spain because of its history. It is famous for being the place that modern Spain was born. It’s the birthplace of modern Spain because it was the first time that a Christian army won a battle against the Moors and started a ripple effect that spilled across the peninsula known as the “Reconquista” or the Reconquering of Spain. The Christian men who won this battle were led by the now iconic figure, Pelayo. It’s said that a statue of Virgin Mary that was hidden in the caves miraculously aided the Christian victory. There is now a statue of her in the caves (we weren’t supposed to take pictures but I snuck one anyway. Shhh don’t tell my grandma!)

The name Covadonga (Cuadonga in Asturian) comes from the Latin Cova Dominica or “Cavern of the Lady”. It’s strange though, she normally wears a red dress but is now adorned in blue. We asked around but couldn’t figure it out. Of course my dear friend Miguel is convinced that it’s in honor of the Real Oviedo soccer team. I think that Covadonga is too worried about the Spanish economic crisis to worry about soccer… That’s just me though 🙂

Like I said, this place holds a lot of history and culture and is very important and sacred to the Asturian people. Many Asturian children are named Pelayo (boys) or Covadonga (girls). If you find a Spaniard in other parts with this name you can be almost certain they are from Asturias.

Overall our trip was exactly what I needed to really feel at home in Spain. Seeing familiar places and faces was a breath of fresh air and solidified for me in many ways why we’re here in the first place. Spain has always been a part of me, even before I knew it I think. It calls to me in a special way, and thankfully to my husband too! Asturias is the part of Spain that is really my home and always will be. It’s like I always say…

¡Soy americana por pasaporte, asturiana por corazón!

Our first days in Salamanca

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Salamanca has been absolutely amazing! We love it here and it has proved to be even more wonderful than we expected. The years, months, and weeks building up to our big move were full of expectation, fears of the unknown and the stress of getting through all of the red tape to actually get here! Now that we’ve arrived, found a (freaking fantastic) place to live and are settling in our ways, we are so happy that we’ve made the decision to move our lives to Spain.

After a super long, but overall not too horrible, plane ride we arrived to Madrid. The two downfalls of the flight were that after having had the isle seat in a 4 seat row we had to move to the two middle seats because a woman faked and illness (yes we are sure of it) and then understood why she faked it to be on the isle: the man next to her didn’t understand the meaning of personal space to save his life and took up more than his fare share of limited space. Patrick saw the look in my claustrophobic ridden eyes and chivalrously took the seat  for me. I ended up sitting next to the faker and was rather thankful that Patrick is so kind to me! Poor guy! The other problem was that my feet and legs swelled up so much that I could hardly move my (c)ankles at all! I had to get up and walk around quite a bit (and didn’t care one bit that I made the faker have to get up so many times) to keep them under control but it didn’t help too much. They didn’t return to normal until about three days later. C’est le vie.

We had a really great time in Madrid with our dear friend Rafa. I’ve known Rafa since my first time living in Spain 10 years ago in Oviedo. He is, as are all of my Oviedo friends, so generous and is a lot of fun. We didn’t do too much in Madrid because Patrick and I have both been there a few times and we were both pretty tired from the trip as well. We did have a nice stroll through the Parque de Retiro and sat and read in the sun for a while.

We were both pretty anxious to get to Salamancato find a place to live and to explore our new city. We left Saturday morning on the bus and the moment we crossed over the Río Tormes we felt at home and were completely in love with our new city! We stayed at a very nice hostel called Hostal Sara which I would recommend to anyone coming through Salamanca. The rooms are very nice and some have kitchens. The best part was the helpful and super friendly staff. I now have one of the receptionists phone numbers and have promised her a coffee date in the near future.

We were able to find a super wonderful piso very close to the university and the Plaza Mayor. We feel very lucky to have found the place that we did at the price we’re paying! It was a random coincidence too. The landlord didn’t even put it up online so not a whole lot of people knew about it. The downstairs neighbor happened to be in the Hostal one day and told them that if someone comes in looking for a flat to call his number. Completely random. We were at the right place at the right time. That’s pretty much how it happens in Spain anyway!

We have spent most of the first part of our days “getting our life in order”. This has included myself meeting with someone at the university at least once a day to get paperwork in order and being sent around the city to talk with someone else who can’t help me just to be sent through 10 people and then back where I started from. It’s also included trying to get our foreign ID cards, bank accounts, internet, etc. and has kept us quite busy. We’ve also been having a ton of fun walking around the city and taking pictures and seeing what there is to see!

We are lucky that this past week has been the week of the feria of Salamanca which is a huge celebration that happens once a year and the whole town is involved. There are parades and fireworks and super cheap food and drink (2 Euro for a pincho or tapas and drink) and a whole lot of fun. This isn’t anything compared to Rose Festival folks! The streets are literally packed full of people with no where to turn but into someone! It’s truly a lot of fun!

Overall, we have had an amazing time getting to know our town. It’s really great and we are so happy to be here. Next week we’ll be heading to Oviedo, the town I lived in before, to see some old friends and celebrate the feria of Oviedo. That’s right, we’re doing this all over again!

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lethologica

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Lethologica is the psychological disorder in which you forget the words, key terms, names temporarily which you want to articulate.

Etymology:

The term Lethologica is derived from lēthē (forgetfulness) + λόγος (logos). In Greek mythology, Lethe was one of the rivers that streamed through the realm of Hades, from which the shades of the dead were forced to drink in order to forget their past lives on earth.

Causes:
Lethologica, is said to be caused of many reasons like stress, physical fitness, social interaction and base memory capacity. The psychological disorder is also considered as a lifestyle disease. The above mentioned factors affect the temporal lobe which in turn causes the sporadic functioning of episodic and semantic memory capacities.

Treatment:
No treatment is available for Lethologica.

Recently, while working with a student in my office hours, I was asked what a word was in Spanish so that he could complete his activity. He first grabbed the dictionary and then said “Wait, you’re much easier”. Although I laughed and usually tell my students that I’m not a dictionary and they should use the real thing, the next thing that he said was what stopped me from my usual teacherly lectures on the importance of learning words by lexical context and dictionaries. He said “Well, I mean, if it were an English word I was looking for, I wouldn’t have asked. I’ve never seen you forget a Spanish word or, if so, take more that a couple of seconds to remember one, but in English…well… But hey, at least your English grammar is good!”

I cannot deny that I am the worst culprit of forgetting my English. I do this all of the time and it really drives me nuts and I assume everyone around me. Of course I forget my Spanish, and not nearly as much vocabulary as in English, but the funny thing is, I think I more often forget English words and  experience first hand the combative relationship between language and parole. The hardest part is when trying to recall a conversation or experience in one language and communicating it in the other. This is when my third language comes out… Spanglish. I will either throw in some Spanish words, or more often then not, change word order and sentence structure in a way that mimics Spanish.  Although, I will tell you, it is actually quite normal. You will quite often hear out of my mouth: “No, no, that doesn’t function (work)”, or “I will pass (give you something) this to you later”, or “It’s a very interesting… um, how do you say ‘temporada’ (season), in my life ?  For more information on this, take a look at this article on Second Language influence in First Language Attrition.

It fascinates me, really and it makes me want to study neurolinguistics, dissect the brain and figure out why this happens. Mostly, though, it just makes me feel like I an uneducated, inarticulate one-and-a-half-lingual person who can’t quite… can’t quite… what’s the word?

Purge Anxiety

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DON’T MAKE ME THROW AWAY MY BOOKS!!! This is what is going through my head right now as I go through my shelves for the third time slowly getting rid of my papery-wonder-filled friends.

We’re moving to Spain and really can’t take very much over with us. Since we’re not sure if we’re coming back, paying for a storage unit for 6 years only to have our parents get rid of things if we don’t come back doesn’t seem like a good idea. Also, I’ve been trying to tell myself that ‘things’ are not what make a home (but sometimes it feels like it).

Now, I have a lot of book (still) but not nearly as much as dear friend, fellow lover of books, language teacher, and linguist-nerd:  Maggie. That woman has a whole entire wall of her house with floor to ceiling shelves filled with books. If her house burned down I really think she would try to take the shelves out. Or, she would die from smoke inhalation standing in front of her shelves trying to decide which ones she’s going to save. Actually, I wouldn’t put it past her to have already organized a “in case of fire or natural disaster” section with a bag waiting next to it just in case she has to run!

I’m not as bad as Maggie, but my anxiety level is pretty high right now…

Over the past year I have been making mental tallies of the things that we will bring with us and the things that will find new homes. The “to Spain” list gets smaller and smaller as I am adjusting to the idea of getting rid of things that mean something to me.

But the books, THE BOOKS!!! Oh, it breaks my heart! I can’t part with something to which I’ve had such emotional connections!!

I have given books to friends, sold them in a yard sale and sold them at Powell’s. The last time I took a load to Powell’s I ended up getting over $100.00 for my books. I may have something close to that in this next round…

I know that books are books and you can get them anywhere, it’s just that I love them so much!!

So, what are some of the titles that are coming with me?

My favorite!

 

 

There of course are some linguistic reference and text books that will come in handy during my PhD studies, a couple cook books and souvenir books and some others that will probably “slip into” the keep pile… But for now, it’s the essentials. I can always get more books later, right?!

For now, I have to think that my collection will be making someone else happy and that they will all go to good homes. Maybe the loss of some of my books to the next owners will induce the same purge anxiety as they have caused me.

Keep changing lives, dear friends. Keep changing lives…