viernes, 20 de mayo de 2011

Graffiti, Buddhism, and Politics in Spain

Hi all-

Current countdown to my return to America is (gulp!) 19 days.  I have completely lost track of what day of the week it is here, and it seems like literally just yesterday that I was posting about Bin Laden's death.  Sort of a morbid benchmark, now that I think about it.  Final exams are over, and my only class that remains has us doing yoga in the middle of campus for hour long sessions.  Hardly stressful.  The weather today is bad by Alicantino standards (72 and windy/sunny), so I decided to wait until after comida to head out and maybe venture to the beach.

Normally I'm pretty good at structuring written assignments, blogs, etc, but I'm finding myself at a loss of organization today, so the following may take the form of stream of consciousness and make no sense at all...but such is life.  Particularly life abroad, when you are sort of ready to experience creature comforts of America, but afraid of the feeling of loss that will accompany you when you get there.

- I'm currently reading into Buddhist philosophy by a Frenchman named Matthieu Ricard...he speaks a lot about the origin of our own happiness coming from within, rather than depending on the conditions of the world or the moods of those around us.  One thing I particularly like that he says is "While it may be difficult to change the world, it is always possible to change the way that we look at it".  He has a few talks on studies of monks' brains (particularly the balance of electrical pulses between the left lobe (responsible for positive feelings, happiness, contentment) and the right lobe (more negative)) that has shown that those who meditate have less brain activity in the right lobe and are actually capable of avoiding negative sentiments altogether

I digress...

- There is a political movement right now in Spain against the two-party system called the "revolution" where people are camping out in the Puerta del Sol in Madrid, and other large cities right now in the country.  They don't have a very defined goal, but their idea is to occupy every city center until the municipal elections on Sunday.  They have to take shifts to avoid sleeping in the Plazas (as this is grounds for arrest/illegal), and don't drink alcohol or do anything against the law other than simply be.  The numbers are massive- 15,000 in madrid, 5,000 in Barcelona (I just completely made those numbers up...) but these people lack an objective, which really bothers me.  The problem in Spain right now is unemployment-(**Shout out to Google blogs for the Draft function... I just accidentally closed this window and reopened it to find my entire post still here**) 21% of the entire population is unemployed, and I have heard rumors of as close to 40% unemployment among young people.  The current candidates for municipal positions are facing corruption charges from fraud to embezzlement, most of which involve the cooperation of national banks.  The young people in this revolution think that the proper response to the crisis is an ethical one, not one defined by particular goals or laid out by some sort of outline.  Maybe it's my Western mentality coming out, but I think I really annoyed my politics professor and his friends with my frustration and questions regarding their lack of organization.  At one point, Jaime/James (our names for my professor) actually said "Casey, you really ask a lot of questions, don't you?" To which I responded "Check my CIEE had fair warning" (I wrote down on my program application that I would ask lots of questions).  It's not easy discussing political philosophy in Spanish, but it has definitely helped me gain an understanding of the group mentality here- largely defined by a sense of community and cynicism toward the upper classes (generally, Spaniards think that the upper classes don't deserve their wealth, or should somehow feel guilty for what they have, rather than the American "they worked for it" perspective).

- I am fascinated by street art.  One of my goals before I leave Alicante is to document literally everything in the city in photos so I don't forget anything.  I think maybe I'll just have 1000s of pictures of the city and put them up on my walls at home so I feel like I'm still here.  Back to the graffiti topic, I'm going to paste in another blog entry after this one the email I sent my parents explaining my participation in part of a global art project... (suspense ensues)

- I am baffled by the ability of ONE older/more advanced in years woman to take up seven feet of horizontal sidewalk space.  Maybe she has a shopping bag, maybe she doesn't...but regardless, when I am running out of my neighborhood to head toward the castle, she is impassible.  I end up having to do a two-step, sprint-walk-jog-dance-jump off the sidewalk-stand on my head combination to get around her.  I will never take for granted the trails at W&L or the track at Boling Park again.

- In related news...things I miss about America (family excluded, that's obvious):
     1. Reese's peanut butter cups
     2. Going to the gym every day/arm exercises/lunging in general
     3. Braves games
     4. Schmedley
     5. Cooking
     6. Hummus
Speaking of cooking, I had a close encounter with the gross kind at lunch two days ago.  My madre decided that it would be a great idea to stack one piece of turkey lunchmeat, one piece of white cheese (white equivalent of kraft american singles), and another piece of turkey lunchmeat on top of each other...then to place this three tiered nugget in batter and fry it.  These are the types of combinations that I will not be recreating for myself back in the U S of A.  Its like eating a gooey cholesterol cake with saltmeat icing.

Sorry for the scatterbrained lack of organization of all of this information. My mind is a cornucopia of thoughts and confusion, trying to cope with the short nature of my weeks here while realizing that realistically it is probably my time to return to the land of the free and the home of the Brave(s).  Speaking of which, the Braves were swept by Arizona yesterday... sub-.500 teams keep me up at night.

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(Those symbols up there are the tomahawk chop...reason #34 why I love Twitter)

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