Spanish: More Than a Language

Since I first mentioned my Spanish capstone project on this blog, it’s changed a bit.  Not drastically — my overall focus is still immigration, and I’m still reading a lot of books.  But even though I’m still fine-tuning my thesis statement, I’ve already learned something valuable.

For background: I’m white.  I grew up in a two-parent home.  Both my parents are college-educated, and they have always earned sufficient income to give me and my two siblings everything we need, plus extracurriculars such as 4H, music lessons, and summer camps.  Spanish language and culture has been an interest of mine since I was 8, and my parents had the means to allow me to learn.  Now, I’m about to graduate college with a Spanish degree, with a highly commendable command of the language.  I’m proud of this.  And I’m grateful.

More background: for my capstone, I’m mostly focusing on the work of Esmeralda Santiago.  Santiago, if you don’t know, is a Puerto Rican woman who moved with her family to the US when she was 13.  She did not speak much English when she arrived.  It was not her choice to move here, so unlike me, learning English wasn’t something she did for fun, or because it was interesting, or because she had dreams of being able to speak other languages.  Santiago learned English because she couldn’t have survived here without it.

It hit me, as I was reading Santiago’s two memoirs, that for me, Spanish is a luxury.

I have worked hard at learning Spanish.  I’ve worked hard for confidence and accuracy.  Languages come fairly naturally to me, but it hasn’t all been easy or fun.  I’ve continued my study of Spanish just as much to gain an advantage in the job market as I have because I enjoyed it.  But that is the difference between Santiago, and every other Spanish-speaking immigrant, and I — I had a choice.  I chose to study Spanish because I could, not because I had to.  And I was not thrown into the Spanish-speaking world before I was ready.

One of my old roommates was also a Spanish major.  She now works at a refugee resettlement organization, and teaches Spanish to kids after school.  She uses Spanish all day, every day.  Spanish, for her, is a talent and a passion, but also a way to do what she really wants to do, which is care for people.  While Spanish may have started as an interest for her, now it is entwined with her purpose.

Honestly, that is my goal too.  I want to be able to use Spanish in my daily life.  One, because I enjoy it, and I’ve spent a lot of time learning it, but also because it enables me to expand the circle of people to whom I can be useful.  Being able to speak Spanish opens me up to other parts of the world, and by extension those I’m connected with.

A few posts ago, I put up a graph of the results from a personality test I took.  I scored very high on the “dutiful” aspect, which makes sense.  When I realized that Spanish began as a luxury for me, I felt kind of spoiled.  But then I thought about Bill Gates — his asset, now, is that he is very wealthy, and he puts his money to good use through philanthropy.  While being able to speak a second language is a little different than being worth millions, I can try to turn my own luxury into something that is useful to the world as a whole.

On Holidays

This past Tuesday was Valentine’s Day.  That night, my boyfriend and I sat in my apartment doing homework — we had already celebrated by cooking breakfast for dinner the Friday night before, when we had more time.  A few hours into Tuesday evening, my boyfriend’s mom texted him asking if he had gotten me chocolates or flowers for Valentine’s Day.  He felt a bit awkward telling her he hadn’t gotten me anything, even though that’s what we agreed.

That brought up a discussion about holidays.  He said he had thought about getting me some flowers, because he knows I like them.  But, he said, I hadn’t seemed like I wanted anything this year.  And he’s right — I didn’t.

We’ve been dating for a little over three years.  The very first Valentine’s we spent as a couple was about a month into our relationship.  He did get me flowers and chocolates then, and I loved it — it was the first time I had ever had a boyfriend for Valentine’s Day, and it was so fun to feel special and loved.  I dried a few petals from that bouquet, and they’re now in a frame on my bedroom wall.  But the reason those flowers were so special were not because they were for V-Day, necessarily; it was because it was a first for both of us.  It was a milestone.

Those are the things I’d rather celebrate, I told him that night.  V-Day is nice and all, but I’d rather celebrate an interview, or a job offer, or a milestone in our relationship than I would a holiday that people celebrate just because it happens every year.  Holidays can be nice, of course.  But to me, they feel a little obligatory.  Plus, practically speaking, it’s cheaper to celebrate things in the off-season — have you ever noticed how much flower prices go up during holidays?  It’s insane.  I would rather my boyfriend save the money, and if he wants to give me flowers, give them on a random Tuesday just because he’s thinking of me.  He wholeheartedly agreed.

There’s a lot to be said for holidays, of course — they remind us to slow down and appreciate the things we have, and there is often lots of historical significance behind them.  But we’ll save the fight for a table at Olive Garden for the (hopefully-soon) moments that we get job offers.

I will get my flower fix this spring, though — we decided that in a few weeks, when home improvement stores start stocking spring flowers, we’ll go get me some perennials to replace my begonias that died last year.  That’ll last a lot longer than a Valentine’s bouquet.

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my first flowers

How I Own My Shared Apartment

I honestly don’t know if you can tell from my blog, but I am not the biggest fan of being around people.  As you can see from these (actually quite accurate) results from a Facebook personality test, I’m not the friendliest person you will ever meet in real life.  I’m not warm, I’m not gregarious, and I’m only friendly when I make a conscious effort.

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That said, it makes sense that having roommates is not my favorite thing.  I will admit that I have been blessed in the roommate department — I’ve had a total of 5 throughout the years, and none of them have been crazy partiers, or always had tons of people over, or were so absolutely loud that it woke me up at night.  I know roommates can be SO MUCH worse than that, and I’m really thankful to actually be friends with 2 of mine.  However, I’m the type of person that even if I have the greatest roommates ever, I still cannot wait until I make enough money to have an apartment that’s all my own.  I just really like having an entire apartment to myself.

Because of that, moving into an apartment was an adjustment.  When my freshman roommate and I moved into an on-campus apartment our sophomore year, I was excited.  It was the first time I had my own room, and it was great to have a kitchen.  But unlike my roommate, I wasn’t that excited about decorating or anything like that.  For one, decorating is expensive.  But mostly, I knew the apartment would be temporary, and I didn’t see the point in investing in it.  I put up a few photos in my bedroom, and that was all the decorating I did.

That first apartment was also the first time I had to take care of spaces other than my room.  At home, I shared a room with my sister growing up.  Our parents made us clean it every now and then, and we were required to clean our shared hall bathroom every week.  But those were always chores I hated, and didn’t want to do.  Moving into an apartment changed that.  Suddenly, the rooms were mine, and it reflected on me when they weren’t nice and clean.  It was me and my roommate who had to deal with messes, so we were more careful not to make them in the first place.

I moved out of the on-campus apartment halfway through junior year, because I finally realized how much more expensive it was compared to off-campus ones.  I moved in with two girls, one of whom I knew fairly well.  Moving in there was a bit of a different dynamic.  While my previous roommate and I had decided together to move out of the dorms, and had planned together which furniture each of us would get, when I moved again it was into an already-established apartment.  Of course, I did feel welcome, but I mostly stuck to my room because it was the only space that was all mine.  My roommates were much more gregarious than I (not hard to be, given the graph above), and had friends over to hang in the living room frequently.  That was fine, of course; it was their apartment as well, and their friends were nice.  But being the way I am, I didn’t hang out in the living room because there might be people I didn’t know coming in at any time.

Another thing about me: I am a bit of neat freak.  Since I’ve had a room of my own, I love it most when everything is clean and organized.  I work and relax best with a clean desk and clean floors, and love to see my laundry basket empty.  I also hate a messy kitchen.  I’m not above leaving dishes in the sink, but I am above not wiping down the counter after preparing food on it.  Also, cleaning is one of the things that makes me happy — honestly.  Dusting is the only cleaning chore I don’t like, and that’s because I don’t like having to move all the stuff that sits on surfaces.  But when I vacuum, or mop, or wipe counters, it makes me feel like I’m being productive and like I can accomplish anything.  (Also, cleaning is seriously a great workout.)

I used to get annoyed when my roommates didn’t clean.  It felt like they didn’t care about their spaces, and almost like they didn’t care how I felt when I came into the apartment to see a huge mess in the kitchen or hair all over the bathroom sink.  But I’ve gotten over that.  For one, I’ve realized that not everyone notices grossness.  Take my boyfriend, for example — it’s not that he doesn’t care than his bathroom is kind of yucky, it’s that he legitimately does not notice until I point it out.  (I’ve accepted that when we move in together, I’ll be the one cleaning.)  And for two, I’ve realized that cleaning makes me feel more at home.  I definitely feel simultaneously relaxed and energized in a clean apartment.  But more than that, cleaning an apartment allows me to claim it as my own.  I take responsibility for it, and in doing so claim it as my space that I’m proud to be in — and have others in.

I admit I am counting down the days to graduation, not only because I’m excited, but also because I’m ready to move into my own apartment.  But for now, I’m content to live where I do, and I’m thankful that I’ve figured out a way to make places my own wherever I am.

 

What I’m Reading: Spanish Capstone Project

I have about 12 weeks until I graduate.  Which means I have about 12 weeks to finish 3 big projects and pass 2 other classes before I can walk across the stage in my cap and gown.  It seems like a ton of time and also like not much at all, especially when I think about the fact that for my Spanish capstone, I’m planning on reading 7 books (at least) and have so far finished 1.  But honestly, I’m not too stressed.  I’m making progress, and I’m on the right track, and I’m excited to begin really diving into this project.

The overall theme for my capstone is the immigration of Spanish-speakers into the US.  I don’t have a definite thesis yet, because I’ve only read one of my sources.  Also, this what-I’m-reading post will be a little different from the others because I haven’t read most of these books yet.  But I figured it would be a fun idea to briefly introduce my books here, and then once I’ve finished my project, I’ll do a reprise post on what I thought about them and how useful they were to me for my project.


Books I’m Definitely Reading

Cuando era puertorriqueñaThis book is the one I’ve finished, and it’s a memoir about growing up in Puerto Rico and then having to move to New York.  Santiago is the child of parents who fight more often than not, and who must provide for eight children.  Family stress and the stress of growing up are magnified by having to move to New York just when she feels she’s beginning to get a hold on life in Puerto Rico.  But interspersed in these struggles are the stories of a mother who would do anything for her children, and a girl who got herself out of Brooklyn all on her own.

Resultado de imagen para casi una mujerThis is the sequel to Cuando era puertorriquena, and it details Santiago’s life from her teenage years to adulthood.  During her struggle to figure out who she is — Puerto Rican? American? both? — Santiago helps translate her mother through the welfare offices and takes on prestigious roles at her performing arts high school.

Resultado de imagen para la otra cara de americaRamos, an executive at Univision, has written essays and collected interviews from immigrants to the US.  Told in an editorial, persuasive style, Ramos sheds light on the reality of those “living in the shadows” and reveals just how vital they are to US society.

Resultado de imagen para vivir en dos idiomas

 

Alma Flor Ada is a renowned Cuban-American author and professor who writes children’s books, poetry, and novels.  Vivir en dos idiomas is her memoir, detailing her life, which has been spent mostly not in Cuba.

 

AResultado de imagen para la casa en mango streetlmost everyone has heard of The House on Mango Street.  It is one of the most famous coming-of-age novels there is.  I’ve skimmed the book a few times, and honestly, have not loved it.  But I feel I might appreciate it more within the context of this project.  It’s not quite a memoir, like the others, but Cisneros did draw heavily on her growing-up years to craft this novel, so it’s still a good candidate for my project.

Resultado de imagen para a cup of water under my bed

 

Another memoir about growing up Latina in America, this book adds a new dimension in that Hernandez is also bisexual.  It details her growing up years and her struggle not only to find the balance between two cultures, but also to maintain family ties while not hiding all of who she is.

 

WResultado de imagen para the distance between us reyna grandehen she was little, and living in Mexico, Grande’s father left for the US without her, her siblings, or her mother.  Her memoir tells the story of virtually losing one parent, and then regaining him, and a new home, when her father finally sends for her.

 

 

Once I have read these books and have a better idea of what they are about, I’ll link back to this post and review them again.  I’ll be honest; judging by the one I have read and the others I’ve flipped through, I have high expectations for all of them.


Books I Probably Won’t Use for My Capstone but Want to Read Anyway

Resultado de imagen para atravesando fronterasThis is Ramos’ own memoir about moving from Mexico to the US.  I know I like his writing style, and admire him as a person.  But there are several reasons I probably won’t use it.  For one, I already have seven books to read, and for two, this book is quite a bit longer than most of my others.  Finally, I realized that all the rest of my books are by women (besides the other one by Ramos, but in that he interviews men and women), and given the difference in countries of origin I already have, I’d rather keep my mostly-female-author pattern going.

Resultado de imagen para morir en el intentoWhen I initially picked this, I thought it was going to be more like academic nonfiction.  Instead, it’s the story of 19 immigrants who died on their way to the US in 2003.  I’m sure it’s a tragic story, and definitely one that should be spread.  Unfortunately, it doesn’t fit with the other books I’ve chosen.  But that’s not going to stop me from reading it when I finish my project.

Resultado de imagen para sonar en cubano

 

This is another coming-of-age novel, and honestly, I don’t know much about it.  I didn’t look into it as much as the others, because I changed my focus from novels to memoirs.  But I like coming-of-age stories, so this will be going on the TBR as well.

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What I’ve Learned From Working in IT

As a freshman, I received a university scholarship that requires me to volunteer 75 hours each semester to the university.  A lot of students get similar scholarships, and thus it seems like half the university is staffed by students.  At the beginning of every year, we all have to go pick up our volunteer assignments and report for duty.  Most of us monitor computer labs or do basic clerical work.  Many “jobs” involve sitting at a desk and doing homework.  But not mine.  I got stuck in an IT office.

When I started working for Bill (name changed), I was declared as a basic business student.  To this day, I have no idea how they decided to put me in Bill’s office.  Bill is the head of all technology in his building, which happens to house one entire college of our university.  This means he buys, installs, maintains, and tracks every single piece of hardware and software for every single teacher and classroom in the entire college.  He’s the one teachers call when they can’t get their email to work, and he’s the one who implements new systems with heads of technology for other colleges.  He does a ton, and when I started, all of it was over my head.

When I started as a brand-new freshman, I was the first girl and the first business major that had been assigned to his office in years.  All his other student workers were guys majoring in computer science, computer engineering, business information technology, or mechanical or electrical engineering.  They all had an interest in how things work and a propensity for fixing.  And then there was me.

I had no idea what I was doing.  As student workers, we were responsible for documenting complaints and problems and then going out to fix them.  We also had to update and deliver “mobile labs” — huge carts full of 40 laptops each that professors could request for classes.  They weigh more than I do, I’m pretty sure.  I managed to push them around when I needed to, though, and I was good at documenting.  Often I would document calls that other students went out on — they could do the work, but didn’t want to document it, so I made myself useful that way.  But I spent the majority of freshman year following Bill around as he went to fix stuff that we students couldn’t handle.  I met a lot of professors that way, which was really helpful when I started having them for classes.

Gradually, I learned.  I kind of figured out how networks function.  I learned several ways to wipe a hard drive.  I figured out how to explain things I didn’t fully grasp to professors (who often didn’t fully grasp them, either).  I learned to be polite and sympathize when I couldn’t fix something, because I knew how frustrating it was when technology didn’t work.  I learned to work with people I didn’t particularly like.  Mostly, I learned to listen, because I learned that people don’t always communicate the way I want them to.

Disagreeing respectfully with a superior was a big thing to learn.  Bill is very conservative, and though he says he dislikes discussing politics, what he really dislikes is when people disagree.  He has a habit of taking a break and coming into the student side of the office to discuss current events or politics.  Usually, I just nod my head and listen, because (as I discussed some in my last post) I don’t like discussing controversial issues, especially with someone whose views are so different from mine.  But occasionally I do speak up.  Take this morning, for instance.  Bill was reading something about a Title VI document, and got hung up on the words “English is not the official or native language” (or something along those lines).  He started making comments about how English is the official language here in the U.S., and it irks him when concessions have to be made for non-English speakers.  He said he doesn’t think it’s fair for taxpayers to have to pay for everything to be written in more than one language.

Being a Spanish major, I couldn’t let that one go by.  I mentioned that we have a lot of taxpayers in this country whose first language isn’t English.  This was one of those times I wish I knew exact stats, but I don’t.  I tried to talk about how many Spanish-speaking citizens we have here (stressing the legal part, because I know how Bill feels about undocumented immigrants).  Bill did listen to me.  I didn’t expect him to agree or change his mind.  But by speaking up I at least attempted to stand up for my beliefs and worldview.  And though I know Bill doesn’t agree, I think demonstrating a different viewpoint does gain me some respect in his eyes.  He likes people who can think for themselves.  (And it reminds him not to put his foot in his mouth.)

Now, in my last semester here, Bill has gotten a lot more student workers and had to expand his office.  Having more of us means that there are fewer calls to go out on.  Not to mention the fact that the university really amped up its overall help desk, which reduced our workload a ton.  This was nice, because now professors and students can call the help desk for mundane tasks like resetting email passwords, and we can focus on bigger issues like smart boards that don’t work.  The problem for me, though, is that I was good at the mundane tasks.  I have enough computer knowledge that I can figure out which settings to change and which problems I can rule out.  But while I can fix relatively simple problems (and gain good rapport with professors in the process), I can’t fix the big ones.  When a projector malfunctions in the middle of a class and I’m the only one in the office, I leave professors feeling frustrated rather than thankful.  It doesn’t reflect well on me or the university.

But I’m going to leave this job on my resume, because it shows a lot of things.  For one, this job has taught me to work effectively with a team.  It’s heightened my communication skills.  And it’s allowed me to better understand what the crap people are talking about when they tell me to map to a certain drive or boot a machine to the BIOS menu.  It shows that while I may not have a natural affinity for technology, I can learn.  I’ve been very frustrated these past four years, because it takes up a lot of time and is difficult.  But ultimately, I’m thankful I got stuck here, because it has helped shaped me into who I am today.  It’ll be a sweet goodbye when I leave.  But there will be a tiny bit of bitter in there, too.

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Our super-official password generator (not — it’s actually to scare new students)

 

Spring Goals Update: February 2017

So, we’re about a month into the year.  How have I done so far on my goals for this semester?

Life Goals

  1. Be intentional about communicating with others, especially roommates.  Well, so far my roommates and I have had zero problems — mainly because none of us are ever around.  We pass each other like ships in the night and when we happen to be home at the same time we do our own thing.  Honestly, that’s how I like it.  In my experience being friends with your roommates just creates more problems than it’s worth.
  2. Get physically stronger.  I worked out a few times the very first week of school, but I underestimated how packed my weeks would  be.  I don’t have Friday classes, so all my classes are squeezed into Monday-Thursday, and Friday I have meetings and also try to knock out as much homework as possible.  So this is not going great.  However, a couple friends and I went to a beginner ballet class on Monday night, and we might try to continue, because it was fun and a great workout.
  3. Find ways to support causes I believe in.  Well, due to time constraints, I haven’t looked at this at all.  However, my capstone project for my Spanish degree has to do with immigration, and that’s something I care about, so that kind of counts.
  4. Read more non-white authors.  Because of the nature of my capstone project, I’ll be reading a lot of Latino authors.  Check out my Goodreads shelf to see what exactly I’ll be reading.  I may not be able to get to all of these for my project, but I do hope to read all of them eventually whether or not I use them.
  5. Food: continue cooking at least once a week; stick to ~$15 a month on coffee.  The boyfriend and I have cooked a ton, it feels like.  There have only been a couple nights so far where I’ve grabbed a single-serve microwave meal from the freezer.  Otherwise, we’ve made a couple simple ready-to-cook Asian meals, and I’ve home-cooked chicken fettucine Alfredo, Costa Rican-esque rice and beans, banana bread, Red Lobster bread (like the rolls, but in bread form), and simple spaghetti and meat sauce.  (See very professional iPhone photos below!)  It’s all simple food, but it’s always a victory to cook instead of warming something up, and then I have leftovers to eat for lunch.  As for coffee, I only spent $11.17 this month (not including creamer and coffee I keep at home, of course — those are grocery purchases).  Go me!

Education/Career Goals

  1. COB Ambassadors: Try to help project manage an event.  I think this is definitely going to be possible this semester.  We have a new organization president this semester, and during our first meeting she had us all fill out an anonymous survey about what is and isn’t working in the program.  From that, she specifically wants project managers who have never project managed before, which I haven’t.  Last semester, everyone who had done it before would immediately volunteer for the positions, but now more preference will be given to those who haven’t done it yet, so I should get a chance to.  Yay!
  2. Apply to ~5 jobs a month.  Well, I applied to several all at once last weekend, but I’m not really expecting any responses.  I decided to see what Career Services had to say about my resume before I apply to any more, so I’ll be giving that an overhaul.  I love and hate resumes, y’all.  They’re so beautiful and neat and organized, but it’s so hard to get them to where they really show off your relevant skills and interests.  I know I would be a good candidate for many jobs, but a lot of the things that make me a good worker are soft skills.  I really have to work to show how my class projects and previous work experience will translate into me being an asset for a company.

I have these goals written on my desk calendar, and I didn’t think I was doing quite as well as I am on them.  So this has been a bit of a mood boost and motivator all at once.  And that’s exactly what goal setting is supposed to do in the first place.  Here’s to February.

Why Do We Hate Discussing Controversial Issues?

I know very few people that enjoy discussing politics and controversial social issues.  Most people, including me, tend to shy away from these topics and stick to lighter, more enjoyable, less divisive conversations.  In my experience, the people who actively bring up politics and divisive issues are the ones who have strong opinions backed by very little research (not always, but usually).

I have one friend I typically discuss social issues with.  She’s a sociology major, so she often talks about current events in her classes, and we generally have similar opinions.  Even if we disagree, we know how to do it respectfully, and we both admit when we have and haven’t done research on a topic.  Last time we met for coffee, we intended to stay away from politics, but ended up discussing them and other controversial issues almost the entire time we were together.  It was intellectually refreshing.  And then we wondered why people don’t do this more often.

Of course, there is the obvious reason.  Politics and social issues are divisive.  I’ve mentioned before that talking about politics means talking about everyone’s baggage as well.  It’s uncomfortable and annoying, and sometimes not worth the arguments that will inevitably ensue.

But why do these things hold so much passion for us?  One reason is that our political beliefs are closely related to how we view ourselves — our self-identity.  I read an article the other day about what parts of our brains light up when we discuss politics.  I couldn’t find the original article, but I did find this (older) one that got similar results to the one I read.  In the study, scientists monitored subjects’ brains while they evaluated “information that threatened their preferred candidate” just before the 2004 presidential election (I told you it was an old article).  Here’s what they found:

“We did not see any increased activation of the parts of the brain normally engaged during reasoning,” said Drew Westen, director of clinical psychology at Emory University. “What we saw instead was a network of emotion circuits lighting up, including circuits hypothesized to be involved in regulating emotion, and circuits known to be involved in resolving conflicts.”  [emphasis mine]

Discussing politics isn’t the same as discussing what color to paint the walls.  Attacking someone’s political beliefs is more like insulting their kid.  The parent isn’t going to think rationally about that (at least at first); they’re going to be angry.  How dare someone say that about their kid, who they have a strong emotional connection with?  How can they believe x, when clearly y is true?  It’s hard to separate reason from that innate emotional response, and it’s much the same for politics.

I think another reason it’s hard to discuss these things is because it requires true self-examination.  It’s hard work.  First, we must inform ourselves about what’s really going on.  Then, we have to compare our moral values against what’s happening in the world, and then we have to pick a stance, and then we have to defend it.  It’s difficult.  It’s time-consuming.  In my experience, I’ve never just known what my opinion is on a hot button issue.  I have to research.  I have to discuss.  I have to mull it over.  And then I sometimes end up changing my mind.  It’s introspective, and introspection is hard, because it requires us to really know ourselves.  And sometimes, we don’t like what we find.

Other times, we think we do know ourselves.  We have opinions and we stick to them. But we still avoid discussing hot topics because what if someone has a better argument?  What then?  If my views are disproved, am I really who I think I am?  Good counter-arguments can dismantle us, and our sense of self-identity, completely.

But as uncomfortable as it is, these things can’t be avoided.  If we avoid learning and trying to form opinions, we will get used, or ignored.  We’ll be seen as ignorant or outdated.  Our usefulness to society declines.  My friend brought up this specific situation: over the past two summers, she has worked at a children’s Christian sleep-away camp.  It’s similar to the quintessential camp experience: horseback riding, rock wall climbing, and overnight camping trips.  But the staff faces big issues.  Last summer, they received  call from a mother wondering what the camp’s policy was for transgender children.

Transgenderism and gender dysmorphia is something that Christians typically avoid.  It’s incredibly difficult to understand, especially within the context of Christianity, and on top of that it has to do with sex, which is often a taboo topic in Christian circles.  But if the camp staff hadn’t discussed it, they would have come across as willfully ignorant to that mom.  And they might have missed the chance to minister to a group of children that needs love the most.

Politics and issues like this aren’t fun.  We live in a messed-up world that often just looks bleak.  But the only way to affect it is to know what’s happening, and know how we feel about it, so that we can do something to enact change.  They say nothing good in life is easy, and in this, it’s more than true.

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If You Don’t Like Sports, You Should Watch Basketball

My family is not a sports-watching family.  My dad has never cared about sports in his life — he’d rather read about WWII or go hiking or work on a broken engine.  My mom enjoys some sports, but that mild interest is usually overshadowed by something else — namely, the fact that no one will watch with her.  Neither of my siblings care much about team sports, either.  My sister prefers equestrian and rodeo-type events, and my brother has only recently shown an interest watching hockey (due to new friends, I think, more than anything).

Soccer is the only sport we’ve ever been into as a family.  My siblings and I all played soccer in elementary and middle school, and my dad even played in a pickup league for a few years (before he realized soccer wreaks havoc on your knees).  But I quit when it began to get competitive.  For me, that took the fun out of it, and I didn’t really have enough time anyway.  I chose flute lessons and band over soccer practices.  Once us kids all quit soccer, the family interest kind of died, too.

My boyfriend, on the other hand, is definitely into sports.  He played baseball starting when he was little, and basketball through middle school.  Plus, his dad is a devoted college football fan, and they both enjoy the occasional hockey game.  If it’s a team sport, it’s likely my boyfriend enjoys watching.

When I met him freshman year, we became inseparable quickly.  And that meant I went with him to all our college games.  Freshman year was the first time I had ever been to a real football game, and honestly, it wasn’t my favorite.  For one, it was cold, and for two, football is slow.  Have you ever measured the amount of time the players actually play during a football game?  It’s not a lot.  But I did enjoy the people-watching, and the atmosphere, and I’ll be honest — I mainly kept agreeing to go so I could watch the marching band.  That’s the stuff, right there.

He also dragged me to basketball games, and we drove to the state capital for NHL hockey when we could get cheap tickets.  He would explain the rules to me, and as I understood the games better, I began to appreciate them.  (Except baseball.  I don’t know if I’ll ever appreciate baseball.)  For awhile I thought hockey might be my favorite sport.  But then we both started working for our college sports network.

We covered our women’s soccer team in the fall, but it really got fun when basketball season started.  I knew I enjoyed basketball games the most anyway, and when we started working every single home game, I got truly invested.  I began to figure out which players were good at what, and really began to care about the team as more than entertainment.  I still don’t know all the rules, and am bad at watching for fouls.  But basketball is an easy sport to enjoy, especially if you think you don’t like sports.  Here’s why.

  1. It’s fast moving.  Unlike football, players are on the court more often than they are off.  You don’t get bored watching because there’s always something going on.
  2. It’s a high-scoring game.  This means no matter what team you’re watching, you’re going to see someone make a basket.  All you really need to know about basketball is that whoever makes the most baskets wins, and games can turn around quickly.  It’s unpredictable.
  3. The rules are fairly simple.  For players, there’s a lot of nuance.  But for casual viewers, it’s easy: when the opposing team has the ball, your team plays defense.  When your team has the ball, they play offense.  Fouls get called when players touch each other too much, and that’s when you get free throws.  That’s a ridiculously dumbed-down version, but that’s honestly all you need to be able to follow a game.
  4. You get to see cool moves.  Basketball courts are kind of small, as sports go, so players have to be quick on their feet in order to make baskets.  They have to be able to pass quickly and accurately, and may need to do a few nifty spin moves to get away from defenders.

The rules to football and baseball are a little more complicated, even when simplified, and hockey and soccer are so low-scoring that they sometimes can be boring to watch.  But basketball has all the right attractions.  And you don’t even have to sit out in the cold.

Photo source

 

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On Coffee Culture

There are a lot of things I didn’t know about before I started college, and the importance of coffee was one of them.  I knew people drank coffee, and that for many it’s an addiction, but I had no idea just how many people are coffee enthusiasts.  I had no idea how culturally important it is.

I don’t claim to be any kind of coffee expert, although I wish I was.  I have, however, joined the enthusiast club.  Like I assume many do, I started off slow.  There is a Starbucks on my college campus, and freshman year my meal plan included a couple hundred dining dollars I could use at our few food joints that aren’t the cafeteria, including Starbucks.  I wouldn’t have gone in there if one of my friends wasn’t already addicted, but she was, so I did.  She introduced me to frappuccinos, then mochas as it got colder, then finally I graduated to plain coffee.  Especially iced coffee.  I like hot, but iced is the stuff.

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My growing mug collection

But I didn’t truly get addicted until I went to Costa Rica.  The coffee industry is big there, and thus almost everyone drinks it.  My host parents each drank a cup every morning, and since I ate breakfast with them, I did too.  When I got back home, I dug out my parents’ old coffee pot and continued making some every morning.

When I climbed aboard the coffee bandwagon, I didn’t just gain a new favorite drink.  I joined a community.  Coffee shops are often the hub of a neighborhood — they’re one of the best places to meet up with friends, study, work, or just take a break.  And they’re versatile.  I’ve never been in two alike coffee shops (even chains develop local quirks over time).  Each shop is reflective of the community it’s in.  Going to coffee shops is one of the best ways to get to know a new city.

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ft. the mug from my local coffee shop

Plus, coffee is versatile.  While there are those that look down their noses at anyone who doesn’t drink their coffee black, there are literally millions of ways to enjoy it.  There are the universal drinks — lattes, cappuccinos, americanos, to name a few — and there are new creations every day from professional baristas.  There’s almost no limit to what you can add to coffee.

It can be hard to order.  Most coffee shops assume its customers know a little bit about coffee, so they don’t explicitly display what you can add to your coffee if you want.  If you don’t drink coffee regularly, it can be intimidating to know what to ask for.  But the beauty there is that baristas are experts, and are usually happy to give you a recommendation.

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meow mug ft. surprise cat

And speaking of beauty, coffee is one of the most photogenic things I have ever laid eyes on.  To be honest, one of the (great many) reasons I love the blogging community is because we’re pretty much all addicted to coffee, and we love to take pictures of it.  Every time I see a photo of a blanket, a laptop, and a mug of coffee, it just makes me happy.  It may be cliche, but there’s a reason.  Words and coffee just go together.

Coffee takes a biggish chunk out of my budget.  I’m trying to cut back on buying it from shops, but I also like to support my local one.  Like everything, it’s a balance.  But even though my wallet might, I don’t regret taking up the habit.  In addition to being able to enjoy one of the most delicious beverages on the planet, I can now truly enjoy the coffee community and all it has to offer.

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ft. crochet cat

 

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souvenirs from New Mexico

All photos taken by the wonderful boyfriend, whose Flickr (with other amazing photos) can be found here

 

 

On Trump’s Inauguration Speech + A Discussion on News From Twitter

So, I watched the inauguration.  I didn’t really want to, but it’s history, as my mother told me, and mother knows best.

Just so we’ll be clear, I don’t like Trump.  Also, I don’t pretend to be any kind of political expert.  Because I’m mostly tired of hearing and speaking about Trump, but now we really have to, here are my reactions to his speech in bullet form:

  • His speech was all about America.  Obviously, as President of the US, it should be.  But, he also implied that the US is the most important country in the world.  While there is no denying that it is highly important as a global power, I feel that he completely dismissed the importance of literally all other countries, and by extension, the people who inhabit them.
  • He seems to think that helping or even being involved with other countries equals harming the US.  I completely disagree.  From an economic perspective, helping other countries develop and therefore become richer benefits the US because it means they have the power to buy and sell from and to us, which over time increases our own GDP.  I realize that the US as a whole, in trying to “help” other countries, hasn’t always been the most helpful.  However, I think it is prudent to maintain an attitude of mutual benefit.  No man is an island, and countries (metaphorically speaking) aren’t, either.
  • He mentioned that he was going to eradicate Islamic terrorism.  While not a bad sentiment, I think this wording showed his skewed worldview.  The terrorist groups that claim Islam are not recognized as truly Islamic by the vast majority of Muslims.  I’m all for ending terrorism, but I’m definitely against perpetuating xenophobia.
  • His speech really was more of a campaign speech than an inaugural address.  I watched NBC’s live stream of the ceremony, and the reporters noted that some of the paragraphs were verbatim from campaign speeches.  I’m not sure if that means he is too inexperienced/doesn’t care enough to prepare a real inaugural address, or if he is so insecure in his support that he still feels he must garner it.
  • The NBC reporters also noted that he kind of insulted all the former presidents with him on the podium as well as the Republican senators.  I agree, because he implied that the government has completely failed in most respects.  I’m not saying it did or didn’t, but the way he put his views was quite tactless.  Although let’s be honest — he’s not known for tact.

That’s all the thoughts I have on that.  Stay tuned till Thursday for a much more enjoyable discussion on coffee culture.  Or read on if you feel like talking about Twitter and news.


So, Twitter.

It took me awhile to get into Twitter.  I don’t use it the same way I use Instagram or Facebook.  While those are ways to keep up with people I actually know, I use Twitter to get my news.  I don’t have cable, so I don’t watch televised news much, and I barely have enough time to read the books I need to for school, let alone various news sites.  So Twitter it is.

Here’s a breakdown of what I follow:

  • Business/entrepreneurship journals
  • Local TV stations, radio stations, and newspapers from my hometown and college town
  • Local police and emergency services accounts
  • Major US newspapers — Wall Street Journal, NY Times, etc.
  • Various BBC accounts
  • Celebrities
  • Bloggers

As far as news goes, I normally scroll through and read tweets and headlines, and I’ll read the articles I think are most important or that have to do with my hometown.  If several separate sources are writing about the same thing, I try to pay attention.  I’m also guilty of scrolling past stuff I don’t want to see, because let’s be honest — news is usually depressing.  I also try to pick and choose somewhat strategically what articles I click on, because most newspapers will only let non-subscribers view so many articles a month.  I try to save those free ones for important stuff.

Yesterday, someone mentioned something along the lines of, “That’s the danger of getting your news from Twitter.”  I don’t remember why they said it (I should probably pay more attention).  But it made me wonder why some people feel that way, because I think Twitter is a pretty good place to get news.

First, for my part, I follow well-known, established news sources.  I know journalists can never be completely objective, but to work for such established organizations means to follow ethical and objective journalistic standards to the best of your ability.  I tend to believe the best of the general population, and don’t think that a professional journalist would willingly jeopardize their career by reporting nonsense.  Readers do need to read critically, of course, but it is in everyone’s best interest for journalists to report objectively.

Second, I don’t just scroll through headlines.  When I see something important, I read the article to get the available details.  If I have time, I’ll read about the same event from another source.  I don’t do this all the time, of course, but I know that getting information from more than one source is preferable.

Finally, even if Twitter is not the best source of news, I would still rather stay updated through Twitter than not make an attempt to stay updated at all.  I try to be a good citizen (4H drilled that into me) and staying informed is one of the best ways to do that.  Until I make enough money to have cable and newspaper and magazine subscriptions, I’m going to keep using Twitter.

How do you get your news?  What’s your opinion on Twitter as a news source?