Last post of semester, Goals for Winter Break

Semester is over, finals are done, and I am ready to finish my obligations for a while. Let me tell you that this has been a very trying semester in many more ways than just academic.

I miss Cece so much, and she is finally back so we are going to go visit her soon because she is my emotional stone. She keeps me firmly grounded in this crazy convoluted time called college. Until then, I will get to work at Michaelangelo’s (hopefully) and learn how to make the drinks that I’ve always wanted to make. Hopefully over winter break I can also bake a little bit for the people that I care for (it’s how I show my love–given my friends delicious food like cheesecakes). Soon the break will begin and I can just breathe as the obligations that I’ve been facing since the beginning of the semester finally come to an end.

I hope those who read this that might have some stake in the college experience know how relieving it is to finally get to relax.

For the break, I hope to learn the Farsi alphabet, visit Cece, my friend Caleb, make a fruit tart (random but I want to), get to read for leisure, and exercise.

Until next semester!

Jacob

International Prom and Music

Peter and I went to international prom midway through the semester when the weather started getting chilly, so it was a great excuse to wear my fancy suit jacket that I usually only pull out for interviews.

We strolled into the union looking dapper as ever (although we didn’t play with makeup as much as we would have otherwise liked) and came upon an amazing scene. Purple lights flashed across the ceiling, the red carpet was stretched out before us, and the darkness that fell upon the crowed obscured everyone’s faces.

Once I gathered my bearings, I noticed instantly that we were way overdressed given that everyone else went in more casual, short-sleeve button-ups. Thankfully, Peter and I both looked our best.

The music was loud and unrecognizable, and I really enjoyed it. For one, they played music in Arabic, Spanish, Hindi, and just two in English. It was difficult to tell if there were any songs in Farsi since my ear is still learning the distinction in sound between Arabic and Farsi.

We finally found our friends after crossing the dance floor a few times, being blinded by dazzling lights and pushed around by dance circles. I had a rough time trying to find the rhythm in the song, but once I felt where to put the emphasis of bodily motion, I could naturally dance again!

No quiero quejarme en mi blog, pero el DJ tocaba la canción Despacito. Odio esa canción y podría vivir dos mil vidas sin escucharla de nuevo!

Hablando de esas canciones, querría hablar sobre mi experiencia con canciones en la Persa. “Dooset Daram” es una canción por Afshin. Es en Español y Persa, así nos sentimos como es una mezcla de Peter y yo *aunque no soy latino (yo desearía que fuera latino)*. A Peter le gusta el temblor en la voz de los artistas persianos, y a mi me gusta el sonido electrónico. Le encanta escuchar a las canciones en idiomas otro que el ingles, por ejemplo escucha a música K pop. A mi no me gusta la rapidez del ritmo, así prefiero canciones mas lentas.

A ver, tengo un puesto más y el semestre es terminado!

 

Latin Dance Club

While colonization is a touchy subject, I just wanted to say that this map is so incredibly interesting. The leaders of these countries truly believed that this land was theirs and were assigning new names to it! The best part of all is that it is in their own native languages.

Just saying, if you look up “Amephka” on Google you can find a really neat Russian grammar book. I procrastinated for like 30 minutes just reading it-I haven’t gotten far, but I have reason to believe that it starts mostly in English and slowly transitions to Russian.

Why am I learning the Cyrillic alphabet before the Farsi one?? I can’t afford adding another language to the list of languages to come soon to Jacob’s brain.

Anyway, My goal this winter break is to learn some Farsi from Peter’s mother. It’s really difficult though, so here goes nothing…


So, I must say that this semester I had a lot of issues staying involved in clubs on campus. Not just because I’m lazy, but because it is quite difficult to get over the social anxiety involved with being put into a new group of people. It is so difficult to continue going after the first couple of meetings and not meeting anybody fun to talk to.

My boyfriend is helping with that issue, so I am really hoping to overcome these tendencies by next semester. I really want to know how to dance for real so that if I really do go to Argentina then I’m not a novice. We have been participating on/off again in Latin Dance Club, and I’ve retained enough to be able to dance Bachata and a little bit of Salsa at functions.

Peter has been teaching me a lot about Modern Dance which makes me really happy since I am going into that class this coming semester! It’s so much fun and is a really great work out!


Anyway, I’ll likely put another post today and hopefully one tomorrow. I haven’t even had a chance to talk about international prom… and how I got Peter addicted to international music.

 

Time to Confess

If your name is Jaci, just skip to the part below the line because, like my grandmother, you’re too pure and amazing to disappoint!

Okay, so here is the confession: I definitely fell very far behind with my posts. My last post was penned in October (specifically the 10th), so I thought I was making enough progress throughout the semester (after all, I had a post done in the 2nd and one half month  and that I’d be able to write when the inspiration struck me.

…I guess I overestimated how interesting my semesters in the United States are (guess I have to go abroad again, oh well).

…Also I didn’t end up posting that October entry until today. oops!


Anyway, I had lots of ups and downs this semester to tell you about this semester such as building my communication skills with my boyfriend and friends, missing my good friend Cece while she was abroad in Mexico (estamos en el mismo país una vez mas! Cuento los segundos hasta nos encontramos de nuevo, cariñita!)

Las vacaciones del invierno llegan y no me puedo esperar. Voy a trabajar en una cafetería y por alguna razón estoy tan emocionado! Me interesa el cafe mucho, y a mi me encanta alimentar a los demas. Habla con mi novio por dos segundos y puede decirte que a veces le fuerzo a comer (jk, jk he loves my cooking, of course). Podría cocinar para los clientes y vender mis obras bonitas de azúcar, harina y huevo. Espero que les gusten.

No he perdido la capacidad charlar en español, pero es obvio que necesito practicar pronto. Me voy a estudiar al extranjero de nuevo el año que viene, pero todavía espero las habilidades crecientes de hablar español de mi novio y mi cuento de ahorras! Pronto, pronto.

Voy a poner otro puesto mañana, así dime bendiciones porque las voy a necesitar esta semana.

Hasta pronto…

 

First post of Fall Semester

It has certainly been a while!

I went to a meeting near the beginning of the semester called “You’re OklaHOME” which grouped together people that had recently studied abroad to share our experiences adjusting back to life in the United States.

We shared our most memorable experience, and I shared how proud I was of the gift I got for my host father before I left (I never have good ideas for gifting). I remembered him mentioning at the beginning of the summer that he needed an olive oil bottle that looked pretty, so I swung by a store on Calle Mayor and found a nice one and got a new container of spicy olive oil. It was an inside joke because I always added cayenne to my food so that my mouth could feel the pain that I crave. In addition, I helped him out in the kitchen all the time which helped us bond while I was there. Anyway, I gave it to him and it made him laugh a lot. He messages me every once in a while about the meal that he made with it and how he misses the best international student he’s ever hosted (honestly his previous students were awful to him).

Back to the topic of “reverse culture shock”

Honestly, I didn’t think that I had that much of an issue… at first. During the meeting, the only example of that readjustment was when I came back to restaurants in the US and servers were incredibly nice! Even though it is what I was raised with, I couldn’t help but think that they were serving us with a gun to their head!

It wasn’t until later that I realized that I actually was having issues readjusting–even on the plane coming back! Staff kept speaking to me in English and my brain uncomfortably kept having to switch back into English mode–all because I was sitting next to an obviously English-speaking kid. I didn’t want to sit next to him on the plane because it almost seemed easier to speak Spanish at that point! I would kill to be at that point right now since I haven’t had much practice. Recently I met Peter’s Spanish professor Prof. Montecatini, and I was so flustered and out-of-practice that I couldn’t have a fluid conversation!

Oh well, I get to study abroad for another semester anyhow! Peter and I are currently considering universities in Argentina (probably UBA but it’s good to check our options), so it feels like it is getting more serious.

Missing home, More fun places visited, Mejorarse en el idioma

Second post while studying abroad!


Well it’s no secret among my friends and host father Fernando that I miss home. Quite a bit, actually.

Just the other day I was having a really hard time being away from my friends and family-all the FaceTime, reminiscent music, and excursions couldn’t seem to quiet down the yearning I feel to be back in Oklahoma. Thankfully that doesn’t last forever; it apparently comes in swells.

I was told the same thing by everybody here and back home: enjoy it while you’re here. You only have a week left.

So I’ve been trying my best to adhere to their advice and adventured around Madrid again, because apparently I had only scratched the surface last time…

A market in Madrid where the gente pija go to shop
A market in Madrid where the gente pija go to shop

This market is right next to Plaza Mayor and it’s so incredibly extra (like everything else in Spain, so I guess I’m not surprised)…

Pretty patties
Pretty patties

…all the food looked so amazing…

 

Plaza Mayor and yours truly
Plaza Mayor and yours truly

…I took this picture right after slowly pushing away a Charlie Chaplin who wanted money…

Where the royal couples go to get married
Where the royal couples go to get married

…and visited yet another cathedral, each more beautiful than the last…

 

Almudena Cathedral
Almudena Cathedral

…I liked this cathedral a lot in particular simply because it was so colorful! They had touched up the colors, so everything was very bright. Quite the contrast to the tragic, dark colors of Catholic suffering that I’ve witnessed so far…

img_20261
The Royal Palace

…this building was enormous…

Fernando and me in front of the Royal gardens
Fernando and me in front of the Royal gardens

…he doesn’t like this photo very much, but I think it’s precious…

A gift from Egypt
A gift from Egypt

…that was closed 🙁 …

But hey I look cool
Full disclosure: I wasn’t looking at anything

…and there were so many wonderful sights to be had…

 

Ivan and me posing in front of another state of Don Quijote, Sancho, and Cervantes
Ivan and me posing in front of another state of Don Quijote, Sancho, and Cervantes

…finally not alone in photos anymore!

Taken on Gran Via, one of the most important streets in Madrid
Taken on Gran Via, one of the most important streets in Madrid

…and finally sunglasses…

Buds in front of the iconic image of Madrid
Buds in front of the iconic image of Madrid

…our feet were hurting so bad by this point…

I'll show myself out
All in all, it was a pretty laid back day

So that took my mind off of home for a while.

Maybe before I leave I’ll show another round of pictures of Alcalá!


Y ahora es el tiempo que mostrar todas las palabras y frases que he aprendido!

Me dijo Fernando que “pijo” es la palabra que usar para hablar de alguien que no le gusta las cosas baratos en la vida y solo quiere vivir con elegancia. También el nombre Jacobo en español tiene un significado parecido; pues supongo que yo era como así! Me habló de los higos y brevas y la frase que habla de los dos. He aprendido usar la frase “echar de menos” en lugar de “extrañar”.

Le hice reírse cuando dije “ahorita” que se hizo muy obvio que yo no era español, pero no me molestaba mucho porque prefiero el dialecto de México. Sin embargo, no voy a hablar solamente el español de México, sino una mezcla de todas las frases y palabras que me gusta.

He aprendido muchas palabras útiles de la casa como muebles y varias cosas.

Espero que la gramática se haya mejorado también!

Getting used to it, Orgullo Mundial, Barcelona yes please

The first half of this post is nothing but text, and the second half of this post is nothing but pictures (without any sort of transition in the middle).


So I knew that I’d have some trouble with culture shock. I figured that I would miss my country so much and that the change of customs would be overwhelming.

Partially correct? I think that culture shock is a bit of a misnomer (at least in my experience). It definitely isn’t that shocking like getting submerged into ice water. I expected much, much worse.

I have found that it is more of just a passive longing for my family and friends. It sits at the back of my mind and I’m constantly reminded of them. I see my sister in all of the hippy shirts with cool elephant prints and Hamsa hands; my parents in all of the mothers and fathers that keep their children close on the metro; my boyfriend in every couple that is making out in really any given public area. The gnawing sensation that I don’t fit in quite right with this group constantly reminds me of my friends back home.

Sitting on the train coming back from Barcelona this morning, however, I realized that I was already past the lowest point. I’m getting used to this much quicker than I anticipated.

I cope by listening to music (reminding me of all the times I shared with people listening to it) and using FaceTime and services like it to talk to the ones I love. It works wonders.

Really the thing that I anticipate struggling with most is trying to get along with this new group of people. It’s not that they aren’t right for me, but rather simply that they’re different and new to me. I’ll try my best not to fit in but rather be myself and gain acceptance.


Picture time!

Feliz orgullo! En el capital de España, Madrid
Capital of Madrid with Pride!
Capital of Madrid with Pride!

Celebramos orgullo en Madrid con muchísísimas personas. La población de la ciudad doble literalmente.

¡Ahora puedo decir que he celebrado en otro continente! Uno más cercano a mi meta.

Pero fuimos a Madrid más que una vez:

El Parque del Retiro
El Parque del Retiro
Random pretty building
Random pretty building

Honestamente, todos los edificios aquí son bellos. No me puedo creer.


A week after Madrid, we went to Valencia!

Valenica
Valencia
HOW??
By the Mediterranean Sea
img_18851
Candid shot, I swear

And then we went to Barcelona…

La Sagrada Familia
La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona
View of Barcelona from Park Guell
View of Barcelona from Park Guell
La Casa de Picasso
La Casa de Picasso in Barcelona

It goes without saying that I’m pretty tired right now, but I had an amazing weekend filled with awesome sights with Rachel, Anthony and Amanda.

Spring Arabic Talent Show, End of the Semester, y España

I went to the Arabic Talent Show a few weeks ago to see my friend Cece perform again, and they were so beautiful. Cece even got a solo this time!

As always, I didn’t understand a lot of the humor until after the show because most of the student-made videos are entirely in Arabic. It frustrates me, but that’s mostly because it makes me want to learn the language that much more (I have this issue where I want to learn every single language: Chinese, Muskogee, French, Portuguese, Farsi, Arabic, Hindi, Gujarati and international sign language to name a few). Sadly, nobody performed music this time!

Food was amazing, but I feel like any food that I can get that’s even vaguely foreign is always amazing (that or food is just amazing).

Estoy tan aliviado que me he mudado del apartamento y que el semestre ha terminado. Fue bien duro, pero lograba porque tenía mi novio y mis amigas Cece y Lisa a mi lado.

No puedo esperar que irme a España, pero todavía hay cosas que tengo hacer como comprar los billetes para volar. ¡La cosa que me emociona más es conocer a mi familia huésped! Espero que me adoptan.

Hablaré más cuando el viaje empieza, pero por ahora tengo conformarme con el trabajo y ahorrar.

Hasta el 28 de junio, ¡adiós!

Iranian House Parties, Teaching Spanish and Peter

Last night I went to an amazing house party that was thrown by my boyfriend Peter’s extended family!

His mother’s side of the family is Iranian, so I got to experience what it was like! His Aunt Patty was celebrating her daughter’s graduation, and she went all out inviting family and friends of the family. It was so extravagant and fun.

For one, the house was beautiful and huge. Appetizers were literally everywhere, so it seemed almost like the main course. People of all ages were there, and everyone was either drinking Sadaf, which is this amazing cardamom tea, or wine.

However, the most impressive part was probably the DJ that she hired to play music in the living room which served as a dance floor! I think I had the most fun during this part of the night because I got to unwind and follow my boyfriend’s moves and those of his other aunt Juju (who is about the sweetest woman that I’ve ever met). I had a lot of fun incorporating hand movements into the dance—one such move is to act like you’re unscrewing lightbulbs above your head with both hands. Peter’s favorite is to use what he likes to call ‘gypsy hands’ which is mostly smoothly rolling the fingers in a fluid motion above one’s waist. I was surrounded by about 15 people of all ages! Peter said that was his favorite part of Iranian culture: everyone dances. He also said that Iranian women don’t take their heels off to dance. It was true. Honestly, I was most impressed by the woman who jumped all five times during the Cha Cha Slide in her heels.

The music they played during the dances that had Farsi lyrics were mostly electronic which made it easy to dance to. Thankfully they included a lot of music with Spanish and even a few French songs.

His family was amazing and super accepting of me (at least on the surface level) even though Peter is the first in his family to come out as openly gay; however, I wasn’t particularly thrilled when Peter later told me that the hand motions that his uncle was making towards a girl on the dance floor meant that he was trying to set them up. There was only one instance in the night when I caught somebody disapprovingly looking at us, and that was one of the more conservative white families that were invited (we were just sitting together eating dinner… quite the scandal).

This post is basically going to be entirely related to my boyfriend, but he’s giving me a lot of good material to write about.

He’s letting me teach him Spanish! So far, he can give directions by reciting this rhyme:

Izquierda, derecha
Delante, detrás
Cerca, lejos
Y algo más
Abajo, arriba
Enfrente, encima
Y ahora, muchachos, se acaba la rima.

He learns super quick! I’ve been teaching him the basic phrases that he needs to know, but I’ll get some grammar in there too. His pronunciation is really good (mine is awful when it comes to French, but he can do that as well) for a beginner.

As for me, I’m hoping that I can finish another Spanish book before going to Spain and reading/listening to as many articles and podcasts in Spanish as possible to get my ears used to it again. I’m going to read El Alquimista by Paulo Coelho since I’ve already read another one of his books, Once Minutos.

It’s not going to be easy getting back into Spanish after having a semester off!

The Unintended Consequences of Globalization, and Farewell to Jaci

These last few blog posts are all going to come around the same time (near the end of the semester, how surprising), so you can probably guess why.


I got to hear so much Portuguese!!
Luncheon with the Speaker

Anyway, I went to an international luncheon back in mid-April where the speaker was focused on an issue at hand: the role of globalization in the shanty towns of Brazil. Most of us can picture it from action and adventure movies: locals living in shacks built so close together they merge into complex structures, dirty slums and alleyways winding through the favela which can only be navigated by those raised there.

 

It’s unfortunate that these communities are so often overlooked by municipal governments. In fact, the speaker herself said that Brazilians frequently consider favelas as part of the landscape-something to look at but not to visit. How are they to raise standards of living if complacency dominates?

But here’s the issue: attention is being given to these regions by good people for the wrong reasons.
Let me preface this with saying that globalization is a wonderful phenomenon that is raising the standard of living for many, many deserving people around the world. It is not to say, however, that it doesn’t have its unintentional consequences.

The problem takes root in our culture: our worldview is shaped largely by what we see on television because we’re not all fortunate enough to go experience many diverse cultures firsthand. Instead, people travel via Hollywood which shows a particular worldview that happens to sell the best; that worldview tends to be one of the most romanticized and exaggerated.

What typically comes to mind

Hollywood’s view of Brazil is dominated by favelas which are embraced as a part of Brazilian culture since they’re showcased as the birthplace of most of Brazil’s popular culture. However, inhabitants of these regions are considered disposable and 2nd class citizens.

 

Mysterious fires break out destroying homes, source

Since the population is largely apathetic, the state tends to displace thousands of people for the purposes of hosting mega events like the Winter Olympics and World Cup.

Protesters in demonstration against FIFA 2014

If the outrage over this mistreatment isn’t vocalized by the native population, then we hold the responsibility as the global community to raise awareness about the inequality that persists in Brazil and pressure the state into addressing the topic.

However, the world’s focus isn’t on how to improve situation but rather to experience the inequality and return home. Poverty is more of a comfortable experience than the harsh reality of life. The speaker summarized the goal of tourists: explore favelas with the intention of getting to know the real Brazil (whatever that means) in order to better understand the culture.

And thus, the favela touring industry is born.

However, the timeline of events isn’t necessarily so straightforward. The necessity of favela tours and rising frequency of hosing mega events is more of a feedback loop with origins that as unclear as whether the chicken or the egg came first.


And now that the call to action is over, I want to address an equally depressing topic: Jaci’s leaving! 🙁

I’m sure you can already tell by now, but we are all going to miss you so much! You were a friend to all of us, and personally I thought that you were incredibly understanding when I confessed that I was having trouble staying active in an international group due to my anxieties concerning school and social events.

You made the Global Engagement Program an even more inclusive and bright community, and we are indebted to your service. Wherever you go, you will make that organization brighter and better.

¡Muchísimas gracias por todo lo que haces, Jaci! Espero que superes todos de tus obstáculos futuros y que tengas mucho éxito.

P.S. Welcome to the family, Bushra!