Sunday, March 28, 2010
Friday, March 26, 2010
Yeah, heading off to Madrid, but I've become enamored with this place. The people, the culture, everything.
There's two things I need to highlight in this third installment of my commentary: Women and food.
Actually, it could be one. Instead of tacos de ojo it's been a month of tapas de ojo.
Talking to my Spanish roommate from back home before coming over here, we had a discussion about where the most beautiful women in Spain were. Having spent a few days in Barcelona the year prior, I suggested the Catalunyan women were very beautiful. He said that that was a very dumb thing to say and then swore to high heavens that Andalucían women were the most beautiful in Spain and quite probably the world. I laughed in his face. It was a naive thought. I mean, I'm from northern Mexico and have traveled all around Texas. Surely there couldn't be women as beautiful as that.
And I was wrong.
Andalucian women are absolutely gorgeous. That's all there is to be said on the matter and it unfortunately brings in this connundrum.
Who is hotter?
Mexican women from the north
or Texan women?
As for the food ... well...it's all been so delicious. I cannot say for certain what's been my favorite meal. Maybe it's the boquerones, a type of anchovy cured in lime and olive oil, or "pechuguitas Ithaka" chicken dumplings cured in lime or...yeah.
Interesting thing about Granada and the Andalucian coast, is that it has a lot of coastal things that wouldn't be amiss in Mexico. Mangos, oranges, limes, etc. No grapefruit, though.
And Granada has the only aguacate crop in possibly the entire European union.
I have two anecdotes. Not my own, of course, but common lore here:
The first is that of a blind beggar who was out...well, begging for money, in the city of Granada.
A noblewoman walks by and she brushes him off. A passing knight sees this and tells her,
"Dele limosna, señora, que no hay mas pena que ser ciego en Granada"
The second anecdote deals with Boabdil, the city's last moorish ruler. Legend has it that when he left the city after turning over the keys to Fernando and Isabel, he turned back and looked at the city. He wept and his mother turned to him and said, "Why do you weep like a woman for that which you could not defend as a man?"
I understand why Boabdil wept.
I understand why being blind is a misery here.
And now I leave...who knows when I'll be back.
I'll stop by Madrid for a few days before heading back home. Maybe I'll post from the capital.
Tuesday, March 23, 2010
In which Eagleheart muses and then takes on socialized healthcare, socialized education and the European Union...
Haven't written in awhile.
Been enjoying my time here. Visited the Alhambra last weekend...three hours after coming back from a night out. I still had fun, though. Seeing the city from above (got to experience the same sight several days later from the opposite side of the Alhambra, in the neighborhood of the Albaycin. Photos available on my facebook, since I can't be assed to put them up in photobucket. Not right now, anyway. Stupid connection issues.
Speaking of connection issues but not really, Lady Gaga is going to Houston this summer. And I SO SO BADLY WANT TO GO.
Anyways, where was I? Oh, yeah. Albaycin. Or Albaicin. Spelling is really up to the user. Something I haven't said about Granada before, is that it's an old city.
NO SHIT EAGLEHEART ITS EUROPE ITS THE OLD WORLD LOL
Well, yeah, BUT. There's some pre-Roman stuff here. Not a lot, but it's here. To the history buff, meaning me, this place is wonderful. I’ve also visited the Capilla Real, where Fernando of Aragon and Isabel of Castilla (and Juana la Loca and Felipe I de Castilla and the infant Miguel de Paz) are buried.
It’s interesting, to consider the what ifs.What if the rulers of Granada had not decided to fight against each other when the Reconquista came?
What if Columbus had been turned away from the Catholic Monarchs, too?
Some would say that if it wasn’t for the fall of Granada 1/2/1492, millions upon millions of native Aztecs, Tlaxcaltecas and Huastrcas would have survived and the Mayan codices would not have been burnt and we’d all traveling the Empyrean in Mayan spaceships.
Or we’d be speaking English.
Mexican race came out of it, so I can’t complain too much. ,)
AUTHOR'S NOTE: THE BULK OF THIS NOTE WAS WRITTEN BEFORE THE PASSING OF THE 2010 HEALTHCARE BILL.
Every one in Spain is entitled to healthcare. Even tourists. If I fell sick, I could get treatment.
Yeah, there’s private care available, too, but it’s just as good and it’s by the same doctors. America, how hard could this be to understand?I understand restrictions for certain things like plastic surgery.
I mean if you’re Juan and want to be Juana, you shouldn’t chop off your Johnson on the government’s dime. Ditto boob jobs and facelifts. Anything that is purely cosmetic (and not a result of severe burns) should not be covered on a comprehensive healthcare package. Anything else, why not?I mean, it’s not like we’re not wasting money on other fruitless ventures like working to pad the former Vice President’s stock portfolio or stupid research grants.
Just do it, America. Doctors here make some pretty mean cash. There is no starving doctor.
But hey, I understand, some American doctors just HAVE to have that yacht and that Spyder. Not saying all of them are like that, but, still.
Lines won’t be too long. If you run into the ER with a gunshot wound that could be mortal you’ll be treated right then and there. And if you need a transplant, yeah, there’s lines and yeah, you could get a quicker deal with a privatized agency BUT it's not as obscene as it's painted to you by your local tea-party mouthbreather (the hypocrisy of these jerks will be discussed in later events) AND it evens the playing field. It means that if Paris Hilton and I get medical treatment, mine will be just as good as hers.
“Why do you hate America, Eagleheart?”
I don’t. Rich people are no better than poor people and viceversa. And there’s none of this multiple hundred dollar price tag just for a doctor to tell you “Oh. You have a cold.” If that doesn’t convince you, here’s an excerpt from the United Nations declaration on human rights:
Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.”
The U.S. signed this.Then again, we know how good they the U.S. is at adhering to promises ;)
I’m still undecided how I feel about it. I think it’s great that education is free and that even for college will be relatively (as in…there’s ways to get it for free if you fill out the right forms) inexpensive.
But what happens when you have two-three decades of this? Everyone’s got their master’s, everyone’s got their bachelor’s. The only thing that sets you apart from the herd is your score on the placement exam…which is neat.
I could argue for it screwing over people who aren’t good standardized test-takers but that’s just a cop out when you get down to it.If you do well on that exam, you could do fun things like go into medicine.If you don’t, well, you could major in the humanities or something like that and hope you find a job somewhere.
In the United States, it’s not like everyone has a bachelor’s degree or something beyond that, so the more terminal a degree is, the more employable you are (in certain professions) Would I like to see universal education? Yes, most definitely. Everyone deserves a fair shake.
But I would rather fix the broken and bipolar education system first and then I can get a little bit more comfortable. Health care first.
In any case, there are many parallels between this system and the American system. If you don't like public schools, you can pay for private schools. Merit-based scholarships are numerous here, too. However, race-based scholarships are rare. So are the"Oh, my grandfather's great grandfather once shook hands with an Indian" type of scholarships.
However, education in the private and public sectors is great and the only key difference is that going throug private school means your kid probably doesn't get to hang around as many immigrant children. But it's still pretty good. Most European countries learn all about the world, learn proper history, and possibly pick up another language or two. The ERASMUS grant discussed in the previous commentary also gives them a distinct advantage.
Back in the States, there is an unfortunate disparity between the public schol and private school systems. I do not believe the school makes the student. I believe a smart student is just as likely to succeed in either environment. However, with the horrible deficiencies propagated by lying textbooks and teachers who have to teach to a flawed TAKS or state test, I'd say there's more risk in public school there than here.
What’s next? Oh, the European Union.
So I’m in class, right, and we’re going over some laws about the European Union. So then the professor starts talking about the organization of the EU and then he kind of casually, matter-of-factly, talks about how the following is entirely possible:
· Any member of the EU can go to another country in the EU and have passive and active suffrage in municipal elections. Active suffrage meaning they can vote for a candidate, and passive suffrage meaning they can be voted for.
· If I don’t like the way a criminal or civil court treats me in Spain, I can appeal it to the higher courts of the European Union.
What the fuck? I mean, I think it’s great to have free travel between national boundaries.
But…to threaten your national autonomy like that?
Oh, sure, let me rob a bank in Barcelona but then when I get arrested I’ll complain that I was unfairly treated and with a good lawyer I stand a sure-shot of appealing a ruling against me.
Just think about the possible ramifications of that. It would make a mockery out of existing extradition rules.
In the United States, it would probably lead to good things like the destruction of the border wall in the southwest and the legalization of marijuana throughout the northern frontier.
But Mexico and the United States, while being historically linked (no Mexican session = no United States. No Santa Ana = frontier ends in Louisiana) are two very different countries in about everything else.
Europe was like that, with several nation-states duking it out and each kicking ass in its own terms. Now it’s moving slowly towards being a single republic again. Crazy. And don't get me wrong, I love the Euro, and I understand it brought back several economies from ruin. This is good.
What is not good is that combining the other factors, you begin to seriously undermine your own nation's autonomy. Now just wait until the Turks (who still haven't recognized the massacres in WWI) get brought in.
That's all for now, folks. Time to enjoy my last few days in Andalucía.
Sunday, March 14, 2010
This particular entry will deal more with the idea behind tapas rather than the food. The food bit I'll comment on later.
Anyway, what are tapas?
Tapas, are simply put, the Spanish equivalent to tacos.
Meaning that in its most basic, simplistic definition, a tapa is a piece of bread that you put stuff on it.
However, they take on a whole different social situation here.
On two fronts.
On the first, it's such a small meal that you could eat five-six times a day and it'd be the equivalent of a three-meal day back home, key difference being that food over here tends to be healthier and people walk more, etc.
The other front is that you tapear is synonymous with bar-hopping here. An idea like that would not fly at all in the United States for two reasons, the drinking issue (where a majority of people absolutely positively completely need to drink) and because the portions are small.
So, what happens on any given night in Granada?
You leave your house, your piso as it is called over here, at about ten or so. You meet up with your friends somewhere, then head to a place that sells tapas, which is about 95% of the food establishments here. You order a beer and the beer comes with a tapa, sometimes it's cook's choice, sometimes you pick your own.
Then, you go to another tapa place.
Then, you go to another tapa place.
Then, you go to another tapa place.
Then you could hit up a bar or club.
Then you go home. At six or seven in the morning.
I got to experience that last night with my two awesome roommates here. We left home at about ten p.m., more or less. I of course, was dressed...respectable. Better than I've looked in some, most, or maybe all cases.
We hit up three tapa bars, stopping for a caña (a beer) at Ithaca, La Quintana, and La Pajuana. At Ithaca we had the most delicious lime-cured lightly breaded chicken tapas, at La Quintana we had...I don't know what it was, but it was not as good as the previous place. It had some pretty interesting microbrews that were in a red bottle and had CHICKS ON SPEED on it.
Then at La Pajuana, we had a hamburger-tapa that was DELICIOUS. I mean, nothing like Ernie's, of course, but if I ever see a Southmost-style burger in this corner of the world, I would probably die.
Following that, we hit up a cocktail bar, then two nightclubs, stopping and staying from 4 a.m. onwards at one particular one called El Principe. It had guys on stilts walking around and dancing, and a violinist that was...trippy.
Then we got home at seven, and three hours later I was awake, getting ready to go to the Alhambra.
Some interesting things about last night:
1. Dark shirts are not common in nightclubs at all. Spaniard men go about in bright colors. I am not joking.
2. Whiskey and water is an old man's drink here.
3. Toronjas do not exist in Spain, which kinda made me look dumb to one of the cocktail bar's bartenders because I asked for a paloma.
Wednesday, March 10, 2010
Here's a number of things I've been noticed about the people here.
The drinking age is 18 here. Woop, woop.
Lowering the drinking age in the United States would make parties funner, yeah, and there'd be an increase in the debauchery of Spring Break. BUT BUT BUT people here know how to drink.
Along with most of my friends, I was raised to know how to drink. Discovering limits was okay and pushing my body past the limits was okay too, but only once and then only to learn why it's bad to push said limits to a breaking point.
It is common, or rather, the norm here to have a beer, maybe two with lunch and dinner.
The picture above was taken at the cafeteria in the med school here at the University of Granada. Were we to have one at UMIX at UTB/TSC, not only would Mr. Escudero (the owner) be able to put his 8 kids through med school without taking a loan, but he could probably get a house in the Hamptons, too.
Why? Because people like to drink to excess back home. No matter the time of day. Bars open early on and don't close till the wee hours of the morning. It's like a need for these people to go about life glassy eyed.
And "it's the valley lolololol they have to drink LUL" is NOT a good excuse. We have all sorts of greenery, it's not cow country like in other parts of Texas, and it's great weather. It's not a shitty place to live. You want shitty? There's two huge continents in this hemisphere that are truly shitty to live in. Here's a hint, they both start with A and neither of them are Australia.
People need to learn to drink. If people drank European (or at least how they drink here in Granada), the United States would be in a far better place.
On another note, it's not kosher here to drink whiskey straight. And it's okay for guys to drink chick drinks here without the respective snickering. The horror!
Driving here is a combination of Houston and Monterrey driving, with the added bonus that pedestrians are out to get you as well. It's laissez faire, here, but somehow people manage not to murder each other that readily. Oh, and you can't drive until you're 18 here. Which is AWESOME. Really. Too many brats out on the road back home.
Food is...delicious. Here's the thing about Spaniards--they don't eat a lot of spicy food. This works great because I don't, either. Every plate I've had (and lord knows I've had a lot of plates) has been absoluetely delicious. The only exceptions have been two: Partridge Paté (wayy too strong for my taste) and queso cabrales, a cheese from the Asturias region of Spain that smells and tastes as if it was cured in shit. Everything else has been delicious.
Things to note:
Tortillas:Mexico :: Bread:Spain.
It's good, though. Tostadas (toast, not tortilla chips, funny enough) are good. I think my favorite so far has been the one with anchovies cured in olive oil and lemon and one I had today, which is a tostada with tomato and olive oil.
Olive oil's quite common.
4. Socialized medicine
It's not the boogeyman the United States is afraid of. If you're sick, you'll get treated, no matter who you are or where you come from. If you want "better" treatment (it's on an equal level) you can pay for it. Most doctors that work for public hospitals also supplement their income with their own private practice in the afternoon. None of them are starving, they just want to make more money. TAKE THE HINT, UNITED STATES. This type of socialized program is NOT BAD. Unless it's managed in the "oh shit, we actually have to do shit?" style (more commonly known as FEMA style)
The only thing there seems to be a backlash for is that some people don't like the idea that their money pays for sex changes.
But, honestly, if the gubmint's going to take my money, I would rather pay for Chris to be Christine than pay for the invasion of a sovereign land on false pretenses.
5. Crime and Punishment
The Spaniards are a wee bit too lax. Shoot, rape gets you 10 years and murder gets you 30. You only get more years in jail for terrorism (separatist or otherwise). Some are trying to change that, but the rule is a bit liberal in that it believes people can change.
And my opinion is NO.
Some people don't change. Some people are just plain fucked up. Yes, society breaks some of these people, but the way to account for this mistake is NOT by letting a rapist get off after a slap on the wrist (ten years minus good conduct minus what the lawyer can get off equals slap on the wrist). It's extreme measures. I'm all for castration of proven rapists, not the oh my girlfriend is 17 and I'm 22 ones, but the ones where the girl is 16 and the guy's like thirty. Rape is NOT okay.
6. Gun control
Getting a gun here is pretty hard. Currently in Granada there's a case where eight guys break into this guy's house, tie him up and proceed to sexually assault his daughter. The guy goes to the safe where the money is, finds a gun and shoots one dead and wounds the other one. The rest flee.
GUESS WHO'S ON TRIAL FOR MURDER? (hint: it's not the criminals)
in Texas, if the case would even make it to a jury, he'd get a standing ovation.
And for good reason. You come into my house and try to rape someone I hold dear, I'm going to shoot you dead. And I'm going to make sure you're dead so that you won't try to get off on a technicality.
(That said, an armed campus is a bad idea, but that's a rant for another day)
7. Ctrl+A is Ctrl+E
This makes me MAD. Why is it ctrl+e to select everything here? If Ctrl+A is Ctrl+All, then what is Ctrl+E? Ctrl+Everything? Would make sense except it's a SPANISH KEYBOARD. raaaaarl.
That's it for now.
The ERASMUS program is simply one of the most brilliant programs devised by Europeans. Basically, say you're getting a degree in X. With the ERASMUS program, you can study a year in any university in the EU and all credits will be counted towards the degree, whether it be a bachelor's degree or a master's degree. It's a bit like study abroad programs in the United States except you actually study abroad and not take 1 class and then play grab-ass with the other clowns who believe THAR BE DRAGONS* once you get past Raymondville.
In the class I am taking right now, there's three italians from the program and they're all pretty cool people. (There's also two Colombians and one Mauritanian. The Colombian accent reminds me heavily of the Chihuahuan accent. Pretty neat.)
Hopefully one day the EU and the United States and Mexico could get together to have a ... something program like that. Unfortunately given how Eurocentric Europe can be and how Americocentric the US can be, it's unlikely. The horror of some Americans to discover that they weren't the ones to singlehandedly win WWII and the horror of some Europeans to discover how much stuff comes from the Americas that they enjoy in their life would be far too much too handle. One thing, though. Everyone in my class speaks good Spanish, and good Spanish. Obviously it was the first language of many of the people in the class, but it was the second and even third of some others. I am told that in Spain other languages aren't stressed as much (unless of course you are raised in Cataluña or Vizcaya in which case you tend to be bilingual from the start) but elsewhere in Europe, being bilingual is the norm. Back in the U.S., being bilingual makes you awesome, being multilingual has colleges and employers beating a path to your door. Here, not so much.
That said, it's a bonus for people like me over there, who stand out and are easily found. The problem here is that since everyone's educated, you have to be pretty lucky to stand out more. Maybe save the prince's baby...from a burning house...while naked...fighting terrorists...and cooking paella...blindfolded.
Stinging 'em hard from Granada,
*--Point of view is the rule, but there are several exceptions
Saturday, March 6, 2010
And by full course, I mean I think I'm done eating for the rest of the month.
Tapas of all kinds. Morcillo (ox blood), pipirrana (tomato and tuna and I don't know what else) and all sorts of food. Six courses overall.
We also visited a badass Cathedral with incredible wood detail.
To get there, we had to cross several mountains. Mountains full of olive trees. Far as the eye could see. Olive trees. Olive trees...one could almost write a song on olive trees.
Anyways, enough chit-chat, here's some pictures (to see a better image, just follow the link in the image):
The head at the top of the cathedral represents a kid who was naughty, so his father, who was a roofer, caught him misbehaving, drowned him, cut off his head and put it on the ledge to warn kids that misbehave.
Outside the Cathedral of Jaen
Woodcarving in the "sillero" inside the cathedral
Moorish baths in Jaen
Outside the Saint Catalina Castle in Jaen
Sting 'em hard!
Friday, March 5, 2010
One of the first things I saw after the airport sign, was a warning sign on a crosswalk near the runway that said "YOU ARE NOT A PRIORITY"
How nice of them.
Anyhow, I'm apparently experiencing the first good weather this region's had in nearly 2 months, and that in those two months it had been alternating between heavy cold and rain.
My shoulders are sore from lugging around that big ol' backpack of mine. I think I smacked a couple of people senseless on the way into my seat.
About the city, it's my first day here, and damn.
Granted the student population of about 84,000 has a lot to do with it, but still.
Goddamn. I saw like one fatty and he was only a dozen pounds heavier than I am.
And the city of Granada has a plaza called "El Botellodromo" [loose translation would be the Bottledome] where starting every Thursday, everyone gathers there to drink publically. On a normal weekend, it's about four or five thousand people just there, chilling and drinking under authorization from the government.
Wonder how an idea like that would fare in the United States [outside of Spring Break]
A view from my window:
Desde Granda hacia el mundo,