*Journal Entry: Feb. 16, 2012*

I’m never going to talk about politics again (while I’m in Europe)!

Arguing is already hard enough for me to do in English; it’s INFINITELY more difficult in Spanish. But, I don’t like to shy away from giving/defending my opinions; so I put mine out there as well as I can. Unfortunately, “as well as I can” means shrugging my shoulders and saying, “yo no se” a lot. It’s not because I don’t know, it’s because I just can’t find the proper words to explain.

Additionally, there are big cultural differences a foreigner can’t understand. Imagine arguing about politics with a friend of yours in the U.S. OK, now imagine doing it in another language with someone who has never even visited your country. There’s a lot of extra explaining you have to do. Their perceptions of the USA, its culture and its politics come only from what they see on TV and in movies.

Then, you get grilled with questions like, why don’t Americans care about the human rights violations that the U.S. commits? Or why don’t we care about how we occupy other countries just because of monetary gain or natural resources? And those are just really, REALLY difficult questions to answer when they are phrased in such an accusatory manner, so I just say I don’t know enough to talk about it. But a lot of people think that way about the U.S.

For my host-mom, the most important thing for her is the human rights of poor people to have the basic things they need in order to live. But that’s not exactly my greatest priority. I worry more about education and the state of the economy. Well, how can you say that basic human rights aren’t the most important thing on your agenda without looking like a jerk? Answer: YOU CAN’T.

Among other things, she thinks that the people who make the most money are the people who should pay the most taxes. I was basically saying that it might not be a great idea to tax the heck out of rich people because they are the ones who create businesses and jobs in the first place, and that’s something our country needs more of (maybe a good idea would be to tax the heck out of people who send the jobs overseas and give a tax break to business owners who keep the jobs in the U.S.? Meh, I have no clue, I’m not an economist). She also kept asking me about the poorest of the poor and how to help them. I don’t have the answer. I just don’t think handouts are the solution. “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” The only thing we agreed on was that the U.S. public education system needs some serious reform. It’s shameful, really. One of the worst. How embarrassing.

In conclusion, due to my lack of eloquence and ability to portray my ideas correctly, I’m done talking politics while I’m in Europe.

I’m curious though, how would you reply to the questions I wasn’t prepared to answer, like, “Why don’t Americans care about the human rights violations that the U.S. commits?” and “Why don’t Americans care about how you occupy other countries just for monetary gain or natural resources?”

Día de San Valentín

St. Valentine’s Day in Spain. Not a big deal. Or, rather, not as commercialized as it is back in the good ‘ole U.S. of A.  I think I might have seen only two or three pink and red window displays in the weeks leading up to it. No little Cupids hanging in stores or on windows, no random hearts, I didn’t even see people selling flowers on the streets. People didn’t dress special on Valentine’s Day. I didn’t see any more red shirts than usual. I don’t know if there were commercials on TV advertising for it, because we don’t have a TV in this apartment.

That’s right. The last time I watched TV was when I was in the U.S in January.

People acknowledged St. Valentine’s Day, at least. I saw couples holding hands and making out (but that’s not strange, Public Displays of Affection are EXTREMELY COMMON in Spain, and nobody bats an eyelash when they pass by two people trying their darnedest to eat each other’s face right in the middle of the street).

And some guy I had met the week prior texted me “Happy Love & Friendship Day” in Spanish.

But that was about it as far as February 14th in Spain went. If you were expecting throngs of dashing young men playing Spanish guitars and singing love ballads outside the windows of their beloveds with bouquets of roses all over the place (like Hollywood would have you believe), you were very, very wrong.

guess HOPE Spaniards save their romantic stuff for some other time!