You say I’m lazy, I say you are.

I’ve stayed away from aggressive political posts until now, but I can no longer hold my silence.

You see, I want to explain to all of you who fight the bern why some of us embrace it.

I want to explain to you why my generation (in general of course) is not as entitled as my parent’s generation or my grandparent’s generation make us out to be.

I want to explain to you that we know “free” education is not really free; that the money must come from somewhere.

I want to explain to you why we too deserve the same rights and opportunities that you experienced when you were younger.

But, let’s make this post about me. Let’s make it correspond to my life so that those of you who are a little more sensitive don’t feel attacked.

First, I want a living wage and affordable education. You say I’m lazy, I say I deserve it.

Do you know that the past year in the United States I worked three jobs, THREE JOBS, every week to make ends meet on top of going to school for 22 credit hours? That is the equivalent of being in class 21 hours ( not including the class hours for my independent studies; not including the time I spent studying or reading or the time in the studio finishing projects). My breaks between classes were not breaks. I spent them working in the office of the building where I attended classes and while I could “study,” I wasn’t supposed to have text books open and on the desk per order of the higher ups.

When classes ended I went to my other job as a tutor or as a waiter and when I clocked out from those jobs I went back into the studio to study or work some more. I never made the 30 minute drive back home before 1 am and was always back on campus before 9 am. I worked 10-12 hours a week in the school office, 5 hours a weeks as a tutor, and 33 hours a week normally in the restaurant. That, for those of you not keeping track, is a 50 hour work week on top of 21 hours directly in a classroom.

Even with all of this time spent working, I struggled to make ends meet. I struggled to pay for the art supplies my classes requires (for those of you who do not understand how expensive these supplies are please understand that for example, in my painting class I had to spend 200$ in the beginning of the semester for basic supplies not including fees included later in the year, or for replacements etc.) and I had more that one art class. I struggled to pay for my gas, for the $200 book we used once, for the parking fees on campus and the counseling fees and for the required printing for classes. I struggled to pay for food and to pay for the work uniforms that were required. And I am LUCKY! My parents pay for my phone and my car insurance and my medical bills and let me move back in to save money before coming to spain. I have scholarships so my loan debt is only half of what my friends have racked up not even considering we attend the cheapest university in our region. On top of all of this, I made A’s in all of my classes besides one (a B+ as I missed the A by 3 points).

But, you still say I’m lazy? Well if this isn’t enough for you let’s take a look at the extracurricular activity. In one semester alone I organized the student side of the African Diversity Showcase which also included choreographing a traditional african dance, was the student liason between the art/graphic design programs and the Dean’s Student Council, and helped to organize and run the other art education students (by default under the professor) for the Student Art Workshop where we teach local kids. I was also a member of the Global Awareness Project and the Art Club. This was all just in the first three months. I won’t bore you with what happened the last three months of the school year or during the summer.

I worked so much and so hard that my body literally began to shut down. I developed vasculitis. My body began to attack itself and the blood vessels in my arms and legs burst leaving huge splotches of blood visible underneath the skin’s surface. It hurt to stand, to walk, to do anything that required moving the joints in my arms and legs because they were so inflamed with blood. All I wanted to do was sleep, and the doctor tried to tell me that I couldn’t work anymore in the restaurant–that I needed to rest, but I couldn’t.

But you say that I am entitled for wanting to be able to work and pay comfortably for my food and my gas. You say I am entitled and lazy for wanting my tuition and education FOR THE VERY LEAST at an affordable price. You must be right.

You see, this is just the surface of my reason for feeling the bern.

Let’s take this post back to my life here in Spain for a moment. Did you know I have never before seen a black or racial mannequin in my life before coming here? Did you know I have never been able to buy my hair products in a section not marked “ethnic hair care” or that I have never been able to buy makeup without some silly, dramatic name like honey bloom sunburst or stardust caramel while my mother can buy hers with a name like tan 345 as if my skin is some exotic dream and not a reality I live with every day. DID YOU KNOW I HAVE NEVER GONE SO LONG IN MY LIFE WITHOUT BEING CALLED BLACK BECAUSE GUESS WHAT? I am NOT ONLY BLACK. My cultural identification and allegiance is my choice and my ethnic heritage is a product of the blood that runs in my veins. I have never felt so un-objectified as a woman as I do here nor so respected. Our bodies are not images of sex here.

They say our generation has no great contributors. I say you don’t want to hear us. You bury us under school loan debt and red tape. You say our ideas are too radical and will not work. You tell us to shut up because our constitution says we are equals so we must be.

We know that nothing in life is really free. We are living proof. We attend school for an average of $10,00 a year in tuition if you are an in-state resident not including those pesky little fees like counseling fees, parking fees, and lab fees they add on in the fine print nor the textbooks and supplies. We are told go to school or you cannot find a job and make a living, but then we graduate and cannot live because the debt slowly chokes us while the older generation had a much closer comparison between their wages and the cost of attendance.

This post is nearing the length of a novel so I’ll wrap up my rant here. We, those crazy, entitled, selfish, lazy members of my generation only want to compete globally with the rest of the world. We want our chance to stand among the greats, to receive quality education at an affordable price, to receive affordable wages, to be able to care for our children when they are born with paternity and maternity leave, to have a clean and stable environment for everyone, to have healthcare for everyone, to stop the censoring of female bodies and for the idea of feminism to prevail. We want a world where I can see people like me reflected in the media, on posters, and as the mannequin in a store window. I stand as a social liberal and if I am lazy and entitled for that, then so be it.

 

 

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Im baaack (:

Well, after not having a computer for a few months I finally got mine fixed. I felt like it was time to write something since I’ve been checked out for so long. So here we go, a quick post about one of my favorite topics: family. But, not the family you have to say Happy Holidays to or the family who you have to smile at when together at the summer picnics and family reunions while they batter you with questions that reflect their own boredom with their lives (they are always the same ones): How is school? Are you getting good grades? Do you have a boyfriend/girlfriend? etc. etc. Quite unimaginative if you ask me, but we all have been victim to the Question Parade and quite a few of us have led the procession (I definitely have). No, the family I am talking about is the family you create while living–the family who falls into your life and just seems to fit as if perfectly molded into pace.

These people are the people you meet at the weekly market, at some bar friday night, while buying frozen yogurt, or while you both sit dazed in class. They are people who you meet and maybe they seem interesting so you go for coffee or sit together the next session.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I love my blood family. They drive me absolutely insane and everyone knows mom is the only one who can ruin my entire day with a look (how powerful is that?), but I really do love them. The difference is, I did not choose them. There is a power in selecting the people who remain in your life and there is a different kind of trust when you allow someone to have impact over you rather than a kind of “it comes with the territory” attitude. With less than three months left in Spain (77 days to be exact) my family here is something I have been thinking a lot about.

The people I have met here have been amazing. We have shared so many crazy stories and adventures together that I am pretty sure we could write a book series. The Adventures of Erasmus. We’ve been trapped in elevators, spent hours literally chasing drunk people through three-story clubs, shared nights that no one remembers, and have had more run-ins with the cops than I have ever had in my 2o short years of life.

I have seen most of you puking and the reverse holds true. I taught you about american food; yes, we have more than just hamburgers and you cooked for me in return.

You taught me about tolerance and how to enjoy life. Political discussions over a tub of beers has become something normal. You make me say words in your language just to laugh at my accent.

I’ve watched some of you create relationships and destroy those that existed before. I’ve seen others grow into themselves–become more confident and aware of their place in the world.

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I can’t imagine life without coffee at 3pm and kebabs at 5am.

I can’t imagine life without Adventure Time and hiking.

I can’t imagine life without Badulake (it’s a love/hate relationship).

But, I really cannot imagine my life without you all.

You see, you all have changed me. I don’t think I can explain it and I’m not sure that I want to, but you all have left tiny little erasmus footprints all over my heart. Some of you have stomped a little harder than others, but your mark is there.

And my only hope is that when this is all said and done, that when these next 77 days finally expire I have helped to change you all a little as well. I hope that I too have left my mark and that I will not be easily forgotten because, well, I love you all. You are my family and you will always have a home where I am. And if you aren’t pictured here, don’t fret my darling I assure you this post is for you as well.

Now, let the countdown begin. We have 77 more days, 77 more fiestas, 77 more chances for adventure.

New Year, Now What?

I tried to wait as long as I could before making a post for the new year; after all who wants to be lumped in with all the “New Year New Me” enthusiasts? So, I think almost a full two weeks after the bells rang is socially acceptable. Right? Therefore, I thought a quick post to introduce the second half of my adventure here was appropriate.

I’ve been here four months, and as the weather begins to hit 70 F it’s time to say goodbye to a lot of the great friends I have made here (side note: I’m sure I’ll get emotional and make an official goodbye blog by the time the new semester actually starts). A lot of the Americans have already left, most of my friends from Mexico will be leaving in a week or so, and about 2/3 of the European crowd will disperse by the second week of February. With time winding down and no exams in my future I have had a chance to reflect.

 

Before I came over here to the land of sunshine and siestas so many people told me again and again that this experience would change me. Well, I’m halfway through and if I can see the change surely you all can as well. Or I can at least romantically hope that it is evident to the public. The Tylie I am now is the Tylie I have always been; studying abroad just gave me the perspective to see myself, the strength to bring those parts I’ve kept boxed away to light and then the courage to admit my faults and shortcomings. This experience has humbled me and then given me a newfound confidence.

mexicanos!

I can’t put into words what is happening to me. I can just say that I feel it. Part of the process is the self-realizations I have had. I’m stronger mentally and less shy (yes guys, I really am shy deep down I just hide it very well). Perhaps the biggest one, for me, is that admitting emotions of any kind has become easier. Just ask Kaitie–I’m not very good with the emotional stuff but I’m working on it.

trapped in an elevator

So my darling American friends, please study abroad. We are so isolated and don’t have the chances the Europeans do to experience other cultures. While I am sure many of you see my facebook rants about our society another amazing effect of this program is that I now have more love and pride in my country than before. I just see our problems in a new, glaring fluorescent light. Besides, if you have been reading my posts and if you are a friend of mine on social media you probably have read at some point about our many adventures here (like recently getting trapped in an elevator). Wouldn’t you like to experience an adventure of your own? We are so young and the world is so large.

Spain is my home. I always said before that I never felt more accepted than in the art department at USI, but Spain blows all that away. I feel calm and relaxed here in a way I never have in the US. Of course, I miss my family in Indiana, however, I also have a family here. People who have watched me fail, excel and then fail again without judgement or expectation. So I’m going to keep working on me and I’ll keep you all updated. Stay tuned for the latest adventure or misadventure as some might view our exploits. The new year has just begun.

 

Friendsgiving

Well, it’s been a while since I wrote last and the truth is, for a while anyway, inspiration left me. I wasn’t painting, drawing (doodling in class does not count), or really doing anything creative at all. My sketchbook is nearly empty and at times I feared I would never have a muse again. But, anyway, this post isn’t about my lack of creative endeavor. It’s about how a group of erasmus/exchange students met in my apartment for a Thanksgiving that I will remember for a lifetime.

The planning started indirectly a couple months ago. Anyone who knows me understands that I thrive on organizing groups and events. I love to find any reason to create a gathering. So a couple months ago while I was sitting around with some Americans we tossed out the idea of having a Thanksgiving dinner and I immediately knew that I wanted to host.

A few weeks ago the real planning began. (Shout out to everyone who dealt with me.) We quickly developed the menu, organized a group almost 40 strong on Facebook, and started the seemingly impossible task of finding a Turkey without its head and feet still attached. The Americans were amazing–go team!–they quickly rallied together and started swapping ideas, recipes, and solutions to the selections in Spain’s supermarkets.

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(The Americans minus a few)

The day of was hectic. Because I don’t have an oven, Kaitie and I had to walk the 20 lbs turkey 15 minutes down the road to a friends house at 8 am, season the bird, make the stuffing and then proceed to explain to this Italian man in spanish how to maintain the moisture level of the bird. Then we had to run back to my place, clean, set-up and prepare my apartment for the onslaught scheduled to arrive at 2 pm.

 

This is where Martina (a girl from Slovakia) and Juliette (a girl from Paris) come into play. They are two of the greatest friends I have had the pleasure of meeting and they both insisted on waking up, going to the grocery store for more supplies, and being to my house by 10 am. They then helped with everything. (During the party they were also helping to serve everyone, keep up with trash and maintain the general sanity)

I must say, the party was a success! I was nervous and stressed by the amount of people scheduled to show up, but in the end this was by far the best Thanksgiving I have ever had. Not just because we are in Spain  or because the food was really good (absolutely amazing!!) but because of the people who came.

You see, Americans are stingy and greedy. It’s a stereotype I typically believe to be true and I myself am an American. Of course stereotypes don’t hold true in every circumstance and the Americans here with me in Spain definitely do not have those characteristics. However, I was more enchanted by those from different countries. I was receiving texts, messages, and emails about Thanksgiving from them some weeks in advance. They all wanted to cook and to bring food and to share. I didn’t know what to do. How could 40 people be so eager to share?

Finally, we ended up with a Thanksgiving feast better than some I’ve had in the U.S. complete with a mountain of alcohol (this is Spain after all) and homemade desserts. At one point, while waiting for the mac&cheese and the mashed potatoes to arrive, I thought I was going to be mobbed by people waiting to eat.  The excitement in the room, the laughter and the smiles and the general sense of one big, mismatched family made me want to cry a few times. In my overly dramatic mind, I thought of myself as some Thanksgiving army commander and we were celebrating some long, drawn-out battle. Yes, I’m weird I know.

So why am I writing all this? Because during those 5 hours filled with laughter and friendship I had an epiphany. I’ve said before that one of my biggest goals in life, one of the purposes I feel like I have here on earth is to bring laughter into the lives of others, but yesterday, I realized more.

We were all from different religions, ethnicities and countries but every single person there was so eager to learn about the customs and traditions of the person next to them. There was no judgement, no superiority complex. That is the type of world that I want to live in and it is most definitely possible. Maybe it just takes some turkey and a piso in Spain.

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Las leyes de España son opiniones

Un amigo me ha dicho: las leyes de España son opiniones. Estoy de acuerdo.

A friend told me, the laws of Spain are opinions. I agree.

It is curious to me how relaxed the police force here is. It is quite a contradiction with the strong, forceful arm of our police force in the United States and while I am sure that in other parts of the country it is not so, here in Murcia the appearance of the policemen and women is extremely tranquil. However, despite the lax force of the police, there is very little crime in my region and when the locals do break the laws, they are considered minor infractions. Kids being kids if you will because more often than not it is the youth who of course are pushing the limits. In fact, I have come to believe that the older population encourages the exploration and adventurous nature of the youth. Today, we decided to become a part of the more daring crowd.

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See that mountain with the giant statue? Yeah, we climbed to the top of that. Which was all good and fun until we got to this point.

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Because after this point there was a gate with a chain and padlock. But where some of the group saw “Keep Out” I and a few others in the group saw “This is Spain, Go for It!” So we did.

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Yep, that’s me. I was on the struggle bus a little bit and I’m not going to lie; the inner American in me kicked in, whispering “Stop, this is bad. You could get into trouble.”

I wish I had taken pictures of our struggles past this point and I know that a few of the others have pictures of us on the terrifyingly steep “stairs” but I was too busy trying not to fall down the mountain. In places, the stairs were so bad and steep we were basically crawling and in one place the stairs were completely washed away so we resorted to rock climbing. Going up was one thing, but coming down was even more terrifying. Have you ever climbed a rock wall without ropes? It was perhaps only 8 or so feet up/down we had to climb, but in the moment it was nerve-wracking. In the end, however, I have to say I felt extremely accomplished in a weird way. It took us an hour plus some change of walking to reach the base of the mountain, I sure wasn’t going to stop half way up.

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In a dramatically poetical way, I feel as though my excursion today parallels my struggles to get into this program and I couldn’t be happier with my decision. Ilegal? Maybe if you see doors with locks as barriers but especially after living in Spain, I see gates and locks as opportunities to get creative. The best views in life are often a little difficult to reach. And, after all, perspective changes everything.

Sliding farther down the throat of the Spaniards

My voice, a newborn deer in the language of the spaniards

Twisting and slipping in onto itself with new legs too long to bear the weight of their words

Folding amongst the Rs and the bowing to the insistent rhythm within their breath

And the bachata between their teeth; I cannot keep up, cannot keep pace

But in moments of excellence and flashes of brilliance

My mouth catches up to their relentless song

My tongue like a pájaro flitting through the spaces inbetween my teeth

My own breath whistling out in a musical rendition just a touch off-key

Learning Spanish has so far been a journey fitted with obstacles set to destroy our fragile confidences. I have been laughed at, mocked, and completely ignored and I am not the only extranjero here who has experienced this. However, it has only been a little longer than 2 weeks and I can feel the language sliding into my brain, taking hold there and it is an exhilarating experience.

At times, when I need to speak English (perhaps to another foreigner who does not yet speak spanish) words begin to mix in an interesting combination of English and Spanish. My grammar while speaking English often times takes the form of the Spanish language and the other Americans laugh in solidarity. Thinking in Spanish no longer is so difficult, The other night, I dreamed partly in Spanish and spelling has become distinctly more difficult in both languages as they brush up against each other in a rapid sensation of pulsing drum beats. At times now, when I am not prepared for it, English is even difficult to understand. It is happening, soon I will master this musical language.

En un autobús despistado On a bus clueless

Oh what a wonderful start to my day.

Today, some other ISEP students and I had to apply for our residency cards since we are staying in Spain longer than 90 days. The entire process was fairly easy with a few minor bumps along the way. The real fun started when we tried to take the 15 minute bus ride back to the city center where we all live.

Okay first, let me make a disclaimer. Being in a foreign country and barely speaking the language can really mess with your common sense sometimes. I mean, you can be so focused on counting out money, or trying to form the correct grammatical structure in your head that you end up forgetting basic rules about whatever situation was stressing you to begin with. It really is very common. With that being said, don’t judge us.

So, after having a little celebration at the bus stop because we FINALLY are done with the extensive government paperwork, we spotted our bus. We failed to notice however that the bus we were boarding was the exact same line as the one we took to get to the foreigner’s office and was heading in the opposite direction of the way we needed to go. So Sabrinah and I boarded the bus, paid for our ticket, walked all the way to the back, and waited for the others to join us. After a few seconds we saw our friends frantically waving to us and saying this wasn’t our bus. They quickly stepped off the bus, and after shooting to our feet and trying to run to the doors, the bus driver hit the gas and took off.

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All we could do was wave through the window as we passed our friends standing along the curb.

You think we would get off at the next stop right? Well the next stop was 10 minutes deeper into the outskirts of the city; an area lined with cactus speckled dessert and abandoned-looking factories. Great. Finally we were able to disembark. However, we had no idea where we were. Only that we needed to find a bus line heading south. Luckily, there were a few men at the bus stop who we could ask. They pointed us across the street to another stop so there we went.

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I still have no idea where in Murcia we were. The suburbs here are very much like the ones surrounding Chicago; they are their own entities but politically are a part of Murcia. Forty minutes later, after seeing 4 other buses pass by, we then finally figured out that con linea meant these buses connected with the line we needed to be on so hungry, tired, and hot we boarded the next one to pass through, paid for a ticket ( I have no idea what ticket the driver even gave us) and sat down for the ride. However, as we neared the second campus for our university (which is much bigger than my campus and still no where close to the center of the city) Sabrina and I decided it was much safer to get off this bus and to take the tram system instead because the tram runs in a circle and is pretty much idiot proof.

However, we had a close call at the tram station. Sabrina has a pass but I do not because I don’t have classes at this campus. Some students from the Chinese sister school here were having trouble buying tickets and holding up the line but the tram was approaching! Sabrina snatched my euros from my hand and in a few quick motions paid for the ticket but by this point the tram doors were open and everyone was boarding! The alarm that signifies the closing of the tram doors was going off and the machine still hadn’t given me my ticket. Finally, the machine spit out the piece of paper and we ran through the doors with seconds to spare. Holy shit.

Once in our seats we were able to laugh a little bit and catch our breath. The tension in our shoulders loosened up and I was oddly proud of us.The point is we made it. The tram ride was long, another 20 minutes, but we figured out what the heck to do and we eventually got back to the city center. Murcia 0 Foreigners 1.

Mi compañera de habitación

So I finally met my other roommate. Patricia (my landlord) had originally told me that my roommate was Swedish but Emilie most definitely is Belgium. She actually speaks English and Spanish very well along with her native tongue French but within the first few moments we met each other she very clearly expressed that she did not want to speak English with me. I completely respect her for it. So English is no longer spoken in my apartment or when she is with me. Its wonderful practice and sometimes hours go by without a single word of English. I am already getting better and more confident with my Spanish. It does not hurt that Emilie is such a sweet person.

It is also easy to practice Spanish here because the people are so wonderful. There have been a few exceptions though. For example, the first other Spaniard I met besides Paco the taxi driver was a woman named María. She refused to even try to understand me and was very rude. Then there was the bank teller. Those of us in the Isep program have to open bank accounts to receive our stipend and when we went to a bank to do so the man refused to help us. So Kaitie, Sabrina (a student from LSU) and I went to another branch where literally everyone from the manager to the tellers helped us enthusiastically.

So last night, Emilie, Kaitie and I went to this little fair near my apartment. Actually I should not say small. It stretched a couple blocks and was located directly next to the river. There was so much food and it all smelled absolutely amazing. There were spits of lamb, fresh corn being grilled, sausages being handmade, fresh seafood, and lots of alcohol. It is still a little weird being able to drink whenever I want and this weekend has definitely been full of vino y cerveza.

just taking a little stroll

Of course while there it started raining and we had to run back to the flat. By the time we got into our apartment we were soaked and laughing from how pathetic we looked.

¡Nuestra pelo!jajaja

Anyway we are about to walk to the bus station to pick up Emilie’s friend and I have now spent too much time thinking in English. I will post again soon. Keep in touch my loves.

¡Hola!

We are here! (actually we have been here for two days I just haven’t had time to write)

Arriving in Spain was insane. We had to run through Madrid’s airport to catch our connection to Alicante which we made with about 8 minutes to spare. Then, we had to find our taxi driver Paco who speaks no English whatsoever. That was interesting. We drove with him an hour to our home here in Murcia, where I am writing you from.

The city is wonderful and the food is even better. Kaitie, myself, Lenny (a 30 year old social worker turned translator from Germany who already speaks 3 languages) and Kaitie’s roommate Hailey (an interesting character of a girl; also a photographer I must add) went out to eat tapas and drink last night. Immediately everyone knew we spoke English, but the point was we tried and we succeeded. We’ve been shopping, out for café, out for food, and exploring through the city and each time we have to speak in Spanish because no one here speaks English. It’s absolutely thrilling. My Spanish is bad but the people can understand me and I can (sometimes) understand them. I am content.

Now, I must prepare myself for the day and go exploring before the city wakes up. Stay tuned for more pictures, videos, and posts.

We have arrived