Thursday, six days to Election Day

Arrived in NYC after a flight delay, and if nothing else good happens between now and Wednesday morning, at least there’s this: cabs now accept credit cards and have Taxi TV in the back, complete with GPS that shows you exactly where you are within a few yards of the actual location. Touch screens also have news, weather and sports highlights, and ads for condos costing a cool million or more. Bottom line, any tom, dick or habeeb now can ride a cab anywhere in the city without fear of being ripped off or lost.

FYI, from LGA to the New Yorker Hotel, just across from Penn Station and the Gardens, was $30, plus $5 for the Triborough Bridge toll (Midtown tunnel was backed up) plus tip for about $40.

Met up with friends from previous election duty and discovered a tiny italian place with $12 entrees and $26 bottles of wine. What the place lacked in quality it made up for with butter. Walking back we stopped at a noisy bar–Stitch–for a drink, but gave up trying to talk after one round and ended up back at the hotel bar.

Tomorrow at 10 we start election night tabulation/QC rehearsals at AP, preparing for what could be an election night with generational impacts. That and the Greenwich Village Halloween Parade and the Marathon on Sunday make this a great weekend to be in the city. We’re a stone’s throw from Macys big store at
34th Street, as in Miracle on, and last time we were here on halloween they did a heroic job of dressing their windows with classic horror film scenes, including spraying music and sound effects into the street.

in my culture…

Studying abroad leads you to many conversations that start out like this, “Well, in my culture in the United States…”  It is an interesting experience to be on the other end of questions from Argentines and French folks and to trade back and forth our impressions of each other’s cultures, habits, and why we think we live the way we do.  Studying abroad, I can’t help but find myself in these strange, awkward conversations trying to explain and at the same time tease out what is my own culture, making grandiose generalizations about the United States, something I never do at home.  Still, in this election time with all the polarizing dialogues, which the Bachmann controversy is presently putting in the spotlight, it’s a positive exercise to reflect on what we all DO have in common in our culture.
Last night, over a pizza at Café las Ciencias and a group project measuring and calculating equivalent ad valorem tariff rates in the U.S. and European Economic Community, one of my group members from France started telling me about the two gals from the United States in her building that were on vacation.  These gals went out every night until 5 or 6 am to “boliches,” or dances, and slept until two or three in the afternoon; they got up only to go to the gym and eat and begin the cycle all over again.  She said she didn’t understand why they find doing the same thing over and over again interesting.  Of course, I pointed out to her that people within the United States or any country are very heterogeneous, which for me is a positive, and that this kind of lifestyle or relaxation past, say, 22 years of age for me and many others holds no appeal.  We also started talking about why it is that many more Europeans vacation to destinations all over the world than Americans, who tend to be more highly represented on cruise ships and at beach front resorts.
This led me to an interesting observation, which I believe to be true.  We, the United States people, live in a culture of extremes; we like to live or believe we live intensely.  In part, our advertising culture trains us into this thinking.  These gals who go out to the boliches probably work very hard at their regular jobs to afford a week blowing off steam in South America.  Most Americans I know work very hard because they don’t have another choice, the standards for even basic jobs like store clerk in our country seem to demand much higher levels of productivity.  We work hard until our eyeballs hurt, then all we want to do when we are finished with our jobs is plop down in front of the television.  When we vacation, often we elect to go to a tropical beach with piña coladas and back massages before we go to a crowded city like Jakarta, for example. 
Before you accuse me of lacking patriotism, this is not at all saying Americans our lazy, simply that we vegetate intensely because we work at a more frantic pace.  The distance between our utility from relaxing and our disutility from work grows ever higher as we cling to our extremes.  Just as the basic assumptions behind utility tell us that higher utility comes from a consumption basket with more variety than a basket full of two of the same good, I think we could be happier if we all leveled out a little, myself included. 
Moreover, over a medium run, extreme work habits shunt our creativity and our productivity, and certainly the stress can shorten our lives.  A couple years ago, I read in a book on Simplicity (the popularity of these books in the U.S. and even the fact I was reading this is evidence that we work and do too much) that one will be much happier if one learns to love – not dread – all the things that one has to do.  One always has to make sure he or she gets a meal, cleans, makes the bed, sees that the laundry is done, lives below one’s means, and goes to a job or is in some way productive.  The secret to happiness is to love what you are going to have to do anyway. 
So whenever it takes me 20 minutes to get through the checkout lane because the clerk is taking her time here in Argentina, I am not stressed or flustered – because no one else is.  I have something to read or my iPod, and I know it takes me just as long at Wal-mart, only I wouldn’t notice because I’d be busy being rushed or complaining.

España #2

This is going to be a purely English blog entry for the sake of time and sake of every detail being expressed correctly.  I want to explain why it has been so long since I last updated.

In short, my mom tragically died on Sunday, September 21, when she fell from our attic.  She was only 50 years old and was in perfect health.  It was a pure accident.  It’s been a very difficult time in my life as you might imagine.  It’s truly the hardest thing I’ve ever had to endure.  But my mom was a very positive person and always smiled…she taught me to do this well.  And so I am focusing on the happy memories and all the wonderful things she taught me.  I’m taking her with me everywhere I go.

I returned home to the US for a week and a half to be with my family and friends.  Eventually, my dad and my brothers encouraged me to return to Madrid to finish out my semester.  We decided as a family that it would be the best decision for me and that my mom would want me to finish out this experience, which took a lot of hard work to set up.  So I built up some courage to make the difficult move; and with the support of family, friends, and community on both sides of the Atlantic, I find myself now back in Madrid.

Having missed two weeks of classes, you can imagine how far behind I am.  But I am doing what I can to get caught up, while taking care of my other needs like hanging out with friends and having fun.  Balance is definitely KEY right now for me!  Next week is going to be crazy as I have a quiz, 3 midterms, and a 7-page paper…Yikes!  But I am confident that I can do ok and salvage my semester…I’m dedicating my academic experience to my mom!  So naturally I want to make her proud with my academic effort.

I’ve been in Madrid since Thursday, October 2, and mainly I’ve been doing homework, hanging out with friends, and chilling around the city.  It has been relatively relaxed, which I need since the stress of being behind is sometimes present.  After this crazy week, I am planning on traveling to Leon to see the city as well as visit a good friend of mine from the States who is studying at la Universidad de Leon.  It should be fun.

Got to go study now for International Finance…tough tough class!  I’ll update soon!


PS I’m attaching a picture of me when I was at hanging out with my friend Teresa in the park in front of the presidential palace last weekend.  It’s a good, happy picture…also proves am I doing more than just studying 🙂 + there was ice cream involved!!! Enjoy: Sunday at the Palace


Traveling will be one of the most fun things you will do while studying here in
Europe.  You will have so much more time on your hands then you do while studying in the
U.S.  My roommate Suzi and I decided that we were going to do one big trip and visit some of the main cities on our list of places we wanted to see.  So we planned a trip that would take us to London, Dublin, Madrid, and
Paris.  We searched all of the travel sites and found that RyanAir has the cheapest flights available.  We did learn a very important thing while we were leaving the country.  As an American student you really should not get a student visa.  One of the girls traveling with us is from Canada and she got a student visa before she came to
Germany and as we were leaving the country she found out that they had made a mistake with her visa and only allowed her entrance into the country once.  So as we were leaving the Immigration officer told her that she wasn’t going to be allowed back into the country unless she went to the German consulate in London or
Dublin and got a new visa.  When she went to the consulate she was told that she never needed a student visa and that her passport was more than enough for her to enter the country and remain there for at least three months.  So we all learned that Student Visas are completely unnecessary for American and Canadian students.

            The first stop in our trip was
London.  I have to say that it is one of my favorite cities.  We visited Big Ben,

Palace, and all of the other major landmarks.  If you really want to get a good view of
London you should visit the Eye of London.  It is the largest ferris wheel in the world.  You could see everything from the top.  But my favorite thing we did was see Wicked.  It was an amazing production.

            From London we traveled to
Dublin.  In
Dublin we made sure to take a tour of the Guinness Storehouse.  At the end of the tour you go up to the gravity bar where you can get a 360 degree view of
Dublin along with a free pint of Guinness.  But the coolest thing we did was go on a day tour of

National Park.  We got to see the most beautiful countryside I have ever seen.  It is also the park where they filmed P.S. I Love You and Braveheart.

Madrid we went on a free tour of the city through the website  I would actually recommend that you take a look at this website if you are planning to travel anywhere in
Europe.  They offer free guided tours throughout most major European cities.  We also went on a pub crawl one of the nights and got to see
Madrid’s famous nightlife.

            From Madrid we went to
Paris.  This was my favorite city of the entire trip.  The buildings and landscaping of
Paris are the most Beautiful I have ever seen.  I honestly do not think there is a city that compares with it.  I was also very surprised because we were told numerous times that the French people would not be very friendly toward us since we were Americans but everyone we met was so sweet.  The very first day that we arrived in
Paris, we got lost trying to find our hotel.  We were able to find the general area where our hotel was located but not the building itself.  Two French guys saw that we looked lost and offered to help us find our hotel.  But
Paris is a city rich with history and there are dozens of amazing sights to be seen.  Of course we saw the main ones, the

Tower, and the Louvre, and several others.  My favorite thing was the boat tour we took at night.  I absolutely loved that city.  If you get the chance you should definitely visit it.