Sunday, November 13, 2016

The Future is Female

Here on the blog I have been reminiscing about my travels in Europe as I wrapped up my final semester at Franklin University Switzerland. 
But, my heart is bursting with emotions right now. So, I'm taking a break from nostalgia and writing down all of my thoughts and feelings about this last week. 


I get the New York Times headlines delivered to my inbox every morning. I follow the Washington Post, BBC, The Atlantic and NPR. It's fair to say that a good amount of my free time (especially during my commute) over the last 2 months has been spent listening to, or reading about, what highly intelligent people think about the Presidential election. 

So, I sat in my rowhouse near Capitol Hill in Washington D.C. on the night of the election and texted my mom that "some pundits are predicting that Hillary could sweep it and call a victory by 10pm."

(free tee shirt I snagged on the street!) 

The day before the election I was mentally planning out where to pick up a copy of The Washington Post and The New York Times with their historic headlines about our first female president. 

I thought about how exhilarating being in D.C for her inauguration would be. 

Would there be another white pantsuit involved?! 
(Hillary after accepting her DNC nomination)

On election day I was a little bit anxious, but mostly just excited. I saw the feeling described as a combination of how you felt on Christmas Eve as a kid and the feeling you might have right before a major surgery, which in all likelihood will go well, but has a small chance of being life-threatening. 
Excitement. Nervousness. A little bit of dread. 

All day long my social media and news feeds were blowing up with election day posts that had me feeling all kinds of patriotic though. 
I saw one news article that said the line to put "I Voted" stickers on Susan B Anthony's grave was over a mile long. 

The time to shatter the glass ceiling seemed to have finally arrived. 

^ Suffragettes who fought for women's right to vote. 

When women gained the right to vote in 1920 with the 19th amendment how long do you think the suffragettes thought it would take to get a female in the oval office? Some probably were optimistic they'd see it in their lifetime, but after facing such vitriol over even the right to vote, I'm sure the knew it'd be a long road. 

The NY Times (along with every other mainstream news source) had Hillary's odds of winning at about 89% though. It basically seemed a given that tonight would finally be a celebration after a loooonnnggg and ugly campaign! 

Trump himself had spent the last few weeks on the campaign trail preparing for defeat by insisting that the election was rigged. 

But to my horror I spent the next 8 hours that night in front of the television watching the map slowly turn red. 
The CBS news anchors were as confused as I was. 
I frantically texted my friends and family, confirming, "is this really happening??" 

Even though from 11pm onwards it became pretty clear where this was headed, I couldn't look away. Like a captain that goes down with her ship (or maybe I just still was holding onto some hope), but I I had to see it through to the bitter end. I stayed up until 3am, right after Podesta sent Hillary's crowd home and Trump shockingly announced that Hillary had called him and conceded. 

I listened to his victory speech in tears. 
Instead of the celebration that everyone told me to expect I was blindsided by shock and grief for the future of our nation. 

As an upper middle-class, straight, white female I realize that I'll be ok. 
I come from a privileged enough background that I'm not immediately concerned for my safety or the safety of my family. But that doesn't make any of this "ok". 

I cried thinking of the families who are now wondering it they are about to be torn apart and sent to live in different countries. 
For refugees who will be denied entry into the US on account of their religion. 
For families who depend on Obamacare for health insurance and are worried about what their world will look like after January. 

Climate Change. LGBT rights. Education. Women's Health. 

These are all just some of the issues that we've made strides on in the last 8 years which Trump has promised to reverse. 
Hillary Clinton may not have been a perfect candidate. 

She was part of the establishment. She was willing to compromise if it meant political success. And those "damn emails"!  

She wouldn't have been a revolution, but her presidency no doubt would've been evolution
We would have progressed as a society with Hillary Clinton. 

Under Trump's stated plans for his time in office there is nothing but destruction. 

The choice seemed so clear between someone with 30 years of political experience (first lady, senator and secretary of state!) and someone with zero political experience, along with a string of sexual assault allegations and pending lawsuits. 

I just can't understand how so much of the country decided that they didn't care about the truth, they were just angry. They wanted someone who would tear down the system. They truly believe that Trump will provide a better life for them, and if that comes at the cost of minorities, women, the environment, LGBT individuals, refugees, our allies in other countries, that's all a-okay. 

How a woman, a minority or a person of any religious background could choose to vote for Trump is beyond me.Those two identities seem irreconcilable 

I thought America was ready for its first female president. 

I finally went to bed at 3:30am broken hearted, defeated and exhausted. 

November 9, 2016. 

11/9. The day the U.S. elected an openly racist, bigoted man to serve as our president. 

As I was getting ready for work in the morning (after 4 hours of sleep) I thought I heard the patter of rain on the skylight, but figured it was just wind. Sure enough when I looked outside though it was raining. 

Even the heavens in D.C. were weeping. 

No one wants to see the Obamas go and Trump to take over the nation. 
I walked to the metro station in the rain and everything was so quiet. 

This is Hillary at 22. 

And this is the Hillary I thought about the most on election night and as I walked to work in the rain. 
I'm 22 right now and couldn't help but cry as I put myself in her shoes and imagined seeing a glimpse of the future. So much success, but to have to the ultimate crowing achievement so blatantly and unfairly snatched away. After 30 years of public service, to lose because you aren't "likable", because people don't "trust you", when you've done nothing more than what every other esteemed male politician did to succeed in the game. It's just the fact that you're a woman.

I cried thinking about how much I've read about her 20s, how young and idealistic she was. But how the world wasn't ready for an empowered feminist in politics. How she had to change her last name so that Bill could get re-elected as Governor, because the people of Arkansas found it highly suspicious that she kept her maiden name. How the American people never quite got over the fact that she wanted to be a First Lady that actually made a political difference. With an office in the West Wing, as oppose to "baking cookies". 

30 years of public service and losing because you aren't likable enough. 

While you're opponent has been recorded bragging about sexual assault and people don't care. 
(local DC papers) 
Washington D.C. at least voted for Hillary by the ridiculous margin of 92% Hillary to 4% Trump. 
I was at work when Hillary gave her concession speech, but that didn't matter, the tears came anyway. 

"I know how disappointed you feel because I feel it too... This is painful and it will be for a long time." 

"The American Dream is big enough for everyone. For people of all races and religions, for men and women, for immigrants, for LGBT people, for people with disabilities. For everyone." 

" This loss hurts, but please never stop believing that fighting for what's right is worth it." 

" And to all the women, and especially the young women, who put their faith in this campaign and in me: I want you to know that nothing has made prouder than to be your champion." 

" Now I know that we have still not shattered the highest and hardest glass ceiling, but someday, someone will -- and hopefully it will be sooner than we might think right now." 

" Scripture tells us let us not grow weary of doing good, for in good season we shall reap. My friends let us have faith in each other, let us not grow weary and lose heart, for there are more seasons to come and there is more work to do." 

I cried and CRIED on Wednesday and Thursday because this just seemed like a horrible dream. And the more I thought about the implications of a Trump presidency the worse that pit in my stomach got. 

4,000+ positions in  government, nominating a supreme court justice, plus a republican controlled congress. Where are our checks and balances?! 

The only thing that made me feel a little bit better was talking to friends and family members who were just as upset as I was. And they are not going to quietly let our country go to shambles. 

( ^ courtesy of the brilliant New Yorker) 

At about 7pm on the night of the election I was on the phone with my two youngest brothers for 1.5 hours talking about the moral challenges and the forces of good and evil in the Star Wars universe. 

I know.

It started out as a casual comment about how excited I was to see the new Rogue One movie with them in December. And before I knew it we we were an hour deep into a discussion about the moral lessons we can learn from the clone wars! 

We spent a lot of time talking about Palpatine's rise to power. How he becomes the elected chancellor and eventual emperor of the new republic. How he deceives so many people (including the jedis!) and manufactures a war just so he has an enemy to help catapult and consolidate his rise to power. We all agreed that Anakin (despite all of his 

At the time I was still sure that Hillary was going to win, but the conversation about good and evil and electing a tyrant seems so spooky now in light of what transpired that night. 
So now what? 

Forget moving to Canada.  

I'm going to stay and fight. 

Join the "rebel alliance." Continue supporting the causes I am passionate about and speak out against things that I know are wrong. 

As a NY Times article put it, "elections determine who gets the power, not who offers the truth." 

Women gained the right to vote through the 19th amendment in 1920 maybe it will be poetic that 2020 will finally be the year that the New York Times headline will read "Madame President". 

There are so many vulnerable groups and causes that need protecting and advocating, now is the time to get to work. 

I have faith that in the end, Love Trumps Hate. 

xx Jess

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Al Hambara, Granada, Spain

 The red (female).

That is the direct translation of Al Hambara from Arabic.

Probably because she sits atop the hill like the red queen of the city of Granada.

The Al Hambara palace was a highlight of our trip in southern Spain and a "must-see"! 
^ photo of the palace from the steps on a hillside across the city 
Al Hambara was built by the Arab Moors who ruled this region of Spain between the 700s and 1400s. The Al Hambara was completed towards the end of their rule in the early 1300s. 
We spent 3 hours just touring the palace and the gardens. And our professor had to keep urging stragglers in our group to stop taking photos and move on to the next room. The whole palace is just magnificent! I highly recommend devoting an entire day to leisurely exploring it! 
One of my favorite things about Academic Travel is that we are always traveling at the beginning of March/October, which is the off-season for tourism at 95% of the places we are visiting. So even though the weather may not be ideal, and sometimes I may complain about wishing it were nicer weather to eat outside or enjoy the scenery. It is actually REALLY nice because we have a lot of these really popular tourist sites basically to ourselves. Like when I visited the Mona Lisa in Paris on a random Thursday night in October 2012 right before closing, it was literally JUST my friend and I in the room with the painting. Or when I visited Pompeii, it was a rainy day in March 2013 and the site was empty except for our group. I loved it and will always remember roaming around those ruins in the drizzle. These our completely different experiences then some of my good friends have had who visit these same sites during the summer or spring break and endure large crowds that damper the experience. 

I can imagine Al Hambara also may be less enjoyable with pressing crowds and although I am sure it is gorgeous in the summer greenery, we were lucky to have many of the rooms to ourselves. 
Loyal real life & travel roommate, Marina! ^ (who is living in Morocco right now!)  
^ I learned this kind of dome with what I would (in my non-expertise) call "stalactites" is in reality called a "muqarnas" and is common in Islamic architecture.  
^another more elaborate example of a muqarnas 
love love love 
Fun fact: for fans of the book The Alchemist, by Paulo Cohelo, it is hinted at that this is the city where the main character, Santiago, the shepherd boy, begins his journey. 
I loved all the geometric patterns and intricate details in the craftsmanship of every corner of the palace. In the muslim faith they don't believe in iconography, or in other words, depicting the faces of God or any of the characters in their scriptures. So instead beauty and spirituality are shown through ornate geometric patterns and carvings. Or elaborate calligraphy of scripture verses (scroll to see some pictures of examples)
Looking out from the royal gardens over to the palace 
^ arabic calligraphy 
Looking out over Granada 
Closeup of arabic calligraphy, scripture verses and references to Allah  ^
And to end on a sweet note ;) 
Churros con chocolate 

xx Jess 

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

El Toro Bravo & Córdoba, Spain

I mentioned it in the Ronda post, but part of this Academic Travel involved learning about "corrida" and "el toro bravo", aka bullfighting. It was fascinating because it is such a complex part of Spanish culture that is really controversial, but after this travel I feel like I have a much better understanding of the situation. I could talk about Spanish bullfighting for hours!  

Things you might not know about bullfighting: 
1)  The bull always dies in the end. The matador's final act is to kill the bull with a sword to the heart (preferably in one try). Somehow this simple fact always eluded me. 
2)  As part of the show, men on armored horses stab spears and barbed hooks into the bull to weaken it before the matador comes out into the ring. By the time the matador is on the scene the bull is already tired and bloody. Once again, I feel like I never saw this in the movies or other depictions of bull fighting? Anyone else??  
3)  Before killing the bull, the matador puts on a death-defying show by getting the bull to run past him, almost touching him, but not getting injured. The cape is used to try and direct the bulls path. It is all very styled and graceful, like a dance, some would say it is beautiful. 
4) In Spain opinions are very split on the topic of corrida, some people cry with passion for it, others say it is barbaric. Barcelona's regional government Catalonia banned bullfighting in 2010, but the Spanish national government ruled their ban unconstitutional on the 5th of October this year.  

Our second stop in "bull-fighting education", after the famous bull-fighting arena in Ronda, was to visit a ranch where the "brave bulls" live before their fateful day in the ring. 

It was like the wild west of Spain. 

Our brave cowboy who accompanied us on our tour ^ Everyone called him "shoe"
This was our tour guide ^ The rugged rancher Juan/John. I don't know if you can tell in the photo but he's a giant, like at least 6ft 3in and I'd bet he secretly wrestles with the bulls. He was very informative and despite being the owner of a bull ranch I found him to have a really fair take on corrida. He talked frankly about the animal welfare concerns, he explained how the whole system works, and he gave us his opinion on whether or not its around to stay (spoiler alert: he says yes). 
Stampeding bulls (prompted by brave Cowboy Shoe). The bulls also run way faster than you'd think! Note to self: do not try and outrun a healthy bull. 
^ more running bulls 
And the gorgeous land where the bulls roam freely while they grow up. Compare this to the U.S. system of factory feedlots and livestock that never see the light of day. I'd say these bulls are pretty low on the list of animal rights concerns. 
Other interesting things I learned: 

The bulls are bred for aggression, but they have no interaction with humans before the fighting ring. They will occasionally fight within the herd, but mostly they live a peaceful life on the farm. 

Why no human interaction? Because it's all part of the trick! Bull fighting depends on the bull being tricked into thinking that the cape is part of the man and by charging the cape he is attacking the man. But as soon as he figures out that they are two separate things the man has lost all advantage and will be dead in a heartbeat. This is why all bulls only fight in one match, why they are always killed in the end (instead of fighting multiple matadors) and why there are time limits in the ring. Because the longer the bull and the matador are in the ring dancing around each other, the higher the risk the bull figures it out and charges the body instead of the cape. 

So, if there is no human interaction how do they figure out which bulls are the most aggressive to sell for a higher price to the arenas? They devised a plan straight out of a dystopian novel. They take the young bulls mothers and have the mother battle in a mock matador fight to test her level of aggression and how she responds to the matador. They then assume that her son will have a similar response.  

Thankfully we did not watch a bullfight on this trip (it was not Corrida season) and the arena offered to have a matador fight a young bull for us, but our professor passed on that. 

Our next stop: Córdoba 


Cordoba may be home to the most unique catholic cathedral I've ever seen and I've probably seen 100+ churches in my time at Franklin.. (Ok, its tied with Sagrada Familia, my other #1). This church is huge and currently a catholic cathedral, but it is housed in an old islamic grand mosque and the building has kept many of the original Islamic elements, with weird bursts of gothic/neogothic architecture. 

It's like you can see the synthesis of Islam and Catholicism happening right inside the church.  
Big heart eyes for that door. 
Its name is La Mezquita-Catedral de Cordoba, or the Mosque-Cathedral of Cordoba. But everyone calls it la mezquita for short, even though it isn't actually functioning as a mosque at the moment. 

This is actually a point of the contention in the community. 

The local muslim population has asked many times for the church to consider allowing them to worship again in the church as a "shared space" arrangement, since the site has spiritual/historical significance to the muslims as well. But the local catholic leaders have consistently rejected the request. Our tour guide was hopeful that under the guidance of Pope Francis, and his rhetoric of interfaith community building, that muslims will once again be allowed to claim a bit of this church as their own sacred space. 
The site has a long history and has changed hands many times! 
It was originally a visgoth Christian temple that was built into a catholic basilica. Then when the Muslims conquered Spain in 711 they split it in half, one side for Christians, one for Muslims. The two religions shared the space until 784, when the muslim ruler bought the christian half, tore down the original structure and began construction on the grand mosque of Cordoba. The architecture of the grand mosque is much of what remains today. It took two centuries to fully finish building, but it blows my mind that so much of the architecture that is in these photos was constructed between 780-980, that's well over 1,000 years ago! And it's still standing! In fact, there was a corner of the church in which they found stones that builders engraved their names in, in arabic. I bet they never expected that someone 1,000 years in the future would be reading them. 
just dying at how beautiful every corner is and the sun streaming through.. 
These columns are the focal point of one section of the church and seemed to go on forever! Historic texts compared them to local orange groves. Our guide pointed out that many of the columns have small differences in style because the architects of the mosque reused the Roman pillars that were used to construct the original church in the 4th and 5th century. So clever and adds an even additional layer of historical depth to the building! 
And then woah, flash forward a few hundred years to a whole different form of architecture. It felt like stepping into a completely different church, but it really was just the catholic renovations to the mosque. 
Beautiful, but in this context a real travesty and out of place. I think it looks garish in comparison with the intricate stone and wood geometric carvings of the Islamic architecture. 

Then few photos from around Cordoba's city: 
I had Les Miserables on the brain this trip (which is a story for another post). But this bridge ^^ totally reminded me of Javert jumping to his suicide, anyone else with me? 
crsip white walls 
^ This was the wall of the inner courtyard of a historic home. Our tour guide explained that all the old homes in Cordoba were built around these inner courtyards which were designed to have some vegetation and the stones during the summer were splashed with cool water which acted like a swamp cooler to keep the whole house cool in the heat. I wish I had gotten a panorama of the courtyard. It was so lovely!

More Spanish treasures ahead! Next stop, one of the coolest places in Southern Spain, Alhambra a UNESCO World Heritage site in Grenada! 

xx Jess