Monday, April 5, 2010

a defence of england

I have an English friend who isn't such a big fan of her country and can't understand why I like it so much. So I've decided to condense all of my reasons into a blog post.

I am not an aficionado of all things English. I know England has its fair share of not-so-great stuff; I am not an Anglophile because of the chavs, or the sensational fear-mongering tabloid stories, or the reality television, or the former imperialism, or because I think the monarchy is an awesome idea and Prince William is a hottie. He's not.

However, because of my interests and personality, in my opinion the good things of Britain's past and present far outweigh the bad. And the best of England appeals more to me than the best of the US.

So here's a random list of things I grew up with or discovered in my teens that really made me fall in love with the culture and the country.

  • The Beatles
  • Fawlty Towers
  • Pride and Prejudice
  • The Importance of Being Earnest
  • Mary Stewart
  • Danger: UXB
  • Shakespeare
  • Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie
  • Robin Hood
  • The Kinks
  • Lyra's Oxford
  • Arsenal
  • 60's Mod fashion
  • Sherlock Holmes
  • Nick Hornby
  • Extras
  • Blake, Shelley, Byron, other Romantic poets
  • The Clash
  • Margot Fonteyn
  • Oliver Sacks
  • Harry Potter
  • Wimbledon
  • Henry Cavill
  • Bill Bryson

(Yes, the last one is American, but he is an Anglophile like me, and the way he writes about England makes it seem like a very funny yet awesome place to live. Which it is.)

I'm sure there are tons I am forgetting, but really. You can't say that a country that has produced all of these things isn't awesome.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

this is a hockey post.

NHL is back, baby! I'm super pumped. I love being the best team in the league, although it is a very strange feeling. I am not used to all this success!

Speaking of success, I must first address Team USA's amazing performance in Vancouver. Sidney Crosbitch's goal in OT was heartbreaking, especially after the full on seizure-inducing goal by Zach Parise in the last few seconds of regular time to tie it up. (Seriously, I spazzed out hardcore.) That being said, before the start of the tournament I never dreamed we'd be going into the gold medal game undefeated, having already beaten Canada once, so it was kind of a dream finish. The boys deserved silver at the very least--well I thought they deserved gold, but I am slightly biased--and they should be so proud of themselves and their performance. Not quite a miracle finish, but they'll always be winners to me.

But now that the Olympics are over, I have to deal with my new lover being on the wrong team--not only that, but the team that is second in Eastern conference, creeping up all sneakily trying to steal our spot! Well okay, the Devils are a ways behind us, but I still have to hope you suck for a little while Parise, sorry.

Moving on to tonight. The Caps kicked off their season restart with a 3-1 win over Buffalo and MVP of the Olympics Ryan Miller, who I now have a total hockey crush on. (Just to be clear, a hockey crush is different from a normal crush...I don't find Miller hot, but his skillz are sexy.) Jose Theodore (who, by the way, I do find hot) had a great game, and I am liking him more and more. I also feel like a total ass for getting pissy at his inconsistency over the past few months, because I had no idea about this. I cried reading it.

Mike Green got his 15th goal of the season when he scored the game-winner in the third period. Another reason I want to win the Stanley Cup: Greenie didn't get called up to the Canadian Olympic team (bitches!) so 1. he deserves some glory, and 2. then he (and Ovi) can rub it in Crosby's face.

I think that's about all I've got for the moment, considering it's 12:30am and I have to finish a book, write a short paper, study for a midterm, and pack before I go to bed.

I leave you with David Steckel bitchface:

(go here for more awesomeness)

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

shameless soliciting...for a good cause

I have been getting much more involved with SHH this semester, including going up to the yearly summit at GMU last weekend to kick off the semester's fundraising campaign. We are shooting for $200,000 as a whole organization, with the Virginia Tech chapter pledging to raise $25,001 (that extra $1 is to best William and Mary, who only pledged $25,000...losers!).

Here's the breakdown of where the money will go: the first $100,000 is going to an education and empowerment fund, to keep kids in school and help them succeed. The next $50,000 will go towards building a business center in Villa Soleada, so the village will become self-sustaining and be able to support all of these various projects that we've been working on. The final $50,000 and any extra money we hope to get will go towards starting a new children's home project, to give orphaned and abandoned kids in the area a better place to live. If you read that novel down below that was my trip recap, you know how badly orphaned children can be treated, so this is something we are all very passionate about starting. So we really want to get to that $200,000 mark!

To help reach our fundraising goal, I have set up a webpage:

Please donate if you can! It would mean so much to the kids of Villa Soleada, and it would make me very happy too. I love you all.

[Here is the general fundraising website, with a video and a running total of all the money raised by the different chapters: ]

oooooh canada we stand on guard for thee!

I always forget how much I love the Winter Olympics until they start. I've become obsessed. I will watch any sport they decide to show. My favorite (of course) is the hockey, but speed skating, snowboarding, skiing of all types, and even figure skating and curling have all made it onto my watch list.

And because I am a girl with a serious weakness for athletes, I have also found some new Olympic loves.

1) Alexandre Bilodeau, the first Canadian to win a medal this year:

Yes, I think the French Canadian accent is cute. Don't judge.

2) JR Celski, the adorable pint-sized speed skater who nearly sliced his leg off with his own skate last September:

3) Zach Parise, NJ Devils (boo) player unfortunately, but a bit of a hottie:

Also the hero of today's quarterfinal game against Switzerland. I couldn't watch because I was in class taking a test, but he scored both goals.

4) Aksel Svindal, 6'5" Norwegian alpine skier:

5) Evan Lysacek, although this is mainly for Vanilla Bear's sake because he looks a bit like Gonzalo Higuain:

And this last one isn't an Olympian, but I stumbled across him when I was googling goaltender Henrik Lundqvist. Ladies, I present to you Swedish model Alex Lundqvist:

I have a feeling Stephanie and Callie might agree with me on this one.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

juntos por progreso

As you all (probably) know, I spent a week in Honduras over the break. What Students Helping Honduras has been working towards for the past two years is building a village for 40 impoverished families in El Progreso; the houses are now finished, so our group was installing the water system so they could have running water in their homes. We also helped out at a kids camp for the children in the village, since they had been out of school for months due to instability in the country.

I flew into San Pedro Sula at around 12:30 on Saturday. Luckily there were a bunch of SHHers on the plane with me so I knew where to go when I got off the plane. Not that the airport was that big, but we did have a guy in our group get on the wrong bus and end up 3 hours north with a crazy Christian mission group, so it does happen. We spent the rest of the day relaxing, unpacking, getting used to our surroundings, and getting to know each other.

Our hotel was pretty awesome. This is one of the cabanas that we all stayed in.

On Sunday we got to know some of the kids at Por Venir, their school. Since lots of us don't speak Spanish, we drew pictures with them instead of having real conversations.

This is Jorge. He taught me "pescados", "caballo", "nube", and "lluvia". And he showed me how to draw the Honduran flag.

After Por Venir, we went to Siete de Abril, the slum that the families of the village used to live in. It was eye-opening, to say the least. The coordinators took us to Siete first in order to better understand why this project was needed. Afterwords, we went to the worksite, or Villa Soleada as it is now known. All of the villagers were waiting for us there with a big party to celebrate the near-completion of the project.

Entrance to Villa Soleada

Kids dancing!

The football pitch. The villagers were more concerned about this being built than the actual houses.

Random story about this field: Micheletti (the current president of Honduras)'s son built this for us. I don't know the details, but I know he is from El Progreso, and that Cosmo Fujiyama (one of the SHH founders) is extremely charismatic and apparently won him over and convinced him to help out.

On Monday we started the actual work, i.e. digging two foot trenches around the village to lay water pipes down. This task was made much more difficult by the fact that it had rained heavily for the past three or four days, so we were basically swimming in mud by the end of the day.

See, I wasn't kidding. Check out Wes behind me.

Monday night was salsa lesson night, which was a blast except for the fact that there were far more girls than boys on the trip so I had to lead! They set up a really awesome performance by the local high school salsa group though.

On Tuesday we had another morning with kids camp, and another afternoon at work. Our evening activity was supposed to be a soccer match, but it was raining again so the field we were supposed to play on was flooded! So we watched a great film called Sin Nombre instead. Not exactly a happy feel-good flick, but it was really interesting to see more about a world that I knew nothing about before my trip.

Monica and me with two of our favorite kids at Por Venir

Wednesday was our break from manual labor. We took the bus into San Pedro Sula for a bit of shopping at the indoor market in the morning, which was awesome. Most of the boys bought machetes. I bought a Honduras football jersey so I could rep my new favorite place during the World Cup this summer!

We had lunch at a place called Baleadas Express, which is kind of like their Chipotle, but better. Baleadas are the unofficial food of Honduras, and they are absolutely delicious. The day wasn't all fun and games, however.

In the afternoon we went to a government-run orphanage (known as Instituto Hondureño de de la Niñez y la Familia, or IHNFA) called Nueva Esperanza. This was an extremely misleading name however, as these children really have no hope for the future. The place is underfunded, understaffed, rarely cleaned, and looks like a prison. Nearly every child in there had been abused or abandoned before arriving there, and many of them are permanently mentally or physically affected by it. They don't get enough food and never get adult attention. They were so starved for affection that as soon as we walked through the door they attached themselves to us, a group of strange people who didn't even speak their language. They called us all "tio" and "tia", or "aunt" and "uncle", which was adorable and heartbreaking at the same time. There was so much that we wanted to do for them, but we couldn't. I've never felt more helpless. All we could do was play with them for an afternoon.

I spent most of my time with a little girl named Vilma, who didn't care at all that I didn't speak Spanish. I gave her piggy back rides and drew her pictures, and she was delighted. The hardest part of the visit was the infant room though. There were about 30 babies in one room, and most of them were sharing cribs that had no real bedding, just a thin plastic mattress. They were only changed once a day, if that, and had very little human contact, because there was only one worker in the room. When it came time for us to leave, Vilma found me again and just hugged me for about 10 minutes. It was so hard to leave, but at the same time it was so depressing that I couldn't wait to get out of there.

The saddest thing is that these children really have nothing to look forward to. When the boys get to about 12 or 13, if they haven't been placed in foster care they are kicked out. There used to be a boy's home in the building next to the orphanage, but it was closed down a few years ago after rumors of child abuse and murder. So most of the boys will join gangs to survive, and end up in a juvenile detention center or prison. The girls don't have it any better, either. There is a girl's home that they can stay in until they are 18, but it only has room for about 50 girls, and right now it's got 3 times that number. So they all sleep on the floor and again, don't get enough to eat, and once they turn 18 they are turned out on the streets to become beggars or prostitutes. Many of them will get pregnant and not be able to support their children, so they will go to an orphanage and the whole cycle will start again. It's such a depressing and hopeless situation. So even though Wednesday didn't tire us physically, by the end we were all completely emotionally and mentally exhausted.

Sorry for the tl;dr essay. I just had to get it all out.

On to less depressing things...Thursday we again had kids camp and work site digging. Since it was our last day working with the kids, we had an epic futbol match to celebrate. And we got crushed. By a bunch of 8 year olds.

In the evening we had a dinner celebration in El Progreso with all of the volunteers and Villa families, with good food and dancing. We even performed dances that we had been working on all week! There was even a special *NSYNC dance by the guys of cabana 5:

It was pretty epic.

On Friday we had our last look at Villa Soleada, when we planted trees around the edge of the football field. In about 30 years they will be huge shade trees, which will be awesome. I'll have to go back when I'm 50 and check it out.

Then we took the Villa kids to the beach at Tela, an hour away. A lot of them had never been to the beach before, so it was a great day of fun, sun, and relaxation. And I barely even got burned! I didn't get any other sort of color either though...

Spot the pale one...this is why I don't go to the beach.

The food at the beach was great. We had kebabs for lunch, and they sold beer and pina coladas and this absolutely heavenly coconut bread that I wish I had right now. I also drank coconut milk straight from a coconut. It was probably the best day at the beach I've ever had. A great way to end the trip.

Although it didn't quite end there...on our last night in town we got all dolled up and went out clubbing! It was a fundraiser party for the organization, and there were lots of locals there because apparently they had advertised with "come see american tourists dance, it's hilarious!". It was so much fun though.

We got back to the hotel at about 1am, and I had to go to the airport at 4:30, so I didn't even bother to sleep. A few of us went out to the pool and stargazed for a while, then we all trooped back into the dining room to talk. One by one, people started going to bed, until I was the only one left, and then I had like a half hour to sit by myself until the taxi picked me up. Needless to say, I was a zombie on the way home, but it was more than worth it.

And that was my epic trip to Honduras in a really really really large nutshell. My "life-altering experience" tag has never been so appropriate.

Friday, January 1, 2010

new years, new adventures, and new adults

Another year, another January starting with another goodbye. I am off to Honduras for a week this time, before the new (and last ever!) semester starts. I am very excited, and also glad to be meeting a bunch of students there because I still speak no Spanish. I wonder if they'll understand "Jonathan Bornstein"...

Oh and happy 18th birthday to Jack Wilshere!

Still little, but not quite so little, so all of you who were perving over that shirtless picture of him a few months ago don't have to feel so pedo bear-ish. And he is possibly off to Burnley or West Ham or somewhere else on loan for the rest of the season. I'll be a little sad to see him go, but it will be good for him to get some real playing time.

Anyways, happy new year and I will see you all in a week!

Thursday, December 31, 2009

top five albums of the last decade, part five: 2008 & 2009


5. Vampire Weekend - Vampire Weekend

"Who gives a fuck about an Oxford comma?" Actually, I happen to like the Oxford comma. I think it helps to avoid confusion. But anyways, that isn't the point of this. This is another great workout record, and it's got a song titled "Walcott"! Although I doubt Theo Walcott has ever been to Cape Cod.

4. Hold On Now, Youngster - Los Campesinos

Los Campesinos are a band from Wales that aren't actually Welsh. Another very fun album, plus the girl is a ginger!

3. ¿Cómo Te Llama? - Albert Hammond, Jr.

Overall I don't like this album as much as Yours To Keep, but it's got a few of my favorite songs by him, including "The Boss Americana", "Gfc", and "Victory At Monterey".

2. Oracular Spectacular - MGMT

I heard how good this album was from several different people when it came out, but I didn't believe them, and for a while was all "MGMT, meh whatever, they aren't that good." Then I actually got the whole album and had to kick myself because they are that good. Love it.

1. Raise The Dead - Phantom Planet

I first saw that video soon after it was put up in 2007 and I became obsessed with the song and absolutely couldn't wait for the album to come out. Also I love how Darren commented on the video through PP's official youtube channel. I don't know if this is my favorite Phantom Planet album, but I do think it is their most complete. They grew and changed their sound so much throughout the first three albums, and this is the final result. Even though I was very upset when they called it quits, this was a great album to end on.


5. Troubadour - K'naan

Yes, more rap. Deal with it Stephanie. I got this song as a free iTunes download, and then a few weeks later I learned that his song "Waving Flag" was picked as the official 2010 World Cup song. So I bought the whole album and it's super catchy.

4. To Lose My Life - White Lies

Total 80's post-punk throwback band and I love it. I first got "Death" in an Urban Outfitters compilation CD free with a purchase, then in January I started seeing ads for the album in the London underground, and then I finally got it online (thanks Roz!)

3. Tonight: Franz Ferdinand - Franz Ferdinand

The information for this video on youtube is "Alex Kapranos of the band commented - Tonight: Franz Ferdinand is music of the night: to fling yourself around your room to as you psyche yourself for a night of hedonism, for the dance-floor, flirtation, for your desolate heart-stop, for losing it and loving losing it, for the chemical surge in your bloodstream. Its for that lonely hour gently rocking yourself waiting for dawn and it all to be even again." This is why I love songwriters.

2. Veckatimest - Grizzly Bear

I heard about this album around the time it came out over the summer, but I didn't get it until a month or two ago. So it's been on my current listening playlist and I am really liking it a lot.

1. Quicken The Heart - Maxïmo Park

For some reason, this song makes me really melancholy. It's hard to find more poetic representation of a storm than "static headlights glow / in the flooded streets below / the TV turns to snow / gutters weep with overflow", and the whole song has a very bittersweet feeling. I've talked about how much I love Maxïmo Park several times before so I'm not going to bore you all again, but this was definitely my favorite album of the past year.