Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Globalization: good news or bad?

In order to write about globalization, it would be a good start if we knew what “globalization” means. This term, that we hear and use on a daily basis, has suffered from inflation: it means everything and sounds meaningless at the same time. And why is that? Because “globalization” is a very broad term which can apply to many areas. According to Wikipedia, globalization has to do with integration of different economies, societies and cultures through “a globe-spanning network of exchange”. The different kinds of possible exchange range from economy to technology, culture, language, politics, ideas, etc. It is exactly because of this wide spectrum of “meanings” that it becomes difficult to label Globalization as either good or bad. For this reason, we will approach just one aspect of globalization: the cultural aspect.

Of course, the term culture, in turn, carries a lot of different meanings, one of which relates to information and knowledge. Now, can you think of any other time when knowledge and information were as much accessible as now? Thanks to the mechanisms underpinning globalization, this is the Age of Information. As much so that, if we ask our grandparents what language is spoken in “America”, they would probably answer “American”, and this is not only because they were/are not interested in learning, it is also because when they were young and their brains were eager to learn new things, they were not given enough information and stimuli. What happens if we ask the same question to a 6-year-old today? They will not only tell you that Americans speak English, but they will also tell you about Obama, the White House, Washington and their last trip to Disney World or New York City.

Nowadays, in fact, it is much easier to obtain information on other countries and to visit them as well. Thanks to globalization, our world looks much smaller than it used to be and this enables us to learn more things about different places, different cultures and different languages. And since when learning things is bad for us? The important thing is that we be sensible and critical towards what we learn. It is not a matter of embracing a new culture: it is a matter of learning and understanding about other people’s costumes and realizing that there are other ways of living besides our own. Furthermore, when we are presented with a different culture, the contrasts that we perceive between our own costumes and the new ones foster a deeper understanding of our own selves and our own identity. In a nutshell, learning about others promotes a deeper view into ourselves. There is no way this can be considered a bad thing.

Finally, when we have a deeper consciousness of who we are, we appreciate what is unique and important to preserve in our own culture. And that is when the opposite process of globalization takes place: glocalization. This new concept applies to those people who are able to bridge the gap between global and local thinking by being open to the new globalized age without forgetting their own roots and history.

This awareness prevents us from forgetting who we are without preventing us from interacting with the New and the Different, therefore this is the attitude we should all look for and promote in our kids. Globalization cannot be stopped, but we can give it a positive twist, if we only want to.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

The call

On the bus on a Monday evening, sitting by the window, glancing at the people walking on the street, Jack was wondering about life. More specifically: his own life. Single at 26, a decent job, still paying for his own small apartment in the suburbs, plans to buy a nice car in the near future…it wasn’t exactly a bed of roses, but it was not too bad, considering he had just started. And this is when it struck him, the inevitable and disturbing question we all ask ourselves from time to time: “am I happy?” He already knew the answer: he was not happy. But was he at least satisfied and content with the life he was leading?

His thoughts quickly went back to his University times, when life was tough, money was short and a nice car, an apartment of his own, vacations abroad, all these seemed commodities out of this world. And now, there he was, getting grip of all the things he had always dreamed of, but feeling that something had slipped away from him: his passion for life.

Now the days repeated themselves mercilessly one after the other: clock alarm, bus, office, lunch with co-workers, meetings with clients, bus, dinner alone and countless nights burning the midnight oil in his continuous fight against time.

His life could have been different, had he only set different priorities for it. At University he had friends, a beautiful girlfriend, many hobbies and a vocation: acting. He loved to be on stage, it was something that made him feel alive and something he thought he could never give up on. However, at University he studied Law, because his parents wanted him to. He himself knew that being an actor was not easy: it was touch and go whether or not he could find success following that path. He sometimes dreamed of striking it lucky, achieving great success on stage as well as on screen and striking gold. If that had ever happened, his parents would have had to eat humble pie and recognize his talent. However, that stroke of luck never came. On the other hand, as soon as he graduated he was offered many job opportunities in the Law field. Of course, he was sensible enough not to let go an opportunity that was in the bag just to run after something he would possibly never achieve. At first, he really thought he could have the best of both worlds: having a well-paid job during the week, and devote himself to his passion on his spare time. Spare time? He hardly remembers the meaning of this expression now… His job started to absorb him more and more and, after countless fights, he had to give up on his girlfriend, then it was his friends and finally he let his passion go. In a nutshell: he was living for his job. Better, he was living for the money his job provided him. He was following his father’s steps and leading the life he had always sworn not to lead…

As he was standing in front of his door, groping for the keys in his pocket, still thinking about his life and whether it was too late for him, the telephone started ringing inside. He had the feeling this was an important call, the call that would save him, the call that would show him he hadn’t burnt all his bridges with the theater world, the call of redemption. He quickly opened the door and dashed into the living room, grabbed old of the phone, pressed the green button and, panting, his heart racing, answered: “Hello?”

On the other side, a woman’s voice he knew very well, replied: “Hello, Mr. Brown. It’s Janice, from the office. I am calling just to tell you that Mr. Brandbury has anticipated the deadline for that project: you need to hand it in by Wednesday…”

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Pulitzer Prize

Funny, I remember exactly last year, in the United States, when I read Junot Diaz had won the Pulitzer Prize. I read it on the New York Times, and was very pleased because I had actually read an interview with Junot Díaz a few months before on the Washington Post - which I used to read every morning sipping my black coffee, God I miss those times!
Even funnier, after one year in the United States, I never got to buy Junot Díaz's book, The Brief Wondrous life of Oscar Wao, but bought and read his first hit, Drown. I bought his Pulitzer Prize winning book only in Frankfurt, Germany, after sitting and crying for 8 hours in a lonely, sad and heart-breaking Lufthansa flight (boy, am I dramatic!). Well, I am particularly sensitive also because, 8 months after I bought the book, I am finally reading it. Which adds to the list of funny coincidences: I am reading the 2008 Pulitzer Prize book at the same time as they were awarding the 2009 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.
I remember reading that junot Díaz was awarded the Pulitzer on the kitchen counter of a wonderful house in Bethesda, MD. It was night, I was probably chatting with some of my friends in Brazil and having a look at the news, trying to study and improving my English as much as I could. When I saw Diaz's picture, I smiled: I felt a sort of empathy with him from the time I saw his picture on the Washington Post. A University Professor (the career I've always wanted to pursue) at MIT (one of the best Universities in the World), a Latino, an Immigrant in the USA who would not adapt back to Dominican Republic as well (welcome to my world), and finally a nerd who reminded me of my ex-boyfriend with his love for Marvel and DC comic books, a Spiderman and Wolverine aficcionado, who seemed to know everything about Star Wars, the Jedi, the Dark Side of the Force, and so on.
Now, a year later, I am reading about the 2009 Pulitzer Prize: Elizabeth Strout. The empathy, I have to say, is not the same, although I did enjoy to hear she is from Maine. Having been in Maine in the summer 2008, I have wonderful memories of those places. It is also nice to hear she is a teacher - another thing we have in common.
Her book, Olive Kitteridge, is a collection of short stories whose main character seems to be Olive, a middle-aged woman who "understands that life is lonely and unfair, that only the greatest luck will bring blessings like a long marriage and a quick death. She knows she’s been rotten; she has regrets. She understands people’s failings — and, ultimately, their frail hopes", as columnist Louisa Thomas wrote in her New York Times review of the book.
I am actually really interested in reading her book. As strange and maybe even a little ridiculous as it may sound, I myself am coming to understand that life is lonely and sometimes unfair. Plus, after my last experiences, I can't believe in marriages or long-lasting relationships any more. And this is definitely making me feel empty inside and is increasing my bitterness and my pessimism. I am not saying I am completely hopeless and recklessly bitter with others. No, I still want to believe that things can change and I am trying as hard as I can to make things happen - or at least to find strength enough to make things happen. I am not sure that reading about a bitter woman would help me regain my lost optimism about life in general, but am sure it can give me nice insights.
In fact, I don't think I need to see things any differently from how I am seeing them now. Things will not change for me. Life is what it is: marriages don't last, diseases come and take hold of the best families, relationships are hard, life is lonely. These are just inalienable truths we need to learn to live with. And we need to accept. Maybe we just need to be more realistic, accept life for what it is and stop dreaming of fairy-tales. This would definitely help...as Junot Díaz put it in his book, "you can't regret the life you didn't lead", which actually fits very well in my current life.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Preparing for the CPE...

This is my first text to prepare for the CPE...

Describe a place you have visited that really impressed you

I have to start with a confession: I am not as good a traveler as I would like to be. I do love traveling, but I happen to be a little too lazy to go on quick trips. My idea of traveling is to take a month, or even two, or more, and to go to the place I want to visit, getting to know the streets, getting lost once in a while without worrying with the time and just enjoying the new atmosphere. Quick trips in which you spend half of the time driving or flying do not really appeal to me.

However, I have to say I have been lucky enough to visit many of the places I was interested in seeing, and all the times it was an amazing experience, although sometimes the expectation is such that you can’t help being a little disappointed at first. This disappointment, though, tends to fade away pretty quickly when you really try to see and understand the place – not for its beauty, but rather for its singularity, its atmosphere, its energy.

There was one trip, though, which I did not plan and I was really not interested in: Istanbul. My dad decided to go, he did not tell me anything about it, just told me to pack the day before. I was very curious about where we were going and got very excited when I found out we were going to take a plane. At the time I was only eleven and flying for me was one of the most magical things – I simply loved it. When we boarded, I was disappointed: the airplane was very old and definitely not as clean as a whistle. Many passengers started complaining and kept moving from one seat to the next, looking for a cleaner spot. My dad obviously wouldn’t do that: you sit where they tell you to and just be quiet. The complaints from the passengers just kept growing louder and louder as we were flying in a terrible weather and the plane was tossed all over the place. The thought of an airplane crash did not even cross my mind: I just kept asking where we were going. Finally my dad gave in and told me we were heading to Istanbul in one of those organized trips. When I heard that, I just thought: Istanbul? What is there to see in Istanbul? I guess the only thing I knew was what I was studying in my History classes, so I had heard Istanbul used to be called Constantinople and was the capital of the Eastern Roman Empire. My dad read perplexity on my face and assured me I would love the city, which was one of the most important in Turkey. I still was doubtful about that, but there wasn’t much I could do. I remember it was the Holy Week. Sitting on the plane, I started thinking about the chocolate eggs my family would open and eat while I was in Turkey and wondered if they would have chocolate eggs in Istanbul.

After we settled down in the hotel, the tour guides took us and other 50 Italian tourists to see the famous landmarks. They talked a lot telling us everything about the history and the legends of the places. This is when I started to feel the atmosphere of Istanbul, a place where history and legends mingle together in a far far away past. Things definitely started to get interesting at that point. The experience with the food, though, was not the best: an 11-year-old is not very keen on trying very different and spicy food that tastes nothing like your grandma’s lasagna. My dad, though, is not very condescending and understanding on these things, so he made me try everything. I ate like a bird: a little bit of everything. Now I can say my dad did the right thing. At the time I didn’t realize it, but the food is a fundamental part for you to understand the place and feel its uniqueness and magic. Istanbul is definitely a magical place and you can feel that anywhere you go. However, I only really realized that when we went to the markets, especially the Egyptian one: when I went in I felt like I was stepping away from the real world and entering the magical fairy-tale world of Aladdin, Jasmine and Scheherazade. The colors, the smell, the people, the noises: it just didn’t feel real. I kept following my dad surrounded by carpets as smooth as silk, shoes, dried fruit, apricots, candies, spices, dates and many other colorful things, among loud people and merchants who seemed as busy as beavers. I was in a daze, feeling as light as a feather.

I don’t remember how it happened, but all of a sudden my dad was talking in Italian to a man who had a store in the market where he sold carpets. He invited us in to have tea with him. That was one of the best things I have ever tasted: apple tea. It smelled delicious and was as sweet as honey.

After I got so much involved with the place and blended in with it, it was already time to leave. Time flew like an arrow in there, which added to Istanbul magical and dreamy atmosphere.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Raising Bilingual Children

Bilingualism is definitely a field I am very interested in, being a sort of bilingual myslef. 

My bilingual experience is kind of...hum...let's say not so common. Which is probably what everyone who was raised in a biligual environment feels.
 The fact is, in my case, I lernt Portuguese when I first started speaking because I lived in Brazil and lived with my mother (a Brazilian), so there was no real reason/opportunity for me to learn Italian. Then we moved to Italy, and it was pretty natural for me to start speaking Italian. My dad, who always spoke Portuguese in Brazil, didn't want me to speak Portuguese in Italy. Also, because of some articles he read, he believed that raising a kid in two languages simultaneously would result in a delay of speech, or in a confusion. This is why I started learning Portugues all over again only when I moved back to Brazil, at the age of 16.

Of course, I am very into bilingualism, and, although I don't feel as a perfect native speaker in either Portuguese or Italian, I still feel they are sort of "my languages". Because of this feeling of not really, truly and entirely belonging to either one, I decided to turn to English as my safe-harbor: I know I will never be a perfect English native speaker, but I want to get as close to native-like English as I can. On the other hand, I feel no pressure from the language and the English community, and this makes me feel good and safe (much more than with Italian and Portuguese).

I was surfing the internet (as always), and I found a very nice article written by Kendall King and Lyn Fogle (Georgetown University) on how to raise bilingual children, which made me think of the way I was raised and how thing could have been a little different. 

In short, the article, which appeared in CAL's webstite (Center for Applied Linguistics, a Washington-DC based organization), dismantles, through reasearch, all the the beliefs on bilingualism in children that parents hold as true - and maybe are not.

It addresses mainly four points:
  • language delay due to bilingualism. According to research, this is not true. Language delay may in fact happen in children that have been exposed to a bilingual environmente, however it is not due to the bilingualism, but rather to other clinical causes (e.g. autism).
  • language confusion due to bilingualism. It has been proven that bilingualism does not cause any linguistic confusion in kids' brain. Moreover, the idea that a parents should speak only one language to the children is not accurate. A parent can easily code-switch between one language and the other with no harm for the child. However, in order for children to be raised as active bilingualism, they shold be encouraged in speaking the minority language along with the language that has a higher social status.
  • language learning through television and music cds. Although Dora and Diego cartoons, as well as songs  can be fun to watch and listen to, it has not been proven that they really help children be bilingual. It is necessary that children have a human contact with both languages for them to have a better perception (as well as a production) of the target language. So, TV and CDs can be used, but we cannot rely only on them to have children learn the minority language.
  • intelligence due to bilingualism. Some people believe that bilingual children develop stronger cognitive habilities than their monolingual peers. This is definitively not the case. Possibly, bilingual children will develop a better understanding of the linguitic system in which all natural languages work, but this is not 100% certain. As to the other cognitive fields, there is no evidence that bilingual children will have a better performance.
On the whole, I think tha, based on my experience, I agree with what the article shows us. However, I have to say I wasn't really brought up in a bilingualism environment and I was practically a monoligual kid throughout chidlhood and most of my adolescence.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Wine and Orchids

I'm loving it! yeah, for the first time I'm enjoying Carnival in Belo Horizonte :) And by that I don`t mean I'm jumping and dancing samba and wearing skimpy clothes while listening to very Brazilian music. No, if you're looking for this kind of carnival, then stay away from BH. This is definitely NOT a Carnival city. Most people run away and even down-town streets are desert, no noise, no voices, almost no cars: it doesn't look like the crowded noisy city we are all used to.
What am I loving about it, then? Well, UFMG (Universidade Fed
eral de Minas Gerais) had a great idea three years ago: a Summer Festival. During the Carnival holidays, some Professors give short courses on whatever they feel like. You have biology Professors teaching about computers, Engineers talking about wine and flowers, Architects talking about computers and IT, Actors talking about clowns. Well, all sort of things and ideas.
Personally, I decided to take a course in Orchids and Wines. I have to say I didn`t really care about the Orchids at all...I am not a very good gardener and I think I lack the passion and the patience that it takes. The wine part, though, got me really excited.
I've just come home from the second day, so now I really know what this course is about. For my surprise, I've found myself slowly falling in love with Orchids and their sensual beauty, delicacy and uniqueness. We are learning how to plant them, take care of them, learn their structure and their needs and recognize some of the varieties that are common in Minas Gerais. 
I'm not very surpised at my fondness for the wine part of the course. That was exactly what I was looking for: learning about wines in general. So far we've been learning a little about the places where wines are produced and the main characteristics of these places. Mostly, we've been focusing on Chile, Argentina and Rio Grande do Sul (Brazil). We've learned also what aspects should we look at in order to really appreciate wine: its colour, transparency, viscosity, bubbles, smell and, finally, taste. So far, we've tried two red wines (Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot) and two white wines (Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc). Can't wait to try the others! :)

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Back to my old life...

Haven't posted anything in a while, but I'm glad to say I have been a little busy :)

It's impressive: until a few days ago I was getting bored and didn't know what to do with my time and now I am starting to feel I'd like to stretch days so that they could be made of 36 or 48 hours. Unbelievable how tricky life is...

Well, I am happy to say I am finally working. I have to say the jobs I got did not really meet my expectations, I was hoping  for more work (and, consequently, more money), but it's a good start and I can't complain too much. I am working in two language schools in Belo Horizonte, teaching both English and Italian. I am very excited with my students and hope we will have a pleasant semester all together :)

Also, I am studying to take my CPE, which is the Cambridge Proficiency and hope this will help me in my career. Of course, in terms of career, I am also focusing on getting my Master's degree. Sadly, i won`t be able to apply for university until late october, but will start catching up on some readings as soon as possible - will probably start in a couple of weeks.

So, finally things seem to be falling into place, although everyday I remember how much work there is ahead...and I am still very confused about my future. Hopefully things will be get clearer...

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The White House blog

I know, I know: everyday the same story: we open the paper, we turn the TV on, we check our inbox, we turn the radio on: everybody everywhere is talking about Obama. I wonder when this craze's gonna be over :P 
Since the most news I've read lately are about Obama and his presidency or his popularity, his decisions, his tasks, his speeches...well, I don`t have much else left to talk about.

As I mentioned in my previous post I consider myself as one of Obama's fans, but there was one little thing that was upsetting me about his decisions. He expressed the importance of taking care of the Middle East situation, he pronounced himself on relationships he would have with China, Russia and Europe, he said he would try to do something for Darfur and other African countries...but what about Latin America? Some people say his relationships with Cuba will improve, he did take action on Guantanamo...but what else? What about Mexico, Argentina, Brazil? This morning, when I got the paper, I had a nice surprise: Obama called Lula and said he would like to come and "pay a visit" to our country, or invite Lula to DC, in order to better discuss economic issues such as the openingof economic "barriers" in the American continent. So, we haven't been forgotten...

As I wrote before, I am a fan of Obama, and mostly for one reason: his attemts to address the people in a straightforward way, without relying too much media information (which, as we know, is not always "trustable"). I just found out he convinced members of the Government to keep the population updated on what was going on in the White House through a White House Blog, which is open to anyone who wants to read it. Of course, it's not Obama himself who writes it, but it is already something...

Another interesting thing is that, even though Obama had time and will to update the White House blog, he wouldn't be able to. As the president of the United States, he shouldn't be able to go online so much, he should renounce to his e-mail account and he was asked also to give up his inseparable Black Berry. But Obama didn`t surrender to that one: he fought for keeping his Black Berry and a personal e-mail account. Of course, all of this need to be approved by the Security Department, so they did let him keep a Black Berry (for the first time in History), but it needs to be a special one. According to the NYTimes, he got his new phone already, but he's not using it yet...

Finally, the last piece of news I read about the new president has to do with his readings. Apparently, he's always been the book worm kind of reader. Having spent most of his childhood in Indonesia, he learnt about American way of life and it History through books that his smother would encourage him to read. He's learnt a lot about life in general, American History, American identity, American Politics and World Politics thanks to the books he's always been keen on reading.

Some of his favorite authors are also mine, because they deal with "what it means to be a “divided child,” caught on the margins of different cultures, dislocated and rootless perhaps, but free to invent a new self" (quoted from Michicko Kakutani's article), like Derek Walcott, Toni Morrison, Doris Lessing and Elizabeth Alexander. Identity, American Identity and the American country that gives people the possibility to build new selves is definitely something that appeals to the new US President. And this makes me admire him even more.

What really stroke me about Obama's readings is the difference from Mr Bush. According to Kakutani, Mr. Bush is also an avid reader, but he seems to face this more as a competition rather than something that can have a bigger impact on him. When he does follow what writers say, it's because they preach the Manicheist way to see things (black or white, good or bad, friends or enemies) that permeated his Politics. Obama seems also to be different from his "Brazilian colleague", Lula. Lula, in fact, doesn't make any effort in promoting reading, culture, knowledge and education among his people. Much on the contrary, he affirms that "reading the news makes him have a stomachache".

We definitely have something to learn from President Obama...don't we?  

Friday, January 23, 2009

Barack Obama Inauguration Speech (Part 1 of 2) Obama Inaugural Speech

As millions of people all around the world, I, too, was watching as Obama pronounced his Oath, his Adress and walked down Penn Ave. to get to his new residence: the White House. It has been said many times by many people how touching and moving it was to see him become President at all effects...and for me it was not different. I was glued to Cnn.live in my laptop and Cnn on TV.

I liked his Adress: it was beautiful. I believe Obama has an impressive power with words and discourse. I've learnt, though, he is not the only author of his dicourses. It seems Jon Favreau, 27, one of Obama's biggest fans, helped the President write some of the famous speeches of the campaign. You can find out more on this by entering the Guardian webpage. Apparently young Jon Favreau, who was the Valedictorian for his class at Holy Cross College, meets with Obama to get the President's guidelines for the speech and then, counting on a team that does reaserch for him, gathers information to finally sit down with his lap top and a black cofee in one of DC Starbucks and do the writing. When it gets late, he writes from a simple and empty student apartment near DC and he stays up until late at night to write under the influence of many black coffees and red bulls. I'd say this is kinda common practice among workers in DC :P

I will copy here just some of the best parts (in my opinion) of the 44th President's speech. I consider these as the best parts because they deal with some values and beliefs of the American culture that really strucked me and that I've learned to understand and admire.

You can read the whole thing on the White House website. There you can also watch the video at a higher quality.

My fellow citizens: I stand here today humbled by the task before us, grateful for the trust you've bestowed, mindful of the sacrifices borne by our ancestors.


We will not apologize for our way of life, nor will we waver in its defense. And for those who seek to advance their aims by inducing terror and slaughtering innocents, we say to you now that our spirit is stronger and cannot be broken -- you cannot outlast us, and we will defeat you. (Applause.)

For we know that our patchwork heritage is a strength, not a weakness. We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus, and non-believers. We are shaped by every language and culture, drawn from every end of this Earth; and because we have tasted the bitter swill of civil war and segregation, and emerged from that dark chapter stronger and more united, we cannot help but believe that the old hatreds shall someday pass; that the lines of tribe shall soon dissolve; that as the world grows smaller, our common humanity shall reveal itself; and that America must play its role in ushering in a new era of peace.

To the Muslim world, we seek a new way forward, based on mutual interest and mutual respect. To those leaders around the globe who seek to sow conflict, or blame their society's ills on the West, know that your people will judge you on what you can build, not what you destroy. (Applause.) 

To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history, but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist. (Applause.)

To the people of poor nations, we pledge to work alongside you to make your farms flourish and let clean waters flow; to nourish starved bodies and feed hungry minds. And to those nations like ours that enjoy relative plenty, we say we can no longer afford indifference to the suffering outside our borders, nor can we consume the world's resources without regard to effect. For the world has changed, and we must change with it.


Our challenges may be new. The instruments with which we meet them may be new. But those values upon which our success depends -- honesty and hard work, courage and fair play, tolerance and curiosity, loyalty and patriotism -- these things are old. These things are true. They have been the quiet force of progress throughout our history.

What is demanded, then, is a return to these truths. What is required of us now is a new era of responsibility -- a recognition on the part of every American that we have duties to ourselves, our nation and the world; duties that we do not grudgingly accept, but rather seize gladly, firm in the knowledge that there is nothing so satisfying to the spirit, so defining of our character than giving our all to a difficult task.

This is the price and the promise of citizenship. This is the source of our confidence -- the knowledge that God calls on us to shape an uncertain destiny. This is the meaning of our liberty and our creed, why men and women and children of every race and every faith can join in celebration across this magnificent mall; and why a man whose father less than 60 years ago might not have been served in a local restaurant can now stand before you to take a most sacred oath. (Applause.)

Friday, January 16, 2009


This new year didn't start so well. First of all, this economic break down of which everybody keeps talking about. An then the war in Gaza. Apparently, after Hamas sent a few rockets into some cities in Israel, the Israeli Government decided that was it and it started invading Gaza.
The war so far has been dreadful, devastating and terribly unfair for the Palestinians. Israeli, being a much more developed and richer country than Gaza, has a considerable technological advantage. Palestinians have been killed like flies or ants: hundreds at a time. The number of Palestinian casualties is now over 1000. All of this is just terrible.
It is also terrible and sad to think that this ware has been going on for 60 year, with occasional breaks. It is frustrating to think that nobody so far has been able to drive the countries to peace and to dissipate this hatred that there is among Israeli and Palestinians. Probably the situation is much more complicated than I could ever be able to understand or, even less, address in this post. Still, I do believe I have something to say.
Yesterday I went out to mail a package. The post office closer to my house in the one on Avenida Afonso Pena, one of the most important avenues in Belo Horizonte. I happen to live in the same avenue. When I was almost at the post office, I saw there were people handing in flyers and on a truck I could see Palestinians wearing their kefiahs. It didn't take me long to understand people were manifesting against the war and the way Palestinians have been decimated in these past weeks. The first feeling I had was solidariety. I was glad to see that here in belo Horizonte people were doing something for the Palestinians. 
Soon after the truck passed by, my eyes fell on the people that were walking together and holding big posters. The first posters were expressing solidariety with Palestinian people, but behind them, a lot of posters were expressing hate against the state of Israel. 
Suddenly, I was shocked and disgusted by the manifestation. It didn`t make any sense to me. It was completely incoherent. How can you preach solidariety to one side and hate against the other? If you really want things to be better, how can you be racist yourself? This is a war that should just not be happening!! It's not a football match, you don't take sides in a war like this! You can express solidariety againt the ones that have been damaged more...but wasn't it the Hamas who started with the rockets first? So, can we really say someone's right or someone's wrong? Isn't the purpose of a solidariety manifestation to preach peace?
So, even here in Belo Horizonte, thousands miles away from Israel, we get things all wrong...and we are not even directly involved!! What can we expect from those who are experiencing the war, then?