Thursday, May 15, 2014

Letting Go: My Last Blog

If I have learned anything throughout the past 18 years of my life (and especially the past four that I've spent in high school), and if I had to teach my children something significant, it would the importance of letting go. This lesson has proved its importance in my academic experiences as well as in my personal life. I remember during my sophomore year, I was in the process of writing a short story that was going absolutely nowhere. I kept tweaking different sentences and minor ideas, but it wasn't getting any better. It wasn't until my teacher told me to "let it go" that anything improved. I kept trying to improve something that was clearly stuck, and it wasn't until I let go of those ideas and cleared the way for a new concept that I was able to write freely and create something of some worth. This idea has stuck with me since that fateful day of my Sophomore year, and I've carried it into most of my classes and have improved significantly as a student.
But the concept of letting go has also proved its importance in my personal life. I've always loved traveling. I've traveled to Spain twice a year since I was born, I've been to China, Mexico, France, and plan to visit Denmark this summer. I never had a problem with traveling as a child, but for some reason, once I turned 16 or so, I became somewhat attached to my life here and found it more difficult to travel. And when I got my first boyfriend, I found it even more difficult. Every little attachment to home made me slightly less open to exploring other parts of the world and of myself, and even when I was spending time in Spain and in China, I didn't have the best attitude and often spent time thinking about what I was missing at that moment at home instead of enjoying where I was. I couldn't quite figure out why I wasn't having as good of a time as I'd had when I was younger. It wasn't until sometime this year on my trip to Spain that I once again stumbled upon the idea of letting go. How could I possibly have a good time or learn anything about the world when I was attaching myself to home? I realized that while loving home and the people there is important, I needed to be able to be able to detach, let go, and become independent in order to be able to truly explore the amazing places that I was visiting, and in order to learn more about the world and about myself. The ideas of letting go and being here now are things that have improved my independence and my overall happiness significantly, and are concepts that I believe everybody should consider when trying to improve themselves.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014


A friend of mine recently posted this photo onto her Facebook page with the caption, "'People gather water from a huge well in the village of Natwarghad in the western Indian state of Gujarat. More than 1 billion people still lack access to clean drinking water. [2003].'" 
This photo had an immediate impact on me and I had to share it. The other day as I considered my future as a college student, I somehow came across an odd concern that I wouldn't have water at my disposal in my bedroom at any given moment. I worried that I'd have to get up in the middle of the night and walk all the way to a communal bathroom or to a vending machine or a water fountain nearby, and at the time, this was a legitimate concern.
However, upon being shown this photo, I felt extremely embarrassed. Here people stand patiently, carrying empty jugs or leaving them on the ground nearby as they wait for a chance to fill up with water. The area looks deserted, surrounded by sand and rubble. They have no clean water in their homes, nor can they leave their dorm rooms and walk several feet to the nearest water fountain. They have walked for who knows how long to seek water in the depths of a well surrounded by sand and rocks. 
We often hear of the issue that a huge number of people face regarding a lack of clean water, but it's hard to understand the repercussions of that issue until we see it firsthand. This photo is the closest I have come to actually witnessing the issue. It's easy to hear about people without clean water in their homes and still somehow assume that it magically appears in a simple process when they go out and seek it. It is evident from this photo, however, that this is not the case. This issue is one that is easy to neglect because water seems to be such an everlasting commodity for us. It is not until we witness people struggling to find water through photos like this one that we can start to grasp the severity of the problem and its effects on real peoples lives.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Image of Sea World

In a recent discussion, topics came up regarding ecocriticism and our society's understanding of nature, the environment, etc. We deeply discussed the effects that children's stories and experiences have on our youth's perception of nature and animals, and how past experiences have affected our own perception. Today, a specific place came up in conversation: Sea World. What child doesn't love Sea World? It's a place where families go on vacation trips to watch magical whales and dolphins. It's a place we go to view and connect with nature.

In fact, at one point, this was Sea World's main sell in their advertisements: "Touch the magic" was the tagline of a large advertising campaign. "Make contact." In the eyes of the public, Sea World is a place to connect with nature. Sea World's image is that of a place where we can view animals living in their natural habitats. But as is stated in an essay by Susan G. Davis, "Sea World's nature is not only highly artificial but also standardized." Sea World's image and our perception of its purpose are largely untrue. Much like a museum, somebody arbitrarily chooses what will go on display and in what type of setting, for how long, etc. SeaWorld is also funded by large corporate sponsors. There are numerous commercial draws to the theme park other than the "nature" including concerts, arcades and roller coasters. Even if the nature aspect of SeaWorld were spot on, it'd be hard to believe that the park was doing its job of "connecting humans with nature" due to all of the distractions that bring in more paying customers.

Perhaps we aren't connecting to nature at all, but rather we're enchanted by the spectacles surrounding the animal exhibits. I don't believe that SeaWorld or any other "natural" theme park is truly teaching any child or adult about nature or animals' natural environments; it's all planned (rather poorly) and made popular by the extravagant activities surrounding the exhibits and the magical looking advertisements. There may be certain efforts by Busch Entertainment and Anheuser-Busch to bring education on marine life and nature to classrooms, but in my opinion, even this seems promotional.

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Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Malaysian Airlines MH370

I have recently become somewhat obsessed with the missing flight from Malaysia, Malaysia Airlines MH370. I'm frequently reading articles about the lost flight, searching for new leads or details but generally finding the same few facts everywhere I look. The lack of answers has gotten quite frustrating, to be honest. But yesterday, I clicked on an article that did show something different; upon opening the article, I saw this photo of a family member of one of the flight's passengers. Throughout all of the updates and lack of truly new information throughout the past two weeks, I hadn't even thought about the family members of the passengers. I realized that very few articles had taken them into account.

This photo shocked me and made me angry, and it got me thinking. If I'm anxious and frustrated by this situation, how in the world are these family members dealing with it?  All forms of media have jumped on this mystery, searching for ways to keep it interesting and at the surface of news. In doing this, though, they are creating a still suspense for families while simultaneously following them around with cameras to capture their fear and grief.
Houses of pilots and passengers are being searched for new information. Some have accused the pilots and even some of the passengers of Though, of course, keeping all possibilities open and searching for evidence is incredibly important, it is certainly adding to the stress of the families. It is fair for authorities to be searching for leads. However, I believe it is not fair for media to be harassing families for photos and interviews as shown in the photo above. It's somewhat abusive and only serves the purpose of creating a dramatic story that will keep readers and viewers, like me, obsessed with the mystery.

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Monday, March 3, 2014


In this blog post, I won't address any specific photo/image of Hamlet, but rather I'll discuss the different portrayals of Hamlet that plays and films show, and the different images of characters that these portrayals create.

One specific scene that was portrayed quite differently by multiple versions was the scene where Hamlet kills Polonius and confronts his mother, Gertrude, for marrying his father's murderer. When I first read this scene, I did not assume that the interactions between Gertrude and Hamlet were incestuous in any way. I assumed that this was simply a rather tense conversation between mother and son. And my original vision of the scene was supported by several of the film versions we watched (Kenneth Branagh's version and Laurence Olivier's versions, for example).

Then, however, we viewed the film version starring Mel Gibson as Hamlet, and this version portrayed the scene in a completely different way, creating an incestuous relationship between Hamlet and Gertrude. This simple change in portrayal of one scene changed the vibe of both versions completely, forcing us to question all of the interactions between Hamlet and Gertrude throughout the play. It also makes us wonder which type of portrayal Shakespeare originally intended, whether he viewed the relationship between Gertrude and Hamlet as incestuous or not. It's fascinating how the change in portrayal of just one scene can change the way we view an entire play.

Friday, February 28, 2014

Image of Ukraine

A friend of mine recently posted an article discussing the conflict in Ukraine, and the article included a photo that really struck me. This photo is a panorama of Kiev's Independence Square. It shows half of the Square as it looked before the conflict erupted, and half of the Square as it currently looks, taken during the violence.

Of course, I was somewhat aware of the issues occurring in Ukraine before seeing this photo. I'd heard all about the various conflicts occurring between political figures, countries, citizens, etc. on the news and on the radio (if you're not up to date on what's going on in Ukraine, check out this CNN article). But somehow, the gravity of the situation and its actual effects on the country, its landscape and its people did not hit me until I saw this photo. It's easy to hear about a conflict and only hear the big details regarding what's happening between governments. It's also easy to hear the numbers of people being killed daily and to instantly forget about it; in a way, we have become desensitized to death and its numbers.

But this photo directly shows the effects that the violence and conflict have had on Ukraine. A clean and shiny Independence Square was torn down and turned into a dark and explosive battleground. I can't help but imagine the people that used to leisurely wander around this Square with family and friends. I wonder what has happened to those people, or to their family and friends, and how this explosive violence has affected them. This photo opened my eyes to the reality of the conflict in Ukraine. An image can demonstrate a conflict in ways that words in radio and news stories cannot.

If you're interested in viewing some more striking images of the conflict in Ukraine, click this link.

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Monday, February 10, 2014

Barcelona: A New Angle

My mother was born and raised in Barcelona, Spain. Spanish was my first language (well, learned simultaneously with English, that is), and my Spanish culture has been one of the most important parts of my life since I was a child. I travel there frequently (twice a year), and I know the city quite well. I've seen all of the photos on post cards in gift shops of your typical tourist stops: la Sagrada Familia, Parc Guell, the Mediterranean Sea, etc. In some ways, knowing Barcelona so well and seeing the same old photos of the city has made me lose my appreciation for it.

But earlier today, I was browsing a subreddit where people upload cool photos of cities that they visit when I stumbled upon a photo of Barcelona. I stared at it for several minutes, analyzing the once familiar streets that, in this photo, looked completely foreign to me. This photo was taken from above.

I was completely mesmerized. I immediately recognized the Sagrada Familia located towards the left of the image, but...did the streets always line up so straight? Had the buildings always been standing in those formations? I couldn't help but feel embarrassed at the fact that I'd visited a large number of these buildings and had never noticed the way that they all line up. This image presented me with a whole new city. A new angle can bring about a whole new appreciation for something you thought you knew quite well.

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