You can enter any cafe in Spain and you will probably find the same two drinks: cheap Pilsner beer and local wine (OK, you can at least choose between red and white!). The Spanish palette for mixed drinks is limited to adding liqueur to coffee, it seems, and their availability of decent beer choices is abominable. But when it comes to education, Spaniards love a good cocktail.
Here are some instructions for making an educational cocktail, shaken, not stirred.
1. Homogeneous groups of students segregated by ability who remain together all day long for years at a time, and are allowed to choose their own seats.
2. Heterogeneous teachers who range in age, management, and educational methodology.
3. A school building that does not provide resources such as technology, textbooks, government-funded lunch, or air conditioning.
1. Place all students in one classroom. Wait for intermittently ringing bells that will shake them up out of their seats while teachers dance through hallways crowded with other teachers and random students who have PE that period, to arrive and wrap the students up in a somewhat-chilled glass with a pinch of salt along the rim.
2. Spend three hours each week trying to settle the above shaking, using the cold stirrer of the teacher’s little authority to embed knowledge enough of one subject area to make a decent mixed drink, full of flavor and memorable enough to spill out onto the streets with jubilation.
3. Subdue them on four occasions per trimester with exams that make up the stark majority of their grades, consisting of arduous essay questions, but only about ten per exam. Their flavors will bleed through classes so that they will begin to taste more like eraser remnants than a decently mixed drink.
4. Shake up the cocktail a little just when the school year is getting cold by surprising only select groups of students in one grade of primary and one of secondary with the annual government test, whose topics, flavors, and question amounts you will never know or begin to be able to prepare for, similar to visiting the cafes in every city in Spain who may or may not have a menu, use local vocabulary non-translatable in any software to identify food items, and whose waiters never return after bringing you your order. (Surprise, surprise, we all like to guess what it is we’re bringing to our lips!)
5. If the cocktail spills, you may clean it up and refill it once, for free, but only once. After that, you will be run dry and stuck in the same situation as the rest of the third world: working shit jobs for little pay.
Alas, you can always look back at your educational experiences and say that you had the best mixed drink of all time: moving through the school system in Spain!
The beauty of the road is so much more than views. It is the elevation loss and gain that sneaks up on you as quickly as the road snakes its way along the Snake River.
It is the surprise of the desert that has made its rural-America mark in southeastern Oregon.
It is the spontaneity of stopping at state parks for a peek at history and scenery so breathtaking you feel you’ve stepped into a mini Grand Canyon.
It is the trail our ancestors walked upon that you place your weary soles on now, however twisted and stolen it may be. It is still a silent beauty resting behind a sleepy Americana town, waiting for rediscovery and firsthand learning for three young women.
It is the creek sparkling in the hotter-than-expected northwestern sun, and the quick dip that makes an afternoon sparkle just as brightly.
It is the curve that moves from summit to limitless landscapes, to the expansive end of the Oregon Trail, played out in a quilt of farm fields, and the hope they held for a better life.
The road brings beauty, and within this beauty lies everything you’d expect and wouldn’t expect: children bickering, bits and pieces of trash and clothing piled up in the backseats, state lines that bear no stoppable signs, audiobooks and downloaded movies, snapshots taken from a moving vehicle, trucks that hog both lanes, treeless mountains and endless vineyards, poverty and wealth found behind fences and up on winery hilltops.
The road brings more than views of tall pines, sagebrush-only molehills, and sleepy rivers. It brings us all a new world view where we search for ourselves and find ourselves in each other. Where children find joy in only their siblings’ company, where the road promises a pool at the end of the day and a reality check about small city poverty to remind us of what we have.
Can you see it from an airplane, from a train ride, from a walk down the block?
Never quite like the views you’ll find when you hit the open road. The views of nature, of civilization… of yourself.
You just need one set of keys, a whole lot of gumption, and a pair of soul-searching eyes, and you can find yourself a whole new world view.
i cry for the card, for his loss,
for his Iraqi-Syrian past,
for all the burning hours of summer school
where he committed himself
to finishing high school in three years.
i cry for his words, for his loss,
his inescapable self that has hidden
a kind face in a chaotic classroom,
his sly smile catching my every
snuck-in witty remark
(even when no one else could).
i cry for the system, for his loss,
shuffled by our government’s wars
between homelands that stole his home,
for his pride in Iraqi architecture
that he may never see again.
i cry for his future, for his loss,
for how unequivocally kind his soul remains
after all he has witnessed in twenty-one years,
for his brothers who wait under his watchful shadow,
for our country to give him a chance.
i cry for his words, for my loss,
to not have his presence in my classroom,
to have the nicest thing anyone’s
ever written to me
disappear with a graduation ceremony.
i cry for the world, for their loss,
for robbing refugees of their rights,
for keeping the beauty that is him,
that is within all of them,
from sharing their strength
with all of us, inshallah,
for a brighter tomorrow.
In the middle class houses all being scraped
to build mansions no one can afford?
In the stagnant salaries that ask us to
work harder for less money?
In the moms working two jobs,
the dads unable to keep up?
Where is my Italian grandmother’s dream
of a better tomorrow, a house she and her
Irish husband built and paid for
before they retired?
It is not my dream.
It is not our dream.
I am the working mother,
the disappearing middle class,
I am the two-incomes-barely-making it generation,
the trapped in social media comparison
of who has the best selfie, the best vacation,
the best life?
Where is my grandparents’ America,
who came back from the war and
built from the ground up those tiny homes
that we can’t wait to tear down?
Where are the housewives who can sew clothes
and cook duck a’l’orange for a Wednesday evening?
Who are there when their children come home?
Whose husbands could buy pay for this house
on just one salary?
I am Generation X, torn between Baby Boomers
who raised us to be independent
and Millennials who can’t do anything for themselves.
I am the white woman who can never decide
between what is fair for her and fair for everyone.
Where is my grandparents’ America?
In the broken corporate ladder,
in the endless need for greed,
in the generations lost between yesterday and tomorrow.
In the hope lost between King’s improvised speech
and Trump’s rampant ignorance,
in a land I barely recognize,
in the rubble of torn-down houses,
torn-down American dreams.
(NOTE: Inspired by “Let America Be America Again” by Langston Hughes)
that moment at school
when a domestic violence reference
does not register
as a violation of human rights.
that is a teachable moment.
let them write their stories,
their lives poured out on paper
in a language that sifts through their minds
like Lucky Charms marshmallows,
where finding the right words to describe the trees native to their homelands,
the pain of fleeing war,
the parents who missed even grade school,
is like finding that rainbow marshmallow,
the brightest and sweetest:
that will save them.