An ode to Spain

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Hey Spain, come have a seat. I made some coffee for you, just how you like it –con leche.
This might be kind of awkward, I mean, we haven’t seen each other in a while, but I have to tell you something.
I’m still in love with you.
I remember when we first met in 2005. Things were different then..for the both of us.
You had me at hello, er, I mean “hola“.
You didn’t take too long to convince me to fall for you. In fact, you didn’t utter a word. We moved in silence together.
Your long, hot days and windy nights fill me with wanderlust.
I miss the savory oranges from the market on a Sunday morning, and your succulent tapas on a weeknight.
You gave me art. Masterpieces that I didn’t even know existed, painted by an eccentric man with unforgettable flair.
You gave me futbol – nights full of passion and rollercoasters of emotions.
I miss your men.
Your women too.
Overflowing with colour and life.
Don’t look at me like that! You know I had to go.
We were temporary lovers that fell into one another’s arms, living our moments to the last drop, just before letting go.
We went through so much together. From first loves to break-ups, exams and shitty apartments. Even in my lowest moments you managed to embrace me in your goodness.
I hope to find myself in the middle of Plaza España again, waiting for you and your endless surprises.
I’d never known love before I met you, and I haven’t felt it since.
Don’t leave just yet! I’ll get you another cup.
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A Secret Window

Once a week, I turn off my phone, my computer, iPad etc. and I go for a walk. A couple hours of complete disconnection do wonders for your sanity. It’s sad to think that going for a walk, completely alone, just you and your thoughts, is a thing of the past. I do my best thinking in these moments, everything else can wait. Unfortunately, this time I cheated a little bit. I came across a beautiful canal, a “secret” canal in fact, that locals will brag about.
My personal challenge for you is to take a walk, once a week, completely alone. You can stop for a coffee, sit on a park bench, and disconnect from outside worries (maybe even take a quick picture if the opportunity is too beautiful to pass up).

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Disillusioned 90s Kid

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         I’m turning 25 next March. When I was 16 years old, I imagined myself very differently at 25. I narrated my lavish lifestyle using my naive imagination. I was supposed to have a nice house, a ton of money, and an engagement ring. I have neither of these checked off on my list. I don’t know if I have myself to blame or if society is working against me. Most of my 20 something friends are in a similar situation and we feel robbed of what we were promised when we were kids.

         Living in southern Europe has further confirmed the fears for my generation. At this point, I don’t know who is worse off, the Italians or the Spanish? Unemployment rates are skyrocketing among young people, and we are blaming ourselves. We are highly educated. Most of us have a bachelors degree, if not a masters. When the universities came to recruit at my high school in Ontario, Canada, they all had a really nice powerpoint presentation prepared for us. Photos of smiling, multicultural campuses, students reading under the trees – it was a form of sugary propaganda. We were the fresh meat, ready for student debt slaughter. My education cost me nearly $30,000 for 4 years, and I lived at home. Two years after graduation, I’m making around €1,200 which is the equivalent of around $1,800 CAD. After paying my rent and other living expenses, it’s hard to make a dent on my student loan payments.

       Staying in Canada wouldn’t have provided me with a world of opportunities either. I would have had to move to a bigger city, rent an expensive bachelor pad, and probably work as a bartender or waitress. I prefer teaching English as a second language overseas. My former classmates opted to enter the public education system, forcing them to move halfway across the country where rent is three times higher than Ontario, and it’s really damn cold. I don’t want to come across as a brat who isn’t willing to make life changes in order to find career options. What I’m pissed off about is that our post-secondary institutions are nothing but a money making scam.

      The university brain-washing must stop. I was sold an idea that was completely untrue. My teachers and professors promoted the overpriced North American university system as if it were a godsend, when after all, I could have avoided the student loan hell and got an E.S.L teaching certificate that costs around $1,000. It would have provided me with the same amount of opportunities, especially abroad.

      Education is supposed to be the key to freedom, but it has been nothing but a heavy chain preventing me from achieving any sense of financial independence. The average cost of tuition at a reasonably sized Spanish university is around €1,000/year, while Canadian universities start at around $3,500-4000 annually, excluding textbooks. If I’m going to be unemployed or earning minimum wage, I’d like to be debt free at least, but it seems that ship has already sailed.

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European Discrimination

I’m Canadian and Eastern European. I was born in Canada a few years after my parents immigrated from Poland. It was 1986, and Poland was in political, social, and economic turmoil. There was an exodus of people with dreams and ideas that couldn’t flourish inside of the Iron Curtain.
My parents were on their way to spend their honeymoon in Croatia, but they didn’t get off at their stop. They stayed on the bus. Next came Slovenia – they kept going. They got off the bus in Trieste, Italy because it opened the door to Rome, Italy. The Eternal City served as a temporary base for Polish people looking to escape in the 80s. It was the halfway line between prospective immigrants and their countries of choice, mainly Australia, Canada, and the United States.
That long prologue to this article was necessary in order to understand my frustration. As a Canadian with a European passport, I often travel on the latter in order to avoid long lines or visa questions. When asked for I.D, I often present my Polish one because it doesn’t make a difference to me.
I’ve noticed a look. A special look of discrimination within Western European countries reserved especially for those from the East. The Russian Dictatorship a.k.a “Communism” that swept across countries like Ukraine, Romania, the Czech Republic, and so on, stunted their growth. Intellectuals were murdered and resources were exploited. If the communist years were erased, perhaps these countries would have grown to aide the big fish of the European Union.
But they didn’t. Instead, tons of Eastern Europeans immigrated to Western Europe and became a product of their environment – many falling into drugs and prostitution, among other things.
Not everyone is a bad apple however. There were hundreds of thousands of other hard working Eastern Europeans who immigrated not to cause trouble, but to start a new life. I’m tired of the look people give me when they see my ID. No, I’m not a prostitute, alcoholic, or a maid. I’m not a mail order bride.
I was walking down the street once with a German friend, who knew about my Canadian origins only, when we came across a man digging in garbage cans.
“He’s probably Romanian, or Polish or something.” stated my new friend.
When another friend met a girl at his university, his friends wouldn’t let him hear the end of it because she was Ukrainian and probably after his money.
In a supposed “united” Europe, I see nothing but social and cultural division. Neither Spain or Italy can call themselves multicultural nations, despite the increasing percentage of immigrants coming in from Arab, African, and other European countries. Thousands of displaced immigrants fleeing war torn nations are marginalized and mistreated by their nations of refuge, and I see 1986 all over again.
When football (soccer) player Mario Balotelli made his debut for Italy, many fans made their feelings clear. Balotelli, a black Italian raised in Italy, has been greeted several times by fans throwing bananas at him on the field.
If it’s wrong to make assumptions based on origin or race in North America, why are Europeans, (mainly from Southern Europe) so far behind?
I consider myself Canadian, but there’s a part of my past that’s impossible to ignore, and easy to offend, especially when it comes to comments made from total ignorance.
I shouldn’t be treated differently based on which I.D card I present, and lastly, I’m sick of the all-knowing “look” that comes afterward.

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