Better Late Than Never: 31 days in

In a typical fashion, I am beginning my travel blog a month late. I arrived in Managua exactly 31 days ago and as usual, haven’t had the desire to write in my blog. But today, today is different. Today I received my housing assignment for Peru, which makes that next chapter of this trip all the more real. But I still have one week left in Nicaragua and I feel like it will be well spent.

So far this trip has been filled with many hours in a freezing classroom, restless humid nights, and good people. Notable experiences are as follows:
           Almost getting struck by lightning in Granada

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           Failing completely at diving off a dock in Lagoon Apoyo

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           Surfing in San Juan del Sur, and not freaking out too much about the shark in the watersanjuan

           Volcano boarding down the most active cinder cone volcano in the world, and not crashing

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Naturally, there have been numerous other events but these five are the ones that stand out the most. Regarding classes at UCA (Universidad de Centroamérica), I’m thankful to have been able to learn about Nicaraguan history, culture and literature. I’m writing this post in my literature class (shh) but I had to write down this poem we read today:

A don Ramón de Campoamor
por Rubén Darío

Éste del cabello cano,
como la piel del armiño,
juntó su candor de niño
con su experiencia de anciano;
cuando se tiene en la mano
un libro de tal varón,
abeja es cada expresión
que, volando del papel,
deja en los labios la miel
y pica en el corazón.

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(v.) to fail

So I’ve been in Spain for exactly a month and I’m just now making a blog about it…Father Sundborg you can take away my Journalism major, I have failed you. I could try to blame it on my lack of internet, busy schedule or even the heat but the fact is I’m lagging. So better late than never right? I still have an entire month here! Looking back at the past month is insane, I came to Igualada for one family – 7 year old boy and 5 year old girl. I had my reservations about the family before I came to Spain but I never realized that I really should’ve trusted my internal instinct. 

Backtrack.

Before I came to Spain I talked with the mother on the phone a few times, totally normal right? She spoke some English and called me Alice. This makes me laugh because my mother named me Alicia so that when I traveled, it would be a universally understood name. Wrong – Alicia is the Spanish form of Alice. So the mom, we’ll call her Maria, thought I was changing my name for her benefit. Sorry no, that’s my name. 

Maria was very concerned about me being modest, which is totally understandable – who wants some boobs-out butt-out American teenager caring for their children? Answer: not Maria. Despite the fact that I already dress modestly (ask anyone), she was incredibly insistent on this and even asked me if I had a one piece swim suit…of course I do! (No..of course I don’t.) Thus prompted a trip to Target with my mom to search for a seemingly passable one piece swimsuit.

The next thing concerning Maria was my spirituality – she and her family are Catholic. And by Catholic I mean church at least twice a week, everyone wears Jesus on a chain and family prayer every night at their in house altar-cross-thing. What’s a girl to do but say “Oh yes I’m Christian, I even go to a Jesuit University”? Both of my parents are Christian, I was raised as an Episcopalian but as soon as I was given the choice – church or no church – I opted out. One thing that I am always annoyed by is when parents force children to go to church, make them proclaim their belief of something that they probably don’t understand, and not give the child a choice to stop and say “well I’m not sure if I believe in that”. 

Anyway. There were other concerns I had with Maria but all in all, I just wanted to have a family to go to and be in Spain. So it was set. I flew into Barcelona on July 2nd. I fly alone all the time, cross-country multiple times a year – Seattle to Boston is a 6.5 hour flight and I’ve done it at least 8 times in the past 2 years. But I’d never flown out of the country on my own, needless to say I was nervous. My flights passed without complaint but once I arrived in Barcelona I had another reason to be nervous – meeting my host mom. Maria told me she would “be right there waiting”. I had no idea what that meant but I followed to masses through customs and out into the arrivals area where at least a hundred people were waiting for passengers from various lengths of the world. I thought that must be where Maria would meet me. I was already 30 minutes past my landing time so I was sure she had to be there but there was no one. No sign for Alicia…or Alice. To make matters worse it was 32° in the airport (89° F). So sweaty profusely and nervous, I made my first spanish encounter. First I asked a pleasant looking teenage girl if she knew where the phones were, she said she’d never seen a pay phone in the airport. Right, because of course everyone has cellphones nowadays. I then asked if I could use her phone to make an phone call in Spain – she said of course! Feeling relief on the way I quickly dialed the number my host mom had given me…dial tone….nothing. I tried her husbands number, same thing. I told the girl and she said she must be out of credit on her phone – sorry. Panic clung to me again. The next phone I set to conquer belonged to a older couple – same thing seemed to happen this time but just as I was handing back the phone to the woman – it rang. I answered and it was Maria! Finally. She said she was buadsfkjlasdf. What? buusadf! I told her I was at the arrivals, wearing a blue shirt and glasses. She said she was wearing a orange shirt and blue shorts. She would find me. 

I handed the phone back to the woman – the screen definitely had some of my lovely sweat on it. I thanked her a million times and went back to waiting with my huge suitcase. I looked down at my shirt to make sure I looked my best – shit. Is my shirt green or blue? It’s that seafoam green color that everybody loves this year. I picked the shirt up with Rachel and Raelene in Seattle before I went to the East Coast and then Spain – we thought it would be great because it was comfortable, modest and made my eyes pop (thanks seafoam!). I always call seafoam blue but others say it’s green. What if Maria never finds me because she thinks seafoam is green too?! 

Is she wearing a blue shirt and orange shorts or orange shirt and blue shorts? Why is everyone here wearing orange shirts?! I thought no one wore orange! As I had a mid-panic in my mind, sweating, and feeling my hair sticking to my forehead, neck, everywhere I saw a woman looking around. She was looking around like someone who is looking for a person whom they have no idea what they look like. I shyly approached her and she said “Alice?!” and I said a confident “Si!” and then she gave me the Spanish standard greeting – hold arms and kiss each cheek. She grabbed my suitcase and we set off. We didn’t get far because 15 feet later she stopped and said, “Can you take out your nose anarillo?” (nose ring). My heart dropped, my nose ring? I love my nose ring, it reminds me of Seattle and it makes me seem a little bit more interesting. I got it on Election Day last year, a semi-dumb “Hey I just voted for the first time – America!” type of thing. That, and I had wanted it for a while. 

I turned to Maria and told her, no I can’t take out my nose ring, it was in the picture of me in my application, she must have seen it then too. She told me she hadn’t, but she wanted it out “for the children”. What? I know parents like to protect their children but my nose ring is harmless, hardly noticeable. One reason I like it so much is because it blends in with my face. But she was insistent, I told her I could change it to a stud if she wanted but I would not take it out completely. She was worried. Then she changed subjects and said we should find the car. Finally. After traveling from Boston to Madrid to Barcelona and then waiting for an hour I was exhausted. Maria can’t seem to figure out where the parking garage is so she has to ask at least 5 people and get literarily guided to the garage. Then, she can’t remember what floor she was on. There are 8 floors in the Barcelona parking lot. She goes up to the ticket counter and asks the man where her car is, as if he would have an idea. The counter-man looks at me as if to say “is this woman serious?” and then turns back to her and says he has no idea where people’s cars are he only handles tickets. Maria starts talking to him heatedly and angrily, which is ridiculous because this is not his fault in any way. She tells me to wait and she will find the car. 20 minutes later she screeches up to me and my luggage. I, brain dead and tense, get into the car for the 30 minute ride to Igualada. 

Sonic Boom Focuses on Local Involvement

Posted on balladsofballard.wordpress.com for Class Assignment:

Along NW Market Street lies Sonic Boom Records, know by many Seattleites as the premier record store for all things Northwest and musical. Sonic Boom Records first opened in Freemont in 1997 then moved to a larger space in Freemont and by 2001 had moved to Ballard followed by Capitol Hill in 2003. The Ballard location is the only store that remains as result of a lack of demand for record stores, a feeling commonly found in Seattle and the digital age.

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Jason Hughes and Nabil Ayers, co-owners of Sonic Boom, met working at Easy Street Records and bonded over an appreciation of music. Both were involved in various bands, Ayers most well known for his involvement with The Long Winters and Hughes for Carmine and Six Minute Mile.

Hughes is passionate about local businesses, in past years he organized a shop local campaign, and involved more than thirty local businesses in promoting thinking locally.

Hughes also administers a Facebook page in which Ballard storeowners report shoplifters and update each other on neighborhood activity. “Owners usually find a picture from their videos of the shop-lifter then post a picture of the shoplifters face on the Facebook page, so that other owners know who to look for.” The group has expanded so much that the group now has ‘eyes on the street’, otherwise known as the owner of Ninja BBQ, Siam Sukrachan, who can spot shoplifters on the street and post updates on his phone.

All business aside, Hughes is driven by music. He describes Sonic Boom as “a store with a well curated selection that is customer driven.” The store conducts house calls a few times a month, which involves Hughes and various staff traveling to a potential sellers house to buy their record collections. “Sometimes we leave the house with two cars full of records.”

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Matt, an employee at Sonic Boom, works at Sonic Boom for his love of music, and through his job has come to appreciate every genre of music. “There’s good in every genre if you look for it,” he says. As with many of the employees at Sonic Boom, Matt is unsure as to what brought him to Seattle. “I just came here in 1997 and I’ve been here ever since.” Hughes’ experienced a similar observation, after graduating Berkley College Hughes “jumped on 1-5 and never stopped until Seattle.” Another employee, Greg, moved to Seattle because his car broke down here as he was heading down the Pacific coastline.

Most employees at Sonic Boom have a history in music, whether it be in performance or industry. Greg “dabbled in various instruments” but now resides to a sideline appreciation for underground rock. Matt has no experience preforming, “other than the clarinet in my middle school days,” he chuckles.

Sonic Boom is all about music. It’s employees love music, the owners have a history in the industry and the company focuses on local and small labels for stock. The shop is a Seattle classic that brings Seattleites from all neighborhoods to Ballard.

Students Advocate for Disabilities on Campus

Published in the Spectator:

Shandra Benito uses two words to describe her day: educate and advocate. These words consume her days as a student at Seattle University. As a part of Coalition for Students with Disabilities, Benito fights ignorance–which is surprisingly common on campus.

Many might argue that Seattle U is one of the least ignorant campuses in the PNW but ignorance can be broken into so many categories. The ignorance, of which Benito speaks, is that on disabilities. One would never guess that Benito was born Deaf, or that she reads lips to understand what in the world you are blabbering about.

When Benito came to Seattle U in 2009, she felt lost. “There’s no community for people with disabilities,” Benito said. “There’s no space for people who understand.” For this reason, she along with three other students are forming this Coalition for Students with Disabilities as well as the Disability Services Student Advisory Board.

CSD logo“We have three goals; the first is to create a space and voice for students with disabilities. The second goal is advocacy.” According to Benito, there is no organization on campus that can hold someone or a group accountable for when something regarding the disabled community goes wrong.

“Our final goal is education, the education of students and faculty in disabilities and to show them the gifts that these disabilities bring but also the needs.”

It goes without question that Benito is passionate about advocacy for disabilities. But her passion is even greater fueled by encounters she has had at Seattle University. An interpreter accompanies every class, lecture and meeting she attends.

Interpreters provided by Disabilities Services Office will then situate themselves across from Benito, and translate English to American Sign Language (ASL). This seemingly common and usual event has been difficult at times though. Professors used to ask Benito if the interpreter was her parent, a strange question to ask a junior in college.

When Benito explains the interpreter’s purpose, some professors begin to believe that Benito herself needs more help in the classwork, or they raise their voices when speaking to Benito—regardless of her being a Sullivan scholar. Other times professors have asked interpreters to move or “be less distracting”.

“They just have no idea have to act around a student with disabilities.”

Another student involved with the coalition is Alex Stoffel, a sophomore journalism major. Stoffel and her parents were faced with a decision to have a life changing surgery 13 years ago, that left her paralyzed. She sees this change as “not a loss of two legs, but a gain of four wheels.”

Her gain of wheels has also provided for frustration. With on-campus events and OAR trips, it is never a question of whether or not Stoffel can make time to attend, but also are these college experiences accessible, and what facilities define as “accessible”.

Every person is “temporarily able-bodied”, according to Stoffel. Circumstances can change in a second. An accident, spontaneous cancer or other illness can arise in a minute, a few weeks, a year. Once a person breaks their leg, is diagnosed with a form of cancer, or has an ear infection, their access to the world changes. One might not consider the difficulty for someone to go from the lower to upper mall on campus, unless they are in a wheelchair, or on crutches. Elevator access between malls is time consuming and limited. Printers, a basic in college lifestyle, become inaccessible if they are placed on high tables.

“It’s exhausting to have a disability,” Stoffel says. “It’s understandable why some people are bitter [when they have a disability].” But Stoffel is the opposite of bitter, and one of the most positive people at Seattle U. But she is tired, tired of the lack of advocacy on campus and the ignorance that she faces. “I wouldn’t be who I am today if I hadn’t had this happen to me,” she says.
Disability Services, located in Loyola 100, serves about 700 undergrad students at Seattle U campus, which is roughly 17 percent of undergrads. Rich Okamoto, Director of Disability Services, is well-aware of how thinly stretched the office is. He has worked closely with Benito, Stoffel and Natasha Hansen-Day with forming the Coalition for Students with Disabilities.

Okamoto hopes that the coalition will close the gap in the education of the community concerning disabilities as well as faculty members. The Disability Services office provides mostly academic and housing support for students with disabilities, which is in accordance with Act 504 and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA), which requires public and private colleges that use federal funds must make their programs accessible to students with disabilities[1].

Okamoto, who has worked at Seattle U since 2000, understands the difficulties students face with identity, and thinks the coalition will help students with disabilities develop a voice on campus and also gain self-acceptance of themselves and their disabilities. “Its important that there is a place for students to interact with other students who have had similar experiences.”

Natasha Hansen-Day, a sophomore at Seattle U, could not agree with Okamoto more, “I only became more accepting of myself after talking to Shandra [Benito]. Through her I found that it was okay to be Deaf.” Hansen-Day was not born Deaf, but as a result of a cyst-removal in her right ear, she lost most of her hearing. Here at Seattle U, she alternates between lip-reading and a professional ‘real-time captioner’ to type out what is being said in the class. Before meeting Benito, Hansen-Day was unaware of Disability Services, and accordingly went without services her freshman year.

Hansen-Day is leaving Seattle U and transferring to University of Washington (UW). The disability services offered at UW far exceed that at Seattle U. They offer students the whole package of services, both academic and social. UW also offers a Disability Services major and minor. But Hansen-Day’s journey with Seattle U will not end when she transfers to UW next year, she is still excited to work with the coalition at Seattle U. Hansen-Day hopes to bring successful ideas from UW to Seattle U, as well as resources and overall excitement.

Along with the Coalition that will be forming is a Disability Services Student Advisory Board, which will allow users of Disability Services to directly inform the office what is needed and what is not.  The Board hopes to expand Disability Services towards what students need, and hopes to do so through sharing issues and ideas with the office.

The Coalition for Students with Disabilities is hosting a forum on May 30th at 4pm, in a location to be determined, to introduce itself to the community and also hold a campus climate to discuss disabilities and issues.

The members of the coalition are hopeful of the affects the group will have on campus, with education as well as widened access. Benito hopes when she graduates next year that Seattle U will have a structure, community, and place for students with disabilities.

If you have questions regarding the coalition, please email Shandra Benito at benitos@seattleu.edu.

If you have questions regarding the student advisory board, please email Alex Stoffel at stoffela@seattleu.edu.


[1] “Publications.” ADA Q & A: Section 504 & Postsecondary Education. N.p., n.d. Web. 04 May 2013.