Thursday, December 1, 2011

Britney Spears: Her Perogative

My Favorite Britney Performance Of All Time
I think it is safe to say that if you have met me, even once, you know how much I love Britney Spears. This article was originally written for the ID, The Peace Corps Newsletter, but it turned out to be too long-which is way better! As a blog post I can add photos to back up my point and really show off my homegirl. This all started as a review of her new Album, and once i got started writing, i mean i just could not stop! “Femme Fatale,” Britney’s 6th studio album dropped in March of this year. I will get to that. However, I am going to take it a step (or two) further and talk about what it is like to love Britney Spears, the artist and the woman, from the perspective of a die-hard, unconditional fan. I wrote this article originally back in may but I have had to keep updating my facts on Brit because her career literally keeps reaching new heights throughout 2011. No surprise there.

"The Way You Make Me Feel"
I have been a fan now for 13 years, which by the way is half my life. Those first 3 beats of 'baby, one more time" DA DUM DUM. oh man, life changer. Britney is an absolutely incredible dancer. She is easily one of the best female dancers of all time- and her style is super unique. Dancing like Britney is a lot of sharp movements, hair-flipping and she uses her arms to guide the rest of her body. She is so sexy and athletic when she is on the floor and she is the person who taught me how to love dance.

Oops, excuse me, can you give me a hand with these?
Now I don't know much in this crazy world and I am not great at many things. I can however dance like Britney. I mean, THAT is for damn sure. I've got 108 Britney songs on my itunes and I know how to dance, as she would, to every. last. one. I don't mean this in a cocky way, but I work hard at it and it's true...I'll take that challenge anytime, anywhere. I actually just did two weeks ago...good one.

Much like the career of Michael Jackson (may the King rest in peace), Britney’s personal life has taken center stage, and at times, has negatively overshadowed her incredible music and accomplishments. What I hope to do here is present an intelligent argument defending her, and perhaps I can persuade some of you to lose the judgment and see the pop icon as I do, talented and inspirational.
I would like to start out with a straight up BLAST of some of her career achievements. Britney Spears is recognized as the number one selling female artist of the past decade, she holds the 5th spot overall. Her record sales have been beaten only by Madonna, Celine Dion, Mariah Carey, and Whitey Houston. Now, I don’t know about the rest of you but I just heard some LEGENDS! Britney currently holds 4 Guinness World Records including “Best-Selling teen artist,” “Best-Selling album by a teen,” as well as “Most-Searched person on the internet, 2008” and most recently in 2011 “youngest female artist to have 6 number one albums.” This record was previously held by Mariah Carey for her release of ‘The Emancipation of Mimi” at age 38, Britney was 29 years old.

Circus Tour was DOPE
Miss Spears has just recently embarked on her 7th world tour; this will be the 6th time she is headlining. I am not even close to being ashamed that I saw her live for the first time in 1999 when she was the opening act for *NSYNC. My homegirls and I snuck into the concert in Mansfield, Massachusetts with tickets for “The Charlie Daniels Band.” Don’t think little 13 year old Grace didn’t have connections, even back then! (shout out to kyle and holly) I have since seen her live 4 more times; I even made it out twice for the “Circus” Tour. The ‘Femme Fatale” tour hit Boston on August 8th and I can’t even talk about it, as I was here. She is currently in Suuth America wrapping up her tour then she will move back up through Central America...homegirl is hitting Mexico 3 times but jumping right over Guatemala...DAMMIT! although I did send out some efforts on her fb page to convince her to come but someone kept deleting She will actually BE in Mexico on her 30th Birthday, December 2nd.

Legendary VMA Performances
Throughout her 13 year career, Britney has been nominated for 431 international awards, winning 305 of those.  For her jam “Toxic” Britney took home her first Grammy for “Best Dance Recording.” In total she has had 8 Grammy nominations, won 4 MTV Video Music awards, with a total of 28 nominations, she won 7 Moon Men in Europe and she holds the record for most teen choice awards; my girl has 16 orange surfboards! In a countdown of the top 10 VMA performances of all time released by MTV, Britney takes 4 spots, including number 1 for 2001’s ‘Slave 4 u,” you remember, the yellow snake and the live tigers. She has 10 Billboard Music Awards, and holds the record for biggest jump in Billboard music history. “Womanizer” went for number 46 to number 1 in one week. Can’t forget to mention the 10 top selling fragrances she has come out with since 2004. I like to think of myself as a little bit of  a fragrance connoisseur from my years of experience working in the Victoria's Secret Beauty Room and Britney Spears' BELIEVE is hands down the best fragrance out there. trust. 
Britney has graced the cover of literally thousands of magazines, including 7 Rolling Stone covers. She has also received the same number of awards from the magazine, 4 from the Playboy Magazine Awards and 2 from People Magazine. At age 22, Britney was honored with her own star on the Hollywood walk of fame, the same year FHM Magazine named her the “Sexiest Woman in the World.” She has also made Maxim’s similar list every year for the past decade. In the 2010 issue of Forbes Magazine “Most Powerful and Influential Celebrities,” Britney took the number 6 spot.
When the hit TV show “Glee” dedicated an entire episode to the music of Britney Spears, it scored the highest ratings yet for the series with 13.3 million viewers. As for Twitter accounts, Britney has the highest number of followers in the world with 5.3 million (Lady Gaga isn’t too far behind with 4.9, I also love her too) but that’s for another day. Oh, and her Facebook page has 15.5 million fans. Honestly, being friends with her on facebook is AWESOME, now that she is on tour, she posts pics from every concert, lets us know what she's listening to, and uses FB to raise awareness of causes she supports. This morning it was fighting hunger in Africa with a link for anyone to donate. it's my favorite thing. Does anyone remember her Pepsi Superbowl commercials? Any one else wanna drink PEPSI forever?
I understand this is a lot of facts, and you can tear her down as much as you want, but I believe you have to respect her for her accomplishments, she is only 29! I know I am not the only girl in the world who feels this way towards her, since her latest album debuted at number 1; it is safe to say Britney has one of the strongest most faithful fan bases of any artist around the globe.
FRESH Pepsi Commercial
Now, I am not going to sit here and say she didn’t lose her mind in 2007, because she absolutely did. In the same respect, I don’t think it’s fair to pass judgment on her when we have absolutely NO IDEA how to relate to someone with that kind of fame. I’m not sure it was easy to predict when she landed a spot on the “Mickey Mouse Club” at age 11 with straight-across bangs and acid washed jeans, that in 6 short years she would become and international sex symbol and one of the most recognizable faces on the planet. Think I am going too far with that statement? Is there any one reading this that couldn’t pick her out of a line-up? Right.  That kind of pressure for a 17 year old is unfathomable; my biggest worry at that age was if my mom was going to let me get blonde highlights or if I was going to make the starting line-up on the high school field hockey team.
Now I know I am not the only one whose jaw dropped when the video for “Baby One More Time” aired for the first time, or again with the red cat-suit for “oops,” and yet again for the low-cut jeans in “Slave 4 u.” I know that I was blown away by her incredible dancing ability and I rushed to learn every last move of each song, while the male jaws dropped because she was the sexiest thing anybody had ever seen. Is this what Britney wanted or what her management team wanted? a mix of both? Something to think about…
The Criticism began right away. Three months after Baby, One More Time dropped, we had Christina Aguilera come out with Genie In a Bottle. Right away 'Christina has a better voice than Britney' ummm yah and Celine Dion has a better voice than Madonna, does that mean she is better than Madonna in ANY WAY. She didn't ask any of you fools, she was just tryin to do her thing. (sidenote: I also love Christina- she is  super talented, but her latest album Bionic is absolute crap. listen up XXXtina, with a voice like that you don't need techno beats, i mean seriously)
love this simple pic in rehearsal
As her success grew consistently, she became more of a public figure in the spotlight. Britney had to put on a smiling face NO MATTER WHAT for every interview, performance and photo shoot, her every move was being videotaped, photographed and her every word documented.  You could make the argument that “she knew what she was getting into,” or ‘she signed up for this” but then again if you make that argument with me, you are more or less going to lose it. No one could have predicted the TYPE of fame Britney would encounter later on in her career. Life is hard. Life is hard even when you have fame and money. It is full of challenges, pressures and tough decisions. Britney fell in love twice in the public spotlight. Her break-up with Justin Timberlake was international news, now again, she was just a teenager. Now why they HELL did we think it was our business if she was sleeping with him or not? She was straight hounded in every single interview about being a virgin, hounded.  I refer to it as the infamous ‘Virgin’ brigade", god forbid she tell the truth- what would the public think if our pop-princess had had sex? That’s not fair. That’s too much pressure. And just to keep things real, for the past 10 years, the line of women trying to sleep with Justin Timberlake could wrap 4 times around the world at any given moment. truth. 
Now i know i may not get much support on this one but i can see why she fell for Kevin Federline. In case anyone failed to notice. homeboy had it GOIN ON when she wifed him up quick. Fresh line up, fly clothes, thug attitude, these are a few of my favorite things. Of course now I don't feel that was cuz he put on some pounds, lost his swagger and he played my girl britney like a fool.

totally normal.
What I love and respect about Britney Spears is she is not afraid to express how she is feeling in her music. Whether she is feeling sexy or confident, falling in love or the transition from girl to woman, she was always candid in her songs. Now when you take a step back and really look at it, she released 3 hit singles that hinted strongly at the fact she wasn’t necessarily dealing with her found fame very well. In her jam “Overprotected” she explains how frustrated she is that none of the decisions in her life are actually made by her, she had no control. She wrote ‘I need to make mistakes just to learn who I am, and I don’t wanna be so damn protected. God I need some answers….. I tell ‘em what I like, what I want, and what I don’t, but every time I do, I stand corrected.”  Also in her song “Lucky’ she sings “She’s so lucky, she’s a star but she cry, cry, cries in her lonely heart. Lost in an image, in a dream but there’s no one there to wake her up. The world is spinning and she keeps on winning, but tell me, what happens when it stops?” Also, and yes, this is quite dark but in the end of her ‘Everytime” video, she takes her own life after the Paparazzi had followed her around like crazy. Was anybody listening? I couldn’t help but feel bad for her and of course all of this led up to the infamous ‘mental breakdown’ of the young star.
"I'm Mrs. Most likely to get on the tv for slippin on the street while gettin
the groceries now FOR REAL, ARE YOU KIDDIN ME?"
SO SHE SHAVED HER HEAD. I don’t have any idea what it’s like to have someone else do my hair for 10 straight years, do you? It’s her head, for the love of god if she wants to shave it she has every right to do so. But it’s all about perspective, when she did shave her head she was going through an extremely public divorce. She gave birth to two kids in two years, again, very publically. Is Britney immune to postpartum depression??? Wouldn’t the media like to think so, even though it affects 10-15% of American woman who have recently given birth.  I remember how I felt that year, I actually wrote a letter of complaint to both CNN and Fox News. As international media outlets, I said ‘shame on them’ for putting her head-shaving incident as their top story for ATLEAST a month. Aren’t they responsible for bringing us the events of the world nightly? War? Disease? Famine? Political unrest? The status of Britney Spears’ hair? Needless to say I never heard a response. Have you ever known anyone who had a mental breakdown? I have. Or even a drug problem? I have. I can only imagine how difficult recovery could be when you are on the cover of every tabloid in an ambulance because you wanted to keep custody of your own children. I wouldn’t necessarily willingly release my toddlers into the hands of Kevin Federline either. Give her a break.
Also- hilarious story that my Umass girls can attest to, I got in a fight with an Amherst Police officer who was talkin smack about Britney and i got kicked out of the bar...i was so upset i went home and legit wanted to shave my head to show my support bahaha...super special shout out to Matt Dillon for talking me out of that one...and a thank you muy fuerte from my parents lol.....

My fav pic of Brit of ALL TIME. album artwork from BLACKOUT
Now here is where it gets good. I had mentioned earlier that she held the Guinness world record for most searched person on the internet, 2008. It is obvious that wasn’t for her music, that was the year of her mental breakdown, not the best record to hold but I think it fends ok compared to the rest of her accomplishments. Speaking of accomplishments, during the infamous media-frenzy, she managed to release “Blackout.” In all of her album releases, this was the only one not to debut at number one, granted it reached the top spot in its second week…In my personal opinion this is HANDS.DOWN. Britney’s best album! This was recorded when she was in her QUOTE ‘trailer trash” stage, but you know what? This only proves to me what an incredible artist she is, to record this amidst the drama! It proves what a sexy confident person she is, on the inside. (Oh, and BY THE WAY PEOPLE, a tank top and a bandana IS NOT THAT BAD OF AN OUTFIT, I DO IT ALL THE TIME.)  If you don’t believe that this is her best album, why don’t you go download ‘Toy Soldier, Freakshow, Get Naked, or Hot as Ice” or you could hear “Why Should I Be Sad,” where she explains her marriage ended because she sent her then-husband to Vegas on her money, where he very publically cheated on her, you know, while she was home with two toddlers. It’s a good listen! 
you're excused.
So why don’t we just call her the comeback queen? Since the “Blackout” album, we have had the release of “Circus” and now “Femme Fatale.” No one can ever say she didn’t rise above it all, get a hold of her career, her life, and she has finally regained custody of her kids, Jayden James and Sean Preston.
Britney Spears is a symbol for anyone out there who has ever hit rock bottom and gotten right back up. She took back control of her life and in my opinion, an even better artist and better version of herself has emerged. She is on top of the world these days.
“Femme Fatale” is hot like fire! You can find me on the dance floor killin’ it with “Up and Down, Drop-Dead Beautiful, and Til the World Ends” Her Debut Single from this album ‘Hold It Against Me” broke an Itunes record of most downloads in a day with 411,000. The track “Big Fat B
Classic britney move. rehearsal.
ass” produced by and featured in by Will.I.Am. is also off the hook, It sounds like Black Eyed Peas but instead of Fergie, Its Britney…isn’t that everyone’s dream anyway? No? Just mine, Vaya.  Surprisingly my favorite track on the whole LP is called ‘Criminal” it’s a slow jam about being in love with a bad boy. Ladies, Can I get a witness? It also has this crazy snake charmer flute backdrop that’s FUEGO! The Video for 'Criminal" was filmed in the UK and just released about a month ago...It was viewed over 1 BILLION times on Vevo in 4 days..UNBELIEVABLE. It's not surprise although that's a CRAZY number, the video is so hot...its got guns, motocycles, dancing, and sex...i mean.........
Awards and Craziness aside Britney has inspired me for…. wow, half my life. Her dancing is incomparable, as well as her confidence. If I could make a soundtrack of my life, it would be Britney’s hottest dance tracks. No lie. There's not many people who can sing 'womanizer' or 'gimme more' 10 times in a row and have the hottest hooks of the year. Here are my favorite Britney Tracks IN ORDER… along with the albums they appear in…(shall you be a Britney beginner, you can trust an expert!!)
1.       Toy Soldier (Blackout)
2.       Boom Boom (In The Zone  ft. the YINGYANG twins)
3.       Hot as Ice (Blackout)
4.       Slave 4 u (Britney)
5.       You Drive Me Crazy (Baby One More Time)
6.       Circus (Circus)
7.       Criminal (Femme Fatale)
8.       FreakShow ( Blackout)
9.       Outrageous (In The Zone)
10.   Mannequin (Circus)
11.   Get Naked (Blackout)
12.   Boys (Britney, Ft Pharrel Williams)
Showdown (britney) -special shoutout to holly my best friend, this is her fav brit jam!

14.   I can’t get no Satisfaction (Oops I Did It Again…)
15.   Lonely (Britney)
16.   Baby One More Time (Baby One More Time)
17.   Piece of Me ( Blackout)
18.   Selfish ( Femme Fatale)
19.   Gasoline (Femme Fatale)
20.   Blur (Circus)

SuperBowl Performance 2001
So all and all. She is the queen. No more of this 'Pop Princess' stuff, she is 30 years old...that's QUEEN B status. Her music has been the highlight of some of the best times I've ever had, all of my friends love her too, of course. I jump in Holly's car and i'm like 'what do we got? britney?' she's like 'yup' as if we'd do anything else.
So Congratulations on life Britney Spears- Congrats on your Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award - Congrats on your two beautiful boys-  Congrats on finishing up your tour & Congrats on inspiring millions, keep doin your thing and Happy 30th Birthday!

I bet my last dime her man puts a ring on it TO-DAY!

Ladies, aprovechar the genius pick up line "superstar, where u from, how's it goin?" esp. for us international chicas...fool proof....much love- hasta la proxima!

For those who came out to my fundraiser last year!

First of all, thank you all again for taking part in the most special night I ever had. Your support has been so important to my service, and i could never thank you enough...neither could the teachers and students here in Guatemala!!
wow! It has taken so long to get everything moving with some projects here in Guate, but with 4 months left of my service we finally got something going!
Completed Project La Rancheria
During my powerpoint at the fundraiser, I had mentioned two specifics projects in two schools that I would focus on, but God had another plan for me and my service. I did return to my original site in enough time to complete a project that was already half-funded. The 10-faucet project was implemented in La Rancheria, a school of 180 kids...and i was lucky enough to be around for the inauguration with the entire community, so I am very thankful for that.

I returned to Guate on Jan 4th last year, however as most of you know on Jan 26th I was robbed in my home by people i thought were my friends. This night changed my service. Peace Corps made the decision to move my site. I was so angry for so long but it turned out to be a blessing, I love my new site. However I had to leave with no goodbyes and left my work with 35 schools and over 3000 kids behind. A member of the staff came with me and i had 4 hours to pack up my life (including mrs. cooper and her 2 week old kittens!)
Students from Triunfo La Paz!
My new site was Santa Maria Visitacion, and my task was clear. I was to certify 3 schools as 'Healthy." which I did. However these schools had already been in the program for 4 years and had 2 other volunteers who had preceded me. These 3 schools did not have any needs! They were already connected to water and completed all of the requirements of a healthy school, including hand-washing stations so I was not in a position to go through with any projects. I spent 5 months with them and we had a wonderful certification ceremony.
Now I am working with four schools who have never been in the healthy schools program, so we are starting from the ground up! It is challenging but super fulfilling because there is so much to do, each and every school has specific sanitation needs, most importantly none of them have a hand washing station.
The news is........On Monday, we begin construction on an 8-faucet hand washing station in Triunfo La Paz, a school in rural Santa Clara La Laguna with 111 students and 7 teachers!!
This Saturday I am heading out to the Ferreteria, or hardware store with the principal and the carpenter, who is also a father of 3 of the students, to buy all of the materials we will need. We think the project will take 6 days to complete, but this is guatemala, so that might mean two weeks...but either way the project will be completed for the students when school starts back up again on January 2nd.
Project will go here !
This is so exciting, as of now they only have one faucet in the school and this will provide the means these kids need to practice healthy habits right in the school!
The project will be constructed on a wall which is right next to the bathrooms so the kids will be able to hit the Bano, then head right to the station to wash their hands, it is gonna be awesome!
Please stay tuned and check for updates in my facebook album called 'Peace Corps Projects"
Current Water Situation at Triunfo La Paz
After this is completed, we will look into doing another project in one of the 3 remaining schools, two of which have over 400 students, I would like to spend a little more time with each school this January to see who is the most motivated in the healthy schools program and who i believe has earned the project.
Thank you all again so much this would not be possible without your support, and I don't just mean from the fundraiser night, your support throughout my service has been so important to me and I can't believe I only have 4 months to go before I come home for good. I love you all, q dios la bendiga!


Sunday, November 13, 2011

Friday, September 2, 2011

Who Steals Toothbrushes From Kids?! My Whirlwind Week!

Other kids, That's who! DAMN. IT. Maybe those dudes who stole my ipod and camera started their THIEVERY at like, hmmm 7 or 8? This has brought a much grander problem to my attention and it must be addressed. Ok, so like i said in my last post, one of my new schools is actually in the afternoon. It's the Urbana school right in the center of Santa Clara. However, in the morning there are classes as well. I was assigned these schools by my counterpart, the superintendent of schools...his reason for choosing my schools was that they had never had a PC Volunteer before. Apparently, the morning classes HAVE had a volunteer before, but that person was from Eco, a completely different program. They've never had Healthy Schools before. Also, the morning classes have over 400 students and the afternoon has only 40.
So I spent a good part of last week going around to my schools and convincing the parents and teachers how important it is that they buy a new toothbrush for their kids to have in school. I found some opposition of course because of the cost. some of these parents have 5 or 6 kids in the same school. I've got a few tactics i've learned to change this train of thought.

'How much does a toothbrush cost in the market?"
"great, and how much does it cost to remove a tooth?"

They usually crack up, and some kids have already been bringing in their new soap, toothbrushes, toothpaste..etc. AWESOME! So the kids from the afternoon classes brought theirs in and they were stolen the next day by the morning kids. They are super discouraged....What the hell am i supposed to tell the parents now? I told the principle i would go to the morning school and talk to the other principle and see what we can do...the only plausible thing i can think of is add the morning to my new schools. I wish we had done this from the start, and i'll have to talk to PC about it but their not gonna say no. maybe if the kids in the AM has their own rincones de salud, they wouldn't steal the others?? wishful thinking I know but I gotta do SOMETHING! the principle said they are always having problems between the morning and afternoon..she said if I invited the teachers to a meeting with the morning teachers, they wouldn't even come. well, we'll just see about that. I know it must suck to have to share your school, but these teachers need to set WAY better examples for these kids...I'm not afraid, i gotta fix this and I got to do it PRONTO! wish me luck.

Damn, I've been so busy. It's been exhausting but such a nice change. Since, I've only got 7 months with these schools, there is so much to be done if I want to make an actual difference in these schools, with these kids. This week I gave four workshops to the teachers at each school and i passed through every single classroom and did some activities with the students. Also I met with teachers and principles to do some project planning. We really are on the clock to get these done and this is my number one focus! I've been deciding which schools are in the greatest need of infrastructure projects and I have two front runners, Many more updates on that to come! meeting with the carpenters next friday to talk cost and materials.

The least of it =(
So you probably already know cuz i've been super upset about in on facebook, but my dog Newman was attacked by another dog, he's gonna be ok eventually but he's super hurt! He's got 3, 3-4 inch gashes on his ass and back and one on his face. He's got two drains inside the cuts and they had to shave half his bod! poor thing. I guess the owner of the other dog just stood there and let it happen. Newman is at the vets over the weekend for close care, I just can't wait to see him and give some love. I'm angry cuz this was so avoidable and we just love our dogs so much. Newman is the biggest and strongest of the three but he still only weighs in at 19 lbs. Our blind, 8 lb dog Oscar wouldn't have survived an attack like that. just vicious! There are more pics on my mom's mobile uploads if you want to see.... grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr!

Today my cousin Derek gets married! DAMN I HATE MISSING THIS! His bride-to-be's name is meghan and she seems super sweet and everyone in the family loves her, unfortunately i have not met her yet, they started dating while I was here in Guate, but hey! we're facebook friends! boo guatemala. They are tying the knot up in Maine today on a boat, beautiful small ceremony. My whole fam has made the trip up =) she speaks spanish too, so that will always be fun. Congratulations to you both I am so proud of you Derek. Les Deseo lo mejor! can't wait to party about this!

We got BIG DOINGS this week in my site, for the past two months atleast, a couple of super talented artists have been working on a huuuuuge mural in our central park. (also new) They have finished as of two days ago and Monday we will inaugurate it as a community at 7pm. The mural tells of Tzutujil history. The man in black and white depicted on the left is actually a living member of the community! talk about respecting your elders! It is certainly rare, usually people don't ever live to see themselves be memorialized. what a blessing to him and his family. i hope he speaks on monday night, though it probably won't be in spanish =) This mural is EASILY the coolest piece of art i have EVER seen in my life, its just awesome. here is a little teaser, on monday i will make a facebook album of it and all of its details. Congratulations to the artists! You have changed SMV forever!

This just in from mobile uploads! getting married on a sailboat!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

It's different but the same...back to work!

For those of you reading this who aren't too PC savvy, One of the major ideas is that we volunteers work and live our entire two years with the same project, and normally that means the same people, co-workers, students, and schools. I obviously have had a quite different experience because of my site change back in Feb. I was given the task in my new site to finish up some work of other volunteers and certify three healthy schools. done. So now what? 
Santa Maria Visitacion is where i live and Santa Clara La Laguna is It is so much bigger than my site and i go there just about everyday. It's got a humongous market on tuesdays and saturdays and is also the only place nearby to buy cat food. its a 10 minute walk max. thought i will continue to live in SMV, my new work site is now Santa Clara. 
I have begun work in 4 new schools in Santa Clara, and for the most part. they seem really on board with the project. I had one big kick off taller (workshop) last week with the superintendent and all four principles. All four of my new directoras are women and here is why I am pumped up about that- Some women Ive met and worked with are an exception to this but Guatemala is still a super machismo culture. Countless times i have been speaking in a group of men and women of all ages, and about 90% of the time i have seen that the women won't speak up, contribute to the discussion, or express their concerns, doubts, or opinions, so long as the men are there. They tend to be shyer and pretty much they'll say ' what he said' or 'yes, we agree with him' if they say anything at all. I am so pumped to see these women in a professional position and hopefully we can accomplish so much together! i've not been one to acostumbrarme to this part of the culture. Now, we have five women heading up the Healthy Schools project in Santa Clara La Laguna and I am all about it.
More good news, is two of my schools are located IN THE CENTER OF TOWN! this is a first for sure! i've has to hike hours before and endure horribly crowded pick up trucks that fly down mountain sides to get to my schools in the past. the other two are in walking distance, half hour tops. AWESOME! none are in creepy lonely mountains or deserted streets..yayy for staying safe and robbery free! (knock on wood, havent been robbed since march 25th!)
Within the four schools, I have 545 students. So far in Peace Corps I have been able to work with about 3,000 kids. wow. is that right? some closer than others obviously but thats pretty cool now that i think about it. I was a little hesitant to begin with my new work at first, it is just hard and it takes alot to gain trust and integrate into a new community but then i realized i have been doing this now for 20 months! where was my confidence at? well its back and im stormin through.
My boss Dr. Sergio Mack paid me a visit today and I am super glad he did. When we went to visit our first school, Triunfo La Paz, he spoke with all the teachers for about a half an hour and then we were lucky enough to run into a padres de familia meeting as well, where he and i introduced the parents to the program. It is INCREDIBLE how much people respect him in this country. Today he did what would have taken me four or five visits to the school. Gained trust, introduced the program, and got everyone de acuerdo. Sometimes it is hard to get the parents to work with us, but it is definitely their responsibility to send the kiddos to school nice and clean, and as time is now working against me, I am happy those steps are passed right through so we can get down to business.
Dr. Mack and I decided that because my time is so short we will focus on two things. Each classroom will have their healthy corner, rincon de salud, and the kids will be practicing healthy habits. seems so basic but its not. This may be the first time some of those kids are hearing why its important to do so...motivating 338 kids in one place with one faucet. CUESTA.
Handwashing station Cabrican
speaking of one faucet. REMEMBER THAT FUNDRAISER I HAD?! i'm sure you do, favorite night of my life. well like i said my largest school has one faucet and 338 kids grades k-6. There are 12 teachers and classrooms. We are in the VERY beginning stages of constructing a hand washing station in this school called Pabaya and Chichiyel. YAHOO! We are looking to make our 'lavamanos' with 12 faucets. why not? one for each classroom. The price difference between doing 8 faucets (the requirement for a healthy school) and 12 really isnt that much different. We want this project to be sustainable, and I can only see this community growing in the future let's go for the gold. The project will look alot like the one we did in early January last year in my old site. Here's a pic to refreh =) I am sure I will be posting as the project gets underway but as i learned, we gotta have some patience...everything in guatemala moves about as fast as a turtle walking backwards. haha thats funny. 
Stay tuned for updates! back to work and busy  feels good!

Friday, July 8, 2011

Why Are We (Why Am I) So Obsessed With The Casey Anthony Case?

"Tot Mom" Casey Anthony on trial
Once in a while, a trial will come along and absolutely captivate the nation. In my lifetime, if you asked me which ones have done just that i would say BOOM- SCOTT PETERSON AND OJ SIMPSON. Now of course we have the Casey Anthony. Why are we sucked in? What makes these cases different, more infamous than others? People are on trial for murder on the daily. Is it a media frenzy? (well, of course) But I would like to share my thoughts on why i think this is. My opinions are coming from two places inside me as i write this blog, the emotional woman who is never going to accept the unanswered death of a toddler, and the girl who studied sociology and criminology in her undergrad. I  feel like if I tie these two together I can explain pretty well our obsession with Casey Anthony, and the other two trials.

When I was  junior at Umass, I enrolled in an incredibly well taught, interesting, modernized class called "Gender and Crime" (it is tied for my favorite class ever along with "Sociology of the Mob") Since it interested me so much, I did very well in the course and returned as a TA for both semesters of my senior year. So when I say things like "we're obsessed with Casey Anthony's Murder Trial because she defies gender norms" please hear me out, I was passionate about the things that I studied and what i came to know about the world from a sociological point of view and i like to think that i can be a respected voice here...espero que si....

Now, It's pretty obvious why we were enthralled with the OJ Simpson double murder trial. Before he even led the police on the (coolest) low-speed chase in the white Bronco, he was a household name, a respected athlete, an icon to some, i suppose. Race played a huge roll, it's no secret that the nation was pretty much split as far as his 'not guilty' verdict went. I watches the news as large crowds of African Americans leaped for joy when the verdict was read, I along with some of you who are reading this was in Mrs. Kelley's 4th grade class watching it on the roll-away tv as she cried right in front of us. I believe together with his race, high profile coverage and his celebrity status was cause for alot of people to sympathize with him. Let's not forget his economic status. Can most men, black or not, on trial for murder afford such high caliber attorneys ? not. a. chance. now THAT  was a defense team! (RIP Rob Kardashian, i love your family) Key factors in the OJ trial- economic status, race, and celebrity and jury selection...11/12 were either black, hispanic or native american. one white woman served on the jury. this matters. SIDE NOTE- you know Oprah Winfrey, one of the worlds most powerful women, excuse me, people- well her life long goal is to interview OJ. LIFE. LONG. GOAL. she's always been vocal about this and she believes he is guilty. Guess now her show is over she won't have that chance. oops excuse me it's because homeboy is locked up these days. do i think OJ Simpson is guilty of murdering ron goldman and nicole brown? yes i do.

The All American Couple
Scott Peterson was charged with murdering his wife Lacy and their unborn child in 2003. The reasons we were all captivated with this trial are a little more relateable to the reasons we are captivated with Casey's. Scott Peterson is the epitome of the all american boy. Handsome, successful, beautiful family and home...when we as americans think of cold blooded killers, we don't picture a man like him. The media has taught us to do this, statistics have taught us to do this, but now we have a tall, dark and handsome OUTLAW. “I am not sure what a killer looks like, but I didn’t think
he had the look. He was the All-American boy.”
—Mike Belmessieri, Juror No. 4. his sex appeal and charisma were even present during trial, he caught our attention in a different way. WHO THE HELL IS THIS GUY? RIGHT? People were mesmorized bu the images of him, lacy and his mistress Amber Frey..btw...i still want to read her book "WITNESS" . Scott Peterson, no criminal record, golf enthusiast, ASU graduate, what happened? we can't pull 'social strain theory" here, life was good. We sympathized with his TWO victims. we wanted to believe there was NO WAY he could kill his beautiful pregnant wife...which led us all to america's favorite passtime...arguing over whether this was a double murder or not, is the unborn child a murder victim as well? This California jury said yes. Justice was served in this case, Peterson sits on Death Row as we speak, guilty of  the 1st degree murder of Lacy and 2nd degree murder of Connor, the unborn child. Welcome to the dark side of the American Dream folks.

Caylee's biggest advocate
This is when i began watching Nancy Grace. Grace is the most powerful liaison between us, the public, and the Casey Anthony Trial, and has been since july 2008. I have mad respect for her. She is so smart, fearless, opinionated, and powerful. She is entertaining to watch. I watched her coverage on the Anthony case for a year and a half pretty faithfully before i came to guatemala...also known as the land of no television. Is Nancy Grace responsible for the media frenzy surrounding this case? yes. Is that a bad thing? no. Cuz here is a straight up FACT for the 6 months between the day Caylee was reported missing and the day they found her body, oops excuse me, her skull, Nancy was 10 times more of an advocate in finding the toddler than the entire Anthony family combined. She ran photos of Caylee nightly, gave us access to tip hotlines, shared the latest in the investigation...somebody had to be in Caylee's corner-It was Nancy Grace, since day 1, fighting for justice.  She isn't  hot-head either, in her nightly show on HLN she is constantly sharing the screen with lawyers, forensic experts, witnesses etc...she made sure she was reporting from different points of view...that didn't mean she didn't let them know when the were dead wrong- but i respect she let others share their expertise and views on her national tv show.
Grace promtly coined the phrase "Tot Mom" in the beginning stages of the investigation, she gave us the facts as soon as she knew them. I really just enjoy watching her, since i have not had a tv, i've tried to follow snippets of her show on you tube...i downloaded one the other day in the first 10 seconds it's Nancy "Tot Mom trial, defense drops a bomb today, excuse me, STINK BOMB" was a stink bomb. the day the defense gives us the theory that Caylee drowned in the family pool. I'll get to that bogus move in a minute. Grace's reaction to one of the most controversial verdicts of all time? "I absolutely can't beliee that Caylee's death has gone unavenged-In the end, Tot Mom's lies seemed to have worked"
is she on the hook for telling it like it is? yup. she says "I told the truth. Am I taking the heat for it? Yep. Is that going to make me stop looking for missing children and trying to solve unsolved homicides? No. I'm not going to let some kooky jury stop justice. Not for me anyway..."  i got your back...and i agree with you when you say "somewhere out there, the devil is dancing tonight." There are no winners in this case.

don't forget to tag me on facebook, my daughters missing!
I don't have to agree with the jury. I don't agree at all- but that's my right. just like it's Casey's right to a fair trial.  Guilty of four counts of lying to the police...why do you lie to the police? to cover something up HELLO GOODBYE. unfortunately in most US courts, those charges are misdemeanors and homegirl is walking out of jail is 5 days for time served and good behavior, ha, good behavior. I believe she is guilty as hell of both first degree murder and aggravated assault against a child. 
Here are the facts as i know them...facts which will later be construed as inconclusive evidence. Now, my recent searches on the internet include jennifer aniston, perez hilton, and CNN. NOT NECK SNAPPING AND CHLOROFORM . Cindy Anthony, Casey's mom testified it was her who had searched those things...which may lead to her facing some perjury charges because she was clocked into work at the time. Throughout the 3 year investigation, trial, her parents have switched up stories...I am not gonna judge them TOO BAD i have no idea how to relate to what their going through, dead granddaughter and daughter in the national spotlight for her murder. that's alot to go through. It was Cindy who called 911 and reported Caylee missing, not Casey. 31 days too late. Cindy testified originally that she had begged Casey to inform her of Caylee's whereabouts for a month and got nothing but the run around from TOT MOM. Casey was laid up in bed with her boyfriend the day after Caylee really 'disappeared' all day. chillin. She continued to party it up showing everyone her COMPLETE disregard for her daughter. Sometimes, it was just in the way Casey spoke that made me say "WTF" even early on, august 2008, Caylee's 3rd birthday was approaching and in a jailhouse interview with her parents, Anthony kept repearing " I want to see THAT girl, i miss THAT baby girl" THAT girl? what kind of mother talks like that? now i know there is no legal legitimacy to judge her this way but come on! how about "my girl, my baby, caylee, my daughter" i mean get out of here man, terrible mom.
when Cindy was called by the impound station to come pick up casey's abandoned car, she originally described a 'dead body smell" coming from the trunk and all over the car, which she later testified as 'rotten pizza smell" The forensics team found both cloroform and body decomposition in the trunk along with a single hair from Caylee's head. Why this was never conclusive evidence for anybody, I don't know. oh yes i do know...this bring us to the defense's theory that Caylee drowned in the pool. I don't believe this went down AT ALL.
I am not a mother, so what i say is as an outsider. I am however a HUMAN and a woman and i've spent hundreds of hours taken care of a precious toddler. Now, if your daughter is drowning in the pool, you call the effing paramedics! what you don't do is drive around for 3 weeks with your daughter's dead body in the trunk then dump her in the woods with duct tape on her mouth to rot. People are forgiving, if it was an accident , anyone with a heart is going to sympathize with that what she was so scared of? the judgement of being an irresponsible mom? look at you now. The most hated woman in america.
Facing the Death Penalty
So whatever, if she was covering up and accident, why is it that she allowed a first degree murder trial to pan out on the national and international news??? Casey Anthony was facing the death penalty. THE. DEATH. PENALTY.  I mean seriously. It's because it wasn't an accident, if it was the cover up itself should have been grounds for some jail time....legit jail time, do u know how many man hours went into the search for poor caylee? 

Once her first lie was proven false, you know the phantom Nanny who had Caylee safely under her care, began to surface, our minds were made up, and there was just no going back. I remember watching True Hollywood Investigates- Women Who Kill, back in the fall of 2009, before the trial even began and Casey Anthony was listed as NUMBER ONE in the countdown. a little preemptive from the E! channel but i was totally de acuerdo, i think we all were. It's because her victim was the most defenseless victim on the countdown. 
The Now-Famous Defense Attorney Jose Baez
I respect the justice system, when the verdict was read, it didn't make me necessarily lose faith in it, it is just so hard to swallow. hmm father of 3 locked up for 5 years for driving without a license, Casey Anthony walks free.   I mean ya ya ya time served...ugh get out of here! Over 400 pieces of evidence entered in trial, the Florida prosecution couldn't turn any of them into concrete evidence to convict her?! what are they working with? they should be ashamed and embarassed with their courtroom performance...they couldn't call in any other experts worth a dime? If it was me, and i saw in ANY way this evidence wasn't fuerte enough, i would have done anything in my power to get my hands on someone like Dr. Lee, the most respected forensics investigator in the world. i mean something, was it shortage of funds? is that the problem? what- we just want answers. (although this isn't the 1st time we've seen Florida screw up with a vote, right?)The defense wasn't THAT good, i'm pretty sure i might have made a legitimate argument against their theory right here in my own blog post. 
But why are we so invested? It's for so many reasons, number one being we want to see justice for victim Caylee Marie. ok. jury, you've acquitted  Casey of the charges, good for you. Answer us this, who IS responsible? you know investigators have Zero other had the right woman on trial, and everybody blew it. what can we do now? it sounds crazy but i keep thinking there was some sort of '12 angry men" thing goin on in the jurors quarters. it'd at least give me some peace.
awww, look who let her hair down for the 1st time in 3 yrs..
Casey's shocks us. We are appalled by her reprehensible attitude, we loathe her because of her obvious disrespect for law enforcement and the justice system. we are frustrated because her 'i'm the real victim" attitude is palpable, when she cries in it for her baby? or that she has to go through this gruesome trial? we'll never know. we are angry with her because of the lies, why doesn't she seem to care what happened to Caylee? since she is just sooo innocent, she is just gonna live with the this how her mind works? if so, are we gonna go head and define her as a psychopath? well, maybe, there aren't too many people who would knowingly drag their family through the international mud. literally, check out this article earlier in the week published in Guatemala's national newspaper

or this one..

single white
Casey Anthony defies the social norms of a murderer. She is a young, white, single, mother, she is FEMALE, lady killers are few 'round these parts...'round any parts for that matter.... just let me ask you these questions: Who is Andrea Yates? Who is Susan Smith? Can you picture them both in your head right now? I guarantee at least 90% of you are going to say yes. Why is this? It's because they're white women who killed their children. period. whether in a mental institution or serving 2 life sentences, at least these women are locked up for life. These cases stay with us because they are so rare, and they're shocking. we don't want to accept the reality that some people are capable of such crimes. and the victimology? defenseless children, way to go ladies. we are so frustrated with the unknown surrounding this case and the injustice that has been served. for example.... WHO THE HELL IS CAYLEE'S FATHER? we don't know that either but i say HALL OF FAME DEADBEAT.

Por lo menos, we can say she will lead a life full of fear and shame from the moment she steps out that jailhouse. Her parents have been in hiding since the verdict was read on tuesday, rightfully so...i actually hope the FBI has them in the witness protection program soon. there has been enough tragedy in this family already.
just where i thought i'd be at 25
I said to myself a few weeks ago, 'wow, she has got to be just BEYOND ashamed of herself" why did i say that? because her face was plastered on PEOPLE magazine with the headline "getting away with murder?" you don't get any more shameful than really dont. 

we feel helpless, and we all want justice for Caylee. we're already on it with the record breaking petition averaging 2 signatures per second. This law would make it a federal offense not to report a missing child/person in a timely manner.....join us in making sure this type of case never hit the courts again!


Thursday, June 16, 2011

Triple Certification on June 21st, Here's the Deal!

Ok. Not to be a drama queen but Tuesday, June 21st will be HANDS DOWN the most important day of my two year service. We will be certifying all 3 of the schools I work with as “Healthy Schools” or “Escuelas Saludables”

Student and teachers, Pak'awex
I have been in the Healthy Schools program since the start of my service…18 months ago…wow! However when I had a site change back in February, my role in the program changed BIG TIME. I used to work with 35 schools and a partner in Phase 2 HS. Phase 2 has 10x as many schools because we are trained to work more with the teachers and superintendents rather than the students. It is our job to train the teachers to teach the kids all of the healthy habits, lesson plans, and infrastructure that a ‘Healthy Schools” requires. We kicked the program into high gear when my training group arrived and most volunteers, including me, started work in phase 2. Beforehand the HS volunteers were generally worked in Phase 1, where we worked with just a handful of schools and directly with the students.
Former Volunteer Rose Conklin, cooking with the mother's of Chuipoj

When my site changed to Santa Maria Visitación, Sololá, I began Phase 1 work with 3 schools. Tzumajhuí, Pak’awex, and Chiupoj had been in the HS program for 4 years, and worked with two now ‘returned’ Peace Corps Volunteers. My task was pretty clear, get to know this schools, work with them in the HS program and decide if they were ready to be “Certified.” I arrived in SMVin February, started visiting the schools and got crackin’. Since the Volunteers before me had done such a PILAS job, these schools were really impressing me with their healthy habits, clean schools infrastructure…EVERYTHING!

In order to be a ‘healthy school,” you need to meet these 8 requirements.

La Hora De Limpieza, Pak'awex
1.The school is clean. Pretty basic but everything in the school, bathrooms, classrooms, patio- and most of all, the student are clean. As part of the daily schedule, each school has “la hora de limpeiza” which is basically clean, sweep, mop- all of this which is done voluntarily by the kids to get ready for the day.
Hand-washing station, Chiupoj
2.The school has running water 5/5. This means that for all five days of school each week, the school has water for five hours.
3. The third requirement is that each school has ATLEAST 8 working faucets for the kids to brush their teeth  and wash their hands
4. Each classroom in each school has a Rincon de Salud, or a ‘Healthy Corner.”  This is an area in the classroom dedicated to personal health and hygiene. Rincones de Salud includes an overall health theme and each student has a place just for them to keep their own things. Every student has their own towel, toothbrush, tooth paste, soap..etc.

Rincon, Tzumajhui
Rincon, Pak'awex

Rincon, Chiupoj
Within the Healthy Schools program, we like to have the kids practice a poem called ‘La Promesa de Vida” or “Promise of Life” which is around every Rincon and it motivates the kids. It basically says my life is precious and I need to take good care of myself in order to grow, believe, and achieve great things in life.

the dice (dado), Pak'awex
the students check out each other's nails, Pak'awex
5. Atleast 2 times a week, each classroom teaches health-themed lessons. This can mean anything from nutrititon, to self-esteem, to teeth brushing. Each school uses either a Dice or a Roulette with the options of hair, teeth, face, hands, clothes, and nails. Every morning the dice is flipped and the students take turns checking each others nails,hair etc. that day, and they're not afraid to call each other out! One girl told me once in Pak'awex that my nails were too long...fair enough. "Long, but clean" i said lol.

Kitchen, Pak'awex
the mothers prepare a healthy snack, Tzumajhui
6. It is really important that a Healthy School has a clean kitchen. This means NOT enclosed in smoke. The snacks are served by the Mothers everyday, they normally rotate on a schedule of who prepared 'refaccion" as we call it. the kitchen should be clean at all times and the snack should be healthy. We normally serve a hot drink called Atol which is like milk with rice or oatmeal to give it some sustenance, they mix it up and put some chocolate in there often.

Clean, Happy, Healthy students, Tzumajhui

7.  The requirement is that 85% of the student or more come to school every single day clean from head to toe. Honestly with these three schools, i think it is more or less 95%. I went into each school with  healthy schools profile, the requirements... i used the colors of traffic lights. if they received a green light, they met the requirement. Out of the three schools we got all green with the exception of two yellow lights for the kids clothing. I thought maybe it could have been a little i simply spoke with the mothers of the kids, letting them know that was their responsibility and wahlah! done. Everyone is so supportive of the program in every community we had no problems at all with their cooperation.

Teeth brushing in Chuipoj
8. Before eating snack each day the students VOLUNTARILY wash their hands, also right after a trip to the bathroom. After snack the kids are to run to their rincones de salud and grab their toothbrushes. Isn't it funny that we don't even do that in the states. 

Because the volunteers before me were so pilas, as well as the teachers and principals, these schools are healthy. I wrote letter of recommendation to both my boss and the Ministry of Education to approve these 3 schools for certification. On Tuesday, we will have all the students, teachers, parents, committees, 4 mayors, director of education of Sololá, my boss Dr. Sergio Mack, some pc authorites and other volunteers, and HOPEFULLY both national newspapers. But we'll see about the last one..haha

practicing their traditional dance, Tzumajhui
It is a day of celebration because these schools, teachers and student DESERVE THIS! Once a school is certified "healthy" it becomes an example to others all around the country. It is something they should really be proud of, big ups to the teachers especially. It isn't an easy job getting students k-6 motivated about their health and hygiene

Principal of Chiupoj,  Sen~o Magda
All 3 schools will have a special time during the ceremony, one school is singing and reciting poems the other two are performing traditional guatemalan dances. I have seen them practicing and it is just gonna be  A BEAUTIFUL DAY! We are serving lunch to 150 people. On Monday, I will go to the market with the women teachers and buy our ingredients. Since we will only be at one of the schools for the ceremony, i have been making posters about the other schools displaying their hard work for all to see! I have used some of the fundraiser money to fund this day, including a marimba band, lunch, decorations THANK YOU EVERYONE FOR MAKING THIS DAY MEMORABLE. 
Pak'awex from a distance, it is LITERALLY in the mountains!

Painting Tzumajhui for the big day!!!
Prayers that the day goes smoothly and it will be a day to remember for all the kids. I will be giving a little bit of a speech, sometimes i get a little nervous and it sounds like i don't know spanish...lets hope i can evade my nerves and do a great job! 

I am gonna out on my traditional outfit and have an awesome boss wants to meet with me after the ceremony to decide what my next steps should be because technically my job will be done in this community. All i can say is there is anothing I won't do in order to stay here, i love my little town, im enjoying teaching english and i'm sure i can hop on some other projects around here =)

thank you everyone for your constant support, i already have  a new memory card loaded up for my camera haha, you can expect lots of pics!

Saludos, Grace

btw, this blog in no way reflects the american govt or peace corps...these are all my thoughts!