Thursday, March 30, 2006

A Oeste nada de novo...

Another week went by here in Houston, Texas. No news to tell. It rained heavily. Some days the sun shone. Some thoughts have gone through my mind… Why the f*&^% am I here, for example? The answer comes to my mind immediately. To learn tango. Wait a second… Didn’t I come here to learn more about social evolution? Surely not. Or to do a decent experiment in the lab (one, just one, Lord…) that actually produces good, useful results? My poor Dictyostelium look at me sternly, shaking their little fruiting bodies in a feeble yet determinate negative movement.
Learning tango has become the goal of my whole stay. To hell with Biology. I’m moving to Buenos Aires and I’ll live a bohemian life for the rest of my days, dancing tango on the streets with a short strappy black dress and high heels. (Damn, that must be uncomfortable…)
The sad part is that there is no tango lesson this week… As a result of these depressing events, I turned to C++ once again and started playing with it in the hope of one day modeling what I apparently cannot make Dicty do in a Petri dish. Today I created a virtual amoeba. *sigh*
What else can I say?… Maybe I should just leave you with one of the most beautiful tango songs I ever heard. Enjoy!

Balada para mi muerte (lyrics: Horacio Ferrer, music: Astor Piazzolla, interpreter: Mina)

Moriré en Buenos Aires, será de madrugada,
guardaré mansamente las cosas de vivir,
mi pequeña poesía de adioses y de balas,
mi tabaco, mi tango, mi puñado de esplín.
Me pondré por los hombros, de abrigo, toda el alba,
mi penúltimo whisky quedará sin beber,
llegará, tangamente, mi muerte enamorada,
yo estaré muerto, en punto, cuando sean las seis.

Hoy que Dios me deja de soñar,
a mi olvido iré por Santa Fe,
sé que en nuestra esquina vos ya estás
toda de tristeza, hasta los pies.
Abrazame fuerte que por dentro
me oigo muertes, viejas muertes,
agrediendo lo que amé.
Alma mía, vamos yendo,
llega el día, no llorés.

Moriré en Buenos Aires, será de madrugada,
guardaré mansamente las cosas de vivir,
mi pequeña poesía de adioses y de balas,
mi tabaco, mi tango, mi puñado de esplín.
Me pondré por los hombros, de abrigo, toda el alba,
mi penúltimo whisky quedará sin beber,
llegará, tangamente, mi muerte enamorada,
yo estaré muerto, en punto, cuando sean las seis,
cuando sean las seis, ¡cuando sean las seis!

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Ten Thousand Villages


Continuing with the theme “Multicultural Texas”… I want to tell you about my volunteering at Ten Thousand Villages. Yes! I decided to do something useful for the world. Ask not what mankind can do for you, but what you can do for mankind. Or something like that.
There is a shop here at Rice Village, just a few blocks away from my house, called Ten Thousand Villages. It belongs to a non-profit organization that sells products manufactured in developing countries and all the products sold there are fair trade products, meaning that the people who produced them got paid fairly for their work. There’s no middleman between the organization and the artisans and the whole thing is more or less run by a religious association. I can see my mother frowning on the other side of the Atlantic. Yes, mother, like priests and nuns, missionaries, whatever.
To tell you more about the mission of Ten Thousand Villages, here are the key principles of fair trade:
1. Creating opportunities for economically disadvantaged producers
2. Transparency and accountability
3. Capacity building
4. Payment of a fair price
5. Gender equity
6. Good working conditions
7. Care for the environment
Seems ok, doesn’t it? I like it. There are Ten Thousand Villages shops all over the US and Canada. The shops work mainly based on volunteers who take care of everything, from receiving deliveries, store decoration and cleaning, taking care of costumers, and above all, letting people know what is the goal of Ten Thousand Villages.
Check the website to see some of the beautiful products they have for sale. Personally, I never leave the store without buying something. So, I’ll leave the US as a true humanitarian and broke. Luckily, all volunteers have 15% off in all the products they buy at the shop. Hehehehe. I can still see my mother frowning on the other side of the Atlantic. No, that’s not the main reason why I’m volunteering there, mom.
I’ve been there only twice, though, due to my intensive (and utterly non-productive) lab work lately… But it’s really nice, the people are very friendly, mainly women in their 40’s, housewives… The concept of housewife that I had forgotten all about is very real here. Although Portugal is a Catholic-majority country, and most people think that therefore women should be more submissive there, women cannot afford to be just housewives. One salary rarely does the trick to get a family through the month. Portuguese women know their place very well, don’t worry, and that’s working like hell both at work and at home. I really think most Portuguese women are some kind of Super Woman. Here in the US, however, wives can be just that. Wives. Why? Because salaries are high, and especially “oil” wives, don’t really need to move a finger. It is really absurd how rich some people are here. Anyway, most of the volunteers at ten Thousand Villages are women who don’t have to work therefore they give their time to this and other non-profit organizations. I think it’s a good spirit to have… Now I just have to get used to the extreme enthusiasm people greet each other with here. Every time a costumer enters the store I should say “Hi!!!!! How’re y’all doin’ today??” as if I wished for nothing else in this world than having those particular persons entering the shop that day. Damn. I could barely get the hang of the extremely cheerful/irritating/cheerleader-like Dutch “doeiiiiii”. I don’t think I’ll manage this. I’ll just stick to wrapping stuff and sipping my 100% Fair Trade Colombian Coffee, while keeping a lookout for new earrings in the jewelry section… All for the good of developing countries!

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Culture Fair - The whole story!

It was a sunny day in Houston, Texas. The birds sang, the trees swinged their leaves quietly to the slight breeze, the resident squirls of the Rice University Campus engaged in their normal mid-day activities (running around like crazy while surveying for potential food sources). But something was cooking. Several things, actually. At the culture fair, food from all over the world was being tasted by hungry crowds and bits of culture were traded and shared among very different people, just like that. As if it was a very simple thing, really. None of that "my country was attacked by yours" kind of talk that usually gets you nowhere. People just wanted to show what was good about their countries, and everyone was entitled to enjoy that.
It was a very nice atmosphere, and the pictures speak for themselves. I'll just add some comments here and there...

The African Students Association at Rice.

A flower dance from somewhere. One of the girls (the blond) is Michelle, an undergrad in our lab!

Japanese dance, my kind of thing. :) Domo arigato gozaimasu. It was particularly funny because one girl was very good and the other sucked but was utterly unpreocupied about it - she laughed the whole way through the dance. It was more or less like an example - "ok, and here is how NOT to do this dance". I liked it!

Our belly-dancing teacher, Victoria. She's really good. Damn, it's a difficult thing to do...

Aha! The Indian Students stand was dressing up people in beautiful typical hindu costumes, so we decided to give it a try. Here we are, Clea and me, looking totally ridiculous in such beautiful clothes... We're just not the type, I'm afraid.

This is Charlie and Camila, two people I met at the Portuguese lunches of Prof. Suzana. He's obviously american, but speaks perfect portuguese, with a strong brazilian accent. She is from Rio!!!! Totally "carioca", from tip to toes, and very nice. Through her I found out brazilians also have a passion for codfish, they inherited it from the portuguese. Funny, huh?

Clea decided she would sing. Then she decided she wouldn't. Then she went back on that last decision, and forward again, and back again. Etc. Marco (an italian friend of hers not shown on the pictures) and me weren't very supportive, i think because we were both afraid she would get nervous and screw it up... Then she decided to go, and that was her last call. She went and sang "O sole mio". It was amazingly good. I had already heard her sing before, but not in front of so many people. I was impressed at her nerve, and at how good she can sing opera without having had any previous training... Amazing. Some people are just born like that, I guess. That was the only Italian representation, actually, because despite there being A LOT of italians at Rice, they are all too lazy to organize something, or at least this was Marco's explanation... "hey, we're italian!"... What more can I say?
No, I didn't go to sing fado. Are you nuts?????! Ai Mouuuuuuuurariaaaaaaaaaaa... I leave that for the shower. Ehehehe. Portugal WAS represented, together with the brazilian stand, there was a flag there and all.

Here's the photo of the flag. It's underneath the Brazilian flag. Look carefully or you might miss it. I guess we also have the italian spirit, because we didn't bother to do much. But we can always blame it on excess of work... Yes, yes... On the left is Manuel, the other portuguese student here. He looks guilty, doesn't he? Perhaps because he spent the whole fair eating food at other stands instead of standing by his flag, right arm against his heart singing the national anthem? Could be, could be...

Ok, that's it for now. I hope the blog still works with these many photos!!

Friday, March 03, 2006

Sorry hoor

Hey guys,
Another week without a proper post. I've been busy all week doing megasized experiments, and today I realized it was in part for nothing because something went wrong. I know where it went wrong, I know why, more or less, and it's not entirely my fault. But a little, and it makes me feel that all my effort was pointless.
To cheer me up, I decided to change the image of the weblog, and I like it better like this, but with the old template went the old links to the Other Worlds out there that I like to visit from time to time. Now I have to put them all again. Sounds similar, somehow. Maybe this is a cursed week. I shouldn't do anything, because whatever I do turns into more trouble. I should stay home and eat icecream all day. Because the weather really asks for it. It's sunny, and warm, and the sky is blue (except for now because it's night time). Not that I've had chance to enjoy any of this. I think I'm sounding more and more like Marvin, the depressed robot from Hitchiker's Guide to the Galaxy, but maybe that's just because before sleeping I like to read the book.
Meanwhile I had a very good news! Maya was accepted in Cambridge! She may very well be going there to do her PhD. She is not yet sure about the scholarship, apparently, but I hope things turn out for the best!! Anyway, they say that she can always use the acceptance as a good thing for her CV, even if she never goes there. I can imagine Maya in a job interview in the future - "yeah, they accepted me, they really wanted me there, but you know how it is... a girl's gotta do what a girl's gotta do".
And really, there's not much more to tell. I keep going to dance tango, I'm getting better at it, fortunately... Salsa is put aside for sometime because last time we got bored to death in our very own Taco Milagro. Today was the Culture Fair, but I hope to tell you more about it when I have a picture illustrating it... I didn't bring my camera, so I'm waiting for someone to send me some pictures. But I can say how it ended. When we were leaving, Clea and me, we went by the stand of the Latin American students and they started to play "Macarena" and we ended up dancing the macarena in front of everyone there, with all the Latin American students gathered there. It was fun! But weird. Even more because after macarena they started playing Daddy Yankee, a Reggaeton group/artist/whatever, and his famous hit... "Gasolina". Need I say more? To some, I'm sure the picture is now complete, to others, maybe it's better that stays incomplete...
See y'all real soon and have a good one! (this is how texans wish a good day!)