Russia and the Winter Olympic Games

When I was looking through the news, I saw that the International Olympic Committee (IOC) announced that Russia is banned from the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea. Not only are Russian officials and athletes banned from the winter games, but the Russian Flag and anthem will not be part of any of the ceremonies. But what I thought was interesting is that there is a loophole: if an Russian athlete is given permission to compete they will do so under a neutral flag and any of the medals won will not be credited to Russia.

The Doping scandal has gone all the way back to the London 2012 Olympic Games, and now the Russian athletes who qualify for future games will have to be under strict conditions (drug testing). This shares a powerful message to all athletes around the world, as well as countries participating in the Olympic Games.

In my opinion, I think that this is creating a path for clean athletes to be able to compete in the Olympics. It is important to implement anti-doping rules in order to protect all athletes. The penalties for doping were harsh, but it will be interesting to watch the Olympic games without the Russians. It will also be interested to see also see any news about next years $11 billion soccer World Cup which will be in Russia.

Return to Cuba – Film Screening

On the 30th of November, I attended a film screening of Return to Cuba. The film consisted of the main character, Barbara Ramos returning to live in Cuba with her new husband after she lived in Italy for 18 years. Throughout the film screening we were able to see a period of three years. The three years we saw were Ramos building her dream home, as well as what she experienced in Cuba.

Although in my opinion, I did not like the film. I am very opinionated when it comes to Cuba and how Cuba is portrayed to others. My Grandmother is from Cuba, and she was able to leave the country the year that Castro took power in 1959. She was lucky, and if that wouldn’t have been possible then I would not be here today. Castro is not a leader to me, he was power-hungry and I truly believe that he only worsened the conditions of Cuba. Cuba is a country frozen in time: the walls are deteriorating because they cannot renovate them, the cars are from the 1950’s, the technology is old, it is simply a country that has been untouched.

My Grandmother tells us stories of how she has not been able to see her family in over 60-years since the rise of Castro, and has also told us stories of the horrible conditions that people are living in Cuba.

Not only my Grandmother, but my Freshman year Spanish Professor is also from Cuba and she tells us the horrible conditions that Cubans face. She tells us that ever since the embargo was lifted and people are able to travel there – tourists are only able to speak to Cuban residents that the government allows the contact with (residents who are loyal to the Castro family). She says that the Cuban government has transformed the tourist areas into a “fake world” so that we think that the conditions that are lived in Cuba are not as bad as we would have thought. I am planning on sending her the film in hopes that she watches it and tells me her opinions of it.

In the film, Ramos says that Cubans are able to travel at free will. But what was not said in the film is that there are certain restrictions that must be met in order for them to be able to leave.  There is more to the story than what was portrayed throughout the film. I did not agree with Ramos when she said that “Castro is a genius” and goes on to praise his work.

When I spoke to my Grandmother about what I saw in the film, she first asked me her age and I told her that she looked younger. That was when my Grandmother understood why Ramos thought that way. My Grandmother believes that Ramos grew up in that system, and she grew up not working and having the government hand her everything. It is the system that she knows, and when she was able to see capitalism that is when she was able to criticize the other system.

Although I have never been to Cuba, I have only heard stories of the conditions that are there. I hope to go there one day to be able to see it one-on-one. I did not like this film.

Mother of All Bombs – Afghanistan

On Friday, the 14th of April I awoke to news that the US military dropped its most powerful non-nuclear 11-ton bomb on eastern Afghanistan. The bomb targeted an ISIS cave and tunnel complex in Afghanistan and had a one-mile radius. The bombing caused great criticism and controversy from civilians in the United States. The bombing was to rid Afghanistan of militants who have sworn loyalty to ISIS which ultimately marked a dramatic change for the Trump Administration.

ISIS is a worldwide threat that needs to be stopped by any means necessary. ISIS has recruited thousands of motivated fighters who now cover thousands of square miles in Syria and all over the world. In my opinion, ISIS is barbaric and horrible. After reading many articles as well as watching videos over ISIS, I have honestly become terrified of what could happen within our world. It has become a war zone, and I am hoping that one day things will be different.

The most crazy part (well to me) about this is the fact that I had met the Ambassador of Afghanistan to the United States a few days before the bombing. You can read about my experience with the Ambassador in my older blog. But because of this, I have become more interested and involved with the relations between the United States/Afghanistan and how we plan to stop ISIS.

Semana Santa

Semana Santa is a holy week celebrated in every Christian country throughout the world even though each country that celebrates it has its own traditions to celebrate this religious week. Specifically, in the post I will be talking about the traditions of Semana Santa in my home country of El Salvador which was celebrated April 9th through the 15th.

This by far is my favorite holiday to celebrate, mostly because of the traditions my family has as well as the traditions that are done in El Salvador. My country is well known for its street carpets or “alfombras” made of colorful flowers and colored sawdust that are created on the street. In the town of Concepción de Ataco, my family gets together and makes delicate street carpets which portray creativity and spirituality. Families work in teams, and by the time they are finished the entire town is filled with beautiful street carpets. The making of these street carpets represent one of the greatest traditions for the Roman Catholic Church, especially because entire streets all over the country are closed for this religious holiday. After the street rugs are made, it is used as a path for a holy funeral procession, which further symbolizes the dead body of Christ. There is an unbelievable amount of work and effort put into these rugs, and families spend there time together in order to finish them and do their part.

Even if some people do not participate in the making of the street carpets, civilians from all over El Salvador come outside on Good Friday to see the beautiful rugs and take pictures of them. They truly are a work of art.

Although I was not able to be there this year for Semana Santa because of school , I celebrated Easter with my family in Texas – but I did receive pictures of the street carpets that were created by my family members (pictured below),