Spain

For Kev and Rosie <3

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These guys rock! They might not have realized this, but they have been my idols for quite some time, now. I appreciate everything about them. I mean, where do I start? Their amazing bond? Their endless sacrifices for each other? Their belief in the power of love? Their defiance of all barriers possible?…Gosh, It’s all magical about them.

Oh, where are my manners! Please meet Rosana and Kevin. Rosana is an English teacher from Spain, and Kevin is a graphic guru from England. What’s special about them? They’re my friends. That should suffice to make them special. But wait, that’s not everything! In addition to having the exclusive privilege of having access to my close circle of friends, Rosana and Kevin are two wonderful souls that complete each other. In fact, I often think of them as the fish and fries of human relationships!

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I’ve known Rosana (aka Rosa or Rosie) for almost 7 years, now. I was still a college student when we first met, and she’s been my rock since then. Rosa and I have developed a great relationship based on honesty, mutual trust, total respect, and unconditional support. To be honest, I am the one who has benefited from this support system the most. The poor thing would always rush to rescue me whenever I put myself in stupid situations (which happens quite a lot!).

It’s true that sometimes we lose contact for periods that might extend to months, but each time we talk, the flow of communication seems smooth and natural. I think that’s a sign of true friendship. What is remarkable about her, though, is that she’s always there when it comes to saving my a**! She always takes out from her time to comfort me and suggest workable ideas that might help me get over whatever mess I was in. She’s a very good listener, too. I could talk to her for hours and she would stay there and listen supportively. I never felt that she was listening because she had to, but simply because she cared. And believe me, that’s the most satisfying feeling one can hope to get from another friend.

Enters Kevin. Kevin is a great guy with a great -wait for it- sense of HUMOR. YES, an English guy who can actually tell decent jokes! So, when Rosie told me about this “handsome English guy” for the first time, I liked him immediately! I don’t know why, but I felt like he was the real deal, and he didn’t let me down. Kev and Rosie have been together for more than three years now, and they’ve finally decided to take things to the next level. So yes, the big moment is here! Kev liked it and is putting a ring on it!

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Dear Kev and Rosie, although attending your wedding doesn’t seem to be possible now (I wanted to be the best man, though! 😦 ), I know that we’ll meet sooner than we think. Until then, remember to keep being the awesome couple you’ve been, and never forget the reasons that made you fall for each other, because that’s what will keep you moving on (that and me, of course! 😀 ).

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“The Alchemist;” a Major Disappointment.

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Judging from my friends’ reviews and ratings, Paulo Coelho’s “The Alchemist” seemed to be a book of great magnitude. I thought it would be of an unequal inspiration and life-altering influence. To my great dismay, the book had nothing of what I had hoped for. People say that it’s a great fable about pursuing one’s dream, but what’s new in that? Coelho is absolutely not the first person to believe that people must follow their dreams. However, being an extremely popular book, I had no choice but read it.

The book is filled with unjustified repetitions, redundancies as well as an immense abuse of symbolism from cover to cover. It seems that Coelho makes sure to remind the reader of some arguably unfathomable notions such as “The Soul of the World,” “Maktub,” “omens” and “The Language of The World.” He keeps repeating those words throughout the whole book until it becomes irritating. I understand that the book is of a spiritual nature, but…come on! Challenging the reader to the extent of irritation won’t help reaching the goal behind reading, which I think is comprehension. I just can’t be inspired if I don’t get the full image. Therefore, I wouldn’t be lying if I said that the writing style was annoying.

As far as the moral of the book is concerned, it remains clear that it’s about fulfilling our dreams. Santiago’s dream was to go to the Egyptian Pyramids to look for his treasure there. What I can’t understand, though, is why would Santiago feel sorry for people who chose to settle down and not move? Why doesn’t he respect the will of other people? What if those people’s dream was to settle down and not travel through the Sahara? If that was Santiago’s dream, I think it doesn’t mean that everyone should have the same vision. I don’t think people should necessarily move from a place to another to fulfill their dreams. These things are very relative; what works for some people might not for other people.

Love has its share of significance in “The Alchemist.” But once again, Coelho (or Santiago,) fails to convince me of the logic behind the character’s vulnerability to love. He fell in love with the merchant’s daughter in Spain in seconds, and then fell in love with the desert girl in Al-Fayyum, in Egypt in seconds, and without even uttering a single word! You gotta be kidding me!  But even when he finds love and has enough money to become a rich man, he decides to leave his supposedly loved one and go to the Pyramids in search of his treasure. This happens after he announces that Fatima (The desert girl) is even more important than any other treasure in the world. If so, why on Earth did he not stay with her and preferred to continue his journey looking for the treasure? Why is his dream of such a monetary and material nature even when he claims he loves Fatima more than anything else? A flagrant contradiction.

Another detail that couldn’t go unnoticed is the apparent male domination in the story. Men are wise and courageous whereas all the female characters are rather passive. Men went to war while women waited for them in their tents. Men hunted treasures while women waited for their return. Men travelled while women, …you guessed it, WAITED for their husband’s return.

On the whole, there might be some credit to the book as it pushes people towards attaining their dreams. It tries to convince the reader that if you want something the whole universe conspires to make you achieve it. However, I’d refuse to think of “The Alchemist” as one of the greatest books in literature history.

“El Clasico”; A World-Class Show in the Art of Football.

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I’m insanely in love with the beautiful game called football. In fact, football is more than just a game to me, it’s an art that has to be appreciated just like any of the other fine arts. The strength, discipline, strategy, intelligence, skills and all the other variables that overlap in making football as charming as it is are to fans just like ingredients of the best meals are to your stomach!

As is the case with quality food, not all football games live up to fans expectations. Some lack the necessary ingredients and taste really bad! However, there is this one single game that guarantees fans a world-class show in the art of football. A game that keeps the world of football on alert days before it starts and days after it finishes; El Clasico.

This classic game opposes two of the world’s strongest teams; Real Madrid and FC Barcelona. The rivalry between these two teams goes back in time to the beginning of the 20th century. However, this rivalry isn’t just a sporting rivalry, it’s a manifestation of the historical, political and social problems that have always marked the Castilian-Catalan relationships.

Barca fans reminding the world that “There’s More to El Clasico than Football” at Nou Camp Barcelona’s stadium)

Real Madrid is representative of the Spanish Monarchy, hence the name “REAL” meaning “Royal”, whereas FC Barcelona is a team that stands for  the Catalans’ aspirations for a nation independent from the Spanish crown.  Therefore, the club is the Catalans’  way of saying that their land is not a part of Spain. In other words, one can say that El Clásico is today’s pacific alternative to armed revolutions where the Catalan revolts faced the ruling monarch’s army in the seventieth century, which explains the great importance of this game to all of Spain.

As a matter of fact, there are many derbies in the world of football worldwide than I can count. However, none of them matches the ferocious competition in Madrid and Barça games. Each team tries to outdo the other on all levels. They both spend millions of Euros on their youth academies in the hope of producing local world-class players, but as this is not always achievable, they start another “crazy” race, which is the race of contracting the world’s most expensive and most skillful players.

These two teams’ thirst for titles and for outdoing each other has been playing a vital role in keeping them on the top of world’s football. Hence, Real Madrid and FC Barcelona have signed players from all over the world. Some of these players have become each club’s icons like the case of Johan Cruyff with Barcelona, and Alfredo Di Stefano with Real Madrid. However, there is a list of some players who have been labelled “traitors” because they switched teams. The most controversial case is that of the Portuguese Luis Figo who signed for Real Madrid in  2000. Upon his return to Barcelona for a game against his old team. Barça fans threw all kinds of objects at him including a pig’s head! Meanwhile, other fans burnt photographs of him wearing Real Madrid’s jersey.

Barça fans burning a photo of Luis Figo in which he appears wearing Real Madrid’s jersey.

Truth to be told, I, as a football fan, and as a Real Madrid fan in particular, don’t really care about the complicated history that makes this game so special to Spaniards. I care more about the beauty of the play on the ground, the magic that the players spread  each time they touch the ball. The dribbling, the speed, the passing, the skills and the tactics employed by the coaches are what makes the show irresistible to me. The sensations this game is capable of giving are beyond description.

I pray for my team to win before every game. I close my eyes whenever the opponent team gets a close free-kick or a penalty. I get sad, might even cry, when we lose and I get euphoric when we win. These are sensations that nothing else can ignite in me.

Both teams have great players, probably the best players in the world at the present time. When footballers of the caliber of Messi, Xavi and Iniesta from Barcelona, and C. Ronaldo, Özil and X. Alonso from Real Madrid are on the same pitch, one can only lay back and wait for magic to happen on the green theater.

I know that many people don’t understand football fans, but football fans understand each other. 🙂

Santiago Bernabeu (Real Madrid Stadium)

Here is a Youtube video to some sensational Real Madrid and Barcelona moments: El Clásico