Bullfights are Bullpoop

When I heard that we were going to a bullfight at the Las Ventas Plaza de Toros in Madrid, I had no idea what we were getting into. I’d heard of bullfighting, but I didn’t know much about it.

 

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Looks pretty cool

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Is that Michael Jordan? Nah, just some hunky matador.

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Cooler than most concert posters

Bullfighting’s history traces back thousands of years, but bullfighting generated increased popularity by the Spanish in the 18th century. In the 19th century, the Spanish government began promoting bullfighting as a national symbol. Since then, bullfighting spread to Portugal, Latin America, and Asia.

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Coliseum Jr.

Inside and outside, the arena resembles the Coliseum in Rome.

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The procession begins

Okay, now, I started to get confused. What’s up with the dudes on padded horses? Turns out these guys wield spears and rile up the bulls by stabbing them. Plus, poor horses are blindfolded and face the wrath of the bull’s horns.

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Who says men can’t wear tights and sequins?

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In comes Hugo

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Not quite a fair fight.

Matadors scattered around the arena stab and provoke the bull until the main matador slays the bull with a stab to the heart. However, matadors do not always succeed on the first try. It’s a bloody, gruesome “sport”. Luckily for them, they have a barrier to hide behind.

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Olé

As you can see, the bull has barbs stuck in its back.

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Way to go, Hugo!

The matadors at the beginning of the event are the opening acts. In this case, the bull “won” against this matador. Unfortunately (or fortunately for the battered bull), the next matador finished him off.

After seeing one act, I couldn’t stand to watch another. Bullfighting popularity has declined in recent years and certain cities have outlawed it. I only hope that soon it will be banned everywhere.

 

Catalonia’s Treasured Peak

“Welcome to Montserrat– the closest place to heaven on Earth.”

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The view of Montserrat abbey and surrounding village from the bus station. The monastery and surrounding village has existed since 1025.

Nestled 30 miles west of Barcelona, Spain on a mountain that bears the same name, the monastery and shrine at Montserrat holds religious importance for the thousands of pilgrims and captures the imagination of the millions of visitors that come to the top of the mountain yearly to take in its breathtaking views and rare sights.

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The valley sitting 4,055 feet below the mountain peak. The mountain the monastery takes its name from was Spain’s first national park.

As the sight of the Black Madonna and a rumored location of the Holy Grail, the spiritual significance of this little mountaintop abbey is felt as soon as you step off the bus. Being one of the tallest peaks in Catalonia, and home to these historic artifacts lends Montserrat the nickname of “the closest place to heaven on Earth.” You can see a symbol of this nickname in the photo above with the stairway to heaven overlooking the valley.

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The monastery’s remote location made it a hiding ground for Spain’s intellectuals and youth during the rule of fascist dictator Francisco Franco.

In order to reach the Basilica where you can see the holy artifacts, visitors are required to maneuver through narrow alleyways that are characteristic of so many towns in Europe. However, the backdrop of mountain peaks makes for a trek that is not soon forgotten.  Vendors line the sides of the streets, selling their handmade products and the fruits of their labor. You can sense and appreciate the gifts and livelihood that Montserrat provides for the locals of the mountain villages.

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Four trees that sit in front of the entrance to the basilica and the Black Madonna. Planted centuries ago, the trees represent four key aspects of the Catholic faith.

Before entering the Basilica, four different trees that hold symbolic meaning for both the monastery and Christianity stand in view of visitors.  The palm stands for martyrdom, the cypress for eternal life, the olive for peace, and the laurel for victory.

While Barcelona may get the most attention in Catalonia, it is the tiny monastery and village of Montserrat that is the most poignant and enchanting. After a visit to that mountaintop, it is impossible not to take a little bit of heaven back down to Earth with you.

 

Spanish Cheesecake? I’ll Give It a Chance


Every birthday, my mom asks me what kind of cake I want. I think for a minute, and every year, I respond, “cheesecake.” As a cheesecake lover, I was excited to find a recipe with the Spaniards’ take on it. Quesada pasiega, or Spanish cheesecake, is a dish from Cantabria, a region in northern Spain.

Because of the Cantabria’s wet climate, cattle have plenty of grass to enjoy. The region relies on cattle byproducts and utilizes them in this dessert.

You probably have most of the ingredients necessary to make quesada pasiega; I had to make a quick trip to the store and purchase ricotta cheese and a lemon. The recipe I followed used ricotta cheese, but other variations of the recipe use yogurt instead of ricotta)

ingredients

I’m no expert baker, but this recipe is pretty darn easy to make. I had to make-do with the janky mixer we have, so the mixture didn’t turn out as smooth as I had anticipated.

photoAs you can see, there are lumps, but don’t worry, they’re benign.

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Look closely for the cannonball dive

The recipe said to cook it for 35-45 minutes, but mine took about 55. It could just be the inaccuracy of our oven’s thermometer, so keep an eye on the quesada. It should be browned on the top and a toothpick should come out cleanly when inserted into the center.

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The United State claims this plate

The final product! Mine looks a bit like cornbread compared to the recipe I followed. It tasted like a lemon square. I didn’t mind, but it was not what I epxected

Quesada-cheesecake

photo (1)I left this plate out for roommates, and it disappeared!

I won’t be asking for quesada pasiega this birthday, but if you’re feeling adventurous, this simple dessert is worth a try.

The Most Sociable of all Culinary Occassions

Paella is a well-known Spanish dish that has made it’s way around the globe. While it originated in Valencia, Spain and is still unique to the area, variations of the recipe are now created all over the world.  Since I will be traveling to Spain in 2 short months, I decided to learn how to prepare my own paella.

I started by reading several different recipes for the dish on various sites, both formal and informal. What I found was there is no definitive recipe for paella. Not only do the majority of the protein-rich ingredients depend on personal preference, but every style of preparation seems to vary from another.

I found Spanish blogs (in English), such as Taste of Sundays, proudly sharing detailed, personal family recipes. I found vague descriptions of variations of the traditional paella recipe on blogs such as this. I even found how-to video tutorials by Spanish chef’s specializing in paella, like the one seen below.

 

Large paella's are commonly served during Spanish fiestas. Photo credit: Chris Gray

Large paella’s are commonly served during Spanish fiestas. Photo credit: Chris Gray

I did come to find a few staple ingredients that continually make their way into the authentic dish. Paella rice -which I found out the hard way is not labeled in the local grocery store, as paella rice at all- is one of the staples to any variation of the recipe. Bomba and Arborio are the most commonly used rices. Saffron is another necessity when preparing anything close to the authentic styled paella.

Saffron offers a unique, valuable flavor to paella. Photo credit: Aidan Brooks

Saffron offers a unique, valuable flavor to paella.
Photo credit: Aidan Brooks

 

Paella was originally a farmers’ and farm laborers’ food. The workers cooked the dish over an open fire using rice and whatever ingredients were at hand around the fields and countryside. Tomatoes, onions, snails and beans were some common original ingredients. Since Valencia is on the coast, it’s no surprise that various kinds of seafood made their way into later recipes. “To this day a “true” Paella Valenciana has no seafood but a mixture of chicken, rabbit and snails with green and white beans” (The Paella Company). Visit The Paella Company’s site to learn more about the origins and developments of this dish. 

 

As shocking as it may seem, snail was not one of the ingredients I was ready to try so I figured I’d take a more common and widely spread approach to the recipe. Aside from a few modifications, I followed this recipe.

Here are the ingredients and measurements I decided to go with:

2 full chicken breasts
1/3 lb shrimp
4 large scallops cut in fourths

½ cup tomato sauce
4 cloves chopped garlic
1/3 chopped red onion
1 red bell pepper
½ cup green beans cut in 1” sections
½ tsp saffron
½ tsp cayenne pepper
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
2 cups paella rice
1 ½ cup chicken broth

I started by sautéing the chicken in olive oil until it was mostly cooked. Then I added tomato sauce, bell pepper, onion and garlic to the pan. After about 4-5 minutes, I added the rice, saffron, green beans and cayenne pepper. Once the combination started to boil, I tossed in the shrimp, scallops and broth. I let the ingredients simmer for roughly 15 minutes; stirring frequently to ensure the rice was evenly cooked. I garnished the completed dish with additional peppers and lemon wedges. True to Spanish tradition, it was served family style, in the center of the table for my roommates to gather around.

Here’s a glimpse at my first attempt:

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While there was definitely room for improvement and we had nothing to compare it to, my house was pretty impressed with the results!

Today, paella is commonly prepared as the centerpiece for many fiestas. It is a social dish, meant for sharing and often associated with celebration.  It is known for being eaten right out of the pan rather than on plates. Kitchenproject.com describes the typical style of eating the dish in Spain. “Each guest starts at the perimeter of the Paella and works toward the center.” Visit their site to view different variations of the dish. 

FreshLiving Magazine recently tweeted a variation of the recipe, using chicken, bacon, chorizo, mussels and prawns. Head over to their twitter page @Fresh_Living for more interesting recipe variations.

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I’m looking forward to tasting the real deal during my summer abroad in Spain. Maybe I’ll learn a thing or two before my next attempt at preparation.

(Sorta) Free Spanish Villages

Ever want to go away to your own countryside village? Well, if you have the money, you can do just that.

In Spain, hundreds of abandoned villages cover rural areas of the country. With the dawn of industrialization, people migrated to urban centers to seek out work. Oftentimes, the ownership records of the villages were lost.

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A Barca ruins parallel Spain’s economy

The Spanish government is giving away A Barca–an abandoned village in northeast Spain comprised of a dozen stone buildings–for free, provided that you agree to restore the buildings. These restorations can cost about a million Euros (approx. 1.3 million USD). The government hopes the restoration projects will stimulate the country’s struggling economy.  

In addition to the employment that restorations require, the government sees these villages as a chance for cultural tourism.

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workers restoring Armejún, a project of pueblosocial.es

One blogger believes that the restoration of rural towns could offer a look at a way of life throughout regions of Spain that marks an attempt to return to a sustainable lifestyle away from the urban centers. Another blog allows you to track the progress of the restorations of these dilapidated villages.

 

If you’re not in the mood to commit a million bucks, specialty real estate companies sell smaller villages (usually 3-5 buildings) for under $100,000. These getaways don’t require any restorations.

I think this attempt to help the economy is an interesting and exciting way to get people’s attention. The history behind these villages needs new life, as well as Spain’s economy.

McDonald’s Breakfast until Noon: Are You Lovin’ It?

Ever go to McDonald’s expecting breakfast only for this to happen? *watches video*

Well, if you’re in Spain, you don’t have to worry about missing out on hotcakes and sausage until 1 pm. That’s right: 1 in the afternoon.

When I visited Spain, I had to adjust to their schedule. Stores close down from 2-5 for siesta, and dinner doesn’t start until 10 pm. With Spain’s economic struggles, a New York Times article addressed a Spanish campaign to change the country’s time schedule in order to increase worker efficiency.

Despite these attempts, McDonald’s extended its breakfast hours. Now, you can sleep-in even later and still get your sausage McMuffin until 1 pm on the weekends (noon on weekdays) at most locations in Spain, one hour later than other locations in Europe. Compare that to the United States, where breakfast stops at 10:30 am.

Toast with tomatoes: slightly less terrible for you

Toast with tomatoes and olive oil: slightly less terrible for you

In addition to McDonald’s new hours, the company launched a 4 million Euro  (approximately 5.5 million USD) campaign promoting its new breakfast menu. It’s not uncommon for McDonald’s to alter the menu to account for regional differences across the globe.To compete with local cafés, McDonald’s new breakfast menu in Spain now includes toast with tomatoes and olive oil and a wider range of coffees.

The McDonald’s España facebook page has over 500,000 likes. When McDonald’s announced the new breakfast campaign, it received about 1,000 likes. I’ve found a few different reactions on twitter. One person said that McDonald’s breakfast, regardless of the menu, scares her. Other people reacted more positively, saying they enjoy the new menu.

Translation: “Finally a breakfast that I like!”

McDonald’s new slogan for the breakfast campaign is “Despierta Tu Sonrisa” or “Wake Up with a Smile”

The video says, “if you start the day well, we all start well.” I don’t know how you feel about starting your day with McDonald’s for breakfast, but for me, I start my days with McDonald’s when I’m hungover and willing to shell out two bucks for two sausage McMuffins.

I understand the cultural differences concerning eating times, but this seems like just another ploy for McDonald’s to exploit consumers.

True/False Doc Shows Physicists Hot For Answers

Missouri Theater being used for True/False

Missouri Theater transformed for True/False

Each year, during the last week of February, Columbia, Missouri is home to its largest annual arts event, the True/False Film Festival. The festival boasts a plethora of documentary films and over 35 bands from around the world.

True/False technically starts on Thursday, but really kicks off for local students on Friday, which was marketed this year as TGI T/F (Thank Goodness it’s True/False Friday), which featured a free screening of Particle Fever, by director Mark Levinson, for students and festival volunteers. The film was a good choice for the student kickoff, particularly as it’s a film about people’s excitement and got students excited about the festival.

The film follows the excitement of the scientists involved with the LHC (Large Hadron Collider) at CERN (the name of the European Organisation for Nuclear Research based in Geneva, Switzerland) from the startup of the LHC through the discovery of the Higgs Boson particle (a.k.a. “The God Particle”). The film leaves after the discovery which yielded inconclusive results on which of two theories explain the existence of the universe.

At one point in the film, one of the theoretical physicists involved with the LHC is asked by an economist what the economic incentive for the roughly $10 billion project is. I won’t spoil the film by giving you his fantastic answer, but Pauline Gagnon, a quantum physicist, gives a greater explanation to the question than just finding the the origin of the universe, on her official blog on CERN’s site.  Gagnon explains that

the LHC could be opening the door to parallel worlds, extra dimensions or the discovery of as many new particles as the ones we already know. These are but some of the exciting questions we are trying to address.

Gagnon, and Levinson aren’t the only people trying to explain the LHC to the public, either. In fact, CERN has made numerous websites that cater to students trying to spark young peoples’ interests in science. CERNLand, a spanish language site encourages children and their parents to get involved in science through contests. They also encourage visitors to check out this “Taking A Closer Look at LHC” blog, which gives easy to digest explanations of what CERN does.

Part of the Large Hadron Collider

Part of the Large Hadron Collider

CERN’s next step is doubling the power of the LHC to conduct experiments that will hopefully determine which theories about how the universe is held together are supported by the Higgs Boson particle. To do this, the magnets, the main pieces of the LHC, needed to be strengthened. On their official organisational update blog, CERN announced in February that 1,000 of the 1,695 magnets have been upgraded so far.

After the film, theoretical physicist David Kaplan, whom the film followed, stuck around with director Mark Levinson to answer questions from students. The Q&A is a major part of the festival and someone who starred in or made a film is required to be present for the Q&A after each film.

Check out the website for Particle Fever and find out where the film will show next.

Essay Competition for Youth Unemployment Solutions puts Money on the Line

Jobs Vanish

Image featured on the Henry Jackson Initiative website for the national competition in Britain to solve youth unemployment.

As youth unemployment is stretched far and wide across Europe, countries like Greece and Spain are currently taking the hardest hit. Britain has also taken notice to this trend and despite the number of jobs increasing; about 1 in 5 young people in the UK is unemployed.

According to an online article by The Telegraph,

“Globally, an estimated 75m under-25s are looking for work, with Greece and Spain suffering high levels of youth joblessness at above 50pc.”

In an effort to generate some creative and innovative ideas to decrease youth unemployment the Henry Jackson Initiative has joined forces with The Telegraph Media Group Limited to form a national competition in Britain, which is being sponsored by Sir Alec Reed, founder of Reed Specialist Recruitment.

What better way to spark a little friendly competition than to throw in a prize? £10,000 pounds to be exact, which equals out to be about $16,000 US dollars! That is certainly a lot of money at stake to complete an essay which is similar to a basic college assignment. There is also the possibility to gain some publicity by being published by The Daily/Sunday Telegraph and online at telegraph.co.uk.

If I was eligible to participate and interested in writing an essay (no more than 1,000 words) to help my country and win money I would say, sign me up! It’s like a civil duty not only to Britain, but to everyone affected by the Eurozone crisis and youth unemployment. Think about a serious issue, create an opinion and offer some solutions.

The general Terms and conditions are as follows according to HJI website:

 “This competition is open to residents of the UK, Channel Islands, Isle of Man and Republic of Ireland aged 18 years or over, except for employees of Telegraph Media Group Limited and the Henry Jackson Initiative, their agents or anyone else professionally associated with the competition.”

Submissions are due by midnight on Friday, December 14, 2012 and the winner is to be notified by January 25, 2013. For more terms and conditions visit the Henry Jackson Initiative website.

Leading up to the announcement of the competition the Henry Jackson Initiative posted great links to their Facebook page about overall youth unemployment awareness. (Click the images to check out their Facebook Page.)

The Telegraph Facebook Post

The Telegraph Facebook Post

The Telegraph Facebook Post

The Telegraph Facebook Post

It would be great to see this competition successfully executed in Britain and for countries like Greece and Spain to take notice. It might not be possible to offer the same kind of incentive, but it would be great for other people to also take part in generating ideas to better their home countries.

 

And for now I leave you with this…

“The true sign of intelligence is not knowledge but imagination.” – Albert Einstein

Paul the German octopus dies

Paul the Octopus, who became famous during the 2010 World Cup after he predicted all of the correct outcomes of Germany’s matches, as well as the final match, died on Tuesday, October 26 at the age of 2 1/2 years of natural causes in his aquarium in the western German city of Oberhausen.

During the World Cup, Paul would make his predictions by opening the lid of one of two clear plastic boxes, each containing a mussel and bearing a team flag.

Paul the Octopus predicts Spain over Germany during the World Cup.

We had all naturally grown very fond of him and he will be sorely missed,” Sea Life manager Stefan Porwoll said in a statement.

After the World Cup final between Spain and the Netherlands, in which Paul correctly predicted Spain to win, his trainers retired him from predicting matches, and going back to his normal role of entertaining children. A large part of this was because of the death threats that he received, after he caused quite the stir-up in Germany when he picked them to lose to Spain.

It says a lot about a culture when the people send an octopus death threats simply because he picked his homeland country to lose a soccer match. Why are people caring this much simply on what an octopus picks? He is probably picking whichever box has the best smelling food, and the country’s flag is just a side bit.

Regardless, Paul’s is an octopus that will go down in history. At the start of the World Cup, he became an instant celebrity because of his picks, and had since been requested to appear all across Europe. He had his own agent, and was even an official ambassador of the England 2018 World Cup bid, since he was originally born in England before being moved to Germany. Also, “El Pulpo Paul” became so popular in Spain that the northwestern Spanish town of O Carballino tried to borrow him and make him an “honorary friend.” That was just one of hundreds of requests that Paul received to go to Spain. In addition, the Madrid Zoo asked Sea Life if it would be willing to make a deal to bring him in as a tribute to the Spanish soccer team’s victory, either temporarily or for good. But the German aquarium turned down that offer, too.

SoccerLens, an international soccer blog, isn’t grieving at all about Paul’s death, and is excited that people will start getting back to normal soccer now.

Some people love Paul, some will hate him since he didn’t predict their team. Regardless of how people feel about him though, it is obvious that this wasn’t your everyday octopus.

La Furia Roja

Spain fans gather to watch the semifinal between Germany and Spain in Toledo - Andrew Green, Creative Commons

Spain is a country divided. Geographically, culturally, and linguistically, Spain has suffered and thrived by these divisions. Catalan, Asturian, Galician and Basque are among Spain’s myriad distinct languages, each tied to distinct cultures, but all part of Spain.

However, this past summer the country was united; by fútbol. The Spanish national football team, known as La Furia Roja in Spain, won the FIFA World Cup for the first time in history. Moises Martinez, who runs the blog Con Ojos Latinos, was in Madrid at the time of the final match and described the scene after Spain’s victory:

Millones se abrazaron, amigos con amigos, novios con novias, desconocidos con desconocidos, no importaba. Muchos jóvenes y viejos cayeron al suelo llorando. No lo podían creer.
“Millions hugged each other, friends hugged friends, boyfriends hugged girlfriends, strangers hugged strangers, it didn’t matter. Young and old alike fell to the ground, crying. They couldn’t belive it.”

The country was ecstatic. But, beyond that, the country was united.

Or, at least, that’s the impression the rest of the world got. But was this an accurate representation of the nation?

Some signs definitely pointed to yes.

Carles Puyol, Andrés Iniesta, and Xabi carry the Catalonian flag, returning from South Africa. - Sportskeeda

Carles Puyol, Andrés Iniesta, and Xabi carry the Catalonian flag, returning from South Africa. - Sportskeeda

Spain’s national team is composed of players from Catalonia,Asturias, Basque Country, Andalusia, Castile and León,the Canary Islands. It can be a little difficult to understand how exactly these partitions work, because they’re not really the same as states in the U.S. These regions are known as autonomous communities, and have unique cultures and centuries-long histories. Thus, the divisions between them are well defined. Xabi Alonso, who plays for Real Madrid, is from Basque country, an autonomous community that has had much strife with the Spanish government in the past. Basque terrorist group ETA is notorious for its relentless use of improvised explosives to demand independence for the Basque country.

Still, the beauty of Spain’s victory in the World Cup, aside from the beautiful soccer they played, lies in the fact that players from all these different regions were able to come together as one cohesive unit. If there was any internal strife or conflict, they didn’t show a hint of it on the field.

I asked my friend Álvaro Guzmán, who writes for The Missourian and is from Pamplona, Spain, about the effect that the team’s performance had on the country.

Durante el mundial, la sociedad española se unió en torno al equipo nacional. Aunque es verdad que hay ciertos sectores que -y están en su perfecto derecho- nunca sentirán a la selección como suya, no es menos cierto que España en su conjunto vibró con el mundial como casi nunca lo había hecho.

“During the World Cup, Spanish society united around the national team. Although it is true that there are certain sectors that -perfectly understandably- will never view the team as theirs, it isn’t any less true that Spain came together for the World Cup like it never had before.”

Este equipo, aparte de hacer un fútbol maravilloso, ha hecho suya a mucha de esa gente por razones que transcienden lo futbolístico. Son gente normal, de todas partes de España (la abundancia de jugadores del Barcelona y de Cataluña, y la presencia de vascos no es baladí) y cuyas personalidades sencillas, sinceras y poco histriónicas han cautivado a toda España.

“This team, aside from playing some wonderful soccer, has appealed to so many people for reasons that transcend the sport. They’re normal people, from all over Spain (the abundance of players from Barcelona and Catalonia, and the presence of Basques shouldn’t be overlooked) whose simple, sincere and not overly dramatic personalities have captivated all of Spain.”

This is the beauty of, if you’ll excuse me, fútbol. It is much more than a sport, as Markus Spier noted in an earlier entry. The simple sport has a unmitigable power unite people, stop wars, and bring joy to people around the world.

I remember going to a local cinema, during the World Cup, that had been showing the games, to watch the United States play Algeria. Most Americans notoriously care very little for fútbol, so I wasn’t expecting much. When I got there, the theater was packed, and the energy was contagious. When Landon Donovan scored the winning goal in stoppage time, the theater erupted.

Donovan’s goal.

Everyone was jumping up and down; hugging each other, and the guy next to me locked me in a compatriotic embrace with such vigor that he knocked over his pint. It was the first time in my life I had been able to feel passionate about the American team, and it was truly a singular feeling.

The country’s reaction.

Watching the video still gives me goosebumps.

If a country that, for the most part, doesn’t care much for fútbol, could be so impassioned by getting into the quarter-finals, it is easy to see how a country that lives and breathes the sport could be united, despite their divisions, by taking home the trophy.

Spanish Boars Want to be Tiger


Wild boars dig for food on a golf course in Mijas, Spain. From ABC de Sevilla

Tiger Woods that is.

Golf courses in the town of Mijas, Spain have been struggling with a full-on invasion of wild boar from the surrounding wilderness. The boars have been digging up parts of the course, presumably looking for mushrooms. The lack of food brought on by development of their habitat is cited as the cause for the boars’ increasing boldness and aggressiveness.

The boars’ destruction of the golf courses, which are an important part of the town’s tourism industry, has even resulted in political action. The Mayor of Mijas has written to a subdivision of the Spanish federal government asking for help dealing with the cantankerous cerdos (pigs).

Jabalies (boars) are prevalent in forests across much of southern Europe, and have become, over the centuries, a part of Spanish culture. Wild boar is the favorite dish of fictional Gaulish warriors Asterix and Obelix from the famous French comic The Adventures of Asterix and Obelix.


Obelix with his boars. From www.i-magier.com

There are folktales about them and a jabali even appears in Miguel de Cervantes’ famous novel Don Quixote.
Rampaging boars make for formidable foes and are often prized game for hunters in Spain and France. But they’re certainly not to be trifled with, as this video shows:

European soccer fans riot in Paris

Soccer has never been considered a major sport in the United States.  The soccer scene in Europe, however, is a cultural phenomenon, one where people go out to bars and pubs and socialize with friends, family or coworkers, all while watching the game. European soccer fans sing, dance and stand for the entire match, expending energy at an incredible rate. Meanwhile, American soccer fans prefer to be spectators while relaxing in a “sedentary” state.

Portugal fans begin to riot before their match against Spain in the World Cup in the streets of Paris.

Portugal fans begin to riot before their match against Spain in the World Cup in the streets of Paris.

The joy experienced from being part of a heaving mass of humanity at a soccer match cannot compare with the peace gained sitting for hours on end. My friends and I visited Paris during the 2010 World Cup.  Little did we know that we would have a strong cultural experience by ending up in the middle of a soccer riot. After Portugal tied Brazil in the final round of the group play stage, it was determined that Portugal’s next match in the round of 16 would be against the eventual World Cup champion, Spain.

On our first night, my friends and I took a walk towards the Arc de Triomphe, a monument to Napoleon and his victories. We walked past the Louvre, the Eiffel Tower, and eventually found ourselves on Avenue des Champs-Élysées, walking towards the giant monument in front of us. After a few minutes of walking, some Portugal fans ran past us, carrying the Portuguese flag around their back. They were running towards a massive mob of other Portuguese fans, all celebrating that their team advanced out of group play.

The pictures that I took this night show how crazy these soccer fans can be when national pride is on the line.

Portugese and Spanish soccer fans rioting in Paris during the 2010 World Cup.

Portugal and Spain soccer fans rioting in Paris during the 2010 World Cup.

Next thing we knew, we were caught right in the middle of these crazy soccer fans dancing around, singing and yelling words that I had no clue what they were or what they meant. On the other side of the street, the Spain fans were doing the same thing: jumping, dancing and celebrating the fact that their team had advanced. After a few minutes, the celebration turned ugly. First, fans ran up to cars driving on the street and wave their respective flag in the cars window, until someone got offended when the other country’s fans went up to the same car as them. Meanwhile, some buses packed with tourists were driving by. At first, it started innocent, with the fans waving their flags at the buses and pounding on the sides. However, with traffic picking up, and the fans getting more rowdy, they attempted to tip over the buses onto the other side’s fans. Luckily, the buses were able to drive away in time to avoid being tipped over.

Portugal fans attempt to tip over a bus driving towards the Arc de Triomphe in Paris during the 2010 World Cup.

Portugal fans attempt to tip over a bus driving towards the Arc de Triomphe in Paris during the 2010 World Cup.

After getting in the way of cars, tipping buses, burning each others flags and a couple of brawls, the riot police came to keep the fans separated. My friends and I, since we’re all journalism majors, had been taking pictures this entire time, and continued to do so when the riot police came, so we could show proof to our friends and family back home that we really did get caught up in a soccer riot while in Europe. One of the police officers caught my friend taking a picture of him, and came over to make my friend delete the picture. After the police got there, the fans started to settle down, but it was an experience that truly showed how crazy some European soccer fans can be.

Riot police block Portugese fans from running in the street and tipping over cars and buses.

Riot police block Portugal fans from running in the street and tipping over cars and buses.

Just a side note: Spain defeated Portugal 1-0.

Riots from crazy sports fans have happened before, with fans lighting stuff on fire, destroying houses and cars, but experiencing a riot first hand is far more frightening than just watching videos.

Some Americans also enjoyed the game in Europe, but not as much as the Europeans. Fifa set up a Fan Fest, and aired the World Cup games in six cities in the world, including Paris and Rome. In the United States, fans took motivation from the fan fest and their peers across the Atlantic and followed the team as the tournament progressed, but still not to the same degree as in Europe.

Soccer falls short in America compared to Europe

This summer’s World Cup in South Africa drew attention worldwide. Most countries in the world, especially those in Europe and South America, view the month-long tournament as a sense of national pride, bragging rights; or, if the team fails, an embarrassment.

For example, in the 2010 World Cup, Spain won their first title ever, and the scenes around the country were of crazy fans celebrating their nation, heritage and culture. Then there was the embarrassment that the French team put on their country, when they refused to practice after a disagreement between a player and the coach.

While the World Cup was seen as a huge event around the world, it wasn’t nearly as big in the US as it was for the European countries. There are several reasons that could lead to this, but for the US soccer teams success in the tournament, it is a wonder why they don’t have the type of following that some other teams do.

Dutch players Dirk Kuyt & Mark van Bommel hug each other after a goal in their World Cup game against Denmark, showing how important soccer is to European countries. Photo by Ryu Voelkel.

Dutch players Dirk Kuyt & Mark van Bommel hug each other after a goal in their World Cup game against Denmark, showing how important soccer is to European countries. Photo by Ryu Voelkel.

Americans often complain that the sport of soccer is too low scoring and often results in ties. Also, there are multiple trophies and championships that the teams compete in, rather than just one, such as the Super Bowl in the National Football League. Some of the famous soccer trophies and championships include the FA Cup, Premier League Championship, Champions League Championship and Serie A. In America, there is only one league, one championship: the MLS (Major League Soccer), which has not seen success since the league was formed in 1993. The European season runs from August to May. The American version goes from March to November. Between the two, there is no off-season; should a fan be interested in only one or the other, the off-season amounts to a month of inactivity, during which international competitions often take place.

The success that the United States had in the World Cup in 2010, in which they won the group play stage before losing in the round of 16 to Ghana, might lead to slightly higher ratings and a larger base for the immediate aftermath, but it appears it will never be at the same level of cultural importance as it is in European countries.