Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Leave Comments, Subscribe, Donate!!

I hope you liked my article on Janailton. Well, he appreciated it, so I guess that's enough. Although it is my favorite thing in journalism, I think it's always a tense moment to write about people. As I publish my article I'm crossing my fingers that I understood and interpreted everything correctly. There's nothing more annoying than to read about you on the news and find out that the writer wasn't actually paying attention to your words.

The series will continue, of course, and I am very excited about it. Last weekend the Badgers were playing, so Michael and I went to a bar a block away from where we live to watch the game. The Badgers won, as usual! But the most interesting part about going out with my boyfriend to watch the Badgers play was that we ended up discussing some of our goals and there I found myself feeling more and more excited about this The Voice of Youth series.

I think, in general, that's what I've always wanted to do in journalism, besides becoming a war correspondent journalist. Actually, as a war correspondent my main goal is to be able to interview people who live under such extreme conditions. I don't know precisely why hearing different people's stories appeals to me, but I clearly am a happier journalist when I am working on something like that. I'll devote part of this blog, then, to these interviews, and I really hope you'll enjoy reading them as much as I love writing them. Feel free -- and I am almost begging now -- to leave comments. I would love to have some feedback from you, so I could improve my series and make it more interesting.

Alright, I think that's enough of blogging for today. It's getting cold again in Madison, and I should focus on my work before it gets too cold to leave the window open. I have trouble concentrating when it is too stuffy in this room.

So, don't forget to send your comments and to subscribe to this blog! And, if your finances are doing better, a donation would be absolutely welcome, even if it's just enough to buy me a cup of coffee. :)

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The Voice of Youth Series -- #1 Janailton, The Teacher

Many kids and teenagers today aim high, perhaps even higher than they used to a few decades ago. I often wonder whether this has to do with improvements in communications, which let us hear from more people what their goals are, or if this thirst to accomplish more and more dreams is just an inexplicable mark of today's youth. An inexplicable mark that has turned this era into the freedom to dream time.

Regardless of their background, many teenagers seem more inclined to challenge norms and to fight for their aspirations. The year of 2011, in fact, has proved to be the year of protests, when youth from many countries decided to march on the streets to speak up and defend their rights. What all these teenagers have in common is eagerness to break free from everything that restrained their thoughts and speech.

Janailton, a seventeen-year old from SanharĂ³, Brazil, didn't go on the streets of his town holding political signs that accused society of neglecting his voice, but he is an eager protester. A rather calm and extremely polite protester who probably would have trouble recognizing himself as such, nonetheless still a dissident of old customs.

SanharĂ³, almost 200 kilometers from Recife, is a city in Pernambuco that relies on agribusiness to economically survive. Instead of shaping his life goals to keep his city's old agricultural standards, Janailton decided that what he needed was to learn languages. He left SanharĂ³ and moved to Campina Grande, Paraiba, to attend Federal University, where he is studying to one day become an English teacher.

Janailton is glad to live in Campina Grande because the city is bigger than where he was raised and because of the variety of festivals it holds every year. Despite having access to more opportunities, however, Janailton still is dissatisfied. "The mentality of some people here is mainly based upon getting money," he said. He explained that although his dream of learning languages isn't unusual, his goal to teach English to his community is uncommon. Janailton believes, in fact, that his idea might impact his community since people are used to foreign languages.

He wants to teach English, however, not just because he grew up admiring it. Janailton believes that learning the English language "nowadays is quite important and essential to both get a job and communicate with the globalized world." He does not, however, feel entirely encouraged by society. His dream, as he explained, is only supported by the few who also are interested in changing their communities. Despite the obstacles on his way, he prefers to remain focused on trying to benefit his community with what he learns at college.

The few supporters he mentioned are the Youth Ambassadors. "The most significant moment in my life was when I became a Youth Ambassador and traveled to the United States of America through the Youth Ambassadors Program," he explained. In January, 2011, Janailton traveled along with 34 other Brazilian High School students to represent Brazil in diplomatic meetings in the U.S. This exchange program, which is an initiative of the U.S. Embassy in Brazil, played a significant role in encouraging Janailton to continue fighting for his dreams. During his stay in the U.S., Janailton attended meetings with congressmen, gave speeches about Brazilian culture and engaged in volunteer work. The opportunity to play a diplomatic role was the last push he needed to understand that young people like him, regardless of their background, could also effectively influence society. Despite the pressure of the rural system Janailton came from, he understood that his own particular tool to make a difference was through linguistics.

Janailton strongly believes that young people need more respect. He explained that many people today still believe that teenagers are not able to positively change their communities, but he thinks that teenagers are actually very capable of assuming important roles in the present and are very interested in participating in society.

As a representative of the Brazilian youth, Janailton said that he encourages "everyone to fight for social justice, and to try to promote actions that can benefit everyone in society." Janailton encourages youth to continue fighting for their dreams, regardless of the many obstacles young people will encounter particularly coming from old norms in their communities. "Keep on trying and help as many people as you can," he said.

If you want to contact Janailton, his email is and his Facebook profile is  

Friday, September 16, 2011

The Voice of Youth Series

In Capturing Mary, by Stephen Poliakoff, Mary Gilbert mentioned that she used to write a column titled "The Voice of Youth." The idea, she confessed, was awful. Perhaps the concept behind writing to represent the voices of all young people might be a little too arrogant, or perhaps naively ambitious, but the truth is that it allowed Mary the chance to write openly about what she thought about the representation of youth in society. At least that is what I think she was doing, since there isn't any explanation of what precisely she did with such writing premise. All that was said was that she was a keen observer.

Well, I am particularly interested in writing about people, and what they think about life, what their life is like, and what they have to say about everything that afflicts them or what makes them happy. I thought to myself, then, that I should start a new article series inspired by Mary's column.

It will, at least for now, be called "The Voice of Youth" as well, and I am going to weekly interview young people from different countries about their past, present, and expected future. I want to know what they have to say about life, about their goals and what frustrates them. The idea is to simply mediate their voices through these articles. My main goal, then, is to show the world that these boys and girls have strong ideas and aspirations, and can effectively contribute to building a better present.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

What Routine Means to Us

I feel I am finally establishing my new routine. Awesome!

Many people disagree that having a stable routine is a good idea. For some reason we tend to think today that living an adventurous life is the only way to achieve true happiness. To some extent, yes, living unexpected experiences every day keeps people inspired and alive, but I personally think that stability found in knowing what your days will be like is also very nice.

For instance, students who move to a different town or country to study only find themselves at peace when they finally get their new rooms decorated and their class schedules / extracurricular activities settled. Many of these students find, for instance, the whole process of moving to a new place very stressful, and I assure you it is not only because packing and unpacking is boring. It is good to have a stable routine, so we could start feeling at home even when we're far away from it.

Why is that, I ask you, when we are sad we tend to think that we were truly happy when we were kids? We start reminiscing about everything we used to do, what TV shows and games we liked the most, what we felt like when we visited other relatives, and what going to school meant to us.

I suppose that childhood represents a vague idea of stability, of a time with no worries. Although, of course, melancholy makes us forget the annoying parts of everything our gloomy selves are trying to embellish in our memories, the past almost always represents a time that worked well compared to the present and the future, which are still blurry to us.

One of the reasons that inspired this article was my noticing this afternoon that I am living like a full-time author. I spend the day, and sometimes all night, writing. Since I still don't have a table, I place my notebook on a box and start typing. My back, after a while, complains. But my soul is happy. As I experienced graduation week, I felt more and more concerned that my routine as a student would be crushed by my unknown future. Although I am still concerned and eager to see my goals accomplished -- which could be as soon as possible, thank you very much -- I think I am finally starting to feel at home here in Mad-Town.

Firstly, it is very nice to recognize a few roads and know which way to go, for example, if I want to buy groceries. It is also very welcoming to see these yellowing leaves, the noise of construction workers early in the morning, that invisible train that screams from far away; and, above all, it is absolutely comforting to see clouds, big grayish clouds in the sky. Secondly, is there anything better than to be surrounded by these college kids who can be so drunk on Friday nights? For years I frowned when I heard their loud laughter at 3:00 AM -- yes, because I've always been a cranky introverted girl -- but now I truly appreciate their presence, for they are the essence of this town. Besides, what's wrong about expressing intensity at dawn? That's part of their weekend routine, and shame on you, Rebecca, if you yell at them in your head.

On top of all that, I like our new apartment, and have developed my own daily writing schedule. If I can sit down to write without worrying so much about the future, then it is very likely I will feel comfortable and happy with everything. Feeling relaxed where I am is what appeals to me in life. I find very hard to achieve this, but I've noticed that relaxation always comes when my writing habit is finally settled and I don't feel like I am being dragged around to do things I don't want to do.

Routine, then, means a lot to me. Perhaps I am very wrong to refuse living the many adventures my neighbors experience every day, but in all honesty I only feel truly free when I root myself somewhere safe and silently write down what occurs in my mind.

Thursday, September 01, 2011

California - Wisconsin Road Trip -- (We're Back!)

Hello! We're back in Wisconsin!

It turned out that blogging wasn't as easy as I thought it would be during the trip, particularly because we didn't have access to an internet connection throughout most part of it. Sorry! But the good thing is that I have many stories to tell you.

Today is a crazy day to post articles, since we're moving into our new place in Madison tonight, but I can tell you a few things about Las Vegas. Well, we arrived in Vegas on Tuesday at about 1:30 PM and it was really hot. I've never been to a place where the temperature was 105 F, but that matched very well our destination, as we'd be staying at the Luxor Hotel, which is Egyptian themed.

Michael tried to figure out the bus system so we could go to the hotel when we left the bus station, but it was too hot to think clearly, so we simply took a taxi cab. Luxor was nearby, so we still followed our road trip budget. The taxi driver was talking on the phone in Arabic and I had a chance to put my Arabic in practice when we arrived at the hotel. He was surprised and smiled. Michael, who didn't hear what I said in Arabic, thought that the driver was just trying to flirt with me. But Michael is always very polite and didn't say anything.

Luxor, if you haven't heard of it, is a giant pyramid in the middle of Vegas. It is the most impressive hotel I've been to, and the whole Egyptian theme was very exciting. There are statues of Egyptian gods everywhere, the architecture simulates Egypt's as well, and in the rooms you'll find many hieroglyphic symbols everywhere.

The hotel, also, functions as a giant mall. It has many restaurants, stores, casinos, conference rooms and other rooms where certain events and exhibitions are hosted. Strangely, we didn't find clocks, but I guess that might be their strategy to make people lose track of time. I must say I actually decided to try my luck on gambling, though the limit I imposed on myself was $5 USD. I'm proud to say I won 80 cents, however I lost it all in less than a minute. That's my first experience at a casino. Perhaps not my last one, though, since we decided to visit Luxor once a year and make this our tradition.

In general, our trip to Vegas went fine. It was always very busy, unfortunately with many fliers that objectify women, a place where materialism seems to govern, but very fun within reason, if you go with friends and family. We left it the next day and we're definitely planning on returning to visit it.