Coffee and Conversations

Coffee holds a special place in my heart. It reminds me of Sunday mornings before my grandfather passed away when my family would congregate around the small-four-seater-circular table inside our kitchen. My brothers and I would bring our computer chairs or desk chairs from our room to have a seat in the kitchen table. We would eat the delicious breakfast my mother and grandmother would make: homemade flour tortillas, beans, eggs “a la mexicana,” bacon, enchiladas with sour cream and goat cheese, nopales, and fresh orange juice. We ended our big meal with a cup of coffee and a conversation. These conversation could be small-talk or at times my grandfather would share stories of his childhood. This was family time. My family is a very busy bunch. My parents own a small business and leave the house early and come home late, I am in college so I only get weekends, my older brother works in Austin and my younger brother is an over-achieving and utterly-involved high schooler (thank God). This only makes me cherish the moments much more.

My friends call me a coffee addict but in reality I am a girl with a personal connection to the feelings coffee brings me. It reminds me of home, my grandpa and all our laughs around the kitchen table. This semester, for my cross-cultural class I had to conduct an ethnographic research and I decided to do it on families at a coffee shop in Spain. Enjoy!


Coffee and Conversations: A Brief Ethnography

The following is an excerpt from my field notes: I am sitting at a coffee shop studying for my midterm but I keep getting distracted by the mother yelling after her daughter, about age 2, wearing a blue Cinderella dress (the girl was dressed up for Carnival), “Ana, do not run off too far. Come here!” Ana giggles and continues running around the coffee shop. Her mom then gives her “the finger” but it does not work. The mom then rushes over to where Ana was running and picks her up and gives her a chocolate croissant. As she picks her up I notice the boy Ana was running to. He also had a chocolate croissant in one hand. I am officially distracted. I then notice many other families with kids at the coffee shop. All the kids are either running around like Ana or were eating excessive amounts of sweet drinks or pastries. Oh my! This might be why they are so hyper.

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General observations made while conducting field notes were that the act of getting coffee was a ritual outing for families, families engaging in physical attention or love expressions when they go out to get coffee, and getting coffee was the time for parents to gossip as they disconnected from other responsibilities. To begin my descriptive approach, couples with babies had their child typically in the middle and everyone would talk around the baby or to the baby. It was evident the baby was the center of attention. The baby demanded both parents to be very engaged. One partner would talk but the conversation would quickly be interrupted or put on hold to look at the baby or satisfy the baby’s needs. When conversation did occur within the couple there would be moments of what I categorized as “baby voice”, where the couple would break out of their normal voice and participate in higher pitched voice with lots of smiling. The “baby voice” was not seen as abnormal and the couple was aware whom it was directed towards the baby. In contrast, couples with older kids took more the role of monitoring their kids from a distance. Their kids were more independent and not needing as much attention. For example, their kids would run all around the coffee shop and the parents would keep an eye on them or called them back if they ran off to far (like the case with Ana described above). One common interaction that I observed between parents and child was the constant feeding of chocolate milk and pastries. Another interaction was if the kid got out of hand or misbehaved the parents would discipline them by giving them the finger or commands of attention. Couples with older kids seemed more engaged in their own conversation and were just sometimes interrupted by their child. These interactions can reveal a great deal of insight into the meanings about acts of love, acts of discipline, and relationships of those who make up this speech community, and accordingly this will be my main focus in my interpretive examination.

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As a typical outing might seem like the time to get out of the house and have more couple time, for couples with kids there was no denying that it solely focused on the baby or child. When a couple has a baby, conversation and physical space is shaped around the baby and he/she becomes the most important part of the outing. The couple I observed placed the baby in the middle, which facilitated both parents’ taking care of the child. The baby was on the lap of the mother and I noticed throughout the conversation the constant eye contact that would be given to the baby instead to one another. It was evident that this was a commonality between the couple and neither one of them seemed bothered by the lack of attention towards each other. The baby brought happiness and a sense of novelty to the mix of the couple. Both newly-excited parents developed  an original form of speech language, which I defined as “baby talk.” Baby talk along with expressions of love such as, kisses, guarding and rocking the baby were ordinary acts in this speech community and defined a couple with a baby. In contrast, for couples with older kids using discipline was the main source of communication. The most interesting interpretations were about the acts of discipline: indirect and direct which couples would use to have more time for each other. The direct acts of discipline parents would engage in were warnings and use of the finger. The communication between the child and parent was very clear when these were used and both knew that this meant to stop misbehaving. When direct acts did not work, the parent would use an indirect act. Parents would feed their children chocolate drinks and pastries. A treat like this is often seen as a reward, but in this speech community I came to an understanding that it was not a reward but a way to distract the children and stop misbehavior. When a parent uses this older version of a “pacifier” it is meant to keep the kid entertained. Parents then avoid the act of yelling at the child to stop running, signaling the finger or giving warnings. This indirect act of discipline which I interpreted as very common within this speech community is meant to keep the child entertained and to allocate more time for the parents to hold their own conversations.


It was a very interesting exercise to interpret several of my observations and examine the underlying meanings of communication present within the speech community of families at a coffee shop. It was quite different to the speech community I belong to back at home but it brought me a sense of appreciation. Although my family does not attend coffee shops together we create a our own living space where we show our love for each other. And our love is like a best cup of coffee… comforting to my spirit, soothing to my soul, stimulating to my heart, while warming me all over. 

-Alejandra Martinez

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Why I fell in love with Lisbon

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Welcome to Portugal 🇵🇹 Land of rich maritime history, beautiful beaches, breathtaking monuments, cork jewelry and delicious pastries. This is the Castelo De S. Jorge.

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Watching the sun set and cast a rem light along the Torre de Belém was definitely one for the books.

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When I arrived to Belém and saw the Pradão dos Descobrimentos I was left in such awe. This monument while being massively tall also managed to have such fine carved details of the men who helped establish Portugal. It was amazing!

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Look at Jeronimos Monastery what an architectural beauty.

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The Elevador de Santa Justa is a beautifully crafted elevator made out of ironwork, glorious neo-gothic arches, and provides great views of the center of Lisbon. It is a total “must-see” tourist landmark.

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This photo was taken inside the cathedral of Portugal. The sense of spirituality felt inside such a historic building leaves you in awe.

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Beautiful photo that captures Lisbon’s Terreiro do Paço. I love the contrast of the blue sky against the yellow outside walls of the building.

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Daily life in Portugal. The city is so beautiful and rich in color!

7 Things Kids Reminded Me To Never Stop Doing

Screen Shot 2017-03-15 at 10.46.30 PMI have been tutoring kids ages 3-7 at a public elementary school here in Segovia. This has been a wonderful experience and a great way to start off my Wednesday mornings.

I love to actively engage in volunteer work and also serve the community. I believe that not only am I giving but also receiving and learning from the experiences. As I tutor kids, I have been reminded about a lot of things that I have taken for granted in life lately. Each and every day I am taking a step into adulthood but I seem to be forgetting things that my younger self was so good at.

 

What kids have reminded me of:

1. Do not be afraid to ask questions.

It was the first time I had gone to volunteer. I was a new face to the kids which led to them asking me tons of questions from my favorite color to what shows I like to watch on TV. These kids had no filter and were not afraid to ask me anything. They wanted to know every detail of my life. Even what I ate for breakfast! (which was that day a scrambled egg taco with spinach, mushrooms, and tomatoes. Yummy, I know.) I had honestly admired their curiosity.

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2. Everyday is a fresh start. 

Kids do not carry baggage from one day to another or even from one hour to the next. Do you remember getting in a fight with your best friend over a crayon? You were probably upset and mad at them but after five minutes you two made up and were the greatest of friends once again. Kids don’t hold on to negative emotions. Kids always start fresh!

3. Be courageous. 

I was very impressed with the confidence level of the kids I teach. They want to be the first one to answer your question or the first to start the activity and finish it. They have not been beaten down by failure or have a fear for it. They embrace life and take it as it is. They are fearless and determined. I almost envy them. I need to take this from them. I need to sing out loud and dance when I feel like it. (Please don’t judge me the if you ever see me dancing by myself.)

4. Be active. 

So much energy! It is almost contagious and I love it. Before class starts every kid is running around the classroom and chasing their friends until they are out of breath. They are releasing every inch of energy in them before school starts. There is jumping, laughing, hugging, and so much talking. This happens once again when volunteers leave and they have a break. The playing is so much fun and makes me feel like they are so happy to have us (volunteers) there. It melts my heart. This active energy given by the kids carries me the rest of the day. They leave me with a mark of optimism.

5. Value even the smallest. 

Children find joy in the smallest of things. One of the girls in my group was so happy to have colored her art piece with every color in the crayon box. This made me realize to value even the smallest of accomplishments. Next time you are feeling down and unmotivated remember that even the smallest of steps is better than you had been the step before.

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6. Try new things. 

Kids are not afraid to play a new game they have never tried. They are willing to do anything if it is foreign to them. They do not think of the consequences and are not afraid to take risks. I believe the older we get the more fear we have for unknown. We tend to stay in our comfort zone and rarely leave it but what we forget is that venturing out helps us grow! It awakens our spirit and creates a fun adrenaline. Life is boring when you stay with in the limits you have set for yourself. Kids reminded me to take some risks and be adventurous.

7. Have fun, laugh and love! 

Life is about doing things that make you happy. So do them! Take a chance you never know what will happen. I am abroad and I wanted to seize the opportunity to volunteer at an elementary school. I have gotten so much pleasure and joy from it. These kids are always having having fun, laughing at everything and giving so much love. You should do the same.

Take a break 

My favorite part of the day is when I sit and read at Plaza Mayor. The weather had been beautiful the past week here in Segovia. About low to mid 60s. ☀️ I enjoy looking up and people-watching. Admiring the daily/common life of other individuals from a city 🌃 you are not a part of is quite interesting. Girls go from little shop to shop with the friends, women stop by the little magazine booth to read/buy the latest tabloid, little kids play soccer by the gazebo and couples take a walk and enjoy the sun. I have enjoyed the sun lately too! GOSH, how I miss tanning! But aside from that I have learned a lot from watching other people’s lives on screen.

What is immigration? 

Due to recent events I have been thinking 💭 loads about the term immigration. Just last Thursday 📅 was #ADayWithoutImmigrants in the US and many immigrants closed their small business 🏢and did not show up to work. It was a unification 👫👫👫of a population that stood in solidarity to represent their impact ✊🏽in the America 🇺🇸. 

I thought so much about the term immigrant and I have came to a conclusion. Everyone is an immigrant from somewhere. Everyone in the US is an immigrant and when people talk about “these immigrants taking over our land” I think to myself who are you to say who is an immigrant?

As I have traveled 🗺the world I have seen this. You see “immigration” but not the negative term that the US throws around but act of discovery. I tell people to travel the world. I encourage it. If there is one thing you will never waste your money 💰 on, it’s traveling.

TRAVEL THE WORLD 🌎 SEE ANOTHER PLACE.

DISCOVER A DIFFERENT POINT ☝️ OF VIEW. 

I believe traveling is the antidote 🍶to ignorance. It is the key 🔑! It changes your mind, your perspective, how you believe and what you believe. People who associate a negative connotation with the word immigrant don’t realize the perspective they are missing. For example: my parents came to the US for a better life and to fulfill what the US labels as the “American Dream.” They have been here for 30+ years, have both established small businesses and have three kids who have finished or are pursuing a college degree. They have opened our eyes 👀 to the bigger world and have taught my brothers and I to be more sensible to everyone’s struggles because we are all immigrants.

I think one of the greatest things you can do when you travel is traveling to a country where they don’t speak 🗣🗣🗣your language. That is probably my favorite thing, going to a place where they don’t speak English or Spanish. It is a crazy challenge💪🏽! It just makes you realize how insignificant you really are. The feeling awakes a sense of guilty, curiosity and amazement. You realize you are not the center of the universe anymore and there is another world that exists beyond you. You pay attention to conversations that you can make no clue of what they mean. You pay attention to more beyond a simple conversation. There is body language, facial expressions, proxemics, and distance zones. You look at your surroundings and beyond them.

Opera in France 🇫🇷

I feel that this is something we should try to do more. I went to France 🇫🇷 early February and attended an Opera 🎫🎭. Woah! I was in over my head. It took so much energy out of me to understand it. Also, in March I am going to Portugal 🇵🇹 and I am ready to try new things! I want to try to go to countries that speak no English or Spanish. Something out of my comfort zone. These places open your eyes 👀 and the language barrier just makes it that much better. The places are beautiful, it’s a different culture and you appreciate and value it.

How beautiful it feels to become multicultural? So why can’t people see that there is no “immigrant” but just a globalize world trying to seep through.

-Love Ale 💖💖💖

Follow my instagram for more cool photos: @_martinez_ale

Family Matters

family-loveI have been in Spain for a little over two months now and I am very much getting home sick. I have felt lonely, and have developed a huge fear of missing out on my life back home. Don’t get me wrong, Spain is great and never stops to amaze me but I do agree that it would be nice to share it with my loved ones.

A couple of weeks ago two of my friends asked me what I loved and my first answer was FAMILY. Shortly after, I was interviewed, photographed and well lets just say what I loved matters. SO MUCH.

I hope you guys enjoy the ending product.

Follow the link to see my video: https://youtu.be/7nD4qvWjZes

 

 

I did yoga in Spain 🇪🇸 

I went to my first ever yoga class today. 

My university offers tons of workshops, classes, and socials through their campus groups. I decided to join the yoga club with two of my roommates, Rheana and Marisa. 

Rheana, Marisa and Alejandra. (From left to right)

I must admit I was nervous to attend. Like any other time I try something new I got butterflies 🦋 in my stomach and my cheeks grew red. We were the first at yoga (Side note: Stereotypes for Americans; Americans are always on time. Stereotypes for Spaniards; Spaniards are always late) but after a couple minutes other students starting coming in. The yoga class theme of the day was awareness and it was refreshing. 

I feel that often or more than often we spend so much time going through motions, rushing, stressing and plainly not paying attention to many things. We often disregard or unaknowlege the simple things in life, starting with oneself. At yoga our instructor 👨‍🏫 made us stop ✋, relax and think of every part of our body. She made us aware by telling us to look at our feet, calves, legs and from there every part until our faces. After she made us close our eyes and feel how it was to look at our feet, calves, legs and from there every part until our faces. I became so intuned with my self and my body. I had never, ever felt so whole and connected to myself. It is hard to describe the feeling I had at that moment. I felt like I was floating on clouds ☁️, my body was sinking in and evaporating. 

Yoga mats before class. I am in the middle.


This yoga class helped me acknowledge who I am. I am not sure if your guilty of this but I forget to love myself. I don’t stop to evaluate who I am inside and out. I don’t take a moment to tell myself, “I love you.” ❤️

With that said, I encourage you to take a moment and become aware of yourself. Go to your mirror and look 👀 in the mirror. Look at your feet, calves, legs, and so on all the way to your face. Look inside your eyes and tell yourself, “I love you.” Value your worth. Acknowledge who you are, flaws and all. The greatest love you can receive is from yourself. In yoga I was reminded that self awareness is something that we should hold dearly. It is liberating, relaxing and enlightening. I can’t wait to continue sharing my yoga experiences with you every week. 

Love, Ale. 

Welcome to my blog! 

I have to admit it has taken me a little over a month to get this ball ⚽️ rolling. But better late than ever right? 😅 haha.

First day in Segovia, Spain 🇪🇸

Well hello all! I am excited to start blogging on all things EUROPE 😍 This is going to be a blog that will consist of my thoughts, photos, rants, emotions and just about everything I will be experiencing abroad. 🌍 I hope you enjoy 😊 and would love you feedback and comments below!

Adios, Ale.