“But I don’t want comfort. I want poetry. I want danger. I want freedom. I want goodness. I want sin.” – Brave New World

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“Community, Identity, Stability” is the motto the World State goes by. Using these words as a mold, they’ve shaped a world where people are treated as lab rats, derived and produced in test tubes, to do nothing else but work their entire lives for their own greedy benefit. In the novel Brave New World by Aldous Huxley, the narrator follows the protagonist, Bernard Marx: an inquisitive and rebellious man, who is rumored to have more alcohol in his blood-surrogate than the average, as an explanation for his “queer” behavior. He seems to be the only one who’s unique in the entire population. Living in a society where people are stripped from their individuality and persona, Bernard is the first to conceive the faults of what they call home. As he tries to raise awareness to the apathetic populace, including a clueless yet average girl called Lenina, he struggles to push the truth forth. Through the process, they encounter John, a young man from the Savage Reservation who clandestinely cracks a hole in the impenetrable, “civilized” society.

Just like in many other dystopian societies, the government aims to erase emotions and possibly hazardous feelings that individuals could have. The only thing the government wants in this book is that people conform to their norms and don’t ask any questions. “Everyone is happy nowadays,” Lenina recites in the novel from her hypnopaedic conditioning. That’s the lie that they’re all fed. All castes believe that they’ve always had what they wanted and that they’re lucky to be in the class they are in. Apart from these hypnotizing phrases that are stapled into their brains, the government has also popularized soma. This drug allows individuals to escape from reality and mask themselves from any truth they want to forget. This drug doesn’t have any side effects such as headaches and therefore are so popular. Soma also allows people to hide from their problems instead of facing them, which is just what the government wants. By using soma, people can feel happy all the time, no sadness nor anger or even pain, just happiness. After all, that’s what they want right?

To “protect” the populace from any thought-provoking information they could possibly find in books, the government in Brave New World prohibited any reading, except for certain essential texts that won’t contradict or question anything about the way things are run in the community. Knowledge is a limited thing that is categorized as “dangerous” by the World Leaders. Only specific, and most likely, censored books are passed down to the Alpha’s and Beta’s for general reference, but the World Leaders were cautious enough to not introduce any bizarre books with foreign ideas or opinions. For the castes below the Alphas or Betas, the government had come to a conclusion that the only way to keep them away from any books is to scar them for life. What they do is take a batch of toddlers and put them in a room where they’re introduced to two new things: books and plants. Out of curiosity, these little babies crawl towards the objects and once they start playing with them, they electrocute them until they starting bawling. All this just to teach them a lesson that if they come in contact with either books or nature, they’ll get hurt real bad.

The books that can be found in the civilized community are modern and don’t contain any information about the past. Everything, as they know of, is stated in the year After Ford, or A.F. Since the government had wanted to start from complete scratch, they’ve also introduced this new religion where everyone worships Ford. Henry Ford became famous for perfecting the assembly line as well as mass production and in the society they molded, humans are mass produced in assembly lines as if they were supplies on a product shelf.

In the civilized society, the World State had decided to put forth a strict social class system that rigidly defines and diverges groups of people. Humans are classified into a structure called the caste system, where those at the top are smarter, better looking and just a little more unique as individuals. The lower the caste, the uglier and dumber they get. Since birth, these castes are taught to despise each other, as a result of the repetitions they’re fed every night. Each caste is obligated to wear a distinct color and fulfill caste-specific tasks. At the top you’ll find the Alphas, followed by the Betas, then Gammas, Deltas, and Epsilons. All castes are mass produced by the government except for the Alphas and Betas, the privileged ones. The government has eliminated a very dangerous thing: greed. By making each caste believe they’ve always had what they wanted and that they’re content with what they’re doing, there has never been any greed. Deltas are happy that they don’t work as hard as the Alphas and Betas are thankful they don’t have to drag things around all day like the Epsilons.

Stability is one of the words that forms part of the World State’s motto: “Community, Identity, Stability.” That’s what the government wants in their society, but to achieve that, they’ve had to sacrifice several things. The World State had decided that the only way to achieve social stability is by assembling a hierarchal pyramid. What they mean by that is a caste system. They’ve decided to strictly define these castes so that there isn’t any social instability. Another thing they’ve put into practice is using the Bokanovsky process, a fictional process where they can create 96 identical twins from only one embryo. These “batches” of 96 are also a huge part of their road to stability. The second thing they sacrificed is the identity of individuals. The “identity” in the motto refers more to the castes that they’re classified into and the mindsets they’re manipulated to have. They’ve made individuals but multiplied them to make whole populations. These genetically identical individuals are less likely to spark riots and conflict, which is just what the World State needs. Their definition of stability is minimizing conflict and diminish any change. Another major aspect they’ve sacrificed is freedom. Mustapha Mond, one of the several World Leaders, believes that freedom has to be sacrificed in order to attain happiness. He believes that if you take someone’s freedom away, they will be thankful for what they have and not ask for something they know they can’t have.

In the civilized society, the government has accomplished to make people social in every way possible. Privacy almost seems to be a fictional thing in their community. Individuals don’t have secrets and always are part of the crowd. Since all castes have been conditioned to despise nature in every which way, they’ve always had the tendency to stay together within the city like a pack of scared wolves. Solidarity is seen as “queer” by others and even unhealthy in a sense, as it’s emphasized as something unnatural. The importance of being part of the community is stressed through discouraging individuality. “When the individual feels, the community reels,” is an example of another sleep-taught phrase, which indicates that if an individual were to start catching feelings, they would bring the community into danger and make it collapse just by presenting their thoughts to the crowd. The government was also able to achieve a relationship-free community. No true communication is allowed to develop between individuals and any bonds are broken so that individuals can’t feel attached to others. Bernard tries to open up to Lenina, but by nature, Lenina shuts it back down by pushing his words away. Most importantly, though, family, the strongest bond of them all, is targeted and torn apart. Without genetic bonds or relationships, individuals are vulnerable and become easy targets for the government.

It seems to be that the slogans that are cemented into their minds are the only thing individuals in this hand-crafted world live by. Their entire childhood, children are compelled to learn through a method called hypnopaedia. Instead of going to school during the day, children are taught in their sleep. Hypnopedia is a method in which sentences or phrases are repeated over and over again in one’s sleep until the individual can unconsciously recall it. Through this, the government has unlocked their way into the mind of individuals and have achieved to brainwash them. All of these phrases are chosen purposefully by the government to trick the population into conforming to their rules. An example of a phrase that’s pumped into their heads is “A gramme is always better than a damn.” This implies that it’s always better to take a gramme of soma to get rid of anger, sadness, bitterness or any other feeling than to face it. Apart from that one, countless others talk about how they should always retreat to soma in emotion-provoking situations; “A gramme in time saves nine,” “One cubic centimetre saves ten gloomy sentiments.” Not all revolve around soma; “Everybody’s happy nowadays” misleads and tricks them into believing that everything in their society is perfect, a place where everyone’s happy and nothing could be better. But what these people aren’t aware of is that it’s all an illusion, a cut-out.

In the beginning of the novel, Bernard Marx is the character that presents the flaws of the society on a small scale. Through his eyes, one can finally pry out the negatives of their contemporary lives and are introduced to the first contrasting point of view. Bernard seems to be the only one in his society to notice something’s just not right. Maybe it’s the extra alcohol in his blood-surrogate that sparked curiosity in him. Who knows? Bernard feels like he doesn’t belong, and therefore finds connections with the outside world, nature in this case. While everyone finds their way to surround themselves in masses of people, Bernard escapes to the ocean at night to reflect on what’s on his mind. After getting to know Bernard pretty well, a new character comes into the spotlight. Bernard travels with Lenina to the Savage Reservation in hopes trying something new and completely wild, and to his surprise meets this young man called John the Savage. John has always been an outcast, even in his own society, and when Bernard decides to bring him back to London with him, the way things are run in the civilized society are nothing like what his mother had told him in her stories and shocks him. John goes completely insane and starts a riot by violently throwing soma out the hospital window in hopes of pushing the truth forth to the enslaved population. Wistfully, the witnesses only end up taking more soma to forget it ever happened and John, alongside Bernard and Helmholtz, are sent to Mustapha Mond who decides to send them far away to avoid any other dangerous acts. While Bernard and Helmholtz are sent all the way to Iceland, John is given the option to live on the outskirts and takes that option. Apart from the fact that he’s so far away from the city, he somehow still manages to grab the attention of hundreds.

Brave New World presents an uncommon image of the future where one mighty government gains power and ends up taking complete control of the entire society. Aldous Huxley portrays a future in which a group of leaders have decided to dominate the minds of millions, not with violence or fear, but with soma, a hallucinatory drug that doesn’t have any side effects. The leaders had to sacrifice various things in order to create an illusion of a perfect society for the population. They’ve managed to brainwash individuals by chaining phrases into their minds and making them believe that “Everyone is happy nowadays.”

There are several aspects that Aldous Huxley was criticizing from our contemporary society that he affirmed would impact us negatively if we continue to handle that issue the way it is right now. One of the major ones is that our technology and science is advancing so fast, that soon there won’t be any human relationships. Society will have no space left for true human interaction. In his novel, you can clearly see that the relationships between characters are superficial and that nobody can truly consider anyone as a friend. Aldous Huxley is also critiquing sex. In the novel, sex isn’t taking as anything serious, if anything it’s just for fun. He’s noticing that sex is slowly becoming something that is being valued less and less every day. Apart from that he also touches upon how the government has unlimited power. In the story, one mighty government rises above all and takes complete control of everything. Nowadays, most governments revolve their actions around the fact that it will benefit them in the end. If it isn’t for their benefit, they’ll eliminate it. If this continues to grow, the government will eventually start taking drastic and inhumane measures just for their greedy benefit.

Aldous Huxley’s world-known book, Brave New World, is a dystopian novel that presents the readers with a frightening perception of what the future could look like. From being mass-produced in bottles as identical twins to taking a drug to lock our vulnerable selves away from any emotions, Aldous Huxley has created a world where family doesn’t exist and individuality is a joke. Through this engaging story, I believe that Huxley has does an admirable job at presenting a feasible future through his clever wording. Brave New World is a must on your book list.

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Press Release – The Perks of Being a Wallflower

 

Press Release – Perks of Being a Wallflower

·      Title: The Perks of Being a Wallflower

·      Author: Stephen Chbosky

·      Illustration:

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Book Summary:
Just like the books Thirteen Stories That Capture the Agony and Ecstasy of Being Thirteen by James Howe and The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie, The Perks of Being A Wallflower is a coming-of-age novel that follows the protagonist through his/her struggle whilst going through many changes and challenges that they are faced with during their painstaking journey to adulthood. The book is an epistolary novel, which is composed of only letters written from the protagonist’s perspective. The letters were addressed to an anonymous receiver, and Charlie didn’t include his location or what the actual names of the characters in the book were. These individual letters were woven together by Stephen Chbosky to portray the hardship and puzzling life of being a teenager.

 

 

This novel focuses on a 15-year-old boy named Charlie, who at first was really shy and unquestionably naive. After having lost his only friend Michael, he nervously starts high school. Charlie keeps his participation and socializing with his classmates to a minimum, but gets drawn into reading by his Language and Literature teacher. Trying to find fictional characters to relate to, he slowly realizes that he has some sort of mental issues which make him have anxiety as well as anger attacks. Charlie experiments with drugs and alcohol to try and cope with those frightful outbursts but realizes the harmful truth behind the choices he made. Throughout the entire novel, Charlie learns the importance of friendship, family, and soundtracks as he goes through the exhausting and demanding transition from childhood to adulthood.

 

Protagonist – “On Shoulders” by Chef’special      (Youtube)

 

 

Charlie, the protagonist of the novel, is a very young and curious boy who goes through a lot during his year of high school. He struggled at first and he felt like it was “burning fire, crashing lightning” when he took his “first steps on the storyline”. Charlie is also a wallflower and isn’t part of the ‘the current’ of the crowd. The song goes: “That river don’t flow for me, no, that river is cold” describing how Charlie doesn’t like ‘swimming’ in the chilly river and how he doesn’t feel that he’s part of it. The chorus then goes: “I know I don’t know that much,” showing how Charlie is naive and feels clueless compared to his older friends. During the entire novel he’s “trying to embrace it all” but he still believes that “even now [he’s] so much older, it still feels like [he’s] on [their] shoulders”. Charlie feels that he depends on his friends for support and that he can’t do anything without them.

Antagonist – “Spirits” by The Strumbellas      (Youtube)
The antagonist in this novel is Charlie’s mental issues and society as they clash against each other, trying to fit like a puzzle. Charlie doesn’t know what exactly is wrong with him, but he does know that “something inside has changed” because he was molested as a child. It’s hard for him to fit into society’s teenage ‘mold’ especially when he’s got things he doesn’t understand going on in his head like “guns” and “spirits” that “won’t go”. He faces depression, anxiety and anger issues and tries to find people to relate to, but instead Bill introduces him to books. He draws a conclusion that “we’re all strange, and maybe we don’t want to change” but he still feels he’s somehow different; like he’s “spent a lot of nights on the run, and [he] thinks, ‘oh, like I’m lost and can’t be found’”.
Setting – “Imagine” by Jack Johnson    (Youtube)

 

 

In the novel, Charlie lives in the suburbs of Pennsylvania where he’s surrounded by a close community with not much of a significant past. No big events are found where he lives, all that really happens is between his friends, school, and relatives. “Imagine there’s no Heaven, no Hell below us and above us is only sky” shows how Charlie makes the most of what he’s got. He’s “living for today” in his hometown like “there’s no [other] countries” he wishes to live in. Through the book, Charlie mentions a few key locations like the cafe, his school, the theater and the tunnel which make up his town.

Story Event – “Drops of Jupiter” by Train      (Youtube)

 

 

In the beginning of the novel, Charlie describes how Sam is gorgeous and that he wants to get into a relationship with her. “Now that she’s back in the atmosphere, with drops of Jupiter in her hair” describes how she has an unfamiliar look to her, like his view on her changed once he realized that Sam doesn’t see him in that way. Charlie feels disappointed but then faces the truth and tries to feel happy for Sam and Craig. “Tell me did you sail across the sun, did you travel to the Milky Way to see the lights all faded, and that heaven is overrated” goes the song, showing how deep inside Charlie is hoping she’ll regret having ‘traveled so far’ just to realize that Craig’s ‘light’ isn’t as bright as she expected. Charlie then wonders “did Venus really blow your mind, was it everything you wanted to find” or “did you miss me while you were looking for yourself out there.” Then Charlie looks back at the past, painfully recalling all they had done together; “Can you imagine no love, pride, deep-fried chicken, your best friend always sticking up for you even when I know you’re wrong. Can you imagine no first dance, freeze dried romance five-hour phone conversation, the best soy latte that you ever had, and me.”

Conflict – “Invisible” by 5 Seconds of Summer      (Youtube)

 

 

The conflict in this book is when Charlie struggles to fit in and feels like he doesn’t belong. Charlie slowly passes days at his new high school but feels like every day is “Another [ordinary] day of painted walls and football on the tv, no one sees me.” Charlie feels different than the rest, especially because he doesn’t “participate” like Bill, his teacher, told him to do so. His only true friend in the very start of the novel was Michael, but he committed suicide, and charlie couldn’t move on; “wasted days, dreaming of the times I know I can’t get back, seems I just lost track.” Even when he started bonding with some of his classmates, charlie “just walked away” afraid he wasn’t worthy enough of being a good friend. “Who am I, who am I, when i don’t know myself,” Charlie thought when he was lost and confused because he couldn’t figure out who he really was and what he wanted. He felt alone and “Invisible” during this harsh period in the novel.

Resolution – “Fly Away” by 5 Seconds of Summer     (Youtube)

 

 

After Charlie went to Sam’s house along with all his friends for a farewell party, he found out that his aunt had harassed him when he was young and suffered tremendously. He woke up in a mental hospital and only then Charlie realizes that he is ready to take on what the future is going to throw at him. “I won’t waste another day, wishing this would fade away, running but not looking back”, describes how Charlie has accepted his past but wants to move on, not letting the past stop him from living in the present. Charlie wants to “take [his] heart to the end of the world, and fly away tonight.” While at the mental hospital, Charlie’s friends came over to visit and he then became aware of that he truly did have friends and family who cared about him and who were there to support him.

Theme – “Photograph” by Ed Sheeran      (Youtube)

 

 

A major theme that was evident in the book was friendship. In the novel, Charlie realizes that there are different kinds of love, but the most powerful can be the love and passion that you feel towards your friends. “Loving can hurt” for sure, but Charlie knows that “loving can heal, loving can mend your soul”. Charlie realizes that friends can be like family and family is forever. Charlie wishes he could “keep this love in a photograph” every time they “made memories [only] for [themselves]. Where [they’re] eyes are never closing, hearts are never broken and time’s forever frozen still”. Without friends by his side, Charlie would be torn apart and after having had a taste of what it’s like, he wishes he could stay friends forever with the people who were once strangers to him.

Symbol – “Car Radio” by Twenty One Pilots         (Youtube)

 

 

A very powerful symbol that is used in this novel is music and the soundtracks Charlie makes. When struggling with something challenging and unpredictable, a way to get out of the stress he’s in, Charlie listens to music to escape the present. Without music, Charlie is “forced to deal with what [he] feels” because “there is no distraction to mask what is real”. Music helps him cover up his emotions. “Oh my, too deep. Please stop thinking. I liked it better when my car had sound,” shows how Charlie would go crazy without music. He would “have these thoughts, so often [he] ought” about insane or unhealthy things because he wouldn’t know how to release all his anger, sadness, confusion, and loneliness. “Somebody stole my car radio and now I just sit in silence. Sometimes quiet is violence”. Charlie needs music, or he wouldn’t be able to cope with any of what has happened to him.

 

Banned Books Propaganda

 

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Propaganda Technique

Propaganda is a persuasion technique that many advertisers use to convince an audience to think or act a certain way. These techniques are very powerful because they manipulate your mind psychologically to change your thoughts and think it was your own choice. The techniques vary from fear to name calling to having a celebrity recommend a product. For my poster, I decided to use the Bandwagon technique. Bandwagon is a technique in which they compare an individual to think or act the way other people are, usually by including majorities or numbers.

 

By comparing individuals to a large group of people who read banned books, my intention is for them to think about themselves and why they are not part of that group. They will assume that since so many people do it, it is the right thing to do. Another reason why I chose to use Bandwagon is because I want to use a technique that isn’t biased with one point of view, but a technique that suggests true facts that you can’t argue with. Other techniques like Card Stacking and Bad Logic often hide reality. I am looking to avoid false information by using facts that can’t be proven wrong and that are logical as well.

 

Bandwagon Propaganda Questions

Who is the target audience? What evidence suggests this?

  • My target audience is people who don’t yet read banned books. I am aiming mostly at teenagers and adults by using few words with colors that will catch their attention. Younger kids might not understand the vocabulary and they are more likely to be attracted by pictures than anything else. This will also will be hung up in the hallways for the middle and high school floor. On top of that, the age group that I am aiming this at is a group that is encouraged and starts reading books on their own, apart from mandatory books that are part of the curriculum.


What language is used to suggest that reading banned books is good?

  • The language of the poster suggests that individuals should read banned books for two main reasons. The first reason is because “everyone else is reading” which tells the individual that since so many people are doing it, it’s probably a good idea. The other reason is that there is a different section where it says that “banning books is banning thoughts, voices, and knowledge”. This tells the audience that banning books is not correct, and therefore they are told to go against it by “breaking” the rules and read them.


Examine font styles, colors, language and page layout. What do they suggest about the product, and how do they strengthen the power of the Bandwagon technique?

  • The fonts and style of the poster were chosen carefully to represent the message that I wanted to get across. For the most significant words, I made the font thick and stand out. I increased the size to make is seem visually more emphasized than the other less important words. I also used capital letters and eye-catching but impactful fonts. A key component that I used as well was colors. My color scheme consisted mainly of warm colors. The background was beige to make it feel comforting and cozy, and the book icons were warm tones of purple, blue, green, and orange. These colors represent happiness. The fonts are gray instead of black, besides two words which are deep red.
  • The phrase that asks “what about you” is in two different colors and fonts. “YOU” is in capital, dark-grey bold letters. The size is also bigger and the word looks set apart. This makes the word more interesting and the people think about why the word is set slightly apart from the rest of the text. They will then think about the meaning of the word “you” and that will give them the idea that it’s all their own choice. Another very important word that shows what Bandwagon is, is the word “Everyone”. This word is the same as the word you. It allows bypassers to link the two words together visually and mentally they compare the meanings of both words. They then think about how they are compared to everyone else.


What other observations do you have about the way Bandwagon propaganda is used?

  • Bandwagon is all about the bigger picture. Its main point is to compare individuals to a larger group of people. The very first word starts by directly introducing their comparison. This makes it very evident and persuasive, for the reader.

 

 

Banned Book Explanation:

 

The Perks of Being a Wallflower; yet another “banned” novel

 

The Perks of Being a Wallflower is a Stephen Chbosky novel that perceives the confusing, demanding, and spectacular reality of being a teenager through letters. This coming of age novel follows a 15-year-old boy, named Charlie, through his struggles and epiphanies. Like many other bildungsroman novels, the protagonist comes across many coming-of-age characteristics, such as loss of innocence, testing boundaries and conflicts. The Perks of Being a Wallflower is a book that has often been challenged by many parents, in fact, it has shown up “on the American Library Association’s annual list of  Top Ten Challenged / Banned Books seven times since 2007,” as Maren Williams from the Comic Book Lead Defense Fund (CBLDF) affirms when discussing the book.

The most recent incident of Perks being challenged was in April 2015. The Perks of Being a Wallflower is a book that was requested to be removed off of the list of required books that had to be read by high school freshmen in Wallingford, Connecticut by a parent. The parent, Jean-Pierre, complained about how graphic the book was and the way in which it depicted homosexuality, sex, masturbation, and the use of alcohol and drugs. “I don’t believe in censorship, but I believe in appropriateness,” Bolat reasoned in an American Booksellers Association article written by Chris Finan. This challenge was a month-long conflict between the parent and the school board. The book ended up being removed until the decision was made which will affect the high schoolers next year.

Based off of my own readings, many controversial issues were evident throughout the text. There were many graphic parts of the story that could’ve been disturbing to the readers. Also, the use of drugs and smoking is mentioned as a common thing in the storyline which might be something a parent will want their children to avoid reading about. Several bad role models and illegal things were introduced as well and it can be intricate for students to identify the wrongs and rights in these types of books, I believe. Many of these issues that were discussed might have been entitled age inappropriate by parents because they want to “protect” their children from the dangerous reality, it seems. The Perks of Being a Wallflower included many common coming-of-age themes that are not always talked about with teenagers and young adults and that can be inappropriate according to quite a big group of parents.

 

 

 

SOURCES:

  • Williams, Maren. “Perks of Being a Wallflower Banned in Florida Middle School.” Comic Book Legal Defense Fund. CBLDF, 24 May 2016. Web. 15 Dec. 2016.
  • Finan, Chris. “Perks of Being a Wallflower Banned After Parent Complains.” American Booksellers Association. N.p., 02 Apr. 2015. Web. 15 Dec. 2016.

The Importance of Public Libraries

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“The best candy shop a child can be left alone in, is the library,” Maya Angelou once said referring to the sweet knowledge that all kids long to receive. Libraries are of major importance to cities and developing countries in the modern world. The lack of free access to books reflects on the individuals that are part of the population of a region. Libraries hold a lot more than just books; they hold knowledge, history, answers, advice, freedom, culture and joy to people who seek it. Libraries can be considered one of the most essential facilities within a community, especially when it comes to the country’s progression over time.

 

Having a Public Library in a community has a lot of benefits. Public Libraries offer free access to those who can’t afford a proper education, yet who seek to learn the most they can. They also provide a comfortable place to freely seek information from many points of view, which can be hard to access on the internet. As well as that, people go to libraries to socialize or as Robert Putnam described, “People may go to the library looking mainly for information, but they find each other there.” Libraries also have evidence of the past which can enlighten people to change the way things are and make the right decisions based off of the mistakes other made years before. These are only a few benefits that a library has. Even though libraries are found in many highly developed countries, many places lack them.

 

Panamá, for instance, is a country that is highly developed and with a lot of money where the literacy rate is high but has little to no libraries. As proved by the Global Library Statistics, there are only 10 libraries in the whole of Panamá according to their toll in 2006. This is a remarkably low number for such a high-developed country.

 

I believe that the reason for why there are few libraries in Panamá is because there are no professional librarians or adequate locations for a standard library. Since many of the librarians that attend the libraries have not been trained professionally, it is hard for them to maintain and fulfill the position of a true librarian. They know little to nothing about many of the books and can not make recommendations to their customers. This also makes them clueless on how important it is to read. In addition to not having a proper librarian, it is necessary to have a suitable location. If there isn’t a comfortable or large enough space to store books, the amount will be limited and people won’t be welcomed in.

 

Not having accessible libraries in Panamá greatly affects the future generations of the citizens. Due to the fact that reading isn’t a common thing in a daily life, many children will interpret that it’s not important to do so. I believe that books are vitally important to the development of a human being, especially during the first few years of life. Children can resolve many problems and learn a lot just by reading books they like, and if they are not encouraged to do so, they bypass the opportunity to support and treat themselves through tough years.

Third in line

After my parents.

After their responsibility, love, and care.

Being the oldest of the siblings

Is like being the younger one’s

Back-up parent.

Especially when times get tough.

Thoughts drizzled my brain

Just like the drops of water.

 

The water rushed

Out of the tap,

Onto the soap-covered plates.

I helped my mother.

 

The water rinsed off

The soap and filthiness of the dishes.

“Why is it always

The women

That end up doing the dishes?”

Her voice echoed,

Bounced off the water

Into the pipes where the water disappeared.

 

That’s not

The question on my mind.

She never asks why

I help.

 

 

Together we hung wet clothes

That were in a basket.

Piled on top of each other

they were.

 

The humid smell of the clothes,

Thick – almost – as if you could drown in air.

“Why is it always

Us

That end up hanging the clothes?”

 

 

We are at home

Alone.

Just me and my brothers;

Parents both at a meeting.

 

Curtains are down.

The world outside

Was inky black – starless.

Too dark to let any light escape.

A world that was shut off.

 

We were inside the house,

Almost ready to go to sleep.

A subtle yawn from my brother

Told us it was time to rest our eyes.

 

The minutes swept by

As I tucked my youngest

Brother in.

Words of castles, magic, and fairy tales slipped off

My dry, sore lips.

Twenty minutes have passed

But he just doesn’t seem to fall

Into a dream.

Ten minutes ticked by.

 

I left his room assuming he was sound asleep.

I stretched and yawned

Until my eyelids felt heavy.

 

As I got in bed

Ready to lay down and pass out,

I hear a hushed voice,

The words so faint they seemed to be

hanging in the air from silk strands.

“I’m afraid.”

 

Tears crawled down his cheeks

As we cuddled for a few moments.

“It’s ok. They’ll be home soon.

Why don’t we go to sleep.”

And with those words

He fell asleep with still

The traces of his tears on his cheeks

That I then wiped off gently.

Starting Somewhere (new)

Day 6

Already left Louisiana – Miss them tons

 

Ok, maybe I did cry, Jenny. You didn’t. Patricia didn’t. Olivia didn’t. Most of you didn’t. Ok.

 

Ok, I cried. Not everyone needs to know that, though. Not everyone needs to keep hearing that I cried while the rest didn’t. I mean, I don’t mind people knowing I felt sad, but I don’t want it to be a topic that keeps coming up like a piece of food stuck in between your teeth that you try picking out with your tongue.

 

Let’s just think about this. None of you cried because you were all going to see your hosts in maybe 12 weeks. I’m not, ok. That was the last time I will ever see Katherine. I know that’s not what I want it to be like, but most likely it’s true. I won’t see her because she won’t come to Panama in only 12 weeks. I won’t see her, unlike you guys.

 

So I cried. For a good reason. I’m going to miss her so much I can’t even explain with words. I showed her and everyone else how great of a time I had with her. How she was open-minded and caring at home. She helped me get the hang of things and taught me tons of which I’ll never forget. She stood by my side and supported me those tough days.

 

The day we had to leave was miserable. I cried and cried together with her. We hugged each other for a long time. We cried and took deep breaths, almost suffocating. We hugged tighter and tighter than ever before and we didn’t let go. We whispered a hard to understand dialog with a lot of sobbing and sniffing. We kept telling each other how much we were gonna miss each other. We kept whispering how we would never forget each other. We made sad little jokes, trying to cheer each other up, but failing and only coming to a point where we started to cry even more.

 

When we had to let go, I kept crying. She kept crying too. She ran after me and hugged me one last time before we really had to move on. Most of the bus ride I cried. Even when Jenny leaned on my shoulder to fall asleep. I just silently looked out the window and drained my tears out.

 

Ok, I cried, but so what? I meant it and I’m grateful I did.

 

Just typing this up has almost made me cry, but you know what, that’s a good thing.

 

It’s healthy.

 

So, I cried.

Starting Somewhere (new)

Day 5

20th of October – 6 pm

Sitting on my bed

 

I have talked a lot about Katherine and her family lately, but I forgot to mention one member. Well, I might’ve mentioned him briefly, but not in detail. I thought it was about time you guys would know about Oliver, the sweetest and cutest puppy in Lousiana.

 

Even before I went to Lousiana, I knew he would be a cuddly pup who I could sit with.

 

To start off with, I love the name, Oliver. I love names that start with O, in general. Oscar, Owen, Oakley, Ollie, Olive, Otto, and many, many more (I just didn’t want to list them all, because you would end up reading a paragraph of names).

 

But this is what he looks like:

 

He’s literally a walking cloud. His white curly fur coats him like a warm blanket. His paws are pillows of cotton. His ears are strands of silk woven together. His tummy is as soft as marshmallows and feathers.

 

 

Oliver greets me every day when I get home from school as if he hadn’t seen me in a week. Well, the thing is, maybe he does think it’s a week because dogs don’t have any sense of time except for day and night time. When I came home, even before I opened the door, you could hear him bark and whimper quietly. He knows it’s not allowed, yet he takes the risk just to show his presence, in case we miss a fluffy white ball of joy jumping at our feet, you know?

 

If you want a:

  • small
  • playful
  • sweet
  • clean
  • shed-free
  • non-aggressive
  • watchdog

 

Then a Bichon Frise is the right dog for you. Plus, these dogs are great with other pets. They are very respectful when it comes to personal space and these dogs won’t beg for attention which many other dogs tend to do. On top of all this, these dogs have a lifespan of 12-15 years, which is old for the average dog.

 

Anyway back to Oliver. When I came home he would sniff my legs and his wet nose would brush against my skin, tickling me. As I bent down, he would jump up on my lap and lick my face. Of course, I allowed him to, otherwise, Oliver wouldn’t do it.

 

I would then go to my room, Oliver following me like a white shadow. As I dumped my bag onto my bed, Oliver would patiently wait next to me. I patted the bed loudly, so Oliver could hear, and I exclaimed, “Come on boy!” He then jumps up onto the bed and finds just the right spot where he then decides to lie down.

 

“Oliver is like a vampire,” Katherine’s dad told me last night while watching tv, “He won’t come up onto your lap or couch or bed, without you inviting him. Just like vampires can’t come in your house unless you invite them in.”

 


 

I got ready for bed that night. I laid there in silence, waiting for the magic to happen and to take me off my feet. Suddenly, I heard someone or something at my door. Still, in shock of the noise, I laid there, too afraid to get out of bed. It was like a scratching and whining noise like a … cat would make. No, not a cat.

 

I waited to make sure it wasn’t just me. I heard it again. Yeh, it was outside my door and it was louder this time. “Hello?” I pronounced with uncertainty. Nothing. Just the scratching stopped. Then whatever was outside, whines again. Wait, it’s Oliver, I realized. I get out of bed feeling blind because of the pitch-dark room. I struggled to find the light, but once I turned it on I squint and rub as if I could clean out all the light that had just entered my eyes a second ago. I looked at my watch to check the time before I opened the door. Midnight? I hadn’t slept at all.

 

I inched forward to the door. As I opened the door gingerly, I peeked outside to triple check it was Oliver. I looked down and just what I expected: A cotton bundle of joy whimpering.

 

Oliver squeezed through the door as I sighed with a smile on my face. “Silly,” I told him as I closed the door behind me. He just looked at me with his cheerful face and warm eyes convincing me he didn’t understand what I had said. “Come on then,” I whispered as I invited him onto my bed. He jumped up and sniffed around a little like dogs do. As I made my way over to the light, I yawn. My eyes watered and for a second I was so tired I barely remembered what I was doing.

 

I struggled to get into bed in the dark, but I finally did. Oliver then snuggled up close. At that moment I wished I had a dog more than anything else. I wanted a dog to sleep with and cuddle with every night. A dog to make me feel comfortable and safer than ever before.

 

As I closed my eyelids, Oliver found his way next to me. He made himself comfortable and had come up next to my legs. He placed his head on top of my leg and that night I was pretty sure I slept with a grin on my face.

 


 

Oliver that night:

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Starting Somewhere (new)

Day 4

19th of October 2016 – 9 pm

Brushing my hair

 

Have you ever seen the movie Frozen? Don’t worry, this has nothing to do with the movie, but do you remember Sven? The reindeer? Well, if you don’t: basically, there is a friendly reindeer called Sven. Ok, now I’m done with Frozen.

 

Now here’s what I wanted to tell you about Sven:

 

So this morning was the very first day of school with Katherine, my host. If I were, to sum up how it went with one word I would say: tumultuous. You’re probably about to pull our a dictionary but wait… I was just about to explain what it means. Tumultuous is chaotic and loud and turbulent. Everyone felt the same way about the first day. Katherine has 8 or 9 classes a day! Each class is 55 minutes, and her breaks in between are only 3 minutes. Then you have her lunch break, which is a little less than half an hour.

 

Since we aren’t used to it, we felt as if we were moving classes every ten minutes. We would sit down, do an activity or two, and there goes the bell! Oh, and have I mentioned how these students have adapted? The second the bell rings, the whole class shoots out of their seats and into the hallway. In a split second, they’re up and gone – no joke! They also speed walk everywhere. I could barely catch up with them.

 

Even though the day was tumultuous, I met tons of people. All of Katherine’s friends asked me questions, as well as a bunch of random curious people. I loved talking to everyone there and failing at remembering all the names that were hurtled at me and laughing at myself with others. It felt like moving to a new school. It felt like making new friends all over again. It almost felt like I had a new life in some other place away from home.

 

Am I going to be remembered as that same person two years from now? Are they even going to remember my name? Probably not. But I might as well enjoy it while I’m here.

 

Anyway, after school, Katherine came to pick me up at the principle’s office. We all had to be checked out to make sure we were with our hosts. Surprisingly I talked a lot more with Katherine than I’m used to. I’m usually quite shy with other people. Especially new people. We walked down the maze they call their school, and down to the parking lot.

 

Right before we stopped, Katherine affirmed: “This is Sven, and oh he rides a van. Get ready to listen to music from the eighties.” She giggled briefly before she looked around and pointed at a silver vehicle in the distance. I’m not sure if I thought she was joking or not, so I just smiled.

 

As the dusty van pulled up, I got a glimpse of who I assumed Sven was. The window at the driver’s seat was pulled down. I saw a pale face with dirty, golden strands of hair cascading down on both sides of his face, reaching the length of his shoulders. His eyes were shallow blue and his smile was friendly. He kind of reminded me of my brother, Unai. The same hair; almost the same smile.

 

Next to him was a younger boy, also with long blond hair. His hair was shorter, though. He sat next to him and his feet were up on the dashboard. He was wearing light gray Nike shoes that made his eyes look more gray than blue. Much later I realized his name was Nils and that he was half German, half American.

 

Katherine opened the door that slid open sideways on rusty hinges. “Typical,” I whispered to myself. She climbed into the back, struggling while doing so. I hopped into the van, not having said anything to Sven yet. As I sat down onto the stuffy seats, I guessed that I had to close the door, since I was the last one stepping inside. I pressed a weird-looking button situated on the handle of the door. The button released the clutch that held onto the door. It slid slowly and I tugged on it slightly to get it going faster. With a dull thud-click, it closed.

 

Sven turned around and opened the door again, that seemed to not have closed well enough. He slid it open and pulled on it harder than I thought he would. The door closed this time with a satisfying click. Not a dull one. Still looking backward, Sven sparked a conversation. “Hi there, my name is Sven.”

 

I looked straight at him. He was tall and I assumed he was about 18. “I’m Amaia. Nice to meet you, Sven.” He smiled. He looked very welcoming, or maybe he was just in a good mood today; who knows.

 


 

This is Nils sitting in the front with his feet up.

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Starting Somewhere (new)

Day 3

18th of October 2016 – 5:45 pm

Sitting on the floor with Oliver.

 

Since I forgot to tell you about what we did Yesterday, I decided to start this blog from the hotel we stayed at.

 

As you might remember, my last blog post is about my second day. Well, actually my first day in Lousiana, because I start the story from the day we get on the plane. But anyway, the day before yesterday I stayed at the hotel and roomed with Patricia. I talked about how we got up in the morning and got ready to eat breakfast. (If you’re asking yourself what in the world I am talking about, then, buddy, scroll down to where it says posted in Journal Entries – Starting Somewhere (new) – LSU and under that you will find an area that says tagged. Click on day 2 and it will take you to the blog post before this one).

 

Now continuing where I had left off:

 

After the struggle of waking Patricia up that took place a few minutes ago, we traced our steps that we took last night to find our way downstairs. Still a little bit tired, we made our way to the breakfast area. Not very surprisingly we found the rest of our classmates sitting at their tables. The atmosphere of the eating place was almost drowsy: everything and everyone was tired.

 

We were told that we could only take the food with the yellow stickers on it. This limited us from the wide variety of choices they provided. Taking a plate, we scanned the buffet laid in front of us. Luckily, I wasn’t very hungry. In fact, my stomach was twisting and turning like when you go on a roller coaster. But then again, I haven’t actually been on many roller coasters. I’m just assuming that’s what if feels like.

 

I looked down at my choices. A small bowl of cereal, milk in a carton box, and an apple. Not very distinctive to an ordinary breakfast. I guess it was fine.

 

We looped around occupied tables and found the spot we were all happy with. “I’m so nervous,” Olivia stated, “we’re going to meet our hosts today!” I’m not sure if it was the table that sparked our conversation or if it was just a random coincidence. The families were going to come at 11:00 am. The fact that it was already 9:40 ish made my stomach feel even weirder. All of a sudden, the meal didn’t seem as appetizing as it did before.

 


 

We rushed down the hallway to our rooms. Twenty minutes left to pack and go downstairs. Everyone seemed nervous, even Jenny, who never seems to be nervous when meeting new people. As we entered our room, Patricia went to her bed and laid down, face flat on her pillow. I decided to neglect her; I decided to pack my belongings instead.

 

Ten minutes passed and I had already done everything. I brushed my hair, packed my suitcase, charged my phone, unplugged the charger, brushed my teeth, and I even put on my shoes. I looked over at Patricia. Still on the bed. By then I was assuming she had fallen asleep.

 

I decided to go and check in on Olivia and Jenny (who had slept in another room together with Felicitas). As I walked in I found them all ready. Sitting on their beds with their phones. Even their shoes were on.

 


 

“Hey, guys!” Mr. Wallace’s deep voice almost echoed through the hallway. Luckily, there was a mat on the floor and furniture against the walls that absorbed the noise just enough to make it sound a little duller and not wake up everyone else in the hotel.

 

Most of us were in the hallway. Maybe like 12 of us? Anyway, Mr. Wallace only had to say two words to grasp our attention, and two other words that made our hearts race in our chests: “They’re here.”

 

Nervously, we strutted along. We got into the elevator and started one of those weird conversations you get when you’re worried. The conversation in which everyone agrees with whatever the other person has to say. That awkward, harmonious sound of everyone saying yeah.

 

The elevator let out a familiar noise. A ding that lets you know when the doors are going to open. At the moment I felt my heart sink into my shoes. I didn’t want the doors to open. I wanted to be trapped inside – wait for hours before we got rescued if we had to.

 

Luckily, Jenny nudged me forward. I wouldn’t have moved if she hadn’t had done that. “Are you nervous?” she asked.

 

“Maybe,” I swallowed the yes that came after that so that she couldn’t hear it.

 

Together as a pack, we walked through another identical hallway that led us to a large open room with chairs, tables, and whatnot. I shuffled along, almost shivering. I hadn’t felt this way for years. The last time I felt this nervous was the very first day of school when I came to Panama.

 

I clenched my jaws together to prevent them from saying anything stupid, or funny, or sad, or anything, really. By this time I could hear my heartbeat thudding in my ears as if it was heavy metal music from the seventies.

 

As we turned the corner I was convinced that everyone held their breath. In front of us, surely at least fifty people were socializing with each other. Talking, laughing, interacting: not noticing us yet.

 

Two seconds later, though, all eyes were laid upon us. Everyone became quiet and focussed on us. Meanwhile, I searched the room for my host, Katherine… yeah, Katherine, I think.

 

My group scattered as they found their hosts. A few seconds later I heard a voice from beside me. “Amaia?” I swung around to see three familiar faces I had skyped with about a week ago. I firmly took a few steps their way, smiling at the encounter. They were all very tall and were encouraging me to come over.

 

“Hey, Amaia!” Katherine’s mom exclaimed, “Is that how you pronounce it?” She stuck out her hand and I shook it without hesitation. “Yes, that’s right,” I simply replied. It was weird, though, because so many people mispronounce my name before I correct them. They say maya, or amia, or even ameya.

 

I looked over at Katherine. She smiled and we just said hi. She then introduced me to Olivia’s host, Jenny’s host, and Patricia’s host. It turned out that they were all best friends, so we were in luck. The conversation already started to become interesting when Katherine pointed a guy in our class out and was like: “who is he? I think he’s cute.” We all giggled and that’s how our friendship flourished.

 


 

This was us when we arrived at the Lousiana airport at around midnight:

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Starting Somewhere (new)

Day 2:

17th of October 2016 – 9:50 am

Just had breakfast at the hotel.

 

Have you ever tried to describe how hard waking up really is? Think about it. Waking up is harder than climbing up the Eiffel Tower with your hands tied behind your back. It’s harder than doing a triple backflip and landing perfectly. It’s harder than winning la Tour de France; I think you get the point here. Well, waking up is a struggle. I struggle, you struggle; we all struggle with it, trust me. But no one in this world struggles more than Patricia. She could sleep and sleep and sleep and sleep if she was allowed to.

 


 

So here’s how my day went.

 

Yesterday we boarded the plane; it turned out to be a four-hour flight, instead of a two-hour one (what they had told me originally). Don’t get me wrong: I love flights or rides; trips in general. Especially when you’re with people you like and can socialize with.

 

After what seemed like a long time, we got off the plane. It was around midnight when the LSU school bus came to pick us up. It wasn’t only the clock that told us that, though. We all went to the restrooms and the mirrors proved to us what a plane trip we had. Hair was everywhere, our eyes were itchy red, and it seemed like we hadn’t slept for days. We all took one glance and were grateful we weren’t meeting our hosts looking like this.

 

Now back to the bus. Never in my life had I seen such a stereotypical yellow bus from the states. It was exactly how they are described in the movies. It was big, had the words School Bus printed on the side with big bold letters and the seats were like benches covered in a gray coating of some sort. To my surprise, it had air conditioning.

 

As we found a seat, Jenny kept chatting about how this bus brought her back so many memories. How she lived in Colorado, and how she would ride this bus every day to school. One thing was clear: this bus was a little piece of her childhood. I wish I had such memories to share.

 

The bus ride passed quickly. We got off the magic school bus and before I knew it we were in our hotel rooms. I was paired with Patricia. Clarissa snuck into another room; more space for us, I guess. We spent a while talking. About the hotel room. About our homework. About how excited we were to meet our guests. About how we should set an alarm for tomorrow morning at around 8. About how comfortable our beds were. About how chilly it was getting. About how we might turn off the lights but keep talking.

 

That was the last thing we said. Neither of us had the energy to pronounce another word. Not even goodnight. We slept at 2:30 ish am.

 


 

I squinted letting a little bit of light into my eyes. I rubbed them and checked the time: 7 am. I lay there for ten minutes trying to mentally prepare myself to get out of bed.

 

One thing that’s weird about me is that I have this thing I call an alarm clock inside my head. I know it’s weird, but hear me out: when I go to bed and have to wake up at a certain time the next morning, I tell myself that, because that’s how my brain knows I have to put an alarm clock. After I do that, I fall asleep, dream, and do all the normal stuff people do when sleeping. But here’s the odd part: the next morning, no matter what time it is, I will wake up at least five minutes before my alarm goes off. Isn’t that weird?

 

And don’t think this has only happened once, oh no, I have done this so many times that my hypothesis has become a theory. Anywhere at anytime it happens.

 

But back to the main point, I woke up and it took me a while to sit up. I glanced over at the other bed in the room and saw Patricia sound asleep, tangled in her blankets and pillows. It was 7:15 so I decided that she still had some time to sleep since we had breakfast at around 9.

I took at shower, changed clothes, brushed my teeth (I was feeling a little bit gross), unpacked the things I needed for today, read a few pages of The Perks of Being a Wallflower which, by the way, is a really good book so far, and I even went to Jenny’s and Olivia’s hotel room. But Patricia just kept sleeping.

 

By the time I got back, it was 8:20. Time for Patricia to wake up.

 

I quietly said her name and shook her slightly to wake her up. She didn’t say a word. I tried again with a little more effort. Suddenly, she opens her eyes and looks at me as if I shouldn’t have woken her up.

 

Her squeaky voice brought out: “What time…is it…?”.

 

“8:20,” I said, “breakfast is around 9.”

 

She closed her eyes and I think I saw her nod slightly. “ok,” she said with her last breath “good night.” She turned around and fell asleep.

 

“She’s not waking up anytime soon,” I sighed.

 

I let her sleep another twenty minutes before I texted Jenny to ask her if she could come “rescue Patricia from her sleep”. Sure she did.

 

Now, Jenny has a way of doing things. She came into the room, talking loud as if I was sitting ten meters away. She saw Patricia and went: “Patty, wake up. You have twenty minutes to get ready because breakfast is gonna be ready at 9.” She sat on her bed and almost shook her awake.

 

And that’s how we managed to wake up sleeping beauty on the first day in Louisiana.