Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Let's Mate!

Sip, sip, hmm; it tastes like grassy, organic green tea and provides the kick of coffee without the jitters and negative side effects. This is the effect felt while sipping yerba mate (pronounced mah-tay). Yerba mate is a plant found mainly in Paraguay, Uruguay, Brazil and Argentina. You can find anyone in these countries sipping out of wooden gourds filled with dried, chopped leaves in a powdery mix called yerba. It is very common to drink mate socially at parks or anywhere, it is the health culture of these South American countries much like the North American health kick now turning to Acai, a Brazilian fruit. I have always been a health-concious individual, so I was very open and willing to sample yerba mate. The leafy taste was a bit much for me initially. Then I learned that not all mate tastes the same. Many different flavors are sold in stores and I have found Orange-flavored Mate to be my favorite.

So why yerba mate instead of green tea or coffee? According to scientists, mate contains 196 volatile compounds, of those 144 are found in green tea. Mate has 11 polyphonols which are phytochemicals antioxidants that help prevent numerous cancers much like lycopene in tomatoes, flavanoids in blueberries, etc. According to a 2005 study at the University of Illinois sampling 25 different types of mate, mate was found to have more antioxidants than green tea, http://www.yerba-mate.com/health.htm. Mate does have some caffeine in the leaves but is found to provide the mental alertness coffee does yet is calmer on the stomach. In my personal experience of drinking mate, I have found to have a kick of energy without the jitters I get from that Starbucks espresso. The distribution of yerba mate is as widespread as coffee here in South America, the same can't be said for North American distribution. Though mate is making its way to North America slowly, it may soon be a health forced to be reckoned with, if society is accepting of the mate-drinking process.

How is mate prepared? In a summed up version, the cut up dried leaves are poured into a wooden gourd about 2/3 full. Then, water is heated and poured into the gourd a little bit at a time. Then a metal straw is inserted and sip away. It is debated between countries on the proper way to prepare mate. For example, in Uruguay they only pour a very little water in at a time to preserve the flavor of the mate. Here in Argentina, they fill the gourd every time with the hot water. However, the water can not be boiling as it will kill the flavor of the mate and give you bitter-mate-face. For a more detailed explanation of how it is prepared please see ://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mate_%28beverage%29.

I can not forget that the process of preparing mate might be a little too much in the fast-paced, fast food American lifestyle. Yet the culture of it all has found a way to my liking and I hope to bring it back to my friends and family. I now find myself drinking mate every morning, a great substitute for waiting in line at Starbucks. The energy and alertness I feel in teaching my students is attributed to yerba mate. Maybe someday the yerba will make its way to your tasting and then I'll bring the gourd and thermos to share in our new cultural past time. Wishful thinking? Maybe, but now I must get back to my mate for its getting cold.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Power Tends to Corrupt; Absolute Power Corrupts Absolutely

I remember the day sitting in my squeeky chair my sophomore year of high school thinking of the plans for Friday night. It was the class before lunch, which many of you remember in high school not much was retained in our learning process at this time because of the hunger-caused impatience. There stood one of the most well-known, respected instructors of our high school, Mr. Sanger, in full animation spouting off history to actually make it sound interesting. Then he said what he claimed to be the most important phrase to remember from his class, "power tends to corrupt; absolute power corrupts absolutely." This was originally quoted by Lord Acton, an English historian and moralist. Mr. Sanger rebuked our clueless responses by promising that if we didn't understand it then, we would come across this realization someday.

I encountered the phrase again the other day as I was watching a well-touted streamed video on the internet. The video was recommended by several of my good friends and their description definitely caught my attention. If you have a free two hours in your busy lives, take a look at www.zeitgeistmovie.com. Those who created this film offer interesting insight on the truth of religion, September 11th conspiracy, and the underlying and scary potential of the Federal Reserve Bank. To stave off any potential religious debates, let's focus on the latter two. Quite simply the message of the film claims that the parties invested in the Federal Reserve Bank, which to my surprise or ignorance, is a privately run institution created by the nation's wealthiest, among others being the Rockefeller family. The money supply generated by the Federal Reserve puts the U.S. in position as the primary borrower of loans from the Fed. The minds behind this film offer bits of evidence to show that those vested in the Central Bank have been involved in provoking wars to cause the country to take out large loans to fund the war. The evidence shown in the film claim that these motives are what provoked our entry into WWII, Vietnam, and our current War on terrorism.

In lieu of not spoiling any more of this must-see film, I'll leave the rest up to you to decide the truth. Personally, I don't feel informed enough on all sides of the research to offer a legitimately informed opinion either way. This film has definitely sparked my interest to do more research on the true relationship between the central banking system and the world's political leaders. Also important for us to remember is where we receive our information. Many of our news providers today are under government control through the FCC, thus, is it possible that our nightly news is tuning citizens in to stories tailored for covering up the Federal Reserve's real intentions? It may seem like a stretch, but we should see that it's worth further personal investigation, in the least to be more informed individuals.

So what would you do if you had absolute power, would you be subject to absolute corruption? A great question to ponder for any of you future leaders.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Que Tal?

So what's new with the working life in Buenos Aires Robin? Well, I must say it has been an interesting work experience the last three weeks. The English teaching has been very slow due to summer vacations here but is expected to pick up beginning in March. Therefore, I went looking for work elsewhere. I have one job offer with a legitimate web-design company based out of San Francisco. Problem is the offer begins April 15th, after tax season since it's a web design company for CPA firms in the states. Then I started working for a finance company that I found on Craigslist.com that supposedly paid $2500-$10000/month. After four days of working here, something didn't seem right about it. Not that it was necessarily 'Boiler Room' type work, but it wasn't right in my head. I could go into more detail but it kind of makes me sick that people are still working like this in this world and other people are foolish enough to buy stock from crooks like this. Again, I'll spare the details on this and let us move to something more positive.

Needless to say, I'm no longer working there and I now am back to the drawing boards of why I really came here, to teach English. So the pay isn't that great, I am now looking to start marketing myself to companies that need one English teacher for numerous employees. From what I have found in my numerous classes here is that the market is here and open. My next goal is to continue working with my language institutes to help me with my lesson plans. I will also talk to all of my students about companies they might know who are looking for my services. I am also looking at different mediums of marketing other than classifieds and craigslist. The more I talk to the students and locals, the more success I'll have marketing my services. For now, it all starts with the first steps and then I'll adapt and adjust to the barriers and challenges that come with the process. Until then, my first steps are under way.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Closer Look at Emotional Attachments

Do you ever feel that sting that comes from missing something or someone that you have become so comfortable with? Emotional attachment has always been one of the larger causes of depression, confusion, and resistance to what 'is' for human kind. I've started analyzing emotional attachment more than anytime in my life just in the last two months since it has been harnessing my happier emotions. The first two apartments we resided at here in Buenos Aires were very cozy and provided incredible comfort. Though, we only lived in each apartment for a month, I developed a strange attachment, especially our last apartment. Maybe it was because of the experiences that came in this home. We had our girlfriends from San Diego visiting for about three weeks, which also brought a very strong sense of 'home'. Their departure left me in a slight depression from the feeling of home and comfort the girls took with them. It's funny analyzing your own emotions and why you may become attached to some things and not others. It seemed I couldn't walk anywhere in our neighborhood with out rehashing some funny experience that we had with the girls. Maybe it was because the feeling of home and comfort the girls provided was more intense since we are in a completely flipped world. Now, don't get me wrong, I'm not saying any of these emotional attachments are bad or searching for pity, I'm only trying to analyze the actual entity of emotional attachments.

A week ago, we moved out of our awesome apartment in Palermo to a large house that hosts 8 other international students along with Mike and I. Thus, time to battle the attachment of leaving luxurious Palermo for Montseraat, an area of the city that's a bit more dangerous at night but more cultural than 'posh' Palermo. I've never really been an emotionally attached type of person until my move to Buenos Aires, so closer analysis on my part has showed me that there is really nothing wrong with this. Things phase in and out of our life and my latest experiences with emotional attachments to places and people has provided a learning experience and an opportunity to gain a better understanding of myself and others. I think it is merely human nature to find attachment to something or someone that provides love, care, or comfort. I've yet to meet a person who has been able to bounce through relationships or changes without some discomfort or sense of loneliness. Perhaps, maybe this is one of our positive traits as it shows that we care enough about something or someone to develop some attachment. However, becoming attached to the idea of that something or someone may be where we go south with our emotions.

My latest reading is a book called Cut Thru written by Doc Lew Childre and it goes through the science of care and over-care in humans. He notes that all things that humans become attached to starts out with a sincere care to that entity, then some how turns into an over-care (attachment) and we become victims of our own care. Analyzing what makes the care turn into attachment is the basis of what I've been attempting to research through others and myself. If you've felt some sense of attachment to someone or something and have resisted the change that succeeded that feeling, you're not alone. Everyone experiences this, take a closer look at why your initial care developed into some sort of 'over-care'. Just remember, what you're attached to now will probably not be the same person or thing that you'll be attached to years down the road, so just sit back and be the spectator of these emotions in order to fully understand your emotional patterns.