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1561 views.... whaaaaat?!

Friday, August 31, 2012

That's right, my humble little blog has reached 1500+ views. Although I'm pretty sure each hit counts rather than each individual viewer, that's insane and I'm so happy!! I really hope to have a blog that grows to be popular and successful so I can share Indonesia and YES Abroad with as many people as possible.

Unfortunately this will not be an epic or thoughtful or athlete-filled post, because all my thoughts are jumbled and I have too many vague ideas for posts, and not enough solid ones. I do have a list of posts I plan on making, and they include:

  • The joys of American high school
  • Cabin Fever: The Saga (possibly in pictures and/or doodles)
  • More information on my host city/family!!
  • The evolving face of American families and how they can be sorta messed up but end up pretty cool anyway
  • My going away party/what I've been up to as summer ends
  • More information about Indonesia
  • Sara's Storytime in Bahasa Indonesia 
  • The books I'll be packing, and what they mean to me
  • I Think Studying World Religions Is Pretty Cool, And This Is Why You Should Too
  • America's love affair with fairs 
And that's all. I think I just came up with half of those right now. So we'll see if they ever actually come to fruition. They probably will, because I have way too much time on my hands. 

To tide my lovely readers over in the meantime, here's a couple pictures of my one-year-old brother, AKA the coolest guy I have ever met.

The USA and the Olympics

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Even if you aren't American, if you watched the Olympics in London this summer you probably noticed that the United States came home with a ridiculous amount of medals. With 46 gold, 29 silver, and 29 bronze, we earned a total of 104 in all. That's 17 more than China, who in Beijing four years ago was the nation that came out on top.

Curious as to how we pulled off this massive victory, I poked around the internet (and my own brain; as an American, I'm my own cultural resource) to find the answer. This article on Slate shed a little light on the subject and I'd like to post a summary along with my thoughts, because I find it pretty interesting and a good cultural topic to discuss!

Basically, this year the USA dominated in two of the biggest Olympic events: Swimming and Track & Field. 

In the article I just linked, there's a quote that I thought summarizes things perfectly. It's referring to our success in Track & Field, or athletics, events. 

"As long as the NBA and the NFL exist, American youth will spend their childhoods trying to run really fast, jump really high, and throw things really far."

That's so true. Growing up in the United States, rarely does one go without at least one friend who defines themselves in terms of soccer, volleyball, softball, baseball, football, or one of the many other sports that our mostly suburban landscape supports. Athletics seem to be a part of our national character. But, I'll talk about that a little later.

In the Olympics, there are 34 Swimming events, and we took a medal in 27 of them. Our success in the pool is insane. Aside from the fact that our team boasts a repertoire of incredibly talented swimmers like Michael Phelps, Ryan Lochte, Rebecca Soni, and Missy Franklin, it's important to note that in the United States it's extremely easy to enter the swimming world. Private clubs abound, and colleges often feature top training programs, which produce elite swimmers ready for the world stage at the Olympics. 

USA Swimming, the organization that oversees the sport in our country, is also well-funded and well-organized: to sweeten the deal for any hesitant athletes, they offer swimmers $75,000 per gold medal, with a $50,000 bonus if a world record is broken. 

Of course, as an extremely well-off nation, we can afford to train and reward athletes like that. In fact, our status as a wealthy and highly populated nation is one of the biggest reasons why we do so well on the Olympic stage. We simply have more families with the resources to train gold-standard athletes.

We also have a spark of competitiveness ingrained in us. I mentioned earlier that athletics are essentially a part of our national character, just like an affinity for bald eagles, freedom, and terrible reality shows. But, we didn't exactly come over on the Mayflower looking for meadows to play football in, did we? 

After digging through the perilous depths of my Gmail inbox, I found an email sent to me by Allen Evans at the YES Abroad office as a part of my pre-departure homework. In it is a list of 'ugly American' traits and a few of the traits listed point directly to sports.

Live 'individualism': "According to a study of 40 countries by Dutch 
sociologist Geert Hofstede, we are the most individualistic culture in the world. This value can be seen in 
our emphasis on individual accountability and singling out a specific person for recognition and reward." 

There are not a lot of ways better than sports to find a person to single out for their dedication and talent. Therefore, sports are a perfect expression of our culture in the USA. (Little note: 'culture', as we learned about it in the DC orientation, is basically an expression of a group of people's values.) In the US, we value individualism and hard work. We also love the thrill of competition, the chance to tell a story of an underdog who came out on top: to look at someone's life, see all the work they put into something and the challenges they overcame, and root them on. 

So, it's a unique mix of inherent wealth, cultural perceptions, and the structure of the Olympics which allowed the USA to win 104 medals this year. Before I bothered to look anything up, I just sort of thought that we like to win a lot, so naturally we just bred more winning athletes. That's kind of true, but mostly it's just an assumption based on shallow cultural perceptions and my own mind trying to fill in the blanks. 

Kind of goes to show that when you dig around a little, a mindless question can provoke a thoughtful cultural discussion and all kinds of cool new discoveries. There's always more to learn, even it's about something you think you know inside and out, like your own culture. The urge to learn more and explore deeper is something I hope to take with me, and develop further, when I get to Indonesia.

Also, as a treat to everyone who stuck with me during this little cultural analysis, please enjoy this spam of Olympic athlete eye candy. I didn't refer to Michael Phelps, Ryan Lochte, and Nathan Adrian in my other post just because I like their swimming, after all. ;) Until I get my next post done, Eid Mubarak to all my Muslim readers and see you next time!

Ryan Lochte and Michael Phelps
Also Phelps and Lochte... being charming.
It's a Phelps!
Aaaand a Lochte!

Nathan Adrian!
Fun fact: he's 50% Chinese and 2000% adorable.
And finally.... God Bless America.

Studying Indonesian: A Tragedy in Photos

Friday, August 17, 2012

Whenever I study Indonesian, it starts off with good intentions. I read my 'Teach Yourself' book, soaking up the grammar, reminding myself to make notes, listening to the audio tracks and going over them until I can copy the speakers pretty well.

But then....

The inevitable happens. I'm struck with the sudden inspiration to do something like listen to the High School Musical soundtrack, stare at pictures of attractive swimmers (Ryan Lochte, Michael Phelps, and Nathan Adrian, hellooooo), or make a dumb blog post like this one.

AKA, I get distracted, big time.

I'm lucky to make it two or three pages before this happens. Hours pass as I while away the time. I find new things to research, talk to my friends, and am generally completely unproductive, my natural state of being.

This goes on until something reminds me of Indonesia, and the guilt of not studying kicks in. I instantly envision thousands of scenarios in which I'll regret not studying harder. What if I'm stranded in the middle of nowhere and the only thing I can say is 'di mana kamar mandi' (where is the bathroom) when I don't have to go at all? What if I want to make friends but I can't say anything beyond 'anda teman saya' (you are my friend) which is not a very mature way to start off a relationship? 

These ideas strike fear into my very core. So I look for the book which I unceremoniously tossed away.

And I find it. I apologize. I beg for forgiveness. I ask for one more chance. I'll do better this time. I won't read exchange blogs and post on forums until the sun comes up. I won't stare at pictures of food and lament my absolute lack of cooking skills. I won't watch any more episodes of '30 Rock' or 'Toddlers and Tiaras'.

.... Well. I'll try.

I get the second chance, and I resume my studying... Until the next thought pops into my brain. Until my next big idea breaks. Until I learn how to say something awesome and go to someone to brag about it.

The way I see it, our departure being pushed back to the 21st is at least a gift in the fact that it gives us all a bit longer to prepare ourselves, spend time with our families, and most of all study Indonesian. 

Or try to study Indonesian, at least.


Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Just a quick update before I write an actual post (and I do have a lot to write about): our departure got pushed back!! We have to wait to receive a letter of invitation from AFS-Indonesia, and the government over there has changed some processes meaning we'll be leaving on September 21st.... and not the 5th.

So, basically there's really 37 days left when it used to be 21. This is such a big bummer, I was so ready to leave. Well, not exactly ready, but when you've been told since April that you'll leave on a specific date, it gets ingrained, you know? Also, my 'goodbye' party is this Saturday, meaning it's well over a month in advance of my actual departure now. Sort of funny, in a crazy way.

But, looking on the bright side: this gives me more time to study my bahasa Indonesia! Which is something I've kind of slacked off on. I also want to start swimming and of course see a little more of my friends... and stuff in a blog post or two. Maybe. You never know. I'm full of surprises!!

Well, until that next post, I'm off to finish some work for my online classes :)

About me

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I'm Sara, the freckled bule, one out of eight of the coolest people in the world. I spent a year in Indonesia as a KL/YES Abroad student but now I live in Boise, Idaho. Welcome to my bloggity blog.


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