Happy Memorial Day!

May 28, 2012

I’d like to take a quick moment to wish everyone a Happy Memorial Day. I spent last night at a cookout at the house of one of my good friends, Brian – a Marine I met while studying abroad in Argentina.  A house full of Marines and their families – talk about a perfect way to remind yourself what Memorial Day is all about.

For my senior thesis, I had the pleasure of spending a year following the lives of the Cashion Family. Joe Cashion is a Sergeant in the Army and volunteered for a six-month deployment to Afghanistan. I followed the family before, during and after Joe’s deployment. I learned so much from them and will always treasure the way they opened their lives to me.

In honor of Memorial Day, I wanted to re-post the multimedia project I created.

When I first came across the Lexicon of Sustainability project, my first thought was “Damn this is so cool! I wish I had thought of this!”. This project combines some of my biggest passions in life: photography, travel and food. I love that the photographers are using their skills to educate themselves and the public on the complicated terms used in the modern food system. I agree with their philosophy that “people can’t be expected to live more sustainable lives if they don’t even know the most basic terms and principles that define sustainability”. More information is never, ever a bad thing – although you can choose to ignore it at times (like when a funnel cake at the State Fair seems like the best idea in the world). Access to education, learning, knowledge is how change and improvement are born and I love that these photographers have found a creative way to do that.

My lovely little herb garden, on a bookcase in my apartment.

This is a subject that I have become more and more passionate about over that last few years. In many ways, it feels very natural. As a Midwestern girl, I come from a long line of farmers and “sustainable”, “local”, “real” foods are what my grandparents (and parents) grew up eating. They just called it “dinner” or “food”. I grew up eating from gardens and homemade canned items – not because of a “food philosophy” but because my brothers and I thought it was pretty cool that you could plant a carrot seed and a few months later have a carrot (and because my grandmothers lovingly kept our pantry full of home-canned tomatoes,  yummm).

The point of these ramblings are to say that I think the Lexicon of Sustainability is a wonderful project. I love that they’re educating the public. I love that they’re supporting small farmers. And I love that they’re using their photography to improve the world (in their own way).

Below are a couple videos from the Lexicon of Sustainability project. Enjoy.

What do you think of the project? What words would you like to see added?

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If you’re interested in learning more, these are a few of my favorite blogs*:

100 Days of Real Foods

Take Part – Food Blog

Deliciously Organic

Poor Girl Eats Well

Food Babe

*To be clear, I didn’t write these blogs so I don’t necessarily agree with 100% of the content. But, I think they’re all doing good things by encouraging people to know where their food comes from.

Some of you may have wondered what happened to me after my Argentina Adventures. Well, I cried a few days over Malbec and Tango withdrawal, then I spent a couple of months of quality time with my family in Ohio (which was pretty great). And this past December, I packed my things and moved to Charleston, South Carolina to start my life in the “real world”.

For the past couple of years, I’ve worked as an intern with Microburst Learning, an e-learning company based in South Carolina, and after my graduation in December, I started with them as a full-time employee. My job duties have increased in both quantity and responsibility level and I’ve spent the past five months adjusting to those changes.

So far, I love living in Charleston (who wouldn’t?!) and I have really enjoyed the new challenges my new role has offered me. When I’m not traveling to film, I work from home – which is pretty freakin’ awesome, but it also means that I don’t spend a lot of time with my fellow employees. A few months ago, I decided I wanted to organize an event that the whole Microburst team could do together. Which brings me to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation

One-half of Team Microburst Learning (we split into two groups for the walk) with our fabulous sand castle.

My mom is a nurse and has worked with Cystic Fibrosis patients throughout her career. We also have a family history of the disease so my brothers and I grew up with a broad understanding of CF. And, I remember going to functions and camps run by the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation as a child. So, when I was looking for a group to volunteer with when I moved to Charleston, the CF Foundation came to mind.

Every year CFF does a walk called Great Strides to raise money for CF research. Luckily, I convinced my coworkers to start a corporate team with me and we just participated in the walk a week ago. So far, our team has raised $1000! And, just as importantly, we had an awesome time at the walk!

Enjoying some downtown with the daughters of two of my co-workers.

We opted to participate in the “Challenge” Course which involved ten challenges such as sand darts, charades and sand castle building. All the activities were really fun and I’m proud to say that our team WON the Challenge Course!

Team Microburst Learning working tirelessly on our sand castle. Doing this challenge with so many creative people was a lot of fun!

The husbands of two of my co-workers enthusiastically accept our Challenge Course award.

We topped off the day with some good ol’ Southern BBQ and ice cream. Yum, yum!

Moving forward, I plan to continue working with the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation (we’re in the middle of planning a bike race!). Have you been to any fun charity events lately?

A couple of weeks ago, I had the wonderful opportunity to photograph a hair drive at the Bishop England High School on Daniel’s Island, South Carolina. Christine Ronco, a teacher at Bishop England, organized the drive for Locks of Love, a non-profit organization that provides hairpieces to children suffering from long-term medial hair loss.

McKenzi Mazur, a sophomore at Bishop England High School, nervously waits while her hair is cut.

Ronco told the students about the drive last fall, giving the girls almost an entire school year to grow their locks.

McKenzi Mazur, an energetic sophomore, said she was “really nervous” but was glad that she decided to donate. “It’s the least I could do – I wanted to do it for kids who are sick”.

Christine Ronco, the teacher who organized the hair drive, was one of two faculty members who participated in the drive.

A crowd of students gathered in the courtyard at Bishop England High School to watch the Hair Drive during their lunch hour.

Prior to the drive, Ronco had a list of 30 girls who were going to donate. By the end of the lunch hour, over 75 girls had donated up to a foot of their hair!

The youngest donor, Phoebe Govett, 7, was one of the calmest in the face of the shears. Her mother, Ashley Govett, said that she had been wanting to donate her hair for a long time. When she heard about the school drive from a friend, she asked if she could bring Phoebe along. “I wanted to donate to a kid who doesn’t have any hair,” Phoebe told me.

Phoebe Govett, 7, admires her new, shorter hair.

The drive was a huge success and I really enjoyed spending the afternoon at the event.

Sidney Copleston, a student at Bishop England High School, can’t hide her fear while her long locks are cut. “Oh my gosh! It’s all gone!” she exclaimed afterwards.

2011 in review

January 30, 2012

Hi All,

I haven’t been doing a very good job posting since I’ve returned stateside, but I thought I’d post this 2011 Year in Review (via WordPress).

Thank you to everyone who read, commented on and shared my blog this year. I promise to get some new photos posted soon!

Sarah

 

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 9,900 times in 2011. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 4 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

The below photo is one of my journal two months ago. I believe I was feeling frustrated after yet another cold shower (due to a broken gas line that stayed broken for quite awhile) and felt the need to vent.  Looking at this entry inspired me to write about what I will miss when I leave Buenos Aires this Saturday night. While I still stick with the statement that I will miss “everything,” I’ll try to be a bit more specific here.

1. My host family.

Not only will I miss the perks, like a home cooked dinner every night or a maid to clean my room once a week, but I’ll miss the extended family I’ve gained. Carmen always made me feel so welcome and included on any family activities.  As a result, I’ve had the good fortune to spend time with her brother and his family as well as both of her sons. Living with a host family was the thing I was most nervous about but it turned out to be a very positive experience and I feel extremely lucky to have been placed in this house.

My roommate, Stephanie, my host brother, Nico and I.

My host mom, Carmen, and I at the Teatro Colon.

2. My new friends.

I’ve met some incredible people here from all walks of life and it will be hard to say goodbye to them.  When I moved from Ohio to South Carolina for college, I met many people from various backgrounds and with viewpoints different than my own.  That was at times challenging but also very rewarding.  Coming to Buenos Aires, I had a similar experience but with even newer backgrounds and viewpoints. Knowing and loving friends with different ways of seeing the world is always a positive experience and I will miss the strange cast of characters that have become my friends here.

With my friends Kehala and Phoebe in Mendoza.

The ASA (my program) gang.

3. The ice cream.

Really, it’s indescribable. A creamy, gelato-esqe texture, but rich like ice cream. Just one more cone!

My friend Kehala and I enjoying some yummy Chocolate Mousse ice cream.

4. Spanish.

It sounds obvious, but I will really miss having constant opportunities to work on my Spanish skills. I love walking outside and being surrounded by Spanish (something that was a bit terrifying when I first arrived). I love the way Argentines speak Spanish. They speak with so much passion and exaggeration that it’s almost theatrical.

Answering trivia questions (in Spanish) during my first month here.

5. Traveling.

One thing this experience has taught me is that traveling is not nearly as hard as we pretend it is. There were multiple times here that I decided to take a weekend trip somewhere and simply went. It didn’t take months of planning, it often didn’t take a lot of money. I will miss that spontaneous thinking, but I hope I can bring it back with me. There are so many places to see in the U.S., why not go for a weekend?

Biking in Northern Argentina.

Queer Tango in Argentina

November 7, 2011

At the beginning of my time in Buenos Aires, I wrote an article for National Geographic Traveler’s Intelligent Travel blog about the World Tango Festival and places to learn, watch and dance tango in the city. While researching milongas in the city, I discovered a same-sex milonga called La Marshall. I hadn’t been aware of a gay tango movement and continued to be intrigued by this concept since Argentina tango is so full of gender roles and machismo.

Legendary tango dancer, Carlos Copello performs.

Fast forward three months and I was with a friend at a free milonga which takes place in a large gazebo in Barrancas de Belgrano, a park near my house. After embarrassing ourselves on the dance floor for a bit, we began watching the other couples when I noticed two men dancing together. I was struck by how beautiful and unique the dance was when gender roles where switched up. In that moment I knew what I would be writing my tango paper on.

As I mentioned before, I’ve been taking a tango class at my university this semester. I can’t say that it is always the most thrilling class in the world but I have enjoyed learning a dance that is so culturally important to Buenos Aires. Besides, how many Americans can say they learned tango in Argentina? Probably quite a few, but I digress. About a month ago we were assigned a paper to write. It could be about anything as long as it related to tango. Since it was to be 5 pages, single-spaced, in Spanish, I knew I needed to find a topic I was truly interested in. My new interest in same-sex tango combined with my recent realization that Argentina was the second country in the Americas (after Canada) to legalize gay marriage led me to chose Queer Tango as a topic. I decided to post my paper to share with you what I learned. It is translated from the Spanish it was originally written in so please forgive the lack of grammatical complexity.

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Queer Tango

“Gay Tango is about the sexuality and queer tango is the opening of traditional tango so that women can lead men or other women,” said one follower of the Queer Tango movement.

Queer Tango refers to a new form of dancing Argentine tango that questions the traditional gender roles en the dance. When choosing roles, gender and sexual orientation are ignored. In order to understand the significance of this movement, we should first examine the traditional gender roles of tango and the progression of gay rights in Argentina.

Traditional Gender Roles

In order to understand the Queer Tango movement, it is important to first understand the traditional gender roles of Argentine tango.

The gender roles in traditional Argentine tango are strictly defined. This is immediately evident upon entering a milonga, a traditional argentine dance hall. In many milongas, there are separate sections for men, women and for man-woman pairs. This implies that men will ask women to dance and then lead the dance. In many milongas, the cabeceo is used. The cabeceo is an invitation to dance where a man and woman make eye contact and make a slight tip of the head in order to indicate their agreement to dance. In the invitation to dance, the man and the woman are equal because they both must agree in order for the dance to proceed.

After the cabeceo, the man approaches the woman and embraces her. The man waits until the woman becomes comfortable in the embrace and listens to the music for a few seconds before leading a movement. In this moment, the man has the power in the relationship because the woman now depends on him to direct all the movement.

During the dance, the majority of the woman’s movements are guided by the man. Although she has some opportunity to make subtle decisions, she can only do so within the time and space permitted by the guidance of the man. Her decisions should not interrupt the flow developed by the man.

The masculine role is to make the woman feel comfortable in the embrace and the movement and to protect her from collision. This is a reflection of the masculine role in argentine society. In the traditional argentine society (and in Latin America in general), machismo is very important for the identity of a man. In order to be macho, he must be sure of himself and it is his job to look after the welfare, security and happiness of his woman.

This male-female relationship is reflected on the dance floor. He is confident, she is trusting. The two are happy in their functions and are equal in their relationship. The do not compete, they cooperate and they hold a mutual respect for each other. He respects the femininity of the woman and she respects the masculinity of the man. Each one has unique things to offer to the dance (and to society).

Queer Tango. Via the International Queer Tango Argentino Festival in Hamburg website.

Same-Sex Tango in History

During the Golden Age (1935-1950) of tango it was common for men to learn to dance with men in practices. In some cases, the men learned the follower role first and only after they reached a certain level of experience would they learn the role of the leader.

These practices were not considered homosexual and same-sex tango was confined to these practices. During this time, the women did not have as much freedom to go to the practices like the men. Men wanted to practice in order to meet and impress women in the milongas. Therefore, their only option was to practice with other men. The women represented the motivation to learn tango and practice with other men. Expressing homosexual desire during these practices would have carried a big social taboo. Learning the role of the follower helped the men to be better leaders since they would know what the woman needed from him.

Tango’s dominant male is also evident in the brothel and prostitute origins of the dance. Due to this association, women were less likely to participate in practices even when allowed.

For the women, the norm was to learn tango from male family members, usually at home. Therefore, the women only learned the follower role, while the men tended to learn both roles.

Homosexual Rights in Argentina

The increase of gay rights and the growing acceptance of gays in society has had a significant impact on the acceptance of same-sex and queer tango in Argentina.

Argentina has a long history of being in front of the curve in regard to homosexual rights. For example, sexual activity by persons of the same sex has been legal since 1887. In many parts of Africa and the Middle East, this is still considered illegal.

After the first military coup in 1930, police harassment of homosexuals increased.  However, there are reports that during the Peronist era, Juan Perón ordered the police and the military not to participate in gay bashings.

The first LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) rights organizations were created in 1969. In 1976, the government fought to eradicate the movement and many of the movement’s members were among the disappeared (during Argentina’s “Lost Decade”).

After the military dictatorship, the group La Comunidad Homosexual Argentina (The Homosexual Community of Argentina) made a public campaign for LGBT rights. During the time of re-democratization, a gay bar opened in Buenos Aires for the first time and the LGBT community began to be more open. Today, gay tourists are invited to visit Buenos Aires. The city even has a tourist information center specializing in gay tourism, called Pink Point.

In 2002, civil unions between gays and lesbians was legalized.  And, on July 15, 2010, Argentina became the second country in the Americas and the first in Latina America to legalize gay marriage. At that time, seventy percent (70%) of Argentine citizens were in favor of the legislation.

What is Queer Tango?

Queer Tango is a new method of dancing argentine tango that is free of the traditional heteronormative conventions. The purpose is to dance tango without pre-established gender roles and to be able to exchange the roles of leader and follower.

Queer Tango consists of two movements – Gay Tango and Gender Neutral Tango.  Gay tango is dancing between two homosexuals of the same sex. Gender Neutral Tango is when the dancers chose principal and secondary roles without considering the sex or the sexual orientation of the members of the pair.

Where traditional tango is the personification of traditional heterosexual gender roles, queer tango does not recognize these roles. It is the result of socio-political movement to free members of the LGBT community from the prevailing norms of heterosexual behavior in society worldwide.

According to Mariana Docampo Falcom, from the milonga Tango Queer in Buenos Aires, the dancers “can freely select the role they want and the gender they prefer to dance with”.

“There are many men that feel very liberated by following, and women that feel liberated by leading, and it has nothing to do with sexual orientation,” said Lexa Rosean, a lesbian that organizes a milonga in New York.

The teaching method is also different in queer tango.  Everyone learns to lead and to follow and the options for exhanching roles during the dance.  This permites the dancers “to explore the dynamic of the relationship more equally,” Falcon said, “the simbolic power that is put on the lead role disappears when either of the partners can fulfill either role”.

Queer Tango challenged and altered traditional gender roles and also frees the dance partnerships of the considerations of the sexual orientation of prospective partners. The queer tango movement grew out of gay tango dancers because ” gay tango is a bit restrictive, and that while some same-sex couples danced together, the ideas of dominant leader and submissive follower were still in play,” said Falcon .

When speaking of queer tango, it is important to note the difference between the terms sexuality, sexual orientation and gender. According to “Tango Voice,” sexuality refers to the expression of desire, sexual orientation refers to the direction of the expression of this desire (whether homosexual or heterosexual) and gender refers to a set of culturally defined roles or a set of expectations for behavior (male or female). By taking into account partner sex, sexual orientation and the assumption of roles, there are sixteen (16) possible combinations of queer tango associations. They are:

(1) Heterosexual Male leader / Heterosexual Female follower

(9) Heterosexual Female leader / Homosexual Female follower
(2) Heterosexual Female leader / Hetersexual Male follower (10) Homosexual Female leader / Heterosexual Female follower
(3) Homosexual Male leader / Homosexual Male follower (11) Heterosexual Male leader / Homosexual Female follower
(4) Homosexual Female leader / Homosexual Female follower (12) Homosexual Male leader / Heterosexual Female follower
(5) Heterosexual Male leader / Hetersexual Male follower (13) Homosexual Male leader / Homosexual Female follower
(6) Heterosexual Male leader / Homosexual Male follower (14) Heterosexual Female leader / Homosexual Male follower
(7) Homosexual Male leader / Hetersexual Male follower (15) Homosexual Female leader /  Hetersexual Male follower
(8) Heterosexual Female leader / Heterosexual Female follower (16) Homosexual Female leader / Homosexual Male follower

Gender neutral tango reduces the number of options to four:

1. Male Leader/ Female Follower

2. Male Leader/ Male Follower

3. Female Leader/ Female Follower

4. Female Leader/ Male Follower

This limits the options almost as much as traditional tango. Whereas gender neutral tango provides the benefit of flexible gender roles, they can cause confusion when the dancers want to use the tango as a form of courtship, as in the golden age. Queer Tango offers more options for dancers.

The History of Queer Tango

While queer tango has become very popular in Argentina during the last two decades, it, surprisingly, did not originate in Argentina. Queer tango was born in Hamburg, Germany, where the first gay milonga opened in the mid 1980s. The first queer tango festival was also held in Hamburg in 2001.

The intent of two of the founders of the movement, Marga Nagel and Ute Walter, was to be inclusive rather than exclusive. All tango enthusiasts who were interested in experimenting with the identities of its functions and with tango in general were invited. Angel and Walter were part of the first queer tango scene that originated in the gay club “Tuc Tuc” in the 1980’s.

The queer tango movement in Germany inspired other countries to start their own queer tango scenes. Queer tango festivals are celebrated around the world, including in Denmark, Sweden, the United States and Argentina.

According to the website of the International Queer Tango Festival in Hamburg, “the intention of Queer theory is to analyze the prevalent heterosexual norms and open possibilities for development. This can be achieved through the release of sensual experiences – eroticism, sexuality, fantasies – its heteronormative orientation and giving encouragement to be creative and fun. ”

Tango is the dance of Buenos Aires and should be open to all community members who want to learn. Queer Tango opens this cultural pastime to a greater number of participants. It also allows the dancers to experiment with gender roles, which is significant in a world where gender roles are constantly being blurred, while also providing an outlet open to gay and lesbian tango dancers.

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Sources

GLBTQ: An Encyclopedia of gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender & queer culture

Tenth International Queer Tango Argentino Festival, Hamburg

Finn, Maria. “Dancing Scruffy Cheek-to-Scruffy Cheek: Gay Tango.”

Forero, Juan. “Argentina becomes second nation in Americas to legalize gay marriage.” The Seattle Times

International Gay & Lesbian Human Rights Commission

Hunt, Mary Ellen. “Queer tango throws out leader-follower rules.” San Francisco Chronicle

Spiritus Temporis

Queer Tango Argentina

Tango Voice

ToTango

“Tango Gender Equality.” ToTango