Non incautus futuri

A Washington & Lee junior and Marine Officer Candidate in Spain

Archive for November 2011

Best Weekend Ever: Paris (A W&L Thanksgiving)

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One of the disadvantages of studying abroad is that you miss a lot of holidays from back home. And missing out can sometimes be a little rough. You see Facebook statuses, Twitter updates, and pictures from America that remind you of all the memories you’ve missed out on. I’ve found that the best cure for staving off the homesickness is creating memories of your own. So this year for Thanksgiving, I went to Paris.

I wasn’t alone — in fact, I met up with four friends from Washington and Lee. Stephanie is spending a year abroad studying philosophy and politics at Oxford. Natasha is studying in Geneva and working with the United Nations. Steele is toiling with French and international relations in Paris. And Ashley (who described wintry Paris as “balmy”) is in Denmark.

The result was probably the most awesome weekend I’ve had in Europe. We did some touristy things: in only two days, we managed to see the Invalides, Napoleon’s tomb, the Arc du Triomphe, the Champs Elysees, the Chateau de Vincennes, the Seinne booksellers, and the Eiffel Tower. We ate Nutella crêpes, attended a wine tasting (unlimited wine was cheaper than a single cup of coffee, thanks France), and had chocolate croissants.

The best times, however, were undoubtedly those with my fellow Generals. It was so much fun catching up with everyone. Stephanie apparently knows Emma Watson (who is also studying at Oxford) and shared a very interesting music playlist with the group. Natasha rubs shoulders with Liberian diplomats. Steele lives in a palace of an apartment and talks politics with a (seemingly — I don’t speak French) polished French accent. And Ashley regaled us with tales of Danish hospitality and Scandinavian adventures.

Seeing my W&L friends was just what I needed — my program here in Spain is winding down, and in exactly 26 days I will be back in the United States. But I’ll be bringing back a lot of great memories…and I’ll get to see everyone again for more than just a weekend!

Desde España, un abrazo fuerte.



Written by Lee

November 28, 2011 at 14:54

Posted in Uncategorized

To the North: Santiago de Compostela

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“There can be few cities in the world as beautiful as Santiago [de Compostela] that are founded on the basis of so preposterous a story.”Lonely Planet guide to Spain.

Santiago de Compostela is the capital city of Galicia, a vibrant autonomous community (sort of like a state) in the northwestern extremity of Spain. Galicia is known for some of the freshest seafood in Europe, owing to the many rías (fjords) along its coasts. It is also the origin of gallego, one of Spain’s four official languages (the others are Castilian Spanish, Catalán, and Basque). Additionally, the city is the ultimate destination for thousands of pilgrims who trek the Camino de Santiago, a rugged route across southern France and northern Spain.

Legend has it that the beheaded body of the Apostle James was transported to Galicia. In 813, a shepherd claimed to find the remains of Santiago. The discovery was “confirmed” by a bishop, and a great cathedral was erected over the saint’s body. Over time, the city of Santiago de Compostela grew around the cathedral, and became one of the great cities of Spain.

I spent three days in this historic city. Unfortunately, it was cold and rainy most of the time. Galicia is part of “green Spain,” the northern zone of the country. Its weather, geography, and culture are completely different from Alicante — at times, I wondered if I was in a different country.

Despite the weather, I had a great time. The gray weather actually enhanced the austere medieval feel of the city. And my travel companions and I got a lot done in three days! We ate some good food, saw the famous cathedral, and walked a TON. I am pretty sure that we saw the entire city on foot — Lord, we walked a lot.

Anyway, enough boring reading. Pictures:

I know I said enough with the boring reading, but I lied. In addition to studying Spanish, I also study politics. In fact, I’m a huge pol nerd. So I can’t restrain myself from recording this little observation.

The Spanish national elections are coming up, and all commentators expect a landslide victory for the right-wing Popular Party. But in Galicia, I noticed something interesting — the campaign signs for the other major party, the Spanish Socialist Worker’s Party (PSOE) are all written in Galician!

The above PSOE slogan in Spanish is “Pelea por lo que quieres,” which means, “Fight for what you love.” On the other hand, the PP slogan is “Súmate al cambio,” or “Become part of the change.”

It doesn’t seem like a big deal that PSOE’s signs are in gallego unless you know a little bit about the history and politics of Spain. Under Franco’s regime, there was one Spain and one language. Regional differences were brutally repressed — if you spoke Galician in public, you were liable to end up in jail. After Franco’s death in 1975, the new Spanish government recognized “autonomous communities” that maintained their own separate languages and cultures.

The thing is, the degree of autonomy enjoyed by communities is contentious in Spanish politics. Supporters of PSOE tend to favor more autonomy for the local cultures, and you can see that stance reflected in the above picture. The PP, on the other hand, prefers more centralized government — which may be the reason why its campaign signs in Santiago are all in Castilian Spanish.

Anyway, enough political nerdiness. Maybe I’ll write a post sometimes about Spanish politics, but I don’t know that a) I have sufficient objective information about it and b) anyone would actually read it.

¡Un abrazo fuerte desde España!

Written by Lee

November 13, 2011 at 13:24

Posted in Spain

Happy Birthday, Marines

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Sorry to interrupt the Spain blogging, but today deserves a special post. Because 236 years ago today, the world’s finest fighting organization was born.

The Marines — leathernecks, devil dogs, “no better friends, no worse enemies”– have served with honor and distinction in every American armed conflict. Belleau Wood, Guadalcanal, Tarawa, Iwo Jima, Chosin Reservoir, Hue City, Fallujah: the Marine Corps sanctified these places with blood and sacrifice. And it has sustained itself through honor, courage, and commitment.

This year is particularly special, because it also marks 10 years of continuous war. For 10 years, the armed services have borne the brunt of heavy fighting and constant deployments. Those sacrifices are unequal. As one anonymous sign in a forward operating base said: “America is not at war. The Marine Corps is at war. America is at the mall.”

In the words of Lieutenant General John Kelly:

“It is a fact that our country today is in a life and death struggle against an evil enemy, but America as a whole is certainly not at war. Not as a country. Not as a people. Today, only a tiny fraction-­‐less than a percent-­‐shoulder the burden of fear and sacrifice, and they shoulder it for the rest of us. Their sons and daughters who serve are men and women of character who continue to believe in this country enough to put life and limb on the line without qualification, and without thought of personal gain, and they serve so that the sons and daughters of the other 99% don’t have to. No big deal, though, as Marines have always been “the first to fight” paying in full the bill that comes with being free…for everyone else…

We can also take comfort in the fact that these young Americans are not born killers, but are good and decent young men and women who for going on ten years have performed remarkable acts of bravery and selflessness to a cause they have decided is bigger and more important than themselves. Only a few months ago they were delivering your paper, stocking shelves in the local grocery store, worshiping in church on Sunday, or playing hockey on local ice. Like my own two sons who are Marines and have fought in Iraq, and today in Sangin, Afghanistan, they are also the same kids that drove their cars too fast for your liking, and played the God-­‐awful music of their generation too loud, but have no doubt they are the finest of their generation. Like those who went before them in uniform, we owe them everything. We owe them our safety. We owe them our prosperity. We owe them our freedom. We owe them our lives. Any one of them could have done something more self-­‐ serving with their lives as the vast majority of their age group elected to do after high school and college, but no, they chose to serve knowing full well a brutal war was in their future. They did not avoid the basic and cherished responsibility of a citizen-­‐the defense of country-­‐they welcomed it. They are the very best this country produces, and have put every one of us ahead of themselves. All are heroes for simply stepping forward, and we as a people owe a debt we can never fully pay. Their legacy will be of selfless valor, the country we live in, the way we live our lives, and the freedoms the rest of their countrymen take for granted.”

Indomitable Spirit: The 236th Marine Corps Birthday Message

Message from the Commandant of the Marine Corps, Gen. James Amos, and the Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps, Sgt. Maj. Barrett.

Marine 9/11 Rap

This video was made shortly after 9/11 by a Marine staff sergeant.

May God bless the United States Marine Corps, and keep our Marines in harm’s way safe.

Semper Fidelis, and Happy Birthday.

Written by Lee

November 10, 2011 at 14:00

Posted in Marine Corps