Sugar and Spice

“Yes, I Would Like Coffee with my Milk and Sugar, Thank You”

By Eric Odynocki

So this is not a book report, but a review of a café I and other members of the Library Club went to the other day after work. Ever since I have come back from Spain, I have had an insistent craving for coffee and to sip it amongst friends in a cozy café. Living out in the middle of suburbia affords only the McDonalds of coffee joints, Starbucks, to enjoy such a social activity. I absolutely despise Starbucks coffee for its horrible taste. I really think their brand should not be even called coffee at all and I am doubtful as to the validity of their coffee beans actually being coffee beans and not some other foul substance which looks like them (I’ll allow your imaginations to conjure up what I insinuate…)

Getting back on topic, my search for a good café where I could drink warm beverages like the cappuccinos I enjoyed in Europe have been met with much disappointment. Even the coffee joints in the ritzy town near the university were disillusioning since their drinks did not satisfy my expectations and their stores close too early for my friends and I to hang out there after work or let alone on a Saturday night. I complained of my failed quests to Victor, the Library Club advisor, who then suggested the “Milk and Sugar Café” in Bayshore. The name sounded magical and due to his enthusiasm, I was eager to try this place out. Hence, a Library Club field trip was born.

While it is on the complete opposite shore of Long Island in relation to Stony Brook, I would have to say the forty-minute-or-so trip was well worth it. The café was more of a restaurant, but not very big. Though not bohemian, the setting was not snobbishly aristocratic either, being very warm and inviting, with comfortable furniture placed throughout the dining room, though perhaps a bit too formal for my taste. The service was very helpful and immediate, though not rushed like in a diner or other eatery. The cappuccino I had was delicious and exactly what I had been looking for. My companions were also more than satisfied with their teas and coffee that they chose. The variety of beverages is remarkable and not redundantly fancy like in other coffee joints where the combination of flavors and ingredients becomes another language or secret code that only the most frequent of customers can crack (None of this fake corporate jargon: “Yeah, could I get a double frappe-mocha-choco-choco-chai-latte-frizzle…)

Though a tad bit on the pricey side, I would recommend the “Milk and Sugar Café” over Starbucks any day. The café’s quality is superbly better and might actually be cheaper. Who can resist that? After a crazy week at work, or a long time of not seeing old friends, or enjoying time with a significant other, the “Milk and Sugar Café” is sure to please you in any circumstance.

Milk and Sugar on Google Maps.

The Store

The Author

Book Report on: Lope de Vega’s Fuente Ovejuna

Book Report on:

Lope de Vega’s Fuente Ovejuna

By Eric Odynocki

                 While I was away in Spain, I took all Spanish literature classes and so learned quite a bit of the Castilian literary heritage.  One of the authors whose works I read was the playwright, Lope de Vega, who is basically the Spanish equivalent of Shakespeare and was renowned for his poetic diction, colorful characters and his intricate plots which the masses could enjoy.  One of his plays that most impressed me was Fuente Ovejuna, the translation of which might be something like Sheep Fountain or perhaps even Sheep Well.  Now, I must caution that I will provide a full synopsis of the play below so for those of you who do not wish the story to be spoiled, I suggest you stop reading now and simply take out the text from the library or watch its many film versions.  Of course, it would be better to see it in Spanish but I believe English versions of the play are available, but as with most translations, the original beauty of the diction may be lost.  I will end this introduction before going on to the plot by saying that for those of you who enjoy Baroque theater, a strong female character, and bloody vengeance during an awesome rebellion, then Fuente Ovejuna is right up your alley!

                Based on an actual event, this play takes place in a remote village called, of course, Fuente Ovejuna during the reign of the Catholic King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella (that’s back in the late 1400’s, folks).  In this village live two childhood sweethearts, Frondoso and Laurencia whose courtship promises a happy future marriage.  The tranquility of their lives is brutally interrupted, however, when Mr. BAMF himself, Fernán Gómez de Guzmán, a commander of the army, enters the village and begins acting like a tyrant, or jerk if you prefer, towards its people.  Fernán sets his beady lascivious eyes on Laurencia and causes misery at her wedding with Frondoso by imprisoning the groom and taking the bride away to do as he wishes with her.  Later on, the men of the village sit in the house of Laurencia’s father so as to chat over the predicament.  Laurencia enters all battered and bruised to the point that no one recognizes her.  She then presents my favorite part of the play, a monologue in which she throws the biggest (pardon my language) b*tch fit at the men of the town, calling them sheep, cowards, women, and even maricones for having let this atrocity happen to her.  Abashed, the men try to recover their machismo by taking up arms against Fernán.  Laurencia, who is apparently still pissed off, even rouses all the women of the town to join in the fight.  The village then marches on the castle of Fernán and captures it, freeing Frondoso and killing and decapitating the tyrant.  When the king and queen hear about this, they are horrified and send an inquisitor to investigate.  Despite his many methods of torture, the inquisitor returns to the king and queen to report that no one in the village divulged the name of the murderer but kept insisting, “Fuente Ovejuna did it.”  In the end, the king and queen must decide whether to pardon or condemn to death, the entire village…

From the description I provide above of the play’s story, it should be quite easy to fathom as to how groundbreaking it really was.  During a time when women were subservient to men and took a secondary role in society and public affairs, Lope de Vega provides Laurencia and the other women of the town as reprieve from the reality of the past.  Unlike the typical, or at least expected, “Oh-woe-is-me” attitude most dainty and frail female characters would have in such a situation during this literary period, Laurencia actually fights back with no mercy, inspiring an entire village to rebel and defend its dignity.  Such a radical difference is what made me love the play, and I am sure you will, too.  It should also remind us of a little saying that goes a little something like: “Hell hath no fury…”

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Trip Report: Sevilla, España

A Little Snippet on:

My Study Abroad Experience in Sevilla, España

By Eric Odynocki

Instead of a book report, I have been asked to write a little review or reflection of the spring semester I spent abroad in Spain. To begin, I suppose it would be good to explain that ever since high school I have had a dream, as cliché as it sounds, to study abroad for a semester in Spain. After planning and working furiously towards this goal throughout college, the opportunity finally became fulfilled this past spring semester. While my own university had several programs in Spain, I opted to participate in the program that another SUNY school offered in Seville, a provincial but very historic city in the culturally rich southern region of Andalucía. I think I made the right decision since I could not have asked for a better experience: it seriously was the best time of my life… well, at least so far.

There were some difficulties when going through the paperwork for applying to the program such as supposed missing documents and some miscommunications as to how long the visa process actually took. Other than that, though, I was able to arrive in Spain without any stress and begin my semester abroad.

For orientation, eighteen other students and I spent two days in Granada, another Andalucian city, and then two days in a resort in Marbella, a vacation spot on the Costa del Sol with beautiful beaches. Afterward, we arrived in Sevilla where we settled into our quite spacious apartments in the modern center of the city. I was fortunate enough share an apartment with three other individuals who I came to know more as siblings than as suitemates.

We were foreign students in the University of Seville system, and the literature and history classes we attended, which were all conducted in Spanish, were held in the Old Factory of Tobacco. It may not sound so pleasant, but in actuality, the building was constructed back in the eighteenth century and looks like a palace with patios and courtyards with fountains and corridors of red and black marble columns. The fact is that it used to be a factory where all the tobacco from the Americas was made into cigarettes and was later converted into academic space for the University of Seville in the 1950’s. The building is so impressive that its main courtyard with its picturesque fountain inspired Merimée to write his famous Carmen.

The city of Seville itself is, as a song says, a marvel to behold. The old part consists of winding twisting, not roads, but alleyways with bleach white houses dating back to the seventeenth century. Parks perfumed with purple flowers and filled with whispering fountains, such as the Parque María Luisa, are stitched throughout the city and the broad avenues are lined with orange trees that seem to be sprinkled with creamy white blossoms that give off a sweet fragrance during the spring. The majority of the days were sunny and warm, allowing for lively evening outdoor activity in the cafes and bars that are everywhere. One of my favorite pastimes in Seville was going out with friends to drink a café con leche.

Now that I look back on my four months abroad, I feel as though it were not even real, but a dream. There would not be sufficient space on this page to describe all the adventures and cross-cultural discoveries that I enjoyed while away. So, I think I will conclude by simply saying that if one has the possibility to study abroad, (because, for the love of all things intelligent, it is expensive) to go ahead and do so. I assure you it will be one of the best experiences of your life.

Gardens of Sevilla’s Alcazar (castle)

La Plaza de España

La Calle Agua (Water Street)

Entrance to the University of Sevilla

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Brook Report on:Guadalupe Valdés’ Learning and Not Learning English: Latino Students in American Schools

Brook Report on:

Guadalupe Valdés’ Learning and Not Learning English: Latino Students in American Schools

By Eric Odynocki

Anyone who has not been living under a rock for the past few decades would easily recognize that one of the major social issues facing the United States today is that of immigration or rather its illegal counterpart. What many seem to forget, however, is that besides boiling the tumultuous pot of job availability in this country, illegal immigration’s affects seep into more subtle areas of society such as education, concentrating mostly around ESL programs. Like stubborn and unsightly weeds, burning questions never seem to die around these English classes for newly arrived, legal or not, foreign students, such as: what should be taught in these courses? How should they be taught? Who should teach them? And, most importantly in the minds of taxpayers, how should these courses be funded?

While not providing solutions to all the above perplexing problems, Guadalupe Valdés does portray the overall predicament concerning ESL programs with California during the 1990’s as a backdrop for her observations in her book Learning and Not Learning English: Latino Students in American Schools. At first sounding formal and very academic in the first few chapters where she depicts the context of her research, the author’s tone softens to a more story-telling style when she continues to describe the experiences of four Latino students enrolled in ESL programs at various levels. It would appear that this change in writing technique makes the reader suddenly remember that he or she is not just reading information for which to develop personal opinions or approaches toward literacy development for English language learners, but that the lives and eventual fate of younger generations, of real people, are involved, as well. The more novel-style reading does not lead to, however, fanciful or happy-go-lucky endings for the students she discusses, as Valdés pointedly notes in her introduction.

While admitting also in her introduction to subjectivity only because she had gone through the same experiences as her subjects, Valdés presents a sugar-free portrayal of the deplorable situation of many if not all ESL programs in the United States. Thus, I think by reading Learning and Not Learning English the reader will gain a practical knowledge on the topic at hand through a perspective unspoiled by alienating and snobbish scholarly language that might ruin or divert attention from the ultimate consequence of the decisions produced in response to this question. Going to Stony Brook University on Long Island, so close to the infamous Farmingville where the predicament over illegal immigration most particularly fomented and inspired the documentary by the same name, Learning and Not Learning English is certainly relevant to what exists in the schools in our area. Thus, this book might be a reminder to many that we are not immune to one of America’s most difficult issues.