Monday, December 14, 2009

Brussels to You

I will be traveling to Brussels, Belgium next semester for a semester abroad. As of right now, I plan to be interning for the Associated Press while taking two culture classes at Vesalius College. Brussels is an amazing city that is truly a mix of cultures and peoples from around the world. It is also the capital of the European Union, so politics are never lacking. Therefore, starting in January, for the next five months, this blog will become my way of sharing the politics, culture, and everyday adventures from Europe to you. I hope you enjoy.

Friday, October 9, 2009

President Obama Wins Peace Prize

President Obama promised to bring hope to the international sphere, and he certainly has, at least in the opinion of the Nobel Prize board. The board awarded President Obama the Nobel Peace Prize today, boosting his standing in the international realm. Obama supporters were thrilled and many Europeans also seemed elated with the great contrast between the Obama and the Bush administrations' reputation with foreign leaders. Republicans balked when former vice-president Al Gore won the prize in 2007, and they will most likely do so again with Obama.

Whether or not one is a Republican, the question does arise, "Is the Peace Prize awarded for what has been or what will be done?" The most famous Peace Prize was awarded to Mother Teresa in 1979, years after she had begun her mission work. Are we now to give someone an award for something they hope to do? However, if this is true, maybe it is not such a bad thing. The prize will definitely boost Obama's reputation, and Iran's spokesman already said, "We hope that this gives him the incentive to walk in the path of bringing justice to the world order." And there is something to be said about a opportunistic attitude. Without the attitude that Obama has about reaching out into the world, nothing would be done. As it stands today, we will have to wait and see over the next few years whether or not the Nobel Prize board made the correct choice for this year's peace prize.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Avoiding Ignorant Speech

Many times we find ourselves listening to people speak on certain topics as though they were experts. Then, about half-way through their soliloquy, we realize they have no credentials to speak on this particular topic. That is not to say that they are not educated or knowledgeable about a great many other things, but only to say that they have stepped beyond their boundaries.

If you follow blogs or the news, you know that many people have been writing about Senator Edward "Ted" Kennedy today. I will not. The reason I will refrain from writing about Senator Kennedy is not because he is unworthy. In fact, he did a great many things that should be recognized. The reason I will not write about him is this simple fact: I do not know enough about him to speak intelligently.

Particularly in blogs, but in other media as well, I have found this trend of talking about that which we have no true knowledge to be growing. Everyone wants to put in their opinions, when really they do not know the basic facts. For example, take the recent town hall meetings on health care. These meetings have been extremely passionate to say the least. However, President Obama did make a good point in one of his meetings. He asked how many people in the audience had Medicare. A good portion of those people raised their hands. Then he asked how many of those people were satisfied with their health insurance. A good majority of those people raised their hands. Then, he asked how many people would support some sort of government health care plan. Only a couple people in the audience raised their hands. What those people in the audience did not realize is that many of them are already on a government health care plan, Medicare, and they were satisfied with it.

Now a government health care option may not be good for the United States at this time. There are obviously some difficulties with it. But people need to stop speaking on that which they have no knowledge. I feel like what we are sometimes experiencing in our never-ending stretch for democracy is what is known as "ignorance of the masses."

I have just come from a discussion on Jane Austen's Persuasion, and one of the main points my professor made was that the main character Anne Elliot is to be admired because she attempts to see herself as no more than she truly is. She does not pretend she is any smarter or more important than she actually is. While this mindset is quite foreign to our way of thinking, there is something to be admired about it. By admitting to our shortcomings, we are more willing to listen and learn from those that excel in that particular area. After all, it is only by owning to our cracks that we are able to fill them and seal them shut.

So there you have it. I will not comment on the life of Senator Edward Kennedy except to give my condolences to all his friends and family. Beyond that I will not say another word as it would be beyond my true abilities and imprudent for me to do so.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

US Intervention in Honduras

In my last blog, I mentioned the fact that I questioned wether or not the Honduras coup was a U.S. government intervention. John Perkins, author of Confessions of an Economic Hit man, sent out this newsletter yesterday.

Dear Friends

Speaking of Democracy, Honduras, and President Obama. . .

In writing my new book Hoodwinked (Random House, Nov 2009 publication date), I recently visited Central America. Everyone I talked with there was convinced that the military coup that had overthrown the democratically-elected president of Honduras, Manuel Zelaya, had been engineered by two US companies, with CIA support. And that the US and its new president were not standing up for democracy.

Earlier in the year Chiquita Brands International Inc. (formerly United Fruit) and Dole Food Co had severely criticized Zelaya for advocating an increase of 60% in Honduras’s minimum wage, claiming that the policy would cut into corporate profits. They were joined by a coalition of textile manufacturers and exporters, companies that rely on cheap labor to work in their sweatshops.

Memories are short in the US, but not in Central America. I kept hearing people who claimed that it was a matter of record that Chiquita (United Fruit) and the CIA had toppled Guatemala’s democratically-elected president Jacobo Arbenz in 1954 and that International Telephone & Telegraph (ITT), Henry Kissinger, and the CIA had brought down Chile’s Salvador Allende in 1973. These people were certain that Haiti’s president Jean-Bertrand Aristide had been ousted by the CIA in 2004 because he proposed a minimum wage increase, like Zelaya’s.

I was told by a Panamanian bank vice president, “Every multinational knows that if Honduras raises its hourly rate, the rest of Latin America and the Caribbean will have to follow. Haiti and Honduras have always set the bottom line for minimum wages. The big companies are determined to stop what they call a ‘leftist revolt’ in this hemisphere. In throwing out Zelaya they are sending frightening messages to all the other presidents who are trying to raise the living standards of their people.”

It did not take much imagination to envision the turmoil sweeping through every Latin American capital. There had been a collective sign of relief at Barack Obama’s election in the U.S., a sense of hope that the empire in the North would finally exhibit compassion toward its southern neighbors, that the unfair trade agreements, privatizations, draconian IMF Structural Adjustment Programs, and threats of military intervention would slow down and perhaps even fade away. Now, that optimism was turning sour.

The cozy relationship between Honduras’s military coup leaders and the corporatocracy were confirmed a couple of days after my arrival in Panama. England’s The Guardian ran an article announcing that “two of the Honduran coup government's top advisers have close ties to the US secretary of state. One is Lanny Davis, an influential lobbyist who was a personal lawyer for President Bill Clinton and also campaigned for Hillary. . . The other hired gun for the coup government that has deep Clinton ties is (lobbyist) Bennett Ratcliff.” (1)

DemocracyNow! broke the news that Chiquita was represented by a powerful Washington law firm, Covington & Burling LLP, and its consultant, McLarty Associates (2). President Obama’s Attorney General Eric Holder had been a Covington partner and a defender of Chiquita when the company was accused of hiring “assassination squads” in Colombia (Chiquita was found guilty, admitting that it had paid organizations listed by the US government as terrorist groups “for protection” and agreeing in 2004 to a $25 million fine). (3) George W. Bush’s UN Ambassador, John Bolton, a former Covington lawyer, had fiercely opposed Latin American leaders who fought for their peoples’ rights to larger shares of the profits derived from their resources; after leaving the government in 2006, Bolton became involved with the Project for the New American Century, the Council for National Policy, and a number of other programs that promote corporate hegemony in Honduras and elsewhere. McLarty Vice Chairman John Negroponte was U.S. Ambassador to Honduras from 1981-1985, former Deputy Secretary of State, Director of National Intelligence, and U.S. Representative to the United Nations; he played a major role in the U.S.-backed Contra’s secret war against Nicaragua’s Sandinista government and has consistently opposed the policies of the democratically-elected pro-reform Latin American presidents. (4) These three men symbolize the insidious power of the corporatocracy, its bipartisan composition, and the fact that the Obama Administration has been sucked in.

The Los Angeles Times went to the heart of this matter when it concluded:

What happened in Honduras is a classic Latin American coup in another sense: Gen. Romeo Vasquez, who led it, is an alumnus of the United States' School of the Americas (renamed the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation). The school is best known for producing Latin American officers who have committed major human rights abuses, including military coups. (5)

All of this leads us once again to the inevitable conclusion: you and I must change the system. The president – whether Democrat or Republican – needs us to speak out.

Chiquita, Dole and all your representatives need to hear from you. Zelaya must be reinstated.


(1) “Who's in charge of US foreign policy? The coup in Honduras has exposed divisions between Barack Obama and his secretary of state, Hillary Clinton” by Mark Weisbrot (July 23, 2009)

(2) (July 23, 2009)

(3) “Chiquita admits to paying Colombia terrorists: Banana company agrees to $25 million fine for paying AUC for protection” MSNBC March 15, 2007 (July 24, 2009)

(4) Fore more information: (July 23, 2009)

(5) “The high-powered hidden support for Honduras' coup: The country's rightful president was ousted by a military leadership that takes many of its cues from Washington insiders.” by Mark Weisbrot, Los Angeles Times, July 23, 2009,0,7566740.story (July 23, 2009)

I did email John Perkins Web site and ask him about President Obama and the White House's remarks condemning the coup and saying Zelaya must be reinstated. I have yet to receive a reply. However, I think it is important to notice how the companies have a major role in this, one that may very well be much larger than the U.S. government's role. Companies like this must be stopped. Send them letters and emails. Stop buying their goods. Do whatever peaceable actions it takes, because eventually, this will only lead to more violence, death, and poverty.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Confessions of an Economic Hit Man

This past weekend was the Fourth of July. This past weekend, I have never been more disappointed in my country. On Sunday, July 5, I finished reading Confessions of an Economic Hit Man. I believe every American should read this book. And my only disappointment is that it took me so long before someone gave it to me and told me to read it.

The author, John Perkins, worked as an economic hit man for many years before he finally decided to get out of the business and write a book about how his career and the strategies of the United States were enslaving the rest of the world.

Economic hit men are, in brief, men from U.S. private corporations who are sent into other countries to propose enormous construction and development contracts that will supposedly create great economic prosperity for the country. However, what actually occurs is that the country incurs enormous amounts of debt to the United States and therefore become like slaves to the U.S. and expand what Perkins called the U.S. empire.

Before reading this book, I had a basic idea that these kinds of things were happening. I knew that the CIA had been used to overthrow many world leaders and further American interests. But I didn't know how intricate this system was.

And the worst part about it is we fund this system. We by clothes from places that are run by the labor of underpaid workers in sweatshops across the world. We turn our eyes away from unjust wars and unprovoked attacks on other countries. We shut our ears from the outcries of so many other countries and pretend that our oil addiction contributes to the prosperity of oil-rich nations, when in reality, our oil addiction is sending them into the most impoverished conditions.

Although I have no facts to back this up, I began questioning world events and whether or not they were supported by this "empire" system. Are the destruction of Indian slums and therefore the displacement of its inhabitants being funded by U.S. contractors? Was the recent ousting of Honduras' leader the result of a discontent population or a CIA agent?

But then I started thinking about the direction our country is headed, and how our past does not have to determine our future. We can stop supporting places that make their money from sweatshops. We can refuse to elect leaders who will fund military invasions of other countries. We can cut back on our oil consumption.

We can change. But it will take work. And I would recommend that you first read this book. It will open our eyes to a whole new world and allow you to see the country that you call home in a whole other light. We can change the connotation "American" has in other countries. And I hope that day comes sooner than later, for the sake of ourselves and the world.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

A Different Mindset

Today, Ahmadinejad won the Iranian presidential elections to secure his second term. Before the results came out, I kept hearing encouraging news about the main opposition candidate Mousavi. His platform was more democratic and his wife encouraged many women to support him. I began to hope, that this man would change the face of Iran. I was hoping that a win from him might change the U.S.-Iranian relations. 

However, that did not occur. And I began to wonder why. Sure, rigging could have occurred, but since Ahmadinejad won by about 30 percentage points, I find it hard to believe that he rigged it that much. So why could the Iranian people see Ahmadinejad for what I saw him for? A crazy man who hates Israel and wants to push his own agenda so much that he denies historical facts like the Holocaust. 

But one man interviewed on NPR brought up a good point. He was in New York, voting in the Iranian elections. He said that he was voting for Ahmadinejad because the current president demanded respect from Western nations like the United States. When I heard this before the elections, I brushed it off as one of probably a few people who believed this. I thought a lot of people probably would just vote for Ahmadinejad because they were somehow involved in his politics. But after the election, I realized this was not the case. 

Of course there are many reasons why people voted for him. The poorer individuals probably voted for him because he promised them his support. But I began to think of that man's reasoning again...he demands respect. Then I thought, maybe it really is our fault that Ahmadinejad won. Because of years of the West acting like they are better than our Eastern counterparts, we have driven them to turn to leaders who "demand respect," whether that be through nuclear arms, threats of hoarding oil or many other similar tactics. 

When all of the European countries pulled out of Africa, dictators started taking over. Why was that? Again, there are probably tons of reasons. But I can't help but think that one of those reasons is because the people were hurt. They were knocked down, and they needed to know that they were not inferior. And if one of their people could get up and show himself to be a strong, domineering individual, it meant they, the people, were not inferior. 

It's time we show these countries a little respect. I'm not promoting soft negotiations. We must look out for our own interests as well. But it's time we stop acting superior. It's time we try to look through another person's eyes. We think democracy is flawless elections and millions of dollars spent on political campaigns. But isn't the basis of democracy allowing everyone to have a voice? So lets see what the people of other countries see. Let's hear what they hear. Then, maybe we can understand what they want.

I have a feeling it won't be that much different from what we want as well...a little freedom, a little security, a little happiness... a little respect.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

A World of Culture in My Backyard

You don't realize how much your culture means to you until you enter another culture. When I lived in Texas, I hated it. This is not typical for Texans either. Most Texans are extremely proud to be a Texan, but I thought the weather was awful and my city of San Antonio was extremely boring. Then I moved to Missouri.

Don't get me wrong, I love Missouri, but coming here made me realize how unique San Antonio culture is. In San Antonio, there is real Mexican food. In San Antonio, there are traditions that no one else has. I used to hate hearing Spanish spoken in the grocery stores, but after being in Columbia, Missouri for nearly nine months, I savor the few moments when I hear a student pass by who is speaking Spanish. 

Last weekend, I went to the outskirts of St. Louis for Easter. My roommate's mom is a youth minister, and so we helped with the Easter egg hunt that they were putting on at their church. As she was explaining the schedule to the parents, she told them she had a surprise for them. 
"This year, we have something new," she said. "They are called cascarones. Cascarones are egg shells that have been hollowed out and filled with confetti. What you do is you take the egg and crack it over someone's head."

At this point, I was so confused. Why was she explaining what a cascarone was to these parents as though they had never heard of it before? As it turned out, they hadn't. As I went out to the parking lot later to prepare the cascarones for the children, the parents were talking excitedly about the confetti eggs. "Have you ever seen these before?" one parent asked to another.

Then it hit me. Other parts of the United States don't use cascarones on Easter. In San Antonio, every year at my great-aunt's house, all the cousins would get cascarones to crack on our relatives' heads. To me, Easter was not Easter without cascarones, and no one in my family is Hispanic. But the Spanish culture had influenced us although we didn't realize it.

At that moment, with the Missouri parents awing over the cascarones in the parking lot of a St. Louis suburban church, I finally felt proud to be a San Antonian. Suddenly, I fell in love with my culture.

How is it that all those years, I missed it. I missed the privilege it was to live in a place where two cultures collided to form a beautiful mosaic. Perhaps it was because our lives were still quite separate. I went to a upper class private school that had less than ten Hispanics in the high school of 400. Although I constantly heard Spanish spoken around me, I know little more than hola and adios. Maybe it was the racism of my peers that I heard every day like, "Why can't they just speak English if they are going to come to our country." For a long time, I agreed with this. It took me a long time to understand how difficult it was for an immigrant to learn a new language. It took me a long time to realize that almost every single one of those immigrants was braver and stronger than I could ever be.

But now that I have discovered the beauty of my culture, I am going to embrace it this summer. This summer will probably be the longest time I ever spend at home again, and I don't want it to go to waste. If only others can learn from my mistake and embrace their culture sooner instead of wanting to run away to another so quickly, I can't help but think our home would be a place.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Small Miracles, Big Treasures

Today, a small miracle occurred. For the past year, my grandfather (my mother's father) has been suffering from dementia. It has slowly gotten worse by the month until he is now unable to tell who my mom and grandmother are. My grandmother does not feel comfortable putting him in a nursing home for fear that the change will be detrimental. She also can't bear the thought of leaving his side. So he has gone on like this for many months, not making any sense when he speaks and rarely understanding even simple sentences like what he would like to drink with his meal. 

The other day, one of my acquaintances at the San Antonio Express News, columnist Ken Rodriguez, was kind enough to call me about an article he was working on. He was writing about multimedia and journalism, and since I am a convergence major (which basically means I am learning how to use video, audio, print and photo forms of media) at the University of Missouri-Columbia, he decided to interview me. As it turned out, he wrote a glowing piece about all I am accomplishing, using terms that I thought were way to generous for the limited knowledge I have managed to gain. But nevertheless, my family was extremely proud, and my mom naturally showed the article to many family members. 

So she went over to my grandfather's house, like she does many days of the week to keep my grandmother company, and she decided to show the article to my grandfather. After she let him read it for a couple of minutes, she asked a question, probably not really expecting a comprehensible response.

"Do you know who that is, Daddy?"

"Of course I do," my grandfather answered. "That's Gretchen?"

Still unsure since my name was in the article, she asked again. 

"Yes, but do you know who that is?"

"Yes," he answered. "That's my Gretchen."

My mom says she believes he knew what he was talking about. And I believe this is a small miracle since he has not seen me for nearly two months while I have been away at college. I may never understand the human mind or the Supernatural, but I do know that I will treasure these small moments, and thank the people and God who make them possible. 

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Seeing Ourselves Through Another's Eyes

This past week, Anne Garrels, a foreign correspondent for National Public Radio, came to Mizzou. Because I currently work for the NPR affiliate station in Columbia, I had the amazing opportunity to eat dinner with her one night. Her stories were amazing and her courage that these stories revealed was even more so. Yet what surprised me the most was the story she told us about the U.S. invasion into Iraq. Garrels was one of the few reporters in Iraq at the time of the invasion, and she told us about the Iraqis' reactions to the invasion. 

Some were genuinely thrilled, she said, but most were just "scared sh**less." She would later tone down her language for a more public audience. Generally I do not condone cursing, but for some reason, the way she said it painted a more vivid picture in my mind than anything else she could have said.

The pictures that came back to the U.S. from that day show the Iraqis pulling down the statue and beating it with all kinds of weapons. But notice that you cannot see the people who are actually pulling down the statue. Anne Garrels said that there were not even enough Iraqis in the square to pull down the statue. U.S. Marines had to help them pull it down. 

This shows that ethical journalism is not just about writing the truth. It is about telling the truth in every way, even if that is through pictures. Some journalists like Anne Garrels did give an accurate description of the Iraqis' reaction to the invasion, but others did not. As viewers and journalists alike, we need to stop looking at the world through ethnocentric eyes. We need to see the world as it is, even if that picture is not as perfect as our ideal world. 

The pictures above belong to Reuters.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

The Triumph of Racism

I have always known that people have certain dislikes and prejudices against other races, but I have never seen it outrightly except for in a few cases. These cases are primarily seen in older people, and I generally excuse this as being "old-fashioned." But today, I heard a comment that blew my mind.

During a basketball game (Mizzou versus Nebraska), there was a player on the Nebraska team who was appeared to be of African origin. And when I say African, I don't mean African-American. Later on I discovered that the player, Ade Dagunduro, was actually born in California. 

The two college students began the game by throwing out the "f-word" whenever they got the chance. This made me cringe every time I heard them behind me, but it was when they told Dagunduro to "go back to the bush" that my heart started pounding with anger. Later on, when Dangunduro fouled one of the Mizzou players, they continued with their racial comments. "We don't do that in America! Yeah, Go back to the bush!" It took a lot of self control for me not to turn around and tell them to stop, to tell them that that kind of language and racism should not be tolerated. Then, I realized, I was not practicing self-control. I was practicing cowardice.

What was it that was keeping me from turning around and standing up for Dangunduro and all people of different origina? I wish I could answer that question. If more people stood up against racist comments, no matter in what context they are spoken, perhaps racism would dissolve much more quickly. Instead, we do what I did and stand by, pretending not to hear it, or we just walk away. Either way, we allow it to spread and thrive in our society. 

Edmund Burke was right when he said, "All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing."
The same is true for racism, for indeed, it is an evil. 

All that is necessary for the triumph of racism is that good men do nothing.

Next time, I pray that I will have the courage to stand up and do something.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Handprints- The Mosaic of Life

Tonight, my university (Mizzou) hosted an event celebrating the Chinese New Year. I met three Chinese guys who I knew from another campus group, and we began working on a Chinese umbrella. One of them had already painted the Chinese flag on part of an umbrella. He told me that he wanted to paint the American flag on the other side. 

If you understand China and the U.S.'s relationship, this willingness to unite the two countries may seem odd, as it did to me. However, I welcomed the idea and so we started to work. He asked me if I would paint the American flag. So, with the help of the two other Chinese students, we completed the flag. 
We decided that with the left over room, we would each put our handprint. Black and
 yellow (the colors of Mizzou) seemed appropriate colors for the task. But one of the students decided he wanted to do his handprint in red. Then, since there was still left over space on the umbrella, he put another half red, half black handprint. 
Now the umbrella was unsymmetrical with two handprints on one side and three on the other, not to mention that the art was much less than professionally done. 

Still, I could not help but find the beauty in this. When I first began working on the umbrella, I imagined a beautifully organized piece of art that had perfect harmony. China on one side and the United States on the other united by the common goal of education, represented by the Mizzou students' handprints. But this is not how life works. We each have our own personalities, our own way of making handprints if you will. Some of us are more sporadic than others, and this mesh of personalities and ideals can sometimes create a mess of things. What I realized is that China and the U.S. may never get along in perfect harmony, but that is okay. The struggles that we go through because of our differences is what makes this world so unique. Perfection is not a part of this world, and complete harmony is something that should be saved for the life hereafter. Until then, I will enjoy this world, with all of our flaws and faults and see them as lines and colors in a beautiful mosaic masterpiece called the human race.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The President Does Not Decide

Today, a new President was inaugurated into office. In his speech, he mentioned the uncertainty of the United States' destiny. This statement could not be more true. Although the incoming administration has many plans and goals over the next four to eight years, it cannot completely determine the path that this country will take. 

When I was talking to a friend in the military, he mentioned the possibility of a war with Iran and how that would affect Obama's presidency. I asked him if he did not think that the change in presidents would change the likelihood of a war. While he admitted that the Obama administration's policies could help ease tension, he said that, ultimately, it was not up to the new president whether or not the U.S. went to war. Iran is the one who will make the decision on whether or not to attack the U.S. or her allies. I cannot help but wonder how true this is in many other areas of government. While there is no doubt that President Obama's decisions will have impacting and long-lasting effects on the U.S., his decisions alone will certainly not determine the course of history. 

What does, then, determine the course of history? It is the congregation of millions of minute choices made by individuals such as you and me that shape history. The decision to stand up against injustice or allow it to continue and grow into a raging monster that cannot be controlled. It is the decision to spend time with your family or work those extra hours each week that change a society from one that values family to one of workaholics. The decision to buy that item of clothing or that jewelry even though you know that by buying it, you are supporting the exploitation of workers; or to take that money and give it to someone in need. These decisions shape our lives, our society, and our world. And not for our president, but for our actions will we be remembered. 

Friday, January 2, 2009

When Your Vacation Goes Awry, Savor the Moments

As far as my family and I could gather, this was our fifth trip to Ruidoso, New Mexico; but this was the first time we ran into real problems (or at least what we considered problems). 

Grindstone Lake is one of several lakes near Ruidoso 
                      that are popular for fishing. 

Because all of us children have different spring breaks (which is normally when we take our family vacation), this year, we decided to go to Ruidoso during Christmas break. Unfortunately, the snow fall was less than satisfactory for this time of year, so we knew snow skiing would not be nearly as fun. As it turned out, only half the mountain was open, and, consequently, the lift lines were fairly crowded. However, in the end, I was not completely disappointed in these unusual circumstances because instead of skiing the entire vacation, I took two days to discover Ruidoso  for what it is besides a place to snow ski.

Besides snow skiing, Ruidoso is a wonderful place to shop if you enjoy various knick-knacks and the like. Stores selling herbal medicines, natural teas, souvenirs, and Native American handicrafts line downtown. What was even more interesting than the merchandise were the shops that had an extra room in the back with unique products. For example, one store, End of the Vine, had wine tasting every day in the back of its shop for a low price of $5, which included six wine samples and a souvenir wine glass. Another souvenir and t-shirt store served free cheese samples in the back and had some sort of a smoke-free hookah bar.

Not less delectable than the stores were the restaurants in town. Although the prices can be a bit expensive due to the tourist atmosphere, the quality is worth it. Great Wall of China offers a fantastic variety of Chinese food including original styled sushi. Even though Pasta Cafe was given bad reviews online, my entire family found the food and service to be absolutely fantastic. The town also has several delis to provide an affordable lunch, although almost none of these restaurants are open for dinner. The only advice I have about dining in Ruidoso is to not travel there during New Year's, and if you do, make reservations far in advance because the restaurants are small and cannot accommodate a large amount of walk ins. Most of the restaurants are owned by locals, who show no remorse in closing for their own vacation time. My family almost ended up eating another round of Lean Cuisines for New Year's Eve dinner because almost all the restaurants were booked with reservations, and for New Year's Day lunch, we were forced to settle for Subway due to the fact that our deli of choice was closed. 

Finally, after all of these forms of entertainment, one might want to simply sit back and relax. So my advice is this. Rent a small cabin, which are normally a good deal more expensive than the Comfort Inn but very pleasant. Then, take one day to go to one of the local lakes (from which there are several to choice) and enjoy a peaceful meal. Of course, I would only recommend this if you are vacationing at a time other than winter. During the time my family and I traveled there, the wind combined with the temperature (which was cool but not cold at midday) was a bit too much. However, on a nice fall or spring afternoon, the atmosphere would be perfectly irresistible. And if these attractions are not enough, the White Sands lie only an hour away from Ruidoso and make a wonderful day trip.

One thing I learned during my time at Ruidoso was to sit back and relax. The people in the city are extremely relaxed. They do not run a tight schedule, nor do they allow the bustle of tourism to infringe on their seemingly peaceful lives. The shopkeepers are more than willing to talk with you and ask sincerely about where you are from and other such small talk. Even the ladies at the Subway in the Walmart appeared to have a different air about them. Although it took a while to complete our order, they took care and diligence in putting our sandwiches together. I observed that had they taken this kind of time in my city of San Antonio, they would quickly be replaced by other workers who could work at a faster pace. But here, in the city of Ruidoso, time is not a ticking clock. Instead, time is moments of life that must be relished and savored each and every day.