Sunday, November 1, 2009

Rants about life.

Life is good.

Let's start out with that one.
It's hectic and beautiful and whoa is it kinda driving me crazy nowadays.

...This is a perfect time to unwind and unleash, right when you're screaming at the top of your lungs for a few seconds because time is an enemy who refuses to give you more than 48 hours to do as you please.

Some of my peace comes from a guy I have fallen for in a bad but oh-so-good way. The guy that drives you up a wall crazy right before you see each other, inspires you, reaches out and touches your life in just the right way....our bodies also fit comfortably and the everyday bullshit we all gotta go through is that much more bearable. We have these crazy schedules that somehow work out except when it comes to planning any sort of get away, but we'll see. We all complain about how we never have the time to do the things we wanna do, but thinking like this is just plain stupid. We make time for the things we wanna do, strange concept isn't it?

Besides him, my fuel also comes from inspiration shouting out to me from quotes or the occasional perfect cup of coffee at 2:51am that begs for some thoughts and conversation.

Living at Ubuntu is 90% fun and 10% frustrating. The 90% fun comes from getting slapped in the butt by one of my roommates, the occasional foot massage, and the love that we all have for one another...the other unpleasant 10% from the yucky bathroom that hasn't been cleaned (deep clean) in more than two weeks.

My room mate is ridiculously pleasant to have around, we even sleep in the same bed sometimes since her futon is a piece of crap. Our relationship is quite nice.

I have been thinking a lot about my relationship with people that are close or have been close to me; la tia was in Chicago for Thanksgiving and something in our encounter prompted this. It brought me back to the idea that we all need each other. It does not matter how successful or how much of a "failure" we become in life, if there's no one around you can share a beer with or celebrate with in times of happiness...what is it all worth?

I tried and failed at bringing life back into a dead friendship. Twice. There comes a point, which I'm waiting for, when it is all okay, when it's okay that the other person just isn't on the same bloody page as you are or is interested or cares. It's difficult to swallow heavy words. Move on, take a ticket, and open up a new page with a cup of coffee in one hand.

All you can do is hope for the best, take advantage of opportunities, and have a good time.

Life sucks sometimes, it's filled with silly people who do silly things but it's just how the world turns.

I had a potluck the other day and it was a huge success. Many many wonderful people I enjoy and finally was able to share a meal with on a long table with all sorts of delicious foods.

A toast to happy times, good food, and great friends :)

Monday, September 7, 2009

Ubuntu and other things..

Every Friday evening around 1030pm a swarm of people will flock to a vehicle loaded with vegetables, fruits, and more bread than you have seen in quite a while. They unload and carry the groceries up to the second floor of 1234 W Albion. Outside the house reads a sign painted in blue on a yellow background "Ubuntu Community."

A total of 17 people live in this community whose name means "I am because we are" in an African dialect. Last semester I wrote an ethnography on this community, fell in love with it, and am currently living on the top floor with five other wonderful ladies and one uninvited mouse we are in the process of trying to get rid ourselves..

So why the swarm of people? Every Friday evening we head over to a grocery store that has kindly offered to give us the fruits, veggies, baked stuff that would have otherwise gone to the trash so that we can recycle, cook, and distribute every Sunday.

It's called Food Not Bombs.

17 people is a lot, yes, but it's not so bad. We're rarely all at home at the same time because we all have different sorts of schedules. We try to coordinate weekly floor community dinners as well as a meal with the entire house which is somewhat of a nightmare, but we deal. Living in an intentional community requires an extraordinary commitment to the people living in your house, it's this reason I really really wanted to live there. It's about moving away from the "me, me me" in college to the "us" and taking care of each other in small and large ways. Exciting isn't it?

My mind is scattered and all over the place, I had originally started this post a while back because I very much enjoy where I live and wanted to write about it.

This past weekend I attended the SFA (Student Farmworker Alliance) Encuentro conference in Imokalee, Florida along with a whopping 90 other students. What I assumed would be an intimate 40 or so blew up and more than doubled!

Even on our last day during the drive to the airport I was barely getting to know someone new.
Not so happy things:
I'm a conference junkie...
I love meeting people, talking to them, picking their brains, hearing what inspires them and so on. The conferences I've been too, helped organize & plan add up to a decent number. So I have my criticisms. As far as this one goes, more face time with people would have been fantastic. Yes, we all are here to learn about the organization and the campaign but I strongly feel we are more compelled to have meaningful and profound interactions with others attending the conference. Presentations, workshops, and all that jazz are wonderful and the core of what a conference should have but if there is no opportunity to interact with others for more than an hour the entire weekend guess what? it won't work. The campaign, the connections, the network building won't work.
Time. Time is a bitch, but oh so important.
If you don't respect it, use it, and take care of it there is not a high probability it will do the same. Staying on schedule is so that so difficult to do? It's a big pet peeve that we have to cut through discussion or sharing because someone wasn't mindful of the time we have.

SFA works with farmworkers, particularly the Coalition of Imokalee Workers the majority of which are made up of Mexicans, Guatemalans, and Haitian workers. They began organizing more than thirteen years ago. What is it that they want? Major corporations that purchase the tomatoes they pick to do the responsible thing and pay a penny more per pound of tomatoes picked. This is possible by having them sign onto a national agreement with the CIW. Their victories have included Subway, Yum Brands, McDonalds, Burger King, and Whole Foods. They're currently battling to get Chipotle to come to the table and sign onto the agreement. It's taken lots of time, organizing, protesting, rallies, and demonstrations to reach those victories. They've picked up two other campaigns- Dine with Dignity, which tackles university dining halls/food service providers and a Grocery store campaign.

Alright, I'm through with that. Not every conference or training can be as perfect as CHANGE :)

There are so many things that I'm planning on taking back to Chicago with me and have added goals to a list that is only getting longer every day.

Let's go a different direction.

My cousin just recently posted something that caught my attention

"The passing of my uncle a few months ago really affected the way i view life. you treat people u love THE RIGHT WAY when they are alive. once dead, no need to get romantic. it's all a show after the fact."

She's quite an insighftul person, my much older cousin. Brings many things down to the earth and puts them into perspective for me...has taught me loads about being honest with myself (truly harder and much more difficult than imaginable), and the little things parents forget to mention.

This quote makes me think about the cousin I grew up closely with and consider a sister. Now, I always regarded "fights" or long long ago grudges to be fucked up and plain stupid. But I admit I have found myself caught in one with her, something about how we both function in our early twenties isn't quite on the same level or page. I wonder what would happen if we both got stuck in an elevator longer than twelve hours, someone should work on making that happen...because to be honest, I'm too scared shitless to do it at this point and afraid of what will come out of it. Is treating each other the right way require more than a simple acknowledgement of our existence? I would think so but find myself running in circles wondering why it's so difficult.

Isn't that wild?

In another note, on my flight back I spoke with an elderly woman. Correction: she spoke to me, for longer than I had expected. I love these people. I love the people that surprise you, that when you ask "where are you from?" will jump and respond, afterwards they'll follow up with their lifestory, their kids, where their kids live, what they were like growing up before you have a chance to ask "oh, is this really only the second time you've ever been on an airplane?"

This has happened to me once before, I was at a health expo in Des Plaines three or four years ago and another elderly woman told me all about how she refuses to take any sort of conventional medicine, relies strictly on natural oils, and encourages me to do to the same.

I wonder if this is some sort of a disadvantage: my ability to easily trust in and be convinced by a good argument people make...

I'll have to work on that, amongst other things of course.

Monday, August 10, 2009


So the last stretch of traveling included a Transitions Summit to Nicaragua
from July 28th until the 11th of August.

I'm going to quickly rewind for a sec.

Mid May was Guatemala for three weeks followed by Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia,
and not-so-great-China for a total of five weeks in Asia.

CHANGE was mid July til the end. Some of our evenings would close to dancing spontaneously with other CHANGE facilitators and Oxfam America (OA) staff to the song "Kids" by MGMT or Coldplay's "Viva la Vida."

To my delight, a day after the CHANGE training I found myself champion of petition collections at the Coldplay Concert in East Troy Wisconsin. A little under 200 in 3-4 hours, not bad..

Nicaragua was intense, insightful, and inspiring in a nutshell. Breaking it down=
There were 11 other white middle/upper class students from all across the U.S. in Central America, initial thoughts include "fuck." I had been spoiled to say the least, CHANGE brings in international folks and with my travels as well. Traveling in groups is not my cup of tea, but I learned that sticking us all in a barely comfortable van that would shuttle us around to and from our destinations leads to lots of singing. Yep, singing. Singing The Beatles, Disney songs, and the like.
People have so much to offer and we need each other, badly. At my homestay, the head of the house was a woman called Dionisa. She was no older than 50 and had given birth to 15 children, she is now grandmother to 23 young ones. Her husband left her after she started organizing the women in her community to form a co-op. He wanted a more simple minded woman that did as she told and would not recognize a car had she seen one, were his exact words.
There were a couple of people on the trip that I had read into pretty quickly without giving them a second chance. I jumped the gun. But all is well now.

We mapped out so many ideas for this year there were a couple of times I was completely overwhelmed and unsure anything this year would go my way. The biggest of all is the International Convergence which is set to take place in February. We're not sure where yet and every day that goes by that we are without a list makes me more anxious.

On another note, I am no longer living with 14 other roommates at Ubuntu. It's gone up to 17.
More people, less rent, more dirtiness= less "alone time"?
No matter.
What I love about Chicago is how enormous it is, there's always a corner in which you can hide away and disappear from the world.

School starts in less than a week, I'm taking on four courses. It's my last year at Loyola and there are tons of things I want to do. One of my "lofty" goals is to go sweatshop free, the entire university. I'm not alone though, many have looked to get the U sign onto the DSP but have for one reason or another failed. Fair trade sugar as well as rice is up in the in, I need to let it bubble some more then we'll see. This all got kickstarted after visiting Nueva Vida, the women's sewing co-op in Managua. They're located on a free trade zone and built the factory they work in with their own two hands, they were badass.

Another exciting journey this year is going to be being a STARS mentor. STARS (Students Together Are Reaching Success) supports the retention & success of Loyola students.
I'm given a "family" of freshman students that are particularly underrepresented and commuter students, flood their inbox and chat about how to get involved with the Loyola community and Chicago area. It's a fun job that helps pay the rent and gives me five or six fun people to challenge me (ideally) and allow me to grow as well.

Good times, good times..

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

biting your tongue.

So getting stuck (alright, we'll be fair and call it traveling) in China means three things to me:
-no youtube
-no blogging
-Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner look exactly alike

I know, not all that great, but it makes you appreciate these things further when they're taken away. Meeting up with my dad in Vietnam was something I had been looking forward to, what caught me by surprise was the fact that we'd be spending a whopping 9 days in China and to top it all off ON A TOUR. Here is why tours don't work for me: it takes a very long time to wait for everyone else on the tour (esp when there are 40 other people), you run according to someone else's schedule (not your own) meaning someone else decides when you take a nap, eat, and such, and there's no freedom or time to be spontaneous. You're also probably overpaying for shitty food. But some people like that, some people don't like to think or worry about applying for visas and bus schedules, or accommodation. I'm not one of those people.

We hit up a couple of cities in China including Shanghai, Beijing, and Sizhou, as well as another city I can't remember. Yep, it was that fascinating it just caught me off guard. One of the highlights included visiting & chatting with the lovely Ms. Chen on the fourth of July who was living in Beijing for six months. We go to the same university and it was a breath of fresh air venting and listening to a friendly face. The other highlight of my trip in China was my experience with a barista in one of the hotels we stayed. She was adorable, like a young lost child. I had soymilk and was in need of espresso and chocolate for my mocha. I asked her for both and showed her my mocha and asked her to heat it up using the espresso machine. After posing a confused stare she took my milk and began walking somewhere, I immediately stopped her, asked "where are you going?" To which she used both her hands to form a square and utter "ding!" (I told you she was adorable)
"No no no microwave," I said, and let out a laugh.
Still confused, I walked her back behind the counter and showed her how the

It's interesting because you hear and read loads about China. Travelers I ran into stressed how not many people spoke English and that the Chinese aren't the friendliest people ever. The latter, you quickly pick up on and as a result ends in some frustration. I don't entirely understand the Chinese and that's fine by me, I won't judge a culture and people whose enormous history I have failed to appreciate because of my own fault. I was terribly miserable because of holding in a lot of what I was thinking and feeling.

You see, for the first time (yes, first) I felt like a third wheel. Due to the "couple-ness" my father and his girlfriend were emitting as bright as sunshine. You ever see those couples that do everything together, that wait for each other when they go to the bathroom, can't spend more than ten minutes apart without wondering where the other is? Yeah, after having only heard of this type of pair I had begun to doubt they existed.

I was angry and mad: two things I explicitly told myself I would not be writing about in a blog because of how depressing that is, but shit happens. Those 9 days in China were the only days this summer I would see my dad. It wasn't til after Christmas that I anticipate going back to Miami. He lives in Miami and so does she, you get my point? This is when you've gotta bite your tongue and say alright, they're in love I respect that, I'll just go with the flow and pretend it's all fan-frickin-tastic. But communication needs to happen, it takes two to tango of course, so do it the right way and work on that dance.

Anywho, that's done and over....apologies were exchanged and life goes on. People make mistakes. My dad and I, we're particularly good at that.

This summer has been possible because of him and I'm truly grateful. Not everyone has these opportunities.

Landing in Chicago and wandering around the city I call home for a couple of days and meeting up with friends made me feel so alive.

It meant
-cars actually respect pedestrians
-eating whenever you felt hungry
-people who were polite and randomly said hello
-hanging out with my mom and sharing hysterical stories
-washing the dishes (this I really do enjoy)
-living without too much worry, being comfy- which I missed

Pedro's front yard was blooming with all sorts of veggies, it's a terribly exciting time.
Things have been crazy busy ever since getting back to the states. A couple of conference calls have kept me updated on how the activism world is coming along.
While in Boston I stayed at a couchsurfer's place for one night since my wonderful pseudo best friend from grade school didn't remember to mention she'd be busy doing some volunteer work. But God bless her, she's wonderful.
I stayed with Jimmy, who works for a university creating games for educational purposes, he does what he loves, has a fantastic apartment, and is a great host. He also plays the guitar, makes a fresh pot of coffee in the morning (one of the many ways you can truly make me happy), and is a cool guy to have a chat with.

I'm planning on a final summer post once I have some more time. CHANGE pre-training starts tomorrow and I'm absolutely tickled to meet everyone, eat real food, talk activism, and have a packed/intense schedule.

Friday, June 26, 2009

roots pt 1

"Where are you from?" is the question I'm faced with constantly. There was a point where I got so sick of the question I have been willing to settle with "Filipino" because of sheer laziness, but I won't. When I'm in the mood for fun I respond "guess," challenging them to guess the impossible (only one person has ever guessed correctly by the way). Other times, I get "which side do you relate to most?" which can be a tad more difficult to answer until now. I am both Guatemalan and Vietnamese, both cultures have a wealth to offer despite having suffered much. Along my journeys my path has crossed with people who are proud to be Guatemalan/Vietnamese, who love the lands they call beautiful, which I can attest to because indeed beauty is one thing I have witnessed in both countries. Our most important resource, water, is "not safe" to drink in either of the two and it is bothersome to constantly have to buy bottled water (2L for less than $1) that I now know not many can do. My dad has told me this before and I know now that I have been fortunate enough to have been born in the U.S. and the opportunities I have been able to latch on to and take advantage of here I probably could not have found elsewhere.

I did not imagine myself writing about Guatemala from Vietnam, but it would make sense that once you step away from something it's much easier to view, observe, and criticize it. Going to Guate and drawing in every experience is in a sense...more rewarding because communication is not a problem. From what I have lived and known in my short 21 years Latinos are generally kick ass hosts; when I was in high school I realized this after visiting friends' homes to work on projects and analyzing how we would be welcome versus the way my mother approached the situation. And situation it certainly was, you see I was slightly embarrassed of my mother and her personality when it came to having people over. After I had friends over in high school I was left stunned when my mother turned out to be, as friends say, a pretty rockstar host. She goes all the way to ensure we're fed and have everything we need. My grandparents are the same as well, it just took me a while to actually realize. Now what I am not saying is that every culture is void of a certain charm as a host, simply that los Guatemaltecos flourish as hosts from my experience. A part of me feels like I have missed out and should have spent even more time in Guatemala. Finca de Ixobel was gorgeous, I would have loved to have been able to make that six week commitment asked of volunteers (they provide housing & food. Although I don't miss the packed chicken buses, bumpy roads, sticky political state, or lack of decent vegetarian food & vegetables for that matter...good fruit though. But I also can't really complain, the rest of the summer is looking to be action packed especially now that Nicaragua is confirmed with USFT. This brings the total to six countries in one summer, not bad eh?
One goal I'm thinking of adopting is filling up my passport before it expires in 2014. I've got my eyes set on South America for next summer and hopefully a travel mate to share experiences with...

Monday, June 22, 2009

Swimming in poverty and disorder.

Cambodia never really crossed my mind when I knew that I would be traveling to Asia. But as it turns out I've spent four days and three nights in the Kingdom of Cambodia. Its a country that has loads of problems including UXO (Unexploded mines), poor road conditions, corruption, lack of proper medical services, and less than half of Cambodians have access to clean water and sanitation facilities. So why visit? Well, one thing I take seriously is the suggestions of others as far as where to travel next especially if they have found a certain place particularly moving or a "must see." The temples of Angkor Wat (think Tomb Raider with Angelina Jolie) are a pretty big deal, 8000 years old big deal it seems and I'm always up for something new and unexpected. I would be exploring Angkor Wat for a day even though to see it all you need three days. All of the traveling would be by bus and a hell of a bus ride they have been so far, you're lucky if you can keep your bum on the seat longer than five minutes. Sleeping is also barely manageable so I've goten a lot of reading done when I'm not talking to the stranger next to me. From Saigon to Phnom Penh is a 6.5 hour bus ride then from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap it's another 6 hours.
We got into PP at 1pm then had a tour of the Royal Palace and Silver Pagoda at 2pm. By 3pm I was fed up with tours and saw everything I had wanted to see so I separated myself from the group. I jotted down ten or so different places like coffeehouses or restaurants that seemed interesting and ended up going to two. There is a need for help in this country and what has amazed me is the response. There are a slew of businesses that work with non profit organizations as well as restaurants that are reacting and helping all sorts of projects. The restaurant where I just dined holds permanent exhibits that work in conjunction with the Centre for Children's Happiness orphanage that provides a home and access to education. The children living there had previously worked as garbage pickers at a landfill dump, the centre works with the kids as well and teaches them skills- such as photography *displayed at the restaurant for sale. I visited a fair trade shop, spent a whopping 12 bucks that got me lots of presents (soap) and the lady working there was kind enough to offer me a ride to the chocolate shop I was searching for. She saved me a twenty minute walk I really didn't mind taking. The chocolate shop was a bit ritzy so it led me two stores down to The Shop which turned into my haven. Not that I needed one, I just happen to really enjoy the coffeehouse culture. You're immediately welcomed a small path resembling something from The Secret Garden and by the open glass doors. The volume of the music in the background was perfect for any conversation you'd like to have or even overhear while sitting on the simple wooden tables indoors or outdoors. Oh, they also have seating area in the back porch, or is a porch only in the front? Anyways, the art on the ceiling looks freshly painted and everything about The Shop says sit, pick out a magazine or newspaper, and don't forget your cup of coffee. I later found out it's been open for eight years. Just about 90% of the menu items are between a buck and a buck fifty....and they've got plenty. It's not very apparent that they're into sustainability until you walk into the bathroom and notice the towels instead of paper towels as well as the biodegradable packaging some people opt for instead of dining in and hanging out. One woman sat down next to me and had an adorable baby on her lap, we went on and chatted for a bit about her life living in Cambodia versus Washington D.C. Her husband worked for the embassy which hooks you up with housing in the country you relocate to, she almost had me sold on where I would applying for my next job: expenses include 6 dollars a month for cell phone, 100/mo for internet which is a luxury, and 60/every 6mo for cable. You move every two years and can choose where you'd like to live. There is the downside of not having family and friends with you she mentioned.
After leaving The Shop I took a stroll in the direction of the vegan restaurant the woman suggested and ran straight into two large fitness groups exercising to some funky techno cartoon-ish music. It was quite a sight you simply had to laugh at its beauty. Its this type of community involvement/participation I really enjoy witnessing.
Museums, Royal palaces, and the like are great but give me a community in action or a conversation with a local and it'll teach me much more. Coming into Vietnam my dad warned me several times over as did my mom about the dangers and how I need to be more attentive. It's in wandering around the city in the evening with only an address that has made me enjoy being here and appreciating the way it moves. At first it was quite horrendous: loud vehicles honking constantly, the polluted air, intense heat but once the sun sets it turns into a playground. I am convinced the best way to get to know a city is to get lost in it (it's more enjoyable with someone though). Smells, sights, and more that can't be described are all of a sudden overwhelming and perfect. Businesses don't close shop until late which was music to my ears.
Following the 20th mango smoothie I've had since arriving in Asia I realized every recent trip is accompanied by a fruit obsession. Here it's mango & lychee, half a pound for fifty cents! In Guatemala it was also mango, in Spain it was tangerines (the sweetest I've had, ever). Fruit salad anyone? good times :) anyways, substituting fruits for sweets is always a great choice.
After almost three weeks there was an increasing frustration in not knowing what's occurring in Vietnam and only tonight was I made aware of a newspaper that circulates daily in English! A great relief nonetheless. Everyone is entitled to feel like a complete fool every so often.
Back to where I started, Cambodia is swimming in poverty & disorder but it's absolutely stunning once you take a magnifying glass to the work being done to repair itself.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

beautiful people.

Hoi An is such a relaxed, laid back town where you can feel completely safe or at home walking around late without a worry. Shop merchants that you interact with and purchase from will remember your face and wave hello as you pass them by a couple of times. There are hundreds of tailors that are willing to make any outfit you show them or desire in addition to shoes. You can't escape them, everywhere you hear "come in, no need to buy...just look." Until one woman looked at me in the eyes and repeated, "come look around, please, help me" which just reeled me in unlike any other thing. I had a dress made and a top for the asking price of $25. There's this small guilt in me for buying anything I really do not need, so I tell myself that I am going to have a massive fall clean up of my closet and give away an article of clothing for every new one I purchase.
So I've just returned from a PowerYoga class held at L'apothiquaire in Saigon. Perhaps it's because I haven't taken an actual yoga class in more than two months or that I was in a great mood walking into the class and genuinely enjoyed every minute of it. Or perhaps it's that there were a total of three of us in the class, the view was absolutely stunning, and the young instructor turned into one of my favorites. This class was wonderful despite the heat that made the studio seem like a bikram class (typically held in a studio of 105F). The $13 drop in rate included the use of showers, sauna, and steam room. Everything about it was so vastly different than any other class I've taken in Chicago and Miami. I'm going on and on about this , I know but bear with me I am almost through. My point: if you've never taken a yoga class, I strongly recommend it. You don't have to be Mr. or Mrs. flexible you just have to be willing to try something new.
Hue is the city where my dad was born and raised until he was around fourteen. The first day or two in Hue reminded me of the loneliness that accompanies a solo traveler. For a bit, you regret not looking hard enough for someone interested in hitting up parts of Asia. And then it isn't until you meet another fellow solo adventurer that you sit back and laugh at how pathetic and silly it feels having dinner in a restaurant for one when everyone around you has company. Traveling alone is work, but you have the liberty of choosing your own schedule, eating when you want to or not even eating at all if you so decide. Having dinner one evening with three other guys was a mission, they were not very good at choosing where to go so this is when I am glad that I have some sort of "restriction/special diet" that constantly requires explanation. It gets to be a drag, but you deal. It's pretty wonderful how immediately following this lonesome period I meet a shit ton of people from all over that are just fascinating to connect with. Most have been European and only two brilliant Americans, one of which works for a non profit in NY, we spoke Global Justice, trade, and activism. The other, a young woman with such a beautiful soul; she was truly an adventurer taking her gap yr between high school and college to travel.
Her name is Chiara and she's hit up South America (to learn spanish) for 2 months, Africa for 2 months, Asia for a month, and she's got her eye on India I believe after leaving China. I'd like to say that I would love to do something like that on my own, but deep down inside I might be too chickenshit. She talks to her parents once a week through e-mail, only placing a phone call once a month to them and can chat on and on without pausing if need be; definitly a curious creature. Not once had she felt "unsafe," mentioning how after a while you pick up that intuition of knowing when to get the hell out of a place. I also chatted a bit with a German in detail about life, I've noticed most people who have learned english as a second or third language use the word "quite" a lot, sometimes coupled with "nice" or "good" as well.
Anyhow, Hue has so much history it's got loads to offer. When my dad gets here in a couple of days we're to go back and visit family that we have there. I'm dozing off and need to be up in a couple of hours to catch a bus to Cambodia. It's home to supposedly the largest religious structure in the world *Angkor Wat. Not that I'm deeply religious or anything even though I must say each pagoda I have invaded has been moving, especially listening to the monks beautiful chanting.
Pictured: Chiara & I

Saturday, June 13, 2009

beaches unlike any other.

Nha Trang's beaches are pretty spectacular...they're enough to give Miami Beach a run for its money. I arrived yesterday and instantly felt the need to explore and started wandering.
After a half hour I stumbled upon Cafe Louisiane, with its wooden chairs, large brewery sign, and laid back atmosphere. Note: I'm just pointing out the fact that it's a brewhouse b/c apparently its quite popular, I really don't like beer. The people at Cafe Louisiane are split almost evenly between American/European tourists and the Vietnamese on holiday.
They also have chairs lined up along a half mile stretch facing the beach that you can rent for less than $2. Conversations around you are mostly out of earshot and the dominant noise is the wind against the straw on the makeshift mini trees providing a blessed shade. Equipped with my notebook, pen, and Naomi Klein's "No Logo" I was all set to be a beach bum extraordinaire. After ten minutes of corporations, branding, advertising money, cheating, profit I was disgusted. I looked around and at the bar they had a nice collection of books on Asia, I spotted "The Alchemist" and knew we were meant to be. Yesika was the first person to mention the book and since she's a wonderful gal I went with it; I'm also not afraid to admit that I am a sucker for self-help books.
Yesterday we went on a tour of 4 islands that really ended up being two. There were several hours that could have been disastrous and mind-blowingly boring. But I know better, if I am ever bored it's my own fault. There are always things or people around me that I can entertain myself with and its in this time that I got most of "The Alchemist" through. When I was younger I would spend a lot of time with my dad, which translates into spending a lot of time in the car during tax season when the only entertainment was the radio or the cd you popped in. This would be insufficient so you need a book or homework, but a book is preferred.
After the tour I met up with Hung again for dinner which made for a great chat about chopsticks versus forks and knives. You see, he described how us Asians are more like birds because we pick at things with our chopsticks whereas everyone else seems more like a tiger cutting and grabbing at their food with forks and knives. I thought it was sweet and made me want to carry this practice on when I get back to the states. When eating with chopsticks I also feel myself eat slower.
On the tour, the same five men that cooked, managed the boat, cleaned, also performed a couple of songs including "Will you still love me tomorrow" and "La Bamba." They were a multi talented bunch.
Random- one thing I have noticed both here in Vietnam and in China is how at a certain hour- say around post lunch time people nap. As in they literally put their head on their desk and nap. The first time I noticed it was in Shanghai's airport as I passed by the door marked "security" and saw every soul inside (about six people) napping, which was a relief as you can imagine...
I boarded a sleeper bus last night at 730pm and arrived in Hoi An at 6am, they're quite comfortable too! It held around 40 people and you could actually lay down and sleep. My hotel was kind enough to check me in at that God forsaken hour and was able to nap a bit more. I had a whole free day in Hoi An so I woke up around lunch time and sat at a nice cafe called "Re-treat," which I would generally avoid because who wants to eat at an American named restaurant in Vietnam? But it was pretty tasty, I got my mango smoothie again (a daily ritual), tofu, and rice for under $3. After a long lunch and simultaneously filling out some postcards I took a stroll around a street where there were several stores offering clothing tailor fit (not sure if that's stated correctly). Then it started pouring like a mad man so I quickly retreated to the hotel from where I write to you.
Hoi An is a much quieter town than Nha Trang, with more bicycles and motorbikes on the streets. The heat is a killer though, within five minutes of standing outside you're whole body is drenched in sweat. Just when you're ready to run back to your hotel you realize that there's a cool breeze and shade along the roads. This place is a UNESCO World Heritage site as well as My Son which I'll be touring tomorrow. Brief intro: "it is the major site in Vietnam from the ancient Champa Kingdom which flourished between the 2nd and 15th centuries. Descendants still live along the coast of Vietnam though they are now fuly integrated in Vietnamese society. It served as a religious and intellectual centre where Champa kings were crowned and buried"

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Xin chao.

Two days ago Linh and I went to Sinh Cafe to check out the different tours they had. Tia got me into Frommers and they're supposedly a great travel agency with several locations around Vietnam. After an hour of indecisiveness and excitement, I cut a sixteen day trip in half and am going to hit up Da Lat, Nha Trang, Hoi An, and Hue (where my dad grew up).
Yesterday I hopped on a charter bus for six hours to head to Da Lat where I currently write to you from, the weather is cool in the evenings and the air is clean unlike in Saigon. The only annoying thing about the trip was how every minute on the dot the driver would honk. Except that here, honking is not so much because you are anger as much as it is to let the other person know "hey I'm here, move or be aware."
Most of the stores you pass clearly cater to the tourist by advertising "free dsl wifi." They wanna keep you connected to the world, these smart people. Every internet cafe you pass by is swarming with young people. Merchants here don't constantly badger you to buy something which is a relief where in Guate you hear "Seno, cuanto me ofrece" every single shop you pass by. Seno being short for senorita. Sinh Cafe is way better than Viet Travel (thailand trip agency) because there are only about 25 people or so on this trip and our itinerary is jammed pack with things to do but you have the evenings free to explore on your own. So last night I walked around in search of Frommers' recommended veggie restaurant which was fantastic; I had veggie stir fry with rice and a mango smoothie for less than $4. Yep, be jealous.
The owner of Art Cafe is an artist and all of his pieces hang in the restaurant. It was a charming place and the waitress, no older than 16 was incredibly softspoken and timid. I was excited and scared for her at the same time.
Along these travels the same question always pops up with anyone I strike up a conversation with, why are you traveling alone? Well, many reasons. One college student from Vietnam asked me to tell him everywhere I have been which totaled 13 countries (kinda blew me away). Every time I traveled it was always with a group or at least one other person. It's not that I got tired of traveling with other people, in fact I love it because it's in traveling with them that you get to know them pretty quickly and whether or not you click. Anyhow, being alone while traveling has had me scared for a while, so why not jump and take the leap?
Last year while in Europe Juan and I met Andrea from Canada, she had been on her own for a month or so hopping through hostels. She was a big inspiration. Plus you should do something every day that scares you right? So here I am in a small hotel located on a street that has my last name wondering where I'll go get dinner or if I'm hungry at all. Lychee is incredibly filling and addictive plus it's healthy!

Oh, and Xin Chao is hello :)

Monday, June 8, 2009

smiles everywhere.

The Thai people have the most contagious smiles you've ever seen.
My dad hooked me up with a group tour for 5 days of Thailand that include Pattaya and Bangkok. There are a couple of ups and downs to group tours.

-you don't really have to do much thinking, you're like a bunch of chickens told where to go, when to wake up, where to eat
-amazing thai food
-107 different opportunities to meet someone new & practice my vietnamese

-you don't really have to do much thinking
-There are 107 other people on this tour, 30 or so in my group....90% of 'em only speak Vietnamese
-many families bonding on holiday don't make for a particularly great 21 year old

I'll expand on this last part. On my second day with the group I chatted a bit with one man whose wife and son were on the tour, his English wasn't great but we managed to understand each other. On the third day a man named Hung sat next to me on the bus and was reading the Pattaya local newspaper in English. Score! We shared a couple of laughs and his charming family (grandmother, mother, and father) would never lose sight of me come every meal, they'd wave at me and pat the empty chair closest to them. You know you're in the club once both families you have spent time with call you to sit with them during breakfast and you stand indecisive for a few minutes embarassed to choose.

Memorable foods
-pad see ew, for breakfast...
-ah here lunch is pretty much seen at breakfast give or take some eggs, cereal, and toast
-jelly, crushed ice, and some sweet syrup for dessert

Last night was by far one of my favorites. Bored and in need of a walk in order to aid in digesting all the food I inhaled I asked Hung to join me. We ended up in Pot Pun, a lively district in Bangkok that had many "sexy shows," open air bars, discotecs, huts of souvenirs, and of course the hundreds of massage parlors. We passed by several men advertising the shows and kept walking until the topic came up, Hung asked whether or not I had ever been to one seeing as how I appeared a bit clueless as to whether it was a strip bar or plain show with women in bikinis. He insisted it was part of Thai culture so on we went into a show that was barely twice the size of an average dorm room at Loyola. And whoa what an experience that was...I witnessed things coming out of a woman I was not thrilled to see. After a half hour of chit chat about this profession we left and we stopped to watch a band play "Hotel California," which you can't ever really neglect, my father has taught me better. We hung around there for a couple of hours since the venue turned into somewhat of a club that was packed for a Monday evening. Then we headed towards a coffeeshop and talk about the educational system in Vietnam and Hung's career in advertising.

Oh! we rode a tuc tuc back to the hotel where we were staying which was pretty extravagant, a tad too much for my taste even though hotels are not my preferred method of lodging (if we haven't spoken about it yet, you are in desperate need of knowing about couchsurfing..message me).

There are some pretty funny characters on this tour and I've picked up a few handy Vietnamese words as well as passed on some Spanish ones :)

Today we head back to Saigon around noon and ideally I'll kickstart my journey from there.

Friday, June 5, 2009

stuck & the land of motorbikes!

So my total travel time from Miami, FL to Saigon was supposed to be 31 hours but because Shanghai airlines canceled their flight from Shanghai to Saigon it turned into 46 hours. Not fun. Although one of the first things that caught my attention is the disregard, or rather the fact that personal space probably isn't a common word in China. Every time I would line up to be attended by someone I would constantly see the person behind me creep up right next to me. But a few things I do appreciate! including the fact that you need to insert your key into a slot in your hotel room in order to get the power working as well as the popularity of soybean milk.

There was no soymilk in Guatemala. Okay, I lie. I found some in a pretty well-kept cafe in front of the central park in Antigua and boy was I one happy camper. I was pretty glad that I had brought my laptop, which allowed me to finally really clean up my inbox which had not occurred since first opening up my gmail account. After touching down in Saigon as 1230am on June 5th I met up with Linh, the travel agent that's taking care of booking some tours I'll be going on in Thailand. She's been kind enough to let me stay with her and play host. Today was my first day in this city and if it's one thing that you need to know about Saigon is that motorbikes rule. They overpower cars tenfold. There is also absolutely no order, bikes come at you in every direction. Thankfully all my experiences have involved me being the backseat passenger. When I first got on we stopped once. There was only one stop light in our half hour journey. One.

A friend of my dad's friend has kids and one of them is a boy, a seventeen year old who never stops smiling. His sister goes to a university in Florida and he put up with showing me around for a couple of hours with 3 of his other friends all the same age. They were a funny bunch. As I sat behind Phuong on the motorbike I almost had a couple of attacks (reminding me of Guatemala, although instead of being on a car we were on a bike). But you quickly learn to just look the other way. When lunch time came around they asked where I wanted to eat and responded anywhere that has vegetarian food. Then the usual questions ensued, "no meat? no chicken? no fish?" and the responses, no, no, no. They stared blankly at each other, chatted a bit, then one kid finally called his mom (you gotta love that) and she suggested some food court.

The city reminds me so much of Guatemala City, it's uncanny. The way in which the apartments are built and the potent smell of food down certain streets. Pollution here is also a big problem but definitely not as detectable.

I was worried a bit before coming and being unsure of how things would work out. Would I spend the entire time bored or lonely? But it did all work out. My dad had gotten in touch with some people and all is well. Reminds me of Germany and being in Dusseldorf with my cousin's friends who showed me around since she wasn't there.

There's an afternoon heat here that reminds me of Las Vegas: dry, sticky, & lethal but thankfully the evening brings a cool wind with it. I gotta head out and catch a flight to Bangkok.

Oh, Ma! Te encantaria esta ciudad, todos usan el timon y es tan horroroso que podria darte un dolor de cabeza eternamente.

Un beso.

Friday, May 29, 2009

travels & other things in more detail.

I skipped through a couple of insignificant things along the course of our journey throughout Guate. A lot of the time spent traveling in Guate was in buses, a quick overview 
Guatemala City-Flores (8hours)
Flores-Tikal (1 hour)
TIkal-Poptun (3 hours)
Poptun-Coban (4 hours)
Coban-Fray Bartolome de las casas (4 hours)
Fray-Guatemala City (3 hours)
Guatemala City-Solola and then on to Panajachel (4 hours)
Panajachel-Guatemala City (4.5 hours...bus driver got lost)

Lots of time eh?
So if you want an idea of what the roads were like anywhere except from Guate city to Flores picture Lake shore drive's potholes, alright now multiply those potholes by 10 and then give or take two or perhaps three dozen sharp curves/turns and moments that would give your grandmother a heart attack. Not to mention the heat that made me worry Julian might pass out and  just when you feel that the bus won't be able to accomodate anyone else it swallows up one more at the next stop. These stops are done without any sort of order, the same attendant who collects the bus fare sticks his head out the double doors announcing the destination and anyone who appears to hail a cab hops on. The dust would constantly creep into our bus via the six inch windows every passenger would leave open and the fumes created a horrendous sting in your eyes. But this made for a more precious appreciation of the calm Lago Atitlan or the ability to lay atop the cool sheets of the rundown hotel that didn't think of installing curtains in the shower, as a result the bathroom would flood whenever we'd want to take a quick shower. 

I got in earlier this afternoon into Ft. Lauderdale and was welcomed by Florida's humidity and my mother's cries. We arrived at my grandmother's house where I finally felt at home and an odd feeling of "what's next?" But it all went away as I started to rid my pack of the dirty clothes and souvenirs (mostly coffee) that filled it. My first call was to my dad who started rambling details about my Vietnam trip and hiring a tour guide and hanging out with an aunt. In other news, it seems I have won (thanks to your help perhaps) the USFT position of industry liaison :) Which also means a trip to Nicaragua in late July! 

Sometimes, okay most of the time, I see myself wanting to do it all. Participate in helping with the green fee and sustainability council, helping to plan this event with this org, coordinating the real food summit at Loyola in the fall, throwing kick ass events that draw huge crowds, being involved with STJC and USFT equally now that I've committed myself to steering committee type positions, and maybe even date a bit in the beautiful city I call home. This upcoming school year I'll also be having about 14 roommates living in community. History has shown that I tend to have a breaking point where I'll feel burned out and what not...but maybe I know better and this time I'll balance it out. This past spring semester I pulled off a decent social life and involvement in extra curricular activities. I'm also counting on a great support team in the Oxfamily and elsewhere, so it'll surely work out. 

I'm going back and forth here, be patient with me...
There are still plenty of places I would have loved to have visited in Guatemala, so if you ever find yourself wanting to make your way down to Central America, I'm there. I need a week's notice unless you're planning on a random roadtrip. There are also plans to hit up Spain again, I've not spent adequate time there says a friend, Alanita says they're closing down the pyramids next year so that trip needs to happen soon, and I eventually want to hit up South America. Also, I'm starting to think I need to explore the states some more with only twenty or so down it might be a good idea to roadtrip the rest. Lovely, no? I've been wanting to for a while, just waiting for the right person/people/time to come along. It is becoming a tad easy to get tired of organizing it all and wanting things to just fall into place. 


Tuesday, May 26, 2009


is an angel from Jersey who is currently attending university in upstate NY. He stands out in Guatemala and I´m almost tempted to go around introducing him as my bodyguard, he´s quite fit & pale with clear eyes.
We met about 5 years ago during a high school retreat in NY, both of our schools were Marist and I could have fallen in love with him if were weren´t so damn similar. By similar I mean we look for the same type of partner and are generally deep quiet thinkers. So we kept in touch and we have both been amazing at answering each other´s 3am crisis phone calls. We met up two or three years ago and hadn´t seen each other since. It was during one of these 3am phone calls that I convinced him (within 40 min) that he should join me in my travels to Guatemala, which was about a month ago and he booked his ticket that same evening!
Anyways, I hadn´t really realized how similar our situations were until we started talking during our eight hour bus ride from Guatemala City to Flores that my mother deliberately told me not to do (perdon madre). We had both recently ended a three year relationship and were internally withering away in a sense. But onwards. I had a difficult time relaxing for an entire day without doing anything productive whatsoever in a nice posada by Flores with a great view of the lake...have you ever tried doing that? An entire day. Of nothing!
Don´t be fooled, it´s quite difficult...
So we went from Guatemala City to Flores then Tikal (had a magnificent workout climbing ten flights of stairs only to then realize I was afraid of heights). After Tikal we went to Coban for a coffee plantation tour. Oh! Highlight of our trip so far!! Has definitely been staying at Finca de Ixobel, or as Julian refers to it ¨hippy heaven.¨ They have bungalows, dormitory style bunks, and treehouses! Most of their food is organic-ish and grown on their 250 acres where they have two dozen horses, geese, and parrots galore. The establishment functions on an honor system, so you can grab anything you want and write it down in a little notepad with your assigned page! So imagine chilling on a comfy hammock with a guide book in hand, a warm breeze, a cup of coffee by your side and some cool fellows playing guitar. Heaven eh? It´s also a meeting point for all sorts of travelers, there were Israelis, Dutch, Americans, all sorts of people. This was my first time doing any sort of ¨happy hour¨as well, with screwdrivers at 8Q=$1. I had very limited amounts of this whereas the birthday boy did not, he had a lovely celebration too.
We´re currently in Panajachel, a touristy city with a cool vibe and perfect for an evening walk post dinner and e-mail....toodles.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

fin y principios.

ABI (Alternative Break Immersion) is officially done today. We met with the United Nations for a lovely chat about human rights and the political situation unfolding in Guate. Last night we also visited el Centro Pastoral de Atencion al Migrante (a migrant house) that is able to do its work thanks to the Catholic Church. Since Monday we have met with the Forensic Anthropological Foundation, la Unidad de Proteccion de defensoras de derechos humanos (human rights defenders organization), and visited the police archives. Visiting the migrant house was an interesting experience, I helped out with the cooking so I didn´t get the chance to chat with the migrants who had just arrived from the states. In the evening during our reflection Amy and Alanita spoke about the stories they had heard: one of the workers was held for three days in an interrogation room with his arms and feet tied and had only juice to drink the entire time. A couple of people were instantly effected after hearing this and the tears ensued. Which reinforces that long known fact that there is something deeply flawed about how we treat each other. One of the great things I think that came out of this, out of being charged indirectly for what our country does, was inspiration to move and change. Alanita mentioned she might want to go into this issue since she´s thinking of pursuing her phd in clinical psych. We had a packed schedule and it wasn´t the best organization-wise, but it was a great experience. Part of me regrets not being completely there, I was in a sort of funk that caused me to feel like crawling up in a ball (which happened only once thank goodness). Besides that, I´m like five year old jumping up and down for some chocolate soy ice cream eagerly awaiting Julian´s arrival tomorrow. I´ve roughtly sketched out a travel plan and some great sights in this beautiful country.

Father Abraham questioned us as we were getting ready to leave the migrant house, and thanked us for coming then said what are you going to do about it when you get back?
Nobody was really able to respond and I was still in my ridiculous funk but overheard him.
I feel like there´s been a lot of pressure and broke down at one point with everything that we´re asked to do and work for when we get back. But I realize that...

We cannot do everything, and there is a sense of liberation in realising that.

This enables us to do something, and to do it very well.

-Oscar Romero

Juntos somos fuertes :)

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Pura Vida.

Living simplistically.

People here don´t have much and yet still have these enormous smiles on their faces
that seem to withstand it all.

The days here go by so slowly, which is great and fine but a part of me wants to jump up and get moving already. Alanita and I have agreed this is a radically different trip than any other we have made because of the setting and the intentions. There is no set itinerary for what we´ll be doing every hour of every day here in San Lucas Toliman so that has bugged us both a little bit. Pero no hay apuro, estamos en Guatemala (dice Peccles)

Being here has in a way made me feel a little bit healthier...there are so many moments and oppornities for personal reflection. This has resulted in a radically productive personal journal entry which lists goals for all of the organizations I´m going to be involved with in the fall.

But for now I´m looking foward to and living in the present and the next thing I´ll be learning about this community.

Hasta luego.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009


Hola. Adios.... is the repeated greeting we get from little kids in San Lucas Toliman, Guatemala.
As expected, people here are generally friendly.
I gotta make this quick, so here we go.
3 cups of coffee, one at every meal. Coffee here is delicious, again as expected!
We worked yesterday and today by helping to move bricks. Yep, bricks.
They´re going to be building a couple of structures since coffee production this year has doubled to help facilitate with the cleaning and sorting of beans.
We have met with different community members from the mission here who have been kind enough to give us a few tours. Tours included la comunidad de San Andres, Casa de Cafe-Casa de Miel, the various projects that the parish has helped with including a Women´s Center, and a Reforestation project. I´ll be going into more detail about these later on.

We´re staying at a local family owned hotel that has been quite beautiful and conveniently located near the parish where we receive our meals. Other university groups from Rice and Marywood are also here, so they make for delicious conversations at times.
As a group we´ve slowly come to grow closer and laugh together and make fun of Patricio (our coordinator).

Being here, feels like being home.

There is no obvious violence going on, although we haven´t had much opportunity to go exploring at night since ít´s been pouring. Only violence I have witnessed was the stupid mistake of leaving my unbreakable water bottle behind, the one with 20 different
stickers on it :(

Cool quotes I have overheard and jotted down these past couple of days

¨The one who has love, courage, and wisdom moves the world¨
¨Si no respetamos a la tierra no nos respetamos a nosotros mismos¨
¨Ser un amigo a la tierra y ser un amigo de la humanidad¨ asi es como se describio Don Torribio

I have witnessed a lot of projects and good things that have been successful thanks to the Parish here at San Lucas. This past year my faith has been very confusing and I had some trouble putting into words what it is exactly I believe in. So being here has in a way made me see how great organized religion can be for a town and its people.

So we´ll see, right?

Monday, May 11, 2009


I have been food crazy these past couple of days. 
Eat Food. Not too much. Mostly plants. 
Thanks Michael Pollan. 
Fruits as well, I've been on a fruit high. Maybe since that first bowl of fruit salad a week or two ago in the morning. Hmm...strawberries, mango, orange, and a couple of other delicious delights.
So a quick stop at a supermarket and glance at the packaged candy bars is just enough to make my insides shiver. 

The other evening I went movie hopping but just before that I got a phone call from my dad. My uncle from Germany had a heart attack while he was visiting in Miami. His daughter, my cousin, is about my age. They had a pretty close relationship. He had a serious face, very much the opposite of my other uncle in Germany. A couple of times he would tease me and my vegetarianism, claiming there's nothing he can cook for me to eat. Imagine that. I am grateful that I got the opportunity to get to know him a little bit and spend some time with him. May he rest in peace. 

I'm all packed and ready to go. Whatever I may forgot, hopefully the 9 other fellow students will have :)
My mother is freaking out...and why exactly I really do not know. The fact that she is a hispanic mother, I am her child, and on top of that I'm a girl does not help I bet. I'll be accompanied just about every minute of every day while in Guate. There's this fear she's expressed constantly of Guate being a dangerous city and so far from a decent place to visit. Yes I know there is crime and violence and the like. 
Where's all this panic coming from? Thank you ABC, CBS, CNN, and every other letter in the alphabet news program. 
I am really eager though to visit this country even though it will be my third or fourth time there. Before I had always been dragged along with family for an event, a religious holiday (Semana Santa), or as a kid for one reason or another. This time I'll be doing an alternative break immersion (abi) with la universidad at San Lucas. We haven't really gotten a full itinerary of what we'll be doing which only worries me a little bit since I like to be prepared and know what's going on, at least 24 hours in advance people. 
Makes me wonder who the heck is organizing this trip (just kidding, I know I know we don't always have to know everything).

I was inspired earlier by T who is a fellow CHANGE leader. 
He is really crazy involved with the ONE Campaign and has been among 20 semi-finalists across the U.S. selected to go to Kenya and do awesome anti-poverty work or trainings. Anytime I catch up on what he's doing through some other method besides phone conversations I am stunned. It's people like him that make me really hopeful and again inspired to keep working. 

Oh, and CHANGE is a week long intensive training program in Boston hosted by Oxfam America (OA). It takes 50 college students from just about every state and educates them on different OA campaigns and about the organization itself. So you end up with 50 best friends. no lie.

Fun/Favorite travel quotes

“I have found out that there ain’t no surer way to find out whether you like people or hate them than to travel with them.” - Mark Twain

It's a rough journey sometimes, if I want to travel with you...that kinda says something. Mostly that I just want to travel with you, get to know you, then figure out if I really enjoy spending time with you. Ha. But honest, waiting in lines, sitting on trains, figuring out directions, travel partners are tons of fun or at least they have that potential. It's all how you see things of course. One of my favorite things about the NPR series "This I Believe," if you haven't checked it out I strongly urge you to do so. 

“Traveling is a brutality. It forces you to trust strangers and to lose sight of all that familiar comfort of home and friends. You are constantly off balance. Nothing is yours except the essential things - air, sleep, dreams, the sea, the sky - all things tending towards the eternal or what we imagine of it.” - Cesare Pavese

YES! Oh the beauty of couchsurfing and trusting strangers to let you into their homes, allow them to prepare you wonderful meals, take you out and discover the city/town/village, and simply be a generous human.  I think my dad worries a little because of how trusting I am willing to be.  But I'd like to think I have a good idea of how to behave/act/think/react, what would you call that? Hmm...

Rosanna, you know what I'm talking about, don't you? Rosanna is the woman who knows me inside and out. She's a sweetheart but she's awful at keeping in touch, in reality we both are though. 
I'm grateful to have her in my life. 

Oh goodness, look at the time. Gotta get going. 


Friday, May 8, 2009


99% of my evenings are starting to turn into a routine. Clean up a little bit, e-mail a little bit, followed by some yoga, sorting through music while sipping cocoa mate (add some agave & soy, mmm deeelicious), cleaning up again, and close with some reading. 

I love this routine though, it makes me happy. 

So I went to "healing hour"and had an aura reading done earlier. Thanks to Kat-spot, she is the one who introduced me to the center where all this is performed...

During this "healing" session you sit in a chair while the 'healer' walks around you moving their hands, as if conjuring a spell, while you sit with your eyes wide open bewildered. But they're grounding you, supposedly making you feel closer to the earth and cleansing you of bad energies such as unhappy/unfriendly words directed at you. At least this is what one of the female healers told me right after mentioning I'm a natural as well as very clairvoyant. When I asked her to explain herself, she said I was a good judge of people and could instantly tell whether they had postive or negative energies. I brushed it off, others would just call that intuition. I had a total of four healders, the first and the last were the most interesting looking and provided for a cool experience. 

I have personally never had any sort of psychic reading or aura reading, though they have never ceased to fascinate me. So I figured why not and dove into it. The walls were naked white with only one of the walls decorated with a picture of the ocean, there was also a plant, and four mini flower vases from IKEA. Lined up against one side of the wall were three psychics, one woman on the far left, in the middle a man, and to his right a funny looking man who slightly resembled that tall guy (brother?) from Everybody Loves Raymond who had crayons and paper with him with different circles/layers. He ended up drawing my color on the different layers as well as a few notes. I sit down, they all look at me for a minute before closing their eyes and going on a "let's tell you a story about yourself through pictures we can imagine" journey. Which is totally fine by me! 

My only problem was I wanted to know who these people were just about the entire time I'm sitting there, the man in the middle (main psychic) and the woman closed their eyes the whole time. Coloring book guy had to keep them half open to color. I wonder where they started out doing this type or perhaps past time or even hobby. Did they have kids? The woman looked young but not young enough to go without having some lovely apartment with a dog. If I ever run into these people at a grocery store somewhere, what are you supposed to say? 

The first half hour was dedicate to the reading of the different levels then in the second half hour I could ask anything I wanted. Which sounds a lot cooler than it really is because how do you ask a bunch of psychics a question without coming off as stupid or naive? Instead I went the "can you expand on this aspect of my life" or "could you tell me what this could lead to?" it was strange. 

They were pretty spot on as far as pinning down my characteristics and tendencies. But that's all it felt like. They were just reading who I was through stories and pictures of different things. Even their answers were drawn out into long stories that could be a third as long and still deliver the same message. My communication professors would have been very disappointed. 

Not a big deal, just pretty cool you could say. 

Can you guess what color I was? 

check out a description of ORANGE auras 

taken from

"They have an inner urge to be creative, active and enjoy life to its fullest. They are also individual and independent and integrate physical and mental qualities. They enjoy the challenge and excitement of forming and shaping physical reality. Orange personalities love to imagine and plan strategies for their next adventure or project and then put those plans into action. They need to be involved in the actual working process and want to physically shape and form their own ideas. They have difficulty sitting back and letting other people do things for them."
(This last part is pretty accurate)

After my refreshing experience I took a long walk before deciding I did not want to be alone, ending up at a friend's place then deciding I probably should be alone. Odd, I know. But sometimes it takes a couple of awesome, cool people in an incredibly sweet apartment eating burgers to convince you that you should be on your own and not interrupting or invading this particular scenario. 

Two more days til Guate....
It hasn't really hit me yet, not til I start packing. Besides the work we'll be doing in San Lucas Toliman I'm really excited about traveling around with Julian. Long story short, Julian and I met during a high school retreat in Esopus, NY and pretty much bonded instantly. If we weren't so alike, we'd practically end up together. We both crave the same type of people, which is always interesting to look into when we are both dating someone. Anyways, I convinced him in less than an hour to come with me and buy his ticket one night when I couldn't sleep. This is why he's a cool friend, besides other important reasons. 

Oh, before I forget. My mom has gone to a psychic long ago and whenever she tells me about her sessions she always refers to the psychic as a psycho, which I think is pretty cute. 

Buenas noches. 

Wednesday, May 6, 2009


The past couple of weeks I've been going into nightowl extreme. 
I rarely get some shuteye before 3am and I'm kinda liking it. You get to hear the birds
chirping and the romantic sounds of the inebriated Polish men screaming at the dead of night. 

I have been able to get some more research in on Vietnam. 
On average about 30 people die everyday crossing the streets of Ho Chi Minh, according to Frommer's. 
Hmm.... shares the tales of women who have traveled alone and can hook me up with a 'mentor' in the city I will be visiting who could give me tips on what to do, what to avoid, etc. So one lady who visited Ho Chi Minh describes advice given to her at the hotel she was staying "What my hotel concierge told me is that, 'when it feels right you step out into the traffic and you keep walking'. Then he added, 'try not to step out in front of a bus that can't stop easily but don't worry, the scooter drivers will try at all costs not to hit you. The most important thing to remember is that once you get on to the road you can't stop half way; you must keep moving because that's what the drivers expect and they guide themselves accordingly.’"

At times I've thought about how crazy this idea was, thinking I would make it through in a country whose language is composed of six different tones. So depending on which tone is used "ma" can mean ghost, mother, which, tomb, horse, or rice seedling. 

I'm cheating. I'm expanding on other people's words, chewing them up to be inspired and create my own.  Let's do one more from Tuesdays with Morrie
"So many people walk around with a meaningless life. They seem half-asleep, even when they’re busy doing things they think are important. This is because they’re chasing the wrong things. The way you get meaning into your life is to devote yourself to loving others, devote yourself to your community around you, and devote yourself to creating something that gives you purpose and meaning."

Here's my dilemma. I feel like I live a life full of meaning and I am happy doing the things I do. The problem is I have let my academic career rot. It's bad. This is a conversation I have had with several people, Pedro comes to mind, mostly because we find ourselves in the same shithole constantly when it comes to juggling good/fun/productive/meaningful work and academic work. Some advice he shared, imparted to him by N. Tuchman, was that Loyola does a great job of sparking a passion or curiosity in our community and makes it easy for us to be involved. At the same time we have to focus on our studies and in an attempt to get both done well end up doing a shitty job at both.  

Last night I lost all my contacts on my phone while I was playing around with it. My uncle gave it to me, it's a fancy touch phone and at first sight I knew it was bad news. It feels great though, to start with a blank first I was freaking out. But as I told the kid the other day "you have my number, if you want to call me then go ahead." Yet this still did not prevent me from creating another of those ridiculous fb groups entitled "I lost my phone contacts." There are lots of people out there I love and would want to stay in touch with even if they don't want to call me, having their number and that option is always a great thing. 

Although, from May 10-August 10 I will be free of my cellphone. No more text messages, voice mail, phone calls interrupting good times. You will not be able to call me asking me of my whereabouts. Ah. Can you imagine it? I am absolutely tickled. 

5 more days til Guatemala