Saturday, December 31, 2011

Friday, December 30, 2011

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas!

A christmas favorite has always been the Grinch Who Stole Christmas. Not entirely sure why, but laughing at the Grinch's sinister smile and singing along to Ravenscroft's "You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch" has been an annual tradition.

The little dog is darling, the Whos are ridiculously utopic, the grinch defies physics way too many times, and the songs are weirdly catchy. My mom has been using the movie as a teaching tool in her english classes here in Spain; it's rather amusing to see her students watch it for the first time. Their expressions subconsciously mirror those of the grinch. Once the movie ends, she explains the moral: it's not the presents or decorations or location at Christmas that's important, but being with those you love.

Christmas in Spain is different. Really different...but it's still just as special. Our Christmas tree is a wooden triangle atop a post. Decorated in colorful trimmings, fruit and plants from the region, and bright red candles, El Ramo is a different kind of tree....but I think it's beautiful. There are no presents beneath it, there aren't any twinkling lights. No christmas music plays on the radio (haha, a bit of a relief), Santa Claus is made fun of, and there's no eggnog.

Our Christmas Tree

Last night, we all crowded around Enrique's family's table in Léon to celebrate Christmas Eve. The Spanish chatter rose as everyone joked, laughed, teased, and ate merrily. The talk was cheery, but I'll admit, the food was daunting. The first course was eel salad. You look down at your greens and sitting atop are dozens of little, squishy baby eels. Yeah...that was rough. Needless to say, Christmas meals are rather different here too.

We squeezed all ten of us into the kitchen

But this place is beautiful, and today we had an American meal so I could relax with my pumpkin pie and green bean casserole. Food security blanket, thankyouverymuch. When all is said and done, though, it's like the grinch's not about the food, nor the location, nor what actually happens at Christmas. At the risk of being super cheesy, it's being with those you love that makes it a real holiday.

Merry Christmas. Give someone a hug.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Christmas Eve

The sun is up, but the air is chilly.

Beneath my third-story window, people pass by bundled in colorful scarves, thick jackets, and knee-high leather boots. The narrow, cobbled streets are full of people, but they're socializing, not frantically buying last-minute presents. The town is small and the people grew up together.

When we walk through the town, the elderly stop and give Mom and Enrique their blessings. We are called into shops just to say hello or catch up on the day's happenings. People are busy, but relaxed; there's time to visit or stop for churros. Peaceful.

And for the last couple days, there's been music in the streets. I listen to the cathedral bells tolling in the night and in the morning, chimes play traditional carols and hymns to the people of Astorga. Through the narrow streets, there's the constant sound of singing or bells...most tunes I recognize, some are new, all are beautiful. Life is quiet here; easy-going.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Thursday, December 8, 2011

So ready

I'm halfway through finals. Tomorrow I've got two back to back. That'll be interesting.
My brain is jumbled and full of too many facts, theories, ideas, and musings....therefore this will proceed in bullet form:

* After tomorrow I will have finished my first quarter at a UC. A real UC. Me. I looked back in my calendar a couple days ago and realized that one year ago, to the day, I flew down here to tour the campus and meet with the dean. I didn't know what my major really was. I wasn't sure what the campus had to offer. I didn't think this school was even a possibility, but my mom made me fly down here to check it out anyways. Well, I thought I had landed in paradise (I kinda had) and now here I am exactly a year later. Challenged, but thriving. Who would've thought?
* Tomorrow's gonna kick my butt. Still a little in terrified denial.
* By mistake, I had double health insurance this quarter. However, my UCSD coverage ends on Monday. Since I'm going to be traveling/studying abroad a lot in the next couple months, I decided it was strategic to get all my vaccinations taken care of now since they're free for the next four days. So, I'm officially taking finals a tad drugged up; T-Dap and typhoid immunizations done, a ton of malaria pills, prescriptions in case of yellow fever or chagas disease, and preventative medication for dengue fever. It's pretty intense being an international relations major. :)
* I'm driving home in two days. And I'm going to Spain in 9. Home! Spain! NINE DAYS. That's enough to drive me to distraction...I'm ready to toss finals out the window. No. No I'm not. But maybe....
* My roommates and I have decided that this is the worst time of the quarter for us (you're thinking, 'no duh'). It's finals. We're sleep deprived, famished, stressed, chock-full of facts and statistics, breaking-out, bitchy, and generally not very nice people to be around. I'm surprised my neighbors still talk to me...but then again, they're being bitchy too, so we're all equals here. Finals week is cruel to everyone. And we're boring. There's nothing new to report, "Oh hey! How was your day?" "*gurgle* It went something like six hours in the library studying...". And even when there IS something kinda cool that happened over the weekend, the neighbors were there, so they already know. We're all suuuuper ready for break so we can become interesting, lively, happy, nice people once again.

Viva la christmas.

Sunday, December 4, 2011


I'm gonna be MIA from facebook (and life in general) for a while.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

International Rescue Committee

Now that I'm volunteering with them, I see the IRC everywhere.

One of groups presenting in my refugee-health class highlighted the IRC's work in Burma, the IRC has been heavily involved with the Lost Boys of Sudan, and look!...they're even advertising on my music playlists.

I think that's really, really cool. So yes....I may or may not have a dozen screen-shots of IRC advertisements on my computer now.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011


The winds changed this morning. Sweeping low across the ocean, they cover the campus in the smell of seaweed and salt. A seagull cackles as it soars by.

Finals week is upon us and the campus is blanketed in a quiet energy. Studying becomes urgent, bleary-eyed students emerge from the library where they've been all night, the coffee line becomes immense. Emergency study groups are being formed. Social interaction has died in the span of just a few days. We're cramming.

And the air smells of the sea. It's called perfection.


I have a very depressing major.
It's become something we laugh about in my international studies classes; we come in with our coffee, bracing ourselves for more dismal facts and discouraging development failures. I get out of that and head to genocide class....woop de doo. I study death. I study exploitation and inequality. I analyze marginalization, gender-based violence, pogroms, civil wars, the ravages of unchecked capitalism, and the effects of centuries of colonialism. It's intense and sometimes I just think, "It's all wrong and there's nothing we can do. We're all just screwed."

But then there are speeches like Sam's. Simple, honest, genuine. A dedication to all things good, pure, and possible. There is good in this world, and as cheesy as it sounds on screen, we really do have to fight for it. Otherwise, this whole thing is pretty pointless.

There's a quote I'm madly in love with right now. "He who saves one life, saves the world entire." You can't focus on the huge, save-the-world's the small things, the details, the one life...that's what has to matter. That's where you'll find hope.

More on this later. It's almost 1am...and I have genocide in a couple hours.

Sunday, November 27, 2011


My roommate burst into our living room to find me working on a paper and sniffling away. I guess spending hours in airports and not sleeping ruins your immune system so here I am with an official cold. Crap.

She, being a saint and all, marched into the kitchen and found me a giant glass of EmergenC and an apple. Cuz it'll keep the doctor away.

I like roommates.

Saturday, November 26, 2011


McDonalds has the worst coffee in the world. Ever.

I'm waiting in an airport again trying to stave oFf intense sleepyness. I feel like a total zombie. Mr. Darling-European is sitting there looking like a god and I'm a zombie drinking McDonald's coffee. Might as well wear a badge saying "I'm a broke, exhausted college student with no caffine standards"...and I'm reading Plato. It's forced nerdiness!! Sigh.

On a different note, thanksgiving was wonderful. Not really the food (the potatoes tasted like vinegar and we had corn/bacon ice-cream >.< ), but chilling with family was awesome. And we saw wild zebra at Hearst Castle. And we played guesstures. And laughed...a lot.

Thursday, November 24, 2011


It's 5:40am and I've already been up for three hours. Stayed up way too late working on a paper,crashed, then woke up way too early to pack and get my tired ass to the airport. And now I'm in the airport watching my little plane taxi to the terminal.

- love airports...even at 5:40 in the morning. Everyone here has a story. Everyone's going somewhere. Each terminal is literally a door to another world; you just walk through and fly to somewhere different and new. It's the closest we can get to Narnia or Monsters Inc.

I've never had to fly somewhere for Thanksgiving before. We've always spent the week before Thanksgiving cleaning, decorating, getting the fall boxes down from the attic, ironing the leaf table-cloths, polishing the silverware, setting the tables for dozens of people, and listening to Keith Green. This year it's just me. Thanksgiving is at my tios' home in Paso Robles and I'll be there in just a couple hours. It's going to be so wonderful seeing everyone; cousins, siblings, grandparents, family, and I really can't wait. This year has been intense academically and as much as I miss our Thanksgiving traditions, it's so nice to just hop on a plane and be there. Everything's already done. For thatN I am extremely greatful.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

For What It's Worth

There's something happening here
What it is ain't exactly clear

There's a man with a gun over there
Telling me I got to beware

I think it's time we stop, children, what's that sound
Everybody look what's going down.

There's battle lines being drawn
Nobody's right if everybody's wrong.
Young people speaking their minds
Getting so much resistance from behind.

I think it's time we stop, hey, what's that sound
Everybody look what's going down.

What a field day for the heat
A thousand people in the street
Singing songs and carrying signs
Mostly say, hooray for our side

It's time we stop, hey, what's that sound
Everybody look what's going down.

Paranoia strikes deep
Into your life it will creep
It starts when you're always afraid
You step out of line, the man come and take you away.

We better stop, hey, what's that sound
Everybody look what's going down.

Stop, hey, what's that sound
Everybody look what's going down.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Intrinsic Complexity

As an International Studies major specializing in Global Health, you learn from day one the world is complex. There is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all solution and assuming there's a quick fix for socio-political problems is naive and damaging. Global politics of inequality and injustice are multi-facited and contain dozens of variables, rendering one-dimensional interventions futile. You can read the many theories out there; the miserable failure of Lesotho's Thaba-Tseka project, Ferguson's anti-politics machine theory, Appadurai's principle of capacity to aspire, and more...but they share a general concept: the world is complex and trying to turn situations into technical fixes instead of holistic prevention is ignorant and dangerous.

It's a fascinating time to be a university student. As I analyze these theories and look at global case studies, I find myself distracted by the incredibly relevant Occupy movements across our own country. Just three days ago, UC Davis students were pepper-sprayed when they peacefully protested police brutality at UC Berkeley. Ironic. I am particularly moved by the abuse as that was almost my campus, my friends are there right now protesting, and I've worked/studied there many times over the course of my academic career. I feel like it's a bit "my" school. Throughout the Occupy movement, protesters have been fiercely criticized for their lack of consensus; lack of a particular platform and/or solution has been seen as their greatest weakness. I believe, however, the great naivety and unawareness the general public has regarding the true issue. It's not that there's one thing wrong with the system, it's the system itself. It's true that the Occupy movement has a myriad of reasons, and if you ask five different protestors, you'll likely get five different reasons they're there. While they're often criticized for this, I think it exposes the inherent complexity and depth of the problem at hand. Our economy, social, and political systems are so interconnected and intricate, it's only logical that a collective protest will be multi-faceted.

And the protest illuminates and exposes new problems; most recently, the brutal response police and authorities are having to peaceful protestors. At UC Berkeley, students, reknown faculty, war veterans and even the elderly were maced, beaten, arrested and stun gunned. On Friday at UC Davis, students were pepper-sprayed and, when they tried to cover themselves, had pepper-spray forced in their eyes and throats. What is this? Police action at the UC campuses are totally uncalled for and, ironically, only unify protestors and incite further demonstrations.

My friends and colleagues are protesting again today at UC Davis. Thousands of them will assemble in over an hour to take a stand against police brutality against peaceful protestors and the unbelievable 81% tuition hike the chancellors are considering. College should not be a debt sentence and neither should it condemn or suppress students' right to a voice. I wish UCSD wasn't so conservative and frustratingly apathetic - there's not even a rally or vigil going on here to stand in solidarity. Those that do know or support, do so with a quiet shrug. I look at them with disbelief. Really?

Just as you can't fight for women's rights in India without also examining the caste, class, education, and socio-political factors creating a violent environment, so you can't look at the Occupy movement and say, "oh, they don't have a solid reason to be out there." It's complex. It's multi-faceted. Real change, holistic change, sustainable change takes lots of people. It takes lots of voices. It takes lots of reasons.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

I love him

I really do.

Or maybe it's just the whole amazing show.

NBC just pulled The Community from it's midseason schedule and I'm officially in grief-mode. This show is my life; not in the sense that I'm obsessed with it and can quote every episode (while that *cough* may *cough* be true), but in the sense that I've personally experienced 90% of the show's situations. Having gone to a real-life community college, I watch this show and think, "that was me!" "I did that!" "Hahahaha, we had a weirdo like that at ARC...". Even the textbook they use in the show was MY textbook at ARC.

I swear, this show was my life. And they cut it. Traumatic.
I should start my own occupy movement. Community college transfer students everywhere would support me. You know they would.

And besides, I miss evil troy and evil aaaaabed.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011


Is it weird when stress can be surprisingly exciting? A little addicting? Have I gone off the collegiate "deep end"? Hmmm.

On a different note, the last couple days have been intense. In a lot of different ways. I've had:
* A hiccup. First paper I've been faced with in a long time where I felt I could barely make coherent sentences. Can I just garble on for pages and pages, throw some multi-syllabic words in there, a couple lofty citations and pretend that makes perfect sense? I felt like a one-year old; madly trying to express ideas which I had no earthly idea how to actually communicate.
* Vicarious drama. From a million different people. Guys and girls. I think I have a sign on my back saying "Please cry on my shoulder. I'd love to hear your melodramatic drama. Really, I have no life, so go ahead and rant." It's a good thing I'm single because the amount of drama I've had to soothe in the last couple days would make Marilyn weary.
* An amazing day. You know how you can have "those days"; bad hair days, wake-up-on-the-wrong-side-of-the-bed kind of days? Well, just imagine the exact opposite of that....and that's what I had. Daylight savings gave me an extra hour of sleep, got called in for an interview to be a College Ambassador, practiced Spanish with a new friend, got invited to speak/lecture for one of my classes, learned I don't have to take a math class to study abroad (!!!), AND acquired an entire bottle of nutella. Yes. Amazing day.
* An epiphany. I can make the most kick-ass pumpkin pie you've ever had.
* Intense restlessness. I'm going to be in Sacramento in two days and I'm distracted beyond belief. I keep daydreaming about sac...who woulda thunk?

It's all an adventure. Stressful adventure, but it's all good.

Monday, November 7, 2011


“The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life. Attitude, to me, is more important than facts. It is more important than the past, the education, the money, than circumstances, than failure, than successes, than what other people think or say or do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness or skill. It will make or break a company... a church... a home. The remarkable thing is we have a choice everyday regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day..." - Charles R. Swindoll

It's all about choosing to see the beauty in life. Choosing to notice the little details. Choosing to smile. Choosing to stay positive. Choosing to encourage someone. Choosing to look for the happiness waiting to be found.

It's there. Choose it. Life's way too short not to.

Saturday, November 5, 2011


I really love words. I love their complexities, their subtleties...even the way certain words sound. More than that, though, I love people who can deftly use them. Give me someone with a vocabulary and I could listen for hours.

And so, here I am at 1:30am and all I want is to curl up with hot cocoa and Cyrano de Bergerac. I'm seriously debating it...

Thursday, November 3, 2011


When I was 14, my grandfather read me Don Quixote's The Impossible Dream. He challenged me to dream the impossible dream, to fight the unbeatable foe, to try when my arms grow too weary, to right the unrightable wrong. We'd play chess and he would patiently listen to my adolescent ramblings; things I thought about, problems I wanted to solve, careers I wanted to try. He'd show me pictures of Europe or tell me stories from when he'd been "all over the world". He gets excited about the vibrancy of life and the wonders waiting to be discovered. To this day, he continues to look me in the eye and urge me to reach far, have goals, be someone....dream.

This last spring, my friend was our JC's student valedictorian. Surrounded by hundreds of caps and gowns, weepy relatives, and elated students about to transfer to universities of their own, his voice carried over the loudspeakers encouraging us to dream. Calling out to his fellow graduates, fellow "keepers of the dream", he entreated us to own brave...remember what we'd learned and do the most with the opportunities we are given. Dreams can be frightening and daunting, but something we must pursue with confidence. "Keepers of the dream", he challenged, "now is our time."

And today, sitting in class at UCSD, we analyzed socio-cultural anthropologist Appadurai's theory of Capacity to Aspire. He argues that impoverished people need their voices to be heard. That development discourse should revolve around the opinions and needs of the people in question...not the agendas or wallets of international organizations and companies. When given a voice, when given the opportunity to envision a future for themselves and their descendants, the destitute can finally dream. So often, the Western world doesn't realize how incredibly fortunate they are to be able to dream, to aspire, to imagine and innovate. When every moment is not dedicated to basic survival, we can enjoy the luxury of "what if". I, for one, had definitely taken this for granted.

Dreams are powerful tools. They are also a privilege. And since we have the freedom to dream....let's dream big.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011


*Just* when I was feeling super lonely and forgotten down here in SD....500 miles away from everyone I miss and love:

I got a box of pure happiness! Full of chocolate! FULL of chocolate.

I literally laughed out-loud when I opened it up. My day/week/month has been made. Call me easily delighted. Whatever.

All better.