Thursday, December 13, 2012

The Wind

It's a cold, rainy day in San Diego. The ocean is choppy and white-caps punctuate the normally smooth horizon. Dark clouds hang low and students rush to class tucked deep within their jackets and scarves. It's finals week and we only have a day to go until break. Freedom is close; for me, it's just one more test away.

This morning I was up early to take donated gifts to the IRC Office. While our gift drive was a bit last-minute and attempted to extract presents from broke students, it was a success. I hauled three large, brightly-wrapped christmas boxes to the office and imagine the little hands that will be opening them in a few weeks time. Little hands, joyful eyes, grateful parents. It's a beautiful thing and I'm so glad we did it. Next year we'll be able to spend more time on it and advertise better. But driving back to campus in the rain, my mind raced with new ideas, possible partners, events we could do, ways to publicize throughout San Diego. We're on to something great here and I desperately don't want it to "die" next year when I hand the presidency over...or when I graduate. So it's building partnerships now; establishing longevity. I hope it lasts.

Back home, I return to the familiar place before the stove, slowly stirring the pasta that still not quite al dente. It's been pasta and alfredo sauce for the past four days - lunch and dinner - and you'd think I'd have turned into the rolly-polly Carb Queen by now, but the noodles refuse to disappear no matter how many I eat. Yet, it's not Top Ramen, so I'm not complaining. Anything with alfredo means gourmet, right? My man calls as I strain the noodles into the sink. We catch up on my morning as I cool the steaming pasta with my breath; I tell him of the rain, the gifts, the possible speaker I'm corresponding with for February's event, my final coming up I haven't studied for, the monotonous details of the day. We talk, he looks out the window at the honking cars below, I rinse off my dishes, we sigh and say goodbye for the next three days. He'll be traveling in Northern Peru with a friend and is leaving his laptop behind. A smart decision given the high rates of theft on the Peruvian road. I blow a kiss and we hang up.

It's cold and rainy. Looking down over the treetops from my kitchen window, I watched the leaves flail in the gusts of wind blowing in off the ocean. White-caps punctuate the normally smooth horizon. My heart is restless, and I don't know why. I feel unsettled. Anxious. I feel disconnected with myself; unsure of what I feel or why. It's a strange feeling, but I'm going to blame it on the wind. The wind and the rain and the distance. 

Sunday, December 9, 2012


For the past two nights I've gone to bed after 2am. My body is tired and my mind feels slow; not a strong combo heading into finals week. But I have a man who randomly skypes me throughout the day to say he likes my face. Misses my face. My sleep-deprived, tired face. 

And I'll get to see his face in 10 days. 

Saturday, December 8, 2012

La Jolla Labnah

I'm back sitting in my special La Jolla cafe overlooking the ocean sipping Turkish espresso. But today is different; today I discovered this cafe sells not only rolls of baklava, but homemade labnah. My mind flew to early mornings in the Baqa'a camp health clinic when I'd duck into a back pantry with the doctors and talk about the new day over a bowl of labnah. As we'd dip our warm pieces of bread into the creamy yogurt and olive oil, we'd discuss Jordanian politics, the reason why waterborne diseases were so prevalent among the kids, and what to do with the cranky old woman in the hallway. Labnah was the beginning of every day there and an edible symbol for a moment of quiet amongst the chaotic whirlwind pervading that little understaffed clinic. Even now, back home in San Diego, rediscovering it in this little urban cafe soothed my mind and I find myself craving it almost desperately. I'm going to see if I can buy it directly from the cafe....something the barista found unusual, but that's okay. I want to start my days with some fruit, piece of warm bread and a dollop of Jordanian nostalgia. 

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Long Distance Love - Sarah Kay

I had already fallen in love with too many postage stamps when you appeared on my doorstep wearing nothing but a post stamp promise.

No, appeared is the wrong word. Is there a word for sucker punching someone in the heart? Is there a word for when you're sitting at the bottom of the roller coaster and you realize the climb is coming, that you know what the climb means, that you can already feel the flip in your stomach from the fall, before you've even moved? Is there a word for that?

There should be. You can only fit so many words in a postcard. Only so many in a phone call. Only so many into space, before you forget that words are sometimes used for things other than filling emptiness. It's hard to build a body out of words. I have tried. We both have tried.

Instead of holding your head to my chest, I tell you about the boy who lives downstairs from me, who stays up all night long practicing his drum set. The neighbors have complained, they have busy days tomorrow, but he keeps on thumping through the night. Convinced, I think, that practice makes perfect.

Instead of holding my hand, you tell me about the sandwich you ate for lunch today. How the pickles fit so perfectly with the lettuce. Practice does not make perfect, practice makes permanent. Repeat the same mistakes over and over and you don't get any closer to Carnegie Hall, even I know that. Repeat the same mistakes over and over and you don't get any closer. You, never get any closer.

Is there a word for the moment you win tug of war, when the weight gives and all that extra rope comes hurdling toward you. How even though you've won, you still wind up with muddy knees and burns on your hands, is there a word for that? I wish there was. I would've said it when we were finally together on your couch, neither one of us with anything left to say.

Still now, I send letters into space, hoping that some mail man somewhere will track you down and recognize you from the description in my poems. That he will place the stack of them in your hands and tell you, 'there's a girl who still writes you, she doesn't know how not to.' 

Wednesday, December 5, 2012


I'm curled up in the corner of a cafe with honey-cinnamon chai tea and a surprise moment to write. Today has been a flurry of doctor's calls, scheduling appointments, calling restaurants to cater at next quarter's events, classes, and skype time with a face I miss.  It's been a long day and the fact that I can count on my fingers the amount of days until I'm home make studying seem inconsequential. A fact that can't be farther from the truth.

But I've discovered The Piano Guys' newest masterpiece and the breathtaking chords of the cello transport my nostalgic Christmas heart back to days of decorating trees in the Fremont sanctuary and listening to the 90-piece orchestra tune up. The video's architecture reminds me of Spanish and French cathedrals and my mind wanders to the icy streets of Madrid; sparkling orbs of light dangling above pavement sent shadows of light dancing across ancient stained glass windows.

I love the haunting melodies of old carols. O Come, Emmanuel. God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen. Mary Did You Know? They're deep and rich, powerful songs full of mystery and intrigue. Each version is different. Each an interpretation of someone's memories and heartfelt emotion poured into the notes on the page. I think that's what makes them so beautiful - the songs become human.

And this one is particularly beautiful.

Friday, November 30, 2012


Traditions exist for a reason. Embedded deep within our individual psyche, traditions represent fond memories and actions we sometimes subconsciously treasure. They're often not practical, necessary, or outwardly significant, but there's a beauty to living by age-old customs; actions you know have been practiced for generations before you. Nostalgia is a magical and powerful thing.

Thanksgiving in Sacramento was different this year. New faces, new dishes, a new rhythm to the melody of the day. The pilgrim books weren't out on the coffee table and the string of leaves wasn't hanging in its usual place. The tablecloth covered in acorns and vibrantly colored leaves was missing and Keith Green didn't play. And yet, the box of my Johnson Brother's china emerged from the closet shadows and instantly sparked memories of cheerful preparations around a massive roasted turkey. The set had belonged to my mother who collected and protected them; I can't remember a Thanksgiving without those fragile plates and saucers. Sara got out her set of silver utensils that, again, used to belong to mom. We carefully set them according to table etiquette learned during our days as waitresses; knives protecting forks and spoons tucked just under the edge. Little by little, the Thanksgiving tables were transformed into the magnificent centerpieces of our childhood. Nostalgia is a magical and powerful thing.

Christmas this year is going to be very different as well. Come mid-December the Sacramento house will be strung with lights and a stately tree placed in the massive window beneath a star of gold. There will be a fireplace and mistletoe, eggnog and good old Bing Crosby singing on the radio. And while I'll be there for the pre-day festivities, on Christmas day I'll be with a different family far away from chilly Sacramento. It's going to be wonderful and I find myself thinking about December 20th on a daily basis...oftentimes hourly basis. I can't wait for my man to be home and I can't wait to be with him. And yet, my family will be hundreds of miles away and I'll be far from their hugs and laughter. In an effort to remain as close to Farrell traditions as possible, there is a tall douglas fir standing in my dorm's livingroom as we speak. It's full and straight with no gaping holes or strangely colored branches. Twinkling white lights sparkle off the fifty holiday ornaments we found at CVS for $10. There are paper snowflakes all around the room. The house smells like Christmas, and if I close my eyes, I'm our wide open livingroom bathed in wintery sunlight, listening to the cat play with the low-hanging branches. I'm there, with siblings goofing around, Mom humming "Mary Did You Know", and Dad making chicken soup in the kitchen. The aroma is deliciously overwhelming, full of spices and  simmering vegetables. The memories are beautiful; achingly beautiful. It's a life that no longer exists, but one we all try to recreate in our small little ways. For me, it's the tree. Nostalgia is a magical and powerful thing. 

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Through the Loopholes

The careful balance between writing on what is academically interesting and relevant to the intellectual world, versus what the sleepy grad-student wanting an easy checklist paper is looking for.  There's a bigger picture this paper fits nicely into, but doing so might lower my grade. Ironic.

Can't wait for grad school. Though...I could see this happening there too. Dissertation committees are biased too.

Can't wait for the real world. I'll just write a book. 

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Thursday, November 15, 2012


I fall in love regularly,
with each person whom
passes me in the streets,
or who sits beside me on the bus.
Not in the romantic way;
No, we hardly even speak
a word to each other.
But I sit, quietly observing
all of their body language and all of their expressions.
Their smiles and gestures;
the way they lift their coffee,
or smile as they read
that new text message,
or count the change in their hands.
I watch vigilantly, tracking
the manners and movements,
and appreciating all that
these people are.
I spend some time thinking about
their families and lives,
and the life they lead.
I consider what they might do
for work, and what they
went to school for.
When they woke up that morning, and
how they did their hair.
I study the details of these people,
that may otherwise go unnoticed.
Researching each of them,
noting our similarities, and
rejoicing in
the beauty of human nature.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Life's Little Pleasures

Singing at the top your lungs when you're alone in the car

Months with three paydays

Lying in bed with freshly-washed sheets

Having the exact change to pay for something


Sticking a leg out from underneath the blanket and feeling just right

That first intense body stretch after waking up

The smell of bacon. The taste of bacon. Everything about bacon

Cuddling and getting wrapped inside someone's arms when it's freezing cold

Spontaneous adventures

Baby laughs

Waking up, checking the clock and seeing you have plenty of sleep time left

Driving over little hills and getting the mini roller-coaster feeling

Finding money you didn't know you had in your pocket

Catching a song you love on the radio just as it starts

Lying in bed after an exhausting day and feeling every muscle relax

Asking a question on Google and seeing it finish your words, meaning there are others out there wondering the same thing as you

Late night conversations with a glass of wine

Having a brother come visit in 13 hours

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Sin Nombre

“Nobody can claim the name of Pedro,
nobody is Rosa or María,
all of us are dust or sand,
all of us are rain under rain.
They have spoken to me of Venezuelas,
of Chiles and Paraguays;
I have no idea what they are saying.
I know only the skin of the earth
and I know it has no name.” 
― Pablo Neruda 

Monday, November 5, 2012

"Then I speak to her in a language she has never heard, I speak to her in Spanish, in the tongue of the long, crepuscular verses of Díaz Casanueva; in that language in which Joaquín Edwards preaches nationalism. My discourse is profound; I speak with eloquence and seduction; my words, more than from me, issue from the warm nights, from the many solitary nights on the Red Sea, and when the tiny dancer puts her arm around my neck, I understand that she understands. Magnificent language!"
- Pablo Neruda

Can't get enough of him. 

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Pauma Farm

The morning was warm and bright sunshine brought freckles to my cheeks as I sunk my pitchfork into the steaming mound. Dirt flew as others around me hurled shovelfuls of compost into the trailer below us. Seven of us bent into our work and with each shovelful, the air turned to a fine mist of brown earth, straw, and colorful pieces of plastic. Our arms and faces were covered in glistening dust. Girls don't sweat, we glisten.  And with our glistening muscles, plus some really strong guys, we managed to hurl and move over a ton of compost today. I feel like a garden warrior.

A sore garden warrior. 

We were back at the Pauma Valley IRC farm today - this time as a club. Joe and I have worked on the farm with fellow volunteers a couple times and it's magical to see the changes in less than a year. The 20 acres that, only months ago, were overgrown with weeds and thistles and from which we yanked hundreds of feet of drip tape are now green with foreign agriculture. Refugees in bright colored skirts sing softly to themselves as they tend to harvests that didn't exist earlier this year. There's a massive compost bin in the far field...that we built. And today we hauled contaminated compost out of the farm and raised the roof on a 24-foot wash-station for the refugees to clean their harvested veggies and hands. It's hard, strenuous, beautiful work. The kind of work you can look around and see the difference. The hums of the Somali and Burmese refugees floated along the breeze and a crow hopped noisily along the weedy path. My blood and sweat is literally invested in this farm, and while I've only been able to work there a few times, I feel like it's something I'm intimately connected to. I love being there, surrounded by tall mountains, dried brush, green crops and accented song. I love waving to new friends and working alongside them as we struggle in the heat. It's hard, but like most difficult things, it's rewarding and humbling. 

I really hope we can get back there sooner than later. 

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Monday, October 29, 2012

Behind the Bus

There are days when the pace is so fast, when there are so many things to finish and turn in, so many places to be and people to meet with, that essentials like eating, remembering your key, or putting on a dash of mascara go by the wayside. Those days when, no matter how fast you move or how many things you accomplish, you're still behind. All day spent running just 2 seconds behind the bus.

That's today. Today's been full of meetings, classes, finishing and submitting a paper, more classes, forgotten assignments, and a backlog of club emails that need to be sent. A friend called me who's depressed and wants to grab dinner. Skype dates, and phone dates, and siblings texting due to frustrations. Roommates relentlessly tease since I didn't go drinking with them on the weekend and spend too much time studying in my room or talking with the boyfriend. Work keeps scheduling me, filling every last spare hour I have...while coworkers desperately text asking for emergency coverage.

Stop! There are days when I just want to curl up in a little ball and hide from the world. I have no more pep-talks to give, no more optimism to share, no more energy to spend. I want to be a hermit. I want to watch the fog roll of the ocean, drink my coffee, and actually READ for my classes. And go to bed on time. And not feel like I'm going to die every time I wake up.

Gotta go. I'm late to class.

Words that sing

“You can say anything you want, yessir, but it's the words that sing, they soar and descend...I bow to them...I love them, I cling to them, I run them down, I bite into them, I melt them down...I love words so much...The unexpected ones...The ones I wait for greedily or stalk until, suddenly, they drop...”
― Pablo Neruda

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

I sit at my desk, steaming chamomile tea in one hand and a pen in the other. Papers are scattered around with sticky notes peaking through dog-eared pages. George Winston tries to ease my thoughts as I wade through Machiavellian theory. Cruel, pragmatic and heartless, his political advice is chilling and this paper is turning out to be harder than I expected. Not because of the length or complexity of the prompt, but rather the emotional level is literally giving me goosebumps.

We're supposed to compare Miguel Angel Asturias' El Presidente to Machiavelli's The Prince to uncover cunning dictatorial strategies so prevalent in 20th century Latin America. El Presidente is beautifully written; the translated Spanish is magical and written in a confusingly breathtaking style that overwhelms the reader with the tormented psychology of a tyrannized society. Using a combination of magical realism, onomatopoeias, Mayan myth, and dizzying repetition, Asturias paints a devastating portrait of Guatemalan political culture under the rule of Gustavo Cabrera. The characters are real, the torture haunting, and the fictitious storyline full of hope and heartbreak. It definitely deserves the Nobel Prize it received.

But I'm here struggling to write. I haven't figured out how to separate my emotions from my studies. It's one thing to read books and accounts and then robotically regurgitate them into a neat, organized 7-page paper for some starving graduate student to read at 2am. It's called jumping through the hoops of an undergraduate career; analyze the book by throwing in a couple buzzwords from lecture and show that you actually did the reading. But the separation of heart and mind is hard for me. While these characters are inventions of Asturias' memory, the pain felt by their historical counterparts was real. All around the world pain continues to be real. Why am I sitting at a desk writing theoretical criticisms when there are people not-so-many thousands of miles away suffering?

I know the answers and I know why I'm here. Sitting at this desk. Writing this paper. It's the microlevel solution to greater, macro-level goal. I don't want to be here, but to get there you need training, knowledge, and oftentimes letters behind your name so policy makers and leaders will actually listen.

Still. I'm frustrated with reading about torture and injustice...and then simply sitting here writing a paper no-one will ever care about 2 weeks from now. In order to get a good grade and GPA that those suffering won't actually care about either.

"The streets were a tunnel of shadows. Sometimes they would be woken from their deepest dreams by the cries of an idiot who had last his way in the Plaza de Armas. Or sometimes by the tramp of a patrol, belaboring a political prisoner as they dragged him along, while women followed wiping away the blood-stains with handkerchiefs soaked in tears. Sometimes by the snores of scabby valetudinarian, or the heavy breathing of a pregnant deaf-mute, weeping with fear of the child she felt in her womb. But the idiot's cry was the saddest of all. It rent the sky." -Asturias, El Presidente

Thursday, October 18, 2012


An old post, but I'm missing "my" refugees.

His lips were tightly pursed as his callused fingers gripped the pencil. His brow furrowed in concentration as he slowly wrote the letter "s". It was curvy and difficult and in his intense effort the pencil slipped, leaving a dark, jagged streak on the notepaper. Rows and rows of large, shaky letters lined the paper. He'd been practicing the alphabet for near three hours; his dedication a combination of pride and determination. He grumbled in Karen as he erased his fumbled "s", frustrated at himself and the stubborn curvy letter.

I quietly watched him as he worked. A Karen refugee in his mid-60s, Pablat has seen pain; his scarred hands and premature wrinkles bear testimony to it. CNN dubbed the conflict in Burma a "forgotten story", yet the civil war there has continued since WWII, making it the longest-running armed conflict in the world. Hundreds of thousands of Karen have been forced from their homes, most have lived in refugee camps their entire lives. A lucky few are allowed to relocate to the US; Pablat to San Diego. As a branch of the International Rescue Committee (IRC), we offer english classes to refugees like Pablat and on Monday our little classroom was crammed with 67 refugees. The room quickly filled with Burmese, Somali, and Iraqi chatter, but silenced as soon as the teacher began to speak. They are dedicated and eager to learn; the room quiets as 67 pencils begin to write.

Completely illiterate, Pablat's never held a pencil in his life. The learning curve is daunting at best. We work through the alphabet one letter at a time and I realize 26 is a lot of letters. I am suddenly aware of how difficult our language can be, our letters look and sound the same to the struggling learner. I realize how confusingly similar "b", "d", "p", "c", "e", "g" are and explaining the difference between "m" and "n" results in exasperation on both sides.

We work on the alphabet for hours and he slowly fills numerous sheets with the letters. He's determined to know their names too; he stops every couple minutes to recite the alphabet, one foreign letter at a time. For a change in pace, I write his name on the top of his paper. P-a-b-l-a-t. I slowly say each letter as I write. I point at the word, point at him; "Pablat". It takes a second, but he suddenly realizes what the word means and his eyes fill with tears. He beams as he takes my pencil and traces the word, whispering his name. He writes his name for the first time and we're both speechless; it's an incredible, beautiful moment.

Totally worth the countless hours more.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

The Paranoid and the Plague

There's a massive public health book above my bed that I stay up waaay too late every night reading. At 800 pages I could totally use it to lift weights with, but instead I just enjoy nerdy adrenaline rushes at 1am. Sleep deprivation vs. muscle. But with chapters like "Lassa, Ebola, and the Developing World's Economic and Social Policies", "Urban Centers of Disease", and "The Interactions of Poverty, Poor Housing, and Social Despair with Disease"...I mean, really, how can you not?

Problem is, for the last two weeks, every day has been a bout with exhaustion and nausea. Not a cool combo. And while this book is fascinating (and probably contributing to the exhaustion), it's not helping my psychological coping mechanisms.  The other night I was convinced it was Bolivian hemorrhagic fever, or meningococcal disease...or maybe cancer. After more hypochondriac self-diagnosis, it's probably just a vitamin B deficiency.

But yeah, heads up: if you don't feel so awesome, don't read The Coming Plague.

Sunday, October 14, 2012


Sometimes we have to be reminded what a fascinating world we live in. 

Saturday, October 13, 2012

4000 Miles

Tonight we talked for four hours and forty-seven minutes. We talked about our day; the people we had seen and things we'd tried to do. He watched as I built my new IKEA organizer and shuffled through old letters. I taught him "te conozco mozco" and he organized our IRC farm day next weekend. We laughed and teased. It was like the 4000 miles and 2 separate continents were merely an afterthought.

Sometimes we'd just lay silent, wordlessly remembering when our faces were more than just a screenshot. When we weren't confined to pixilated boxes subject to the whims of faulty internet connections. When we didn't have to worry about time zones or slow, 3-week-long postage. But the 4000 miles has meant we've talked about things maybe we wouldn't have....or, at least, not until later. We lay tonight, pensive and quiet, sharing goals, reservations, things we missed, old memories, why we appreciate each other. Fears. We traced the existence of "us" back to last December, and then again to a sunny day in March when he took me to the cliffs overlooking the ocean, and I was too nervous to shut up.  Back to the night I first leaned against him, back when we still were afraid to touch.

Lima, Peru is an achingly long ways away from San Diego, CA. December 20th is sixty-eight days away. But when someone is that far away, you can't take them for granted...which only means they're that much more special. 

Thursday, October 11, 2012

One of those days

I see future-Risa being very productive working from home. I'm picturing a cozy, sunny office covered in maps and pictures from the places I routinely have to visit for "business" with a steamy cup of tea in my hand and flamenco guitar playing in the background.

Today has been one of those days where I feel like I can rule the world from my laptop. Dozens of emails have been sent, a paper was started, research accomplished, wrote with a new collaborator in Mexico, finalized details for an IRC meeting tonight, and got hyped up about the UN International Day of the Girl Child's efforts worldwide today. And yet here I am, padding around barefoot in my bedroom/office in my boxers and sweater. Eating trail-mix. It's a beautiful thing. 

Tuesday, October 9, 2012


"Words are like eggs dropped from great heights; you can no more call them back than ignore the mess they leave when they fall." -Jodi Picoult

"Handle them carefully, for words have more power than atom bombs." -Pearl Strachan

"Good communication is as stimulating as black coffee, and just as hard to sleep after." -Anne Morrow Lindbergh

"The real art of conversation is not only to say the right thing at the right place, but to leave unsaid the wrong thing at the tempting moment." -Dorothy Nevill

Monday, October 8, 2012


World maps stare down at me from their perches on the wall. The ocean breeze plays with the colorful Mexican paper flags hanging in the window and this song plays on and on. It might be on repeat.

I'm grabbing an hour or so to finalize everything for an informational session the officers and I are putting on tomorrow night for the IRC club starting up. It's exciting and the new email is full of questions from interested volunteers. Flyers are taped up all over campus, we've presented in 7 classes full of hundreds of students, tabled, and I'm working on a powerpoint presentation for tomorrow's session now. Energy, nervousness, excitement, momentum, daunting. I can't wait to see how it goes. 

Thursday, October 4, 2012


The night is long and, while my body is exhausted, my mind is restless.  Long to-do lists form as I try to sleep and I suddenly remember things I needed to accomplish, people I needed to talk to, emails I needed to send, but didn't.  So I'm up again writing people I need to, and to people I love. Postcards are scattered across my desk with a variety of colorful destinations: Peru, Spain, Sacramento, Fallbrook.

The night is dense and ocean fog shrouds the stars in a veil of mist. There's a 3/4 moon hiding somewhere out there. I suppose knowledge is like that: you know it's there, you just have to find and learn it.  That's probably why it's addicting. There's so much potential to learn, and often about things you didn't know existed.

I'm off to make a cup of Jordanian tea and write a few more emails. The sun'll be up soon.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Countless Stories

The waves were loud and filled the air with a fine, salty mist. Seagulls cackled as they swooped above the foaming waves. Washed up seaweed curled around the rims of his wheelchair and you could see his shoulders sigh.

His tousled hair was pure white, resembling the ocean surf. Slouched in his mechanical chair he stared out to sea lost in thought. The ocean air played with the loose button-down shirt that hung from his thin, bony frame. His legs were weak and bowed, but his eyes were strong and he gazed at the watery horizon with a determination that comes only from countless hidden stories.

What was he thinking about, the aged man in the wheelchair? 

Monday, September 3, 2012

Friday, August 24, 2012


Economic Crisis in Spain Reignites an Old Social Conflict

"Nobody lives here now, but the sprinklers are functioning and keeping the lawns beautifully green. Just imagine how many farming wages you could pay instead of using the money to water empty gardens."

Wednesday, August 22, 2012


The beat is irresistible and your body sways involuntarily with the rhythm. It's like a musical heartbeat; something you can't control yet takes over your entire being. You close your eyes and feel the music. Fast. Intense. Calming.

The room is large and the music bounces off the tall ceiling. Bare feet patter on the dance floor and you can hear the women breathing hard. Afternoon sunshine streams through the windows and as a dancer passes through the beams of light, she's transformed into graceful silhouettes. Bending. Moving. Twisting.

I've never been a real dancer, but I've danced my whole life. When we were little we'd turn on the American Graffiti soundtrack and dance to the oldies as we swept and cleaned every Saturday morning. We'd listen to mom's stories of her days of a dancer and she'd teach us to point our toes and walk straight, like there was a string through our spine. I tried ballet, competed once in Irish dance, spent a summer doing flips with my Swing buddies, line danced downtown, and learned some salsa from a Colombian. Yet, in the whirlwind of life, jobs, and school, dance was never a constant.

But that doesn't keep it from being just as magical. Stretching on the dance floor last night, I learned to just let go. With each deep exhale your worries simply disappear and you're fill with excitement and determination. You learn the steps and suddenly your body moves in ways you never knew you could do. You become aware of each muscle as never before. As your lithe, beautiful body moves, you become free and it shows in the smile behind your concentrated eyes.

It's addicting and in less than an hour we'll be back on that dance floor. Barefoot and beautiful and free.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Ignorance is bliss and, at the moment, I feel I know too much. There are injustices and pains I'd like to be unaware of; you can't worry if you simply don't know. There is nothing I can do, nothing I can change, and knowing breaks my heart. I want to retreat into myself; let Risa curl into a ball and I'll hold her in my hands. I want to wrap her in a warm blanket of quietness and just let her be. Because ignorance is bliss. 

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Friday, July 20, 2012

Burma Boy

We live in a unique time when it's still possible to find people who lived through history. It's a bit long, but the last 10 minutes are particularly beautiful. Definitely a I-love-humanity moment.

"In December 1941, the Japanese invasion of Burma (now Myanmar) opened what would be the longest land campaign fought by the British in the Second World War. It began with defeat and retreat for Britain, as Rangoon fell to the Japanese in March 1942. But the fighting went on, over a varied terrain of jungles, mountains, plains and wide rivers, until the Japanese forces surrendered in August 1945.

Some 100,000 African soldiers were taken from British colonies to fight in the jungles of Burma against the Japanese. They performed heroically in one of the most brutal theatres of war, yet their contribution has been largely ignored, both in Britain and their now independent home countries.

In the villages of Nigeria and Ghana, these veterans are known as 'the Burma Boys'. They brought back terrifying tales from faraway lands. Few survived, even fewer are alive today.

Al Jazeera's Barnaby Phillips travels to Nigeria, Burma and Japan to find a Nigerian veteran of the war and to talk to those who fought alongside him as well as against him. He even finds the family that saved the life of the wounded veteran in the jungles of Myanmar."

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Geeking out

Just a year ago I had no idea what I was doing. I had what seemed an impossible goal, an un-named passion. I knew what I wanted to do, but no idea what it was called or what I needed to do to get there.

And today, my books for Jordan came today. Understanding Global Health and Epidemiology. They're both intense, dense, full of specific and detailed information and will challenge me to no end. But flipping through them, I got so excited and passionate and thrilled...I teared up. Yep. I know. Major geek status. But seriously! This is *exactly* what I love and to know there's actually a name for this, that what I'm passionate about exists, that I'm DOING it, is so overwhelming.

So overwhelming. So exciting. So incredibly amazing. Wowwowwow.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

This guy... backpacking around Peru right now. He's 4,500 miles away and still makes me laugh. I found a little message in my inbox this morning that made me miss him like crazy. He's pretty cool. I kinda like him.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Refugees and Reciprocity

I wish I had taken a picture of the whiteboard.

Their words, carefully scrawled in red marker, punctuated my original sentences. The letters were shaky and un-uniform; some dipped below the line I'd drawn and some were near unrecognizable....but you could read them. "Salesperson", "fixes", "mechanic", "waiter", "cleans buildings". The words were there and, what's more, so was the comprehension. I was beaming.

Last Wednesday was my last day with the refugees for the school year. The ESL classroom is closed over the summer and I'll be studying abroad so we had to say goodbye. During our last lesson we mostly reviewed material from the last six months: places, directions, the months and days, colors, grammar, does vs. doesn't, jobs...and for some, the alphabet. It's been an amazing six months and when I thought back to January, I couldn't help but beam inside. Six months ago I was given my own little table with 6-10 newly arrived refugees (depending on the day and weather, attendance would shift). Six months ago we couldn't understand each other. Six months ago "January" meant nothing to them. Six months ago some of them couldn't even write their names. Now they're writing sentences on the whiteboard and they know what the words mean!

Alganesh is Eritrean and lived in an Ethiopian refugee camp for 10 years with her three little boys. She stands at the board sounding out each word as she writes and then, when she's written a word, she spells it back to herself. We laugh as she writes out what a waitress does...."My job!", she giggles. "I serve food everyday...but my boys, no tip." She gets it.

Law Meh is quiet and shy and always says "thank you Teacher" when I pass out her paper. I don't know how long it took for her to get out of Burma, but she hasn't been here long. She left in March to work on a mushroom farm, but was fired after two weeks for being too slow. She's back now, smiling and whispering at my table and as we practice the jobs she surprises us all. "I can plumbing" she announces. Alganesh tries to explain what plumbing is and Law Meh nods vigorously "yes! I can plumbing." Well, we've got a fix-it woman on our hands. She gets it.

Twa Meh joined us about a month ago. She'd never held a pencil. So while the others quizzed each other on jobs or made flashcards for themselves, she and I traced the alphabet and learned each tricky letter. She's been practicing her name for the past two weeks; there are pages and pages of her notebook covered in shaky"Twa Meh"s. Wednesday, I was busy working on vocab with the others and when I turned around a couple minutes later, her name AND the day's date were boldly written on her paper. She finally gets it! I was so proud.

I've learned so much from these refugees. Once again, I came in prepared to be the one teaching, instructing, and guiding. And while that did happen, once again I was surprised and humbled by how much I learned from them. Alganesh and I would sit at lunchtime and enjoy her homemade injera while she'd tell me of life in the camp. Ler Say and Nyay Reh would laugh as I tried to pronounce kareni words...I'm sure I was butchering them. They were patient with me as I tried to make English comprehensible; they smiled at my blunders and gave me grace when I couldn't ask for it.

I'm going to miss those guys over the summer. ESL is where it's at.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Sunday laundry

I'm cozy inside a green Mexican poncho. My jeans are ripped and frayed. My feet refuse to be entrapped by socks and my toes wiggle on the carpet.

Buffalo Springfield is serenading me with hippy songs and I'm munching on whole-grain bread from Berkeley. Today is a study day and I feel like a vagabond. I'm about to go camp out in the library for who-knows-how-many hours to do homework for my African societies class. I can barely even call it homework though; I have four African movies to watch and analyze. Tough life, I know.

My laundry is fresh out of the dryer; warm and delicious. I bury my nose in the towels, nostalgic memories of childhood streaming through my mind. We'd bear-hug dad when he held warm laundry so we could soak up the warmth. In the chilly winters we'd brave the cold and run to the dryer to get out the warm clothes we'd been heating up. We'd dance around in the cold air pulling up our hot jeans trying not to get burned by the washers or zipper. Every so often we'd have massive sock-folding marathons and the warm static electricity would make our hair stand on end. Zap.

Those were good times. As I carry my warm pile of laundry back to my apartment I smile. Warm laundry will always make me smile. It's the little things in life...and the silly, happy memories that accompany them that make a soul lighter. Finals are coming up and if I think about it too long, my brain has a panic attack. But right now, in this moment, I'm cozy inside a green Mexican poncho with armfuls of warm, yummy laundry.

Thursday, May 31, 2012


Right now all I want is to be curled up in a huge fluffy blanket with cold chow mein.

Eating the chow mein. Not curled up with it. Just clarifying.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Invisible Violence

"Structural violence is often invisible. It becomes so naturalized that it is no longer even perceived to be violence."

As a class, we've been analyzing the AIDS epidemic during and after apartheid in South Africa. We read ethnographies full of testimonies from the women, men, and children affected by the disease and you can hear the fearful grief in their words. Tonight we debated their disease: is it the consequence of promiscuity or longstanding structural violence? My classmates spoke eloquently and persuasively on both sides, but I was distracted by the quote on the board. " naturalized it's no longer even perceived to be violence."

My mind wandered to the story of South African Joseph Mahlangu who couldn't articulate his pain and experiences. Or the Burmese refugee interviewed last week about the political violence he'd seen as a teenager. Though fluent in English, all he could say was "I don't was nothing....I can't remember." For both of them the violence they experienced was of a different nature. Oftentimes physical, yes, but there was another, deeper violence pervading daily life, so intrusive it became subtle. Like a loud noise you eventually drown out. People become used to violence, maltreatment, injustice, and pain. And it's once you grow accustomed to it, it becomes invisible.

I've been thinking about it all afternoon. How do people become "used" to violence? Why? And I realize it's not an international phenomenon; it's rampant domestically as well. Why do girlfriends and wives put up with domestic violence? When asked, they downplay it or, even worse, don't recognize it. They don't realize they're being abused. It's a tragic, devastating cycle of invisible violence.

Still thinking about it. Will be thinking about it. Thinking about the cause, the consequences, the impacts...the cure? What intrigues me is the silence in people's narratives. Why don't people realize it? Why can't they remember? Does blocking or subconsciously ignoring it become a survival mechanism? A way of coping?

" is no longer even perceived to be violence."

Monday, May 21, 2012

Next year... going to be a dream.

Had an hour-long interview today which ended incredibly well. I'm officially part of a team conducting research on immigrant health among Mexican migrants and I'm floating. It's a year-long, graduate-level program that's going to be quite a challenge, but I'll 1) learn how to do extensive research, 2) conduct interviews in Jalisco, Mexico and San Francisco, 3) get published as an undergraduate!! It's amazing.

I danced home from that and registered for classes:
* Field Research and Migrant Health
* Dictatorship in Latin America
* History of Mexico: 1821-1924
* Migration and the Law
* Gospel Choir

Suuuuch an awesome schedule. They'll be tough and fascinating and challenging and ridiculously cool....and I'm finally singing again!

Yup. I'm excited.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Sunshine and Smiles

 My room had a facelift this morning. Sunshine streaks through my mexican birthday flags and casts colored light onto my desk below.

My new Africa map sits perched above the Leonese Flag, teasing me. Joe points out where he worked in Zambia, my friend writes about her time in Kenya, and I can hear my South African friend's voice laughing in my mind. Now I finally have a map to go along with their stories.

I lay on my bed reading through economic theory and feel like I might drown, but then I just look up at the color and sunshine, and smile.

Monday, May 7, 2012


I discovered this video today and have had it on repeat for the past hour. As an international studies/sociology major, I immediately fell in love with the vibrant faces and culture the video portrays, but there was something more. Something stronger. Something deeper that made me watch it over and over.

Those faces look like the refugees I work with every week. Those smiles look like my Jamaican kids. Skin color is irrelevant; their eyes are the same. As I watched the beaming children gather around the photographer, or the mothers smile shyly, I grew more and more homesick for "my" little Caribbean island. I miss it. I miss the long days in the clinics. I miss the quivering heat rising from the dirt roads, chickens and stray dogs wandering aimlessly about, children laughing, children crying, the tropical humidity soaking my scrubs. I miss holding dockets in one arm and a feverish baby in the other. I miss the classrooms and the tiny stubs of chalk we'd use to write the alphabet or draw imaginary animals.

It's my motivation. It's why I'm here. It's why I'm an international studies major, why I'm studying public health, why I want to do research. I've got to get back there. Maybe not Jamaica perse, but somewhere.

I've been camped out trying to write an academic CV for two different programs I'm applying to. One is an international migration research program and the other is a cross-cultural ESL certification program. Both would rock my world, I'm hoping I don't have to choose between them. Maybe I can figure it out and do both. It's hard though, trying to make yourself look good on paper...and I was starting to get burnt out. It's tedious, I've got midterms to study for, I stayed up late last night - maybe a nap would be smart, etc, etc, etc. And then I found this video.

Bam. Motivation.

Saturday, May 5, 2012


I've spent this saturday morning surrounded by paper. Assignments, study guides, checklists, scholarships,  readings, and calendars. It's a busy morning, though I haven't actually moved for a while.

Ordered test prints for my photographs. My show is in less than a month and I'm testing different print companies to see who'll do the best job. With help, I've figured out how I'll mount and display them, now I just have to get the actual prints taken care of. So they look good. It's surprisingly difficult to get what looks good on your screen to look good in print. And trusting/paying someone else to do it is pushing the boundaries of my artistic OCD-ness... My test prints should arrive in a week or so...they'd better be good. *crosses fingers*

Worked through all of the acceptance forms and conditions for the Gilman Scholarship. It's tedious, but I'm still floating that I got it in the first place. I'll get exasperated or tired from working on it, and then I remember, this is the acceptance portion!! Ahh! So, it's totally, wonderfully worth it. Even if it's time-consuming and ridiculously detailed.

Discovered I still might be eligible for an exciting international research program next year. It'd be intense and incredible challenging, but it covers topics I'm passionate about and I'm dying to do it. Deadline for the application is in 10 days, so it's kinda crunch time there too. I've emailed two of my closest professors here to see if they'll write last-minute letters of recommendations, am teaching myself how to write an academic CV, memorizing Spanish vocabulary for the potential interview, and have an official transcript on order. We'll see what happens.

It's a day of checklists and crossed fingers.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Ocean Therapy

My heart raced furiously within my chest as I stood, perched above the waves. The ocean mist stuck to my eyelashes and thickened the air I breathlessly inhaled. The cracked and hardened mound I had claimed as my lookout jutted out stubbornly from the rest of the coastal cliffs; like how your thumb refuses to be part of your hand. It hung a couple hundred feet above the pounding waves and when standing on it, I felt like the only person in the world. Completely alone. Surrounded by wind and waves.

Total peace.

When I lived in Sacramento, I used to dream about the ocean. My mom would tell me that if you listened hard enough to the cars on the freeway, they'd turn into the sound of waves crashing on the sand. When we'd drive to southern California for tournaments, we'd always make a beach detour and I'd roll down the car windows and breathe in the salty air. I love the smell of seaweed, the sound of breaking waves, gulls cackling high above, and the feel of warm sand curling around your toes. I think the ocean can be in your blood; the way artistic talent or personalities are somehow encoded into your genes. The women in my family were born at the beach, grew up on the beach, lived by the beach...loved the beach. And now I'm finally here too.

This morning the air was misty, the ocean was irresistible, and I was stressed. I felt intimidated, ignorant and overwhelmed. I didn't want to face the I ran to the ocean ridiculously early instead. I am not a runner. I don't like running. But pounding my way down the street and to the cliffs soothed my anxious mind. Gasping for air and clutching a side ache, I took in the vast expanse of water stretched out before me. You could see the currents below the surface and imagine the life teeming below. You could smell the salty air, taste it, feel it on your face. I found my little solitary mound and sat there for half an hour. Thinking. Breathing. Just being.

A wise person told me once you have to just be. Be you. Be real. That you don't have to work so hard to prove you're worth it. You can never "deserve" or "earn" people's love and trust. It's not about how smart you are or what you do, it's who you are that matters. And as cliche as that sounds, it's exactly what I needed to hear and exactly what I re-realized sitting out above the ocean this morning.

It was a "take a deep breath, everything is going to be fine, life is still beautiful" moment.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Gallery Submission Essay

When I was eleven I fell out of a tree and thought I was going to die. In those next few seconds spent gasping frantically for air, my lungs were suddenly reminded of how amazing oxygen truly is. Breathing is beautiful.

I really love life. I love the feel of sunshine and the sound of my camera’s shutter clicking. I look for the beauty in small details. Music makes my heart dance and I wish I was better at it. I want to travel the world over, learn a language or two, and fly first class before I die. I dream big, love fiercely, and laugh a lot. A lot a lot.

Photography lets me discover the confident elegance behind a smile, the power of architecture and design, and the grandeur of the stars. My camera has become my shadow; with me wherever I go and part of how I view the world around me. I want my photography to be a way for others to discover the exciting vibrancy surrounding them, be it ever so subtle. Magnificence can be easily overlooked, but I want you to pause. Stop. Soak in the beauty and let it take your breath away. Because sometimes you have to be reminded that breathing is beautiful.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

It's blustery and cold outside; the rain beats against my window and the fierce wind threatens to de-leaf the nearby trees. La Jolla generally isn't stormy, but the timing couldn't be more perfect. I'm forced to stay inside with my hot tea, George Winston and piles of notebooks as I study for finals. Exams start in two days and I'm not ready yet. There's so much to know, so much to memorize, so much to write and regurgitate...I wish I could just pause time and pound it all out.

Another problem is major curiosity which generally is a good thing, but it's turning into a serious distraction. I've spent the morning studying Latin America for a final on Monday and I get carried away with researching all the policies I don't know about. I needed to define ALBA (the Boliviarian Alliance for the People of Our Americas) and instead I spent almost an hour discovering the details and history of it, the proponents, controversy, and social impacts of its implementation. It's fascinating and I knew nothing about it! So now I'm rather in love with Hugo Chavez, but progress in terms of finals studying is depressingly slow.

Oh well.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Big littles

All I want in the whole wide world right now is to cuddle with these people. And get bear hugs from little brothers who are taller than me.

I need my people.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Intro to scholarship apps. Ta da.

Five tiny fingers curled around the stethoscope as I listened to his weak heartbeat. Trying to drown out the tropical sounds around me - chickens, babies crying, groans of the elderly, a stray dog barking - I closed by eyes and focused on listening to this infant's heart. Something was definitely wrong. The seven-month old was the size of a newborn, exhausted from struggling for breath, his heart bearing the telltale sound "lub dub whoosh". The doctor at my side and I exchanged glances before telling the baby's anxious mother her child was dying of a congenital atrial septal defect; a hole in his heart he'd had from birth. Without emergency surgery, there was no hope for her son, but this was an empty suggestion for the young Jamaican mother. Extreme poverty and lack of access to medical care made surgery an impossibility.

During my time working in rural Jamaica as part of a medical team, I experienced what the textbook term "health disparity" means for real people. Every day I spent nine to ten hours in small, dusty health clinics across the island filled with sick and hurting patients. I saw children suffering from worms and malnutrition, elderly women with gangrenous infections and open wounds, and patients dying from the ravages of diabetes. As I held infants burning with fever or triaged ailing patients, I became aware of how truly desperate the need for medical treatment is in countries such as Jamaica. And yet, while our medical team dispersed much needed medications and pain relievers, I was personally frustrated with the temporary nature of our aid. We could only stay a few weeks, and within months our medicine would be gone and our patients returned to their original state of pain and disease. I quickly realized that sustainable change cannot be achieved without preventative action addressing the root causes of illness and health complications. Though I was previously a pre-med student, I suddenly understood that, more than anything, I wanted to prevent people in rural, disadvantaged communities from getting sick in the first place. I returned from Jamaica with a burning passion for illness prevention and immediately devoted myself to a career in global public health.

Monday, February 27, 2012

An idea

I want to do what Greg Mortenson does...but with hospitals.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Oh the places you'll go...hopefully.

See all those maps behind me? Those are all the places I want to go. And somehow, someday, it's going to happen.

I've spent literally all day working on scholarship applications for Jordan this summer. Each one has a slightly different focus, so some essays are direct and concise, others pull at heart-strings, some tell stories of death and the need for preventative action, while another places the emphasis on cultural exposure. You have to be strategic with these things, so I've spent hours researching the different foundations, analyzing past winners, and "spiking" potential questions/concerns (you debaters will get my drift). If I can get just one of these, I'll be set to go...I just need to transform myself into the most intriguing, potential-filled student on the face of the planet. Well, nation in this case.

I just need them to love me and then I can put a checkmark on one of those maps.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Too little time...on so many levels

In terms of pure survival right now, there's too much to do and that's due. It's only three weeks until finals, but my professors haven't noticed so the papers, group projects, exams, quizzes, and assignments keep piling up. Just today my Ethnic Studies professor handed out an assignment, due in five days, of an 8 page paper. Lovely. And the scholarship that's gonna pay my way to Jordan is due in those same five days. Lovely.

But also, there are a million things I WANT to do. There are so many incredible opportunities and possibilities here, the excited little over-achiever in me wants to do *all* of them. Everything is so incredibly fascinating, so challenging, so eye-opening, so impactful....I need like four different clones.
I'm already:
- Taking too many classes
- Working as a college ambassador; giving tours, running phone marathons, and speaking on student panels
- Interning at the International Rescue Committee as an ESL teacher to newly arrived refugees from all over the world
- Going to Jordan to study public health and work in a refugee camp this summer

I want:
- To accept Dr. Shirk's offer to help conduct research on cartel-related deaths on the U.S.-Mexican border
- To accept Dr. Yarris' offer to help conduct research on mental illness in rural Nicaragua
- Get involved with the spoken word club here on campus
- Join the public health global brigade team that goes to Ghana and Honduras every year to build water infrastructure
- Go to Colorado with Habitat for Humanity over spring break, and Louisiana over the summer
- Help establish an IRC headquarters here on campus
- Add another major

But....there is no time. I'm beginning to agree with an old friend that sleep is simply impractical. I wish I could plug myself in and just charge, rejuvenate, as I worked. Actually getting to use all 24 hours of the day would be so productive...seriously.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Wordly Warfare

I'm working on a midterm paper and I've rewritten, reworded, and reworked this one sentence seven different times. It sits there on the page defying me; refusing to cooperate with what my mind envisions. There's a powerful statement lurking in my thoughts, but it seems impossible to put it into powerful words. I keep leaving it and moving on to other paragraphs, but it smiles at me from the top of the page. It thinks it's won.

It hasn't.

Monday, February 6, 2012

They're TRYING to kill us

We live in a contradictory country that's bent on punishing the poor.

Sure, I'm a broke college student who's resorted to somewhat desperate measures (like stealing toilet paper from the gym. There aren't cameras in there, you know.), so maybe I'm a tad jaded, but STILL. I have an opinion. You can't discredit me because I'm broke. For christ's sake, I should be the one you're listening most carefully to.

I'm sitting here trying to submit my FAFSA and I can just feel the government peering down through narrow spectacles, "you're a scammer". No seriously!! I'm poor as dirt, promise. Cross my heart. Pinky swear. Want my firstborn?

First of all, I'm classified as a dependent. I'm NOT a dependent. But because I wasn't born before 1989, orphaned as a child, part of the military, or homeless, I'm a dependent. So bam, I've got to report my parents' income. Whoop-de-doo.

Secondly, okay fine, I'll file as mom's dependent. Cool. Problem is, mom made significantly less in 2011 than in 2010. Thanks budget-cuts that laid off a bazillion teachers. Thanks. When I report her adjusted gross income, FAFSA says "There's a problem! Your mom's technically broke too!" No shit, sherlock. So now I have to report my dad's income. Well, dad makes bank, but this college kid doesn't see it, sooo....lovely. FAFSA's gonna see a fat income that means nothing to me. I can just see my Pell and CA Grants swirling down the drain. They're waving.

It's a system that's not designed to recognize the complexities of socio-economic circumstances. You know, not everyone fits into a nice little box. I'm terrified my dad's income is going to nullify any possibility of getting a single scholarship. I'd be sunk. Officially. Gonna start holding my cardboard sign on the corner...."help a college student BE a college student!!"

Stupid system.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

College Ambassadors

(I'm top, middle)

Really, it's just a fancy name for tour guide....but I think ambassador sounds snazzier. There we are! I'm surrounded by the most up-beat, cheerful, exciting people who are ridiculously passionate about the campus and student life here. It's the best job in the whole world.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Sing with me!

I've rediscovered my guitar.
A good friend of mine had a small concert on campus this last week and after listening to her gorgeous voice and mad guitar skills, I got all inspired. I stayed up till 2am a couple days ago playing on it, googling chord progressions and how to finger-pick Mumford and Sons. It was super fun and now my fingertips are covered in blisters. Good blisters.

The problem is, I need someone to harmonize totally doesn't work by yourself.

So yeah, seriously. No auditions required. ;)

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

3 Strikes You're Out

I fell in love today. Seriously though, I did.

He was sitting right next to me in US-Latin American Politics and Economic Relations class and I kinda happened to notice numerous political pins covering his burlap man-purse. Interesting points = 5

As a class we were watching a sobering documentary on the Chilean coup of 1973 (wherein Allende was murdered and Pinochet established) and we were both quietly cussing under our Spanish. The film was entirely in Spanish, so I feel like we were both culturally inspired, not nerds. Interesting points = 4

I also kinda happened to notice he was taking detailed Spanish. Interesting points = 5

I decided it would be a terrible waste to let all these interesting points go to waste, so when the 3-hr lecture finally ended, I had to talk to Spanish.

"I'm sorry, I really don't mean to be nosy, but I couldn't help but notice you were taking notes in Spanish."

-- He gets this awkward little smile going like "uh yeah...that *is* kinda weird...". A green eye winks.

We get talking, and it turns out he's Troy from LA, a master's student studying Latin American politics, lived in Northern Spain (the Basque country to be exact) for a year, and conducted research in Argentina last summer. He thought I was from Spain. (Go ahead and read that sentence again....he thought I was from Spain.) Interesting points = off the wall. So there we were, two American kids fully capable of carrying on a conversation in English, chattering happily away in Spanish for over 20 minutes; both thrilled to have found a buddy to practice with.

We get to the bus station, our buses come, and we part ways.

I get to my dorm and breathlessly tell my roommates about this darling, green-eyed, Spanish-speaking, master's student who's traveled the world and thinks I'm from Spain. I guess smitten would be an appropriate word at this point. But one of my roommates, bent on bursting any romantic bubble I might ever create, slowly reveals a string of devastating facts: 1) he's her TA, 2) he has a girlfriend, 3) and when speaking english (so, 99% of the time) he's appallingly awkward. I guess the class secretly laughs at him he's so awkward.

Soooo, there goes that. Fail. I've therefore decided Troy from LA will officially just be my Spanish buddy and we'll sit in class and cuss together in our cultural outrage.

And I'll pretend I'm from Spain.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Little things...

...make a day beautiful.

Like a pet butterfly. Even if it's fake. ;)

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Asian Pears

There's a little fruit stand outside our local Trader Joes. A tiny, colorful sign points to the red tent shading the many boxes of fruit, but dozens just pass by. They're too busy to even look.

My roommate and I were attracted by the low prices and the enticing smell of citrus. Walking over, I thought I'd died and gone to fruit heaven; you could smell the incredible ripeness of the fruit. Pineapples, guavas, raspberries, huge oranges, tomatoes the size of your fist, clusters of was Eden.

And then I found the asian pears.

Golden brown, perfectly round, and so ripe you could smell their sweetness, they just sat there screaming my name. I'm on a ridiculously tight budget, but I bought ten. :)

Upon my first bite, I was instantly transported to late summer afternoons in the backyard. Sacramento is an oven in the summer; heat would waves ripple up from the concrete as we kids tromped around in our swimsuits. I remember waiting all summer for the asian pears to ripen...we'd feel them, smell them, watch them, waiting for them to turn golden and sweet. There was something so special about finally picking one. The cicadas were excruciatingly loud, the heat sticky, and we'd lay in the grass under the trees and let the pear juice trickle down our hands.

Good days.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012


I bought myself flowers this morning. They're so colorful, and beautiful, and happy and I love them.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Failed Fashion

I was incredibly darling this morning, ifIdosaysomyself.

I was sporting knee-high leather boots from Spain, a flowy white camisole from Italy, a blue belt, and fun, sparkly Mediterranean beads. I even curled my hair a bit. Yeah, I was fashion herself. I spent plenty of time in the mirror admiring myself, telling myself how cute and international I was, and feeling my self-confidence swell to embarrassing levels.

But then I stepped outside and froze. I mean, frozefroze. Like, when did La Jolla turn into freaking Antarctica?

Sooooo, now I'm in my uggs and UCSD sweatshirt and officially not darling. Or cute. Or international.

I'm a grey blob...but I'm warm. That counts for a lot, I've decided. Warmth is where it's act. So! I've got my blue shades instead of my sexy blue belt...and I'm gonna go rock this freezing cold day. Kapow.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Josh Groban and Powerful Adjectives

I'm camped out at my little desk, mocha in hand, listening to Boston's More Than a Feeling and Eric Carmen's Hungry Eyes. Pandora's been a bit of a life-saver as I've spent way too many hours here already studying away. I've started creating different stations for different subjects: soft rock for global medicine, funk for mental illness, indie for ethnic studies, and my latin american politics class is a strange mix of samba and reggae. Pro: it definitely preserves my attention span, but Con: I've realized that when certain genres of music come on the radio now, I immediately revert to the respective class....I think I'm scarring myself. That's a little frightening.

Meanwhile, opera has been the defining soundtrack for my scholarship applications. There are a bunch due in February, so my studies are punctuated with working on personal statements and ridiculously concise essays. Josh Groban, Sarah Brightman, Andrea Bocelli, Celine Dion, Celtic Women...they've all kept me company as I try to transform myself into a deity for the scholarship committees. Hopefully it works, getting even one or two of the scholarships would make my future life *so* much easier. Here's to crossing my fingers and using powerful adjectives.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Unnamed Sister

I've been thinking and writing about my classes lately. I'm learning, discovering, exploring many new concepts and realities and I have to write about them. That's how I process.

Many times, my writings are rather dismal outpourings of a frustrated heart and restless mind. They're not cheery, but they're real. Real problems and real people.

And yet, I feel I want to preserve this blog as a slightly more upbeat place of expression. I therefore created a new blog: where I can write, rant, theorize, and post without hesitation for fear of readers' depression. Not that all on this blog is depressing and kleenex-worthy...but the world is full of tragedy as well as beauty, and I want to write about it. A lot.

Visit it if you want. It's mostly there for me, but it could easily become communal food for thought as well.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Hermit's Secret

I've spent the last two days as a hermit.

Yesterday I didn't do my makeup, ate cereal all day, worked on scholarship apps and watched three movies. I did crunches and made a huge batch of cookies (seems counterproductive, I know). I didn't answer the door or my cellphone. I didn't even respond to texts.

Today was pretty similar, though the morning was spent at an orientation for my new job. But I came home, changed into my jammies, and holed up. I wrote letters to overseas friends. I watched the sun set over the ocean. I ignored the doorbell. I skyped with my mom. I took a nap. I rediscovered Loreena McKennitt. And I spent a lot of time thinking.

I've been doing a lot of intellectual consuming lately, but not much digesting. My classes are intense, challenging, fascinating, dark, cynical, and inspiring...but I haven't really processed what I'm reading and hearing. I liked just curling up in my big blue swivel chair and thinking. Or not thinking. Just being.

Hermits are onto something.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Small, glowing embers

Watchman, what of the night? So many victims in so many places need help. We need, above all, to be shaken out of our indifference - the greatest source of danger in the world.

Indifference leads to silence. There must be words for those who care. Ignorance leads to silence. There must be records of past and present cruelties done in the world so that each generation can remember - not only the evil of the past, but also the glowing goodness, the courage and decency, which exists in the darkest days.

Words...destroy indifference and awaken remembrance. The words are small, glowing embers of despair. And hope. They are history, and they are prayers.

-Elie Wiesel & Albert Friedlainder

Thanks to Juliet for the quote