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.