Thursday, August 25, 2016
My lease is up in October, which means I will be leaving a house with a yard and a front stoop, both of which have become my places of solace in this city; places that offer me a quiet moment, where I can people-watch and drink a cold beer after work. I'm trying to stay optimistic while searching for a new apartment in my price range and truthfully, haven't been doing a great job of it but I think I'm finally over the process at this point. Just give me a place to live and I'll be happy!
All of these worries sound absurd in light of the video I'm posting. My friend from Honduras, Hunter, works as a videographer for the Perennial Plate and just shot a beautiful short film about a community of Mayans living in the Rocky Mountain state. Please do yourself a favor and watch it. Revel in how beautiful the internet can be as it brings you to the moment at the end of the video when the couple are dancing to the marimba in their living room and you don't know whether to feel happy or sad, grateful or nolstagic.
Hunter returned to Honduras to photograph a fellow volunteer's wedding recently, and I haven't been able to get over the wedding album. The bride was married in the States but traveled to Honduras this summer for a second wedding ceremony with the groom's family. The whole collection of photos could be Reddit gold but since it's their day, I'm assuming they'd rather have the photos to themselves. I can't help but post one though because there's nothing, nothing in the world like a pueblo wedding.
Happy August, everyone!
Monday, August 8, 2016
Earlier this year I had a daydream floating in the back of my mind that I would save up enough money and apply to grants to fund an extended stay in Mexico, where I could write full time. Alas, there have been unexpected expenses and a recent grant decline that calls for me to rearrange my daydreams, putting travels on hold indefinitely. But it’s okay. I’m realizing that I can keep at it, every day, spending as much time writing as my boyfriend spends at the climbing gym, and get the same work done here in Chicago. Plus, because I like working toward improbable goals, I’ve come around and softened my stubborn, slightly skeptical view toward continued education and decided to spend my fall applying to MFAs, hoping that one day a program will have me.
So that’s mainly what’s new with me. I turned 26 last week and am off to a wedding next weekend because well, 'tis the season. In all I’ve made very little progress on my summer to-do list but I did recently make a blueberry crumble for a friend’s birthday and swam in the crystal blue lake of ours twice this July so I’m chalking it up to a win. Mainly I’m just trying to soak it all up before these humid, sweaty, impossibly sunny days leave me.
Tuesday, July 19, 2016
“Ni modo,” my favorite Spanish word, which means, if put politely, “Oh well, what can you do!”
(Not so polite translation: F*** it).
(Not so polite translation: F*** it).
I’ve been missing Honduras lately. If there’s any sense of greatness rising up in a person after volunteering for a year – no matter how much one tries to suppress it – it is all quickly swept away going through social media and seeing other volunteers now in your position with your favorite little child, experiencing a time that you thought was unique only to you. It’s humbling, and rightly so. Besides, at the end of the day I’m happy those kids still have someone to pick them up and swing them around in the field over and over again before heading in for dinner as I once did.
I listened to a podcast one night before bed this past year, and even though I can’t recall any of the details, the subject matter of the podcast or the speaker (I know, helpful!), I remember the interviewee talking about a weekend trip he had in Japan. He only spent two days there but he kept talking about how time is meaningless because he retreats to those days all of the time, reliving them years later. Similarly, I feel like I keep coming back to Honduras. In many ways I’m sure no one needs to hear much more about it but in other ways, I feel like I haven’t said anything at all.
So I’m working on a longer piece about my time in Honduras. I have a vague idea of what I’m trying to say but no idea if it will end up as a cohesive or meaningful essay. I still struggle with what tone I want my writing have. Sometimes in my desire to reflect, it feels melancholy. In my attempt to be honest about reality, it feels sad. In my desire to pace my words, I feel like I forget to say what I’m really thinking. But I’m getting closer. Closer to something intangible, to a tone that I’m trying to find or at least closer to a realization that my writing is not something that I control and an understanding that the end product will always look very different than what I had in mind.
This blog has been helpful in slowly learning to give up that control. At this point, it is not what I thought it would be but there’s something nice about saying, ni modo, and just showing up and seeing what words surface.
Anyway, in other news because I can’t post here like nothing is happening in America: I bought a stack of envelopes and stamps this past week and wrote my city council representatives in response to the police brutality being brought to light. It felt like a nominal effort, sure, but it was my first time doing so and I’m hoping to make a habit of it. This summer has been rough but as the glorious Roxane Gay says, “We have to do better than all this, 'The world is coming to an end.' The world is not coming to an end. The world is changing.” I’m a big proponent of staying hopeful but also a fervent proponent of hard work and sacrifice, being that change can never come without the two. So I’m hoping that we're all taking any time and privilege we have to do some hard work, to show up, to vote better, to volunteer, to mentor, to be active in our community, to reflect, to take breaks and care for ourselves, and then do it all over again.
Lots of love and #blacklivesmatter 100 x over.
Wednesday, July 6, 2016
At nineteen, after his first year of college, my brother went backpacking with his friend one summer through the White Mountains of New Hampshire and Vermont. At the end of his trip, he flew back home briefly, giving himself a few days to pack up the rest of this belongings and tell my parents that he wouldn’t be returning to school. He was instead moving to Vermont. I was 12 or 13 at the time, and remember that weekend vaguely, mostly concerned but also in awe that there was another narrative out there. One that didn’t involve going from the Chicago suburbs to the state university.
Since then my brother has stayed in Vermont, jumping from apartment to apartment as one does in their twenties. His move out east afforded him remoteness and stunning sunset drives home from work but there wasn’t always the promise of stability. Still he stayed, and now he lives in a little blue house on a ½ acre property with his wife and son. I have visited him over the years sporadically and last week I was able to head there to celebrate my nephew’s first birthday. It felt nice to unpack my bags and sleep in his spare room, wander through his backyard trails and get to know his home.
Vermont is a state made for vacation with its rolling green hills that extend in every direction and the mountains that lay stacked behind one another fading in the distance. The wide open expanses are sparsely populated, usually only by brick-and-mortar stores and worn farmhouses here and there. It’s exciting to think that with my brother’s house, this will be a place that I return to. Driving through the area, my mind gets ahead of myself, and I think of my children one day swimming in the reservoir in my brother’s backyard, experiencing a quiet safety never known in Chicago.
I don't know why I'm disclosing all of this other than the fact that I've always liked my brother's story. Unlike him, I didn’t venture far from the suburbs. I was able to study overseas and work south of the border but I have always come back to Chicago for reasons both external and internal. For feeling like I should and feeling like I want to. I am deeply attached to the city but often I find myself online during my lunch breaks, looking at inexpensive real estate in different parts of the country. In my head, it seems there is never much silence, never much satisfaction.
Perhaps it’s because winters are long and summers so fleeting but I always wonder how I can quiet my thoughts at this time of year, forget future plans, enjoy the city around me. There's a lot to be said for the life I can live outside of work, during the two weeks I have of vacation. Considering the tragedy that can be, I sometimes struggle with how pleasant things are, wondering how I can bottle it up and save it for later. I reflect, write it down. I snap photos, trying to acknowledge not a moment but a feeling. That night I arrived home from Vermont, I tried unsuccessfully to get a shot of the children as they ran in the alley, lighting sparklers, and laughing in the humid air with their siblings and cousins and their mothers yelling at them from the yard. In one quick moment, sparks flew above their heads and with a crack, burst like a willow into the sky.
I never ended up getting the shot but I'm happy it happened all the same.
Thursday, June 16, 2016
I logged into an old email account yesterday by accident and stumbled upon an email my boyfriend wrote to me while I was in Honduras. “I hope all is well,” it started off. “Pretty crazy week here in America. Have you been getting the same barrage of news down there? I could imagine it seems like the U.S. is falling apart from down there. But all is well for the most part.”
I didn’t know what he was referring to so I looked it up. 04/21/13. Google told me that this was around the time of the Boston Marathon bombing. The irony that he was calming me down, telling me that everything was fine in America was illuminating.
The past week has been a rough one for us all. A few Mondays ago, I was able to see a friend who flew in from California briefly. My friends and I got together to pick up brie and salad makings and wine after work. We proceeded to sit in my backyard underneath a blue sky, picking at the food, talking about the Stanford case, gentrification, and the spike in shootings that have come with summer. It felt necessary to vent, to move inside when the sun had set and continue talking it over.
Then Sunday morning came. I quickly learned that it was Latin night at Pulse; the club was divided into separate rooms playing salsa, merengue, bachata, and reggaeton. The news of the shooting hurt for many reasons. Oddly enough it hurt me as a dancer. It hurt as it does when you expand your community and learn to know other places of refuge.
I have been reading a lot about individual action lately and whether or not it can attempt to address the societal woes that plague us, namely segregated communities and the violence it maintains. I could paraphrase the articles that have stayed with me but that wouldn't be doing the work justice so instead, I’ll just highly recommend Nikole Hannah-Jones' piece about segregation in New York City and Josh Michtom’s advice regarding gentrification and the futility of individual action in general.
These articles remind me that there are answers out there. Not easy ones, but I'm okay with that.