April sensible

April first is April Fool’s Day and the first day of National Poetry Month. It is also the day my mom’s birthday falls. One of the things that characterizes my mom is sensibility. Craft is another good way to describe her and hopefully here are some prose that help honor the things about her that stand out to me as memorable and as noteworthy aspects of her persona.

Groggily I make my way down the stairs, through the living room and into the kitchen

Mom is stirring “Bupee (sp?) de Mabele” on the stove and I make a typical teenage “that’s nasty” face.

She chuckles and puts on the lid for the porridge made out of sorghum and who-knows-what else to simmer and cook.

AFT2_Mabele-porridge

Her blue alpargatas, or house-shoes shuffle through the kitchen.

Dressed in faded navy sweat pants, a free T-shirt from a Mennonite event in which the shirt is the only thing you get for volunteering your service, and a flannel over top it all, she has supplies lined out on the counter to make lunches.

Four a day.

Turkey sandwiches with lettuce, mayo (for everyone except for Dad), mustard, cheese.

For me, she separates the tomatoes, when they are in season, in a little Tupperware so the sandwich doesn’t get soggy.

The little baggies she uses for the carrots that she washes, scrapes, and cuts lengthwise, are a yellowy-orange because she re-uses them.

Sometimes I “accidentally” throw my lunch baggies away so my friends at lunchtime won’t see that my little bags are dirty.

“Where are your little baggies, Rachel?” she asks innocently.

“I don’t know,” I respond, annoyed that she would make me use something again. Doesn’t she know that I have an image to keep up.

My favorite part of the lunch, two oatmeal chocolate-chip walnut cookies. A sensible size, of course. She makes these cookies a few times a month. One of the only sweets she allows into the house.

Sometimes, if she makes the cookies on the weekend. I drink mate with her and help mix up the dough and try to make the cookies bigger in size.

“Those are too big!” she says to me aghast.

And I just smile saying, “I like them this big.”

Sometimes she takes parts of the cookies I’ve made and puts them back into the bowl before they go into the oven. Other times she lets me have it my way.

****

Today I stand in front of my own stove-top and stir the oatmeal for my morning breakfast. I look down at my outfit and I have on

some navy sweat pants, not yet faded.

a T-shirt that I got a from a Mennonite grab bag that says “In Harmony with God and Nature” from a Mennonite camp called Camp Amigo

and some “alpargatas” that I got from my last trip to Argentina that have been donned my house-shoes.

Brokenness

A couple weeks ago my friend messaged me that a good friend of hers had passed away just after ten weeks of being diagnosed with cancer. A couple of days later, after my work day had ended, I looked at my phone to see that my sister-in-law had delivered a happy, healthy baby girl(!) Around that same time, my father had messaged us in our family Whatsapp group that my grandpa was taken to the hospital and was in a lot of pain and the doctors were still trying to figure out what the cause was.

I called my friend and I talked to her about memories of her friend. I could hear the grief in her voice so I tried to console her a bit. I reminded her that her friend was once again whole. He had left his broken body behind. He had gone to a place where his body and his mind and his surroundings were complete and lacked nothing. We, humans on earth, are the ones who were broken (with grief and other things). This brokenness, it is true, makes us able to connect with each other and build a life together, but that is just for a short while. Eventually, when our life here on earth is done, we are transformed into something else. Those that stay behind are broken, but we will get through it–we always do. She seemed to take some solace in this.

I called my brother and sister-in-law to congratulate them on the new one, and while I listened to the cries of the new baby, born into a broken world, I couldn’t help but wish the best for her. Of course, we wish the best for those around us whom we love.

I called my grandpa and he was too tired to speak so I talked to my grandma for a few minutes to ask them how everything was with Grandpa and to let them know that I was thinking of them and that I loved them. I told them that I wished I were close by to visit but at least I could think about them in this difficult time.

And so it goes, death, pain, and new beginnings swirl around us every day and make our existence here what it is. Even on the hard days, we must gather our strength and see what it has in store for us. One of my favorite authors, Paulo Coelho says: “If you only walk on sunny days you’ll never reach your destination.” And if you have read any of his books, he also believes, as do I, that the destination, in fact, is the very journey and not the endpoint. These turn of events a few weeks back, especially of Grandpa, made me think about loving kindness and how we move through life and how some people are more in tune with compassion and attention to others than the average Joe.

My grandpa, for example, exudes loving kindness and is always on the lookout to lend a hand. Here’s a poem/memory chain of sorts for him to highlight what I know and to acknowledge my gratitude for him. I hope he feels better real soon!

 

Grandpa, you’re on my mind

It is hard for me to wrap my mind writing about a person that I really admire and one that you want to make sure and write about with precision, tact, and honesty in order to capture the spirit of such an important soul. I feel this way about Grandpa, someone I only see once or twice a year and who, while I was growing up abroad, I didn’t see hardly at all, and my conversations with him were fleeting check-ins, at best.

In Argentina, we would go to the Telefónica a few times a month to talk to our grandparents. We entered the building ceremoniously, the five gringos, loyal customers, ready for the conversation that we would have with each of our grandparents. There were three telephone booths that housed the phones that would connect us to our loved ones back in the United States. The lady at the counter gave us la cabina 1, 2, o 3 al azar. The booth she seemingly picked at random because there was hardly anyone present making phone calls, was carpeted from top to bottom with blue 70s carpeting and the door that swung out inviting the speaker inside, had a long window to see in and out. The seat inside the booth was a little bench, also carpeted. There was probably enough room to comfortably, for a very short time, fit two, very lean adults in that booth. And so, my parents would go in and they would talk to our grandparents, first one set and then the other. Closing the door behind them they would communicate with our relatives, thousands of miles away. My grandparents only ever knew our experiences in the Chaco through these conversations. They relayed on the lens that my parents saw the world to transport them to the faraway land, because they never visited.

Meanwhile, the three of us kids would run, play, and try to stay out of trouble in the uninspiring building built for conversations suspended in air, and not for the activities of lively children. We ventured outside to play as well and came in and out at our leisure until my mom or dad would come get us one by one to say “hi” to each of their parents.

When my turn came I ran into the cabina, which had gotten pretty toasty  because of the close quarters and body heat created by all of us breathing and the energy of our conversations in general. I said “hi” and I probably talked about school, and piano lessons, and what new tumble I had learned in gymnastics, and the ducks, and my friends, and whatever else children talk about. To tell you the truth I don’t remember the substance of those conversations or what I talked about in specifics. My memory serves me pretty well, but the content of these phone chats just don’t seem to come to mind. I do remember the spirit of the calls however, and how my grandparents’ calming voice took hold of you and carried you where you needed to go, like that of a mother cat carrying its young by the scruff of their necks. Grandpa Wigginton never forgot to say “I love you” and that’s all I needed to know–that he was there and that he cared about me.

Besides these conversations, periodic letters and pictures my mom sent were largely how my grandparents got to know us until we moved to the States. And when I did move to Indiana I got to see my grandparents more often and I have to say, that Grandpa Wigginton is my favorite grandparent. Expressing gratitude for you is easy.

Here’s a memory that is of Grandpa when I moved to the States, circa Spring of ’96:

The pancakes he makes are three-in-one

Spraying the pan he pours batter in the center—the head

And then two more little circles to the right and to the left—the ears

Mickey Mouse pancakes.

Flipping the pancakes he leans against the counter.

Sometimes silent,

Sometimes talking about someone in the

Neighborhood,

Family,

Church,

His attention always drifts to those around him,

What they may need, and, most importantly

How he can help.

He shoves the spatula under Mickey’s chin and slides him onto my plate.

“Anyone else want a pancake?” he inquires simply.

Large hands with slender fingers carefully tie his black shoelaces and then he is off to care for someone else.

 

On love

Yesterday I wrote a post on love. Today I would like to write another post on love and experiment by sharing more of myself in a way that I normally would shy away from. It is weird to put out information of your life into the world for anyone and everyone to read, but at the same time, in my commitment to be more vulnerable and open, I think it makes sense to share more of my story, especially around the particularly important topic of love.

Love, when I was a child, was given in the form of time. I spent a lot of quality time with my family and I think this has led to the fact that now, my love language, so to speak, is that of spending quality time with folks more than anything else. In addition to this, as a baby, I was privileged enough to bask in the touch of others, more than I probably would have had I grown up in the United States. I was born in Botswana and spent the first year or so of my life in a rural village with many people around me, not related to me, but part of a close-knit community. Whenever my family (at that time just my parents) were out and about I was passed around like a really interesting souvenir from a foreign land—and as a white baby, I was. Getting exposure to so many sets of laps, arms encircling around me, and mouths uttering baby talk in languages and dialects I certainly didn’t understand, probably set the foundation for the reality that now-a-days I am easily adaptable and can really be comfortable and content in most settings. At the same time, this experience as a baby, more likely than not, primed me for the desire to be touched, even by strangers; if the intention was genuine, I was happy to receive it. This touch however, mostly did come from people outside my family circle because my parents really aren’t the touchy-feely type.

At this point in this short autobiography of the thing I call love, it might be helpful to mention that by the time my family really settled down, my thirteenth birthday had just passed. Before the tumultuous years of teenagerdo[o]m I had lived in many places around the world. (If you are interested in this particular story and timeline of my life please let me know and I’d be happy to write a brief synopsis or just give you the 411 on the many places I lived and homes that were created as a result).

An example of the care and touch that I got outside of my parents is an example from Argentina. When we first moved to Argentina we lived in the northernmost province of Formosa and I was just shy of four years old. We had a niñera, or nanny, named Andrea who accompanied us everywhere and gave us cariños and touch in a way that neither my mom nor my dad ever provided me. She gave us the warmth that so characterizes this region of the world and through her I was able to realize how touch could be a healing, caring, and nurturing force.

On the other hand, with my parents, love was provided in a different way. The way that my parents showed me they loved me was through the time my mom spent cooking a delicious and nutritious meal, día tras día… When she and my father read to me and my twin siblings, noche tras noche, sin falta.

I was reminded of this love and the nightly story-telling this past weekend. On Saturday, my roommate and I went to a Meetup in hopes to meet new people (go figure), experience something a little different from the Bay Area, and to get out of our comfort zones. We went to a story Meetup where people were encouraged to share true stories from their own lives, on stage, with the guidance of a few themes that as an audience we tentatively and timidly yelled out from our seats. A bundle of nerves, my friend and I decided not to put our names in the hat to be called to story-tell but we participated in the warm-up activity before the “show”. Afterwards, we mingled with people and shared stories in a more intimate way with folks.

As each individual’s name was called out of the moderator’s hat, the audience clapped loudly and then the storyteller would tell a pretty good story or a very mediocre story and then the audience would once again clap loudly and the next person would come up. It was a really great way of sharing stories and included totally novice story-tellers all the way to experts in the field.

This storytelling made me think of the tradition that my family had while growing up, of reading stories. Of a totally different variety than free-form but in any case, sharing stories in general is a powerful way of being in community, developing a literary repertoire, using your imagination, and appreciating that of others. Every night before bed, my mom or dad would read to the three of us kids. In this way we read the Chronicles of Narnia, The Little House on the Prairie (and all the books that came after), C.S. Lewis’ Lord of the Rings series, and other lesser known books like Madeline L’Engle’s Wrinkle in Time and books that we had photocopied and bound with plastic spiraling and pastel colored-covers (it was really difficult to find books in Argentina, especially books in English, at that time, so we would borrow books from other English-speakers or we would photocopy books like the Warton and Morton series).

We were always caressed by the words of short stories, tall tales, and wide volumes of prose carried in the bottoms of suitcases by people coming from the U.S. to visit the montes of the dry, arid, and desolate Chaco—the other province of Argentina that we lived. Riding on the waves of words to faraway seas and submerging in the expanse of love, as big as the ocean, my parents had for me, was something that carried me and washed over me, but the liquid waters left me wanting to explore greater depths.

My mom’s voice, reading to us, would be slightly tired from the other acts of love she had invested in throughout the day, but she would sit next to us and read nightly, like it was her duty. And then, my mom would tuck us in, sometimes offer a goodnight kiss and let sleep take over for the night shift.

My dad contributed some to these literary evenings, although many times he was away on trips and visiting the villages of the native peoples in the region. Because this was the case, when my siblings and I were really little, he would record books for us on tape and then we could listen to his voice at night on the black Sony stereo system, the closest thing we had to a T.V. Gently, yet steadily moving the plot forward with a cadence that drew back slightly at the end of each phrase (almost like that of a rider using the reigns to control the gait of a horse), his voice provided just the right speed to get the momentum for the next phrase. Y así, his canter could carry us through the story-line of our favorite cuentos and we would imagine his presence beside us, protecting us from whatever fear, yet at the same time leaving a vastness for us to be ourselves, however we wanted to be.

And in this way we would listen to stories like Mike Mulligan and his Steam Shovel by Virginia Lee Burton and Tomi DePaola’s The Clown of God. It’s heart-warming to see how these traditions carry on, even though technology is certainly different now. My dad reads to my little niece, him in Indianapolis, Indiana and her in Quito, Ecuador. Her favorite story for my dad to read her is Little Bear. Through Skype, they share in the story, the rise and fall of my dad’s voice is as consistent and constant as it ever was.

And the love of my parents continued this way into my teenage years and now into adulthood…loving me at a respectable distance, never with too much touch except for sometimes a hug here and there after a long time away from each other. I feel like the core of my being, my spirit even, longed for the touch of love and the nonchalance that was provided me when a baby. And when all of a sudden I received this touch as a naïve and immature teenager, I had to learn a few lessons the hard way. And as a more mature adult, I still learned lessons on love in a way that hurt at times. But love always does. It hurts more than anything we have ever known, and it feels better than anything we have ever known. Sometimes all at once.

I think my current definition of love centers around trust. In order to really love someone I have to trust them. In order to really trust someone an emotional net has to be knitted, together, that connects me to them, and yes, this net serves as a way for me to cross from the intangible to the more tangible. From emotion to touch, from the senses to the sensual.  And this crossing develops and uncovers that my vulnerability will be valued and venerated.

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My sister and I, circa 94′ or 95′ (I believe). Enjoying one of our favorite pastimes together in a hammock strung between two trees. San Bernardo, Argentina

A cliff, a mountain, an ocean

I know this post should have been up yesterday, but I am just writing it now because I have allowed the feeling that was woven through the love-filled day to really sink in and mature just a bit.

My roommate and I have been watching Mozart in the Jungle. We like classical music, but we also really enjoy the eccentric and easy-going persona of Gael García Bernal (playing in any role, but his role as the Maestro, has us enthralled every single episode). In one particular episode he talks about trust and how it is the highest cliff one can fall from. Or in Francisco de Quevedo´s own words: “El mayor despeñadero, la confianza.” Quevedo, a Spanish poet and writer from the Siglo de Oro or the Spanish Golden Age. This particular quote stuck with me and upon meditating on it, it has come to me that it may not be, in fact, a cliff that we fall from, but a mountain that we climb. The mountain of trust that we climb by ourselves, with others, on our own two feet, being dragged, limping, whatever. And we never quite reach the top of the mountain, we are always climbing, we are always building trust, and the higher we get, the more difficult the climb becomes, but the more experienced we are. So in falling, if that were to happen on our expedition, we know what to do, we know who to turn to, we have our first-aid kit and are able to take out the supplies we need to nurse ourselves back to health. Then, we can eventually regain our footing and keep climbing.

I think this idea of trust has much to do with how we cultivate and engage in love. And for me, the idea of trust via getting out of your comfort zone is one of the qualities of love. Below is a rough sketch of some of my ideas on love, including another nature metaphor.

 

Love

Is all-consuming

An energy that fills us and depletes us.

Like the very air we breathe.

We pour our energy into loving others and this energy sometimes leaves us saturated and heavy.

Or empty and incomplete.

We are filled, we are depleted, and the cycle begins again.

It is unpredictable and sometimes unrequited

It makes me think about the last time I was in love

Six months ago,

With someone that enjoyed his own company more than my own.

And then that love dissipated, although the love lesson remained.

Love

Is simple

A thoughtful hug from a friend that cares about us

A call from a loved one that makes us feel like we matter

A smile from a stranger in the middle of winter

on the first day in a while that feels like spring.

Love is a student as well as a teacher.

We teach ourselves how to love and we have to teach others

What we need, what we want, what we don’t yet know.

It is a curious force that takes us out of our comfort zone

And plops us down outside of our zone of proximal development

And then we must sink into it or swim back to safety.

I want to sink into love and uncover its infinite depths

One meter of ocean at a time.

 

Love is many things…and sometimes dichotomous things. A poem by Quevedo, in Spanish, that is entitled Definición del amor also alludes to the yin and yang of love. Maybe you’ll enjoy this poem too. I won’t try my hand at translating it because it is a Petrarchan sonnet and I don’t want to screw up the rhyme scheme or meter.

Much love to you all!

 

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My hike up to the peak of el Rucu Pichincha en Quito, Ecuador this January 2017.
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View of Cotopaxi, a volcano, on the hike up to Pichincha.
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On the way up. View of the top of Pichincha.

Immigrant stories Part II

Today on my way to yoga I was listening to a Radio Ambulante podcast that happened to report a story on Oakland International High School. A school I never worked with, but her sister school in San Francisco is one that I am very familiar with because I worked them and many unaccompanied youth that attended there.

I felt somewhat uncomfortable listening to the story because it felt like an invasion of privacy. This radio journalist was gathering stories of Central American youth who had come across the border in some way or another, but she only wanted to report those stories of youth who had come on their own. Because of their age and many of them not having family back in their home countries, many youth were able to stay in the U.S., and I am assuming that they are now in the process of filing refugee or asylum paperwork or some other kind of visa that will get them citizenship here. The story mentioned youths’ names and I winced each time a last name was said. I remembered what it was like to work with immigrant youth. My first job out of college was in San Francisco working with homeless and many immigrant youth. I worked at this organization for four years and everything about these years has impacted my life and work trajectory (for good).

One of the things I most dreaded while working with this particular population was the intake we had to do when someone new first came through our doors. There were many things that were lacking in terms of hospitality at this particular organization so I just took this issue with the intake forms as par for the course.

On countless occasions I would welcome youth from El Salvador, Honduras, Mexico, Guatemala, and others, and after saying hello and welcome I would have to ask all about their personal information including their education, health, family, etc. It felt like I was really invading their privacy and I felt bad each and every time. Even more culturally significant is that I am a woman and most of the intakes I did were with adolescent Latinos. After taking intakes for a while I realized that it was just a matter of how I approached the form and the situation. I am mostly a friendly and kind person so I was just very nonchalant about the whole process and I made sure the youth felt comfortable with me (this is something that comes naturally but you have to learn to quickly cultivate initial trust too) and that they knew they could divulge as little or as much as they wanted…we could fill in the blanks later more accurately.

“Just tell me what’s on your mind now, because I know it is awkward to tell me some of these very personal things having just met me.”

After these intakes, getting to know each of the individual youth I worked with was my favorite part of the job. They would sometimes tell me stories, but really I just liked chatting with them about whatever it was that was going on in their lives at the moment. They probably had plenty of other people that were asking about their personal stories, so I didn’t want to intrude. Now, looking back, I wonder if I did the right thing or not…just letting them tell me the things that came to their mind. Of course, this is the beauty of being an educator, is that there are many different tools you can pull from for students to share information and for them to get things off their chest. Tapping into these different methods was really important in being able to read, relate to, and react to each youth’s story. Some youth expressed themselves via art or music or writing or silence or dance…etc. Other youth still hadn’t found their voices and were in search of how best to relate to the world around them.

I feel like sometimes, in the U.S., we are very intrusive and we like to know everything about someone, especially if they are an immigrant or if they have some kind of cross to bare, so to speak. To everyone else, we could care less, but when you have a grueling, or harrowing, or simply, just interesting story, we want to hear it. What do we do with these stories in return? Where do they go? Do they exist with us for shock value? Or do we actually get to know someone, a people, a culture, a history, as part of the process?

Immigrant stories

I don’t really have much to say today…except for the fact that I didn’t write all of January so my new intention for the month of February is to write daily.

Today, I listened to Junot Díaz reading a short story by Edwidge Danticat entitled “Seven”. Both these individuals, Junot from the Dominican Republic and Edwidge from Haiti write about their and their families experiences as immigrants and are a couple of my favorite writers because they are able to pin-point a feeling, a situation, a time in history that resonates with the social worker, educator, and writer in me.

Junot, before reading the story remarks that in this country the immigrant has been recently portrayed as a “menacing and dangerous figure” and the only softening of this blow is when he relates that it is only by stories that writers like Junot and Edwidge have told, do these menacing and dangerous people are able to be seen in their real light.

That’s all I have for today. Go read or listen to or ask someone about their immigrant story…and become closer to the American we are today and the one that we always have been.

 

 

Nothing is real until you have a relationship with it

Today I applied to jobs in Argentina, Burma, and San Francisco. Then I read the news. Then I signed a million petitions. Called senators and only got busy signals. Then I listened to a podcast with Ethan Knight, founder of the American Gap Association and during the talk he said something that resonated with me more than anything has in a long time:

nothing is real

until

you

have a relationship with it

True story, I thought. You don’t really integrate something until you have actually made it part of your narrative and made it part of your life in concert with everything else. Then I read a short piece in the New Yorker by Edwidge Danticat (Haitian author who I admire and enjoy immensely) who talks about the power of poetry in times like these where liberty and freedom are hopes instead of realities.

Cultivating a relationship involves

benching your imagination

and letting reality take the floor.

Courting an idea, a person, a place

Making it part of who you are in some small way.

This weekend I visited Mendocino

mingled with hippies

smoked various kinds of joints on a stranger’s porch, living room floor, kitchen

Shared hugs and smiles

One with Willow, a woman who personified the tree remarkably

her smoky white, woolly dreads, nestled in a very messy bun

draped around her delicate head

like whisps of willow branches (yes with an “h”

because that sounds quieter and more serene).

She is weathered and alive,

kind and open,

forgetful and caring.

“I can’t remember your name, but you remembered mine very well,” she whispered knowingly.

I drummed to the beat of someone else’s drum and rhythm

and my world stood still

the metronome of time only ticked

to the tune we made together

my own was not noticeable as it mingled, mixed, and eventually became muted.

And this is what we learn in times like these.

How we are better served when we work, live, sing, chant, rage, protest

all

together

and our own voice, our own experience, becomes something louder, bigger

than we ever could have projected.

The truth you’ve been waiting for is something we construct

Yesterday, I read about different interpretations of reality. I’m reading this book little by little since it takes a while to process each chapter. “The wisdom of no escape,” by Pema Chödrön, a Buddhist teacher and someone that I really admire and whose teachings I’ve really tried to meditate on, ponder, and implement in my everyday life. What she describes and talks about is all very simple, but once you have to practice the concepts, the difficulty surfaces.

I was first introduced to mindfulness and loving kindness during an undergraduate class more than a decade ago. I don’t quite remember the name of the class but what I do remember is that I had to journal everyday and that I was supposed to do some kind of mindfulness exercise daily as well. For me, anything besides the basics–eating, sleeping, and going to the bathroom–is hard for me to commit to on a daily basis. I am not a fan of routine and I am happy with changing habits, scenery, and company most days. At any rate, this practice was something I had to work hard to do and at the end of the semester I realized that sticking to something was very rewarding. I felt that I had grown and was shaped by a commitment to myself. Ever since this time, I have formed commitments to myself, in yoga practice, in meditation, in my relationship to others, etc. It is powerful to commit to yourself and to others through a variety of forms. Yesterday, as I read Pema, another commitment surfaced that I’d like to share here with you all.

In the particular chapter I read yesterday, Pema explains that, “The truth you believe in and cling to makes you unavailable to hear anything new.” She talks about the fact that some people are going out, becoming curious about the world around them and far away from them, and they are growing in their understanding of everything they encounter. On the other hand, there are others among us who become set in our ways and in our truths and we hold on, steadfast to what we believe in–unchanging, unmoving, and headstrong. At one point in my life I felt as though this steadfastness was something to work towards and it was actually a goal of mine. I realize now, however, that it is only in the evolving of my being that my truth is able to be set free in order to evolve and to garner new truths.

I just had a discussion with my roommate the other day about tech workers in the Bay Area, also known as techies for those of you not in the Bay Area or not privy to the workforce development here because of Silicon Valley and the tech boom. We were discussing the fact that these techies are stereotyped, put down, and looked on badly by many people that think they are out-pricing individuals and families that have lived in the Bay for years and years. We judge these young, mostly white, men, parading into the area on golden chariots of resources, freebies, perks, and incentives. Meanwhile, the rest of us set on the sidelines and stew.

I admit, I haven’t been the most open-minded about these individuals coming into the city and making it a playground for all their adventurous dreams. Interestingly enough, the day after this heated conversation with my roommate, where she invited me to be more open-minded about people working in tech, I volunteered at an event where low-income women in the community were coming to get a taste of what it was like to learn to code. The day workshop was to entice and get ready for a 6-month program where a former techie, now turned non-profit startup director, was going to lead the charge, bridging the gap between the lack of women in the technology sector as well as the lack of lower-income and Bay Area residents having opportunities to work in their own backyards in technology.

I was the only volunteer who didn’t know the first thing about coding, and it was a very real way to confront my truth. First, I learned that there was much to learn about technology, the gap that exists described above, and the very people that work in this sector. I tried my best to have an open heart and an open mind and tried to soak everything in. I must say, the experience is pretty pertinent to the experience we are facing as a society and even the world as a whole right now. Maybe we should take a second and tap into what our truth is and how it is we can go deeper into that truth by connecting with that of others. Maybe in this way we can discover new realities and grow together, better.

To the roots of our humanity: Hasta la raíz de nuestra humanidad

After eating one whole candy bar (a Mantecol, 110 grams of buttery goodness and favorite Argentine treat from when I was a child), four home-made golden raisin cookies chock-full of butter, and making various phone calls to the San Francisco airport, Board of Supervisors, and signing a handful of petitions to offset the ridiculousness, totalitarian, and xenophobic mess we find ourselves in as a nation, I think it best I set down and contribute to the world in a more creative way by writing a post.

One of my favorite singers for the year of 2016 was Natalia Lafourcade, a Mexican singer songwriter that you should definitely check out. One of her songs, “Hasta la Raiz” or “To the Root” describes a scene that I felt during the duration of last year and acutely now:

Pienso que cada instante sobrevivido al caminar
Y cada segundo de incertidumbre
Cada momento de no saber
Son la clave exacta de este tejido
Que ando cargando bajo la piel
Así te protejo
Aquí sigues dentro

roughly translated as:

I think that every instant I’ve survived by walking
And every second of uncertainty
Every moment of not knowing
Is the key that fits perfectly into this weaving
That I wear under my skin
This is how I protect you
Here you remain within

I’ll come back around to this particular verse of the song later…but first some context…

In general, I feel that anything I write about Machu Picchu will be lacking. I have to say it was probably my favorite part of visiting Peru, at least this first time around en el país andino.

Before daybreak we got up early, hurriedly dressed, and stumbled outside in the darkness to wait in line for the buses. Our hostal host said people would start lining up as soon as 4 am. Once we got in line there were probably already 100 people ahead of us. We waited for about an hour, sandwiched in between a trio of Portuguese speakers (a couple from Brazil and an over-fifty, eager and rather annoyingly opinionated man from Portugal) and a family from Argentina (the parents of which expressed the ridiculousness of the price of entering Machu Picchu, mentioning at least a couple of times the fact that this wonder of the world was far more expensive than the pyramids and, ni hablar, that the last two times they had come were less crowded and had done less damage to their pocket books). It never ceases to amaze me, the conversations, mannerisms, and just raison d’etre people exude, even at 4:30 de la madrugada.

At 5:30am, after I had eavesdropped to my heart’s content, eaten a couple of bananas, and drank my five dollar espresso with water (this is what I insisted on because the Americano was $1.50 more: quejas de una gringa menonita en un país en vías de desarrollo no más/ complaints of a white Mennonite girl in a developing world and my raison d’etre at this early hour), we started boarding the buses. As soon as we all crammed on we started our short journey out of the valley and up the windy mountain.

We went around and around the mountain and with each bend we turned the more mountains we saw in the distance yet the foggier the whole landscape seemed to get. About 20 minutes later we got to the top and from the buses spilled expectant tourists from all corners of the earth. We walked to the lines leading into the ruins, which only took a couple of minutes. Once in, it was about 6am and I didn’t really know where to go so I just went straight ahead. We had gotten tickets to go up the mountain just behind the ruins but that entry wasn’t until 7am so we could just wander around until then. While I was wandering in the foggy ruins, hardly able to see even just a few feet in front of me and worried that I was never going to see the ruins in all their splendid glory, I heard someone sobbing. It sounded like a girl and it was coming from the mirador, or lookout, just ahead. I followed the sobs and came across a young Argentine girl who had tears running down her cheeks and was crying quite a bit. Mid sob she said “¡Todo el mundo dice, guau, Machu Picchu y yo pensé que iba a ser cualquier cosa pero realmente es una maravilla! Y la verdad es que soy tan privilegiada de estar acá.” And her sobbing continued.

One of the park guides looked on and inquired concerned yet with a smile on her face about the young woman. At the same time, I put my hand on the back of her shoulder-blade and I let her just cry for some time. I wanted to have some kind of contact with her so that she could fee the closeness of another human being in the moment of such an emotional time. And little by little, the sighs and sobs grew further and further apart until she got out a tissue to wipe her runny nose and her eyes, having finally dripped the last of tears of this particular cry. Eventually I asked her if I could hug her and she graciously accepted my arms around her small frame. I felt the warmth of her emotions and her body heat emanating out, even though it was technically trapped inside the confines of her plastic impermeable; we hugged each other and held each other as tightly and as long as we could.

Moments like these are the threads that make up the cloth of my life and the weaving that Natalia talks about in her lyrics. We are indeed in uncertain and trying times, but becoming closer to our brothers and sisters is how we wear each other close and don’t let go.

Lima

Esto fue lo que escribí el domingo cuando se canceló mi vuelo de regreso a los Estados Unidos:

Se supone que hoy me iba a SF pero el universo tuvo otros planes y en vez de estar en San Salvador en éste momento preciso, haciendo escala para mi vuelo a California, me encuentro en un parque en el centro de Lima escuchando los supsiros de los que han trajabado toda la semana, besos de novios, y una música andina electrónica que chilla a todo volúmen por altoparlantes viejingos y baratos.

Lima

A paso lento

la gente hace su trayecto

no tan programado

Subiendo el bus

nadie te da bola

y recién para mediados del viaje

el asistente al chofer pide tu tarifa

–¿A dónde baja señorita?–pregunta planamente.

–En la cuadra 22 de la Brasil–respondo como si nada.

No sé exactamente donde queda eso, pero sé que el bus va “toda la Brasil”

como me ha prometido el cantadito al subir.

El chófer en los semáforos

aprovecha de los segundos contando hacia atrás

para leer las noticias del día

59, 58, 57

Usa las dos manos

levantado el diario como si estuviese en su propia casa,

sentado en la silla de su mesa, tomando el desayuno en familia

dando vuelta las páginas sin prisa ninguna

de a poquito leyendo las noticias

y bebiendo su café con leche a sorbos

02, 01, 00

Verde

Pone la mano en la palanca de marchas y arranca de nuevo.

…….

En el parque que estoy la gente también se siente en casa

Novios abrasados

Muchachas alzando sus miradas hacia el cielo,

cuellos alargados y estrechados como cisnes

sabiendo que en esos instantes sus joven amantes les recibirán con dulzura

Saboreando los bellos pescuezos como si fuese por primera vez.

Manos dondequiera

Total, ésta plaza es de todos y para todos.

…….

Esto voy a extrañar, el amparo y el apego que tiene la gente entre sí.

Es cuestión de encapsularlo y practicarlo donde sea que esté

Total

Para mí que sí

Lo público es privado y lo privado público y en realidad éste mundo es mejor compartiéndolo lo máximo posible con la mayor cantidad de gente posible.

…..

El calor me llega por los pies por el aislamiento térmico creado por el sol y el cemento

Y me llega a la cabeza por el mismo fenómeno entre el sol y las capas de nubes.

Y recorre mi cuerpo con un calor latino que quisiera llevar conmigo donde sea.

Y cuando se me agota se donde encontrar más.