The Season of Soup

One thing that I like about coming back to the States is that I get to cook. Don’t get me wrong. When I have been in Peru and Bolivia for the last 6 months, off and on, I have really enjoyed my almuerzos (lunches) in the mercados (markets) from las caseritas (the women at the markets that sell you scrumptious meals) who are eagerly trying to lure each passerby over with the menu that they shout out persistently until their food that day has been all eaten up. One walks by and smells things so delicious that I wouldn’t really dream of cooking in a place like this. It is a great way to try out new foods and a super cheap and fast option when you are constantly on the move. One of my favorite caseras almost always had a vegetarian option. Her name is Ernestina and she has the kitchen post in the corner of the downtown Urubamba market on the second floor. The first time I met her this summer we chatted like she probably chats with most tourists who stop to sit and dine at her bench…I introduced myself and told her I wanted to be back because her food was spectacular. I did go back, many times, and now I will go see her and enjoy her lunch any time I go to Urubamba.

Since I don’t have a caserita in the States, I do my own cooking. Cooking is an art and a stress reliever for me. It’s something I can also do with my mom and we greatly enjoy making things old and new. Sometimes we follow a recipe, but for a lot of dishes I just kind of make it up as I go and see what is in the season and the fridge.

So, one of my go-to “recipes” for the winter months when at 5pm it is already dark outside is a Curried __________ vegetable soup. The veggies that work well, I have found, are carrots, most any squash, and sweet potato. It’s super easy and fast, here goes:

Saute in soup pot with olive oil

1 onion

as much garlic as you can handle (normally I put in at least 4 cloves)

celery or green pepper or whatever other more bland veggie you have laying around that you need to use up (optional)

When the onions are soft you can add whatever chopped up vegetable you have chosen to be the base of your soup. Following are some examples of tried and true great options!

Dice up small (if carrots you can scrub and peel and dice), with sweet potatoes (same thing) with squash I recommend baking the squash first if you don’t want to deal with having to cut it up into small pieces while the squash fights back hard–as is its nature. Just cut it in two, scoop out the seeds, then brush some olive oil on the inside and place it on a cookie sheet and put in the oven for 20-30 minutes depending on the size of the squash. You can always do this the day before and have in the fridge. My roommate in California always complained that she didn’t like cooking with squash because it was such a hassle, but the thing is that squash is so good, just take the time to do it right and don’t get frustrated–if you get frustrated while cooking you are doing something wrong! Take out some wine and keep at it.

I like to add curry powder, herbs, tonight I added chipotle, or something of spice to anything I make, soup included, so do what you like or try something new.

Add some of your favorite broth or water. The best veggie broth (or meat broth for that matter unless of course you want to make it yourself) I have encountered is “Better Than Bouillon.” It comes in a small glass jar that will yield quite a bit of soup all told. Check it out and be prepared to never go back to those cans, bouillon cubes, or those Tetra Pak cartons that are so horrible for the environment, again.

Let simmer until the veggies are soft but not mushy.

Blend and enjoy!

Some people may like to make it creamier with coconut milk. Another option is garnishing with your favorite seed or nut or something green like cilantro or green onion.



Writing fun

I see myself as a somewhat serious, realistic (with a huge dash of idealism), and grounded person who only uses humour when necessary. That said, one of my friends and readers said I might utilize some more fun in my writing. And so, without any further ado, a couple of limericks and a silly poem for this gloomy day in January:

When we go to visit my grandparents I’m always the first to put on my shoes
Although these days the visits are full of sitting and talking the blues
But the time I spend with them regardless
No matter the conversation we harvest
I enjoy, delving up stories of the past, present, and future to peruse

My winter hobbies always experience a rekindling
in the midst of the holiday bustling and twinkling
I stay home and knit, cheery
While I watch a Spanish series
And think about all the gas and coal supplies dwindling

And this one is for my niece, Aliyah. Thanks for the time you spend with me reading fun and silly books and letting me do it in Spanglish!

This winter I wonder what makes me a sluggish, two-legged humaninstead of a squirrel scurrying across a branch in cold akin to a frozen beer can?
I sit and I eat and I wait for a treat. And then I look at my toenail.But doesn’t that make me the same as a creature with a brown, bushy tail?
“No, no, no!” says the barn owl that looks at me de reojo*“You cannot be a four-legged rodent!” he says while he perches with enojo**.   You are a human whether you like it or not,
so get on your feet and let’s see a squat.

*looking at of the corner of your eye


Tea a plenty

Shoveling the dusty-white driveway while tingly fingers thaw

I thought the Holidays were about family but that is not the all

I’m feeling a little dead inside with all the flat grey skies

The bone-chilling cold is probably part of my demise

The heaters suck the water out of your body until your skin cracks raw

Though the crackling of the fire-place as it burns is a welcoming draw

But what comforts me the most are the warm drinks that I sip

So it’s lucky that my mother–cabinet full of teas–is fully equipped

Her favorite is Celestial Seasonings, a place she frequents often to flavor all her water

Her pilgrimage out to the Colorado plains usually includes a visit to her daughter

Carting back tea boxes a plenty, she adds various teas to her collection

When she arrives back home she and her visitors have more of a selection

One tea that doesn’t make it into the cabinet is one that is made fresh–Masala Chai

The best way to make this tea is to have all ingredients in your tea supply

A combination of the following is all that you will need

Just do some testing in your kitchen and you will most likely succeed

Combine in a saucepan, boil and then simmer

Ginger root
Cinnamon sticks
Green Cardamom pods
Pepper corns
Anise or Fennel


Black tea (loose or bagged is fine)
Your favorite milk
Honey to preference

Let steep for a few more minutes and share with a friend who is adventurous.

Chai it! You’ll like it.


p.s. If anyone in the continental U.S. would like to try Chai without having to experiment with different spices in the kitchen, let me know (by any means you would like) within the next week and I’ll send you a starter kit 🙂

Everything but the kitchen sink

Not really sure what to write about today. The thing is that this kind of writing challenge is for me to get out some things from my fingertips that have been here, deep down, for quite some time but first I have to brush off the dust.

So following are some musings that maybe shouldn’t grace the pages of the internet, but will, all the same.

I’m currently sitting on my bed in my grandparents’ house. I remember the first Christmas (in memory) that I spent here was in first grade. My family was back to the U.S. for furlough from Argentina and it was our first time experiencing snow and ice, this amount of cold, and everything that comes along with Christmas in the Midwestern United States. I also came back from Columbus, where my grandparents live, with a stuffed doll that I called Ginger–a present from my great-grandfather Bus.

I’m not sure what it is about but I think that the cold brings out the worst in people, but sometimes the best.

I put eggnog in my pancakes.

I don’t want to write about any of these things.

How about the feeling that you get when you are driving on the road and the wind is swirling the snow into such geometric patterns that you feel like you are at sea or smoking some kind of potent weed.

Flannel sheets are the best invention ever.

My parent’s neighbors have a wind chime as tall as their house. I hear it every morning and it is the first thing I know when I get up and the last thing that I hear when I drift off to sleep. The first time that I saw it a couple years back I was appalled that such a large wind chime would exist and it was ostentatiously placed on the tree that is directly within eyesight of my parent’s back windows, or half of the windows of the house, including “my” bedroom. The first time I saw it I simply laughed and proclaimed it ridiculous. This time that I made my visit to my parent’s house I have appreciated the deep and grounding sounds such an instrument makes in my bedding down and waking hours.

Talk is cheap, but I don’t know what else to do when I want to go deep, but it seems like there’s nothing really there to anchor me as I dive.

Yesterday in my yoga class a man was breathing loudly the whole time. At the beginning of class he started making some weird grunting noises and I realized that his partner’s mat was right next to his and I knew that I was going to be in for it. He felt himself at home, being that his partner was right there and there were only two other young women in the class (me and someone else) I’m sure he felt as though he could do whatever he wanted in terms of sounds—grunts, loud breathing, exasperated sighs, you name it. The whole while I was trying to concentrate on what the teacher was saying and I was trying to imagine myself calm and collected no matter what was in my presence. This is what yoga teaches and sometimes I can be really hard-pressed to really take these things to heart. People eating loudly, or more than a little bit of dirtiness in the wrong spot can turn me into an OCD individual real quick. I don’t mean the DSM-IV type, but just in general, I am pretty persnickety when it comes to certain things.

I am learning important life lessons during this small rendezvous to the Midwest. My centering point. Coming back to the fulcrum to then have the pendulum swing right or left again, depending on the wind.

A conversation during New Year’s Eve had me talking about Hoosiers, you know, those people from Indiana. I told people at the bar that one thing that I missed about “living” in California is that people there were a lot more distant, less friendly, they take their time in warming up to just about anyone. I appreciate this about Hoosiers and most Midwesterners in general. It seems as though one of my stereotypes of the Midwest is that its citizens are very conscientious about making people feel at home, they are friendly, they dive right into small talk, and they don’t skip a beat. “This makes me tired,” my best friend from high school comments, “sometimes I wish I could just not say ‘hi’ and simply be on my way.”

“You got to be in it to win it,” says a wise yet very young individual about the lottery jackpot.

And that’s all I have for today, last night rather.

My Grandparents kitchen sink.


¡Feliz Año Nuevo a tod@s! Happy New Year! I am back (to this writing platform) and wanting to share some musings with you this month. Last year I tried to write for every day of January, and I would like do the same this year. At the very least, write more than the 15 entries I did last year.

I will eventually post something on my past semester in Bolivia and Peru (that’s a way of saying that this will happen this month). That is where I was with my two trusty co-instructors and 12 students for the last three months (plus 3 weeks in Quito, Ecuador to visit my brother and his flia in December). Now that I am in Indy at my parents house I have a chance to sit and reflect. And sitting and reflecting is much easier to do when it is below zero because there is not much else to do.

The few cards that I sent out for the New Year and the messages that I have texted, Whatsapp’ed and Messenger’ed, have included

“I wish you light, love, and courage for the new year.”

In retrospect I might change that to

“I wish you light, love, community, and courage. Ingredients of a successful approach to our current realities. Light and love to encounter the joys and challenges that life so graciously gives us and courage and community to continue this work sustainably and meaningfully. ”

This kind of recipe is one that you can make over and over again. A kind of Masala Chai that requires the combination of spices, brewing, and drinking and then the repetition of the same each time you’d like to take a sip.

Here is a poem that I wrote (through a combination of recycled and new verses) that I wrote and compiled during this past semester. I shared it while I talked to the youth and my co-instructors about my life-story. I think it’s pertinent for this time right now at the beginning of something new and at the end of a holiday season.


Writing a new poem is always a challenge in its own right because it means digging up something from inside that is still unripe
Not matured
Taken from the Earth
poems are like the first crop of the season
The carrot you tentatively pull from the ground to see if it’s ready

So here goes…

Community for me is the expanse you till around you that will eventually grow fruit
if you take care of it well enough and the weather behaves.
It takes work, lots of sweat, and, sin falta, some tears.
The first community that I can remember is one that I revisit fondly in my head when I am feeling lonely

The film is a slideshow of photos caressing my innermost sensitivities
My extended family lived thousands of miles away from me when I was little and so I developed an adopted family:

Tía Milka, Tío José, and La Abuela lived right across the street.

The ginormous tree on the side of our lot spread its branches to the sky
And through which you could see Don Jose’s carefully groomed roses peeking through the slits of light
like red, pink, yellow, and white, Christmas lights

The three of us kids came over a lot.
Any time we wanted to watch TV (our house didn’t have one)
Eat something not too healthy (imagine anything fried or sweet)
Or be spoiled by Abuela’s hugs (nothing like a hug from someone whose soft rounded belly touches your body in all the right places)–
We would show up unannounced yet welcomed each time.

On rainy afternoons
We looked through the windows of our house at the drops of water
Falling from the sky
With certainty and indifference at the same time
We searched for our raincoats and made our way down the well-trodden road to our aunt and uncles’ house
Abuela would be in the kitchen making the dough
Tía Milka, dressed in an apron
With a kitchen towel draped over the apron string tied at her waist,
Serving mate [ad infinitum]
The television buzzing in the background at a volume that was almost indistinguishable from the rain that fell outside, and serving as a reminder of the world without.
“Come in, come in, kids,” tío José said with a relaxed air that mirrored the weather.
And the three of us kids entered eagerly, sitting down at the table, and telling our aunt, uncle, and abuela about how we were and the news of the neighborhood.
Tía started to heat up the oil on the burner closest the back of the stovetop
Abuela cut pieces of dough into small balls,
Ready to be rolled out into circles,
Slashed in the center with a knife so they would fry evenly.
When fried, the circles made of flour, oil, salt, and water are simply delicious
In and of themselves, but
Spreading on dulce de leche made them better still.
My mom and the tíos put homemade kumquat jam from the last harvest on top of the tortas.
And all of us ate, talked, and drank mate until our bellies nearly ached.

And so, my first loving community (from memory)
formed out of pure necessity, love, and dedication.
Then, eight years later I left this community
I felt pulled from the ground that held me steady and comfortable.

Many hugs and kisses and promises of being in touch passed between the gringos and our familia adoptada and my ears and cheeks were red with fear that my community was gone.

Many years later I visited José and Milka
La Abuela had passed peacefully in her sleep the year before
Which reminded me of the time I had shared a bed with her to watch a late-night tennis match between Gabriela Sabatini and I don’t know who else
The match didn’t come in because of bad weather so I stayed awake listening to the storm outside punctuated with the even louder snoring of La Abuela.

The next time I visited Tío José and his floppy dentures were just one more picture in the slideshow.
Tía Milka and I ate dulce de leche and mint-chocolate chip ice cream straight out of the Styrofoam one-kilo bucket and talked about everything and nothing.

Each and every time I felt community, I feel love.

And so what I wish for all of you is more community and therefore more love.

Light and courage are also pretty active ingredients in the life balance.


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



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



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.


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.


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


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


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.

Back to reality

I’m back on the wagon. I was off for some days as I thought I could write while still on my little recorrido of Peru, but I decided that I needed that time to just be present with other things and be in the moment with revisiting the Southland. So, here goes again…I’ll make up for lost time and just write into February as my blog per day…

Today, the 25th of January, it has been a month since I left the Bay Area to go on a little escapade. Now I am back. Trying to re-integrate everything it is that I learned and I experienced. Let me tell you a little about this experience…

Yesterday I was happy that it was my roommate’s day off so we jumped in the car, floated across the Richmond bridge (figuratively speaking of course as we were on the pavement part of the bridge, but it did feel like floating all the same), and up the 101 to land in Marin for a little hike. In California, whilst I was gone, the rain has come down non-stop and on the radio I have heard that we are no longer in a drought, so I guess there has been some good news during this tumultuous time of changing the hands of power. As we made our way into the Tennessee Valley and were approaching the Pacific I felt a sense of calm come over me and it felt like the perfect end to a trip.

For Christmas I made my way to Denver to see my parents and sister. I always like going to Colorado but the plains, the wind, the dryness, and the flightiness of the people there tends to leave me chapped and feeling like a tumbleweed at the end of my time. On New Years day I made my way to Quito to visit my brother and family (namely Deli and Aliyah). It was good to see them after a year and a half of Whatsapp and Skype. When you live far away from family, as I have for the last decade, you start from zero but you also start from wherever you left off. It’s like an awkward but very familiar encounter each time.

Then, I made my way to Peru to explore a country I had never been to before. While in Peru I came to realize that the Andean people are extremely friendly, down-to-earth, and very economically driven. They have no qualms in striking up a conversation with you and like to get to know new people in a very informal way. At the same time, everything has a price and many people that I encountered were very concerned about where there next soles were coming from and if they were going to be coming from my (the wealthy tourist’s) pocket. As a person that isn’t necessarily money-driven this came as a bit of a shock. At the same time, I come from a country that is capitalist in nature and the reason it keeps on going is because the monetary engine that drives it. Of course, our economy is a bit more structured and integrated into the daily fabric of everything. In Peru, everyone is trying to get their piece of the pie and sometimes these pieces overlap and I am sure that this leads to distrust in one another and to competition between friends and neighbors. I could talk about a particular woman who owns a hostal just south of Peru who talked to me at length about just that, but I will save that for another post.

Today I just wanted to briefly discuss how it is we integrate our experiences away from home into our lives. I will venture to say that most people go on vacation and then come back and try to go back to their daily rhythms and routines. Might this be you? They dream of the beach they were on a, reminisce over all the pictures they took, and use some of what they learned about a culture, country, state, or people, in conversation at the next dinner party or happy hour. There’s another category of people that like to integrate what they have learned and experienced into the very fabric of their beings. This is the person that I am. Sometimes this takes time, because you have to process the things you witnessed or were part of and see how you can really make sure they can come into your life in a meaningful and poignant way. If not, yes, you risk culturally appropriating and the like.

For example, one of the things that I hope to do in the upcoming weeks and months is to cook some of the dishes that I most enjoyed during my time in Ecuador and Peru. Some of these dishes include sopa de quinoa (a simple quinoa soup with vegetables in a light veggie broth), salteñas (a kind of empanadas that have a sweet doughy taste to them normally made with ground beef and veggies and is a mix between sweet and savory), ají (a spice that is put on almost anything in both Peru and Ecuador, and uses different hot peppers and other spices to make a great accompaniment to whatever you have on your dinner table. I’ll just start with those three and then go from there.

Other than the food I’d like to continue to eat, one of the reasons I love going to the South is because I love the cadence of life there. It is not pressured or hurried, it is tranquil and at-your-own-pace. Sometimes this can prove to be irritating or annoying if you have somewhere to be, but really, I think it’s a good reminder that humans are not machines and shouldn’t be treated as such.

Another aspect of this travel that I’d like to take with me in my everyday life is best said in a quote by Walt Disney, who, by the way, I never thought I would be quoting:

“Whatever you do, do it well. Do it so well that when people see you do it, they will want to come back and see you do it again, and they will want to bring others and show them how well you do what you do.”

It seemed like everyone I saw had a job that they were doing and they were proud of the fact that they were doing it well. They didn’t have there brain off in some unknown place thinking of all the other things they could be doing. Don’t get me wrong, Peru was full of entrepreneurs, but they were focused on doing what they did well in the moment without too much concern for the future. I loved this sense of presence and of being in the moment. Something that I have been working on during the whole of 2016 and something that I will probably be working on the rest of my life.

These are just a few of the things that I will be trying to integrate into my Californian life. I’m curious, what to do you do at the end of your vacation? Do you compartmentalize pleasure and day-to-day life, or do you try to have the two worlds meet? Or maybe there is a whole other category out there worth creating…