Un recuerdo que me acordó la calle

Hoy, caminando las calles y avenidas de La Paz, Bolivia, tratando de cumplir con un pequeño trámite me topé con una tienda de antigüedades y en particular en la ventana había máquinas de escribir de todo tipo. Me acordé de un bello recuerdo y mil disculpas a los no hispanohablantes por ahí porque la memoria me vino en castellano así que tendré que también escribirla así. Quizás, si me reclaman, la traduzco al inglés. ¡Avisen no más!

Muñequitas con canastas

Recuerdo haber tipeado
Con la máquina de escribir de mi padre
Cubierta siempre cuando no se usaba
Con una mantita que hizo mi mamá
Con su máquina de coser

Tipie una invitación
A la fiesta de mi cumpleaños

Estás invitad@ a mi casita
Para el día 29 de mayo
No hace falta traer nada
Solo una sonrisa y calzados confortables
Vamos a jugar juegos y divertirnos mucho
¡No faltes!

Y antes de haber tipeado ese pequeño mensaje
Yo y mi madre nos íbamos a la librería
Para comprar la cartulina
Color rosado fuerte
Y luego dibujamos un bosquejo de una muñequita
Señorita con una canasta de flores
En sus manitas

Trazamos docenas de esta maqueta
Y con tijeras corté detalladamente y cuidadosamente
Los bordes de la tarjetita
Y de ahí puse las tarjetas
De a una en la máquina
Y con mucha perfección tipie cada invitación

Por último colorée las invitaciones
Cada uno con un patrón distinto
Para que cada invitad@ se siente especial

A veces quisiera regresar a esos tiempos
Donde hacíamos las cosas con propósito y para la gente
Que se siente especial al recibir algo
Hecho con mucha intención y amor

Quisiera por lo menos abordar el presente
Con el mismo empeño del pasado
Para poder regalar el amor
Muñequitas sosteniendo canastas de gran valor.


My aunt asked if I could translate so here goes:

Today, as a I walked the streets and avenues of La Paz, Bolivia, trying to take care of an errand I ran across an hole-in-the-wall antique store and in particular a window displaying typewriters of all kinds. I remembered a beautiful memory. It sounds better in Spanish, but that is the reality of translated art.

Dolls with baskets

I remember having typed
With a typewriter belonging to my dad
Always protected when it wasn’t in use
With a little cloth that my mom made
With her sewing machine

I typed an invitation
To my birthday party

You are invited to my house
The 29th day of May
You don’t need to bring anything
Just a smile and comfortable shoes
We’ll play games and have lots of fun
Be there!

And before typing that short message
My mom and I would go to the craft store
To buy poster board
The color of dark pink
And then we would draw a doll pattern
A little woman with a basket of flowers
In her tiny hands

Then we traced dozens of little dolls
And with scissors I cut with care and great precision
The outline of each card
And then I put the cards
One by one in the typewriter
And with much perfection I typed each invitation

Lastly, I colored the invitations
Each one with a different pattern
So that each guest would feel special

At times I wish to return to these times
Where we would make things for people with purpose
So that they would feel special upon receiving something
Made with love and intention

I would at least like to approach the present
With the same degree of resolve as the past
To be able to gift love
Little dolls holding baskets of great importance.



¡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.


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.


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