Monday, December 17, 2012

We coming from the.. Southside of the Chi!

This is the last thing I wrote while I was on retreat with my community. It was a way to allow for the new members to get to know me without actually going into great detail . It was a fun activity and I hope you all who read this create your own "I am from..." poem.

I am from ...
The Southside of Chicago to the migrant fields of the Deep South to the Silver mines and sandy beaches of Guerrero.
I am formerly from the letters DG and SHC and now from JVC and a FJV.
I am from baking cookies and watching Glee on Tuesday nights and wine and Girl Talk on Friday nights.
I am from Concha’s Christmas tamales, Zaca’s mole, and Julia’s enchiladas and Puerto Rican rice.
I am from bittersweet tears and broken hearts.
I am from Bon Iver lyrics and Vincente Fernandez songs.
I am from a neighborhood where many dream, but do not succeed.
I am from a parent who illegally crossed the border and worships Fox News and from a parent who is 2nd generation US-born and tells me to be proud of my brown skin because it is beautiful.
I am from Sedaris, Auslander, Salinger and Bradbury as well from Sobrino, Gutierrez, and Brackley.
I am from both the Gospel of Krugman and the Gospel of John.
I am from the days on the “L” and long nights driving on Lake Shore Drive.
I am from tears of laughter and terremotos with Indira, tears of sorrow with Catherine, and of hurt and frustration with Jake and Emily.
I am from my own broken social scene and a future unknown.
I am from the beat of my own drum.
I am from restless nights, grinding teeth, and the late night strumming on Jake’s guitar heard through my walls that soothes me to sleep.
I am from the joy and life that a hug from Nayade or Benja produces.
I am from the city that worships the 1985 Chicago Bears and I bleed Burnt Orange and Navy Blue.
I am from countless cups of tea and pieces of bread, a number that is best not to know.
I am from Danny’s degrading and humiliating insults that helped me develop a tough skin to consoling me and allowing me to escape to Danny’s serious talk in his car on Maxwell Street, the vulnerability he showed telling me how proud he was and how much he loved me.
I am from so many memories that I hope I don’t forget.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Grateful for each hand we hold Gathered round this table.

Today is Thanksgiving Day in the United States and although I am currently abroad, that is not reason enough to keep me from celebrating it. My community mate and I are super excited. We understand that the founding of our country was not particularly a pleasant one, but this is the day of the year where we give thanks for everything. Everything that we have been blessed with and truly feel gratitude and gracious. 2010 was the first and last Thanksgiving I spent with my family.

During my time in college I spent Thanksgiving either on campus or with friends in neighboring states. They were the best memories. My first Thanksgiving I remember being invited to spend Thanksgiving with several different friends and I felt so loved. Unfortunately, I had found out a friend was going to be staying on campus alone for the long weekend. Not wanting to be a bad friend and not wanting to impose on other people I kindly turn down the invites and opted to stay on campus with my friend. It was one of the best decisions I ever made. We went to the local grocery store, picked up some Hungry Man Turkey Dinners, an apple cobbler, some sparkling cider, and cheese and crackers. We set up a makeshift table in the middle of her dorm-room and sat on pillows. We ate dinner and watched Pirates of the Caribbean. We had no way of heating up the cobbler and fortunately for us, her RA was on campus and offered his oven to us. One of the greatest memories ever and I am happy to say we are still friends to this very day.

My last Thanksgiving home was bittersweet. My cousin's husband had passed in October of 2010 and little did I know, but it would be the last Thanksgiving spent with my grandmother and my aunt. No one was a celebratory mood. My grandmother, a devout Catholic and whom seldom swore and never drank and was on a strict diet due to her declining health had succumbed to disgusting gloriousness known as "Thanksgiving." She picked up a fried turkey leg with her hand and devoured it and noticed there was a wine bottle on the table. As she brought the bottle closer to her, she realized it was empty, but that did not stop her from trying to suck the remaining drops of wine. We looked at her in silence, shock, and awe. For that moment in time, we forgot our sorrow and worry.

Soon enough I will be in the States and celebrating Christmas (and hopefully with snow), but what I am most grateful for this year (as I make my way back from my tangent) are my community members, students, family and friends. I am grateful for community because although living in community has been a challenge for me, I have been blessed with a community who has supported me in both the best and worst of times. They challenged me and brought out the best in me. They have taught me so much and they have accepted me for who I am. They look pass my flaws and appreciate what I bring to our home. I am grateful for my students who I have had the pleasure to accompany for the past two years and who will be graduating tomorrow. Whenever I think of them, I smile. Whenever I have been unhappy at work or with life, seeing my students and interacting with them made me forget about the nonsense. Like my community mates, they taught me so much and continue to surprise and amaze me. Finally, I am grateful for my family and friends. They have been my rock through the good, bad, and ugly. They have heard me rant, scream, seen me angry, and allow me to vent. They have laughed and cried with me and picked me up and encouraged me everytime I felt like throwing in the towel. I don't know where I would be without them.

I look forward to spending Thanksgiving tonight with my community mates, some of them of them who have become good friends. I am thankful for everything I have in my life and thankful for the people in it. I am thankful for my time here in Chile and for this experience. Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 5, 2012

We're Half Awake in a Fake Empire

Tomorrow is Election Day in my home country. This is the second time I have voted for the President outside of my hometown of Chicago. I am nervous and worried. Anxious and excited. I am experiencing many emotions and worried about the future of my "patria." People at my school have asked if I voted and who I voted for. It is no secret that in 2008 I was one of the biggest Obama supporters. I donated whatever little money I had, encouraged others to register to vote, and supported everything and anything Obama. I believed in his vision for the United States. I believed in his message of hope. I was proud to be an American the day he was elected to office.

Fast forward to 2012 and I am wearily optimistic this time around. Maybe it is because I am no longer a college student and having to growing up during these past four years and being a contributing member to today's world. Words no longer mean so much to me unlike actions. My new motto in life: Actions, but rather non-actions, speak louder than words." I understand he was dealt a bad hand of cards (the economy, two wars, housing crisis). Obama has made good on some of his promises, but yet, there are promises he made he has yet to fulfill.

Politics in the States is nothing like it once was. Party lines have divided friends, families, neighbors, and in general, people. To call yourself a "Republican" or a "Democrat" can either turn people off or make people angry. Government officials are now incorporating religious dogma into their policy, and instead of moving forward, it seems the US is moving backwards. People will judge you rather than get to know you. If you say you're a "Democrat," some people will assume you are a "Socialist, ALCU supporter, baby killer, and left-wing liberal" and if you say you're a a "Republican" some people will assume you are a "Creationist, gun-nut, backwards thinking, bible thumper extreme right-wing, fox news fanatic." The real issues get lost in the name calling and slander. I have friends and family who are supporters of both parties, but sometimes it is impossible to talk reasonably with them. You're either with them or against them. I used to think Libertarians and communists were ridiculous, but these days they seem to make more sense.

President Obama was criticized for immediately calling on FEMA after Hurricane Sandy and Governor Romney dodged any questions pertaining to his "Dissolving FEMA" statement he made during the primaries. Obama has been criticized for not making enough change and giving handouts to the 1% on Wall Street while the middle class still suffers big losses due the mistakes and errors while Romney has stated that illegal immigrants will "self deport" and "Corporations are people." I used to really like Romney. There other many other things Romney is championing against (women's rights, gay rights, the rights of minorities, the middle class, education, etc.), but the list is endless. During his time as governor of Massachusetts, state residents received universal healthcare and same-sex marriage was legalized. Romney was everything he is now campaigning and running against. I used to think Romney was a moderate, but now I can see that he represents everything that is wrong with the US. If I thought Sarah Palin vice presidency was bad news, a Romney/Ryan administration is no laughing matter.

I am sorry for ranting and I apologize if none of this makes any sense and is completely and utterly incoherent, but I am worried for the future. Obama has done his best by trying to repair the US's image and foreign relations, but this election is vital. If people thought the 2008 election was an important one, I feel this one is more significant. More significant because the true essence of what is Democracy, what is freedom and liberty is at stake. If you are in the United States and are eligible to vote, go out and vote. Si no votas, no tienes derecho a voz. Si no votas, no tienes el derecho para quejarse. In the words of John F Kennedy, "The ignorance of one voter in a democracy impairs the security of all." If you are an eligible voter, your vote truly does count. Even if your candidate is not elected, you still played a vital part in the process. People, please go out and vote. One vote can make or break an election. One vote can change the course of history. Actions or non-actions speak louder than words.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Todo empezó en la sorpresa en un encuentro casual

3 months and 10 days left of work. 3 months and 25 days left in Chile. It is crazy to know I have little time left here in Chile.  I know I am not the greatest at updating my blog, but I am not greatest writer and I need to be inspired whenever I write. I promised myself at the beginning of this blog, I was going to write at least once a week. It became once every other week, then once a month, and finally it became a bi-monthly post of mediocrity. I wish I could be some great writer like many people whom I know and love, but I aspire to be something else. As my time here is nearing to an end, I am beginning to contemplate what comes after Chile. I am pondering graduate programs, employment, and where I am going to end up when I am back in the States. Do I want to stay in Midwest (mainly the Chicagoland area)? Do I want to venture out to the Bay Area where I have friends or do I want to try something new and exciting like New York (chances are if I head out to the East Coast, it would probably be out to Boston or D.C.)? 

This time here allowed me the opportunity to explore many opportunities and reflect on what I want and do not want in life. During my undergraduate career, I majored in Theology and minored in Political Science. I thought I wanted the rest of my life to be in religious ministry. No, I did not want to become a nun (though I thought about it my freshmen year of university, but definitely was not for me), but I thought about working in Campus Ministry at a school or teaching Religion or religious ministry in a correctional facility. Working in Pastoral Ministry for the past twenty months was and is a blessing not many people are able to partake in. This opportunity allowed me to experience what I thought I wanted for myself. I thought I wanted to be the Campus Ministry family from Spring Hill, and although they are awesome people and do great work, it is not the work I want to do. Having to plan retreats for each of the grade levels and leading them. Planning liturgies and mass for, not only the student body, but also the entire administration (faculty and staff). 

One thing I struggled with while working in Pastoral Ministry is I assisted with the catechism classes for First Communion and Confirmation. For those whom are not Catholic, these are two Catholic sacraments. First Communion is when a person receives the body (bread) and blood (wine) of Jesus Christ and Confirmation is when a baptized Catholic affirms their Christian beliefs and is considered to be a “full member” of the Church. I am not the poster child for the Catholic Church and I disagree with much of its doctrine and feel many things that took place during the Second Vatican Council have not been realized. As I have grown into adulthood, many things I believed as a child, I no longer believe in. I have expressed these feelings to community members and many Jesuits who have come to known while in country, but it is difficult to share these beliefs within my own school. I have expressed certain sentiments, but mostly neutral ones. 

I have great respect for my kids who have gone through the sacraments and I am very proud of their conviction. They were not force to receive the sacraments and it was done out of free will (as it should be). These kids took the time after school on Fridays to meet for an hour and a half and discern the sacrament they would be receiving. These kids are young, but yet so mature and wise for their age. They taught me, TAUGHT ME, it was okay to feel the way I do. I know I have not done such a good job of explaining this, but hopefully one day I will be able to express myself better. Long story short, I should not be in charge of leading catechism classes. 

There is little time to do so much. I wrap up my time in my school two weeks before before I head back to the States. I want to head back to Argentina. I want to go to Tierra del Fuego. I want to see Machu Picchu, but time (and money) is not my side. I am grateful to say, at the very least, I have seen South America. I don’t think if I ever became a volunteer, I would have had the opportunity to experience just a fraction of what South America see. When I was a child I never thought I would ever see the Andes or hike the Andes. Had I never become a volunteer, I would probably be in a graduate program 2 years in realizing it wasn’t for me. Being a volunteer has allowed me to see the best and worst of myself. It has broken me and molded me. 3 months and 10 days left in my school. 3 months and 25 days left in Chile. I don’t know where I will be after this ends, but what I know now is that this is where I need to be. 

Monday, June 11, 2012

I'm Building a Still to Slow Down the Time

18 months down, 6 more months to go, and my writing is still crap. The days are flying by and there is no way to slow down the time. Soon the new volunteers will be at Orientation and I will be heading up to Peru for Re-O/Dis-O. It is incredulous to know the volunteers in Belize and Mirconesia are back in the States. Wow. To think, Emily and Carlos arrived 6 months ago and Jake and I arrived in Santiago 18 months ago. We were so naive and optimistic. We were hopeful, but also nervous and scared.

 I remember my last week in Chicago like it was yesterday. Heading to Houston to hang out with some Jesuits (I am saying that in the lightest of term. It was more about promoting acts of service and JVC) then back to Chicago. Saying good-bye to friends (My friend Horacio and I went to Home-Run Inn to eat pizza and then I remember driving him home and saying good-bye. I tried to so hard to hold back the tears and I did not want to let go of him. He had to pry himself away from me. I cried all the way home), seeing my grandmother in the rehabilitation center and making my peace with her knowing I was never going to see her again, hanging out with my cousins and her daughters at my parents' house eating pizza and packing last minute. I cried when I said good-bye to her as well. Still not knowing if I made the right decision to go to Chile.

I remember my last night. I could not sleep. I was so nervous and planning out travel details with Jake via e-mail. We were going to meet up in Atlanta to board the same flight down to Chile. I remember doing laundry and turning on the tv. I wanted my last night of television watching not to be something depressing, but not something meaningful, either. I spent the night until the wee hours of the morning watching Adult Swim. I laughed so much, I had to muffle the sound with a pillow so I would not wake up my sister or my parents. I watched Family Guy, Robot Chicken, and King of the Hill. I went to bed around 3 in the morning because I had to be up and out the door by 9. I had cereal and I remember sitting at the dining room table with my parents filling out Power of Attorney forms. I remember running up to my room and down to the basement making sure I did in fact pack everything into 2 suitcases and a backpack. I remember saying good-bye to my mom and walking out the front door.

It was cold, but bright and sunny day. My dad got on the Kennedy to get me to O'Hare. I took in the scenery and the smells. Chicago had never looked so beautiful. There was hardly any traffic and my dad was listening to talk radio.  I remember making the trip to O'Hare all the time when I was flying to and from school, but this trip was different. My connecting flight that I was going to catch in Atlanta was no longer going to be to Mobile. My flight was not round-trip. This trip to Atlanta was going to be different. Instead of seeing familiar faces from Spring Hill, I was going to be meeting with my future community mate who was virtually a stranger to me and I to him. My flight from Chicago got into Atlanta an hour before Jake's (he was coming from Denver).

 I walked around Jackson-Hartfield for a bit and then I returned to the gate to wait for Jake. My flight to Santiago was on time and I noticed their was a flight taking off to Mobile at the same time. How it brought back bittersweet memories. The hour seemed like an eternity while waiting in an terminal. Jake arrived and we decided to grab a quick bite to eat at Panda Express. It was awkward at first trying to find things to talk about. We talked about our last moments from Orientation leading up to that point. Our flight was going to take off at 8:30 pm and it was going to be an 11-hour direct flight. Jake was able to change our seats to an emergency exit row (since he's a little taller than 2 meters, approximately 6'6") allowing us to fly somewhat comfortably down to Chile.

The in-flight movie was Eat, Love, Pray. Not particularly my favorite movie nor was it Julia Roberts/James Franco's greatest roles, but at the time the film held some significance for me and still does to this day. The only line I remember from the film was Roberts' character saying "Maybe my life hasn't been so chaotic. It's just the world that is and the only real trap is getting attached to any of it. Ruin is a gift. Ruin is the road to transformation."JVC's infamous motto is "Ruined for Life." Ruined because you are no longer going to be the same person you once were before entering the volunteer experience and you will not be the same person once the volunteer experience is over.

I am going to make this long story short. Chile has definitely been experience. I have lived so many things I would have probably never lived in the States. I have survived both tear gas and fire barricades. I have experienced what Chileans call "tremors" but what normal people call "earthquakes" on a regular basis. I have dislocated my knee, fallen ill on numerous occasions, cried and dried many tears. I have had students who have become the loves of my life and are the reason why I get out bed each morning. I have experienced so many injustices as a woman in a foreign country, a foreigner in a foreign country, and standing in solidarity with those who have been forgotten and are marginalized. I have experienced the fear of my visa expiring and running the risk of being illegally in the country. My life path has changed. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would enjoy teaching ... teaching high school juniors and seniors! I love my kids. They make me laugh and appreciate the small things in life. They make me challenge myself and strive to be a greater person. No matter what goes on work (good, bad, or ugly), they are who I live for these days. This experience still does not make want to have kids of my own, but I do love these kids as if they were my own.

Sometimes, I still question if I made the right decision to come to Chile. I know if I did not come, I would not have known that I love to teach. I would have not met some the greatest minds and spirits. I would have not been exposed to my favorite drink "The Terremoto" and I would have never known there was a world outside of Santiago. I would have not seen Argentina, Peru, and the South of Chile. I would have not been ruined for life. I still have 6 months to go, but these months are going to fly by. Sometimes, I wish for the time to go back much more quickly, but other times, I want for time to slow down so much that I am able to enjoy every second for what it is. Tomorrow I might feel like throwing in the towel and running away, but I know I am not. This is has not been an easy experience and community is definitely hard work, but I do not regret one moment. I cannot have the good without the bad.

Happy Anniversary Jake, Carlos, and Emily! We have made it this far. Jake, you and I only have 6 more months to go. Emily and Carlos, before you know it, you'll have 6 more months to go. Peace, Love, and Live the Fourth!


Thursday, April 26, 2012

From the tropic of Cancer, to Capricorn, you so far from your sofa along

And on Saturday they left. I am talking about my family. It has been so long since I have updated my blog and yet again so much has happened. I am going to list everything that has happened (well, everything I can remember) and I will try to organize my rants into coherent sentences and hopefully you will be able to understand what I am trying to say. Since the last time I wrote on here, the school year began, there were many earthquakes (from the States to Mexico to Indonesia to Chile), I got my first whiff of tear gas of the year, I somehow dislocated my knee, and my family (meaning my mom and my sister) visited me. Let me begin my rant with the school year. There is a new director in town and people have mixed feelings. Change is good and sometimes it is not. I do not know how I feel. I guess I fall in the neutral category. The new director is different. She is more about business and administrative than she is nurturing. Not that there is anything wrong about that, but people feel her to be distant and removed from the school community. If I remember to post more frequently, I will be sure to keep you all updated.

Moving onto dislocated knee.

First off, I do not know how or why I dislocated my knee. I recently made a doctor's appointment because  I had a pain/discomfort in my left leg starting with the knee. The pain began in December and the only reason why I decided to go now was because the pain was increasing. I made an appointment and long story short (and $300 later), the doctor said my knee was out of place. I still need to deal with insurance and see if Physical Therapy is covered, but I hate dealing with that, so I'm going to end the story here. Knee is out of place and nothing more/nothing less. I still have pain because I have not done the exercises the doctor told me to do. Argh ... procrastination is getting the best of me. C'est la vie y'all.
Moving onto the next point on the list. My mom and sister came to visit me. I had not seen either of them (in the flesh) for over 16 months. It's crazy to think that it's been that long since I have seen someone from my previous life (well, that's a lie because my friend Rosa came to visit in January and that trip was EPIC). It was nice to see them, but at the same time, it was weird. I am not extremely close to my family. We get along better when we are apart and when we are together, we want to kill another. My mom recently lost her older sister (my aunt). My aunt lost a long battle to Diabetes and her death was unexpected. My mother took it especially hard because within the past two years, my mother has lost both her mother and her sister. I was not home for either one of their passings, but I do not feel that my presence was necessary. My sister has grown so much and she is now taller than me! The last time I had seen her, she was 10 years old and now she is going on 14. It's crazy to think she is going to be 14 this year. It's only been two years but I missed her 11th, 12th, and 13th birthdays. What a world, what a world. Where does the time go? Before I know it, I will be back in the States.

Less than 8 months to go. Time is funny because at times it can seem never ending and other times it seems like there is not enough of it. I started to work on my resume and began the job search. This is my plan (for the time being): in two months, start the job search for real, start sending out my resume to prospective job sites, begin looking into apartments in the Chicagoland area, begin looking for roommates, and start making a donation pile of things I am going to donate to the Salvation Army and into community. In the past 16 + months, I have accumulated so much and now it is now time to start de-cluttering. Sometimes, I just want to give everything and go back with nothing, but I have to go back with something because it's going to be cold and I won't be able to survive a Chicago winter with nothing.  I cannot believe I will know the names of the new JVs soon and I cannot believe it's already winter here in Chile. Hopefully, this winter will be better than the last one. Hopefully, I remember to regularly update this blog because too much time passes by and it's ridiculous how much goes on and it's just too much to write about in just one bi-monthly post.

Friday, January 27, 2012

You Are a Tourist

I struggle with the idea of “home.” This is an idea I have wrestled with and pondered before I applied to JVC and while I was a student at Spring Hill. What is home? People here in Chile have asked me if I plan to return home once I complete my two years of volunteer work. I respond by saying I still have a year to figure out the future, but I also say I do not have a home. Not to sound mean or callous, or to have people think I am homeless, but technically I do not have a home (in the States).

Truth be told the home I once knew as a child no longer exists. The home once belonging to me is still the home of my parents and my younger sister, but it is not mine. During winter and summer breaks as a student I would return “home,” but with each visit, I felt more like a stranger. Things would be different and why would they not be different? I cannot expect time to stop and things to remain the same when I am away. What used to be my room became a guest room. What used to be my dresser became my sister’s and my father completely renovated the yard and planted his garden.

So, what is home? Those who know me know I love music (There is a point to this digression so bear with my train of thought and writing process). Music lets me know I am not alone in my feelings and lets me know whatever I am going through (be it good or bad), someone else has experienced it. There are a number of songs I have identified with since being in Santiago. Two songs touching on the question of home for me are The National’s “Bloodbuzz Ohio” and Death Cab for Cutie’s “You Are a Tourist.”

“Bloodbuzz Ohio” deals with the singer’s experience of returning “home” after a period of time. There is a line he sings, “I was carried to Ohio in swarm of bees, I never married, but Ohio don't remember me.” So much changed since he left Ohio. It was neither the same place he knew nor was he the same person. Both my parents’ home and Chicago are not the places I knew as a child and as I grow as an adult and gain more experience and knowledge, the more foreign each concept becomes. In “You Are A Tourist” there is a verse in the song that goes:
“And if you feel just like a tourist in the city
where you were born then it's time to go
and if you find your destination
there’s so many different places to call home ...”

The explanation is as followed. As I am beginning to discern the next chapter of my life, the answer to this ever-existential question I discovered is home is wherever I am presently and with the people I am with. Home has been so many different places. Home has been the house of my parents. Home has been Chicago. Home has been Spring Hill College. Home has been Nicaragua, Italy, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, and now Chile. Home is now the JV house I share with my community.

Home is now the place where I share old memories and create new ones. The idea of home will change again when I finish my time here. This home will no longer be mine, but it will still remain the JV house and the home of Emily and Carlos and will become the home of future volunteers who continue to come to serve the Chilean people. I currently may not have a home waiting for me in the States, but home will be wherever I decide to begin my next chapter.