Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The vacuum

It's been awhile. Grad school, motherhood, and life has gotten in the way of creative expression but I have decided no more. I need a creative outlet again and writing my sappy journal entries for myself is just not doing it for me.
First goal: buy a new lens for my DSLR. be continued...

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Personal vs Private

Poor blog. Poor sad little blog. It has become a barren wasteland of random ideas, rarely written eloquently. At times I worry how easy it is to find this insignificant blog and...insert here the 'private' portion of my thoughts that I am not so willing to express in this public medium. What is the point of having this blog if I feel I can no longer openly express what I feel? That even my 'art' must be censored. I have become cautious in my old age. I have become boring. Absolutely boring (in terms of the internet world).

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Diary of an Italophile: Italy January 2012

Within the first three days back from Italy, I attended class, spent time with my daughter, with friends, and had gone back to work. It was so incredibly busy, I felt literally FLUNG into my life--which was good for my post-traveling blues. 
Today, twelve days back in the States, I want to say that I don't feel back in the swing of things and in my head, I still feel a foreigner here. Everyday is a battle with myself, I fluctuate between being heartbroken and to being happy to be surrounded by so many loving people especially my daughter. I feel guilty that it seems like I am always counting down the days until I can go to Italy again or plotting my escape route back while carrying on in my "normal" life. In many ways, I sort of feel my blog has turned into an account of how much of an Italophile I am and my Italian adventures instead of my artistic endeavors. Is this what my life has become? The perpetual waiting to the next time I am in Italy?

I know this blog makes me sound like I am not grateful for the experiences that I have had, believe me, no one knows how incredibly thankful I am for this opportunity and previous trips. If I weren't awarded this grant to do research for my honor's thesis, I would have no clue when my next trip to Italy would have been so believe me, I am thankful for every gift the universe has given me.
But Italy, it's got that something that just has dug itself so deep into my soul and I cannot hide it. Every time I start to talk about Italy, my eyes light up, I get a fluttering excitement in my tummy, I smile, and sigh--I display all the signs of being madly in love. To these reactions, I often get the suggestion to move to Italy. Believe me, with every suggestion I get, I convince myself the universe is telling me to pack my bags and get on the next possible flight. I wish it were that simple. If it were, I would have never left the first time I went.

But let me turn this entry over to one of the main concerns of this blog: photography.

You know what I enjoy the most about being back? When people ask to see my photographs. Not only do I get the opportunity to relive the excitement of my trip but I have an excuse to look at my pictures without feeling guilty of looking at them when I should be doing more important things. And then, I also love people's comments.
Usually when I have shown these photographs (below), I get interesting comments. I suppose most of the time they expect to see some photographic documentation of me with a cheesy grin in front of X monument or location--instead they find themselves with photographs of empty plates, cappuccinos, random graffiti, etc…I guess to me there are enough photographs of monuments that it really takes away from the moment for me to photograph such redundancy. When I photograph my adventures, I want to document the REAL moments of my experience. I want the moment lived, the memories that come along with the moment. I want those to last forever! What use is another photograph of the Trevi Fountain? Just because I clicked the shutter or stand in front of it doesn't make it more or less special but it is the fleeting moments that escape, like a funny face of a friend, a delicious pizza, or an amazing sunset that mark an important conversation. It is those moments I want to remember because when I think about it, even photographs are only partially satisfying to reality because I still have to depend on the power of memory to truly transport me there.

In any case, here is a little taste of some of my most interesting moments (I am willing to share) in the order of occurrence with captions:

Inside the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore, Rome
Courtyard of my friend's house in Rome
Near la Fontana di Trevi

A fruit truck (reminded me of Nicaragua) in Naples

This is what the street I was staying at looked like in Naples

The barista made a heart in my cappuccino! (Naples)

Graffiti in Naples

Graffiti in Milan. Photo produced with my cellphone.
At La Gran Madre, Turin. Photo produced with my cellphone by: Stefano B. Photo edit: me!
At La Gran Madre, Turin. Photo produced with my cellphone by: Stefano B. Photo edit: me!
La Gran Madre, Turin. Photo produced with my cellphone.


Monday, November 28, 2011

A delirious state

I keep running a fever above 102℉ (39℃) since yesterday--in fact, I am certain I have a fever right now since I feel extremely cold but my skin is burning to the touch. Perfect timing if you ask me with all of the final papers and studying I have to do. I even missed the UCD General Strike today...or maybe I participated considering I have only moved from my bed to the couch and from the couch back to my bed. No school for me, just hallucinations. The day has been a haze, alternating between reality and a feverish dream like state.
In my feverish delirium this morning, I thought I was back here:

I even called out to (insert name here). It's my biggest held secret and it is better this way because this way it is only mine. The truth is, it's not wanderlust, it is love that takes me back to feverish August nights. They were so painfully short in memory and right now I feel a yearning...I want to go back. Or maybe I am stuck in a perpetual delirium, alternating in between a feverish lustful and loving influenza of the heart, body, and mind.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Eulogy to my grandmother

This blog actually started out as a response to an email of a friend asking me how I was feeling from the death of my grandmother. Then I realized it was probably more than this person actually wanted to read so I decided to respond with a simple ok and spill the wreckage here:

I am doing mostly kinda depends on the moment. Sometimes I spontaneously burst into tears and cry. Right now I am fighting them because I have so much to do tonight since I decided to ignore my responsibilities for today in order to reflect. I needed to figure out why I am constantly bursting into tears because it made little sense to me, that I keep crying like this since yesterday after I received the call from my father that my grandmother had died. 

To be honest, my relationship to my grandmother was minimal--after all she lived in Guatemala my whole life and I saw her a total of maybe 7-10 times--I am not even sure how accurate this number is. Mostly my memories of her consist of her telling me I am gorda (meaning fat in Spanish). Not really my most treasured memories but at least I met the woman. Maybe it was her way of showing affection and saying, "Your dad takes good care of you." Either way, it's true and it doesn't really matter to me at this point. 

The more morbid side of me has thought about this day. I knew it would happen some day and I always thought that it would be like hearing the death of a celebrity in the news. Sort of like when I found out Steve Jobs died recently and I thought, "I hope his family is ok." And I would carry on with my life as if nothing had changed in my life. Yet when my call ended with my father, I bursted into tears. I was walking from downtown Davis to my house. There I was on 2nd St crying as I tried to hurry home to hideaway in my little nest of safety. I couldn't make sense of the feeling. Did I love this woman? Who was she to me? 

It didn't take long that evening to figure out the source of pain: my father's voice. The most painful aspect of my grandmother's death has been hearing  and seeing my father cry (this is only the fourth) about her death and knowing he wanted nothing more than to say goodbye in person before she passed away and that he didn't make it. My heartbreaks knowing he is Guatemala right now without me. I guess, it's more of a selfish pain that I feel because I want to be there with him to protect him or maybe I need him to protect me from my own thoughts? Maybe I am seeking reassurance that he is going to be ok?

As a little girl, my dad was like a superhero to me. There had never been anyone like him, he was my Zorro (the one and only Halloween costume I remember him wearing when I was about four years old). Yet, in the last few years I have noticed him getting considerably older and physically weaker. His once invincible muscular arms and legs seem to be part of some distant past, some kind of romanticized version of my father as this magical man capable of performing amazing physical feats. I was certain my dad could have beaten up any one of my ex-boyfriends. In fact, you know kids sometimes "joking" around say, "well my daddy can totally beat up your daddy." You remember that? Well, I told my ex (my daughter's father) that my papa could totally beat not his dad but him up. He looked at me and laughed but I was serious--I really believed it then. Man, I thought my dad was like Arnold back in his bodybuilding days...that man did not really exist but nonetheless it was the reality I was certain of. 

So yeah, I thought my dad was my superhero, someone I could turn to no matter what. Now-a-days, I am far more reluctant to call when I need something because I don't want to stress him out--in fact, I don't do it anymore, I seek to solve my problems on my own. This is probably a mixture of self-responsibilty and this growing need to protect my father in some strange existential way that I am yet not able to articulate. When I go visit my parents, I look at his tired face and his ability to fall asleep in the mist of loud conversations, which he pretends to be a part of with a random comment that makes little to no sense to the conversation. I guess what I am trying to say with all of this is that the death of my grandmother just puts into perspective my father's own mortality. My father is aging. My dad is going to die. One day, I will lose him. Death is real.
So these tears that keep surfacing are my tears to him. He is grieving his mother but I am grieving him. My grieving is selfish because I won't miss my grandmother but I will miss father. I need to save him, somehow! Yet there is nothing I can do...

Another part of me knows that now my father is forever a changed man. The man my father was before my grandmother's death is now gone because I have seen the consequences of losing a mother. My maternal grandmother died December 30, 1998 and this date changed my mother forever. My mother always tells me the mourning of both parents being deceased is forever present and makes one feel like an orphan in the world because the people that have brought you into the world are gone. She says that you are no longer someone's child, you're an orphan.
I am not saying my dad will be like my mother, they are very different people with two very different outlooks on life but I know for a fact my father is forever changed and forever will feel this loss. Remember earlier when I said I had seen my father cry only three times prior to this? Well, one was a drunken night when I was a little girl where he was telling me he loved me, the other was when he talked about my grandfather (who died when my dad was only eighteen), and when I got married. Don't get me wrong, I honor this woman who raised twelve children on her own, my father being only the second oldest. But my grandmother is more of folklore to me, a women I only know through stories spun together by my father. I love her because she gave me him. For this I will be eternally grateful but I do not mourn her because she had her life, eighty-two years of it. I mourn for my father--he is now more vulnerable than ever--he is an orphan. I am not sure what it is like to be an adult Guatemalan man despite my vivid imagination but as a Latin-American (almost) thirty year old woman, I sometimes feel like I need my papa and my mami. There is a part of me that has refused to grow up and is vulnerable. From what I hear, this child remains a part of our lives and at times needs consoling. I imagine this child is present right now in my father. I want to cradle this child and hold him. I want him to feel comforted. This would comfort me.

This is why I want to be with him because I know he is in pain...I want to protect him from himself because he is only going to act like a "man" (in that Latin-American tradition) and hold the pain inside. He is going to feel obligated to be strong for the rest of my extended family. I don't want him to have to do that. He needs me. 
Maybe I am elevating his ability to open up with me, maybe even this is some other fiction that resides in my head, but I honestly feel like he opens up to me more than anyone else. Not that he pours his soul but he exposes a little bit more of that vulnerability he was raised to eternally keep hidden. My father has never been a man of expressive emotions but I know inside of him lives an immensity of love, devotion, and optimism I have never known in anyone else. My dad is amazing, he is the type of person that you want to be next to in tragedy, he would turn it into a moment of thankful reflection. He'd be the one to remind you of everything you do have--that's my dad, eternal optimism. According to him, it will always gets better. And believe me, as much as it has irritated me at times because I want to be victimized, it is always my ultimate conclusion to my problems. 

Yesterday when I drove him to San Francisco International, I could hear him crying. I couldn't see it because it was dark but the occasional wiping of the nose would confirm my suspicions. I wanted to cry too, I wanted to tell him that it was going to be ok. I didn't know how. I tried to talk to him about his feelings but I noticed that he was not really paying attention and possibly a little frustrated because I kept talking about it so finally I talked about frivolous things. I talked about my dreams and passions to which he seemed like he was only half listening, not that I expected more. The thing is, I was sharing these things with him because I wanted him to see that despite my rebellious years, he was continually (and still is) a source of inspiration for me. He never gave up, he never does. So in-between the frivolous words of my conversation of academics and the philosophical undercurrents of Arte Povera, I was secretly whispering into my words,"I am just like you, you see? I keep following my dream even when I have had to fight against the ocean currents that have knocked me down and constantly taken me back to shore." 

I have never been the most conventional person or followed the most conventional path. I have been difficult and I am far from the conservative political ideals of my father. We don't agree on religion either. He thinks I am an atheist. Sometimes we sit in uncomfortable silences on the phone when he tries to "check" on me seemingly nonchalant. And sometimes even though we are both speaking in Spanish, it is like we are speaking two different languages. We rarely see eye-to-eye. My father is a man of mystery, part illusion and fantasy, some constructed from photographs, my faulty memory, and his fantastical stories interwoven with magic and white lies. Fundamentally, I am just like him. I am hardheaded, fire-spitting, won't take shit, hardworking just took me nearly thirty years to realize it. 

Although it may not seem like it, this really is a eulogy to my grandmother, even though my grief is not because if I am a consequence of my father, well then, I am eternally grateful to this woman I never really knew and helped form the first man I have ever loved.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Italia = amore o ossessione?

I have 236 pages of reading tonight to complete for my classes tomorrow and I have read maybe 97 pages or so. I am so easily distracted and I have one obsession driving me crazy right now: Italy.
Instead of doing the reading I was assigned as homework, I have spent the last couple of hours reading, looking, etc about Italy...more specifically Rome. Maybe it doesn't help that I am reading Renaissance literature this summer and am studying the Italian Futurists in my "Avant-Gardism" class. Maybe all this love of Italy is birthed from the fact that I cannot get away from it. She is everywhere but then again she is here by choice, she is not forced upon me. After all, I have chosen to double major in Italian.
Did the whole universe conspire to this love? Was that fateful day in which I left to what I thought to be "randomness" to learn a new language predestined?
I cannot say. All I can say that that July of 2009 when I pulled "Italian" from my plastic bag, I was somewhat relieved that I wasn't going to have to learn a whole new script for Arabic. I remember immediately going to Livemocha and beginning my Italian "courses." Arguably we could say that Italian is so similar to Spanish and this has greatly facilitated my learning of it but I was also rather obsessive in my learning. I used to listen to the radio constantly, watched movies, tried to read in Italian--I am still amazed now when I listen (much less frequently) and I understand. I can understand! Isn't that amazing? Furthermore, people understand me! I speak and they understand me! I am by no means fluent but I am still amazed. I am amazed that what was once undecipherable is now intelligible language. Is it this that made me fall in love? Have I replaced all sense of romantic love into a country? It is possible.
I often say I am glad I am not Italian and I am very serious when I say this because if I was I probably would not love Italy as I do. The beauty of Italy is that it is not my own but foreign. Even in all of its foreignness it is mine because she has it all: art, food, language, music, landscape. She is not mine by obligation, she is mine because I have chosen her to be my lover and she always welcomes me with open arms. She does not stifle me. She accepts me with all my virtues and faults. And I have proof she loves me back because even when I visited her in winter she provided me beautiful sunny days and only rained the day of my departure.
Le sigh.
Do not ask me why I love her because I cannot tell you why. I just feel it. You know that sensation, the one that gives you butterflies in your tummy, that makes your chest ache, that makes you smile immediately at the thought...Italy is this to me. I cannot help but think of Carrie Bradshaw (sorry for those who never saw Sex in the City) and how she describe New York City as her lover. I understand now fully what she meant. The idea of Italy is so powerful in my mind, the ideal portrait of the Old World still living. Granted all of Europe contains this element but in Italy it is different. Maybe her landscape often reminds me of California and there is some comfort in that. Maybe it is the fact that the art I have loved from my childhood is housed in the Uffizi in Florence. Maybe it is the incredible diverse amounts of cheese and wine. Maybe it is the people and their melodious language accompanied by hand gestures. Non so e non posso spiegarlo, solo so che l'ho nel cuore.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Caution: I come with a warning label

I caution you
run as fast as you can
because I am fire
a sharp tongued

I need to travel!