Sunday, January 29, 2017

friday in seattle

I used to pride myself on being able to blend in well. I'm pretty intuitive and can navigate new with an innate sense of cautious yet curious direction. I've been mistaken as French/Dutch/Italian/Turkish in the corresponding country that I entered seamlessly with my American passport. What I haven't regularly recognized, is that this natural skill is actually a privilege I happened to be born with. Perhaps I learned to understand its utility while socializing with "white" kids on the playground or taking summer leadership courses with those who hadn't gotten full scholarships to do so, but I played no part in acquiring my light-to-medium skin or soft brown hair or relatively slender figure; I did not choose to be born into a religion that doesn't inform my daily wear; I had no control over the fact that my parents' cells combined, aligned, and duplicated "normally" nor that I ended up having crushes on boys, not girls. Besides the fact that I'm clearly a woman, I'm conveniently able to hide most markers of identity (difference) that some might consider less than.
The morning after the 2016 election, I flew up to Seattle for work. Two days following, Leslie joined. We walked through Olympic Sculpture Park to the Elliot Bay Trail. We—the daughter of a Mexican immigrant, the grandchild of Jewish refugees—were perfectly safe and thoroughly devastated. Nearly every signature coming out of the White House this past week has validated our response then.

Yesterday, the ACLU won a case to issue "an emergency stay", halting deportations under the President's executive order to ban entry to the U.S. from seven predominately-Muslim countries. The simplified rationale: sending these immigrants back could cause them "irreparable harm". Although hope is not lost, there are still so many reasons to be horrified. Screw blending in.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

the unresolved parisienne

There's so much to be said about this country, and this world right now... I fear words fall short. My hodge-podge of sentiments—anxiety, concern, exhilaration—is too intimidating to capture. Instagram feels more appropriate in its visual short form. As such, please excuse the self-declared banality of my reflection below. It errs on the personal side of Heather Havrilesky's words (via Ask Polly): "If you can’t own the life you have right now, ask yourself what needs to change to make you feel like more of a conquistador."
On November 17th, 2016, I landed in Paris. It was dark and chilly as I commuted from CDG to an Airbnb a mere three blocks from where I'd once lived. The route itself was jarring in its familiarity. I affectionately recognized the corner brasserie, and neo-bistro, and all the other shops and bars (save for a few that were obviously new). I WhatsApp-ed Lorelei, "I don't know how you do this regularly. I want to relive every moment of life here, on repeat times a million, plus more memories." And then, after settling into my Airbnb, I texted Ben, "the apartment has high ceilings and antique furniture and my host is an older impatient woman who offered me fruit upon arrival, so I basically feel like France welcomed me back with open arms." I wasn't kidding. It felt painfully good to be back, again.
The following morning, I woke up relatively early. I Facebooked Deanna to make plans: petit-déj at a café across from a metro stop on his line so she wouldn't get lost, we'd figure out the next steps from there, Rémi would meet up with us after class. Some context: my sister is (quite ironically!) dating a French guy she met over the summer in New York; she has visited him (and Paris) twice since.
We wandered through the Latin Quarter across the Seine and into the Marais, stopping into clothing stores we couldn't afford, a free exhibition at the Swedish Institute, and a worth-every-penny visit to the recently-renovated Musée Picaso. Then we lunched with Rémi at our beloved Nanashi before dragging him into Merci—at which he was the only consumer. They (being too cute) caught the bus home at Bastille while I returned to the 17th to freshen up. Later, I ventured outside the city to join Mia at a Salif Keita concert.
Those first 36 hours were too easy, too normal... it was hard to believe I'd ever voluntarily left! And then, before traveling to Amsterdam, I brunched with Lou at Rose Café. In her thoughtful way, she reminded me of my critiques: the cultural superiority, the unyielding otherness, the callous social capital bred from famous haute-couture fashion houses and the like. Paris, too, has an ego.
A week later, I saw Lou once more whilst staying in Melun with ma famille française. I also arranged plans with Melissa, and Rithy, and Julia, and my AUP professors on campus. We spoke about politics and ideals, life and love, ambition and responsibility. I was so perfectly inspired. I found myself overcome by immense gratitude as opposed to tragic-nostalgia. Every moment was to be savored, so I did exactly that. And I was actually ready to fly back to Los Angeles when the time came—even with its infuriating civic passivity, empty "nice days", select inhabitants trying so goddamn hard to be seen as cool, laid back, and creative in unacknowledged privilege. As my sister reminded me today (from Paris, I might add!): But don't you know that only fools are satisfied?

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

winter in vermont

Years ago, my sister posted this Buzzfeed article to my Facebook wall. She read it out loud to my mom this past Christmas Eve; at which time I confirmed that their explanation of 28 may actually be true: Whew—28 is the best year of your twenties. Not because of the spectacular partying (see: 22) or because you’ll magically have everything figured out (see: never), but because 28 is the year when you’re finally able to accept that no one actually “feels” like a grown-up and it’s OK that you don’t either. This is also the year I've been able to appreciate the past decade of experiences (see: blog archives), and marvel at how each one will always be mine.
And let's not forget that time's not up yet! Yesterday, for instance, I went skiing for the first time ever. How can that be, you winter sports enthusiasts may ask? Well, my parents sought sun-and-sand vacations, and I don't find laborious hobby-prep all that appealing (—I have been snowboarding thrice). But, Deanna fell in love with skiing last winter and my aunt (who made the introductions) gifted her last-minute lift vouchers to a private mountain with a December 31st expiration date. Enter, a two-day sister-ski trip to Vermont...
Although we both signed up for lessons upon arriving, my day one was pitiful. I just wouldn't recommend learning to ski at 28 (versus, say, 8)—skis are awkward, slopes are steep, and adults are inherently too aware of risk. My saving grace was Nancy's patient humor and good balance (namaste). Dare I say day two was better though! Nancy coached me once more and I managed to link wedge turns, etc. and it was fun. My sister was so proud, ha. We're that much closer to fulfilling her ski-chalet-NYE dream.
Hopefully I can hit the slopes in 2017. For now, I'm grateful for our charming one-on-one time: in addition to skiing, we dined and heart-to-hearted at Cask & Kilnbnb-ed at Shearer Hill Farm, and road tripped with ESM sandwiches. Learning and cherishing, best.