Thursday, August 30, 2018

kalimera

Of the few Greek words I adopted over the five day-stay, kalimera was likely the first. Locals exchanged good mornings at all opportunities; on the island of Sifnos especially. And being tourists didn't exempt us. We were welcomed into the singsong-y custom. How could we resist! Why would we want to. 
Earlier this summer (Labor Day, what?!), I declared that Greek island life beats most other scenarios. It does. Thanks to jet lag, we awoke each morning around 7am. We made coffee and had a light breakfast of toasted bread with local jam and the best Greek yogurt I have ever had. Perched above the ocean, we leisurely read books and caught up on the news. We hiked to beaches, rode our Vespa across the island's winding roads, ate our weight in Greek salad and Sifnian cheeses and seemingly all the local specialties.
On my 30th birthday, I set out on my own. I descended the stairs to the Church of the Seven Martyrs and prayed to a God who hasn't heard from me in quite some time. The church bells, tied up so as not to ring in the voracious winds, chimed steadily, three times.
It was all so perfect and special, and aside from those solo moments above, shared with one person with whom I no longer speak.
I neither dreaded nor was I thrilled about turning 30. It just felt fitting, in that ordinary no-frills "ah but of course" kind of way. All those little changes and shifts I'd made consciously (and not) in accepting who I was and what I wanted and how I needed, without apology... 30 suddenly made sense; a milestone of adulthood in and of itself as opposed to the reasons I'd been told.
A lot can happen in three decades lived: Multiple degrees and passport stamps. Stints/lifetimes in cities like New York and Paris and Los Angeles. Collections of passion-fueled and need-based jobs. Romantic love found and lost and sought after, juxtaposed with the evolution of familial bonds (once humanness is fully seen, to the extend that it can be). Friends that stick. Real life evidence that another good morning can be found in each ebb and flow, as perhaps the only thing that's truly "meant to be", for every one of us.

Monday, July 23, 2018

close to home

I grew up around kids. My mom watched all ages: 3 months, 10 years. My brother, sister, and I learned how to change a diaper, make a bottle, keep an eye on and entertain. We helped, though not always happily. We often didn't have access to our bedrooms until so-and-so got up from his or her nap. So, we'd keep an ear out for crying. We came to understand what it stood for--whining, frustration, discomfort.

The cries I heard on this recording were different.
At this point, I expect you're well aware of the crisis taking place at the U.S.-Mexico border. You know that last month: 2,000+ children were taken from their parents, that every person to cross the border without legal documentation was prosecuted as a criminal, that AG Jeff Sessions tried to use the Bible to defend the zero-tolerance policy, and that President Trump signed an executive order to discontinue family separation, an act that was put in place with his blessing. Hopefully they'll make their deadline? And still, one can only imagine the pain and suffering that continues through trauma.

Decades after my grandfather ventured to Central California with the Bracero Program, my dad crossed that same border for that same economic opportunity. He stayed longer though. He sent money home, supported siblings as they, too, came over. Years later, once my dad had met my mom, after my siblings and I came to be, my dad became an American citizen.

It's no wonder this feels personal, and yet... nobody risks their own life, let alone that of their child, unless they have to; unless doing so feels like the only viable option for safety. If they make it, their family might come to know the opportunity that comes after. Maybe.

Who do we think we are to dehumanize fellow human beings by labeling them illegal? A descriptor of an action, by the way, not an existence. Do we not share the same value, the same entitlement to human rights? Dignity, let alone decency? This administration appears not to think so. How quickly we forget our origins.

I am the child of an immigrant. My father achieved "the American Dream." This has afforded me the privilege to move across borders and oceans without any apprehension a.k.a. the entire premise of this silly blog. The magnitude of these truths are enough to paralyze me with guilt sometimes. I'm trying my best to do more. I hope you are, too.

P.S. For some levity whilst giving a damn.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

baja at 29

Nearly one year ago, on my golden birthday, I woke up to the Pacific Ocean. I was taken aback by how familiar that body of water has become. My 19-year-old self would've been astounded to know I'd been in Los Angeles for nearly three years at that point. An hour or so later, we drove to the border. I was unreasonably hungry (because we never do grow out of some ways of being) and nervous–what with my last name and the current President. The passport exchange was somehow more painless than previous drives from Canada; we found roadside churros also. Back in California, I turned my cell on to a cascade of happy 29th wishes via texts and voicemails. After a refreshing three day weekend in Mexico, I truly was. Happy, that is.
Happiness hasn't been something that's come easily in my twenties. I'm too learnedly cautious, or, as some may say, cynical. Whereas I desire an incredible amount from the world, I expect very little. I think that's why I've ended up inhabiting four cities in the past ten years. Submitting to one place requires a a reckoning with mundanity I've been far too intimidated to take on. And there's pressure in the choosing. And that's before considering the people that will matter there, the vulnerable investment true bonds require...
Clearly I'm still fearful. But I've also been ruminating over something my mom once said, about how 34 was her favorite because it was the age she fully embraced who she was and felt wholly satisfied with life she was creating. Even then I found the concept so beautiful. Now, I dually appreciate the courage that made it true. Living that sentiment might be what I'm most looking forward to. (For the record, I also intend to refute the claim that time's running out to visit these destinations. Are you kidding me.)
When he'd asked what I wanted to do for my birthday, I thought back to my 28th. I fondly remembered that Mexico has a wine country. We stayed by the water and dined in courses amongst the vines and made time for horseback riding, and ocean-front reading, and margaritas after a farm animal meet n' greet. We tasted a delectable array of smoky, sophisticated wines. It was such a privilege to satisfy so luxuriously; magical even. Here's to accepting more of that into this wild and precious life. Next month: 30, (Paris, Greece!).

Saturday, March 10, 2018

the significance of that weekend in texas

Six months ago, I took my last 501 work trip to Corpus Christi (and later, Austin). I spent the first humid morning exploring by foot. I realized I recognized the small Texan city from having passed through more than ten years prior, on a spring break trip that most definitely reflected my age at that time (17). So much had changed since. I imagine I would've had the same enthusiasm to stop by Selena's memorial though. I was transported to singing along to her cassette tape in my dad's car, my mom explaining to me, months later, why he'd come home from work so upset. I recalled how special it'd been when we to dinner and to see Jennifer Lopez's debut.
I'd flown to Corpus, Christi to supervise an event a new colleague was running. All went well. The following morning, we drove to Austin. I strolled from my Airbnb to another Austin-based colleague's home. We ended up on Rainey Street, others met us, and before long we were on a day-drinking adventure. I admired the easy, laid back approach to strong cocktails and good conversation, local beer and live music. It'd been awhile. I felt fortunate. I thought back to my road trip, when I'd just barely driven through.
On that last day in Texas, I traversed the entire city, UT Austin and the original Whole Foods included. I paused only for a Skype interview with an Executive Director, that has become my boss. Then I called my mom to join in my inspired excitement. What an opportunity! One that's moved me from Los Angeles to San Francisco, the California town I've seemingly always hoped to belong to.
So here I am, approaching 30, writing from the first city I've deliberately chosen as my own. It's amazing to reflect on just how much has been lived in the past decade+. Most worthwhile experiences have been documented on this blog; others, reserved for conversations with my closest confidantes, many of whom are still scattered around the world. And all the while an SF routine is in the making. Starting a new job, establishing new relationships, and creating a whole new branch of life is no less challenging simply because it's been done before. Thanks for bearing with me as I've come to acknowledge such wisdom. We'll be traveling again soon.