Sunday, December 27, 2009
Thursday, November 26, 2009
Sunday, November 8, 2009
Tuesday, November 3, 2009
Between getting employed and trying to find a more permanent home, I have abandoned the blogosphere. I am back and more than ready to share some of the crazy stories I’ve experience en este paisito mío. Where should I start...
Coming into this experience I was aware that the Dominican Republic was one of the most racist countries in the Latin America, what I wasn’t informed of was to what degree the racism permeated every freaking aspect of society. A friend came to visit me from the states the other day and as we walked down the streets of La Zona Colonial, a man yelled that he wanted me to tell my friend to “get” with him. He said, “I like white women because black women are a little weird and they make ugly babies.” This was so hurtful and so disgusting that when I got home that night, I looked at myself in the mirror and questioned my beauty. I snapped out of it and told myself over and over again that I AM BEAUTIFUL.
I am conscious of racial inequalities and have a really good sense of where they come from and why they're still here. A little girl, rich or poor, from the Campo or from la Ciudad is probably not aware of why her white friends [and black friends as a matter of fact] think that she is inferior, so how is she suppose to respond to the comments of men on the streets or the treatment by her teachers, peers and even her parents. Wait, there’s more…
Tuesday, October 20, 2009
It's a struggle
It's a struggle
It's a struggle
Making Common Unity.
It's a struggle
It's a struggle
Because it's slow
But if we Struggle
At developing Solidarity,
Making Common Unity,
We will all Grow
Because to struggle
Is to work for Change,
and Change is the focus of Education,
and Education is the Basis of Knowledge,
and Knowledge is the Basis for Growth
and Growth is the Basis for
Being Positive and Being Positive
is the Basis for Building Solidarity
Building solidarity is a way to shape
Reality and Shaping Reality is Living
and Living is Loving,
The other day, I slept over at the house I lived in as child. The next morning, my uncle called me to ask if I would like to accompany him on a few errands. Coincidently, or not, he needed to take care of some business in the same neighborhood that I was in that morning (side note: he lives like an hour away from where I was). It’s as if life wanted to show me something that very day and made sure I was at the right place at the right time. My uncle needed to resolve a few things at the first house I lived in as a baby and the house where my dad spent his late teens.
We went into the first house, which belongs to my paternal grandmother. My uncle showed me the spot in this tiny living room space where a mattress once laid. Here my mother, my father, my older brother and I use to sleep. In a matter of seconds, my entire life flashed right before my eyes and I couldn’t help but wonder what if. What if I had continued to live there? What if speaking English and being an American were never a part of me? What if I all those people who have shaped me didn’t exist [for me]? These questions become more evident when I see that most of the people who lived there when I was born are still there.
These folks are in no way, shape or form less of a person because of where or how they live, but the truth is that regardless of all the shortcomings and all of the struggles that I endured as a child and as a teenager in low income America, it doesn’t compare to the kind of living here. I completely understand that there is third worlding in America, but the amount of resources and opportunities again, does not compare.
I go back to this neighborhood often and I am still figuring out how I fit there. Please believe me when I say that this is a very sensitive topic/experience for me. Every single part of it entails struggling with my identity and setting negotiations between who I have become, who I want be, who I should be, and a combination of the three. Nonetheless, I am so grateful for this struggle.
Thursday, October 15, 2009
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
Facing history and ourselves is a very challenging thing to do. It means opening up many cans of worms. It means being able to look inside these cans and inspect each and every one of these worms even if they disgust you. It means having to keep and learn how to live with some of them, but at the same time, understanding that it’s ok to let some of them go (go fishing with them even). It means learning to forgive a lot. It means appreciating. All this in hopes of understanding—at least a little bit—where you came from and where those who you love so much came from.
Monday, October 12, 2009
When I was a little girl, I remember I had this picture of my father. He was wearing a black suit, a white shirt and a black bowtie and to top it off, he had this very thick black mustache that beautifully complimented his dark brown face. I was young so I didn’t understand the complexity of my parent’s divorce or why one day I lived with Papi in Santo Domingo and the next day I lived with Mami in America without Papi. I ignored the intricacies of their separation because it didn’t add up to me—I just didn’t get it. I do however remember crying every single night as I held his picture. I listened to this song by Selena called Fotos y Recuerdos (Pictures and Memories), where she says, “All that’s left of your love is fotos y recuerdos.” I recall missing him like one misses—I really can’t compare it to anything, I just know that it was the kind of missing that hurts the soul so much, that you can feel it in your gut.
A few days ago, my uncle showed me this picture of my dad that had inexplicably appeared in his car. It was of course, exactly the same picture that I use to have, this one being much smaller than mines (come to think of it, maybe it was the exact same size but because I was so little, the picture seemed bigger at that time). I don’t know where my copy went; I think it might have literally disappeared with all of the tears that fell on it.
Yes, more airplane safety. Following the instructions on how to correctly place the oxygen masks, the flight crew announces that although the airbag might not inflate, oxygen is flowing through the mask. In life some times things go so wrong so often that it appears as though our oxygen mask is not delivering this element that keeps us alive. The truth is that air is indeed flowing through these masks. We get so caught up in the negative things in our lives that we ignore or forget all the beautiful things that surround us. One needs to accept that beneath all the hurt, the pain, and the grief there is beauty. So rest assured that although it may appear like everything is falling apart and your oxygen mask is not inflating, air is flowing through your mask.
Friday, October 9, 2009
Today I went on my weekly date to the movie theaters with my girl friend (pana fria or manita) and a really cool thing happened. During the movie the protagonist mentioned that his ex-fiancé was Dominican. Had I been in the States, I would have had the biggest grin on my face from so much excitement that my people were being represented in an American flick (even if it was a minor character and even if they only mentioned her Dominicaness once). But nobody would’ve been able to relate. However here in the DR, everyone felt the same way I feel back in the U.S. The entire audience went berserks. Everyone was ecstatic. At that moment I felt what I feel when I am back in Boston after I’ve been at school (in PA) for a long time. I look around and notice that all the license plates around me say Massachusetts and I get excited. Then a few seconds later, I’m like, “Hey dummy, you’re back in Massachusetts, remember?” Yup, that happens to me here all the time, but not so much with license plates, but with people’s faces. I am still getting use to the fact that almost 99% of people around me are Dominican.
So to make things even more complicated, I am not only an American girl in a foreign country that’s actually not that foreign because I was born here and I have strong cultural ties to this place, but I am also an immigrant yet again. Yes you read what I just wrote correctly—I am an immigrant, AGAIN. I know it’s probably a little hard to keep up with these terms, but I moved here to an unfamiliar place trying to find employment and a way of life without really understanding the cultural rules or why they exist. So I am somehow (don’t ask—at least not yet) an expat and a native at the same time—check that out an oxymoron that might make sense once I can figure it out.
On Tuesday I spent the day with my paternal uncle. I’ve only seen him a few times throughout my post-Dominican Republic life. We lived in the same house when I was born and I asked him to tell me what I was like when I was a baby. He said I use to dance a lot and nod my head to the sound of music. He’s a cool guy, my uncle. As I browsed through his music collection, CDs to be exact—remember those? Anyways, the kid has really good taste is music; I think I get my feel for music from him.
I sit in my room thinking once more, what the h am I doing here again? Then my brain says, “well duh silly, you are here because you want to get to know your country better and understand where you came from, you know so that you can know where you’re going and all.” My heart concurs with a soft whisper “That’s right sweetie.”
It’s almost been a month and for those who know me, they know I have the names of the streets that surround me down by heart. I can walk these streets with my eyes closed with no problem (don’t worry I haven’t really tried it, just trying to make the point that I am really good with directions!). Soon enough I’ll memorize a map of the entire country and learn how to get to and from each corner of it. I start thinking, “knowing my way around,” is that really what I came here to do?
I then turn to ALL the major newspapers in the country and try to read up on my Dominican news. What do I get? Well for starters, they killed this person in this town, gas prices are up, and lets see what else, oh yeah the President was visiting the U.S. So this stuff is just news, same old news I would get if I were to open up a newspaper in just about any country in the world. So now what you might ask, well I am still figuring that out.
Friday, October 2, 2009
“Although rare, if the cabin pressure seizes, an air mask will fall down. Please make sure to put yours on before assisting someone else.” While this might sound pretty obvious, in life we get so caught up in helping others that we forget to put on our mask so that we too can breathe. Being here for me means taking the first steps in putting on that mask and allowing myself to breathe. It’s different for everyone, but it is essential; you need to breathe in order to live. To those selfless souls out there, no need to worry; know that once you have adjusted your own mask, you can assist others with theirs.
Thursday, October 1, 2009
After the speech that was given at Baccalaureate, I was very attentive when the flight crew spoke (in my skeptical mind, they were speaking in codes and in reality they were trying to give us advice on life). The first thing they bring to our attention is that it is important to listen to these suggestions even if we are frequent flyers. Human beings have the misconception that just because they engage in something many times, they know everything there is to know about it. But on the contrary, every time I revisit a book, a movie, or a place, I learn something new that for reason or another I missed the previous time. Lesson: always listen, always pay attention, and always be attentive even if you are a frequent flyer.
During the graduation ceremonies this year many people said interesting things in hopes that their words would motivate us to lead successful lives. Many of the messages included “don’t give up, keep going,” “stay strong during difficult times,” and of course the famous “always follow your dreams” line. One of these messages however, really stuck to me and has remained on my mind the entire summer. The speaker at Baccalaureate said to remember what the stewardess tells us on an airplane, “Your nearest exit might be behind you.” This completely challenged the idea of ‘always look forward, never look behind’ when in fact the way out might be behind us. Many immigrants who leave their countries in search for a better life in America (or any “developed/ing" country for that matter) see going back as a damaging set back (understandably so, considering the terrible economical and political state of their respective countries). I consider returning back to this country, my country (?), as the nearest exit that happens to be behind me. Ever since that speech, my plane rides have been very philosophically entertaining, as I now pay a lot more attention to all of the wise things that the stewardess has to say.
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
I still feel like an American girl in a foreign country and not like an immigrant who returned home. I hope that this feeling will change as time passes and I begin to find a little of myself in the faces of others, in the rhythm of the merengue and bachata, and in the taste of La Bandera Dominicana (the Dominican Flag: rice, beans, and meat). It’s only my third day here and I understand that my feelings will continue to evolve as the time goes by; but for now, I am blessed to be here and to have this opportunity to live, to learn, to love, and to really appreciate all that surrounds me, including the terrible smells of dead kittens and nasty trash.
My first official day at my new place was great. As I was walking towards the apartment, I noticed that there was a bright yellow Nissan SUV, exactly the same vehicle that my mother drives. Seeing this right before inserting the keys into my new lock, gave me a comforting feeling that I had arrived at the correct place. After inspecting the apartment and getting acclimated with my surroundings, I started up my laptop and attempted to borrow Internet connection from a neighbor. What did I see? The first and only name that pops up on the list of available networks has the last name Contreras. Weird. Unfortunately, her server was blocked, so I was unable to log on.
There are things that I will definitely have to get use to like the cold showers and the aggravating mosquitoes and ants. However, my apartment is amazing in its own unique ways. I can’t really compare it to an apartment in the US because I guess it just doesn’t compare. Things here are different and undoubtedly special, so instead of comparing them to what I had before, I simply embrace all of the particularities that I enjoy. It is a small place with a small kitchen, a living room, dinning space, two bedrooms, and a bathroom. I have decorated the walls with some of my pictures from my travels and some of the pictures I took of the Santo Domingo the last time I was here. Pasito a pasito...step by step.
Monday, September 7, 2009
A great friend, Fabia Oliveira just joined the blogger community!
"I'm starting to Write about what it's like to chase after your dreams when things in your life may make it harder to reach them. And hoping there are others out there that feel the same but are still chasing them regardless, and sharing what experiences and opportunities are heading my way because I refuse to stop listening to my heart." ~Fabia
Check her out at www.mrslivingthenewdream.blogspot.com
Thursday, September 3, 2009
I am back in Boston, I've been back for about two weeks now. No internet at my mother's house, so I've been very disconnected from world wide web. I am relocating to the Dominican Republic in a about a week and look forward to taking all of you on my journey there.
Friday, August 21, 2009
Thursday, August 20, 2009
Wednesday, August 19, 2009
Look at the sun during an entire day and see where it moves, how the light changes, and how the things around you also change. The power of the light that the sun provides is greater than we can imagine…the way it illuminates things to make them visible to us. The camera wouldn’t be such a magical tool without the light of the sun. By definition photography is the art of light.
When taking a picture, my goal is to highlight these things we take for granted. The world has millions of stories to tell us, in thousands of languages, and my hope is to capture those stories in a picture and regardless of what language you speak, have you understand every part of it. Like the smile of an Iranian merchant I met at the medina in Dubai, or like the ridges on the desert sand showing us the footsteps the wind left behind.
I don’t like to call myself a photographer because I really don’t have a strong background in photography or much training for that matter. I do call myself a storyteller and my camera facilitates that. I would call myself a lover of life and of people and a curious soul trying to figure things out. I am thankful that my camera is there with me each step of the way.
Tuesday, August 18, 2009
Saturday, August 15, 2009
Thursday, August 13, 2009
This morning I woke up missing Santo Domingo so much. I was born there you see, left when I was about 4 years old to begin a life along my brothers, sisters, and mother in Boston. This past December I returned to my country for the first time in 18 years! I was only there for two weeks and didn't really get to experience the country like I wanted to. Believe it or not, the first week I was in complete culture shock and confused at the state in which my native land was (is) in. I want to go back.
I took this picture in the Zona Colonial (colonial zone) where I felt a bittersweet feeling of admiration for the beauty of the architecture and discuss and hurt for the conditions under which they were created. Nonetheless, love continues to be the question and the answer.
I live is a huge development called The Gardens. It's probably the greenest part of Dubai. There are two bathrooms in our flat and the one in my room has been broken for about a month. The plumbers have tried to fix it several times and failed. This morning they came in and decided to remove the entire toilet and replace it. When they removed the toilet, they found hundreds of roots from a tree that was trying to grow in our bathroom!!!! It was both a disgusting and cool!
I took the this photo at our professor's penthouse using a macro lens.
Wednesday, August 12, 2009
Being in a place where things are done completely different from what you are accustomed, can be very challenging at times. Patience is key. Understanding that time is not viewed the same everywhere you go and that organization might not mean the same here(Dubai) as it does in the States, is very important. I have also learned to look at the situation from a cultural perspective and not take anything personal. Every time I spend time abroad or when I am in an unfamiliar place, my whole being decomposes. I try to put myself together piece by piece while adjusting myself to the environment around me and without losing myself.
Tuesday, August 11, 2009
The Spice Market in the medina (old city in Arabic) of Dubai was a magical place. I will argue that it is certainly not as cool as the medina in Fez, Morocco, but it is still rich in colors, aromas and wonderful people. You would think that because it is the oldest part of Dubai you would find tons of Dubai natives, but no. Instead, there were dozens of people from Iran who very politely asked me what I thought about their president. I very politely replied "no comments".
It's so interesting being who am an American, a Dominican, an African in a place where they are not accustomed to seeing this mix. When I am at the super market or anywhere for that matter, people are constantly looking at me and I can see them trying really hard to figure out where I am from. In the medina, some Iranians thought I was from Kenya or Nigeria. Very interesting.