The day I almost didn’t graduate

Hey folks! the reason why I haven’t written in a while is because I was busy graduating and celebrating the day of my birth on June 14th and June 17th, respectively.

I went to Toronto for the weekend and had SO much fun. I didn’t do any partying or crazy stuff, and mostly just hung out with my family. By choice! I am not a loser, KAAAY? They had come from all over the world, partly to celebrate my accomplishment, but mostly to get together since we don’t get to see each other that often. I actually really love my family and I miss them a lot! I am loving New York but I miss them and I wish I was in Toronto with them. Look at them, they are so cute!

On my graduation day, I was told: “Yo, are you sure you can graduate?”. My name wasn’t in the program and I appeared in the system as not eligible to graduate. I freaked out when I learned this. After a lot of crying (on my part) and a lot of calling and walkie-talking by the people working at convocation hall, the problem was resolved and I was able to join the rest of my classmates and graduate! It was a close one. It really wasn’t the most pleasant experience as I was stressed out all throughout convocation ceremony. I was only able to relax once I got my hands on that stupid (JK, awesome) diploma.

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The bad: How I was stood up by a brooklyner

So this post was supposed to be a happy post about how I went to this awesome event that takes place every wednesday in Brooklyn at this art gallery/space/studio called 3rd ward. Instead, this is an angry post about how this guy who I thought was my friend totally bailed on me! Cancelling is one thing but this guy didn’t even bother to tell me he wasn’t coming or to even apologize afterward for not showing up. Human beings simply should not do that to other human beings.

The event in question is called “Drink & Draw” and it consists of a life-drawing session and beer in all-you-care-to-drink quantities. Info can be found here. It’s from 8:00-10:30pm and I recommend you get there very early because it gets packed. I waited for like 30 minutes for the guy because I am always late so I figured, why not? But after 2 unanswered calls, I made my way to 3rd ward alone. Unfortunately, the place was full so I couldn’t even get in. Oh well.

The good: My internship at the CPF

So I am interning at the City Parks Foundation (CPF), which is a non-profit organization that runs cool programs in NYC city parks, including Central Park’s Summer stage concert series! I am working in an environmental education program called “learning gardens”. So far, I’m truly enjoying it, learning a lot, and I hope this will help me to make a career out of doing this type of work.

In a nutshell, the program provides a wonderful opportunity for kids and teachers in “high risk” neighbourhoods to come to a a garden and learn about ecology, biology, horticulture, and the environment in general. We have them plant veggies and flowers, write about their experiences, and participate in different arts and crafts activities. I really like hanging out with the kids, talking with the teachers, and learning a little bit more about gardening.

I’ve worked with kids before under various circumstances and with different types of kids. I’ve been a teaching assistant at a private school and a babysitter for a couple of rich or well-off kids; I volunteered in an education a community centre in a culturally and economically diverse area; I also volunteered at a farm in Argentina with at risk children.

One of the things I’ve noticed is that kids from racial, economical, culturally privileged and heterosexual households are harder to get excited about or engage in activities that have to do with self-expression such as story-telling, art, music, dance, etc. They often seem bored, jaded… with a “i don’t need that crap” attitude when you ask them to talk about their thoughts, their experiences. This is presumably, because they’re right, they kind of don’t need to! This is probably a huge generalization, but in most cases, they have had plenty of experiences where they’ve been able to express how they see the world, their thoughts, goals, aspirations, etc. I mean, it’s hard for me to think of instances where these kids could have been subject to any type of oppression or discrimination. Amirite?

In contrast, kids who’ve had tougher experiences such as belonging to racialized sections of the population, living in these so-called high risk neighbourhoods, coming from single-parent or abusive households (well, you get what i mean) are very much appreciative of these opportunities for self-expression. These kids I’m working with were very open to talk about their feelings, what they had learned and gained from the program, and what they wish for their community. It was such a non-issue – everyone was ready to talk about it. I found that very interesting. I mean, they’re still a handful but they’re nice kids, tough kids.

Well, here are some pictures 🙂

Bushwick

Gates stn

Nasturtium

Unripe strawberries

The ugly: How I went out by myself last night and enjoyed it

Park Slope (A) and Williamsburg (B)

Last night was a tough one for me. There were two events I really wanted to go to and no one to go with. Cool Brazilian music playing in a Park Slope bar and a cool DJ party/art thang in Williamsburg with an open bar. An open bar! We don’t get those in Canada, I’m pretty sure it’s illegal there to have fun give out alcohol for free at a party, which is shitty makes sense.

I generally consider myself a single girl, unless otherwise specified. I was also an only child for over 12 years. So you would think I would be OK and totally cool with being alone or doing things by myself. Surprise: I am not! I texted the following people: two new friends I made last weekend; this friend I knew from before; my cousin; couchsurfing people. Granted, I tried to organize things a little to late in the evening but no one seemed to be available. They either got back too me to late, had other plans, were not in the city, or just didn’t respond. Why would anyone not respond to a text/call? SO RUDE, amirite? Man, I’ve slept with the person who didn’t get back to me. I would never even do that to an enemy.

First, I felt like a less cheerful version of this:

CLICK ON ME

Then, I was like:

CLICK ON ME

And so with all the support of my friend Talia, whom I was skyping with at the time and telling her about how I had NO FRIENDS, I decided to just go out by myself. I really wanted to check out these events, more importantly they were free, and I just couldn’t stand the (otherwise great) idea of staying home to watch an episode of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit before going to bed. So I went and to be honest, it wasn’t the most fun I’ve had in years but I did have more fun than I was expecting. More importantly, I went out and did exactly what I wanted. Oh! And I had some delicious pizza before coming home, which is always good.

My night ended in Williamsburg at the loft part, very close to the East River waterfront. Since I was flying solo that night and didn’t have to wait for anyone, I left the party as soon as I got tired of it. Of course, not before getting my free drinks, dancing for a bit, and talking to some hipsters that I will hopefully never encounter again. I then walked to a nearby park on the waterfront overlooking Manhattan. I sat there for maybe 20 minutes looking at all the buildings, wondering how many people were still working and stupid shit like that. I listened to the pixies, reflected, and cried a little bit because I was drunk and friendless. That was probably my favourite part of the night (I’m serious).

I guess the morale of the story is that no matter how shitty people are with you, you can always count on yourself to make you happy. If other people are mean to you, at least you can choose to be good to yourself. Rather than feeling sad about myself, I decided to go out and have a little adventure and I also conquered my fears of doing things by myself. I am really really happy I did it and I feel a little bit more powerful.

The intersection of travelling and privilege

“Those who do not move, do not notice their chains”
Rosa Luxemburg

A while ago, I read this article on a travel blog by “nomadic matt”. There, he addressed the critiques or comments that friends, colleagues and families often make to people who, like him, lead a globe-trotting, backpacking, world-travelling lifestyle. From what I read, it seemed like this guy had moved around lot, without ever being denied entry to a country, without ever noticing any chains. It was no surprise then, that he provided a very naive, almost delusional perspective on why people should travel, and engage in a more mobile, nomadic lifestyle. 

The author focused on three main points. He first focused on dissipating the “negative stereotypes” attributed to globe trotters. For example, the idea that people who move around are running away from their troubles and responsibilities, that they’re unstable, afraid of commitment, troubled, dirty, to name a few. The second point was a glorification of the nomadic lifestyle, an enumeration of all the learning and personal growth opportunities that come from travelling, from going to “exotic” places and experiencing “other” cultures, and meeting other “global” citizens. The third point involved suggesting that everyone who wants to become a nomad should just DO IT – in a quit-your-job-sell-your-belongings-and-hop-on-a-plane kind of way.

I quote:

“People assume that we are simply running away from our problems; running away from “the real world.”

And to all those people who say that, I say to you – you’re right. Completely right. I am running away. I am trying to avoid life — I’m avoiding your life. I’m running away from your idea of the “real” world. Because, really, I am running toward everything – toward the world, exotic places, new people, different cultures, and my own idea of freedom.

Well isn’t that a nice thought? Too bad not everyone has the freedom to do that! The guy who wrote the article apparently has no clue that being able to travel all over the world is an immense privilege that not a lot of people have. One type of privilege is access to money – although you don’t have to be a millionaire to travel here and there, some money is needed to travel from place to place. But there are other privileges that facilitate mobility, which he fails to point out… gender, race, nationality, legal status, to name a few.

He’s a white american guy. Not many borders are closed for him. He can visit “exotic” places and he will not be denied entry or be required to apply for a visa. He can hitchhike anywhere without fear of being assaulted or raped. Because of his whiteness, he won’t be discriminated in most parts of the world, au contraire he will be welcomed with open arms — people will say “aah a westerner with money, how great”.

One of my cousins would love to quit her job and travel the world but she can’t, she has no papers so she can’t get out. A lot of my family members are in the same situation. My other cousin wanted to come visit in Canada but her visa was denied. My great aunt wants to come for my graduation but she’s sick so she can’t hop on a plane. I wanted to hitchhike from Esquel to El Bolson but I was too afraid I would get assaulted. I was almost denied my student visa in Argentina because they thought my canadian passport was fake, they didn’t think I was canadian, they thought I was Ecuadorian. That would have never happened to a white canadian person. Also, a lot of other canadian friends are doing the same as me – living in new york for the summer – but they’re not getting a work visa or any sort of papers. They’re not afraid of being deported. I am. Because In new york, I’m not going to be seen as “a canadian” but as a “mexican”, “latina”… and they don’t want us there.

Still, I have *some* money, a university degree, and I am a canadian citizen. Without these privileges, it wouldn’t have been such a breeze to go to new york. Becoming a nomad or travelling are not a choices or necessities for personal growth, it’s a goddamn privilege. And I say this while being pretty mobile myself. I’ve travelled a lot and I’m going to keep doing it as long as I can but the important thing is to keep in mind that I am not entitled to leading a nomadic lifestyle. I’m just very lucky. I think this is something that globe trotters, including nomadic matt, should also keep in mind before judging people who lead “normal” lives. 

HBO show alert: Girls (set in fabulous NYC)

Is anyone else excited about Girls? I’m such a loser so obsessed with NYC that I get really excited whenever I spot a new show set in manhattan or brooklyn. I won’t necessarily like it, but I will at least watch the pilot. I think it all started with Ghostwriter. Anyways, this show premiers tonight on HBO so make sure you tune in or stream it illegally!

Here, watch the trailer 

As you can see, the show focuses on the shenanigans of four 20-something girls living in NYC. Sounds a bit like a Sex And The City prequel to you? Maaaybe a little bit. Especially with all the sex… in the city *face-palm*. It looks more promising and realistic than The Carrie Diaries, which is the legit SATC prequel, but not even close to the awesomeness that is How To Make It In America. In Girls, Lena Dunham (also the writer of the show) stars as Hannah Horvath, along with Jemima Kirke as Jessa Johansson; Allison Williams as Marnie Michaels, and Zosia Mamet as Shoshanna Shapiro. Never heard of any of them? Me neither. They’re cool,educated young white girls living, working, hanging out in NYC. The show seems interesting and, as far as the trailer goes, I have many positive things to say but also many criticisms.

For one, I do strongly identify with the main character (Hannah) in more than one way. She’s a 24 year old woman, recently out of university, overeducated, with no real job, working an unpaid internship, financially supported by her parents, dating an asshole, and a bit overweight. Hello? That’s definitely me!

I would also like to point out how refreshing it is that the main character is not your typical thin, blonde, stereotypically pretty woman. She also doesn’t seem to care. She walks around  in her underwear. We also see her topless. And it’s great to see a heavier yet completely normal body on screen and not make a big fuss about it.

I think this show is also very relevant in terms of what young recent graduates experience these days: a delay of adulthood, an extended period of parental financial dependence, and struggle to find a paid position for which you are not overqualified or overeducated.

BUT the show is so fricking white. Hannah and her family are white. Her boyfriend is white. Her friends are white. Her boss is white. What.the.fuck. New York is so freaking multi-racial and multi-cultural that if only for the sake of realism, they should have casted a few black, asian, and latino characters. No?

I know this show is already aimed at an elite audience (over educated rich woman trying to find themselves) but why does it have to be all white? I can help but to feel excluded. It kind of reminds me of something a chilean old man told me once while selling me a necklace in a shop near my house: “White people like to hang with white people, people of colour like to hang with people of colour… white people may act as though they accept you but the truth is they never will”.

That’s exactly what I feel with this show:

“Ohhh cool this show is TOTALLY ME!”

“Damn it, they’re all white… I guess it’s not totally me, just a little bit me. Is it? Hmm…”

Hmm…

Update:

I have just watched it and I must say I’m very disappointed. Hannah is just some whiny girl crying because she will no longer be financially supported by her parents, can’t afford manhattan anymore, but doesn’t want to get a job. Oh and the only character of colour is this black homeless man. The show should be called White Girls. I still don’t know how I feel about it though. I watched the 2nd episode and it seems like this show just became a second guilty pleasure, just like Gossip Girl. Girls is much more clever than GG – not that that would be hard – but I for some reason expected it to be more. Unfortunately, Girls is yet another show exploring the lives of privileged characters.

Great expectations?

Whenever I get an idea for a “life project” in my head, it is impossible to get it out. I always try very hard to achieve it. This is considered a good quality, right? However, the motivations or expectations behind these projects are sometimes stupid, highly misguided, and unreasonable. As a result, I end up not fully enjoying and taking advantage of the opportunities that I work so hard to get. Instead, I focus on fulfilling my stupid expectations rather than appreciating what I have accomplished. I also become disappointed if these expectations are not met. I realized this trend not too long ago and I hope it won’t fuck up my ability to enjoy New York City.

I wonder if my motivations and expectations to move there are stupid and misguided, and I wonder how they will affect my experience. 

I know, it’s impossible that a project will exactly meet all of your expectations. Sometimes, an experience may turn out much better, much worse, or completely different that what you might have expected. I just have a hard time letting go of my initial expectations, I think.

At the same time, if I took life as it came — no planning, no motivations — I don’t think I would have been achieved all the things I have achieved. Part of what motivated me to go to University, travel, and do all types of good stuff was the crazy expectations I had for these experiences. I say to my self: “all this work will be so worth it once I get to do X thing and X thing”. I don’t know how to get around that.

Well, the type of mindset I am cultivating right now is that I should not expect a specific, extraordinary, life-changing outcome from my temporary relocation to New York. I just know that it will certainly change me and my life in some way, but I should stop trying to predict how this will happen. I think this is a good compromise.

Some projects I have pursued in the past where there has been a mismatch between expectations and result include:

Moving to New York City is perhaps the oldest of these “life projects”. I’ve been wanting to do that for suuuch a long time so my expectations are very simple. Below, I decided to list my expectations in very general terms in terms of the likelihood that they will be met. Not sure if this is helpful or not but I tried to be as honest with myself as possible.

Likely =1; Somewhat likely=2; Unsure=3; Somewhat Unlikely=4; Unlikely=5  

  • Live there (1)
  • Try lots of awesome food (1)
  • Get a job (1)
  • Get a rewarding/cool job (4)
  • Meet cool people (1)
  • Make friends (2)
  • Take up some cool classes (2)
  • Meet hot guys (1)
  • Hook up with hot guys (3)
  • Hook up with my existing new york lover (1)
  • Not get too attached to my existing NYL (5)
  • Gain valuable experience from my internship (1)
  • Become more independent (3)
  • Learn about myself (1)
  • Try new things (1)
  • Learn new things/skills (1)
Ugh, we’ll see how it goes, right. I’ll just try to keep in mind that I should just take things as they come and focus on the present.