sábado, 23 de abril de 2011

"Antigua-Los Llanos-Jocotes'

The morning fog had taken over the steep streets of San Francisco. It was 7:05 am. Like any other monday morning my eyes, burning from lack of sleep, ate the weak light of the first hours. This, however, was not like any other monday morning. I had left sunny Orange looking for the beauty of the bay area just two days ago, and now it was right in my face, under my feet, behind my back... everywhere. Old wooden houses build right next to each other, slowly faded away as I approached the heart of the city, riding a public bus. As time went by, I realized that I was lost, despite having detailed instructions provided by google: it is funny how things work out when you skip a letter.
Geary transformed into Point Lobos... I was going in the opposite direction. "Great," I though, "in less than an hour I'll be at Fisherman's Wharf." Poor idiot. I got off the bus in the middle of a hospital and walk a few blocks back to Geary, took another bus (the right one) and finally got off where I should have gotten off, at Van Ness avenue. One more bus and I ended up... nowhere near I wanted to. Coming from a small town, for me there was only one bus I needed to take to be where all the turists were, one simple route with a catchy name: "Antigua-Los Llanos-Jocotes." But the flag with the fifty stars reminded me that I was not in my town (and so did the multicolor flag that appeared to be very popular in SF). Moving around was going to be a little more complicated than "Antigua-Los Llanos-Jocotes."
King Street. How did I end up there? No idea, bus?
After a few minutes of anxiety, my hunger lead me to the nearest Starbucks. Free wifi and overprice late helped with the orientation and stuff... but those guatemalan bananas made me feel at home. Memories of waking up late wearing those old green pants and some equally old shirt, eating cereal with warm (not cold) milk and a lot of sugar accompanied by six sweet breads, walking through "el sitio", with my grandfather, both carrying machetes in our hands looking for "las pencas", trying to find yellow in a sea of green leaves. The sound of a banana tree falling down in my head was interrupted by the voice of the cashier: "eight dollars and fifty cents. Cash? Here's your banana bread." "Mierda, sesenta y cuatro quetzales... me escupen las..."
I walked out and headed towards 2nd street. It was almost 10 am. The daylight had prevailed over the morning fog. I new (kind of) where I was standing.

sábado, 2 de octubre de 2010

random thoughts

Orange light of a dying sun in the horizon was bathing the flag of my country when I passed by the Global Citizens Plaza. The most romantic feeling of patriotism invaded my soul when my eyes captured the moment. The warm atmosphere was cooled by a fresh blast of wind that gave movement to my flag. The light blue on its two vertical bars seemed to glow against the orange sky, the white on its middle bar hinted to me his coat of arms. As I kept on walking, the musical noise of a group of little birds in some bougainvillea trees made me feel at home. They might not be the same birds I remember, but their sound is almost the same. 

Whenever I see dark clouds I think of rain. Here the sky doesn't work in the same way. Dark clouds mean lightnings, and that is about it. This past three days the sky has been a little more cloudy than usual. Although the clouds are not completely dark nor cover the whole sky, they did brought rain this time.

I was sitting outside the building, waiting for the time to come when I had my first class of the day, when I felt a drop of water fell on my arm. "What the fuck is that?", I thought. The last thing I thought that drop was in that moment was rain. But as I felt many more drops I realized that it might be, in fact, rain. A kind-of-gray cloud was covering like 10% of the sky right above me; the day was clear as always though. One by one, the drops of rain painted the concrete of the plaza. By the time my class had ended I went out and saw all these little puddles formed in the floor. A very nostalgic moment, I most say. It doesn't rain like back in my country.

Today it happened again. I was walking down the street towards the central plaza of Orange (La Plazuela but smaller) and a few blocks before getting there, it started raining. Compared to the heavy rain I remember, it was a joke, but it was a relief from the extremely hot weather that I now have to bear. I wonder why it didn't spontaneously rained last sunday, when the thermometers where showing temperatures above 40º Celsius. 

martes, 31 de agosto de 2010

To study has become a privilege.

There I was, sitting by myself at the cafeteria, eating scrambled eggs with bacon. The last thing that came to me was the feeling of doing something special, different, but the feeling came in the form of the need of peeing. And so I did.

It was 8:40 and I was walking toward Beckman Hall, my new M5 without the clouds of tobacco and the faces I knew. I heard someone speaking spanish, it was one of the gardeners. Then another person was speaking spanish and it made me realized that, besides me, all the Latinos around me where working their asses off probably because they need to do so to feed their family. "I'm lucky" -I thought. I am lucky indeed.

Used to huge classrooms full of desks and people as I am, I felt out of place, at first, as I walked in the my classroom and looked around me. A few tables, 29 other students, three whiteboards, a computer for the teacher... I sat down in one of the chairs and felt like I was sitting in the back of  a sheep. The first class began. Anthropology. Then two hours latter I was done with my second class, Precalculus. Every minute of a total of 50 minutes was well used by the professors to explain each and every point of the syllabus (don't know what that is? I didn't either hehe), like the outline of the subjects of the course.

By noon I was free, but the truth is that I have had a feeling of freedom since I am living by myself on campus. I decide when to do what and how to do it. Even though I'm alone 80% of the time, what can I say? I love that extra me-time (is not that kind of me-time, get your mind out of the gutter!). As I was walking back to the dorms, I read the name of the university in the seats of the stadium. I am lucky because I get to live one of my many dreams. The one that seems to be the key that opens the door to new dreams. But that is not the only reason why I am lucky. While I was eating pizza and listening to Jorge Drexler, USAC is closed, my friends are not studying, people is even dying or being beaten up(if you don't believe me, google it). Being here, studying here... is a privileged, and there is not enough words in the language of the queen or in spanish to express how grateful I feel to have met people like Carmen and her family, and there is simply no way to express how grateful I feel towards my family, my mom in particular.

Right after classes I should be reading, everyday. Because I like to, and because I have to.

viernes, 27 de agosto de 2010

I feel so powerful when I cross the streets.

In order to know where I'm gonna be living, lately I've been walking around, tasting coffee from different places in and out the campus, sitting in different places trying to picture myself studying for the finals in one or some of those locations. The campus is full with options of quiet places to study. Coffee shops, little parks, benches anywhere, the library... but two blocks away from it, there's this little circle plaza that everyone just call "the circle", and it as a perfect place to sit and read for hours. 
Every time I have to cross a street, a deep feeling of superiority fills my soul. The cars stop so that people can cross the street. Big thing, one could say. But living in a county in which people have to yield instead of cars, this system is just amazing. 

Today is not as hot as yesterday, that's a relief. I wonder how people can be feel comfortable with a thermometer that seems to be always above 30º Celsius. One of the things I miss the most from my country is precisely that. In my town it was never too hot or too cold and there was a rainy season for 6 months. But when you think about it, maybe there's a correlation between living in a semi-arid area (a desert, in my opinion) and having a strong economy. People here had to fight for their lives from the beginning (they don't have to any more, it seems like everything in life is arranged for them now) and that is what made them be so competitive, thus, lead them to be successful in the market economy that they managed to build. But that is not my point.

People here take very serious some laws. It says SOME and not ALL for obvious reasons that I think would be a stupid waste of time to write here. Take the signs in the streets for example. If there's a sign that says "two hour parking" people do not stay more that two hours there because they know the'll get a ticket for that. If there's a sign that says ""Xing" cars stop and let us, pedestrians. It is just amazing, and there is just two key things that allow them to appear as a very organized society: they are educated about it (people know what the signs mean) and people know there's gonna be a consequence if they don't follow the rules (the do get a ticket, it is not just a threat. 

I have got to be honest and say that it is very difficult to adapt to this culture. No matter how many movies and t.v. series I've seen, this is not entirely like they show it on the media. Yes, this place, so far, looks a lot like a high school (because a lot of the people here just got out of high school), but it is not completely like it. Sometimes I feel like I'm living inside of a mixture of Glee, High School Musical and any other movie/t.v show that you can think of. 

I remember that my first day at USAC was nothing like my days of school. You could feel it in the air. Seriously. Our building was always reeking of cigarets. I haven't seen anyone smoking around here. Good think because it seems to me that U.S.' favorite plant to smoke is not tobacco. 

Everyone seems to be very healthy, or at least concern about their health, fact that makes me dismiss the myth of the people obsess with fast food. I like McDonald's more that anyone I have met so far, which is kind of shocking to be honest. 
[I just discovered that I do have reggaeton in my computer. Two songs. F*ck.]

Nothing more to add so far. As you have probably noticed by now, this is not a journal any more. The reason why is very simple: I need time to actually live the experience that I writing about. 

martes, 24 de agosto de 2010

the hottest day of the summer.

I can't think of any other steep in my life that could seemingly be harder than to live by my self and being many miles away from my country. But so far so good. I have't had any problems in my first day at the dorms and the new school. Many comparisons can be made, between USAC and Chapman, but beyond academics and the environment, I would have to compare two different countries, two different societies... and so on.

Of all the days of the year, they had to pick the hottest day of the summer (according to the local news) to move us to the dorms. My but is getting grilled as I write this words in a bench near the library. But the day is beautiful, and the school looks amazing under the sun of California -southern California.

Yesterday, Carmen's mother, Christine, took me to Cerritos' Library. All the libraries I've ever been at look boring (and I love books) when you compare them to that one. Just the children's area was so big that had its own little aquarium and a replica of a dinosaur plus enough space for the kids to read among thousands of books. The reading room with hardback books in every shelf and the most comfortable chairs and sofas to read... everything was amazing.

One thing I have noticed in this country is that EVERY PLACE has a store. Churches, museums, libraries, universities... there's always some place to buy something to reminds you that you were there. I guess is just to act coherently with the philosophy of free market or just a cultural thing.

I would love to keep writing, but my brain is melting. Blame the sun and the season.

viernes, 20 de agosto de 2010

"are you gonna be studying here at Cal?" "nope..." (you should have said yes!)

If I didn't say this before, then this is the right time to say it. The University of California at Berkeley has one of the most beautiful campus, with museums, libraries, laboratories... when you walk inside it you feel academy and intellectuality (outside is a different story in many ways).

One of the things I wanted to do the most is honored one of my best friends, Carmen, by following her advise and have a cup of coffee at Strada, and go to UC Berkeley again before coming back to souther California. And so we did, and the coffee was good. But something was missing in this Cal experience. I felt like I was gonna need some more proof that I wen to Berkeley (not to study but at least to visit). 

One thing I have noticed about churches, universities, schools, museums, etc., here in the United States is that there is always a gif shop. Always. Cal is not the exception and so Carmen's mother took me to the Cal Store. Blond and smily, the cashier was not just friendly but smoking hot and beautiful. As I was looking at the sweaters with the word Cal on, and listening to her sexy voice, all I could think of was "go bears!" and "huuyyyy". Among all the pick up lines that I could have use and all the different thing that I could have use to start a small chat I picked none. The reason: I wast lost and her beauty and my mind was walking around the campus. 

With my cup of coffee from Strada and my new sweater from Cal (of course I wasn't wearing it), the 6-hour trip to Los Alamitos began. 

Miles of hills and crops, towers and cables, channels and rivers, one wind farm and some little oil drillings along the road where the target of my camera.  A bit more than 90 pictures to capture the beauty of the agriculture and industry of the San Joaquin valley. Back in LA it was time to faced the stressful traffic.

In the night I had time to meet with a good friend of mine, Justin Young. He's getting ready to participate in a triathlon to raise funds to help stop leukemia, lymphoma, Hodgkin lymphoma and myeloma from taking more lives (for more information: http://pages.teamintraining.org/ocie/malibutr10/jyoungohtm).

To finish day twelve, I decided to watch the movie that Carmen's mother Christine, recomended: Berkeley in the 60's, about the movement of free speech on Cal's campus.

jueves, 19 de agosto de 2010

tourists all over the place, I'm one of them

The hilly streets of San Francisco, with houses built really close to each other, reminded me of las Victorias, a neighborhood of my little town in Guatemala. For a minute, going up in one of those streets I felt like in las Victorias, with other latinos speaking in spanish near me. Of course the differences between this city in that that neighborhood couldn't be bigger. For one thing, huge skyscrapers shape the city's skyline and las Victorias is more of a... bedroom community, and I could go on and on with the list of differences, but I that'd be just pointless. 

Three things caught my attention as I was walking around. Four things actually. First: the public toilets. They do everything for you except... you know... 1 and/or 2. It cleans itself so there's no need to flush the toilet or even to move anything but your hands to get them cleaned and dry. So, clean and free automatic toilets, great idea!

The second thing: public transportation. Cable cars, BART (like subway), hybrid and electric buses driven by friendly people. Specific routes and schedules that are met with efficiency. Laws that protect senior and handicap citizens assigning them seats in the front of the buses. I have to admit though, that for a brief moment I missed those old crappy camionetas (chicken buses) and crowded red buses. Then I took a picture of the inside of the bus and and felt safe. 

The third thing: San Francisco is afraid of fire. Hydrants of all sizes and colors in every corner and every building and fire alarms every couple of blocks. The whole city seems to be fire proof. The reason is very obvious. For those of you that, just like I did, do not know anything about the history of San Francisco, the was a major fire in 1906 after a deadly earthquake. The city was destroyed and the burned to ashes and just a few buildings were standing after that. If you don't believe me, google it. 

Finally, the woman. No matter where are they from or the language they speak, they bring beauty of other kind to the city. Let me tell you a quick story to prove my point here. I assume that you have a lot of spare time since you are already reading this instead of, say work for example.

Picasso, Braque, Diego Rivera, Frida Calho, Henri Matisse, Paul Klee, Clay Spohn, Bruce Conner, Shaun O'donell... all the talent and fancy names overwhelmed me. Then this weird painting guided me to it. Paint all over it, without a pattern. Chaotic. This one girl was looking at it the same way I was.  Our eyes where examining the surface of the painting, searching, maybe, for a  motive, a reason. Looking for meaning. For a moment, we both took our eyes away from that painting ant look at each other. No words were needed. The effect of the beauty that we both kind of find on that Pollock was enough. I'm sure we both felt the same. It last a few seconds of smiling and feeling. The recognition of the beauty of our souls, I guess. Then the world kept moving. She spoke in french to her friend, a blond girl that was standing right next to her and that clearly wasn't enjoying the SFMOMA as we were both doing.

It was the last day I spent of the beautiful city of San Francisco. I have good memories and a lot of pictures to remember even more. Good days. Good people. Good city. OK weather.

Day eleven ends with the final counting of the amount of pictures. 335. Not too bad.