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:

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.

lunes, 16 de agosto de 2010

what the f... are you guys doing?

Picture yourself walking in a very important and considerably crowded street, say la calle Real de Jocotenango or la Bolivar, at 1:00 or 2:00 PM right when people are coming back to their buildings after lunch or are still eating at the restaurants or in tables outside them. Say that you just ate and feel dizzy from the weather and from walking a lot, and suddenly two guys are "protesting" completely naked and walk around like it's not a big deal. That's what I call cultural shock.

Call me crazy or bipolar (or if you are a woman you can call me: "Papi", "mi amor", "guapo", etc.), but I love both big cities and nature and so, this morning when I was getting ready my camera was the first object I had near me. When I was on my way, I realized that I wasn't carrying it and it was to late, the car was in the middle of the bay bridge. So Carmen's mother and I were just wandering around the small and beautiful San Francisco.

Those train-like buses that you see on the movies actually exist and they are not just for tourists. One of those cable cars took us to Russian Hill and then we walked to a cathedral. It was a catholic church at first glance, but it turned out to be episcopalian, "catholic in form, protestant in ideology" that is like saying "ni chicha ni limonada". It was interesting, though, to see how the have integrated catholic imagery to attract latin people. The Virgin of Guadalupe was painted in the wall, and I saw a lot of images of her in the cathedral's store, right in the basement. The building was build in different faces, starting after the earthquake/fire of 1906, and is quite pretty.

Walking down that street, and I mean, literally down the street, we find another church, this one was catholic and was right in the corner of the main street of China Town. I couldn't believe how big Mao is for them. Do they know how many people were killed because of him? They had statues of him doing something really close to the fascist salute. For a moment I felt back home with all this churches within a few blocks of distance. This Church was the only building that survived that tragedy of 1906.

In our way down I could please my eyes with all kinds of beauty from all over the United States and probably Europe. French, italians, germans, canadians, spanish... all of them tourists; all of them compulsively taking pictures, just like I would have been! Two girls caught my attention as I was looking at a cable car go. They were twins: same eyes, same bright hair, same friendly smile, same perfection, same dream.  One of them looked at me and smile, and I did the same, and our eyes were connected until the light changed to green and the cable car continued it journey.

Then Market Street, the main street of San Francisco. "Yes, that's marijuana" said to my self as I past by a group of young people. This disgusting smell wasn't enough to prepare my self for the next scene. We were waiting for the "little dude walking " to appear so that we could cross the street and suddenly, right in front of us, two guys completely naked are walking like it is no big deal. I guess public full nudity is illegal and offensive for some people. I mean, how would you feel if you are eating, say a hot dog, and a naked guy walks right by were you are, that spot that you have chosen to have a quick meal and relax before going coming back to work? Who know, maybe I'm just another latino who came from a very conservative society, maybe I just need to open my mind (and close my eyes as hard as I can).

Berkeley and San Francisco are both beautiful and very tolerant cities. You can feel the culture in the air. Both are very different though. I was told that Telegraph is this sort of weird street and that many people don't like it. I think it would be premature to say that I don't like it because I've been there once, but it represents just how much tolerant the city can be. The most interesting thing I saw there: there's a music store name "Rasputin".

"How much is this chocolate?", "it's 4.99", "cool, very cheap! I'll have one". $4.99 * 8.

You know that a University is big when you see more that one building with a sign that says "Library" in big fancy words.

Used to a big campus with a lot of people I didn't think this university was going to be too special. This one  is over a hundred years old: USAC is tree hundred and thirty three years old. This one is the oldest public university in the state: USAC is the oldest public university in Central America (see the pattern here?) This one is the best public university in the state of California: USAC is THE public university of Guatemala. In so many ways they are so similar and yet so different. You know when a university is big because you see more that one building with a sign that says "Library" on them.

The budget that USAC gets every year has shrunken in the last years, along with the quality of the education, lets face it once and for all. By the other hand, UC  Berkeley is still considered the best public university and there must be a reason for that. A very good reason. It is sad for me to think that my university for the past year and a half is now closed due to a strike over the very same points that lead the very same people to close it for almost two weeks last semester. The days of glory of USAC seem to be only in the memories of those who had the honor of studying there in the past decades. The university that fought shoulder to shoulder with the people in order to build a different Guatemala, far away from the oppression of the dictators and oligarchs, now belongs to the book of the tragic history of our country. And there I was, standing in front of this big and majestic buildings surrounded by green grass and old trees thinking how beautiful is the place I'm standing in and how are things in my former school.

Carmen's mother took me to the Lawrence Hall of Science, a beautiful sort of museum in the top of a hill  with a breath-taking view of the bay.

Learning about the color of the gases that stars are made out of has never been cooler than with probably the most beautiful biology student that has ever thought me astronomy. It all happened at the planetarium of the Lawrence Hall of Science. It is impossible not to feel the "need to learn" when there's a pretty and smart hot 20-ish girl teaching you. It just made me said Go Bears! 

Even though it was designed for kids, I felt comfortable, like if I were a little child. All those educational games and science-related attractions brought me back to the days of my own childhood, when I wanted to be a scientist and would build my own laboratory using any object I could possibly find. While playing with all these games all I could think of is the wonders a place like this one could bring to a country like Guatemala, inspiring our children to become scientist. I'm talking like an 80 year-old but I needed to do so to make my point. Education facilities here cannot be compare with education facilities in Guatemala and our systems are lightyears away from one another. But step by step we can develop a new educational system, a better one. I think our country deserves it. I dream with the day in which no guatemalan kid will want to leave the country seeking for good education because we will have decent and accessible education in every town, no matter how far away it is from the capital.

After one of the most amazing views of the whole bay, we head back towards the city of Berkeley to meet up with Lisa, a friend of mine. She is an artist and an amazing woman who lives in that city and loves to connect with people through traveling around the world. That's how I met her back in Guatemala. She took us and her friend to a mexican restaurant where the prices were low and the meals were huge. After a nice conversation over the best mexican food I've had we went to her house to see her art work. Two beautiful paintings of woman made by her were hanging in the walls. She went to the other room and and when she came back, in her hands she had a beautiful painting of a girl who, while going to school in Belize, was raped by a men that was hidden in the forest. This paint represents a very tragical and sadly common scene in many countries in Central America. I feel that the best way we can change that is through education, the key that can open every door and every mind. It is good to know that there are people doing it already, like my uncle Juan Pablo,

Day nine ends with a shower and some reading and with the most important call: a call from my mother.

domingo, 15 de agosto de 2010

so much culture in such a little place... (relatively little)

Compared to other cities in the USA or Europe it is a small one. It is too hilly and the ocean and the bay prevent it from growing north, east or west. San Francisco is full of culture, you can almost breath that, or at least that's how I felt today. There's is an exhibit called "Birth of Impressionism" with all these masterpieces from a museum in France. This exhibit is only gonna be in de Young, it is not going to any other museum in the world unless it's coming back to France. I went to see it and I still can't believe it.

Monet, Sisley, Manet, Renoir... all these names that I can hardly pronounce, all these artist I know pretty much nothing about. Beauty everywhere! In the delicate colors of the water in Monet's paintings, in the illumination of Renoir's, in the powerful concepts of Caillebotte, in the provocative lines and colors of Stevens'... The first painting was "Birth of Venus" and I almost wet my pants because of the perfection and delicate beauty of it.

After that I met with a friend, Leah, and with a friend of her, Azlynn. They took me to the Stow lake the park's biggest artificial lake... or at least I guess it is artificial, correct me if I'm wrong please. We went in a little trip around the lake in a little pedal boat. Turtles, ducks, seagulls, bluejays and other birds living in peace with locals and tourists among all kinds of trees mixing up to create a very quiet scene, perfect to read, take a nap or make out with your girlfriend, or with your girlfriend's cousin because the place seems so far away from everything that you get this feeling of being in the most private of the places. Or at least that's the way a couple felt in the middle of the street, and they show it by fighting in front of everyone and then moving to their parking spot to keep arguing over.. well, who know, or even cares about it.

It's been quite a long since the last time I ride a bike, and it was evident not just because I got tired really fast, but because it was hard for me to breath for a moment, probably because I was wearing like two sweaters and one of those security vest. El Sombreron and Bloody Mary (not the drink you alcoholics!) came to the conversation, and then la Llorona and other stories.

In our way back to the museum, Azlynn saw a rodent coming into its little hole besides the sidewalk. Regardless our best efforts to make it come out of his hole again it didn't. Hopefully it is still alive and wasn't eaten by a dog or a snake.

Back in Richmond city, my headquarter, Carmen's mother and her friend Linda took me to a very nice and new restaurant called "New Z". BajoFondo, Gustavo Cerati, Bebe and some other hispanic singers joint our meal fancy and delicious meal. Jorge Drexler was missing though. And there it was, the moon half a quarter full, right in the sunset, at 8:20. A beautiful sky to bid farewell to interesting day at San Francisco.

viernes, 13 de agosto de 2010

Renzo Piano is a freaking genius!

There is just a few places I had in mi list of places to see before to die. The California Academy of Science building, in Golden Gate Park San Francisco is one of those places. Today I saw the amazing living roof and and the beautiful building designed by Renzo Piano. He is a genius and there's simply no way around it! The building is friendly with the environment and you can see pretty much whatever  you can possibly imagine that is related to science, from a Pendulum to a replica of a Tropical Forest and penguins from South Africa.

The Tropical Forest exhibit and the little aquarium where, by far, my favorite exhibits, of course I'm not counting the living roof as an exhibit. Even though it is impossible to capture all the perfection and beauty of the tropical forest and the coral reef, they did a pretty good job. Plus, the local species amused me the whole time.

Golden Gate park is this little forest near the pacific coast. Trees, statues of famous people, museums and even a Japanese tea garden can be found in it. It is just so big that we couldn't walk it in a day.

Right in front of the Academy of Science there's a huge copper-made building, the De Young Museum. We didn't go through the exhibits today, that's tomorrow plan, but we did climbed up the tower overlooking the entire park and pretty much all the city or at least the adjacent districts and neighborhoods. There are just a few places that had taken my breath away, most of them in my country (Semuc Champey and "La Cumbre" for example), this was one of them. The city covered with fog like the day before, the park and the Academy of Science in front of my, big old trees... it was just amazing. Maybe culturally this city is the most different than me that I could see. Maybe it is Oakland, who knows. Regardless of that, I loved that park and its buildings and its weather.

There's nothing more to add. This is the end of day seven. A whole week in this country, away from my beloved family and my good friends, away from the noise of the feria, away from my room and the majority of my things, away from my rabbit and hen... More than 4000Km away from the place I grew up. On my first day I went to see Real Madrid and it set the bar to high, but tomorrow I'm going to see a exhibit at De Young and I was at the Science Academy today...  looks like I have found a way to keep up. Hala Madrid!

Crossing a little valley...

California could easily be an independent country. Miles of fertile soil are covered with crops and cattle, oil drillings pretty much everywhere, wind turbines... its economy it's pretty independent already. From Los Angeles to San Francisco I saw so many trailers full of different products, from tomatoes to appliances, free trade in action. Just so productively beautiful. But besides that, the whole state is beautiful, not as much as Guatemala, of course, but the landscapes of San Joaquin valley are just... amazing. Of course the beauty does not end in the hills, valleys and sky of this state, or the economical organization, or in its neat freeways with more that 6 lanes. You can find unparalleled beauty in the smile of a young cashier at an In-n-out restaurant in what I considered the middle of nowhere, in the perfect light blue eyes of the girl who was swiping the floor at the same restaurant or in the delicately curved bodies of some girls about my age (hopefully) at the most organized and crowded post office I have ever seen.

Her name was Tricia. I know it because I read her tag. Dark but beautiful eyes, the must sincere smile and a remarkably soft-looking skin, I guess she is just beautiful by nature, or all those creams they sale really work. Anyway, I think I have made my point here. Beauty can be find anywhere in this huge state.

Lately people in this country seem to be more and more concerned about what they are eating. They want to know the origin of what they are eating and what is in it. Everyone is worried about gaining weight and concerned about their health.

There's a journalist who's a professor at Berkeley and now is well known by every person in this country. His name is Michael Pollan. His book Omnivores' Dilemma has got everyone thinking about "major problems" related to the origins of the food we eat. It is interesting to hear this man talking, hi's got some pretty good points, but from my very own perspective, when it comes to food I eat because I like to and because, as a human being, I need to and I eat almost anything. So, the day before the trip to San Francisco Carmen's mother and me saw Oprah. Wait, I would never watch Oprah but there was an interview with Pollan. It inspired us to listen to his book while in our way to San Francisco. McDonald's, Wendy's, then the Concentrated Animal Feed Operations (Google it!) and the miles covered by mono-cultives served to illustrate all what he was saying. Then, the hamburger and the magical cashier moment In-n-Out where the perfect end to a trip full of coincidences. It was an Omnivore's Dilemma day trip no doubt.

Like in the south, in the bay area the cities are right next to each other, creating a huge urban area, this one is different though. They have refineries right next to the wetlands and there is no visible ecological damaged. Their parks look a lot like Florencia in the middle of... say la zona 12, or a prettier version of it and their bridges make El Incienso look like a lego- made bridge.

The fog had taken over the city's skyline. The buildings and the top of the bridges where completely covered by gray clouds. No matter what an average tourist would say, in my opinion the best and most romantic pictures of this city are those with fog over it. It just gives it a mysterious kind of look.

By the end of the day six I fell asleep over my ipod in Richmond City.

jueves, 12 de agosto de 2010

your moon is bigger than mine!

Due to the position of this city, the moon appear to be closer. You can say it just like that but as a good latin american I feel the need of looking at the moon in a romantic way. So, the moon is bigger here for me.  The sky in general looks so different. The sunset must be beautiful from the beach, because it is from were I'm living.

Homeless people are not third-world-country-exclusive. When Carmen's mother Christine toke me to BestBuy today, I could see a huge contrast between the well organized freeways, the neat and beautiful streets, the big cars, the huge public buildings and one single girl. She was anything but ugly. Blond and with big and beautiful eyes though full of sadness. She was holding a sing that said something like "even a little $ helps". It would be impossible to make her fit in the stereotype of a homeless person. Just impossible. Christine told me that most homeless people in the United States are in that condition because of some kind of mental illness or drug abuse and those problems affect any kind of people. Stereotypes do not work.

A few weeks ago I saw a picture named King of California. It's about this guy who's apparently crazy because he thing that a spanish missionary buried a treasure somewhere near his house. After a long research, very technical by the way, he realizes the treasure is buried under a Costco. One of my favorite actresses is in this movie, Evan Rachel Wood. Today I went to a Costco and the first thing that came to my mind was that movie. Everything was like in the movie. The place is like a huge box (actually places like Costco are called 'box stores') and they have a lot of pretty much everything, even though they didn't have as many cameras as one could imagine.

This country is now, in my opinion, really into food. The country of the fast food is now thinking twice before eating a delicious hamburger and they want to eat... well, third-world-country style. Interesting, isn't it? It's really nice to see people paying attention to what they eat, but I've been in this country for 5 days and I think it is about time for a delicious pice of highly process meat (McDonald's, Wendy's, Burger King, Taco Bell...).

I'm starting to miss warm milk as well. It isn't common here but I guess is time to make the difference!

Today will end with a few hours of reading of my new book by Milton Friedman.

martes, 10 de agosto de 2010

Just when I thought I had seen everything...

One thing that bothers me is the light. I mean the amount of daylight ours in this part of the world. Ever since I got here I can't feel the time passing by. The sun sets at like 8 or 8:30 and so I don't feel like going to bed but then the next morning I'm really tired because I don't sleep as much as I used to. So, sunset at almost 9 PM, that is something new for me, but today I sow something that blew my mine. 

In the morning, Carmen's mom Christine, took me to Chapman University. The campus is way different than USAC's: smaller ad neater. We were walking around with Carmen's uncle Rob and one of the streets had lots of busts. Abraham Lincoln and George Washington where there. Then I saw a bust of Adam Smith and a few steps ahead and in the right side of the street there was a bust of Paulo Freire. For those of you who don't have a clue of who that guy is, he was a brazilian professor and he created the pedagogy of the oppressed. He believed that Education is the best way to free a people and I guess that's the reason why his bust would be in a libertarian university since he was a socialist and his ideas are advocated by socialist parties in Latinamerica. I was surprising to see him there, so closed to Smith, one of the greatest minds of Capitalism. 

Chapman University's campus is just beautiful. Is a mixture of new and old buildings, the offices are located in little old houses. The place is really small. Is almost like walking in a cartoon or a tv series. 

After a nice meal in Orange we went to Seal Beach. People were enjoying the sun and the golden sand and the water but in the horizon I counted almost 6 oil platforms and beyond them there were cargo ships in line waiting to enter the LA harbor. People were actually comfortable or didn't care about the fact that their view of the see was full of ships and oil platforms. I liked the cargo ships part because the represent trade and free market but as far as oil goes... I'm not a big fan of it. Back in my country, in the jungles of Peten, there is company sucking oil  in the middle of a Natural Reserve. In this country those who are in the oil business have to follow strict regulations but not in Guatemala, or at least not as strict as in here, that I'm sure of. 

Between the house and Seal beach I sow machines pumping oil in little private properties, Boeing's office and factory and a military base with a huge war ship in the port. It was amazing to see how the beauty of the beaches (and women) is protected even though the are surrounded by all these industries. Maybe one day will do that in Guatemala. Or maybe we could stop drilling oil. 

The day is not over yet, but it is over for me, although outside it seems like it is 3:00 when it is actually 5:16.

put your feet in the soil of a new country

The past two days had been like Christmas to me we a lot of gifts and gatherings, specially day two. Today was not to be the same. It started as early as 6 AM with Carmen saying good bye. Jamaica is her new destination. Youth development using soccer to bound the kids to school, pretty clever. I wish her the best, I'm sure she'll do fine.

It was to be the day of relaxing and realizing that I am not in my country anymore and that things work and a very different way in this part of the continent. Carmen's mom went to the Museum of art to learn about a mexican muralist because the museum will have an exposition of his work in september and she works there giving tours to the visitors, so she's gotta now everything about.

The whole afternoon was for me. A movie: Fuga. Reading: mother and family's letters, the newspaper. Playing with my new toys in the backyard. Watching a group of birds flying over the house for like an hour. Having lunch by myself. Drinking a lot of water. Thinking. Taking a shower.

It is nice to take some time to see how the sun seems to move more slowly and people are always in a rush in this country.

After this me-afernoon, Carmen's mom Christine took me to Verizon to buy a cell for me. I was looking for the most basic cellphone the could possibly have and found it. But this cellphone would be consider fancy in my country. It might not be a smart phone but, what's the point of it? I need to be smarter than my phone, it doesn't work the other way around. I need to be able to live without the help of one of those things. That's the definition of freedom that I learned today.

My mother is not the type of person that likes to keep up with technology, that's the reason why I was really surprised to friend her on Facebook today. Isn't it cool? Congrats mom! love you!

The third day will finish as soon as I shut  down my computer and go to bed... so in like an hour.

If you want to read something better and in spanish, take a look at this:

a cup of coffee for $4.45

It was 9:20 AM and I was still asleep when Carmen knocked the door and awoke me. She was getting ready to get her hair cut, I need to buy deodorant, aftershave and shave cream because as a result of a groundless worry I decided to take those specific items out of my suitcases. If you have heard people saying that EVERYTHING is cheaper in this country (USA) you can tell them to go swim in el Rio Guacalate! seriously! unless your income is exclusively in dollars, you will notice that many everyday items are a bit more expensive than in Guatemala.

In less than 30 minutes we were on our way to Carmen's appointment. She dropped me of at a Target (like La Bodegona). That place was, of course, way more organized than many supermarkets in the land of the eternal spring. In fact everything seems to be neater than even the most selected neighborhoods in Guatemala.

After a just a few minutes I was standing in line to pay. The cashier wasn't very nice to me, no that I think about it does't really matters but it's a great remainder of how Latino appeal is not well seen by many people who tend to generalize and conflate the terms Latinoamericano and illegal alien. I spent 22 dollars and left Target with the feeling of having done a great job... then I converted that amount of money in to Quetzales... f... In buying 3 items (deodorant, shampoo, shave cream and aftershave) I spend like 180 Q.

Then a mini adventure began for me. I had to walk a few blocks to go from Target to the where Carmen was. The problem: to remember where was she. Gathering the best of my short-term-memory-skills I began my journey, and there it was, the wide and straight road with cars going as fast as a fart. I pushed the button once, twice... three times, several times, then finally the little-dude-walkig image showed up and crossed the street. Right in the middle of the street the figure shifted to the same red hand from the beginning, this time it was flashing though. I felt the fear in every inch of my body and walked as fast as I could. Latter on I learned that the flashing light was for the people who might be wanting to cross the street.

The mall we where gonna meet at is just like Peri, but, you know... way better. I went to a coffee shop and immediately looked for a mocha. The pictures of their products where enough to convince me that I wanted a Raspberry mocha, better yet, that I needed it and that it was cheap. $4.45! then I did the math and realized that I had just paid over Q30 for a cup of coffee. But at the moment it didn't matter. There was a girl making coffee, needless is to say that she was really pretty, otherwise it might not be relevant to make the point I want to make now. The cashier was the exact opposite of the Target's. We talked about soccer for a while. Then, though a guy gave me my coffee, the girl next to him gave me this fire-glance. The point here is that being latino is good when it comes to soccer and some women!

In the afternoon we had a Welcome/Good Bye lunch with Carmen's family and friends. Everyone was really nice and It made me forget about the incident at Target. It was overwhelming to meet so many people in a short period of time and even though I din't have big troubles understanding what they were saying, I was a little worry about stuff like remembering all their names which I think I have done 24 hours later.

When this gathering was about to end, Carmen and I teamed up in an attempt to beat two of her friends at a weird but cool game called... ask Carmen. We had to throw two balls that were united with a string and try to make it grasp a bar. My strategy was strength and worked for a few lucky shuts with my Yankee hat. Carmen's strategy was fines and worked a few times as well but at the end of the game we lost. Fun game.

Prep talk in the shed put an end to the second day of this journey.

lunes, 9 de agosto de 2010

volcanoes... I'm passing them by

I wanted this to be in spanish. It would have been a lot easier, but this keyboard does not have tildes and the upside down question/exclamation mark so... use google translator if you don't know english or don't read it at all, I'm not gonna force you.

With my eyes burning due to many interrelated reasons (which I don't feel like mention), I said goodbye to the place I had been living for the past 18 years and 6 months of my life. It wasn't easy but in a way I wanted to do so. I had a memory in pretty much every inch of the way to the airport. From my room and house (memories with family and friends) to some places in the road. Some of them almost as old as me, others as new the feelings I was having. 

The plane took off. Soon I was watching everything bird-style. Huge volcanoes  protecting the valley I grew up in. Clouds of various forms covering the spaces between mountains still covered by forests. I knew I wasn't in Guatemala just because I was looking at the map of the flight. Borders are arbitrary decided.
Deserts, forests, lakes, rivers, little towns and villages, big cities, mines, even both ocean... I flew above all of it. turbulence was not a big deal. 
"Welcome to America", said one of the flight attendants. What are you talking about? I never leave America, I'm just in another country. Welcome to the USA is more appropriate. Anyways, it wasn't difficult to go through costumes, but thousands of Latin americans and guatemalans like me have way more troubles trying to reach the "land of the free", as their national anthem says. 

I'm here to study, to learn, and not just about economics, but about their culture which is way different than that of my family, my culture. 

Huge freeways (we don't have those back in my country) and cars that tell you to put your safe belt. Everything is just so different. Then i saw the faces of the other drivers. They were all latinos! First song I hear after walking with all my stuff out of the airport with Carmen and Carlota holding a very creative poster in front of me: Enanitos Verdes, Lamento Boliviano. Many years ago, back in the days of elementary school, when i was 7 years old I sang that very same song in a contest at my school, Rafael Rosales. 

People were good to me. I called my mother. We ate. 

A few ours later I was facing a cultural event of great proportions: beer, food, people gathering in the parking lots, in this particular case a golf camp. The name of it? ask Carmen because I don't remember it! two hours and a Ping Pong -beer game later we enter "one of the biggest stadiums in the world", the Rose Bowl, to see a game between a rabbit and a carrot. Real Madrid vs LA Galaxy. In the first half, Madrid's second team, though play really well moving the ball all around the field, allowed LA Galaxy to score twice. The first goal was a lucky shot after a corner. The second one a penalty kick by Landon Donavan (who, by the way, is like a god here! and I'm not kidding) after a horrible intervention of Drenthe, last-world-cup-holland-style. In the second half, San Iker (people were actually saying that), Arbeloa, Marcelo, Pepe, Albiol, Gago, Alonso, Pedro Leon, Cristiano Ronaldo (people loved him here! and he played really good) Canales e Higuain jumped to the field and show everyone there who was the rabbit and who the carrot. Three goals (two by Higuain and one by Alonso) gave Real Madrid the victory. Raul was there, they could feel it.  We got home at midnight. End of day one.