Archive for November, 2009

As I sit here in the new shiny airport terminal in Barcelona, awaiting my flight to Mexico, I wonder how this all came to be. This was not a planned trip. For starters, I did not have the financial luxury to just take off for five months to a country half way around the world. Secondly, even if I had, Mexico could not have been my chosen destination. South America, perhaps. India, maybe. Cuba, for sure. But Mexico? I had never given it much thought to be honest.

It is true that I was planning on some big change, though I was not sure what that change would be. Beginning in October, I felt an urge to do something drastic. I quit smoking, chopped off all my hair, and had my tonsils removed. But that was not enough!

When my friend in Oaxaca, Mexico, called me out of the blue one day and suggested I apply for a short-term job to cover her position while she goes on maternity leave, it didn’t take long to send in my resume. And I took her phone call as a sign – I had to go to Mexico, with or without the job. I (sadly) quit my teaching job in Barcelona and began to tell people I was leaving, before I even prepared my resume! When there’s a will, there’s a way, right?

Luckily I did get the job. And two weeks later, here I am in the airport waiting for my new Mexican adventure to begin.

I ask myself how and why this is happening? How can such a big change come on so quickly and so easily?

And then it hit me… Lucita Flores is to blame! My Mexican alter-ego is surely responsible for this. As it turns out, I have given Mexico much thought. A whole lot of thought!

It’s no coincidence that an opportunity to go live and work in Mexico has knocked on my door. I owe this specific opportunity to my friend in Oaxaca who offered me the job, but I also think I unwittingly manifested this trip.

Ever since I invented Lucita’s character for the Poetry Brothel, I have been researching Mexican regions, cuisine, slang, and style. And Dia de los Muertos!! For eight months, part of me has worked hard to convince others that I am Mexican, authentically Mexican. No one believes me, of course. My accent is way too Gringo-Catalan to be a true Mexicana, especially with the Castilian lisp. And my red hair and freckles don’t help me much either. But yesterday as I set Lucita’s Facebook status to say “returning to the homeland,” it dawned on me – The Power of Attraction (the Secret, the Universe) is at work once again. I spent so much mental energy on my Mexican character that now the Universe has decided to send me there!

Listen to the uncanny parallels between Lucita and me:

Lucita is from a rural farm in Chiapas. And she is a chef, obsessed with feeding people and making sure they don’t go hungry, as she almost did as a little girl on the farm. And now here I am heading to Oaxaca, the state right next to Chiapas, and will be working with a NGO that promotes the indigenous grain amaranth as a way to improve life in rural communities in Mexico, just like the one Lucita is from! I’m here to help people eat properly!

Perhaps it is a coincidence. If it is – and I quote my friend Miggy who wrote this on our orange kitchen wall all those years ago – then “I recognize and accept meaningful coincidences in my life.”

And if it is not a coincidence, and I did in fact manifest this real Mexican experience, then I better rethink Lucita’s line of work, or else I may in trouble …


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Thank You Universe

I have been a fairly positive person all my life, and I admit that my life is peachy. But a couple of years ago, while thrown quite a few curve balls all at the same time, that positive person in me broke. My demeanor changed. I started focusing on all the negative things happening in my life, and I got angry and frustrated. One bad thing after another kept presenting itself. In Spanish they call it a mala racha. In English I guess the equivalent is something like “When it rains, it pours,” which can be either positive or negative. Just as a streak of good luck brings a variety of fun surprises, so does the bad streak as it travels in malicious groups.

Last year I had a bad case of mala racha. Once I saw how my new negative attitude was affecting my close friends and family, I decided it was time to snap out of it.

People find their “salvation” in various ways. Some people give up alcohol. Others go to church. There are plenty that channel their aggression through sports and working out. But those things do not work for me. As it turns out, I find my salvation through stalking small fish.

Last winter I traveled to Thailand to visit with friends living there and my college roommates flew out to meet us. We headed south to the Krabi Islands for some fun in the sun – and that is where it happened: a chat with very good friends on the sand which brought me to tears, followed by a swim that would then change my outlook on life.

It’s funny that this moment actually happened in the sea. I have a lifelong fear of water (in particular of the man-eating creatures that live there…oh yeah, and waves). Swimming with fish, and sharks (!), usually does not equal peace of mind. But there I was, snorkeling all by myself off the shore of Ko Phi Phi, when I spotted a fish and decided to follow it. It was a small little guy (or gal?), striped and thin. I came up from behind slowly and followed each little turn left and right. Sometimes I got the feeling that the fish knew it was being followed – it changed directions suddenly and seemed to look back cautiously to see if I was still there. Perhaps there was something slightly cruel about my behavior, but once I suspected the fish had enough, I turned around and kicked myself forward into a cascade of light.

And that was my moment. Rays of sunlight broke through the surface of the water and surrounded me. With my ears slightly underwater, all I could hear were soft bells mixed with a pleasant white noise and my heartbeat. I stopped kicking and allowed myself to float there, watching as all the fish eased past me. Everything had such vibrant colors and shapes that I stared in awe.

And then I said the magic words. Aloud and underwater. I have NO idea where they came from or why I chose these particular words, but out through the top of my snorkel tube they made their way to the surface:

Thank You Universe.

A wave of good vibes washed through me and I felt super happy. And I made a conscious decision to be thankful for my seriously fortunate life. Because that is exactly what my life is – fortunate. I think I repeated those words about seven times during my trip through Thailand (there is A LOT to be thankful for when surrounded by so much beauty and good food!).

I returned to Barcelona in January with a new vision and attitude. And I can tell you that it’s been an awesome year! Despite the financial crisis, despite my surgery, despite the many other problems and issues that have come my way (and to those I love) this year, I feel calm and happy. Amazing people and opportunities keep knocking at my door. You can blame it on luck, or superstition, or fortune, or coincidence, or Obama, or God. Call it whatever you like. But think about this way – in elementary school, if you reward a child with a star for its good behavior, it will aim to please you even more. The Universe works in the same way. Acknowledge the Universe when it has done something nice for you, be grateful and truly believe you deserve it, and the only racha you’ll experience will be buena.

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“Just think, you’ll get to eat all the ice cream you want!” [cue the overly ecstatic facial expressions and colored balloons falling from the ceiling].

I am 5 days into tonsillectomy recovery and guess what? I haven’t had a single scoop of ice cream. Not that nobody has offered, of course. It’s just that the thought of ice cream sends a wad of mucus up my chest and there it hovers in my throat until I can’t breathe. Options are 1) swallow it, only to have it slowly rise again or 2) hack it up through a raw and tender throat and spit in the trash bin by the bed. Neither are attractive, or comfortable, options. I stick to popsicles.

Although I love popsicles AND vampires, not even these Dracula popsicles make this surgery worthwhile

Apart from the fact that dairy is the last thing one should eat after a surgery like this (milk = phlegm = cough = ouch!), ice cream just is not a motivating enough factor for surgery. So how is it that everyone, including doctors, tries to sell the ice cream happy vibe to tonsil-fearing, pre-op citizens? I’m beginning to wonder if the sales people from Ben & Jerry’s go around taking doctors out to fancy dinners, like in pharmaceutical sales, to boost their sales and consumption. Because really people – ice cream just ain’t worth it!

My theory is simple – this operation is meant for children, and not adults. Only a child could believe that ice cream makes a surgery worthwhile. If someone had promised me a house in the countryside, or a lifetime of perfect health, or even the love of my life (!), then perhaps I would have skipped and sung my way into the Operating Room. But ice cream? I would happily give up a lifetime of gelato to not go through this.

I am not old, but I am not 7 years old either. Previous to surgery I heard various opinions about tonsillectomies, basically broken down into three categories: 1) those who never had them removed 2) those that had them removed as young children, and 3) those who had them removed as adults. The former two said it was a breeze. And I bet you they ate (or recommended) A LOT of ice cream! The latter, however, all said it was extremely painful. A few woman blogged that it was worse than childbirth! And a Spanish friend of mine wrote me saying “when i did it some years ago i wanted to be kill it hurts me a lot!!”

Once again, all evidence points to this being a surgery meant for children. Not adults.

A friend asked me if this was going to be an aggressive surgery. My response was, “Aren’t all surgeries aggressive?” I guess it is true that in the big scope of medical procedures, getting one’s tonsils removed is not that big of deal. Regardless, they put you asleep for a reason. They cut into your throat, where all air, spit, food, beverages and words usually pass by the second. Then they don’t seal the wound. It burns and hurts to swallow, but they tell you the only way to get better is to eat and drink. Then there is that whole ears, nose and throat union – pain in one usually equates pain in the whole trinity. It hurts. Actually, it hurts A LOT. So if anyone hears me scream, trust me, it’s not for ice cream.

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I never would have described myself as very romantic, yet something sparked a new side of me earlier this year. It began sometime in the late winter months during a trip to Dublin. A beautiful, mossy green heart popped out at me from a tree trunk – a natural carving. Perfection.

First heart

I flew back to Barcelona and while sitting on the bench waiting for the train to take me from the airport to the city center, I noticed a brown paper bag crumpled into a familiar shape on the tracks. Oh damn. Another heart. And what a curious design! Walking to the market the next day I dodged the usual brown smelly dog smudge in the street, and to my surprise, and fear, I looked down to find that an unexpected footprint turned it into that horrid love shape. I looked around for video cameras. Surely I was being set up.

And so it started. This whole “I see hearts everywhere” phenomenon. When I say everywhere, I mean everywhere. Stains on coffee cups. Reflections on oil and vinegar jars. Water spots in the street. Raw tuna. Hearts. Everywhere. For months and months. The symbol I once hated and found so cliche started its blatant attack on me. And I surrendered.

Around the same time I bought a new journal to jot down notes and quotes from books I read. As it turns out, all the books I have read this year mainly deal with love, relationships and sex (oh, and vampires). So that is what I write about in the journal. Somehow, and I’m not entirely sure how it happened, I began to refer to the journal as my “love book.” Every word, thought, dream or image of love now goes into that little book I bought at a flea market in Thailand. It’s sickening. I make myself want to barf just reading back through it.

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Alter Ego

If you don’t already have an alter ego, than I highly recommend that you invent one. For 28 years I was just myself, which for the most part worked out alright. But now I am also Lucita Flores, a widowed Mexican chef and a poetry whore. And I have to say, it is really fun to be two people.

Say what?

Pior to meeting Madame Eva Leon, I was already pining on penning. My writing workshop teacher and friend suggested I join a poetry group. Poetry? No way, that was my limit. I hadn’t written a poem since high school when we had to write limericks about our friends on St. Patrick’s Day. And I definitely was not going to start writing Ode’s to hearts and get all lovey dovey.

The group was called Prostibulo Poetico (Poetry Brothel) and my friend insisted I attend their first reading. Out of curiosity, and the promise of free shots at the bar, I went. As a “client” at Bar Rouge, I wandered around the dimly lit bar in search of either a good hiding place, or perhaps a private reading. The whole evening seduced me and I wanted more. So I met Madame Eva Leon and her Poetry Whores. And pretty much in the instant they birthed Lucita Flores, my other I, this romantic I, this poetry-writing, heart-spying, love-book-writing I.

Poetry Brothel Reading

We aren’t REALLY prostitutes, mind you, though some of us may dress the part. It is a unique literary experience, where each ‘whore’ offers poetry tete-a-tete (that means face to face, not tit to tit) to their ‘clients’ or ‘johns.’ The catch is, we all have developed fictional characters and it is THEM and not US that write the poems. Lucita (I always refer to her in the third person, as she is not me!) has her own history, stories, network of friends, a facebook page (go ahead, add her as a friend!), style of dressing, character and love life. Completely separate to my own. As the months go on, she develops more and more and now acts quite independently from me.

I never really considered her as an alter ego until my close friends and peers starting asking me “How is Lucita?” and sometimes accidentally calling ME Lucita. At first I was frightened. And slightly offended. But then I realized that in fact having an alter ego can work to your advantage. The brilliant thing about an alter ego is that you can say “I didn’t do it!” – and mean it.

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The Facebook Effect

I’ve been deeply affected by what I like to call the “Facebook Effect.” These days, a Status Update and posting a photo album is supposed to equate staying in touch with your friends, family and peers. I am a total Facebook junkie (and yes, I am ashamed to admit that). I think it is a great tool to network, share photos and ideas, and to spy on the cute guy I just met. It’s the perfect solution to the loneliness caused by sitting behind a computer screen all day, which is how many of us spend our days. Interactive and in live time, it can make you feel like you are actually surrounded by the people you adore, no matter the time or location distance.

Facebook has its downsides as well, mainly privacy issues in regards to photographs and personal information being spewed all over the internet. But this doesn’t concern me much, as I’ve never been a private person. If I were, I wouldn’t have started this blog! I’ve been questioned about the photos and information I post on my profile, but my response is always the same: Why should I be any different online than I am in real life? I tell complete strangers on the bus about my life and have been known to do silly things in public, in front of lots of lots of people. So why not do the same on Facebook? That is just who I am.

My issue with Facebook, and the reason for me starting this blog, is that I’ve ceased writing my more lengthy, in-depth emails to my friends and family back home and scattered all around the world. For years I sent these mass emails to let people know what was going on with my life in Spain, or telling random anecdotes about the usually strange things that happen to me. Now I realize I was simply story-telling. All those years I didn’t keep a journal, and rarely spent time on creative writing. That is because the process of writing email stories to people fulfilled that need. Since I’ve joined Facebook, my ‘stories’ are condensed to one sentence, unpunctuated nonsense. And for all my family and peers that don’t use Facebook, they have received nothing from me in ages.

Recently a few friends have brought up my old mass mails and I got to feeling nostalgic.

Hence, my solution to the Facebook Effect: a blog. An open platform where anyone can visit when they please to hear my stories, both nonfiction anecdotes about life in general, as well as some fictional short stories and maybe a wee bit of poetry. Here, no one is forced to see my actions pop up on their walls, and they don’t have to join any cult to have access. Tune in if you are interested, or don’t if you are not!

Hopefully these blog entries won’t come back to haunt me one day.






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