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Archive for May, 2010

As a little girl, I used to play naked in the sprinklers of our big front yard. Water balloon fights were a must at every birthday party, along with Slip N’ Slides and water guns. On the hot summer days, it was excellent to simply play in the hose while completing the chore of watering the lawn and flower beds. I was a fortunate little girl.

Sadly, I do not believe that our children and grandchildren will have the same good fortune. Our clean water supply is in a dire state, and although my fellow Americans and Europeans may not feel the (water) pressure quite yet, I do not doubt that they soon will. Believe it or not, there is a massive world water shortage. But as always, these types of world dilemmas never quite seem to hit home, until they literally hit home.

When I first moved to Spain, it was hard to feel comfortable in bathrooms. The water level in the toilets was very shallow, which sometimes causes “splashback.” The water pressure in the showers was more like a drip dip. And bathtubs were designed for midgets. It is doubtful that these bathrooms were designed to conserve water, but regardless I have become accustomed to using less water by default.

Then I visited Africa, where we were given a bucket of cold water to shower with. At first I thought that a full cleansing job would require more than the given amount, but soon discovered that a bucket was totally sufficient. The children shared their buckets of water and the soapy water was then used to clean the patios. Purified drinking water came in bags, rather than bottles, also creating less waste.

And then there was Mexico. I lived in Oaxaca, a brightly colored colonial town notorious for its water supply shortage. We had running water, but that did not mean an endless supply of water. On each and every rooftop there was a large black tank full of water. That was it. Once you ran dry, you had to wait, sometimes up to five days, in order to get more water for your house. We ran out almost once a week or every two weeks. So once again, not as much by default as for necessity, I learned little ways to conserve the precious water supply (see list at bottom of this blog). Mexicans are resourceful. And they, along with the rest of developing countries that have been forced to live with little of the world’s resources, despite the fact that they provide many of those same resources, will be the ones that triumph when the well really does go dry.

At the end of my trip in Mexico I headed up to el norte, the US, to visit family and friends in California. Although it was nice to know that I could shower without running out of water half way through, I was flabbergasted by the use of water there. The toilets are filled almost to the rim (just imagine how many times a day one household toilet is flushed. It’s a LOT of water!). The water pressure in the showers is like a jacuzzi spa (fabulous, but at the same time wasting gallons of water). Dishwashers only 1/3 the way full ran. And though California is technically a desert, all those neatly trimmed, perfectly green lawns and their automatic watering systems that run sometimes twice a day.

Out of impulse, or like a deep guttural groan, I acted. Perhaps not in the best of ways, but I’m telling you – it was instinctual. While my mom was sweetly doing the dishes after an awesome meal, I noticed how the water was on full blast and just kept running while she chatted or filled the dishwasher. My arm flew out from my waist, with a mind of its own, and slammed shut the faucet, turning off the water. My mom gave me a curious look, turned the water back on and continued. And then I did it again, much to the disgust on my mother’s face!

Needless to say, my reaction was not well thought out. Nor helpful. I really do not want to become one of those green activists that force their environmental will on people, because that simply annoys. That said, I cannot keep quiet either. I desperately want to spread awareness in a more informative way, to show people how easy and NECESSARY it is to start considering our limited resources. And then let people make more informative decisions. Imagine if the water was shut off in San Diego for a week. Would people know what to do? It would cause a huge crisis. We are not prepared, because we have never felt the threat.

So, rather than banging shut your faucet with my fist of will, here are some friendly recommendations of simple ways you can help reduce your water usage. Not only will this save on your water bill, and not only will it help reserve the small amount of water that remains, but the day that we really do find ourselves in a water crisis, you will be much more prepared and knowledgeable about how to get by on less.

10 Water Saving Ideas that Regan Recommends =)

1. Brushing your teeth: You can simply turn off the running water while the brush is in your mouth. Same goes for shaving your beard!

2. Buckets of fun: Buckets are amazing. They can be used for many different purposes, mainly to collect water that would otherwise get wasted down a drain. (i.e. while you wait for your shower to warm up, a bucket can catch all that cold water that makes you want to shiver, or you can fill up a bucket rather than your kitchen sink when you wash the dishes). Once you have your filled buckets, they can be used to flush the toilet, or to mop the floors.

3. It’s raining, it’s pouring!: Water falls to us from the sky. Catch it. You can collect rainwater from the drainage systems off of your rooftops. Or in buckets on your balconies or backyards. This water is excellent for watering your plants, as it lacks the minerals and chlorine, etc in tap water from your household faucets. In nature, plants live off of rain. And nature is smart. Let’s copy her!

4. Cacti grow in the desert: Look up the local flora and fauna native to where you are living. Those types of plants will flourish in your garden, and will save you lots of money on care and water. My Auntie Nani in San Diego recently pulled out her entire green lawn and plants and built the most amazing ecosystem of colorful and diverse succulents (and some pretty amazing rocks). She also has an outdoor shower with buckets that collect the water and she uses that to water her plants.

If you do have a lawn to water, try watering during early morning hours or in late afternoon when temperatures are the lowest. This reduces losses from evaporation (ie, you use less water and your lawn gets healthier).

5. If it’s yellow, let it mellow. If it’s brown, flush it down: I’m back on the topic of toilets. Sorry. It’s just that you really do not realize how much water is wasted by flushing. They now make toilets with two different buttons (one for “yellow” and one for “brown”). You can also use the Buckets are fun! method. Or…old school style – just don’t flush unless it is necessary! A little pee in the toilet won’t hurt anyone, unless you have eaten asparagus. Perhaps then you could flush.

6. Showers: If possible, take shorter showers. Or if you are like me, and love to sit under hot water for a good ten minutes, than perhaps consider replacing you shower head with an ultra-low-flow version. You can also turn off the water when you shave your legs or soap up.

7. Dishwashers / Washing machines: are very handy and can in fact save water (as opposed to hand washing), but ONLY when it is run when full. If you live alone, perhaps it is better to hand wash your one plate, one fork and pot rather than run a full cycle.

When washing dishes by hand, fill one sink or bucket with soapy water. Quickly rinse under a slow-moving stream from the faucet.

Same goes for washing machines (try to fill it up rather than wash one pair of jeans at a time).

8. Houston, we’ve got a problem: Check faucets and pipes for leaks. A small drip from a worn faucet washer can waste 20 gallons of water per day. Larger leaks can waste hundreds of gallons.

9. Rubber ducky, you’re the one!: If you have more than one toddler, try bathing them together so you don’t have to fill up the bathtub multiple times a day. Besides, it’s more fun to play with bubbles in company (this also applies to adults…)!

10. Say it, don’t spray it!: Spread awareness. Tell your friends. SHOW your friends how YOU save water. And let them know how EASY it really is! Each little drop does matter (try not having water in your house for three days – you really learn to appreciate it!).

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What is it with fish? This past year has been full of marine life anecdotes, and now I have a new one.

My good friend Carme first gave me the nickname “Dori”, just after the movie Finding Nemo hit the big screen in Spain (a couple years after hitting the big screen in the US, of course, since everything in Spain is delayed usually by decades). If you are not familiar with Dori, she is a blue Regal Tang fish with a really bad memory. She is constantly lost and foggy on the details.

At first I was offended. Dori is not the sharpest tool in the shed. My memory is not really too sharp either, and I can easily be distracted by “Squishy” or any other bright, shiny objects. I often feel lost and I occasionally make friends with sharks, who although seem tame are actually out to eat me alive. That said, Dori is my favorite character in the film. As Carme brought to my attention, she is the optimistic, caring and sociable character that brings comic relief to a somewhat rather tragic and sad story (the opening scene is horrific). Though a bit naive and ditzy, she definitely has a sunny take on life that is contagious and admirable.

I am grateful to Carme for the compliment, and for really showing me the good side of my personality. Sometimes I feel like I’m just swimming along with no particular destination in mind, talking to random strangers along the way and finding myself in a swarm of unexpected jellyfish, though hardly ever sensing the danger.

But right now I feel like I DO have a destination, but I am coming across quite a few obstacles. I truly want to start the path to becoming a midwife, and to having a secure life in Europe, but it looks like I need to patient a while longer. The intensive three-year midwifery program I want to study in England is impossible, as they only accept EU citizens (since midwifery programs are fully funded by the British government). A bit of a setback, but I opted for Plan B – to take the much longer, tedious Spanish route of a 4 year nursing school program in Catalan + 2 years of midwifery. And then I found out I missed the entrance exam date by five days so cannot apply until next year.

In addition, I need a job. My company no longer excites me, and no longer is supporting me financially. But due to issues with my (lack of) work visa, finding a stable job in Barcelona is proving to be difficult. The idea of some security and stability in my life sounds dreamy, but I wonder how it will happen.

I am aware of the jellyfish surrounding me at the moment, and I should be much more concerned than I am. Oddly enough, however, I feel the best I’ve ever felt in my entire life. It is so strange. I’m hurdling obstacles much more smoothly and calmly than ever, and really feel positive and strong. Of course I would like my current troubles to work themselves out sooner than later, but I am also very much aware of the fact that “opportunity’s favorite disguise is trouble.” What is now seeming troublesome or working against me, will most likely prove itself to be a blessing in future retrospect. My life has a remarkable way of doing what is best for me, and it usually just takes some time to realize why each event and each relationship presents itself.

And so, like Dori, I just keep swimming. And guess what? Swimming can be really fun! This whole blog came about this morning because I caught myself whistling the tune from the film while making coffee. And it made me laugh. And it also now makes me want to head to the beach on this sunny Barcelona day for a real swim. I am not going to be able to resolve my pending problems on a Sunday in Spain, so I may as well go out and enjoy the day.

click here to watch video

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I witnessed my first birth during a sexual education class in the sixth grade. The boys were in a different classroom, perhaps learning about how to deal with their uncontrollable penises. We eleven and twelve year old girls with sprouting bug bite nipples, learned all about what happens to you when you have sex. Babies. Babies, and lots of pain happen. Our teacher showed us the video The Miracle of Life almost as a threat, as if to say “this is your punishment for having sex.” The girls squealed and covered their eyes. One girl threw up. And as I recall another girl had a seizure (although, if my memory is not failing me, I think her seizure occurred during the class about tampons. All I know is that it happened, she hit her head on a bookshelf, and I had to run to the nurses office to get help.)

Since then I have never seen a live birth. In fact, I have never really seen a live birth off screen. But as fate, chance, luck, or pure “pinning the tail on the donkey” has it, it looks like I will being seeing quite a lot in my future.

I have decided to study midwifery. Or perhaps to be a doula. I am still trying to decipher between the two professions and what each require in terms of studies, licenses, lifestyles, philosophies, and job opportunities, etc. But one thing is for certain – I want to be involved in the birthing process. I want to work hands on with people. I want to build a profession that can support me while doing good for others. And I want a skill that I can use to help people anywhere in the world wherever I travel or volunteer. With approximately 128 million births per year, I think there is some job security as well.

This is not a random decision. This is a result of years and years of clues – little beans that only formed a full burrito once I was in Mexico. For starters, I have been obsessed with pregnant women and babies for at least the past ten years. A friend of mine used to come home at the end of the day and tell me, “Guess what? I saw FIVE pregnant women today!” – just to make me happy. When I was 23 years old, I commissioned an artist on Las Ramblas of Barcelona to paint me a picture of a pregnant woman, which I still have hanging in my bedroom. For the past five years I have thought of opening a cafe designed for pregnant women. And I have considered designing maternity clothing.

In high school, after years of surgeries and medical issues with my knee, I wanted to study medicine. I wanted to be a doctor, but at the same time I was more interested in alternative therapies. By the time I was 18 years old, I had gone through years of acupuncture, Reiki healings, massage, and yoga. I even wrote letters to Dr. Deepak Chopra, who had an office in San Diego, hoping that he would meet with me. When he (sadly) did not respond, I read all his books about mind over matter and positive thinking for healing. My Senior year I applied to Tufts University and a few other medically focused schools – but was rejected from them all. So instead I went to UC Berkeley and studied English instead. Go figure.

Previous to working in the production world, I was a teacher. And for the past 8 years I have worked on and off for nonprofit organizations in Africa (www.oafrica.org) and Mexico (www.puentemexico.org). So when people who know me solely as a location scout / business owner hear about my new birthing venture, they may find it strange. However, what is strange is that I was not working hands on with people, or doing something to better the lives of others, for these past few years. Though the experience has taught me quite a lot and I met some very interesting people, I was not placed on this planet to work on fashion and advertising shoots.

I collect photos of hearts made in nature. And keep a love journal. I stop and stare at almost every pregnant woman I see in the street, and talk to the Universe quite frequently. The moon intrigues me more and more each day. And I compare myself to animals on an uncomfortably increasing level (dolphins, wolves, etc). I want to learn about the use of natural herbs and remedies in health, and would love to grow my own tomatoes!

While in Mexico I took a personality test online with the Keirsey Temperament Sorter, just out of curiosity. And the result was “Idealist”. As for professions, the results said that, “Idealists are naturally drawn to working with people, and whether in education or counseling, in social services or personnel work, in journalism or the ministry, they are gifted at helping others find their way in life, often inspiring them to grow as individuals and to fulfill their potentials.” I then took various other online quizzes and each and every one said that I needed to work in a healing or counseling profession. And in the jungle paradise of Palenque, a Mayan descendant saw the freckle on the fatty part of my inner palm and said that this particular placement of the freckle, according to Mayan tradition and spiritual artwork, was a sign of the eye – or the healer. He then got way too excited, showed me his freckle in the exact same location, made me nervous, and I asked him to leave. Ha ha.

Midwife I met in Oaxaca

In San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas, I walked for ages past the slightly dodgy outskirts of the colonial town, to visit the Museum of Mayan Medicine. While staring at a fake scene of an indigenous woman giving birth, fully clad in her heavy wool skirt, my heart started thumping. As the fake birthing mother kneeled in front of her fake husband sitting on a chair, with her clay arms wrapped around his neck, the fake midwife sat behind her to receive the baby. I looked at this interesting scenario and had a strong feeling that this was the way that birth should happen – but perhaps without all the heavy clothing and chicken sacrifices. Naturally. Vertically. With lots of personal care and love from one’s partner and/or family members. And of course, with a patient midwife knowledgeable in centuries and centuries of natural remedies passed down over time.

Now I am back in Barcelona and wanting to develop a skill to help people. And all the signs are pointing towards birthing, mentoring, and holistic approaches to health. At the moment I have no idea where this will all lead, but I sure do have a burning desire to get started right away. If anyone has any clue regarding this topic, please get in touch with me =)

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Don’t ever let your alter ego set you up on a blind date. Unless he literally comes blindfolded, and it’s just for one fun night.

Lucita Flores, my poetry alter ego, met a stellar guy in October. He was one of her clients at the Poetry Brothel, and he had come to listen to her read sultry poetry softly into his ear. He showed up late, around 3am, and spent the next couple of hours devouring her words. Even though he did not speak English, she read him all her poems in English once the Spanish ones ran out, just to keep him there longer. He did not complain, and his words of encouragement were equal for the English poems, even though quite frankly he could not have understood a single word. He wanted to sit there longer with her too.

Let’s just refer to this guy as “The Client”. And let’s just hope that he does not learn to read English any time soon, as he knows about this blog’s existence!

Lucita fell for him instantly. His curly locks danced as he shook his head. His round brown eyes stared at her lips, in order to catch every word. And, he was tall. She appreciates tall men. But since Lucita is not available for love, she wrote him a poem called “You Are Prohibited,” and then decided to introduce him to me, her alter ego.

The Client seemed fairly interested in the girl behind Lucita’s facade, and after a couple of weeks, Regan came forward and introduced herself over coffee. We spoke of our real lives and real dreams. We spoke in real words. Yet, somehow it still felt like fantasy, perhaps since I met him just a few weeks before moving to Mexico for five months. He was sweet and responsive. He liked literature, and food. When I had my tonsils out, he came to visit me, bringing along a backgammon board to keep me company. And during all those months in Mexico, we wrote to each other with quite a lot of thought and interest. So, I of course developed my expectations and excitement to come back to see him in person.

Now I am back and I have seen him in person. And he tells me he is in love with another girl, that things have changed with him since I left for Mexico.

Why can’t Lucita now step forward and take over for me? Why can’t I just say, “To Hell with it then!” and put on some fish nets and lipstick and hightail it to the nearest bar to flirt with a stranger? I am in all ways Lucita’s opposite. I am the one that wants to love badly – so badly that I put way too much effort into it. So badly that recently my friend Danny introduced me to his friend as, “This is Regan, she loves too much.”

I should know by now that fiction and fantasy are nice, but usually it’s just that. Fantasy. Made up stories from imaginative minds with invented characters and expectations. But I never learn this, as I am a storyteller. It is practically impossible for me to not dream up fictitious relationships, scenarios, erotic fantasies and my future as a (mid)wife and mother, all based on people that come randomly into my life. I have no control over these thoughts!

I should have known from the beginning that this could never work. A potential relationship that began with me meeting a man dressed up as a Mexican hooker in a bar, whispering him lies through painted lips, probably will not lead into anything but fiction and failure. Especially when the relationship was based on a passion for writing and story-telling. Words are powerful. And they leave a lot open for interpretation. And unfortunately, my inner interpreter has a wild imagination and always likes to see the glass as not empty or even half full, but rather full to the point of overflowing. I’m fabulous at convincing myself and everyone around me that the cup is indeed full. It is like telling a story.

Stories. I think I have become an expert at creating romance stories. The thing is, for me they feel like real life. And when the protagonist is feeling heartbroken, my heart hurts.

This is the first and last time I let Lucita set me up. I need a guy to fall for me just the crazy way I am, without all the charades.

Fantasy is very real, but unfortunately reality is not very fantastic.

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Even in the best of worlds the soul needs refurbishing from time to time.
– Clarissa Pinkola Estes, Ph.D.

Five months ago I found my usually bright and energetic soul suddenly empty, drained, lethargic, unmotivated, and asleep. After a fabulous year I could not figure out what had happened. Why did I have the sudden yearn to seek and discover, to mend and fix? To be alone, and to sing?

As usual the Universe threw me a bone, this time in the form of Mexico. I followed that bone instinctively, without much thought, just like the Wolf Woman in the Mexican tale La Loba. There are many versions of this ancient story, but here is the general gist as told by Clarissa Pinkola Estes, Ph.D. in her book, Women Who Run With the Wolves:

“There is an old woman who lives in a hidden place that everyone knows but few have ever seen. She seems to wait for lost or wandering people and seekers to her place….She is called by many names: La Huesera, Bone Woman; La Trapera, The Gatherer; and La Loba, Wolf Woman.”

“The sole work of La Loba is the collecting of bones. She is known to collect and preserve especially that which is in danger of being lost to the world…She creeps and crawls and sifts through the mountains and dry riverbeds, looking for wolf bones, and when she has assembled an entire skeleton, when the last bone is in place and the beautiful white sculpture of the creature is laid out before her, she sits by the fire and thinks about what song she will sing. And when she is sure, she stands over the criatura, raises her arms over it, and sings out. That is when the rib bones and leg bones of the wolf begin to flesh out and the creature becomes furred. La Loba sings some more, and more of the creature comes into being; its tail curls upward, shaggy and strong….and still La Loba sings so deeply that the floor of the desert shakes, and as she sings, the wolf opens its eyes, leaps up, and runs away down the canyon. Somewhere in the running…the wolf is suddenly transformed into a laughing woman who runs free toward the horizon.”

I only came across this tale last night, while reading myself to sleep. And I dreamed of Mexico. And of wolves. And a wild woman resembling me running with the wolves. Today I woke up with a new insight to my Mexican experience. It makes sense now. I went there, was drawn there, to collect bones.

Mexico did something to me. I try to explain to people all the ways that I have changed in a matter of five months, but it never comes out right or I sound way too “New Age”. I feel more spiritual, and connected to nature. I feel more at peace with myself, and calm, no matter how brutal the storm. People now smile through their eyes and not so much with their mouths. I want organic compost and a vegetable farm. My brain is in dire need of constant stimulation. And I want to study midwifery.

So, what happened to me in Mexico? In Women Who Run With the Wolves, the author says one way that a woman can reach this “world-between-worlds” is through intentional solitude. If there was ever a time that I intended to be alone, it was in Mexico. Despite having an amazing group of friends in Oaxaca, I chose to spend the majority of my free time by myself – reading, traveling, writing, hiking. And yes, singing when no one was around. I wrote a blog about the first trip by myself, as I found it so difficult to be alone. There were friends that wanted to travel with me almost every weekend, and yet I tried to arrange plans by myself and scurried around their hints to accompany me.

Solitude was quiet and insightful. And I mostly found it in the mountains of Oaxaca. Julie Andrews was right when she sang that the hills are alive with the sound of music. In the mountains, the silence is so strong that all you can hear is the songs of your own head and heart. I sang and sang until the bones I had unintentionally come to gather formed a creature that came to life. From the tip of a mountain, I watched as this wolf creature took off running over the twelve layers of mountains in the distance, or down the long white sands of the Pacific Coast. Towards the end of my time in Mexico, I was conscious and aware when this live and vibrant creature transformed into a laughing woman running towards the horizon. She was me. All bones put together, the Wild Woman in me was set free. And damn, did it feel good.

Dr. Estes refers to this as the “crack between the worlds – the place where visitations, miracles, imaginations, inspirations, and healings of all natures occur.” She goes on to say that, “Though this site transmits great psychic wealth, it must be approached with preparation, for one may be tempted to joyously drown in the rapture of one’s time there. Consensual reality may seem less exciting by comparison. In this sense, the deeper layers of psyche can become a rapture-trap from which people return unsteady, with wobbly ideas and airy presentiments.”

I’m afraid I’m now in this consensual reality that she speaks of. I am no longer in Mexico. And I am no longer in intentional solitude. Suddenly, I just hear noise. Not music. And it is confusing. My bones are still strung together, but as I explain to people how I was sculpted in Mexico, I feel like my skeleton could disassemble at any moment. Perhaps it is part of the cycle. In order to collect bones, there must be bones to collect, right?

Either way, I want to keep this Wild Woman – the one that ran with wolves in my dream last night – alive for a while longer. She makes me feel good. And if she falls apart once again, then it’s back to collecting bones again I guess.

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