sometimes comes in the form of an intangible connection, a chance encounter, a serendipity of sorts, between two people.
i found myself to be the recipient of such gifts on my last trip to Mexico.
it was my first time traveling alone and yet, it was when I felt so vulnerable, that someone would come along and start up a conversation. conversations that led to adventures, and lots of shared laughter.
and those conversations—well, they couldn’t have been more perfectly placed at that specific moment in time. how could i not think that there was someone greater looking out for me?
One day you meet someone and for some inexplicable reason, you feel more connected to this stranger than anyone else—closer to them than your closest family. Perhaps this person carries within them an angel—one sent to you for some higher purpose; to teach you an important lesson or to keep you safe during a perilous time. What you must do is trust in them—even if they come hand in hand with pain or suffering—the reason for their presence will become clear in due time.
Though here is a word of warning—you may grow to love this person but remember they are not yours to keep. Their purpose isn’t to save you but to show you how to save yourself. And once this is fulfilled; the halo lifts and the angel leaves their body as the person exits your life. They will be a stranger to you once more.
En ese momento, por fin lo captó. En lo más profundo de sí mismo,Tsukuru Tazaki lo comprendió: los corazones humanos no se unen sólo mediante la armonía. Se unen, mas bien, herida con herida. Dolor con dolor. Fragilidad con fragilidad. No existe silencio sin un grito desgarrador, no existe perdón sin que se derrame sangre, no existe aceptación sin pasar por un intenso sentimiento de pérdida. Ésos son los cimientos de la verdadera armonía.
And in that moment, he was finally able to accept it all. In the deepest recesses of his soul, Tsukuru Tazaki understood. One heart is not connected to another through harmony alone. They are, instead, linked deeply through their wounds. Pain linked to pain, fragility to fragility. There is no silence without a cry of grief, no forgiveness without bloodshed, no acceptance without a passage through acute loss. That is what lies at the root of true harmony.
”—― Haruki Murakami, Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage
Guanajuato, Mexico: It was unlike anything I could ever imagine.
This city with its colorful squares of life, Mondrian-like, all stacked up among the hills, separated yet connected by crumbly, cobblestone alleyways, some not any bigger than a few feet.
A juxtaposition of tradition and technology. Mariachi and charro outfits, Chichimeca Indians, the momias, and Mexican hipsters playing Lil Wayne and Amy Winehouse in their cool mezcalerias.
The streets full of people, all wandering to get lost. And underground, with its network of tunnels, teeming with travelers in cars.
When you travel alone, with heightened senses, you see so much more. People’s faces, the color of their shirts. You hear more conversations and you pick up inflections in all these voices. Songs become embedded as you move from place to place, and suddenly they begin to string along with all the faces, the voices, the colors and sounds to form the soundtrack of your days.
How am I supposed to see the rest of the world if I can’t get over my fear of flying? The truth is, I never really was that scared to get on a plane. I guess I’d always just visualize what new ground I would be stepping onto the minute the plane landed, that I never really thought about the in-between.
You know—the part where you are inside this teeny tiny metal capsule flying through space.
It just freaks me out. In a way I can’t explain. Sort of the same feeling i get in a planetarium. My palms get sweaty, my heart starts palpitating. All these irrational thoughts just start racing through my head. And it’s gotten worse. The older I get, the more anxiety I seem to have.
Like I said, I used to be fine. And thank god I haven’t let it get to me to the point where I stop traveling. But my fear has stopped me from sitting in the window seats simply because I haven’t wanted to see what was out there.
But on this last trip, I mistakenly overlooked that I was assigned to window seats (every leg of the way). So on my return flight home, I finally did what I hadn’t done in years — I opened the window and forced myself to look out, to see below…
And you know what? I was ok. I exhaled…and then took it all in.
Music has always had a special place in my heart. This time, while traveling alone through Mexico, I felt like I was even more aware of the sounds that filled the world around me.
The cumbia bumping out of a lowered VW bug while I walked down the street, the rap that spat out of the cantina as the bartenders got the bar ready for the night, or the mariachi that serenaded me over my first dinner alone.
Then there would be surprising contrasts in one-go - like Lil Wayne followed by Sonora Tropicana.
From day one, I jotted down the songs as I heard them and when I came home, I finally put a playlist together. Hearing these are like instant replays of this trip in my mind.
i found myself among the same group of guys, who I called “La Clika,” at my friend Christian’s bar, Estela, in Sayulita almost every evening. Whether the night started or ended there, i could always count on two things: that there would be great cocktails and good, good laughs.
Turns out, one of the guys is my neighbor in San Francisco!
The first: Planning. For most trips, it’s an integral part to making a vacation everything you want it to be (when you finally get there, of course). Then it’s the trip itself. Finally: Reliving it through the moments I’ve frozen in time with All. Those. Photos.
Though I’ve started going through my pictures of my latest trip to Mexico, I have to admit I’ve been sort of holding myself back from diving in right away. Part of me felt like I could just close my eyes and all those pictures in my mind were enough to satiate that desire to get back there. All those photos that never really materialized into anything tangible, the poignant snaps that I could only reference.
But back in the office now, it’s nice to see the visual manifestations in front of me. The frames that take me right back to all those quiet moments in Guanajuato, getting lost in that candy-colored labyrinth of a city. Or of the salty, humid days exploring the jungles and beaches of Nayarit. The smiles in my selfies.
And though I have a trip coming up soon, which means I should be moving into phase one of taking a trip—I’ve decided to hold off for a bit.
“What is that feeling when you’re driving away from people and they recede on the plain till you see their specks dispersing? - it’s the too-huge world vaulting us, and it’s good-bye. But we lean forward to the next crazy venture beneath the skies.”—Jack Kerouac, On the Road
After years of wondering who would have the first baby in our family, all three of my sisters gave birth to their first babies within the last year. It’s been an exciting whirlwind of baby showers, hospital visits, birthday parties (we’ve had one already!) and lots of firsts for the whole family. It also meant I quickly became the aunt I’ve always wanted to be.
Eva Marita, the oldest of the three, is now about fourteen months old, and she is just so much fun at this age. Lucky for me, I got to spend Fourth of July weekend down in Encinitas, Ca with my little sister Claudia, where I chased Eva around with my camera.
my least favorite color happens to be my absolute favorite in nature
I don’t know why I don’t like the color pink. There’s something about its overtly feminine stigma that just turns me off. It always has. I hate that little girls are assigned this color from birth and I mostly hate when grown women are dressed head-to-toe in it.
I mean, don’t get me wrong. I’ve looked into my closet and I definitely have my share of pink things. I’m ok with certain shades, like a hot neon one. But I think it’s that Barbie, bubblegum pink that’s just not cute as an adult. Or ever.
Here’s the thing though: When I see the color in nature…it just takes my breath away. Like when a burst of pink, so bold, yet so translucent, like a veil of cotton candy, spreads so easily over the sun and the sky. Or in spring, when gray branches suddenly bloom to life with the brightest, purest rosy blossoms.
Where does this color come from? How does it come to being in such a magnificent way?
Like when, on an otherwise perfectly lovely afternoon of book shopping in Half Moon Bay, while Vu and I relaxed fireside at the Moss Beach Distillery, she decided to charge for an innocent King Charles Spaniel. Though tied to a chair, she pushed herself forward, eliciting a collective GASP from everyone around us, as she knocked our table and sent its precariously perched contents, (most notably a full glass of Cabernet), flying. As slow as everything felt (moments like this always happen in slow motion, right?), with swirls of Cabernet freed from its glass and suspended in mid-air, it just as quickly came down in one fell swoop, splattering Vu’s pants and dousing Milli in the process, paralyzing her from taking one step further.
And just like that—the patio erupted into laughter, as the little dog that thought it could, her eyes wide with fear (I’d like to think, embarrassment?), emerged from under a chair, painted in purple spots.
a small but mighty guard dog to ward off bears and other big scary things that lurk in the wilderness // a lake or two to gaze out at // a row boat ride // a long hike where said small-but-mighty-guard-dog is too exhausted to continue // one-pot meals like chicken nachos finished off over a fire // bird watching
Growing up in Southern California, we spent a ton of time outdoors. Especially in the summer. Even though it was hot, and I’m talking desert hot, we’d be outside playing. In the early evenings, we’d turn the sprinklers on in the front yard and transform my dad’s beloved green grass into a super slip-and-slide arena (much to his chagrin). Or we’d grill carne asada in the backyard, or have a big fish fry.
Being in such an urban environment like San Francisco has its perks, but I definitely miss having my own backyard. So six years ago, when I moved into my current apartment, it was definitely an added bonus that I inherited this little bit of a patio. And though it isn’t the biggest space, it was always enough to have two chairs, my BBQ, and a couple of mini stools to perch our plates on. (What else do you need?)
In the last few months, as the weather’s turned, I found myself coming home from work and swinging the back door open to let in all the afternoon/early evening sunlight. Suddenly this idea of making my patio a little more usable became more pressing. I wondered how I could turn the little bit of space I had into a more inviting place? An area where I could sit outside after a long day of work and read a book, without feeling like I was just sprawled on the back patio. Basically, how could I make this an outdoor extension of my indoor living room that I had spent so much time cultivating?
I decided the first thing I needed were some lights for ambiance. And so—up they went. Then I knew I wanted some more permanent type of seating. A bench that could occupy a space that wasn’t usable because of a large potted plant I had sequestered to a corner.
I explored many options for a bench. I thought about buying an IKEA one and upholstering a cushion for it. I thought about looking for one at the flea market, or on craigslist. But I had specific measurements and the best options seemed to cost a lot. That was another consideration: I didn’t want to spend a ton of money.
So I decided to make my own. At first, it felt like such a crazy unrealistic idea. I mean, I had never really made my own anything. I’m just not that crafty. But I had spent enough time growing up next to my father, the handiest of all handymen, and a self-taught carpenter, woodsmith, electrician, a man who sews, welds, reupholsters, fixes cars, cooks, hunts, fishes, plays instruments, basically does it all. I mean… how could I NOT know how to do this? Right? Ha. Well, that was the challenge I gave myself.
On a whim, and totally unprepared to commit to this project, I headed to Lowe’s with a friend of mine to do some pricing on materials.
Well, “pricing” turned into sketching my bench, doing a ton of math and coming home with all the materials, including all my chopped pieces of wood, paint, and screws, to makesomething.
It took me the weekend, and a few mistakes, which resulted in me hand-sawing a few pieces of wood myself. But the result, well, I’m totally proud of it.
I thought the coolest thing was that I had actually made something that I could sit on and wouldn’t fall apart.
But the best part came a couple of weeks later, when the sun came out and warmed the city to a perfect 70 degrees, and my friends responded to a last-minute-call and came over with ceviche, beers and Its-Its. I fired up the grill and made steak and chicken tacos, grilled some veggies and corn on the cob, and we mashed together some avocados for chips & guac, listening to cumbia’s blasting on my mini jambox. Even the neighbors in the building next door came out, despite having their own birthday celebration, to comment on what a great bench I had made myself. The afternoon really couldn’t have been more perfect.
And finally, when the sun began to dip, I turned the lights on, and the party continued.