Advice, Ecuador, Mental Health, Philosophy, Teaching

Faith: and then the earth trembled

I have a confession to make: I was not wearing pants when the 7.8 magnitude earthquake hit. The perks of being too comfortable in your apartment. Luis, Jared, and I stood in our doorways staring at each other as the floor trembled. I giggled hysterically at the prospect of dying without pants. Then I prayed. Out loud.

After the 4th floor stopped shaking, we walked to SuperMaxi to stock up on necessities: chifles, choco chip cookies, boxed wine. Foch, known for its nightlife, was a cold somber scene. Cops, frightened faces, everything was closed. That’s when we knew it was serious. News trickled in about how badly the coast was affected. The sadness came. In terrifying circumstances, I gripped onto faith.

Ever since I could remember, I have prayed. I do not know if god is a man, woman, alien, unicorn. I do know my little chinita self has whispered, spoken, hummed to an unseen, unknown entity. Wind in trees.

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1. Faith

22 years ago, when my little sister was still in the womb, I was very jealous of the oodles of attention she was already receiving. I asked g money for no little sister. I quickly realized faith is not all powerful.

I miss talking to my sis. I cry a lot thinking about how lost she must feel in the hospital. How alone even with visitors. Her drawings show duplicate visions: two eyebrows, two mouths, juxtaposed onto the same face. I am visiting Sherry end of May. I would love nothing more than to hug her.

My lifey(lifetime compadre) Xtina who is also a therapist visited my fam in the hospital. She translated a difficult subject for my parents so well. When you have a fever, the meds provide a temporary but lifesaving relief.  My sis refuses to take medication so she is going to court to defend her case. If she loses, she will have to take the meds. So we wait.

Mental illness is a dark stealer of loved ones, yet I have faith my sister will be OK.

Faith is not a blanket reason for why bad things happen. Bad things happen for no reason. We can either find purpose, or not. It is a choice.

It’s the possibility of parallel universes. It’s found equally in creation and destruction. It’s minute particles, the ones undiscovered by science, that connect us all somehow.

It’s never feeling completely alone, even when I feel incredibly lonely.

It is action. With your help, we raised $5000 to buy supplies for earthquake victims. Paypal the phenomenal corydack(at)yahoo.com.

Faith is an umbrella.  I have lost and found it infinite times.

2. Speak

Faith helps me cope with fear of rejection. I am empowered to speak my mind.

In the application to teach in Korea(EPIK), I was required to report any visible tattoos. One girl posted that she was rejected because of hers. I could’ve taken the easy route and lied about my Princess Mononoke, a piece easily hidden by clothing. But I didn’t want to. I love my art. I do not believe in conforming to social or cultural stigmas to get a job. Guess what? My request for an interview arrived 1 day after the earthquake. Truth worked in my favor. I passed the interview. Now onto massive amounts of paperwork before I am officially accepted this fall

Another case study: a well known recruiter for Taiwan called Hess asked me to submit a head to toe photo. Immediately the warning bell went off. What does this superficial request have to do with my teaching credentials? Why do they need to see my body to qualify my mind?  After reading some bad reviews about how Hess works with schools who prefer white males,  I wrote this:

Not surprisingly,  I received a generic answer about how their interview process isn’t for anyone. I withdrew my application.

Why poke the bear when I so badly need a paying job in August ? Because I would rather hear a firm NO for being true to myself than an exuberant YES to a false persona.

3. Love and Hate

Some days I love my body. Some days I hate my body. I cannot down a pizza like I used to. I am allergic to booze, caffeine, lactose, honey. And butterflies. That’s right. Butterflies. Why not? My body is going down the list alphabetically. Time feels like my enemy. People say “Oh, you haven’t aged a day.” Thank you kindly. However, I am aging every day. How can I come to terms with it? Working out helps. More importantly, I try to forgive my imperfections.

The hardest working woman I know Ms Stephanie Park just launched her website The Healthy Hour! She makes cooking healthy look doable even with a New Yorker’s schedule. Plus, she features a delicious OREO recipe. Enough said.

The-Healthy-Hour-Taline-Gabriel-Raweo-Raw-Oreo-Vegan-Dessert-Recipe-01-268

4. I cannot do this alone 

Last week I had a serious bout of the flu for the third time this year. I didn’t want to pay for a substitute teacher when we teachers are barely getting paid, so I worked all week. I was so sick I couldn’t walk 4 flights of stairs to my own apartment without dry heaving.

I cannot do this alone. Nor do I want to.

I have met someone very special. When I least wanted to, when I told everyone who would listen that I would not open my heart again…naturally, the universe threw me a curveball. I met Luis in TEFL class. We were both trying to become better teachers. He has undeniably become one of my best friends. He is not a project. He does not need saving. He does use a painful past as an excuse for his actions in the present. In fact, he is profoundly patient. Kind. Giving. Balanced. It is not the uncertain, burning, obsessive, roller coaster dynamic my co-dependent self has chosen too often in the past. Whether we are together or apart, I feel what so many others have talked about. Peace. It is so nice because it is easy. I am understood on an intellectual, philosophical, and spiritual level. We are not halves of a whole. We are both wholes that happen to complement each other quite nicely. L teaches Chinese. He texts my mom in mandarin. I am writing this post in his class right now, surrounded by giggling girls, and I am so damn proud. Outside, the sky pours buckets. There’s nowhere I’d rather be.

This life I’ve chosen can be a solitary one. You do not have the comfort of your friends from home. You do not know who you can trust, though you pray someone is willing to help.

To those beautiful people who have lent a helping hand, I have not enough space to fill these pages, but I hope you know who you are.  I am beyond grateful.

Thank you for keeping my faith.

writinginsoysauce

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Advice, Books, Ecuador, Mental Health, Travel

Colombia Calling: a series of unfortunate events 

Before my grandmother survived a stroke and heart attack,  before my little sister was hospitalized for a nervous breakdown, before I learned through therapy I have a condition called co-dependency, before Ecuador stopped paying its teachers, before Colombia called…

I had a beautiful dream.

Immersed in deep blue sea, a giant orca whale faced me. Terrifyingly close, awe inspiring. Zoom out. The orca swam in a glass ceiling above my bed. It wasn’t clear who was the one held captive. A mermaid entered the water: only she was accepted by the orca. Trusted.

It is all connected:

Days later, at hangar beatz, a DJ played haunting whale sounds. The next morning, my sister called with the news about my nai nai. My mom and sister had to cancel their trip to Ecuador. So I decided to go to Colombia. A series of unfortunate events began. Yet, somehow, magic remained.

1. Pre Colombia

My friend and I got lost trying to find a concert, stumbled into free Colombia movie week right when the film started. Los Viajes Del Viento: The Wind Journeys. There is an accordion off between two men, matador vs bull, in a dust filled ring. An audience member, driven into a frenzy, stabs the protagonist. The knife misses his heart thanks to the instrument. I didn’t understand half the words, but I understood the whole meaning. Music does that.

Moments later, we found ourselves on stage at Casa De La Cultura, dancing in circles with the locals to live folklore. I ran into one of my old students. Spontaneity at its best.

I met a beautiful rose at Cafe Democratico the 1st night I discovered Afro Colombian jazz. Spirited away by drums, pipes, wind flutes, a french girl’s raspy African tune.  A doctor without borders led our chorus to Redemption Song.

On cue, a true accordion player appeared at 3 am. No such thing as coincidence.

2. Bigger in Bogota

My airbnb in Bogota was located in Chapinero. As with any host or neighborhood, do your research, but people lie. Turns out, the southern tip was filled with addicts, junkies, hooker motels, and the host’s brother had smoked something before we got there. I slept to soothing night sounds: crackheads yelling PUTA outside. The bedroom door wouldn’t close, so we set up a Conspiracy Theory style trap: suitcase, book, glass box. Lamp close to bed as a weapon. We were in pain from fresh tattoos, scared, yet could not stop laughing at the ridiculousness of the situation. You can tell a lot about your bond in the face of the unexpected.

In a rush to leave the next day, we left the keys upstairs, only to realize the 10 foot black iron gate was locked. Naturally, we scaled the gates of Mordor while the neighborhood watched. Chapinero remembers.

We escaped to my friend’s uncle’s apartment in Chia, the sunny equivalent of Cumbaya. He took us to the salt mines of Zipaquira. Interestingly, I almost ended up teaching there instead of Ecuador because one of the WorldTeach cohorts dropped out. At the time, my decision came down to one thing: I wouldn’t have missed my little sister’s college graduation for the world. Full circle.

One cannot sum up a city in 2 days, but I will say this: Bogota has STYLE, asian people(dodo birds!), diversity(we got a lot of smiles) and an excellent asian chain restaurant called WOK (1st pad thai and khao soi in 7 months. Freaked out.).

Day: Better to take a taxi

  • Museo del Oro
  • Candelaria
  • Plaza Simón Bolívar, especially Friday evening SEPTIMAZO(be careful)
  • Monserrate Cable Car(Bogotá is huge)
  • Teusaquillo. Parque Simón Bolívar. (picnic)
  • La mina de sal de zipaquirá
  • El teatro callejero

Night: ALWAYS take a taxi. Underground scenes reco’d by a Bogota friend

  • Cafe Cinema
  • Latino Power
  • Latora 4 Brazos
  • Matik Matik
  • Chorro de Quevedo

3. Magic in Medellin

Took a free walking tour with the amazing guide Pablo. Stayed at a wonderful airbnb with Arthur Leroux. Barrio El Poblado is like the West Village of Colombia.

Medellín has one of the most pristine, spacious metros I have ever seen. It’s their beacon of hope. They do not eat on it. They do not scratch graffitti on the walls. The train reflects the love of its people.

In 1995,  a bomb exploded inside a Botero bird statue(famous for painting large, round figures) downtown, killing a girl as young as 7. The government wanted to remove the destroyed statue. Ring Ring. Botero called: no you must not do that. If you remove it, the people will forget. You remove the memory.

Instead, they built a replica, unbroken, next to the original. Bird’s the word.

Paisas are entrepreneurs. You buy in because of their optimism, resilience, courage.

Day

  • Piedra Del Penol (2 hour bus from Medellin. Epic views, a real life stairmaster 650 of ’em, go EARLY bc traffic back to the city is insane)
  • Metro cable hasta Santo Domingo (ver favelas) /Parque Biblioteca ESPAÑA
  • Jardín Botánico de Medellin (gorgeous architecture)
  • Museo de Antioquia
  • Parque de los pies descalzos
  • Plaza botero
  • Pueblito paisa
  • Rio claro Valley
  • Museo de arte moderno

Night

  • Este lugar de la noche, calle 67 con 55
  •  Yagé bar, calle 68 con 96
  • Tinto Tintero, carrera 43 B-10. Thursday Jazz in el poblado (LOVELY!)

4. Post Colombia 

Ecuador is in an economic crisis. Only the military has been paid due to the threat of a coup. And cancer hospitals(hopefully!). Teachers and everyone else are the bottom of the barrel.  The government owes us but we may not be paid for years. I have faith. I have faith in myself as a teacher: I am working for my students and out of love for the profession.

I may be deported for writing the above. But it is the truth. My family survived communism. I refuse to live in fear in the face of oppression. As a US citizen, I have more options than many others. Let the stress kill you, or keep hunting. I choose numero dos.

Now onto harder subjects…

My heart crumpled when I heard about my sister. I was the first one to get the call. You can imagine how it feels to be thousands of miles away. Helpless. Useless. So I worried, and worried some more. My therapist, who normally just listens, called me out. I am so glad she did. She said this: You need to stop. Stop trying to save others. Stop trying to fix others. You are responsible for you. You are not responsible for your mother, father, sister, brother, grandparents. You spend so much energy worrying about others. You need to take care of yourself. You are a teacher. You are in Ecuador. These are your responsibilities and you must focus on them. Learn to say no. She lent me a book.

Co-dependency means you try to save, control, fix others, to the point where you no longer take care of yourself. People who grow up with any -ism or abuse in their family often have this condition because we were forced to care take at a very young age. It is up to me to refuse to be a victim. I need to put my own needs first and stop rescuing. Let others lead their own lives. Love and care but practice healthy detachment. 

To my nai nai, my sister, to everyone going through a difficult time: we are not lone islands, but we are all responsible for our own lives. It’s OK to put yourself first. Release the guilt.

Pablo’s words resonate: Colombia is a swamp of quicksand. We sink, and sink, and sink. The mud has reached our ears. But we hold on. We hold on to the tiny branch. We fight for every breath. We do not let go.

Find the branch. Hold on tight. Rise.

Love,

writinginsoysauce

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