Advice, healing, Mental Health, therapy

How To Deal With Duality: A Teacher’s Take

Dear Reader,

Have you ever felt on top of the world one minute just to fall on your face the next? You master 3 inch heels…PIGEON. You find the one…ICEBERG. You can have the best day ever and feel like sh*t the moment you walk home. Short of plugging back into The Matrix, how do we deal with duality?

In order to answer this, I’d like to walk you through exhibit A: last weekend.

1. Ying: Love Sucks

The ex clearly cares. He started therapy, sends letters, shared my betrayal blog, and publicly apologized on facebook. However, rebuilding trust is a slow grind. The happy memories are rudely interrupted by his hands on some other girl’s hips. Cue rage dialing and f*ck yous.  Sacred incense burned. ‘Love is a lie’ chanted.

Come Sunday, anxiety drove auto-pilot.  ‘I can handle it’ affirmations morphed into ‘WHY MEEEE?!’ The hummus-avocado baguette from my favorite cafe tasted like nothing. Speed walking got me stuck behind  a guy caressing the back of his girlfriend’s neck like Noah from The Notebook. OH GAWD. I barreled through oncoming traffic to cross. Naturally, I ended up behind another couple.

Preach

2. Yang: Thank Universe 

The spirits heard my pain and answered. Outside my photography class, a woman oozing euro-hippie-chic dangled a cigarette in the sun. Her pale-green pashmina, flowing black dress, free people boots stood out in a sea of conformity. She smiled: the kind that emanates from the soul. Hello Teacher!

In open-book fashion, I blurted out my 3 month elephant internship news, expressing jitters about living in a remote village 5 hours from Pai, Thailand. The village is untouched by tourism, which means I’ll need to embrace being alone. I’d never heard of Pai till now: she lived there for 2 years.  “Such an artist town,” her doe-eyes lit up.

Since the other students were a no show, we shared an intimate session commenting on her favorite works. Ever wonder about your perception on life? Try this revealing exercise at home. Mine is ‘exuberant-optimism-pulverized-by-reality.’

Airbnb Busan

I felt embarrassed by my dreamer tendencies. “Please don’t change,” she encouraged. I told her about sharing my abortion on this blog. “I have goosebumps,” she wrapped her pashmina closer. I apologized for talking too much. “I’m just listening…you’re so beautiful,” her meditation voice soothed. Cue tears over pad thai.

3. Peace Be With You

Come sunset, we landed upon the inspiration behind this post. My philosophy: “Just as I’m starting to get my life together…BAM! D*ck-slapped.” Hers: “Wow, well said. You know, we all have ugly days. I just let myself feel it.”

Whoa, whoa, whoa. In our world of Get-Over-It-Faster-On-Instagram, how do we allow ourselves to feel low? Do we give ourselves enough time to do so? Why is there so much pressure to be high performing when we really should be taking a break?  So how do we deal with duality? DON’T.

Don’t resist. Don’t force energizer bunny when you’re feeling ramen-for-days. Don’t tell your loved ones you’re OK, when you can’t remember the last time you showered. Don’t hide your demons in the closet. They won’t stay there for long.

DO allow crappy days to free up room for better ones. Do vocalize your monster so you can manage it. Do seek a professional healer for any unanswered questions.

Do take a mental health weekend where you only nurture yourself: that means saying no to other people. Let me know how it goes.

Remember: JUST DO IT! made Nike rich, but it’s a poor coping habit.

It’s OK to have bad days, too.

Teacher,

writinginsoysauce

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Advice, Happiness, healing, Loss, Love, Mental Health, therapy

Heaven Would Be A Love Without Betrayal

Dear Reader,

This is the diary of a girl with a shattered heart. I debated sharing this publicly, but I need to release. I’m also asking you and the universe for some much needed kindness and reprieve.

One month ago, the week of my birthday, I discovered Luis was cheating on me online with multiple women. We shared computers and his facebook was open. The bolded-black of blinking, unread messages from girls I knew not. After reading them with growing horror, I had to screenshot them as proof. Agony.

One of the most important questions in therapy is: ‘What do you need?’ The answer: space. We were sharing a home, I was financially supporting him, and I needed him OUT. One week later, he went back in Ecuador.

Last night, after persistent questioning on my end, and continued denial on his, he finally admitted the cheating happened in person. While in Korea, there was a girl in November at a club. Then there was his ex in Korea just last week. At least that’s what he’ll admit to.

Reality stopped making sense. How deep his lies go I’ll never know. The trust is so far gone. I have defriended him. No contact is best.

In the midst of shock, confusion, and grief, here’s what I’m processing:

  1. I am worthy of commitment and honesty: core values of any thriving relationship. I have done nothing to deserve his destructive, inexcusable, deeply hurtful behavior. I will rise knowing I loved purely and faithfully. Dear reader, I’m certain of my self-worth. The journey continues.
  2. My pre-therapy self would’ve internalized his misdeeds: ‘Is it me? Am I not enough?’ Fuck no. This 100% comes from his insecurities and need for validation. Days before his departure, he opened up about a serious childhood trauma that happens to 1 in 6 men. I believe him and have told him it’s not his fault. However, this does NOT excuse his actions. Cheating is not OK because you have unresolved issues. I hope he finds a professional to help him heal. Anyone can benefit from therapy.
  3. We share a common background of rejection and abuse yet I thought we were both on the path to love and light. I was wrong. Healing is like climbing a ladder. If you have missing rungs,  you’ll plunge.
  4. The love we shared was real. The joy we felt. The support we gave and received. We wouldn’t have lasted through 3 countries otherwise. Yet everything we built is SHADOWED by his deception. I was not in the relationship I thought I was. The blinders are off.
  5. Friends ask: ‘Were there signs? Did you have this gut feeling?’ I wish. Wouldn’t it be nice if it were that easy? If I could just rationalize it with “Oh, he was a (insert-worst-insult-you-can-think-of) all along so good riddance.” No, that’d be a lie. I will not tell lies.
  6. I am shocked. I am bewildered. How could someone be such a doting partner and an irresponsible jack ass at the same time? How does someone disassociate so much that they hide it from you and themselves? Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde are one and the same. It’s not going to make sense anytime soon. This will take time.
  7. All actions have consequences, whether we want to face them or not. I’ve made many mistakes in my past. I’ve cheated and been cheated on. I was involved with a married man once. I learned the hard way about poor decisions. We live. We learn. Or we don’t. Self-destruction is a thorny road: blood on the leaves. THANK YOU to all those who’ve supported me, especially when I’ve faltered.
  8. Since college, I’ve never been single. I’ve always been involved with someone casually or seriously. Time to try something different. For the rest of this year, I am committed to ACTIVELY being single. That means filling my free time with empowering activities: therapy, traveling, elephant research, writing, running, meditation, yoga, volunteering, going vegetarian. More life, less death. Like Whitney’s ballad: I’d rather be alone than unhappy.
  9. These wounds will not heal with a quick and easy band-aid. You know what would help though? Making a Cry Me A River JT revenge sex music video.
  10. What does it feel like to wake up with unfettered space in your mind and heart? I look forward to finding out. Humans of wisdom, do reach out 🙂
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Took this at the Itaewon International Food Festival in Korea. We met in Ecuador. We made a home in Korea. Full Circle. To happier times…

Remember: you only know someone as well as they know themselves. Make self awareness your holy grail.

What do I know about myself? I have a big heart. I won’t give up on a love cuz of heartbreak.

Nevertheless, she persisted. Thanks Elizabeth Warren and Coretta Scott King. Jane Goodall and Lek Chailert. The list goes on.

Waiting out the darkness for eternal light.

writinginsoysauce

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Advice, Animal Rights, Family, Loss, Mental Health, Travel, Volunteer

Elephant Nature Park: Best Healing I’ve Ever Had  

Dear Reader,

Tis my first post of 2017! My 1 woman trip to Thailand’s Elephant Nature Park was pure therapy. Here’s all the deets, plus photos. Enjoy loves!

  1. Traveling Alone: Never Have I Ever

I never thought I’d like traveling alone. Who am I going to be loud with? When I think This looks like an edgy spot Lonely Planet hasn’t discovered, who’s going stop me? Dark alley. Not cool.

To anyone who’s nervous about a solo trip, just think: a machine levitates you into Smore-worthy clouds. By the time you’ve finished Mindy Kaling’s book, fully reclined your seat, and drooled all over your neck pillow…you’re in another world. MAGIC.

  1. The Epic ENP Volunteer Experience 

    IMG_5313.JPG

    Brave One: Seal!

Chiang Mai was so awesome I’m already planning an ENP trip to Cambodia this summer. Eeek!

What You’ll Be Doing

  • Schedule:
    • 6 am Breakfast
    • 8 am Work 1-2 hours
    • 11:30 am Lunch
    • 1:00 pm Work 1-2 Hours
    • 3:10 pm Elephant bathing/Free Time
    • 6 pm Dinner
    • 7 pm Ceremonies/Performances/Workshops/Free Time
  • Feed Elephants (They LOVE pumpkin and will reject not-so-juicy watermelon)
  • Bathe Elephants (Throw water on them from a safe distance, not into their eyes)
  • Scoop Elephant Poop
  • Cut Corn
  • Wash Watermelons and load onto truck
  • Shovel and sweep mountain to clear way for fire tracks
  • Group meetings to watch short elephant documentaries. Bring tissues.
  • Visit a local school: get your hair braided, drink iced cocoa lattes, jump rope
  • Lots of free time including but not limited to:
    • Walking handi-capped dogs
    • Assisting the vets
    • Listening to Lek, the founder, teach with love, not hate. Animal rights activists, please choose to educate instead of attack.
    • Waiting for Lek at her dinner table to profess admiration. Realize you’re sitting in her seat, next to her husband. Awkwardly leap to the other side. Turtle.
    • Tell Lek she needs a TED Talk. She’s already been approached. “Who’s Ted, anyways?” she asks. Laugh with the queen. #LekTalks.
    • Eat small donuts with huge bday candles.
    • Pick songs for Group C’s last night hurrah. Everyone loves Pony, especially Germans.
    • Pray for your family with new friends. Moment of silence cut short by trumpeting.

IMG_5341.JPGWhat To Bring:

  • Sunscreen
  • Sunglasses/Hat
  • Mosquito repellant( Miraculously, I didn’t get a single bite. Could be February. Or god)
  • Clothes you don’t mind getting dirty (they have a laundry service)
  • Long sleeves/pants/socks (cold at night!)
  • 1 pair of closed toe shoes
  • 1 pair of sandals/flip flops
  • Bathing suit to wear UNDER your clothes. Respect Thai traditions. Do not distract the mahouts(elephant guides). A Jumanji stampede is not worth your side boob.
  • $100-$200 spending cash for soda, alcohol, snacks, thai massages, souvenirs (Friendship bracelets, carved wooden elephants, tip generously)

Food So Good I’m Going Vegetarian

  • Buffet Style AMAZING Vegan Food
  • So FAHCKIN’ good they need an NYC lunch spot
  • So good they’re releasing a cookbook next year
  • So good I’m becoming a vegetarian. Live consciously. More clean, less death. Shoutouts CHolls&Stace&Steph.

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Accommodations

  • 2-3 people per room
  • Single beds with mosquito nets
  • Clean and spacious
  • Shared bathrooms and showers
  • Ours had a balcony overlooking the river
  • Optional: chubby cat/stealth door opener

Golden Rules Of Safety 

  • You are NOT an elephant whisperer. Maintain a respectful distance.
  • Each elephant is different. Some are NOT OK around humans or other animals.
  • Ask the mahout before feeding/touching/engaging
  • Do NOT stand directly in front of them.
  • Do NOT stand directly behind them.
  • Their trunks are extremely powerful. A small flip can send you flying.
  • Stay behind the red line
  • Listen to the staff. Watch Out means “Move away before you get popped like a prune”.
  1. The Tale Of Many: An elephant named Lucky

Lucky loves his mom and his nanny. They tower over him, tickling his face with their trunks. Under the shade of a disappearing forest, they search for food. When vegetation ran out, they eat garbage left behind by humans. When garbage runs out, hunger drives them to stumble upon a farm. When night falls, they feast on sweet corn. Lucky, lulled by his family’s happy chewing sounds, drifts to sleep.

The darkness erupts. A piercing crack rings out. Human yells. Lucky’s mom screams. His nanny pushes him hard.RUN, little one, RUN! Lucky listens. He doesn’t see his nanny fall to the ground, nor his mom.

Days later, the locals find him. Lucky is caught between two trees. He’s starving, dehydrated, lost. He’s an orphan now.

The locals call Lek. She and her team bring food, medicine, transport but Lucky won’t let anyone near him. He refuses to eat. He cries for his family. Did you know elephants can die from heartbreak?

No one knows if Lucky will make it. Lek coaxes him with pumpkin, piece by piece. She sings him to sleep. Some days she passes out from exhaustion. One day, she wakes to the warmness of his trunk. Wake up. I’m hungry.  Lucky is healing.

What happens now?

  1. The locals let Lucky go. Either they cannot afford to keep him, or they understand the ethics involved. Lucky lives out the rest of his 60+ years in peace with the support of philanthropists like us.
  2. The locals ask for Lucky to be returned. They’ve lost time, labor, money due to destroyed crops. Their families need to eat. Debts must be repaid. Time to put Lucky to work.
IMG_5502.JPG

Navaan’s mom stepped on a landmine. Thank god for vet volunteers like Paige.

4.The Pajaan: How To Break An Elephant

When we see Lucky next, he’s all grown up. He carries us on his back. He paints for us. He performs tricks for our amusement. He walks down a crowded street, waving his trunk for bananas. What we see calm, obedient elephant. What you might miss is that the mahout still carries a bullhook.

None of these activities are natural or normal. How does one get a wild animal to obey?

***DISCLAIMER: This is graphic. I humbly ask you to read on.

There is an age-old tradition in Thailand called the Pajaan. Men tie ropes around Lucky’s neck, legs, trunk.  They shove him into a tiny corral. Imagine cramming a brick into a pencil case. From all sides, he is beaten with hooks. Blue-violet blood oozes out of his cuts. Lucky cries for his mom and his nanny.  He defecates from fear and anger. His eyes glaze over till you only see white.

This process will be repeated until the spirit is broken and an obedient elephant remains. Some don’t survive. 85% of the elephants arrive to ENP with mental health problems.

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Missing an ear. Cruelty is real.

5.How You Can Help: Do’s and Don’ts

Animal tourism puts food on the table for many locals. For change to happen, we need to 1. educate ourselves on better practices and 2. support a sustainable alternative. If we’re only willing to support ethical tourism, businesses will follow. Think SeaWorld’s stocks dropping post-Blackfish.

Education must come first. Laws are only half the battle. For example, once logging became illegal, elephants were either abandoned or put to work in tourism. When there’s no sustainable alternative, all animals suffer.

Do

  • Do your research. Find a reputable, ethical, sanctuary to visit and see for yourself
  • Do educate with love, not hate. Try “Hey did you know that…” rather than “What’s wrong with you…”
  • Do support conservation. Our time and money goes to buying food and medicine. ENP is also home to thousands of dogs and cats, a bunch of water buffalo and horses, and one crazy-ass goat.

Don’t

  • Don’t ride elephants
  • Don’t feed elephants off the street
  • Don’t buy products “made by” elephants. Paintings, etc
  • Don’t support festivals/parades with live elephants
  • Don’t visit the circus or zoos
  • Don’t attack others. Like Lek says, it’s very difficult to educate someone if you make them an enemy.
  • Don’t assume people know what’s going on behind closed doors. It took me 30 years.

6. Goodbye Grandpa

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While at the park, I got a voicemail from my sister. My grandpa passed the day after my 30th birthday. Before therapy, how would I have felt? Guilty. Overwhelmed. Out of control. How did I handle it last week? Terribly sad, but not guilty. I trusted my decision to be in a haven of healing. I recognized who could support me. I allowed myself to feel a spectrum of emotions. I laughed while shoveling elephant poop. I cried doing the same. I journaled, an exercise recommended by many therapists.

I channeled my grief into curiosity. I asked Lek about her grandpa, a shaman in a village of Northern Thailand. When she was 7, he gave her a gibbon to care for. Let’s call it Love.

“Do not name it. Do not hug it. Do not take it to your room,” he said. She did the exact opposite. When it was time to release Love, Lek begged her grandpa to keep it. He ignored her. “Love!” Lek cried out. The gibbon returned to her arms.

“You broke the rules,” her grandpa sighed. He sent her back to the village and freed Love alone. Lek refused to talk to him for months, believing him to be cruel. “I was wrong,” her voice now softens, “I’ve seen gibbons after too much human contact. They chew off their own legs.”

Remember: Love cannot grow in a cage. Release to nurture.

With truth,

writinginsoysauce

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Advice, korea, Love, Mental Health, Teaching, Womens Health, Writing

I miss you like crazy

Soundtrack: We Move Lightly

Dear reader,

A few days ago I was ready to give up on love. L didn’t get into the Masters program in Korea. His Barack Obama character, fluency in 3 ruling languages, 3.6 GPA, and caramel Gu Jun Pyo good looks, weren’t even worth an interview. He applied to smaller universities to increase his chances, but no dice. Given the sexism I’ve already faced at work(men looooove roomin’ with roaches), let’s address the pink latino in the room: his third world passport. My interview for Korea lasted the amount of time it takes me to eat a snickers bar. But I’m a US citizen with a pulse.

While in NYC, I survived a long distance relationship for 5 years. We both lost loved ones to cancer. We were laughter and light: the only salve to unbearable numbness. Until we weren’t. I changed. I used to want a diamond, now I’m good with a tattoo. I used to want babies, now I prefer passport stamps. I used to drink like a Bostonian, now I don’t need booze to bare all.

First cut is the deepest

The last time L and I held each other was May. If you read the post about my abortion, then you remember my devastation. Our goodbye. I felt his absence most acutely during my first month in Seoul. A meteor shower, in celestial harmony with Quito’s blood red moon, welcomed me to the Han River with 3 of the nicest teachers and their plus 1’s. Not for one instant did they make me feel like a 7th wheel. Instead, we inflated vagina-shaped lawn chairs and cuddled a little black dog named Tux. Feasted on fish tacos. Gawked at bike-size Afghan hounds(the dodo bird of toy breed Korea). Discovered Daiso, the dollar store equivalent where bitch I’m rich. Admired boy piggy-back girl, crutches n all. Matching couple outfits.

I was having a fucking blast, which compounded into resounding sadness upon seeing my super single bed.

L and I couldn’t make any of these memories in the same time-space continuum. Share a coffee. Take a walk. Binge watch LOTR. And let’s talk about sex. Per OTNB memoir: after 3 months of abstinence, you could’ve spit on me and I’d sizzle. Rio Olympian, starved out for the gold. Sure a big mac is a quick fix, but I’d rather wait for the Shake Shack (grand opening in Gangnam July 22!) 

IUD. Not DIY. 

Don’t fret: I’m armed with 3 letters: I.U.D. “Expect 3 mild cramps,”the gyno said. She held up a silver tong the size of timbuktu to pull my uterus out so this tiny piece of plastic could go in. Any tattoo artist will tell you I have a high pain tolerance, but this was intense. I had to take deep birth-video breaths and find my happy place: instinctively L’s face. After a minute or 2, she patted me on the back, “Good job! Some patients faint on the table.”

Ladies, this is not to scare you, but to prepare you. Take ibuprofen before you go. I got the hormonal IUD cuz I prefer no periods whereas the copper one may give you worse ones. Like a pair of shoes, try out different kinds of birth control till you find one that works best. Liletta is good for 3 years and I don’t have to do anything.

Given my gamut with womanly health, one burning question remains: why do we call weakness a pussy? Who came up with this flawed concept? Did they ever have a period/abortion/baby/IUD? If you punched a pussy and a penis, who do you think would be standing first? “You’re such a testicle” makes way more sense if you ask me. Or we should just stop using gender-specific body parts as insulting adjectives altogether.

Taiwan Thanksgiving 

Thank universe L’s back up plan to study Chinese in Taiwan went through. I booked my flight for September stat. I made it a priority to see him. So when he completely forgot to research hotels and call my therapist from Ecuador…I flipped a shit. It didn’t matter that he recognized his mistake immediately and apologized. 

I wish I could tell you I rolled like ghandi. Instead I chose the worst of two evils: fight and flight. Stage 1: mad as hell: “What the fuck? Am I the only one trying here?” Stage 2: weeping willow. “You hurt me. You really hurt me.” Stage 3: lost girl. “We should break up.” 

I didn’t sleep that night.  Perhaps, the debris wasn’t all due to L, though the residual pain created a perfect storm. In my anger, I forgot everything that L had shown me. I lost faith in him and myself.

When L faced failure, I expected some semblance of guilt, jealousy or stress to bleed over. He did the exact opposite. He stayed proud. Excited. He never made me feel like I was leaving him behind. His capacity for forgiveness is something I’m still working on. When I go bananas, he’s got just the right box. (That’s for you TEFL)

It’d be too easy to give into old habits. To cut and run, like a bat out of hell. For many of us, it’s far simpler to give love, than to receive.  Carson McCuller writes: “the value and quality of any love is determined solely by the lover himself. It is for this reason that most of us would rather love than be loved.”

The morning before Boston, L surprised me with his college diary. Bold move buddy. I perused 4 years of the mind of someone who shares great visions and horrible nightmares. Few people understand me on this level: how blessed I am to know one. No matter what, we will make our greatest effort to learn from our love. I can’t think of anything more worthwhile.

In 3 weeks, I’m visiting L for Chuseuk( Korean turkey day). 6 days with bae! He may try again for Korea or I may head to Taiwan later on. Then this chinita will apply to NYC Teaching Fellows. Uhhhh, subsidized Masters of Education for only $8K what?! It’s one of the only affordable on campus programs out there. I refuse to go into debt for higher ed. Plus, I’ve gotta get certified pre-UAE.

Master of None

No relationship exists without fears, worries, doubts. No show on TV explains these WTF moments in modern romance better than Aziz: long term relationships are tough. You can’t just expect a big, roaring fire right away, right? You know, you can’t put the big logs in first. You start with the small stuff. Kindling, all right? Then you add that, *then* you put in the big logs and *then* you have a roaring fire. And that’s a good relationship. But be careful, sometimes kindling is hard to find, you know? Good wood. So, don’t take it for granted.

Folks: tend to your fine pine. For me, that means continuing therapy.  Eating cake and patbingsu. Working out. Teaching kids that ‘different’ is good. Finishing the first draft of my self-help book…tentatively titled The Co Dependent Diaries: A Teacher Tells All. 

Remember: distance makes the heart grow stronger.

To me. To you. To L.

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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Advice, Mental Health, Teaching, Travel

Fiesta De Quito: The crying woman

Dear Friends,

One month from today, I will be 29 years old. Allow me to reflect, process, regurgitate what little and lot this year has brought in 3 stages…

1. Joy

For their final oral exam, my students created TV shows. The highlight was The Kyong Show: imagine late night meets Jerry Springer. The romantic entanglements of a stepford wife,  basketball player husband, a scruffy pool boy. And a magician. All forced to resolve their problems over beer(water) pong…

Wandering into a fusion jazz bar, getting the last seats, savoring a splendid piece of chocolate cake, served with a boule of helado (ice cream). Soft rain and patio lights…

Flamenco dancers, one gringa in cherry red, one quiteno in blanco, strong jaws, slick black coifs, such fierce tapping you feel it in your blood…

Riding a bike in public. I’m an obsessive soul cycler, but it’s a different ballgame meandering through traffic. Momentum is key. Pedal when turning for more control. Shoulders forward in a perfect triangle, so when you hit a bump, your netherparts don’t get left behind. Freedom racing through the park…

Taking my first solo 9 hour bus trip in South America, reaching my destination, narrowly avoiding a pack of wild dogs, kissing starlight by midnight…

The ocean retains memory, my mompiche soul sistah said, it touches all life. Bubbles, effervescent elation, splashing like a newborn. Letting go…

2. Pain 

In a dimly lit street by an ivy wall(Plaza Teatro), while all of Quito dances, a small crowd gathers around a crying woman. A man in an official looking uniform, conspicuously rigid, eyes withdrawn, tapes an eviction notice to her door. The air is pungent: it smells of macaroons…

The crying woman reminds me that we are ephemeral. Impermanent. Amidst all joy exists acute pain.  I know this well. It’s been too recent since parting ways with friends and lovers. The hurt is raw. Yet the scars will make me stronger…

It’s taken me 6 years to let myself miss Mary Lynne, the mom, sister, best friend who showed me unconditional love. To let myself weep. To feel the enormity of grief…

It’s been 1 year since I’ve talked to my dad. It took 27 years to admit I’ve been emotionally and physically abused since I hit puberty. It’s going to be a lifelong journey to heal. To discover what it means to love and be loved. To relearn a concept sin dolores…

Pain is relative, and mine pales amongst the horrific pasts endured by so many kindred spirits. But it’s a smidegon of proof that to see the light, one must face their darkness…

 

I’m going to therapy soon and I could not be more ready. I’ve always wanted to go.  It’s a profession and a calling that interests me mucho. Thankfully, mental health is less of a stigma in South America. Plus it’s far more affordable, I’m talking $25/hour vs $2 grand, an arm and a leg. I’m a big believer that although a broken bone is visibly bad, a broken psyche is far worse, especially if unaddressed. It’s impossible to heal others if you can’t heal yourself. Someday, could I listen to stories and help guide someone back onto their path ? Nothing would fulfill me more.

My soul died in advertising. In all corporate life. Teaching, however, is rewarding. On Fridays, we mix Spanish and English to discuss deeper issues like spirituality, family, psychology, gender equality, sexism, racism, homosexuality. I’d love to teach in Colombia next, South Korea, then Thailand. Maybe UAE. It’s a loosey goosey 5 year vision, just how I like it.

Know thyself is priority #1. Giving myself and others time to do what’s needed, time to understand what’s best. Time exposes or promotes us all, they say.

I am proud to be the crying woman. In many ways, we all are.  Call me sentimental but I’ll take tears any day over feeling nothing at all.

My deepest love,

writinginsoysauce

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Loss, Love, Writing

fireflies and you

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