05 August 2012

I'm an Olympian

Gabby Douglas won Gold.  She is on the Corn Flakes box.  She is 16 years old.  She knew what her dream was when she was 11.  She took huge risks and left her family to follow her dream.  When she felt like giving up, she stuck with it.  She knew what her goal was and she was going for it.  She had conviction.  She wanted to be an Olympian, so she invested everything.  And sacrificed time with family, friends and community to achieve her dreams.

So... when will I know what I want to be when I grow up?

When will my Gabby Douglas conviction set in?

I'm still trying to figure out what to declare... in life!  Do I want a Masters in Fun? How about an MA in Write my Own Schedule or Be My Own Boss.  Do you know who offers a PhD in Three Day Weekends with an emphasis in Late Start Mondays, Early Finish Thursdays?

Nonconformity works for me! And of course I love a good adventure.  I've bounced around a bit.  Sometimes its for fun and sometimes its because I just can't decide what exactly I want to do... so I try to mix things up and hope the answer will... arrive.

I'm still waiting.

Well, not exactly. (I'm not so good at waiting for things to come to me, I'm a bit better at making things happen, anyway... )

Globetrotting, travel and exploring cultures are my forte!

It gives meaning and richness to my life.  I love how I connect with people when I'm abroad. Finding those likeminded people is just downright exciting and totally invigospiring* (new vocabulary - credit to Kahlil).  There is something magical about being abroad, I can't quite explain it.

Don't get me wrong, I love home - my family is here, its where I grew up, and many long time friends.  And Northern California is downright awesome.  I could not ask for a better place to call home.

AND yet... In just 5 short weeks I'll pack up two suitcases and fly several thousand miles away, 14 hours of plane travel and across an ocean.  I will go alone, and arrive to a country I've never been to and know virtually no one.  I will start from scratch, in pursuit of this idea of what I want my life to be like.
When Gabby moved several thousand miles away from her family to pursue her dream, she got homesick. She wanted to go home and back to her family, where things felt safe and certain (and she was like 13, remember).  I totally understand that (I'm 28 and 3/4).

I am having my own Olympic trials.

Where I'm at now is nice, and safe, and cozy, comfortable and beautiful.  I love visits with grandma, weekend trips to see my sister, mani/pedis with mom, visits with dad and the idea of sinking some roots and being more consistently part of the community here. Sounds good, right?

Let the Olympics begin!  It goes something like this:

Why am I leaving? maybe I should stay... I have it so good here.  Oooh airfare is so cheap in Europe,  Milan is only a $40 flight! Wow the beaches look awesome in Barcelona, I can't wait to see the Alhambra in Granada and wine tours and walk the Camino de Santiago... I wonder if I'll make friends with lots of Europeans? Or Spaniards? or expats?  Where will we eat dinner, whats the food like? is the wine really better?  I wonder what I'll do for my birthday, and Thanksgiving, I love my mom's stuffing, aw man I'll miss my nephews first Christmas, crap.

And if I stay? I'll miss all those experiences in Spain.

Allow me to say something very true, not that original, perhaps profound, I'm sure you've heard it before.

Life is full of sacrifices and hard decisions.  Waaaa

Sometimes you get a Gold medal and sometimes you just keep faith that the journey is all worth it.

(and confessions of Olympic trials of mental gymnastics!)

03 August 2012

What's in a name?

I need a bit of feedback...

I am working on moving my blog over to Wordpress and with that, I'm doing a bit of an inventory of, asking myself all sorts of questions such as... Whats this blog for? Whats my message? Who is my audience? Is the name transferrable over the next few years?  Is there a better name I could use for my site?

The main thing is, I am not quite sure if "Gringa" is going to work globally speaking... In the Western Hemisphere, it is a pretty commonly known word, not only in Central and South America but also North.   Now I am heading to Spain and I learn that gringa is not really used... instead they use the term "guiri" or "yankee" (Bleh!)  I really prefer gringa thank you...

I'm just wondering, maybe I'm over thinking it... but anyway I thought I'd write a post and see what you might have to say...

Any thoughts? Opinions? Speak now or forever hold your peace :)

14 July 2012

A journey to China

I went to China for 3 days.  It was absolutely impressive and eye opening.

Professor George Renwick was our guide, he masterfully wove a tapestry using threads from history, culture, politics, people, places, poetry, art, philosophy, past, present and future China...

He shared wisdoms from 2,500 years ago

He painted pictures and told stories

He taught us new words, their meanings, origins and symbols

He introduced us to Henry Kissinger, A Tiger Mother, diplomats, scientists and former Chinese presidents who shared their reflections on China and its people.

He told a story, painted images, and left us with wisdoms from 2,500 years ago

Now, I sit reflecting on everything that was presented.   We did not stick to the traditional US Cultural Style and try to move from Point A -----> Point B in a linear style.  Our discussions, his presentation and the topics flowed outwards and back around, in a circular motion.  Pulling things together, showing their reference, reliance upon each other and relationship.

Everything in China seems to be about relationship, symbols, meaning and connectedness.

The word for Morning, is the symbols for Tree + Sun together.  When is the Sun behind the Trees? in the morning...




The way to say "Hello" in Chinese is: nǐ hǎo

In Chinese the characters to write hǎo are two symbols together, woman + child.

So even represented in their language - that which is good shows the value of family, relationship and connectedness.

I learned about the importance to roles, duty and the collectivist perspective of life.   The importance of your role in a group and to play out your responsibilities.  That success for the group was success for everyone. That failure for one person, was failure for the group.  Furthermore, a group needs a defined, appointed leader - inherent in the unifying qualities of GROUP collectivity, an important role is a Single leader to give direction to the group.

I became extremely aware of how individualistic and completely direct I am as a US born and culturally educated person. For people in the US, the idea of a dictator and single leader is far more uncomfortable for us, than it is for the Chinese.  From their cultural perspective, this is a necessary and vital role for their system of organizing themselves.

A team without a leader, is not stable or secure - very important values for the Chinese.

We learned some impressive numbers as well!

- From 1950 - 1980 China doubled in population! It went from 500 million - 1 billion.  In the next 30 years 1980 - 2010 it has grown to 1.3billion
- In the last 20 years there has been a migration of 150million Chinese out of the rural inland areas and into more urban Eastern cities
- In the next 15 years, China will build ten new cities each the size of New York City
- 1/2 of the clothing provided to the entire world is Made in China
- 1/2 of the shoes provided to the world is Made in China
- 2/3 of DVD, Microwaves and Photocopiers provided to the world are Made in China

And perhaps one of my favorite tidbits, was that the Chinese are planning to build a GREEN CITY, outside of Shanghai on an island.  You are probably familiar with the impressive capacity of China of mass reproduction.  For many cultural and contextual reasons, this is very true.  For creating replication, first there must be a MODEL, and that is exactly what the Chinese are doing.  They are building an environmental, green city as a Model... and for future building projects city planners will be invited, not just from all over China, but from all over the world.

I hope you enjoyed your journey with me to China.

28 June 2012

Greener Me

When I was a kid I was an environmentalist.  I wanted to save the rainforest and the whales.  And be like my big sister who wrapped our Christmas presents in newspaper.   In high school my friends called me a hippie.  I ended up going to college in Santa Cruz - thinking I'd find others like me!  Well, I did and I didn't.  What happened was I found out ABOUT ME and how much of a certain type of environmentalist I really am not.

I don't like it when people will take their dogs to an acupuncturist but feel uncomfortable talking to a black person on the bus.  Or when someone will insist on an organic, gluten free, raw food, ayurvedic diet but smoke weed everyday.

Ok, I know, I know, there is hypocrisy everywhere, we are all guilty of it - duh, we are human.  What I didn't like was that there was this arrogance, or attitude around "I'm better than you because I care about the environment and show this by what I eat, where I shop and what I buy."  There is something wholly wrong with this attitude.

When I was in college I met a girl who considered herself a "freegan" instead of a "vegan"... She would eat vegan when she could, and then if something was going to waste (example: oops the restaurant forgot to leave the bacon off my salad) she wouldn't throw it out or freak out, but would eat it, because otherwise it would go in the trash.  If someone wasn't going to finish their burger, she'd take it home for dinner later.  She was against waste, not fanaticism.  I totally appreciated this perspective.

The crazy-over-the-top organic obsessed privileged rich white hippies in [__insert town name here__]/Santa Cruz totally jaded me. And I didn't want to be like them.  I stopped thinking of myself as an environmentalist.  Even though I still recycled, I didn't freak out if someone threw a can in the trash.  I never bragged about buying a natural, organic or eco product.  I decided that it's up to everyone to decide how they want to live and it's not up to me to preach about what I do or tell others how to be.

Just recently I have started blogging about natural living for a blog called KeenForGreen.com and have been doing quite a bit of research.  I realized that the green movement still has the nutsos out there (Gotta love Portlandia for making fun of these people!)

Now that I've been doing a lot of research on the chemicals in cosmetics, food, household cleaners and all the other unhealthy aspects of mass produced items - I'm getting back into the greener way of things.  And really enjoying it!  I take everything with a grain of salt- I prefer the laid back approach.  Do the best I can when I can, dont fret too much about it otherwise.  It's better to chose the lesser of two evils than obsess about perfection.  If others are interested in this information - they will ask or find it on their own.  No preaching necessary. 

I still think the yuppy-hippies in Santa Cruz are obnoxious.  Some things will never change :)

Check out what I've been writing on:

A Packing List for the Ecotourist and stay tuned for more!

05 June 2012

Election Day

Today is the primary election day in the United States.  And I can't help but have Mexico on my mind.  Their presidential elections are just weeks away... on July 1st.

It is an important event, because in Mexico a president only serves ONE term that last 6 years.  That way the incumbent president is not seeking re-election while they are trying to run the country.  I am no expert about Mexico, or their political system but I know a few things worth sharing:

(unofficial) GRINGA GUIDE TO 

There are currently three dominant political parties in Mexico, all of which are referred to by acronyms: the PRI, PAN and PRD.

Recent presidents of Mexico:

2006 - 2012: PAN Party / Felipe Calderon
2000 - 2006: PRD Party / Vicente Fox  
1928 - 2000: PRI  Party dominated the political scene

The 2000 elections were historic marking the moment Mexico no longer under the dictatorial rule of the PRI party.  Mexico was now a democracy.

For 2012 the two leading candidates up for election are:

          Enrique Peña Nieto of the PRI                            Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador of the PRD 

Obrador was the actual winner of the 2006 elections, the elections had been rigged and Calderon actually eluded to this during his acceptance speech!

There has been corruption and campaign sabotage during the last months as we inch closer and closer to yet another momental moment for Mexico.

Having the PRI back in power in Mexico, IS NOT GOOD.  As a friend of mine in Mexico said "I'm afraid we will lose what little progress we have made as a democracy if the PRI return to presidential power."

Overcoming the PRI's power hungry dominance in the country is still an uphill battle, the PRI holds power throughout local, state, and national-level offices.

A word or two on the PRI:

The PRI has been widely described as a coalition of networks of aspiring politicians seeking not only positions of power and prestige but also the concomitant opportunity for personal enrichment. At the highest levels of the political system, the major vehicles for corruption have been illegal landholdings and the manipulation of public-sector enterprises. In the lower reaches of the party and governmental hierarchies, the preferred methods of corruption have been bribery, charging the public for legally free public services, charging members of unions for positions, nepotism, and outright theft of public money.

Why I support the PRD:

The PRD is a revolutionary party born out of the political upheaval of the 1980s.  The PRD's party program emphasizes social welfare concerns and promotes economic nationalism, as opposed to the structural neoliberal changes that focus on increasing trade and foreign investment to boost the Mexican economy introduced by the PRI.

You might know about NAFTA - a disastrous neoliberal program created under the PRI - it is the North American Free Trade Agreement involving Mexico, the US and Canada.  This made the US rich, fast and was hugely beneficial at first, now its a mess.  If you need to know why NAFTA still sucks for everyone and has killed jobs in all three countries, read this.  The PRD seeks to boost Mexico's economic autonomy. A stronger healthier Mexico is a good thing.  A co-dependent unequal relationship with the US, bad news for everyone.

As Hilary Clinton recently commented - The PRI will return to presidential power in Mexico - over my dead body!

Please keep your ears open in the next 25 days leading to election day.

Change in Mexico = OBRADOR  2012 - 2018. 

Also, check out the ANTI-Peña Nieto student protest that has gone viral in the twittersphere - #YoSoy132

04 June 2012


I guess its time I came out with it.  It took me a minute to feel comfortable saying it.  But truth be known,
(as in Spain/España/Europe/OMG/WTF)

So, let me catch you up... Back in October I submitted an application to be a teaching assistant in Spain.  It was a "just in case" plan.  For those in my life that think I always have something up my sleeve, well this time it was Spain. oops.  Here we are in June and I have officially been accepted into the position. (bureaucracy in Spain is a little slow).

I have been finger printed, got an FBI report (no records uncovered, phew!), the Secretary of State gave me the official Apostille stamp, I have my four passport size photos, my visa application, official record of my health, immunizations and mental sanity (dumb luck), I have proof of employment, savings (pennies), income, planned travel itinerary (unplanned), a new passport (brand spankin new!), photocopies of passport, a money order for the visa, a visa appointment (July 3rd) and let me see...

Am I forgetting anything? Probably.

My employment is through a grant from the Ministry of Education - better known as the Language and Cultural Assistants of Spain program. The position is part time, so I am also actively seeking consulting and interning opportunities with SEITAR and other intercultural firms.  Of course I will also stay active with InterNations and you know me... networking like crazy :)

I am designing my new Madrid life via Pinterest --- and dancing around the blogosphere of expats in Spain... slowly its starting to feel REAL, but I still have a few months until I depart (in September).

As some of you know, I like to be warm (all the time).  I also like to be near the ocean (or at least water).  Madrid is neither near water or warm all the time.  So, it took my spoiled California gringa booty a moment to adjust to the idea of being in the MIDDLE of a country at 2,000ft above sea level sans agua. I had originally asked to be placed in Barcelona (partially because its called Barça for short, and I think the ç is really cool) and also because its near water and has a warmer climate.  However, the program was cancelled in Barça due to the financial crisis in Spain.  Oops.


I still have lots of things to figure out, like...

Where will I live?

What will my job be like?

Will I start speaking Spanish with a lisp

Will I root for Real Madrid or Barça?

Where do I begin?

(Wine regions of Spain)

Who will visit me first?