Saturday, October 27, 2007

On heartache and goosebumps

"And right there, your heart shatters and cries a million tears for the injustices of this world."

Four adults sat in a circle, each clutching either an arm or a leg of the child in the center, naked, not yet of walking age, stretched out on the dirt floor. A fifth party held a thin, primitive metal stick, crudely sharpened at one end with which they proceeded to mercilessly scrape the baby's bare chest, carving designs and symbols unintelligible to my incredulous eyes held captive to the screen. Blood everywhere. The pained screams of the infant reflectively echoed the ones my quickly clapped hand kept from escaping from my own mouth. Despite the grainy quality of the footage, the images wove an ensnaring web of freezing repugnance that bound me restrictively from looking away, from too easily clicking the exit button. This continued for century- long minutes. I sat in stunned silence in the aftermath of the video. Then I frantically ran to the bathroom for fear my horror was about to manifest itself in vomit form. I hovered over the porcelain sink and warily glanced at my surroundings. How could it be that I was existing so comfortably in the very same world as that child victim of 'traditional' mutilation?

I returned to my desk and with a deep breath inserted the next CDROM. This time it was a video about Leedah, an eleven-year-old girl from Cambodia left home alone to take care of her two younger brothers and carry the duty of all other chores, while still attempting to attend school. Then a documentary of an illegal immigrant's risk-riddled journey from Honduras to the Arizona-Mexico border in a last resort's endeavor to feed his dying mother and eight famished children. Then the "stereotypical" images of languid bloated babies and swarming flies in an African country--your pick; effects of the indiscriminately ravaging HIV/AIDS epidemic. Then an eerie account of a young girl whose impoverished desperation unsightingly lured her into the brutally miserable bondage of prostitution. Then the story of...I glanced at the preliminary stack of CDs. After seven hours, I had barely made a dent in all I was to categorize. My heart trembled at the prospects of what still lay ahead and you can be sure the goosebumps never left me.

The Amazon River divide never seemed so indubitably wide as when I was sitting in the UNICEF office today, staring hollowly at the computer screen. Those who have seen Motorcycle Diaries will know what I'm talking about. Separating the north from south, east from west, ill from healthy, developed from developing.

Maybe at the surface level, it's just the Hollywood glamorized adventures of Che Guevara. But I want that life in real. I want to live for swimming across. With the shitty asthmatic lungs, the mysteriously unknown creatures lurking about, the pitch black blinding obscurity of night; to laugh in the face of murky, lurid uncertainty and all those who say it can't be done. I want to live for bridging the gap. And actually do it.

"Is this not the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free and break every yoke?
Is it not to share your food with the hungry
and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter--
when you see the naked, to clothe him,
and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?
Then your light will break forth like the dawn,
and your healing will quickly appear;
then your righteousness will go before you,
and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard.
Then you will call, and the Lord will answer,
you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.

'If you do away with the yoke of oppression,
with the pointing finger and malicious talks,
and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry
and satisfy the needs of the oppressed,
then your light will rise in the darkness,
and your night will become like the noonday.
The Lord will guide you always
he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land
and will strengthen your frame.
You will be like a well-watered garden,
like a spring whose waters never fail.
Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins
and will raise up the age-old foundations;
you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls,
Restorer of Streets with Dwellings."
--Isaiah 58: 6-12

This is the fast that I have chosen.
This is what I want to live for and this is what I want to be about.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Sitges or Leeches?

After planning countless trips and having none pan out, we finally made it somewhere! Not without a great deal of difficulty, of course, as has become typical of any endeavors on our parts. The unreliable train system in Barcelona made for a complicatedly lengthy voyage to Sitges, supposedly only about a 30-45 minute ride (it took us 3 hours), but it was well worth all the confusion and extra waiting.

Now that we are working girls in addition to diligent students Monday-Friday, we have learned to truly appreciate our weekends. And Saturday was certainly spent the right way: relaxing, relaxing, relaxing. Sitges was BEAUTIFUL. It's a ritzy beach town of breath-taking scenery and great ambiance. No hoards of obnoxious tourists, the sea water was actually clear, and the weather just happened to be absolutely perfect. Peaceful naps on the rock pier with iPods soothingly playing, leisurely walks along the boardwalk, delicious gelato on the beach steps, coffee and journaling time at a cafe, little extravaganza frolicks here and there, and a constant sense of awe at all the gorgeous surroundings--the mansions, the old churches, the fancy restaurants, the quaint streets--kept us more than sufficiently occupied. Not to mention, refreshed. Definitely a place we will be frequenting in the coming months.

Mmmm, enjoy...
Satisfaction and utter contentment.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Study Hard and Play...Safe?

There's nothing like going to a school that truly cares. When we first visited the campus for orientation, we were given free, decent quality backpacks. Pretty sweet. During the first few weeks of school, we were also bestowed with "trapper keepers" and class catalogues. Not bad. But today was definitely the winner. An eager group of be-mulleted students were enthusiastically handing out bright yellow plastic bags emblazoned with the words "Welcome Pack" in English. A particularly dred-locked guy thrust one at me as I exited the train.
Free stuff? Sure, why not.

I had some time to kill before class, so I sat down to see what awaited me in the bag of, um, goodies...

First up, Red Bull and a Kellogg's granola bar. Nice.
Food and drink always work for me.
Next, a strange jar of "ensaladilla," apparently some sort of sandwich spread of tuna, olives, carrots, hard boiled eggs, mayonnaise, and 'guisantes,' which I'm assuming are peas.
Although, it concerns me that the word 'guisante' is so dangerously close to 'gusano,' and after opening the bottle, I wouldn't be surprised if it were a typo. What makes the below picture even better: the brown stuff was spongy to the touch. Take that as you will.Then after reviewing a brochure for a Mexican bar (featuring "aguacate gratis!") and a foldable cell phone holder from Banco Sabadell, I pulled out a 'Cristal Gel' pen. Oooo. Just in case I try to fit some homework in between all the tacos and chatting. Or something. Also included: a lighter so I can actually facilitate needs every time a guy asks me for a light (uh, not) and a card for something rather scandalous (no sarcasm there).At this point, I assumed I had emptied the treasure trove,
but just as I thought the fun had ended, out came this:A pamphlet offering a chance to win a vacation to the Caribbean accompanied by none other than...a four-pack of condoms. Huh.

Now I can officially reassure my parents. Oh, don't worry, Mami, we're all just here in Spain studying a little and...ehh, staying "safe."



Wednesday, October 17, 2007

But I'm from San Diego...

I woke up at 7 this morning and was quietly scuttling around the room getting ready for work when my ear caught wind of ominous liquidous sounds coming from outside the window. I peeked around the curtain to discover to my absolute dismay that despite it being perfectly sunny yesterday, it was presently POURING rain. Booo.

I guess it wouldn't be so bad if I actually owned an umbrella. Or any articles of weather-appropriate clothing. The only shoes I brought, or that I own, for that matter, that are remotely rain-worthy are my Converses [give me a break, I'm Californian and I go to UCSD. I don't ever wear anything besides Rainbows year 'round (which in a further sidenote are currently sitting in a hidden compartment under my bed, complete in an irrevocable state of death from an ugly rotting sequence caused by the last storm I got caught in. Moody Spanish weather, how I loathe you...)]. No mind the "minor details" that cloth soaks up water and I can't pull them off with my dress clothes for work. Yesssz (that's right, I just used a "z").

Needless to say, it was an adventure getting to work this morning. Woot woot. Shrouded in my winter coat that was 37 degrees too warm, huddled feebly under the hood, I scurried (as quickly as I could without actually slipping and dying) to the metro station, trudging through puddles and mud in my open-toed, high heeled dress shoes. Then I loaded myself onto the metro that was packed like a cattle car of epic morning rush hour proportions and fought for a handle to hold onto. I also had to search for a free spot of space to focus my eyes so as not to be constantly accidentally making awkward eye contact with every stranger on the train. Slim pickings. I settled for staring at my reflection in the window, studying the mountainous bags under my eyes. Where did those come from? I then also noted that I forgot to do something about my hair, as it was in the same bed-smushed shape as when I rolled over to turn off my alarm and got out of bed and changed and brushed my teeth and made breakfast and left the piso and...

Before I could dwell on the state of my bed head any longer, the metro started, causing me to nearly kill eight people and incite an impressive domino reaction of the survivors in a failed attempt to battle sideways motion in my heels. Verguenza China en mi cabeza, as Sierra would say. Those next six stops never seemed so long. At least I managed to get off on the right stop though today (um, so, I wasn't paying attention on Monday and...).

Also. Normal people usually shave time off their commutes the more familiar they become with their routes. I, on the other hand, belong to my own idiot population that manages to progressively ADD more time, as I keep getting more lost walking to the office with each passing day. What?!? I don't know. I do know that today was possibly the worst day to add an extra forty minutes of wandering. Contrary to popular thought, slogging is actually not a preferred pastime of mine. Where is Geoffrey, aka: my personal GPS, when I need him?

It's now 2 in the afternoon and there is still this rank, damp smell emanating from the ends of my soggy pants that I dragged around the flooded sidewalks this morning. Even heels can't solve my height and shopping-for-but-never-finding-pants-the-right-length predicament. Oh, genetics. Why did you forsake me? Breaking news: I also just went to the kitchen to procure myself some caffeine and completely FELL ON MY FACE, after blissfully floating in and disregarding the huge dip in the wooden floor planks, crashing to the ground for all to hear. So much for not flopping all over the office. Shall I ever outgrow this klutziness? (That was rhetorical, thank you.)

Ahhh, nothing like a normal day in the life of Llorena (Catalan and not pronounced Yor-en-ah).

As you can see, the gloom and doom has fortunately NOT dampened my sense of humor, sharp wit, and biting sarcasm. Hahaha. ... Who do I think I am? (Thank you, Grace Lee, for that wonderful line.) No, I'm not bitter at all. I just thoroughly enjoy concocting dripping accounts of my generally dry mornings as I sit at work awaiting my next project and my pants to reach a state of Southern California goodness. All puns intended.

In the meantime, stay classy San Diego and relish your stupid sunshine. :)

Your favorite pasty face

Monday, October 15, 2007

Jazz, please.

After last weekend's clubbing fiasco (I seriously almost flew back home to San Diego), I was sure I was 99% idiot to even dare to venture out again. Fortunately, idiocy in this case proved to be a good strain of crazy. Sierra and I spent our Saturday night reveling in an absolutely incredible Latin Jazz concert at the Jamboree club in Placa Reial. I feel like such a moldy for enjoying it so thoroughly as the crowd was visibly much, much older, but no matter--I can honestly say it was the best weekend night I've had in Barcelona. Highlights of the evening: 1) Good, clean, classy entertainment in a small, intimate venue. The solos and musical genius were awe-striking. 2) There was not one single drop of alcohol involved. 3) We didn't have to wait for the metro to reopen at 5AM and get home after the crack of dawn. 4) We even ate! (Hey, eating is truly a significant event here.) 5) All for the total expense of just ten euros. Mmhm. That is how we do. I'm so taking my dad when he comes. And winter break? Get ready, guys, we're going.

Ohhh yes.