Tasting freedom, and then letting it go

I didn’t want to write about my two months away right after I got back. I was still on a high. And home felt like rehab.

I didn’t want to write about home that way. I didn’t want to be that person who goes away for awhile, and comes back high and mighty, suddenly feeling like she deserves more than the life she has now.

So I waited. I waited for the bitterness – I guess that’s what it is – of coming “back to reality” to fade away until the acceptance of the reality of what was and what is settled in. It’s in this frame of mind that I am writing now.

There’s no more bitterness. Only longing.

I realize now that I’d never really experienced true freedom until two months ago, when I was thousands of miles away from home. I’m not talking about freedom to do whatever I want whenever I want. I’ve grown up enough to know that’s something I can live without.

The kind of freedom I lived with in the two months I was away is something else entirely. It’s freedom from fear – fear of disappointing watchful eyes, freedom from approval I don’t even think I want sometimes.

It’s also the kind of freedom that just can’t be found here at home. And if I’m being honest, I still don’t know how to feel about that. I love home. I love that I get to be with family. And, to me, home and family are the two things that are worth letting go of freedom for… It’s just that there are things about home and family that make me long for the two months I spent away from them.

There isn’t any bitterness. There’s just moments of loneliness – I feel lonely because I miss being alone. I’m not sure if that makes any sense to you, but it does to me.

On the edge of the Pacific Ocean, breathing and loving life – Oregon, July 2015

Hello again

It’s been almost two months since my last post, and 15 days since I got home from my two-month vacation. I actually feel weird typing this now, kind of like riding a bike again after ten years (which is what happened in Cartagena).

A lot of things happened. I don’t know where to begin… which is perfectly fine because, to be honest, I don’t feel like writing about any of them now. I’m not sure how I’ll feel when I do.

All I can say for now is that as much as I tried to keep it from happening, I came back a different person than I was when I left.

And I’m still not sure if that’s a good thing. And I’m not sure what I’m feeling.

But if my feelings were a photo, this is probably what it would be:

Oregon road, July 2015

My twin sister is in love

She doesn’t know it yet. But I do.

Three days after I arrived here in California, Kat, my twin sister, brought me to her Bible study and introduced me to her group of friends. I went not knowing anything about any of them, and I left feeling something was brewing between Kat and one of the guys there named Adam.

It was the way their gaze always fell to the other when they talked. There was something in the way they looked at one another, like with a smile in their eyes.

Since then, I’ve seen Adam three more times and in those three times, I was left feeling more and more confident that these two not only like each other but also would be so insanely and unbelievably great for each other.

Initially, I resolved to keep my thoughts and observations to myself for a number of reasons. One, I didn’t want her to start feeling self-conscious whenever I’m with them. Two, Kat is the type of person who doesn’t talk about feelings and wouldn’t appreciate it if you force her to. And three, I wasn’t even sure if she herself knows she likes him.

Until five days ago.

She went go-karting with her Bible study group while I was at our cousins’ place. When we all met up for lunch the next day, we found out that she and Adam spent hours just talking at the parking lot of K1…until two in the freaking morning! According to her, they genuinely lost track of time. And we believe her, which is why the floodgates of unrelenting teasing and persistent questioning have been thrown wide open.

Yesterday, she finally admitted to liking him. “But just like,” she said. That I don’t believe.

She’s in love. I see it in the way she tries desperately to not talk about him, in the way she just lights up whenever she ends up talking about him anyway. I see it when they talk and she discovers they have another bizarre thing in common. I see it in the things that might be too little to be noticed by anyone else.

I can also see that she’s a bit terrified. I’m not sure what she’s more scared of – that he might not like her back or that he might actually do. And from what I’ve seen so far, I’m pretty sure it’s the latter. And not to brag or anything but I have correctly predicted my ex-boyfriend’s present girlfriend so I’ve proven that my gut feeling can be right.

I’m just genuinely excited for her. After years of focusing completely on her studies and career, she so deserves the butterflies in her stomach, the late night parking lot conversations and a chance at having a guy who is really good for her heart.

My aunt, uncle and I interrogating her. Seriously.

Cartagena, Colombia in photos

It’s been a week since my 7-day trip to Cartagena, but I can still vividly remember the sheer happiness I felt every single day I was there.

I loved the culture, so similar to my own but at the same time so different as well. I loved the food! Oh my goodness, the food! My cousins and I couldn’t get enough of the fish dishes, the arepas, the empanadas, the plantains and the limonadas. I loved the people – always smiling even though my Spanish was terrible.

But most of all, I was just totally captivated by its beauty. We spent most of our days walking around and beyond the Walled City, and even under the intense heat and humidity, it was impossible to ignore the charm of the city – from the colorful, colonial houses and the cobblestone streets to the old churches and historical plazas. Everything about the city transported us to a completely different world. It was, to put it simply, amazing.

For those who need to see to believe, here’s proof:

Cartagena street 1
I want to move in!
Cartagena street 2
Cartagena street 3 and me
Con mis chicas en una puerta en Cartagena
Cartagena street 4
Cartagena street 5
A local artist, so unbelievably talented
Cartagena street 6
A beautiful cafe and bookstore
A very charming local who serenaded us during dinner
Plaza Santo Domingo at one in the morning
Dolphins at Isla Del Rosario
Playa Blanca

Special note A: We enjoyed our stay at the Calamari Hostal Boutique. The staff was very hospitable and friendly. They knew little English which was fine with me since I got to actually use my Spanish. Their rooms are nicely decorated and spacious. And compared to the other places inside the Walled City, their prices are more affordable.

My cousins and I in front of Calamari Boutique

Special note B: My cousin and I paid a visit to Fundacion La Vecina, a non-profit that provides education to the kids of Cartagena who can’t afford to go to good schools. During our visit, we met some of the happiest and most polite kids we’ve ever met. To learn more about them, visit their website: http://www.fundacionlavecina.com/.

With the adorable and delightful kids of Fundacion La Vecina

Muchas gracias, Colombia. I love you immensely. I cannot wait to come back and explore the rest of your beautiful country. I have my sights set on Bogota and Medellin.



There’s nothing more complicated than family

For a number of reasons:

First, we don’t get to choose our family so the chances of us ending up with people we won’t get along with are high.

Second, we can meet literally hundreds and thousands of people throughout our life but it will never change the fact that we will never meet anyone more different from us than family members, whether it be a crazy uncle, a weird cousin or an annoying sibling.

Third, no matter how many reunions we skip, we can never truly escape from said crazy uncle, weird cousin and annoying sibling.

Fourth, we know blood is thicker than water but no one ever tells us what the guidelines are when it’s blood against blood.

Fifth, we love them while we hate them, and we don’t know which one to base our actions on first.

Sixth, no matter how much we hate them, at the end of the day we love them so much that we don’t want them to hate us, so we end up doing something we hate to keep them happy.

Basically, what I’m trying to say is this supposedly wonderful and exciting vacation of mine is turning out to be extremely complicated. And I just want to rent a car, drive to the Grand Canyon, take a breath and scream out all the frustrations I have with this family I love so damn much.

Thinking in the dark

When I was a kid I always left a light on at night. I saw an episode of Ripley’s Believe It or Not where they showed what was left of a woman who was buried alive, and after that I couldn’t sleep in the dark anymore. I was afraid that I’d wake up locked inside a coffin.

I find it funny how I went from that to this, to feeling at peace in moments like this where all I’m left with are the darkness and my thoughts. I feel safe, protected from people’s judgment and sometimes my own.

I think of all the wonderful memories I had been blessed with, and I smile because it always feels nice to know that regardless of present circumstances there has been goodness in my life. It gives me hope that goodness will still come.

I think of the things I never should have done and I cringe because no amount of thinking could ever undo them. But I always make sure not to entertain those thoughts too long so I push them away in a corner.

And I think about the people I love and what I love or hate about them. Either way, I always think of how crazy amazing it is that I have them in my life. Sometimes, I find it unbelievable that I’m loved by the people I love and that I love the people who love me.

I think about my fears but instead of the darkness fueling them, it swallows them up one by one until the only thing left is my confidence to overcome them.

And then I think of my future and the things I hope it brings with it – fulfilled dreams, accomplished goals, exciting adventures, a really good job and, on sentimental nights like this, a genuinely good guy. On nights like this, the endless possibilities of the unknown excite me more than they terrify me. So I keep myself consumed with these thoughts until my thoughts turn into dreams. I love that. I love falling asleep to the images of the future I want for myself.

And I love thinking in the dark. It’s when my thoughts are the loudest.