Hello, 2016

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The fireworks were great last night, but the moon was spectacular. I spent the last minutes of 2015 and the first two hours of 2016 gazing at the moon and stars with my cousins, and I honestly wouldn’t have it any other way. I know this gets used too often to the point of it becoming annoying, but I really do feel so incredibly fortunate. If this was Instagram, I would definitely #blessed this post.

Happy New Year, everybody. ūüôā

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25 things on my 25th birthday

I’m not entirely sure how I feel – that’s how I’ve been quite often these past couple of months. Initially, I wanted to write something profound and spectacular for today, but my mind never stays in one place long enough for me to write something about it – that’s been happening a lot too. And every time I pause and dwell on these two observations, I get mad at myself and at everything else because nothing rattles me more than not knowing, especially when it comes to myself. So I’ve decided to just grab a pen and paper, and list down everything and anything that comes to mind because for my 25th birthday, I don’t want to be mad… I want to be honest.

#1: The one thing I’m most thankful for at this very moment is my sister. At 12 midnight, when I was in bed and so ready to sleep, Karen jumped on me and hugged the life out of me to greet me a happy birthday. Sometimes, when she’s in an exceptionally good mood and needs to express it through physical contact, she inadvertently becomes physically abusive with me. Sometimes, when she’s in an exceptionally bad mood and needs someone to witness her rage, she demands I stop everything I’m doing to be that person. But always, and I mean¬†always, she is my rock.

#2: I wasn’t able to have a birthday breakfast because I woke up pretty late. But I had pizza for lunch. It was good pizza. And good pizza makes good birthdays.

#3: Halfway through the day, my mom asked me if I had already received a lot of greetings. I told her, without any hesitation or thought, “The people who matter already did so I’m good.”

#4: Up until that point, I had gotten less than ten greetings. I still keep my birthday hidden on my Facebook profile. So after thinking about that after my mom’s question, I felt good. I truly meant it. I am good.

#5: At work, Karen surprised me with my favorite cake and led all my students and co-teachers in singing Happy Birthday to me. I told you, she’s my rock.

#6: Aside from a chocolate mousse cake, I also received a new pair of red shoes (a first!), a good book and a coloring book. I’ve never expected gifts, but I’m always glad I get them anyway.

#7: My twin sister’s ex-boyfriend greeted me on Facebook. In his short post, he wrote, “Greet your sister for me.” That annoyed me. And since it’s¬†my birthday, I felt bolder than usual. I wrote back, “Thanks! Also, my sister has a name. And I’m sure you know what it is.” Did I mention he cheated on her and broke up with her on our birthday? He apologized. That felt good.

#8: I’ve now spent three consecutive birthdays without my twin sister. This is the only time I wish we spent it together. I’ve always thought that I know Kat more than she knows me and I was always fine with that. Meaning, I didn’t care if she knew me or not.¬†She acknowledged that when I visited her this past summer. But being with her for two months certainly brought us closer, and now I find myself wanting to literally grow old with her again. I find myself wanting her to know me the same way I know her.

#9: So naturally, I spent a huge part of the day¬†thinking of her and how she’s doing everything she’s always wanted to do. And how I’m not.

#10: Last year, I wrote on my journal that I’d be somewhere else by now, a place that is at least one step closer to where I want to be. But I’m still exactly where I was when I wrote that.

#11: I’ve never felt as stranded as I do right now. I know where I want to be and I know how to get there. And I know I can.

#12: You know what else I know? The future I want is a balloon, the hand on my shoulder is the same one that taught me how to walk, and what I have in my hand is a tiny needle. I can either pop the balloon or I can prick the hand and watch it bleed. Both will hurt my heart.

#13: I feel the desire to let out a hearty “Fuck it.” more now than I did before. It’s the only word that comes to mind when I think of balloons and needles.

#14: I cried a bit today. Balloons and needles.

#15: But when I think of anchors, “Fuck it.” is the last thing that comes to mind. My best friend telling me how she’s quite possibly the luckiest person in the world to have me as her anchor¬†is¬†my anchor today.

#16: Ironically, the hand on my shoulder is also my anchor today. Because no matter how they unknowingly pull me down, nothing lifts me higher than my family.

#17: If I get married, I probably won’t let my husband call me sweetheart. I am forever my dad’s sweetheart.

#18: I’m 25 years old, I’m still single and, surprisingly (to me), I’m still okay with it. I think about love a lot more than I used to and I miss it more often than I normally do. But I look at my grandparents, who are sitting across from me at my birthday dinner, and I know I’d rather be single for the rest of my life than not have a relationship that is, at the very least, remotely similar to theirs.

#19: However, I’m hoping that won’t be the case because I like hugs, holding hands and long walks on the beach. And I can’t cook. So I agreed to a deal with my cousins. If I’m still single by the time I turn 27, I will sign up for eHarmony.

#20: Honestly, I’m hoping it doesn’t come to that.

#21: Earlier today, I was also hoping for Chili’s Molten Chocolate Cake… And I got it! I got it because when my parents asked me what I wanted, that was my answer and they gave it to me.

#22: So maybe, I should just ask again. Their answer could be different. Their answer could be the same. I wouldn’t know unless I talk to them, wouldn’t I?

#23: Today I gave myself two gifts. The first one is self-pity. I got so tired of programming myself into seeing the glass half full that I smashed the glass into pieces so that there wouldn’t even be anything to look at. The second one – and I think this is the better one – is hope. False hope? Fake hope? Temporary hope? I honestly don’t know.

#24: I’ve said this before: Sometimes, I struggle with hope. And sometimes, I struggle, with hope. I’m not going to lie. Today and in days to come, hope will come and go. But today, and hopefully in days to come, I will choose to keep struggling.

#25: After all this, would you believe me if I say I still had a good birthday? Because I did. My 24th was full of happy things.¬†My 25th had pizza, chocolate cakes, a midlife crisis, a good cry, my family and Karen. So I’m still good…. honest. ūüôā

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Karen. 12 midnight, September 17

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.

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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:

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Oregon road, July 2015

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 Рfrom 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:

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

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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/.

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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.