Saturday, November 9, 2013

two faces

Randomly found this draft and decided to post it. I think it was written sometime last fall of 2012...

So today is Saturday and I have a final on Tuesday morning. I'm not terribly prepared for it, but for some reason, I'm not crazy stressed out? I don't know, I guess, I've just had a lot on my mind lately. Namely, this concept of two faces.

I'm not really sure what I mean by it, to be honest. It's just been two words I've been mulling over. Like, there's one face that most everyone sees, and then there's another face, that which I don't know really anyone else knows. I thought someone last year might have, but no one now. I think.

I could be wrong.

But maybe not.

Recently there was a post by a blogger here at MIT and it went viral. Everyone was talking about how brave she was, and she is, don't get me wrong, to write such a raw piece about what life is like here. [Funny enough, I now have the honor of knowing the author of the post to which I'm referring and she's amazing. What a pleasure it is to have gotten to present with her to the freshmen this past orientation.] At times beautiful. Other times abismal. Like migraines. Migraines are abismal to me. Incapable of being escaped. And like migraines, the only thing you feel after a bad day here is exhausted and scared of the next one. Sure, you appreciate the better times, but you're oh-so-aware of just how dark things can get.

So how does this relate to two faces? Well, I've always tried to be open from day 1 here, when I'm struggling, and people ask how I'm doing, I let them know. But for the most part I don't think people realize how I feel. I don't mean to be preppy or stuck up, but I would say I know a good amount of people and/or know me. I don't know, I just... befriend strangers. I like getting to know people. People. They're my hobby. My interest, my... "piano" if you will... some people play the piano, can sing really well, rock their exams, build robots, something-- I like people. Maybe this is me living a complacent life. I guess that's my biggest struggle right now, I feel like I don't have a refined skill-- I don't have my piano.

Anyway, back to my point about two faces. A lot of people know me, or at least, know the public me. I try my best to be pretty genuine, so the public me for the most part is a good representation of who I really am. But there is a lot to be said for being the "life of the party" as a means of staying reserved and  private. Like, sometimes there is a room full of people, friends and new acquaintances, and I just really don't want to go in. I start hating the idea of walking in for some reason, then start getting frustrated with myself about not wanting to walk in, and then get even more upset that I am getting upset at myself getting upset furthering myself in a downward spiral into this funk. They don't happen often, but they happen, and I would bet many of my friends would never have guessed I experienced said moments of panic about social interactions. Again, sides to me that no one knows about.

And like health and family background and stuff. I've had to deal with a lot of crap in my life but I make a point of not talking about it not as source of embarrassment (like, sure, I'm not proud of my father, but that's not the main reason I don't talk about him. likewise being diagnosed with AS or anything else of the plethora of health issues). It's more me being stubborn actually. I don't like to let people know about the things which would probably provoke pity because I don't want their pity. I think at the end of the day, we all want respect. And if someone gives me a hard time I don't want them to stop for any other reason than realizing that I deserve their respect-- not pity.

It just ended abruptly, but figured I'd post it anyway...

Sunday, September 29, 2013

An Ode To Coming Fall

amongst the leaves

with each passing day your approach is ever clearer,
as the day's light grows shorter and the chill in the breeze hardens.
looking out of the window spurs a chill to my soul,
all clear-- all there-- all unknown.

I wish I had the time to sit,
and think amongst the leaves.
I do, but I don't make it,
instead I pack my bag and carry on.

some view them as trash, to be raked and bagged,
but I rather like the hustling song of former symbols of life,
caught up in a lively jig with the unseen.
I too long to dance the way the multi-colored carbon angels do,
light and wistful; carefree and with a smile; content.

where they will land, where they will go, where they will perish,
no one knows-- except for me.
I chase them all with arms extended and eyes closed,
but I dare not capture them-- like butterflies, they deserve freedom.

I enjoy their beauty and what I can learn from them,
how to dance; how to fly; how to be.
there is much to be learned from books,
and leaves.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Day 18: Bread

Egad! It's been a while. Well, I have been thinking about a lot of things I'd like write about, so you're in for a treat! Well... at least a lot of rambling. I'll let you decide whether or not it's a delight to read. In an effort to organize though (and make myself feel better about having my "Day x:" count go up and not just one massively long post) I'm going to write about said thoughts in several days' posts. For starters, let's talk about Giancarlo's 2 Fridays ago...

The afternoon started like any other, I arrive, exchange the perfunctory (really, that's rather negative, I just wanted to practice my GRE words, I just mean to say ordinary/routine) hellos, pop on an apron and escape to my comfort zone of being behind the counter, in my own little world making ravioli. It's amazing how calming that task has become... a little boring, but that's a good thing! If I carried on with this infatuation to the extent I had started out with, I'd be a little concerned that I'd not see the point in going on for my masters/advance education somewhere. So there! How do you like that "the glass is half full" mentality? (Trick question, the glass is twice as large as it needs to be... yeah, I just went there. All you engineers who know that joke out there, you know I had to though. C'mon!)

So there I am, making some ravioli, then doing a crap ton of potato and carrot prep and I realize that there's a BUNCH of dough sitting in this bin. Like, you could lose a small dog/child in this garbage bin (used only for dough!!) of dough. No joke. I'm all content thinking about the meaning of my life and where I will go if I don't get into MIT for my masters (another blog post, but I'm at peace with the possibility...sorta...) when Leo, the real chef behind the scenes/co-chef with Chef*, says that he's going home. I look up a little surprised and realized that it's 2:30 (we close for lunch at 2, open for dinner at 5). Ah yes! My favorite time of the day. Normally I'll come in around 12 or so and stay until whenever there's a lull but usually about 4pm. I like it this way because generally there isn't the distraction of customers and I get to cook in a professional sized kitchen in peace with Leo, Joe, and Chef. Then about 2:30 Joe and Leo leave normally and I have like a solid hour or two of making ravioli or doing veggie prep all to myself. I'd say about 70% of the time I get some one-on-one time with Chef and it's awesome because he doesn't have to worry about entertaining his customers like he does at night. But alas, I diverge...

Where was I? Ah, right-- Leo leaving. So Leo leaves (but he always comes back ~4:15 to prep for dinner) and Chef comes out "Oh! Chiachia, you're here! Exshellent,  we'll make bread." *Enter Marcus, the business partner and super sweet, Swiss man with a funny accent* "Giaca, we need to go! Oh hi dear! How are you? Giaca, you ready?" "Oh, you know what, Chiachia? I have to go pick up some things with Marcus. I'll show you how to make the bread, but then you can make it, ok?"

WAIT. WUT? ME? MAKE THE BREAD?

Background.

Fridays are the days for making bread. I don't mean just Friday's bread, I mean ALL OF THE BREAD EVER. At least for the whole weekend and normally it's expected to last through Monday's dinner. This is the bread that people get served when they're hungrily figuring out what to order and bickering among themselves as to why they didn't come earlier to avoid the crowd and then they wouldn't be so hungry trying to figure out what to eat... Needless to say, this bread sorta is a big deal. A deal he's just dropped in my lap.

So, for the remaining 7.3 minutes attention I had of Chef I tried with all my might to kick myself in MIT mode on hyperdrive and learn how to fold, kneed, tuck, roll, and baste the bread. Oh yeah, and off the cuff as he was walking he said "Oh, and why don't you make one flavor garlic and rosemary, one onion and rosemary, and another plain with black seasame seeds on top? Grazie! Ciaooo" And he mentioned something about properly trim the rosemary so that I still had the main stems to use as shish kabob skewers for dinner later that night.

Talk about a "here ya go!" *kicked out of nest, OH PLEASE GOD, WINGS DON'T FAIL ME NOW* moment...

So I weighed, kneeded, spiced, tucked, rolled, and lathered in butter that dough like it was no body's business. The rest of the staff arrived around 4:15pm and were surprised to find that I was the only one there and that I was making the bread-- rather calmly too. In the end, I got the 4 cookie trays full of bread rolls made, buttered, wrapped, and left to rise by like 4:30. It only took me just over an hour to make the bread, not bad for a rookie, I'd say. I then hurriedly left instructions to put the bread in the over after 4:45 and I quickly dashed home to eat, change clothes, and de-flour myself, not necessarily in that order.

The biggest compliment (in case I didn't express it, Giancarlo trusting me enough to make the bread right was a huge compliment in my eyes... that or he's just another crazy Italian chef who says "eh! Here, drink some wine, be merry, worry not..." but from what I gather he can be a bit of a hardass to work for) came when I returned that night. I walked in and one of the bussers was like "I heard you made the bread? It was really good!!" :D She liked my bread?! *Puffs out chest*

I realized an important lesson in that brief moment of panic: MIT has cultivated me well. I might not know how to solve a book problem from any of my classes, but MIT saw what potential lay within me in a dormant stage and knew what was to grow from it. It is my own ability. MIT didn't really "teach" me this, but rather, in a truly Socratic way, lead me to this realization through a series of trials and tribulations, questions and seeking of knowledge, until such a glorious realization occurred. It has taken me several years and much much thinking, but I am slowly realizing all that I can accomplish. While this is just the tip of the iceburg of a much more in depth blog post, one that is surely going to come soon, I promise, this moment of "HOLY CRAP. Someone's business is depending on me paying attention and performing well. I must focus and learn exactly what he's teaching me in the next 7 minutes" that I learned I really can be a badass if I want to. I just need the right motivation.

Type more soon! Computer is about to die. :)

Much love,
Chacha


*I know it's funny sounding to call Giancarlo "Chef" but seriously, "Giancarlo" is so dang long! It's 3 syllables! No seriously, try shouting that when you have three pots boiling over or you need his attention over the sound of a roaring hood vent and fire/stone pizza oven thing. It gets tiring! Chef is so much easier, plus, every time I yell "Yes Chef!" I feel like I'm living real-life K-dramas. (Bro, Casey, mom, and Aug, ya'll can feel me, I know!)

P.S. Oh, and in case you're wondering, to get a nice roll, you kneed it some, push it out/smoosh it with your fingers to a square, then fold in the sides and roll. With each roll, you tuck in the sides so the "hair" (note: Chef kept on saying "tuck so the hair has a way out" and I was like "WTF, ew, yeah, you really don't want hair in your bread" to myself. When finally I realized he meant "air" LOL) is forced out or something. You tightly tightly TIGHTLY roll and tuck each little bit and then you place the roll with the seam down. Baste in a crap ton of melted butter and sprinkle with some black seasame seed for funsies.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Day 17: Some foodporn

Here are some pictures of food I made or pictures I took of food while in Italy.

A surprise visit of some family just got into town, yay! :) So I'm gonna go be social.

Peace,
Chacha

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Day 16: Giancarlo's

So you remember me mentioning how I was hoping to shadow a local Italian chef this summer? Well, I did it! :D I went in to talk to Giancarlo and pick his brain about schools in Italy and the next I came back he invited me behind the bar to help him make bread! After that I learned to make mushroom ravioli, lobster ravioli, cream puffs, and braciole! Almost every day since last Thursday I've gone in during the afternoon, thrown on an apron, and gotten to make delicious foods.

You may also recall how I had a bit of a meltdown during this past semester when I realized that what I wanted to do (shadow a chef and get away from MIT) did not necessarily coincide with the norm. Most  of my friends are off doing awesome internships and making money. And while it's a lot easier for me to say that I'm extremely happy with my decision now (I got to help put up drywall for a ceiling at a house for Habitat earlier this morning, go to lunch with Mike and Myla, see the kiddos afterward for "kissy monster" time, and am literally in a swim suit sun bathing as I type this), it was a hard challenge to not feel inferior among my peers while I was back at school. My decision to come home has been more relaxing, rewarding, and hermit-like than I anticipated-- and I am so grateful that I had the guts to say "guys, I need a break." I'm a heck of a lot more content just being alone and making my decisions without second guessing what others want from me. Furthermore, I'm happy that I gave myself the respect to realize that my passion isn't just  building robots/being an academic. My happiness is significantly increased whenever I'm cooking/around food. With this realization and Mike's suggestion, I've decided to launch an Indiegogo campaign to hopefully get help funding my dream of enrolling in a culinary academy in Italy during my gap year after I graduate from MIT before I start my masters program (hopefully at MIT). Given that from my rough estimate it's going to cost about $30K for the whole year abroad (flight, tuition, housing, living expenses), me not working this summer is rather nerve wracking. But, where there's a will, there's a way. Right? And if there's one thing I've learned from my mom's jokes about my pestering for something, it's that when I want something, I won't stop until I get it. Period.

So you may be wondering, what sparked this renewed enthusiasm, what rekindled the flame (now freaking BONFIRE) of determination? In a word:

Giancarlo's

One of my earliest items added to my bucketlist (if not the first, seriously) was owning a restaurant/cafe and living in the flat above it. I realized that owning such an establishment might be too stressful and thus changed that item to "befriending someone who owns a restaurant to level of comfort where I am able to walk into the back and make myself something to eat." 

Yesterday for lunch after making a crap ton of ravioli, I made myself a arugula with gorgonzola, mozzarella, blue cheese salad, topped with candied walnuts, mango, apple slices, and some beets, all lightly drizzled in a fig vinegar.

I'M FULFILLING A BUCKETLIST ITEM AT THE AGE OF 20! Seriously, it's freaking awesome. I never imagined I'd get to fulfilling stuff on that list, and especially not an item as epic as this one, until like, I don't know, at least post undergrad. I'm not getting paid a cent, but I'm so giddy about work each time I go in, I don't even notice! I even love peeling a 5 gallon bucket of potatoes! WHO DOES THAT?! I do. And I do it with a smile and some dance moves to whatever (generally mexican) music is playing. 

Interestingly enough, Leonardo (Leo is a fellow cook who really does most of the food/dish making, if not all, during lunch hours and is one of three chefs during dinner, Giancarlo and Guillermo being the other two) asked me if I liked working there yesterday and I said yes. He asked me "why?" I was caught off guard. The sincerity with which he asked seemed genuinely curious. I always start each evening before we open for dinner by asking the chefs "are you excited?! I am! It's ok, I'll be excited for us all." and I guess that maybe provoked the question? It makes sense. I'm not making any money and I get so tired/my back aches enough (oh joy arthritis, how to suck the fun out of some things sometimes! :P) that I have to stop and do some stretching before I can continue on. I don't know, I just, I've never enjoyed "going to work" so much in life. I responded to his question with "At school, it's really hard. I have think with my brain A LOT... all the time... and no matter how hard I try, I always feel dumb. I always feel like everyone else is smarter than me. But here? In the kitchen? I feel content. I feel like, I have a task, however small, and I can do it well." I've been thinking about that response a lot lately. I realized that I initially responded with that because I wasn't sure how to respond. To stop and put into words the reason behind why you feel this way or that is a surprisingly challenging task! That, and I wasn't sure how much English he could understand. But on some level, it's absolute truth. There is a great sense of importance one gets from being able to complete a task and to do so well. No matter how small and perhaps unappreciated. Those ravioli, most anyone could make, but I made them. I lathered the noodle in a egg and water paste to make it stick better when I fold it over. I scooped out just the right amount to make it full and not too filled (pretty good at getting that on the first go now). I carefully folded the pasta over, squished out the air, cut and trimmed the excess noodle, and forked the edges to seal the goodness in. And yes, the customer will most likely devour that ravioli in the same amount of, if not less, time that it took me to make it without even a moment's thought about what work went into creating that, but I don't care. Each ravioli is a sense of pride in my book. I made it. Don't get me wrong, the fun people, the learning new recipes, learning what it's like to work with an Italian (read: emotional, not always timely, slightly crazy but you gotta love that about 'em) are all aspects I am cherishing greatly. But this sense of accomplishment is certainly something I did not anticipate but have very much enjoyed. Also, the fact that I'm finally taking my passion for food seriously. Like, taking myself seriously about it. That's nice.

Story time: I have been befriended by all the Spanish speaking staff there. I tell them that I want to practice my Spanish so they kindly speak to me in Spanish while I try to respond in Spanish. (They also get a kick out of me being so white and half Mexican, hah!) Anyway, one evening near closing, I was hostessing (oh yeah, I go in later mornings and work through the after doing food prep ~11:30-4:30, then hostess at night, 5-10ish! :) I'm learning all aspects of the restaurant business. I love it!) and asked my amigo (not me being racist, we chefs refer to each other as "amigo, pass me x") to make me a pizza with BBQ sauce, caramelized onions, arugula (LOVE THAT STUFF), and gorgonzola. He informed me that they didn't have BBQ sauce and I was SO sad because I was craving that like mad. Anyway, 10 min later Guillermo comes back and asks me to taste a sauce he made so I did. IT WAS FANTASTIC! He had made me a BBQ sauce from scratch!!! Let me tell you, I have never had such a delicious pizza in my life. Needless to say, I freaking love the camaraderie that having fun workmates produces! Shout out to Cora, a sweet new girl that started a couple days before me. She's made working there tons of fun! 

Working at Giancarlo's has renewed an sense of excitement about going to Italy. I am officially determined to find a way to get there next year. I had made the promise to go there for a chef's school freshman year in MIT, but with each passing semester, my energy was draining for life, let alone going abroad to study cooking. Being back here, making food, it's given me the greatest paycheck of all:

hope.

I'm once again excited about my future and for that, I am very, very pleased. Thanks for reading!

Tanti baci,
Chacha

P.S. I'll post some pics of dishes I made in a little bit once I go inside and get my camera. :-)

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Day 15: My relationship with food

I was in third grade when I got to help make over 10,000 dolmas for a local Greek orthodox church one Saturday afternoon during the closed hours of a local Greek restaurant (since closed permanently, sadly). I, and the only other two girls under the age of 45 there, helped waitress when we breaked for lunch.

It was magical

I don't know why. I can't tell you what exactly made it so magical to me, but I still look back to that day and think of it as one of the fondest memories of that year. Surprising? Mmm, at first glance perhaps, but when you think about what role food has played in my life, it starts to make more sense. Some of my fondest memories are watching my mother or dad cook growing up. (Granted, mom does/did most of it, I recall my father used to cook.) You see, food isn't just nutrients. It's not just calories and carbs and proteins. What food has gifted me can't be quantified. No, what food has given me is something greater than most any influence in my life. What is that?

Passion.

I don't mean, when I'm cooking I'm happy. No. I love everything about food. I love the spectrum of colors displayed when you walk down a tent filled street at a farmers' market. I love the scent of good tomatoes. (What? You mean to tell me you don't smell the tomatoes when you pick them out a store? I mean, that's assuming you can find good store-bought tomatoes, an inherent falsity. Heh, welcome to being Italian...) I love watching onion become transparent as you sauté it in oil. Or kneading bread, that intoxicating scent that yeast gives as it rises in the warm dough. When you take bare ingredients, oil, vegetables, flour, etc. and make meal of it-- it's like, engineering for the taste buds. 

But the aspect of food I love most isn't that oh-so-pleasing moment of finalizing an art piece of taste bud adventures so delicately placed on a plate steaming with all its glory. Nor is it that moment of watching someone gently place a fork full of your masterpiece in their watering, yearning receptacles... No. It's what food provides for me: a reason to get together. A common ground that all cultures, walks of faith, and personalities can bond over. Even if you don't like making food, chances are you like eating. I know some folks claim that they could just eat a pill to satiate hunger (I'm thinking of you, bro) and be content, and while I personally find that hard to believe, I'm not here to debate that. I believe even those folks though, will not pass up a good meal if offered the chance to enjoy such an palatable experience. What I love most about food is what it's brought together for me: 

family.

In high school we used to have these Italian, family-style, hours-long "family" dinners. I don't think I was blood related to anyone in the room other than my mother but I would consider each person that came just as much a relative in my wedding check-list of "must invite." Looking back at these afternoons, watching my then baby-nephew learn to walk, talk, and sit in his own chair, revisiting World War II with my adopted-grandpa figures who fought in that atrocity, and observing my mother glide across our kitchen grabbing this, stirring that, adding a dash of oregano here, and frantically remembering she had forgotten something in the oven, are all aspects of my life that have shaped who I am today. To you, they may seem small. Minor. Pointless. But to me, they are more than just a memory, they are a part of me. A part of who I am. A driving factor of who I want to be

For that, I am more grateful to food than may make sense to many people. But that's the beauty of being human, we all have our personal quarks and random reasons to get up in the morning. Mine happens to be food.

Well, this post was supposed to discuss the amazing, new adventure I've embarked on at Giancarlo's but I needed to explain my relationship with food before I can make that post and have it make sense. Fear not though, that post is coming soon! I just have to go get ready so I can go do food prep at the restaurant now! :) Ta ta!

Thanks for reading!

Love,
Chacha

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Day 14: Firsts

Yesterday was my first day at Habitat for Humanity, and oh boy, let me tell you-- it was exhausting. For about three and a half hours we were moving sheets of drywall (4'x8'x1/2" and 4'x12'x1/2" and the worst was the 5/8" thick stuff) off of a forklift and into the houses we are building. Oh Lordy, talk about tiring. My arms, neck, and random parts of my back are still aching! However, as exhausting as it was, it still felt invigorating and great when the day was done. Not to mention, I ate my lunch totally guilt free!

Another first was my meeting with Giancarlo today! Giancarlo's is a local Italian restaurant in Morro Bay that is slightly fancy and verrrrry good and run by an Italian man, Giancarlo. I had never met the man in person, but I looked at his website and had an idea of what he looked like. I called ahead and was told to come by at 4:30 (they open at 5 for dinner). I dropped mom off at the grocery store, pulled up to the restaurant, and had to give myself a wee pep talk to get out of the car. I reminded myself "what's meant to be, will be." a mantra I'm growing quite fond of these days. I got to the front door and noticed a young man about my age painting something on the front of restaurant which I figured out was going to end up looking like bricks. I then saw a man with a striking resemblance to a pirate standing at the door and asked to speak with Giancarlo. After some confusion, I realized the pirate man was Giancarlo himself and that no one had told him I was coming by to talk to him. Solid. I wonder how well this is going to go over... Fortunately, it turned out great! Nay, better than I could have expected! I was super nervous but thanks to Giancarlo's pirate-like persona, his adorable Italian thick accent (missed like 15% of what he was saying), and his generally welcoming and spirited personality, I quickly relaxed fell into my own slight Italian accent. (Seriously, I don't mean to insult people, but when I'm talking with people with accents, I start talking with an accent, I don't know why! It's very hard to stop.) We ended up talking for over an hour! Three tables had already filled and he still talking with me. Telling me about Italy and going to a chef school there and what the culture is like. I told him about my own experiences some. The boy out front painting is his son, Alex (I think? He also said he's called Giancarlo, so I'm a little confused), is 23 and apparently Giancarlo hopes that I can talk some sense into his son about also going to Italy to study to become a chef. Hah! Not even an hour of knowing this man and I'm already getting set up. Oh silly Italians... :P But seriously, this man, is awesome. He told me about the different regions, programs offered, things to know. Apparently, the first caffe of the morning, if you don't like it, you can send back and they'll make you a fresh one, free of charge. It's a thing. I'm promised it's true. I'm going to have to try it! He also told me about his family in the South (he's from Bari) and told me that if I need any help with anything, he's more than happy to call his brother in Italy to check something out. Apparently his brother is high up or actively involved in some Finance sector (and escorted the president around Venice?? waaaatt??) and his mother is a teacher for 40 years and his grandmother is about to turn 100 in September.... not sure why any of that last matter is of importance to you, but this is why I love Italy and Italians, it's all central about food, family, and memory making! Seriously, the man and I appreciated talking for over an hour on just those three things! It was glorious. He instructed me to come back in the morning so he can call his brother (it'll be evening there) and I'm going to bring some possibilities of schools and he'll help me weed out which ones are touristy and which ones are legit. :) I'm planning on going tomorrow at 11!

I am pretty convinced that I'll need to be abroad for a whole year for my culinary experience if I want something that isn't a touristy attraction. I just need to figure out a way to finance the whole thing, oy vey... (birthday is coming up, day 15: how to subtly hint to your family/friends you just want cash for a post-graduation adventure) It felt great talking to him. I have a renewed excitement and appreciation for Italian culture again. I was starting to lose touch with it and was starting to doubt if I'd ever go. I really think I need to do this. I can't really explain why, it just feels right. Whenever I think about where I'll be in just over a year, or like, shortly after graduation, I picture myself in Italy.

Anyways, I'm tired. Thanks for reading! I'll post this whenever I get internet back, oh yay Cayucos...

Tanti Baci,
Chacha

P.S. No, I didn't ask if I could shadow him. But I will ask! Tomorrow! When I come back with schools to look over with him. I think it'll seem more natural. :)

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Day 13: A haiku for bro's cat

As per request (should have expected this!) bro, here's a haiku for Miss Napoleanne...

A little background first, for those of you who don't know this embarrassing and true fun fact about my family, we have "voices/personalities" for our cats. My cat: the dumb, adorable, drooling baby. My bro's cat: the sophisticated and aloof Southern Belle (she talks with a drawl and everything, saying things like "fawtha" when addressing my brother). Confused? Concerned? Laughing? Yeah... you're not the only one. Got give some mad props to my mom though, she manages to get our cats to write an occasional card to my brother and me back on the east coast! I've saved them all, m'dear Sweetpea! (Her cards have poor grammar and backwards written letter even, just like a little kid!)

Yeah... my family goes all out... ON EVERYTHING. ^.^ And though some may view it as embarrassing (eh hem, bro! :P) I've learned to embrace it. It's shaped who I am today and has helped me life uber enthusiastically!

But alas, what you've all been waiting for, Napoleanne's haiku:

Napoleanne
Southern and refined
Never leaves home without her gloves
Our curvaceous belle

 In case you're curious, Napoleanne came from Neopolitan because she's three colors, but it slipped up at Napolean too often that we just stuck with it. But because Napolean Dynamite came out like a year after we got them, people thought it was named for the show, plus she's a she, so we try to emphasize the "anne" ending of Napoleanne. Also, the reference to her "gloves" is because she has white "hands and feet" (as shown in the first picture below). 

Thanks for reading folks!

Later,
Chacha






Thursday, June 6, 2013

Day 12: A haiku for my cat

This is not a cop-out of a post, just a haiku to honor my amazing cat, Sweetpea. Should I feel so inspired to write more, I will later.

Sweetpea

Sweetpea my kitty,
I want you in my wedding,
So soft and furry.

Is it weird that this blog post reminds me of something Mary from Psych would do? Ah man, that show is so good. Everyone should Netflix it. Right now. Go. Why are you still reading this? 

Go watch Psych!

Kthnxbai.

-Chacha

P. S. Enjoy these fine examples of my cat. LOOK AT THEM. HOW CUTE IS SHE?!?!?


Day 11: House of Cards

I started watching House of Cards yesterday, and you might be thinking "wow, a post about a TV show? Really?" but seriously guys, this show... it requires so much thinking! Who's backstabbing which platform, etc. It's exhausting and great all at the same time. Plus, I love Kevin Spacey.

Putting aside all the sex and gross older man-younger mistress business, the show really is rather insightful. I could easily believe that there is as much "social politics" as the show suggests. I've watched 7 episodes so far (yeah... I know, I'm hooked.) and there are already a couple of things that pop out:

1) Early on a 59yr old woman gets fired because this cold-hearted business woman (not just emotions speaking, if you watch the show, you'll see, "cold-hearted" is the most accurate word I can think of to describe her) wants to create a new image for her non-profit. Anyway, the woman says a line something like "I'm 59 years old, no one wants to hire me. What am I supposed to do, bag groceries?" The whole scene is troubling for a couple of reasons. First, she's getting fired basically because she's not fresh and young and hip looking. However, her reaction also bothers me. I understand that managing a non-profit is a lot more glamorous than bagging groceries, but I completely believe that (most) all work is honorable. (Sure, there are a couple jobs I think the world would be better off without.) And while the woman may be upset, it's in this moment of frustration that she also reveals her true self. While I am fine bagging my own groceries, I think there are plenty who would look down on doing such a job and yet use that service all the time. It's rather easy to degrade another's work without really thinking how much easier your life is with that person doing whatever job it is. I guess it just brought to my attention that I probably do that too with others' careers and should probably take a moment to think before I cast a judgement so easily. Just some food for thought...

2) There's a main couple in the plot, a congressman and his wife (the cold-hearted business woman). And watching how they interact is just, soul crushing at times. The blatant disregard for loyalty just seems implausible. They have this sort of "open relationship" deal but like, it's really rather disturbing how glamorized hollywood is making it seem. Meh, maybe it's supposed to be shocking. I don't know. Basically, I just see 55-60 year olds acting like their irresponsible college students and I shake my head in disapproval.

3) There is a CRAP ton of deceit and polling who will vote for what policy given what incentive, etc. It's really actually exhausting to keep track of this all. Surprisingly though, it's made me really want to get in there and straighten stuff out! And then I laugh at myself. I guess it's been... 4 years now?... I've toyed with the idea of running for president. I hate politics. The only back I like to scratch is my cat's. And after learning about all that goes on behind the scenes I feel like the president himself doesn't actually do all that much. Where I see I could make improvements would be in establishing a good Cabinet of-- get this guys-- educated experts in the perspective fields and not just putting my "buddies" into positions. But then again, it's often those "buddies" that help fund you to the office. And then I get depressed about losing a race that I am still 15 years too young to run for! Plus side though, I already have the best campaign add ever, thanks Chloe and Tom! (They made this amazing high school graduation poster for me that I've put up on every door of every dorm room I've lived in!)


Meh, I've lost my train of thought and am hungry. Gonna go eat now. If this blog post comes up in like 15 years when I run for president, that'd be freaking awesome. I wonder if blogger will even still be around... The future man, prettttty cool times.

Thanks for playing! 

Later dudes,
Chacha

Day 10: Perspective

On Tuesday we left Stanford to return home. However, just before we left my dear friend, Chris, at Palantir sent me a message asking if I was still in the area and wanted to grab lunch. Let me tell you this: Palantir is freaking awesome. Man, I've never doubted my major so much. If that's what Course 6 (EECS) folks have in store once they graduate, geez, I'd never leave my job! It got me thinking though, why can't course 2 have neat start-ups like that? I think we do some extent, but it's certainly not as common as with course 6. Man, I gotta find a job like Palantir. Not-so-starting start-ups are AWESOME.

When driving home though, we dropped off our two friends who live in the Central Valley. It had been, I think, 8 years since I had driven through there. It was weird. Immediately I was reminded of my childhood. The concrete, pale, brick walls with the white metal gates so reminiscent of the hispanic neighborhoods I grew up with. Signs in Spanish and then English. The constant sense of drought with so little greenery around. The heat-- so inescapable. It was odd how uncomfortable I grew simply driving through this region of California, especially because for as long as I could remember I thought fondly of my childhood in Porterville. (I grew up there and moved to Cayucos when I was 7.) And for the longest time, Cayucos didn't really feel like my home, even though this summer I have lived here for 14 years as opposed to Porterville, 7.

I wonder, how many of my memories that I think back on fondly, are so drastically distorted from the truth? And what causes that? I was genuinely surprised at how grateful I was to not live in the Central Valley anymore because of two things: 1) I thought I still thought fondly of my childhood, and I think I still do, so that seems contradictory and 2) I hadn't realized how much I actually associate Cayucos with home, and how much living with the ocean in sight affects my happiness.

Addressing the first point, I think this sort of runs into a common theme with friends/family members. You can like who someone used to be one way, and cherish those memories, but perhaps given how you and they have changed you no longer enjoy their company. That's not anything new to understand, right? It's just, when you think about liking something that doesn't change (e.g. a place doesn't change all that much) and you liked it when you were younger, to go back and no longer like it is rather shocking. I suppose it all boils down to perspective, but still... I mean, I didn't go back to Porterville, so maybe I'd think differently going back to the town I grew up in. But I was just so filled with this sense of "GET ME OUT OF HERE." I was totally shocked. More so, I guess it reflected some internal changes that must of taken place that I had no idea about nor any idea of how greatly they would change my perspective. I guess it is a good thing though, to realize how much I appreciate where I live even if it's not by admiring it in itself, but rather seeing what I do not like in other places.

Meh, my thoughts. In case you haven't really caught on, my blog is rather stream of consciousness and mostly for my own memory collection I 'spose. I love having readers, don't get me wrong! You guys are the best! Just don't be expecting profound pieces of literature every time. Hah.

As always, thanks for reading!

Much love,
Chacha

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Day 9: mental snapshots

Like I mentioned earlier, on Monday Steven, Victor, Serafin, and I (MIT SigEp) all went on a road trip up to Stanford to meet up with a buddy, Alex, at Stanford. (He's Stanford SigEp.) It was a great trip and I got to look around their d.school (design component of the MechE dept. for grad school) as well as talk with some grad students about what is involved with the program-- pretty neat stuff they have there! (Side note: I already feel out of place. I was walking around and everyone was so damn good looking, happy, and tan. *shakes fist to sky* Not to mention, the design stuff was wicked artsy! They're going to spot me from a mile away as outsider! Heh, meh. I'm still going to apply and put my best foot forward, haha. Here's to trying!)

I'm going to have to say that the highlight of the trip (and possibly one of the coolest memories I have of my college years thus far) was "playing the drums" in the Stanford band. In case you think it's just your average marching band, click on the link above and while you're at it, youtube some other videos because that band be CRAYon (like the term? crazy -> cray -> CRAYon??? I think I'm onto something here, guys...). It was-- invigorating. Dare I say, EPIC. Truly awesome. I felt so nervous at first because I have NO sense of rhythm whatsoever, but as soon as I strapped on my football-helmet-made-into-drum and saw how much fun everyone else was having, I soon forgot many of my inhibitions. While at first I was nervous, I quickly saw that there was no need. Alex advised me to do the choreo at least if I didn't know how to follow along (mind you, choreo, that is, jumping and kicking your feet about and doing random-ass moves, with a "drum" strapped to you was a new experience in itself!). I soon found myself rid of all the cares in the world just jumping around and doing my best to keep with the tempo. Can you picture it? Me with a helmet strapped to my waist sorta, two sticks in hand, all the while flailing about like a dork. It was golden. Some pictures were taken, however I did my best to occasionally take a moment to let it all soak in and take the best data collection of all:
memory photos. 

I don't know if you've ever seen Elizabethtown, but there's this scene that has forever stuck with me where the main actress takes a mental picture. I think it's a beautiful concept. Obviously I want to be able to capture all special moments of my life via film/tangible means, but all too often, I get caught up in adjusting the aperture settings of my camera and forget the most important fact: to appreciate the moment through my own two "lenses" first and THEN an external one.

Needless to say, so far this summer I've tried to take at least one mental pic per day (I've failed to even keep that up sometimes, but it's a start at least). The Stanford band was certainly an unforgettable addition to my every growing memory book.

I'd like to give a huge shout out to Alex, thank you dude, that was an amazing memory for my collection. Sorry we crashed your place the week before finals! We all thank you tons!

Thanks for reading!

Much love,
Chacha

Day 7&8: Rose colored glasses

Saturday I had the pleasure of having a friend from MIT who lives in LA come up and visit me! Steven is another MechE and wicked, crazy smaht. He's also a brother of MIT SigEp, and on Monday he and I drove up to Stanford for a visit, picking up two others along the way, to visit a Stanford SigEp friend and tour the ME department for grad school. Woohoo, road trip!

Saturday evening though, before the trip, we had grabbed some nachos at Taco Temple, a California fusion restaurant, and afterward saw a movie at the local movie theater in Morro Bay. It's funny-- perhaps more accurately a little bit sad-- it always takes a non-local to help me see my home through rose colored glasses. On our drive to the theater he had mentioned how my town is such an ideal, small, California beach community which reminded him of one from the movies (like from the 1950s era). It's not that my town and Morro Bay are dead or boring, they're just, "chill." Quiet. Calm. Laid back. And with a new perspective he helped me see it in such a light. Where I would get annoyed with the 25 stop signs that exist in the quarter mile drive down Morro Bay Blvd., he helped me welcome it as a time to take in just how quaint (hah, bro, I did just use that word) my surroundings are. And while each building in particular might be viewed as slightly loved or needing of some repairs, as a whole, with the sun setting just over the wave breaker, the sight of the bay at the end of this road with its boats and buoys is actually rather beautiful.

While this isn't a ground breaking realization, it's certainly something I'm trying to bring to my attention-- how often do I take advantage of the beauty around me? I think a good daily challenge would be to walk around my usual environment and be able to spot at least one thing beautiful/something I'm appreciative for. (Finding something to be grateful for in each person you encounter is another blog post I have yet to rant about, fear not. The point of this is to learn to appreciate the nature, or something else if you're in the city if there isn't much nature, around us everyday. More importantly, to train ourselves to be actively searching for something positive that we enjoy. It's all too easy to focus on the bad in our lives.)

I don't mean to sound ridiculous. Like, I don't expect myself to walk by a trashcan and be like "wow, I am so appreciative that this trash can exists." but like, hey, maybe there's art on the side or maybe next to it is a nice tree whose leaves or blossoms offer a little shade as you walk along in the heat of the day. I don't know, I guess I mean to say that to take the time, a quick minute out of your day, to appreciate the beauty in something new (or better yet old!) in your life is a trait I find rather admirable.

I am starting today: Today I am making a note of how lovely my gladiolas and cala lilies in my front yard are (ignoring the weeds, lol!). Thanks mamma for taking care of them while I'm away at school! (The trick is to actually talk to them. I compliment them and tell them they will grow up to be big and strong and plentiful... Yeah, maybe I'm off my rocker, but if you saw this flowers, you'd think twice about mocking me! My glads have over 2' of blooms!)

Thanks for reading! (I'm not sure who all reads it, but I see that there are some page views at least! Thanks bro! :P)

Much love,
Chacha

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Day 6: Schooners

So today is a little silly fun fact day. I have lived in my small town for going on 14 years now and there is one restaurant I have never eaten at... until today: Schooners.

It's always looked like a shady restaurant to me what with it's wooden pirate sculptures out front and it's watermill and other random sea-worthy items. But recently (the last couple of visits home) I've wanted to try eating there. By some lucky turn of events I got to meet the lovely Lisa (read: potential future aunty-in-law) and have dinner with her and her son. (Again, potential future cousin-in-law... confused? Don't worry about it...) I walked through the doorway and into the magical unknown. For nearly 2 decades I had walked past this establishment headed back home from a day at the pier and how many times had I stopped and measured my height against the sculptures to see how I had grown in comparison? Finally, Friday evening, I got to satisfy the mystery that lay just beyond that external entrance I had so familiarized myself with.

It was oddly satisfying though. To get to finally discover the inside of the last restaurant in my little town I hadn't eaten at (well, I guess I haven't eaten at the Cass House either, but that's like a B&B thing) filled me an unexpected sense of closure. Like, it's just a restaurant. I'm "emotional" in the sense that I have emotions about it, but like, it's more that something that has alluded me since childhood is no longer an "unknown."

This got me thinking about other "loosed ends" in my life, things that I just want to say I have the experience of trying. And I soon realized the list is long. (Off the top of my head: surfing, skateboarding, waitressing, going on a hot air balloon ride...) I then realized that life is short and while I don't advocate for the complete "YOLO" (you only live once) life style, I think it can be healthy and safe to live in the present to an extent. (another blog post in the making)

So, as part of my summer of adventures, I'm acting on a lot of my impulses and actually following through with my plans. Tomorrow I am headed up to Stanford for quick little road trip with some of my other friends from the MIT SigEp and we've visiting a brother at the Stanford SigEp (plus I'm checking out professors for grad school, ah!!). In any case, it was just funny to me that eating a restaurant could provoke such a "deep" train of thought.

Thanks for reading!

Much love,
Chacha

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Day 5: Ysa

[Another shortish and not terribly profound post, I'm sleepy...]
I'm home! I've made it safe and sound! Boy, I tell ya what, my connection in SFO was literally a "last call for Durazo" event as my previous flight from Boston got delayed... heh, nothing quite like the threat of missing that last flight in the leg of a multi-hour journey to get your heart pumping. However, on the going-any-slower-and-it'd-be-in-reverse shuttle from Terminal 3 to Terminal 1, I practiced a mantra as I breathed deeply and actually relaxed in my seat, it went a little something like:

"Relax. How can you, by worrying, change the outcome of this event? Furthermore, how can worrying add a single moment to your life? It is, what is... And what will be, will be."

If you're thinking that sounds familiar, check out Matt 6:25-34. :-) For a while I pretty much had Matt 5 and 6 memorized I read that scripture so often, heh. Anyway, yeah, it was surprising how effective it was at immediately calming me. Maybe it was because I realized it was something totally and completely out of my control, maybe it was because I was wicked tired by that point, but maybe I can choose to think it was a power of the mind over the situation, sort of thing.

IN ANY CASE... I was pleased.

So I got on my tiny puddle jumper and landed safely in SLO a quick 45 minutes later and alas! I was greeted by family of choice, Myla and Ysa! I had been looking forward to seeing them for the past week or so and here it was, finally! The day had come for me to return in all my glory... or something. Not two minutes had passed of me being in the car when little miss smarty pants, Ysa (my 3 yr old niece) says to me, "Chacha, why do you have so much things?" *palm to face* Dangit, child, aren't you supposed to be too young to realize an absurd amount of personal belongings?! Clearly that wasn't the case...

Alas, after a delicious meal (OMGOSH FILIPINO FOOD IS THE BEST. MYLA, YOU AND YOUR MOM ARE THE BEST!!) I tried to get Princess Ysa to lie down for a nap, but after 4 readings of Mr. Bear, it was evident that wasn't going to happen without something special. So I convinced her to snuggle up (totally what I come home for! snuggle time with the kiddos!!) and we played on my iPhone for a couple min while whispering how to catch the mouse in the game, then partook in the age old tradition of story telling. I set the stage but requested the help on a few points. Namely, when asked the name and type of animal Princess Ysa was to ride off to see the magical forest, she responded with "Mike the chicken" (Mike is her dad, also my confirmation sponsor and epically awesome hero on so many levels). And when they encountered a talking animal? Myla the talking lizard. Hah! Kids... man do I love 'em. After some trials and victories involving a talking lady bug who was grumpy because she didn't get to drink hot coco (that was all my imagination, btw), the wee little Ysa lying in the crook of my arm was vast asleep.

And then it hit me-- this afternoon was perfect.

Perfect.

Sure I was tired, and maybe a little groggy cuz of allergies, but getting picked up from the airport by loved ones who weren't even "blood relatives" (a term I'm finding to carry less and less weight these days), fed well, and then that deeply moving bonding time of a nap with biggest loves of your life?! What more is there?! Back at MIT if you were to ask me what I look forward to most when returning home, or even if you were to ask my friends, I'm pretty sure all would report I brag about "my kiddos" (Gabgab 5yr, and Ysa 3yr) and their parents/my mom/three other close friends from here, seeing my cat (maybe sometimes listed first, Sweetpea, I love you so much!), and then eating the good CA produce.

It's my family of choice though that has been so supportive these past couple of years, and a heck of a lot more present than a lot of my own "blood relatives." For that, I am eternally grateful. I love you guys dearly, and I'm oh so excited to see where our futures take us! Rest assured though, regardless, I am so rocking a side ponytail, neon leggings with leg warmers, and wrist bands when I pick the kiddos up from school one day. I am SO gonna be that "ate" (tagalog for older sister, pronounced ah-tay).

Much love,
Chacha

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Day 3&4: Confidence & Humility

Well, sadly folks, I didn't end up gong to Maine yesterday. I'm at bro's apt with a stuffy nose and plumb exhausted. I figure I'll wait until August when I return and am not slightly under the weather. I did however manage to clean bro's kitchen (dishes, swept, mopped, etc.) and vacuum the living room/bedroom. Surprisingly therapeutic. :)

Anyway, today's post shall be short, lucky you! (And a joint effort of yesterday's...)

While cleaning the kitchen I listened to a playlist of One Direction for like 5 hours straight (oh goodness, I do not want to hear them for a long time). Of course, their like 6 songs really all sound like variations of the same song, so I sort of zoned them out. However, one line really bothered me (though not enough to rinse the suds off my hands to change the station) from their song "What Makes You Beautiful." It reads:

You don't know you're beautiful,
Oh oh,
That's what makes you beautiful.

I'm sorry? Come again? Let's put aside that I'm overanalyzing a song written by a bunch of boys in their late teens, hah... I'm going to hope that what they're referring to is that this girl is beautiful and it's her humility about her physical appearances that make her even more attractive and NOT that it's her lack of self-esteem about her physical appearances that adds to her allure. (Another post for another day is how jaded I fear I have become, you guys might laugh, but seriously!)

I mean, I get the sentiment that I think they're trying to get at, that is, females often are so harsh on themselves (it's shocking to hear to what extent we degrade our own looks/attractiveness) that it's surprising to hear when on the outside, others' would view us as very attractive. But that's just it, what we see in ourselves needs to be what we seek approval of, not others' opinions. I'm certainly as much to blame for the self-hating perpetuation but I hope to change that. I'm told that confidence is an attractive trait in women, from men's perspective, but it's a spectrum, right? Like, no one thinks an overly confident person, one who is "all up in your business" waving fingers and metaphorically-literally blinding you with sparkles, is attractive. Well, some do, but addressing the vast majority of "healthy" individuals capable of "healthy" relationships (quotes because that too needs to be defined but I lack the mental capacity to get into semantics...)-- there is a happy medium between humility and confidence. I find that line a very hard one to walk. Furthermore, I find that it's hard to genuinely be confident and once one becomes as such, how to not come across as arrogant. I think this is especially hard when one has spent so long not thinking fondly of oneself. (Not sure why I'm talking in the third person, but I'll roll with it...) For instance, I had a suite-mate last year who seemingly genuinely thought she was hot stuff. And why shouldn't she? She was cute, smart, spunky... What bothered me sometimes was the way she brought about her confidence, it was like, she was saying things to try to convince not just others around her, but also herself. At times I envied her sense of self-assurance, but then I realized that maybe she wasn't all too confident in herself after all. It's not like I get happy at the thought of doubting one's appearances/attractiveness (note: the two are not the same, another blog post in the making), not at all. I just... I find it really hard to value myself as a whole package, awesome deal, and to do so without seeming arrogant. I want confidence and humility.

Is that possible?

Well, I'm off because I've spent too long in PJs today and have some errands to run. This topic is far from done, but I figured I'd jot down the thoughts I had on the subject while I remembered them

As always, thanks for reading!

Much love,
Chacha

Monday, May 27, 2013

Day 2: Pink Nail Polish

In an effort to be diligent, I am writing this second post, however, I'm not really sure what to discuss...

Well, I feel like that first line was a waste of time, but I suppose a bigger waste of your attention is writing this line--ah yes, the internal battles of my mind...

Anyway, tomorrow I have the intention of going to Old Orchard Beach, Maine for a wee day trip via the Amtrak. For $44 I can merrily go on an adventure and return by supper time! However, I've been losing a battle with allergies the past couple of days and have woken up the past 3 mornings with a rather pesky sore throat. Assuming I have the energy, I shall go on my adventure and rest assured tomorrow's blog entry will divulge what all was involved! For now, I will discuss my intentions...

For some time now I've had this romanticized idea of getting in a car, blaring "Can't Hold Us" by Macklemore and driving up to some yet to be determined/make-it-up-as-we-go location in ME, of course pulling off the road to take a lobster detour for lunch. So what's the first thing I do? Look into car rentals! (I can actually rent one, but I'm too poor to do that, so Amtrak it is!) More to the point, what's the second thing I do? Look to airbnb.com for a place to stay for two!

What's wrong with this picture.

C'mon, think. Don't let me down. I know you see something inherently flawed...

Well, in case you're just tired, I'll tell ya: make-it-up-as-we-go doesn't really go with calling ahead and making a reservation somewhere, now does it? Furthermore, I found my adventuresome self only interested in going if someone else wanted to accompany me! What's up with that?!

Lame.

I then thought about it and realized that because I want to do the Amtrak route, I ought to plan where I'm getting off so I settled on knowing where my final destination was going to be. Cool. However, what I'll do there? Meh, we'll find out. Most importantly, I'm finally okay with doing things on my own... guys, this is a BIG deal for me. Maybe you guys are okay with being alone now, but I'm sure we've all had those periods in our lives where we really only had the motivation to do things if someone else was willing to tag along. Yeah? Eh? Anyone with me? And I've touched on this before, and will make a huge point of this again in my post about dating, but I think it is of the essence that I can, in the words of my brother, "be alone and not be lonely."

Read that again: be alone not be lonely.

There's a hilariously sad story I have to tell you all about which involves me planning this elaborate profession of love to a boy just last week (really, it's fine, it was a run-away-bride situation where the dude was MIA, but definitely one for the memory books). This resulted in me have a dinner reservation for two, but alas, one was a no-show. The kicker is, while last year, and maybe even just 3 months ago, going out to dinner alone would have bothered me, the notion didn't seem upsetting that night. Even though I had this HUGELY romantic, elaborate, and time consuming plan all set up (like, we're talking mutual friends were roped into this, there were notes to be randomly delivered, the whole shibang) crumble into stale pieces of yesterday's bread, I was still excited about being all dolled up, done with finals, and finally getting to eat at Max Brenner. (Btw, AWESOME salted caramel shakes, oh goodness... I should have just ordered three of those for dinner!) So as I waited in the lobby of this boy's dorm chatting with some friends who showed up to help, I casually mentioned that I was going to go to dinner still. Sweetly, a friend (guy) that I was chatting with got a rather sad look on his face and was like "Aw, Chacha... don't go alone. That's..." "Sad? Yeah, I suppose it would have bothered me a few months ago, but surprisingly, not so much right now." Kindly enough, though, he insisted I wait 15 minutes while he changed into some nicer clothes, and then the two of us went on a bro-date. (He's not my brother, but like one to me. Woo! Best labmates EVER!) Anyway, after a lovely evening of catching up on life and all that jazz, I realized that while I had a great time with him, I think I would have equally been okay with going to Max Brenner on my own. And you know what? That felt pretty freaking good.

So, to relate this story to my Maine trip, I have invited a couple of friends to come with me on this adventure and all have said they can't go for various reasons. That's cool. I get it-- people are busy. And while I am sad that I won't get to bond with those friends outside the MIT bubble, I'm actually really okay with traveling on my own. Heck, I did that the summer after my senior year of high school across Italy! I used to be so independent and content on my own, I'm not really sure what happened, but somewhere along the way MIT seemed to have shaken my confidence so much that I no longer even enjoyed being alone. I'm happy to report things have a changed considerably (though I still have my moments, certainly) and I look forward to my "me time." And should I wake up with the energy to go on my adventure (curse you, allergies! *shakes fist to sky*) I have my bag ready with a book, hat, sunglasses, and pink nail polish.

Folks, I'm painting my nails pink on a beach in Maine. Bright pink.

Thanks for reading! Tune in tomorrow for whatever I end up doing!

Much love,
Chacha

P.S. Once I get home, this blog will become a food blog as well as travels blog too! Yay!

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Day 1: I choose life

Summer has officially begun for me! I have moved out of my dorm and am currently crashing at bro's place for the week until I fly home next Thursday (thanks bro! shout out, he's the best big bro anyone could get!). Heh, and aside from the chaos of packing one's room by oneself and moving out (wow, I totally did that on my own, *feels proud*), I'd say things are off to a great start. In the words of a friend who probably doesn't even read this blog, I am "an independent black woman who don't need no man"... well, okay, so he was saying it to my friend who is actually half black, but I like to think it applies to me too. :-)

When I realized mid-semester the hard truth about this summer, which came hurling toward me like a freight train with some less-than-happy breaks,  I was advised to blog. (Read: I don't have a cool, super-fly, ends with "Inc." or "Co." internship-- OH MY GOSH WHAT AM I DOING?? Again, thanks bro for the tip about writing.)

So here's me... blogging.

Um.

Don't get me wrong, I've got plenty to talk about, but the question becomes what is worth writing down and where to begin. For now, I'll discuss my qualms and excitement about this summer.

Like I mentioned above, I don't have an internship this summer. Cool starry bra, you might be thinking, but actually, this was a really big blow to my pride initially (I'm happy to say things have changed, see below). "Why?," you might ask? (How are you supposed to punctuate that?!) Because everyone else and their mom has an internship... okay, so maybe that's an exaggeration, but at least at MIT for Course II (MechE) it sure feels like the truth. Sometime around the start of the spring semester people start talking about summer plans. Whether it be to fantasize about summer being in sight, brag about snagging a sah-weet internship already from some fall job-hunting, or just curious who will be in your area of the globe for summer (if you're course 6, EECS, you're pretty much set on knowing everyone is in the SF area or MIT, lol...), it's a dangerous game to play if you've not secured a job for the summer.

But it's just a summer job, right? Like, what's the big deal? Chillax dude.

Wrong.

Well, right, but amidst the pressure of MIT, it's hard to keep that healthy, outside perspective. Especially the summer after your junior year. This internship, at least for my major, is particularly important because if your company likes you and you like them, you can end the summer with a job offer for post graduation and avoid the stress of looking for a job your senior year. However, sometime during the semester, I realized I plan to go on for grad school (right now the plan is to become a professor, heh, we'll see...definitely go on for my masters though) so the stress of this summer lessened. However, the pride factor didn't change really. All too often I had encounters like the following:

Classmate: "Hey Chacha! What are you doing for the summer?"
Me: "Hah, um... I'm going home! Gonna 'find myself' as I'm putting it. Need a break and figured this was the best summer to do it."
Classmate: *slight pause* "Yeah, I can see the importance of that. Neat."
Me: "How about you? What're you up to?"
Classmate: "Oh, I've got an internship at I'm-A-Badass Inc. in TX [or CA]"
Me: "Wow! Congrats! That's intense."
Classmate: "Yeah... But have fun with your summer!"

And while that doesn't seem like such a bad conversation, and you may be thinking I'm reading into this too much, I literally only know one other person who is just going home for the summer. It was sort of a blow to the pride to not respond with "oh yeah, I have a neat internship too!"

So why the break?

Oh boy, where to start... Mostly, I found myself having to force myself to apply to internships. I wasn't excited about "thinking" this summer. That is, I wasn't excited about experiencing industry/etc. I was/am just feeling a little burnt out. Furthermore, every single day at MIT has been a struggle for me, and quite frankly, I'm exhausted.

I am tired.

There, I said it. Part of me wanted to give up at some point this year. Like, at the end of Spring Break I was rrrrreally tempted to just not return. Even in my connecting flight in TX every time they announced a flight leaving for LAX I cringed and wished I could be on that flight. But I was like "NOOOOO, MIT is a blessing! It's hard to view it like that at times, but you can't give into the 'game' that many of us get caught up in! Si se puede!" So after some introspection, melt downs, heart to hearts with friends and family (thanks guys!), I realized what I was fantasizing about doing during the day was non-academic stuff: traveling the world, cooking, eating, learning to cook, walking down farmers markets in Italy, working with my hands...

Simply put: I fantasized about LIFE.

But Chacha, what have you been doing for the past 20 years then? Silly girl, you be crazy. 

No. I'm not. Seriously. The shame about MIT is that we often place this burden upon ourselves to "get the grades" when in reality, that isn't all life has to offer, at least for me, that's not all I want my life to reflect. THIS IS THE KEY POINT FOLKS: I want more than just "the grades". There are some brilliant enough to learn about themselves and get a 4.5+ GPA, and maybe if I were more diligent about my studies perhaps I could be one of them, but for the past three years I have not been said student. At some point this semester I snapped and realized that time was going by whether I liked it or not and if I didn't start living a life of purpose, I was going to wake up in 30 years, have a real mid-life crisis, and have regrets. Regrets not of making bad decisions, but of not making decisions-- that's what I fear most: living complacently. Sure, I'll make mistakes and probably wish I hadn't chosen to do this or that, but the point is just that-- I want my life to be a series of choices. I want to choose each day to live in the present and, in the words of my sensei, do the very best I can do each day, right now-- I don't want my life just to be me randomly following a path, head down, thinking that at some point in the future I'll really start living life. But alas, I diverge, I shall elaborate on a purposeful life in another post I suppose, for now, my summer.

So, you're not interning, you've (sort of) come to terms with that. What are you doing?

Like I mentioned before, I'm "finding myself." What does that mean? Well, if I had the money, I'd pull a Julia Roberts and travel all over, but alas, for now I am doing Eat, Pray, Love sans the expensive travel... and I suppose sans the random hookup with an old, exotic dude... *shivers* I realize that while I plan to go on to become a professor, and part of me is really excited about that, part of me is scared that I'll be wasting my time and that my true calling is to do something else (like travel and eat and build stuff, yeah, really specific goals, I know). So to satisfy that fear, I'm dedicating this summer to working with my hands (building houses for Habitat for Humanity), tutoring (to test the waters of teaching/practice how to explain concepts), and hopefully shadowing an Italian chef back home. (I plan to take a gap year before grad school, during which I plan to study at a culinary academy in Italy, so this is a little preview into what that might be like.) In my free time I plan to take road trips, study Spanish and Chinese, do some GRE prep, learn to sketch, and lots and lots of contemplative prayer. The biggest point of this summer is to discovery who I am, who I want to become, and hopefully in doing so, figure out what type of person would be best to share this journey of life with. (Another blog post, but yeah, dating, sort of disillusioned with the common view of that too.)

But how will you know when you've found yourself? (Sensei, I'm thinking of our conversation.)

Quite frankly, I don't know. I've been reared with the idea of SMART goals: Specific, uh, somethin somethin blah blah... but honestly, I'm okay with venturing into the unknown. I acknowledge that life, figuring out who we are, etc, is a, well, life-long adventure. I by no means am tricking myself into thinking that at the end of the summer I'll be like "Alright folks, I've got me all figured out. I'm going to do a, b, c, and marry someone with these characteristics, and everything will be peachy." No, that's nonsense. But, I do hope two things will result from this summer: 1) I'll be bored out of my mind and realize that I'm best suited for an academic life like I suspect. In doing this, I believe I'll be better able to focus in school next year and be less likely to space out wondering "what if I did..." (I really hate that game, "what if." So pointless. You are who you are. You can must from your past, live in the present, and make choices for the future.) 2) I hope to have a better idea what I want in a future spouse. Well, and I suppose 3) is to become in wicked good shape. I want to lose the 15 lbs I've put on this year. Joy... (and good luck with that, given I'll be cookin' up all sorts of yummies!)

That second point might seem a bit premature given I'm only 20 (nearly 21, woo, shows how young I am that I still play the "rounding up" game) and I'll elaborate more on my view of dating in another post, but a precursor to figuring out what type of person I'd be happy with I think is figuring out who I am/want to become. This is where lots and lots of prayer/meditation/moments with nature comes in. It occurred to me, if I believe in an all knowing God, who knows me better than I know myself, wouldn't it make sense to further get to know Him first (and His creation)? (Another post on this topic!) Part of my enthusiasm about leading a life of purpose I think stems from this disappointment in how unappreciative I've been of everything, but especially my daily life. I think there is much wisdom I can gain from a better spiritual life. Furthermore, I believe that I was blessed with a mind designed to think and most importantly, make choices. I recently watched this video and it really struck me. Our life is comprised of the grand sum of our "daily life." I sometimes have pity parties for myself given my own physical obstacles, but I must choose to remind myself that every day is a blessing. Every day, is my choice. Perhaps not always what happens to me, but definitely what I learn from it.

While I fear this post has many things I just barely touched, if you have stuck with me this far, I thank you. I hope to leave you with this:

Do not simply live, but rather, choose life.

Much love,
Chacha

Thursday, May 16, 2013

project dx/dt

April 9th an idea was born-- one whose effects have changed my life. On that day, a fellow classmate, Nancy, emailed me telling me her story about sexual assault (in response to my facebook post/previous blog post) and asked me if I wanted to get involved in a project she had in mind.

Little did we know, what we were getting ourselves into. Even more, how it would change our lives.

When you open up about being sexually violated you brace yourself for a plethora of responses from silence, awkward random stories that have nothing to do with the present but-oh-my-gosh-just-not-silence, advice, and occasionally someone who is ok with being uncomfortable and will just listen. The latter is what I think most everyone wants, though I could be wrong. For me at least it's true. Second is the awkward silence.

I've learned to live in that silence.

To let it absorb into my inner-most being like a dry sponge saturates with water.

The worst is when people try to offer advice. I know they mean well and are most likely so extremely out of their comfort zone that they do not know what to do and want to help, but unless you've been violated, unless you have had your dignity stripped of you and gone through the whirlwind of self-hate/doubt/frustration/embarrassment that comes with having your body-- the very boundary of your essence to which you would think, and should think, you have complete control over-- trespassed, not to be rude, just frank, your advice is so completely out of place and there is simply no way that you can relate that it really doesn't mean jack. But alas, I diverge... the point to this post is to inform you of my thoughts of my most recently completed endeavor:

project dx/dt

Initially Nancy was thinking of something smaller (sorry girl for ruining that way less stressful idea!) and just wanted to get a feel for what other survivors of sexual assault were going through/how it affected them here at MIT. I immediately thought it was a great idea and got on board. Unfortunately, she got the short stick and totally did the majority of the filming and when the time came for editing the film, she really did it all. I arrange for some equipment, helped interview some fellow MIT students (wow, talk about eye opening, I'll elaborate in just a second), and created a slideshow for the half hour before the film. But honestly Nancy really carried the brunt of the work load here. I am so very honored to have worked with such a compassionate, diligent, dedicated, and beautiful person. She is truly inspiring and I am so very blessed to have gotten to work closely with her these past four weeks.

Oh that's another thing, we did this all in four weeks.

Three weekends for filming, and then this past weekend through 5:45pm today (screening was at 8pm, mind you) for editing over 5 hours of footage to just 34minutes. I'm still shocked that we did it.

Nancy, we did it. We. Did. It.

You had a dream, I got on board, and we went with it. It feels so good to have followed something through. This is the first thing in my life that I have felt such an activism for. Oh my goodness, don't get me started on the federal law that protects the identity of convicted college aged rapists from ever getting out. I'm sorry? Yes. You heard me. They can be convicted rapists, and if someone knows and mentions it to someone else, that person who told will get jailed. But again, beside the point...

We heard countless stories that left me simply heart broken for hours after the interview but so appreciative for the fellow MIT students who were willing to come forward and share their stories. To you all, thank you. I had to allot time each weekend after the filming to just let myself not be productive. It was really hard to sit through their experiences and then just "switch off" the emotional side to get work done-- heh, and by really hard, I mean it didn't happen. I definitely took my sweet time. With quotes like:


    I hate myself for not standing up for myself.


and

Sexual violence isn't something that happens to you once. It replays constantly: in your mind, in your dreams, as you pass people walking on the street.


How could I just move on? It felt... disrespectful. But then I encountered comments like:

Survivors are strong people. They are not weak, and they are not broken. They might need you to remind them of this from time to time. Be supportive, and never judge.

And I was encouraged. Encouraged to carry on with the project so that more people know the hell we go through and the determinedness with which we must conquer each day to carry on with our lives. It is not easy, but it is done. We do move forward. I believe the healthiest mentality is to never forget the past, look forward to the future, but remain in the present.

In the end though, with the last ~36 hours being absolutely CRAZY I'd say the film (abridged) turned out pretttty baller. I hope to get the consent of all the participants and thus be allowed to post it online. Rest assured if I am, you will be hearing from me with a link! [edit: you can find the video on our website, here] For now though, should you like to watch the slideshow, you can find it here or downloaded here. For the soundtrack, please listen to it here on Soundcloud.

Thank you all for following me the past couple of weeks as I've chimed in here and there on facebook about the project. It certainly provoked a lot more emotions than I'm enumerating here, but I am literally falling asleep as I write this entry (doesn't help I am lying prostrate on my bed). I think it's time to get some sleep... heh, haven't gotten much lately. Oy, my final is on Monday too. Wish me luck!

Listen.
Learn.
TALK.
Help END the silence.

There is no secret society.

Much love,
Chacha

[edit] P.S. Please see our website with a link to our video and list of resources made available to MIT students: https://sites.google.com/site/projectdxdt/ Thanks for watching!

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Found my Valediction...

Hah, funny digging through my folder titled "random" has procured some rather enjoyable reads. Among them today I found my Valediction. Should you want a blast from the past (okay, only 3 years, but still, that some time!) here's what I so nervously recited to my class June 6th(?) 2010. :)

Enjoy! Much love!

~~~~~
Coast Union Valediction of 2010
       Welcome family and friends. Let me start with this: thank you. The love, support, words of wisdom, and even the smacks on the back of the head, helped shape the young adults that stand before you. That is not to say that we didn’t work hard to get to where we are today. We did, we put in the hours of work. But without you, it would have been completely different. On behalf of the class of 2010, thank you.
To my fellow graduates.
       The time has come, we are about to embark on the adventure called life. That is not to say that what we have experienced thus far isn’t life, but from here on out it will be very different. There will be no adults to “bail us out,” no teachers to remind us when things are due; we will be completely responsible for our lives. So what does being the only person responsible for your actions represent? To some, freedom and power. To others, fear and uncertainty. No matter how we view it, change is something we must embrace, learn from, and move on with new tools that will enable us for a better life.
       So the question becomes this: What will you do with your life?
       Do not be misled, a life of indifference is just as bad as a life of crime. If we are not actively seeking what is right, what is just, then we are just as guilty as the man who threw the stone. Instead of leading an existence of indifference, live life out loud. Find your passion and follow it. The world will know you by your actions. What will you choose to lead your life? Here is my challenge for you:
Choose Love.
Choose a life of love, and your legacy will be great. That does not necessarily mean a life of luxury or wealth or fame. In fact, love will most likely entail a humble life. But the footprints you leave behind will provide more for future generations than any monetary endowment ever could. Choosing such a life though, is not easy. Love is not some mushy emotion. Love is a choice. It is an action. You must decide to love. You may fall in love, but you must choose to stay there. Loving will be the hardest part of life, and yet the most rewarding. To love is to want the best for ones you like least.
What do you want to be your legacy? Who will you be defined as?
Though I am not Morgan Freeman, who narrates everything best, I will leave with these words from the poem “Invictus”:
“In the feel clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.
It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am  the captain of my soul.”
Thank you.
~~~~~

Monday, April 8, 2013

Sexual Assault Awareness Month

In August 2010, I was sexually violated. 

I was a freshman at MIT, actually, I hadn't even started school yet. It took me over two years to come forward and talk about it. It is still a slightly nerve wracking story to talk about. But that's just it, it shouldn't be. Hearing this news is never going to be easy news to hear, but it should never be taboo. The boy at fault was, well, to say the least, a jerk. I want to believe that he didn't know what he was doing. I want to believe that because I didn't say no and maybe had initially wanted to kiss him (unfortunately, I didn't document it and can't remember if I did or did not. This in itself haunts me, more than anything else, I wish I had told someone every detail or written it down, two years does a lot to one's memory.). I want to believe that perhaps that's why he thought he had consent. I don't know and until I'm ready to talk to him, I never will. He took something that was not his. It is truly an inexplicable sensation of embarrassment and frustration with myself that I felt over come me when I first started talking about it last October. It consumed my mind and affected my grades. The only option I had was to talk about it more. Every time I open up and talk about this very intimate event in my life, I hope I give others the liberty to do so as well.

One in four college aged woman will be raped or sexually assaulted. Chances are, you know someone who has been violated and don't even know it. My goal is to make this a topic of discussion. It should never lose its potency but I hope soon it will be less "forbidden." I was partly scared to come forward for fear of how people would react. After all, this kid goes to my school and is actually a rather known figure, a member of a fraternity even, etc.

To all of you who have been violated: It doesn't matter who he/she is, you have a RIGHT to speak up and be comforted. You have a right to no longer let it control you. An absence of a "no" DOES NOT MEAN a "yes." Period. (I still battle with this, with questions like "was I encouraging it?" etc.) Even if you are like me, and "successfully forget" about it for several years, it will surface one day, and when it does, know that you are not alone. Know that you are loved. And if you're like me, you'll roll your eyes and shrug this post off (heard the jargon a billion times, but eventually, something snapped and I started to listen), but hopefully, somewhere in the back of your mind, you'll come to believe it on a whole new level... in time... when you are ready.

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. My platform for the Miss Boston Pageant wasn't just "for funsies," it was to bring about discussion of this topic to teach people how to respond to such news so that hopefully when more people come forward, they are greeted with opened arms and a good listener. My hope is that my story will turn that sexual assault poster on a wall into a face-- a real, living, *friend's* face-- and not just another poster. I think awareness is one step closer to a better, more educated community. Thank you for reading.

Much love,
Chacha


P.S. I'll elaborate more on options and all that can be done for support as I explore the opportunities I've learned about at school. Since making this post my status on facebook, I've learned about three friends who have also been violated. It's amazing what sharing this post has already brought to my attention as well as others' attention.  Keep on talking... it'll bring about a change. I promise.