Gone Fishin’…

14 Aug

Gone fishin’…well movin’ actually…

I’ve taken a proverbial fishing trip from my online duties this month… and have officially turned into Chicken with Her Head Cut Off…as I find myself back home in California preparing my things for THE BIG MOVE. (I’m heading east ya’ll…really east…like Paris, France east.) I’m up to my headless torso in boxes, bags, and thirteen years of life everywhere. How does one tiny person accumulate so much stuff?? (In my own defense, I am a Cancer. Comes with the territory.) Needless to say, this leaves me little time to write anything. And even if I wanted to write something, most of the time I can’t even find my computer a midst the carnage of the grand battle between me and my stuff. Fyi…I’m losing. Stuff – 1. Headless Chicken – 0.

As a quick behind the scenes as of how I got to this point…Pierre and I decided to call Paris home for a little  while, and with this comes lots of joy (I mean, come one, I’ll be living in Paris! Need I say more?!) and sadness (I’ll be moving away from one of my most favorite states in the country and from some of the most amazing friends and sister a lady could have). Actually, I like to think of  this whole move as my stuff is relocating to a cheaper home (aka Mom’s basement) while my spirit still resides here. This helps with the coming to terms of it all. Fortunately, I’m so insanely busy between packing, selling, and warring that I can’t think about it all. I’m sure once this is all over, it’ll all sink in. Til then…has anyone found my head??

Here’s a little video that accurately portrays just how I feel. Torn between here and there…

http://vimeo.com/25451551

And to throw in some lagniappe … my good friends in Puerto Rico just finished their new documentary on skateboarding on the island are looking to share it with the world. Five years of blood, sweat and tears went into it and now their hoping to get The Holy Grail of the film world…distribution. Their project is on Kickstarter. Check them out and if you feel so inspired, help support their endeavor and make their dream come true.

http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1672395135/ejkei-a-documentary-about-skateboarding-in-puerto?ref=live

See you in Paris!

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Postcard from … Italy!

3 Aug

Baby Girl Corona 128

In an effort to continue my received postcard series, I present to you the latest received postcard. This one came in on the day of my birthday…which was last month.  (Yes, I know I’m late, but I’m just now catching up with the month of July!)  This message from Italy was sent to me by the one and only Miss Mentor Extraordinaire. Keeping true to her ways, this little beauty landed in my mailbox on the morning of my bday. (Major feat considering that she had to account for international postal delivery, which is, as I’ve learned the very hard way, not always so reliable. How does she do it??)

The card is of the “unknown” variety – no name attributed to neither the photographer nor the model. The are only two pieces of writing on it: Corona 128 on the front (not sure what this is in reference to, but I’m pretty positive it doesn’t have anything to do with the beer) and Italy (which, I assume, means the country.)  So, with the limited amount of info given, who knows who she is or what her story was, but I can imagine that it was quite the colorful lifestyle given the choice of photo.  One thing we can say about her though…she’s got excellent taste in accessories. Where can a girl find a headdress  with matching belt like that? Italy??

Thank you, Miss Mentor Extraordinaire (and topless anonymous Italian girl) , for me keeping my collection going. It was the perfect way to kickstart my birthday celebrations…and by celebrations, I mean the entire weekend was mine!

(If anyone else feels inspired to send me a card and keep my collection going and growing, please do so! I’d love to have them!)

And Now A Word From “El Padre”

30 Jul

Greetings gang! I’ve been a bit MIA this past month as I’ve been completing an intensive French course that has left me intensively Frenchy-fried. But alas, the class is done, and I can resume my post as blog poster.  I’ve got plenty of stories to tell of my adventures in France this past month. However, until then, I cede the keyboard to my very first guest blogger, my father, hereby known on this blog as “El Padre.”

In an attempt to share points of view and slices of life from all around the world, I asked El Padre to share a little something about a topic he is very passionate about…Puerto Rico. A few days ago, El Padre called me to chat, and in that chat El Padre mentioned that on that day, Puerto Rico celebrated the life of a one of its illustrious patriots, Dr. Jose Celso Barbosa. With El Padre’s desire  to always teach his daughter something new, he shared with me some information regarding this important figure in Puerto Rican history. Touched by El Padre’s passion for this subject and happy to have learned something new about my culture, I asked El Padre to write something to share on my blog.  And he did.  Enjoy!

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Illustrious Medical Doctor Commemorated

Dr. Jose Celso Barbosa

On July 27, the people of Puerto Rico commemorated the birth date of one of its most illustrious sons, Dr. Jose Celso Barbosa (1857-1921). He distinguished himself in many areas during the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries. Among other distinctions, he was the first Puerto Rican to obtain a medical degree from an American university; in fact, he graduated at the top of his class at The University of Michigan Medical School in 1880.

He was born to a humble family of artisans and remained humble throughout his very productive and notorious life. He was born “mestizo” with European, African, and Amerindian ancestry. He felt that people of mixed raced like he had little chance at advancement in the island (Puerto Rico) due to colonial prejudice which favored European descendants. This belief paved the way for him to move temporarily to the United States to learn English and pursue his ambition of becoming a medical doctor.

This belief also paved the way for his pro-statehood political stance. In 1899, one year after the US invasion of Puerto Rico during the Spanish-American war, he founded the pro-statehood Puerto Rican Republican Party. However, even though he favored statehood, he zealously guarded Puerto Rican identity and strongly believed that Puerto Rico should retain its Spanish language and culture.

When the United States Navy bombarded what today is known as “The Old San Juan”, and blockaded the entrance to the San Juan Bay in 1898, Dr. Celso Barbosa, with the company of other doctors, crossed the Bay from the town of Catano in a ferry boat to aid the wounded Puerto Ricans and Spanish soldiers, coming close to been hit by cannon fire. For this bravery, the Spanish government recommended that Dr. Celso Barbosa and his fellow doctors be awarded The Naval Cross of the Order of Merit, the highest honor of its kind.

After Puerto Rico became a territory of the United States in 1898, the President of the United States, William McKinley, in recognition of Dr. Celso Barbosa’s accomplishments and stature, selected him along with four other distinguished Puerto Ricans to form part of the President’s Executive Cabinet, where he served from 1900 to 1917. During that year he became a member of the Puerto Rico Senate until he died in 1921 at the age of 64, 90 years ago.

Even those opposed to Dr. Jose Celso Barbosa’s political philosophy recognize this man’s integrity, humanity, and unwavering defense of the people of Puerto Rico’s best interests.

Painting of Dr. Jose Celso Barbosa

Footnote: The author of this review, Frank Vieras Alejandro, M.D. assumes responsibility for the historical accuracy of its content.

Things I’ve Learned in France, Part I

21 Jul

In honor of last week’s Bastille Day celebrations, I figured I’d take a moment to share with you a few of the cultural lessons I’ve learned thus far during my time in France. What better way to celebrate a country, than to celebrate its cultural nuances.

1.  Give us this day, our daily bread

Take this bread and eat from it...

Ah, bread. The French love it. It’s everywhere, at every meal, in a million different forms. It’s as if the French took the teachings of Jesus Christ to heart adopting the “let us break bread” concept as their national pastime.  The French motto should actually read…Liberté, égalité, fraternité et pain.  What is really amusing to me is the treatment of bread at the dinner table. For as important as it is and for all the proper etiquette the French reserve for their dining experiences, the bread seems to get the shaft. There is no special bread plate onto which one can place the bread nor is it placed on the dinner plate next to the rest of the fare . It just gets plopped straight on the dinner table, crumbs and all. Apparently for the French, the prayer actually reads  “give us this day, our daily bread …and plop it on the table next to your wine.”

2.  Bros before hoes

The Dogg and Hoe show

The French love to take American words or sayings and integrate them into their daily language.  Words like “cool, top and super” end up in all sorts of phrases normally used to describe things as being, well, cool, top, or super. I especially like it when they  make a whole new word up with the borrowed word, like top. The movie poster for Kung Fu Panda 2 describes the movie as being “toppissime!” (Translation: Awesome!) However, it is even more interesting to me when they take true slag and make it their own. Something about it is just ever so slightly off. Like when I was on the metro last week, and I heard a young guy having a conversation on his cell phone, and he muttered the phrase “bros before hoes.” (Mind you, this was said with quite the thick, French accent so you can imagine that some of the hardcore-ness of the phrase was actually water-downed with the ever-romantic French diction.) Of all the things he could have appropriated from the American culture, this is what he chose to take.  This is clearly the cultural exchange at its finest.  Perhaps the next lesson could be on the intricacies of the bitch slap?  PS…Snoop Dogg called. He wants his hoes back.

3.  Going once, going twice, soldes!

I'm Soldes!

Twice a year everything in France goes on sale…literally! Every January and every July, all the stores get rid of their passé inventory by putting it on sale for 6 full weeks.  All items from clothing to home décor to building supplies are slashed down up to 80% off. Talk about the sales event of the year. Better yet, the two sales events of the year! It’s an absolute shopping frenzy. It’s also the secret behind the Parisian’s impeccable  fashionable and style.  (I’m on to you, Frenchies!) No need to spend a million euros to look like a million euros.  This is quite the brilliant concept. Vive les soldes!

4.  Cave envy 

Enter the cave

It is a unspoken rule that every self-respecting French man have an wine cave of which to be self-respecting. Regardless of where you live, what you do, or where you come from, if you are a French man, you must have a wine cave. They vary in size and style and in the contents they contain, but every man has one or a version of one. And they will proudly show it off and its contents whenever you visit their home. (I’m sure that if men could do this with their private parts, they totally would.)  My favorite part of the cave show-and-tell is when we get to taste their goods because every cave tour ends with an open bottle of wine.  Now, that’s my kind of show-and-tell.  Go ahead boys, whip it out! My cup runeth empty, and it could use a good ’92 Chateau Margaux!

5.  Sardines a la française 

Les Sardines

This is not a type of sardine. This is what I lovingly call the Parisian metro system. Why? Because that’s exactly what we are come rush hour time on the metro. Regardless of how packed the metro may be (and when I say packed, I mean “my face is squished up against the glass door as in a make-shift facelift kind of way” packed), there will always be someone…or some many…that will think that one more person can fit. It’s as if everyone loses their notion of humanity… and personal space… when it comes to trying to get home during peak hours. It never fails. Just as the door is about the close, someone will cram themselves into the slightest nook available in a desperate attempt at winning that final point of the human Tetris game we play during our daily commute. Yesterday, I actually saw a woman stage dive into the stuffed train just as the door was about to close. Seriously. Of course, my favorite moment of any train ride is when we pick up passengers at the train stations. No matter what the train situation may be (and most of the time, it’s packed), there will always be the courteous passenger that will be sure to squeeze themselves into the train carrying their fifteen pieces of luggage,  their ten loud kids and their enormous, slobbering dog. Sit back and enjoy your ride.

More lessons to come…:)

Postcard from … Walsall!

9 Jul

a little bit of love from The New Art Gallery in Walsall

After a long week of mind-bending French classes, I came home yesterday to find this beautiful postcard in my mailbox (along with a birthday care package!) Instantly, I was happy.  The whole week of headache-inducing verb conjugations and definitive article identification was now an impressionistic blur as I sat on my couch, in utter TGIF mode, and read the thoughtful note from my fabulous friend. (Knowing that I love art and postcards, she is always sure to send me the most beautiful, unique, artful cards she can find. )

As usual, her card shares of all the places she’s recently been…Hawaii, UK, and now NY… and the adventures she’s found along that journey (I imagine she has frequent flyer miles with every airline company possible.)  She also took a moment to share the sad news of her father’s passing. I was both saddened by the news (imaging what she must be feeling) but also extremely touched by the fact that despite all she is going through, she still took the time to stay connected … and send me a bday gift.

That’s the power of the postcard. Just takes a few words to stay in touch with the people you love.

(I write this little note in honor and support of my dear friend, Miss Mentor Extraordinaire.  Her love is felt no matter where she is on this vast planet.  This is my postcard to her.)

La Isla del [En]canto

30 Jun

I decided to brush off my political hat and throw it on my neo-Parisian head to bring you this slice-of-life from one of the places I call home, Puerto Rico.  A fellow Puerto Rican friend shared the link below with me, and I felt it important to share it with you.

By the way…

La Isla del Encanto translated means ” The Island of Enchantment”. La Isla del Canto loosely translated means “The Island of Song.” Why the Island of Song? Because with a strong, independent cultural foundation, Puerto Ricans shout out/sing out against the odds to fight the hard fight to save the island they love.

http://aljazeera.com/programmes/faultlines/2011/06/2011627132222888846.

Now mind you, as with any country, there are my political perspectives on the island. This is just one of them.

With love to all my Puerto Ricans out there raising their voices against all odds, I stand in solidarity from far away.

Ode to David Bowie and Lionel Richie

22 Jun

I normally don’t write about particular cultural events that I partake in, as I leave those kinds of postings to all the travel blog writers in the world…and trust me, there are many.  But I figured this particular event merited a little bit of mention.

Yesterday, I had the wonderful pleasure of experiencing what is now my most favorite “holiday” ever. That is, yesterday I got to enjoy my first Fête de la Musique (translation: one hell of an awesome street music festival.) It is an annual event that happens all throughout France (and a handful of other countries) on the 21st of June where hundreds of musicians gather in the streets, bars, and cafes, giving free performances of everything from jazz and rock to hip-hop and orchestral music.

Paris was ALIVE and KICKING! It was a full blown party in the streets where on any and every street corner, park  or cafe you would adventure  upon a new party with a new melody. We were literally dancing in the streets… all night long! (Thank you, David Bowie and Lionel Richie!)

(I wasn’t able to upload my video, so alas this will be a still photo adventure.)

First, we wandered through the Bastille over to the Marais. After hearing a bit of roots reggae and rock from Quebec, we came upon a cool little blues band.

Blues and Tabarin

We continued our journey into the Marais…and found a little folk rock in the window. (The small tiny grey-haired dot is the attraction in this pic.)

music and martinis...excellent combo

We kept along our course, when in the near distance I heard the booty shaking rhythms of a batucada! Now that’s my kind of jam! Mojitos and percussion made this moment heavenly. Not to mention, that we were partying in the backyard of what was once Victor Hugo’s home (you know, Victor Hugo…the guy who wrote Les Mis…the book, not the Broadway musical!) 

Batucada in the streets!

After about 30 minutes of  solid cardio,  we came upon the cool down portion of the workout… a 5 piece band featuring a guy on a very tiny accordion playing what I think is French folk music. ( I asked my hubby for the exact genre, but he had no idea either, so I’ll just call like I hear it.)

taking it old school

After a rousing 2-step dance, hubby and I continued our venture about town. We were sure to hit up the Marais to see how the Rainbow section of town was celebrating…and let me tell you, it was quite the partay.  Sadly, my photos of the event don’t do it justice. But I will say this…house music and leather abounded!

Then…we decided to go see how the tourists were taking it in. The riverbanks were lined with revelers clustering around all sorts of music and there were even some very cool boat parties happening. (I had thought about pulling a James Bond and taking a dive off the bridge onto the boat, but with my luck, I’d end up belly-flopping past the party and into the brown water.)

River cafe at Notre Dame

This was a stationary boat. No need for bridge-jumping adventures…

Lastly, we strolled down the Left Bank making our way home. That last stretch of journey took us around the world and back as we heard a bit of blues, some salsa, more unnamed French folk music, a splash of tango, and even a high school band’s rendition of Abba’s Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (A Man After Midnight.)

Once home, we kicked off our shoes  and propped up our tired feet while the heavy bass sounds of the ongoing festivities pumped in through our windows. The party was still going strong. But I decided to call it a night. After all, I did have me a man after midnight…;)