Saturday, May 28, 2011

Reductions: Part I

We are made for more.

First kiss.

It's like a drum beat.


A steady heart beat.

First car.

I am made for more than this. More than this. More.

First job.

It's a promise.


But of what?


It begins as a promise. Only later does it become an illusion. Fear of loss is the second, not the first reaction.


No, at first it's just a promise and we are full of expectation. We expect something. We expect something that we can't even define. Something beyond what we can define. But we try.


We wait to see how the promise of more will be fulfilled.

Grand kids.

It's as if all of life hinges on that more.


When we are young, everything is new. More is always waiting. As children we scale walls. We turn corners and pages with excitement. There is something waiting.

And then, as if slowly taken by one last drawn out surprise, we realize, in what is more like one long moment, that nothing is really new anymore. There is nothing more. Nothing is waiting.

It's the same job. The same wife. The same vacation. The same food. Well, not the same, but definitely not new. I have done this before. Maybe not this way, but yes, I have definitely done this before. Our experience didn't and doesn't match our expectations. And they settle. They lower.

And even what we haven't done is already judged. It won't be what I am looking for, it won't be enough either.

Nothing is new.

Everything is in, and then out.

In and out.

And the exit wound only grows.

Maybe it was Disneyland. Everything seemed possible.

The dream confused with the ideal.

And life became a wish. I wish it could be this way. If life was like this it would be better. If life were only like this song or that movie. But it isn't. Life isn't like Disneyland. But it should be.

Shouldn't it?

Confusion sets in. The dream becomes the ideal. And yet no dream is ever enough.

Because maybe a wish does come true, but they never come true exactly like we expected or with the exact consequences we imagined. But most dreams don't come true, and so we live in a life that we don't want without the expectation that it will ever really get better. And expectation dies when there is no more possibility of being surprised. There are no more surprises. There is no more waiting.

Because it is here that more has finally been reduced to our measure.

Even the measure of our dreams can't measure up to the desire of our soul.

Even our dreams aren't enough. And when they fall, so do we.

We stop waiting. We think we know all there is to know.

Life becomes the already known.

The unknown is lost.

The mystery.


And so we begin to consume even more. As if consuming more, would fill us more. Would give us direction.

We break taboos. Perhaps, they were wrong. Perhaps, the more is what has been forbidden.

The first affair.

And we consume in hopes of drowning out the despair that even the taboos do not offer us with more.

The divorce.

Where are we supposed to look?

The antidepressants.

It must be me. Right? Something is wrong with me. When I was younger, I was so much happier. Something was always waiting around the next corner. There was always something more. Oh to be young again. To be free. Everything is in front of you.

The overdose.

But where? Where is front?


Monday, August 30, 2010

The Inheritance

I need to write something because I really still want to try and write every week. There is always something to say about my time here and truthfully I do this for selfish reasons. If I don't write on this blog once a week, I know I won't write or keep track of my experience at all.

"Even the disciples of Emmaus, living in front of Jesus, had the same experience. It is still the Lord who makes "their hearts burn" as they were walking with "a sad look” (Cf. Lk 24:13-35). While not recognizing the risen Jesus as they journeyed with him, they felt their hearts burn in their chests, beginning life again, so that when they got home, they "insisted" that he should remain with them. "Stay with us, Lord" is an expression of desire that throbs in the heart of every human being. This desire for "big things" must be transformed into prayer. The Fathers believed that praying is just the shift in yearning for the Lord."

I have everything. I really do. Everything I really want or have asked for I have right now and it's still not enough. I have an amazing family. I have a beautiful relationship with my girlfriend. I am healthy. I have a Fulbright Scholarship in Colombia. I am living in Latin America (where I have always felt more at home than in my own country). But it's not enough.

The other day I was trying to buy a plane ticket with Aires for Bogotá to see a good friend of mine, who is Colombian but studies in Canada and spent a lot of his life in the states, there on vacation visiting his family. I had no idea when else we would see each other and so I decided to go for it. Do me a favor, don't ever fly Aires, its cheap...until they rob you of your time. It took me an entire day to buy the ticket. First off, if you want a "deal" you have to buy the ticket on the internet...the only problem was that the website was full of bugs and didn't work when I tried to buy my ticket. Eventually I had to call them and of course they told me I had to pay some absurd price since I wasn't buying the ticket on the internet. The price they listed was the same price I would have paid for a ticket on Avianca, which is reputable company that you can actually trust to arrive on time to your gate. Anyway, I finally got someone on the phone in customer service who hated the company as much as I did and eventually got the ticket. His name was "John" Jaramillo and his English was about as goo as the customer service I received (both were great). Mind you, it was about 6 hours too late since by the time we were through with the process my entire day was essentially wasted. After that, I was walking home (becuase when I first called customer service I had wasted ALL of the battery of the portable phone and had to go to my host families mother's house) and I was seriously pretty much everything. I was pissed that I had so much work to do in terms of planning for the English classes I am teaching for Fulbright and how I didn't have time....I was worrying for God knows what reason about the "job" I need to get after Colombia that will hopefully be in Italy, and I was stressing about my thesis that is due in two months and about the fact that my mattress is made of slate. Everything...I was cursing everything. In 5 minutes my life, which I swear is everything I want, felt like a really heavy bag of smelly shit that I wanted nothing to do with. Even my trip to Bogotá seemed like it wasn't worth those 6 hours (which later turned into many more on Thursday since my flight was canceled at least 5 times).

Anyway, I went back home and had forgotten that I had a skype date with a good friend of mine João who lives close to São Paolo in Brazil. While I was talking to him I explained how annoyed I was and he said, "You know we are a lot alike. We both have everything and yet it isn't enough". And I knew he was right. At that point I began to think a lot about what a priest we both know used to say when quoting a favorite poet of his. He said that for some reason man was convinced he was owed something, that somehow he felt in his heart of hearts that "everything" was promised to him.

And it's true. We as humans believe for some reason we are made for happiness, to be loved, for justice. And yet, the priest asked, just as the poet did (and I am butchering this), 'Who promised us that we would have it? That we should have everything? That we deserved happiness? Who wrote this on our hearts?'

Either there is a response or or there isn't. Either that fulfillment that our heart demands, especially when shit just isn't going right, exists or we are delusional, led on by false hopes and a vanishing point that we never quite reach. Saint Augustine understood that.

At least for me that demand is real, that need to be loved, to be happy, to do great things and to live a fruitful life...that's there. And that day talking to my friend I really felt it. Most things don't go "right" here. There is a lot of waiting and a lot of frustrating questions regarding your ID (the ID I have here is for foreigners and was given to me by the almighty DAS) when you try and buy anything...wireless internet...a mattress...yeah, you need an ID (often two forms of it) to buy just about everything here. And then even if you get past the whole ID better hope what you bought actually works becuase the "returns" process is a bitch.

But I mean the point is, why put up with life if you are never satisfied with what you have and if what you get is never exactly what you expected (I mean is it ever? Is it ever how you expected...)? The only way it makes sense is if that question we have, that expectation, has a real response that we can't really predict...that we can sense but that we still haven't quite entirely reached or have only partially reached in the day to day. If you think about it, that desire, that tension between desire and having that desire fulfilled is what makes humans great. It's why we get out of bed, it's why fall in love. It's what makes humans do things. The problem is that a lot of us don't expect to be happy, or to really be loved or to find it...and so many times we try and kill desire as a result. But when we give up on it we die too. With desire goes man. As far as I am concerned that desire is part of a story and it won't go away until it meets something big enough to fulfill it. An infinite for our infinite. It has to be that way, otherwise all of this is pointless and my 6 hours on the phone with Aires was worthless.

So, I have everything and during these past few weeks I realized its not enough. My generation often wants the best internship, thinks they deserve the best job, or to go to the best school...or to get the best scholarship...and then we get it, and I swear we don't know half of the time what to do next. It's almost like it was just about getting the damn thing, not about what comes with it. Getting the Fulbright isn't just about getting the Fulbright, it's about the work that comes with it. Thank God I had my friend João that day because I realized talking to him that when we get what we want the first thing we realize is that we don't really know what it is we signed up for, but that that is part of the adventure. The situation we find ourselves in is always much bigger than we expected, more than we signed up having a baby. These days I just say "Driver, surprise me" becuase I am pretty sure reality is about a relationship and that reality speaks to you and that my only job is to respond with a yes.

So that's what I am doing here, trying my damnedest to continue to say yes. I teach three conversation classes a week and once a month a lead a discussion about the "American Dream" through the eyes of cinema. I have told my kids repeatedly that learning language isn't about grammar and that its about relationship. I can memorize the word love and its definition but that doesn't mean I understand what it means...and it certainly doesn't mean I know what it means in another language. No, to learn a language it has to be felt and experienced. I tell them that's why I am there to teach them, because I have that experience and its something they need it fi they want to really learn English. I do teach grammar, and I do teach vocabulary but always in relationship. The other day I gave a lesson on art. We spoke about Hopper and Rockwell and used a lot of vocabulary and grammar to compare them, and to look at the different ways in which they portrayed life, and American culture in particular. They really enjoyed the girl even wrote me and told me "thank you" for taking them seriously as students and not just doing the same old activities that everyone always does. These kids want to speak English they don't want to learn about what you find in the Kitchen.

The last thing I will say is the Medellín is a wonderful city. The weather here is wild though. In the same day you go from thunderstorms to blue sky...and no one every brings an umbrella because no one ever expects the rain to last longer than 20 minutes at a time...and it doesn't. They also have a metro here. It's immaculate and takes you to all the main parts of the city. I use it everyday to get too and from work. I also live right next to the major stadium in town where the most important soccer teams play like La Naciónal and Medellín. The entire area surrounding he stadium has every type of sports facility you can imagine, even a skate park, and was redone for the South American Games in 2010. I run around the stadium about 4 times a week. In general I can run whenever I want, but usually I don't go after 10pm. At that point most people have gone home and the only time you aren't safe in Colombia is when no one else is around but you. Sounds like any city doesn't it? Well that's because it is. Colombia is a safe place with a very bad rap. The more I am here the more I realize that people have no idea what they are talking about when Colombia comes to mind. I recommend Medellín and the general Antioquia region to anyone interested in traveling somewhere that is still under the radar. I also reccomend traveling in the Boyaca region near Bogotá which is home to Villa de Leyva, a truly picturesque Spanish colonial town where the lighting always seems be perfect. Colombia is a beautiful country and I still have a lot to discover.

The post have been coming in slow because I have been really busy with classes and also with my thesis. Come November (when the thesis is due) I should be able to turn one out every friday, just like I had promised.

In the adventure.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Two weeks and ticking....

Two friends of mine woke up to a huge blast last Thursday in Bogotá. When they first peaked out their window to shards of glass that littered the entire street, I am sure it seemed possible that Colombia really was the Colombia that we had all been warned about.

When we arrived at Hotel Los Heroes two weeks ago today, hardly a week before the explosion that rocked the 4 blocks surrounding Colombia's most well know radio station, all of us had the same stories to tell:

"Is you mom scared shitless about you being here too?"

"When you bought the Lonely Planet guide to Colombia did the kid at the register ask if you were really going there?"

"Well at least the ambassador thought it was prudent to give us the direct line to the Marine on call at Post 1 out front of the embassy...I mean that IS a good thing right?"

And yet I promise, all of us would also tell you that after our first 14 days here, Colombia is not the God forsaken country everyone in the US think it is. Instead it's a complicated country, a country much more complicated than any I have ever been to in my life (except maybe for Italy). For one, Colombia is intensely regional. Each of its 6 regions has its own cuisine, dance, weather, music, and "type of people". Colombia has mountains and the Amazon, the beach and snow, indigenous tribes and a European past...and the first ones to point out these differences are the Colombians themselves. Even the most recent rewrite of the constitution highlights the fact of diversity and commits the state to its protection. The most amazing thing is that even though every region expresses itself differently and has a people, almost all are adamant (and very vocal) about the fact that they are all Colombian. Second, the constant balance between "security" and freedom is not just something for the politicians, but also something that the people here are constantly grappling with on a more personal level (and it's one of the first things you deal with as a foreigner here as well). They have a phrase here in Colombia, "no dar papaya", and it basically means that the quickest way to find yourself in trouble is to ask for it. That means that walking around like a tourist and examining the "weird" money for cool water marks right in front of the ATM is a bad is "exploring" without friends. In Colombia you have to do your best to do as Colombians do, it's as simple as that. Obviously I need to point out that I have only been here for two weeks. I am sure that the longer I am here the better I will be able to grasp and go deeper into the complication of which so far I have only been given glimpses.
However, there are two things that I can say at this point with total certainty; one is that everyone I have met here is welcoming and very interested in our choice to come and live in Colombia. Second, the variety of fresh juice here (90 percent of which are not fruits we are familiar with in the US) is mind blowing and each is delicious. Oh and though "saldo" (money to recharge you phone/use the internet in 3 star hotels) continues to be a problem, Colombia is (far MORE often than not) a very warm country looking to welcome foreigners with open arms. As for my take on Uribe and Santos, Plan Colombia and the security situation in Colombia you will have to turn in next time....for this post I want to walk more on the lighter side.

First of all I have never been with a group like the one assembled this year by the Fulbright Commission in Colombia. Everyone is here because they are interested in knowing the real Colombia, or at least seeing it for themselves. They are from all over the country and from various universities like the Claremont Consortium in southern California and Kenyon College in Ohio as well as Alma College in Michigan, and their interests range from the fine arts to social welfare and informal recycling. All of them are good listeners who are genuinely attracted by life and more specifically by life in Colombia. Everyone involved is interesting. I sincerely mean that. It's actually not what I expected to be honest. I mean usually in Latin America you get two types of gringos/euros, those who have all the answers and want to save Latin America from impending doom or those that are trying to escape the commercialized and spoiled north for an alternative lifestyle of back packing and indigenous tourism (while avoiding showers at all costs since its bad for the dreads and the alternative image) in the south. Instead, we came to learn and for the most part it is clear that we have very few pretensions about what we supposedly already know. The more I spoke with (and consequently became very close to) those on the Fulbright in Colombia, the more it was evident that we came to Colombia because we didn't know something (or didn't trust what we thought we knew) and wanted to find something out. That kind of openness is not normal today (especially in academia where everyone knows the answers and has stopped asking questions) and I am excited to see the kind of stories it will generate amongst us during our time here in Colombia.

As for me, well I am doing well. I arrived in Medellín after my first week in Bogotá and am already loving the change in the weather. Bogotá is a rainy city with constantly cloudy weather. Medellín has its clouds but there is also always sun and it deserves its reputation of being the city of the Eternal Spring. This coming week I start teaching my classes and it's been stressful to be honest. I think life can be a really shitty thing if everything depends on you. For me life is a constant struggle with thinking that it's all up to me and then realizing that it's not. Which reminds me, one of the best parts of my time here has been coming across friends of mine that belong to the Catholic lay movement of Communion and Liberation. I say friends and yet I met all of them for the first time once I arrived and still it was like I knew them from before and our meeting was more like a reunion. A friend of mine in Milan had warned them that I was coming and the way they received me when I arrived is something that just isn't normal and something that demands explanation.

For them my arrival was an event, and I was the focus. Christians believe that everything is a gift and that even our mistakes or the bad in the world is something that is FOR rather than against us. This way of understanding reality is born from Christ´s experience on the cross, where even the most tragic of events was a necessary sacrifice to defeat death and sin. That is why they pelted me with questions from the time I got in the car with them that first Wednesday night to the end of the car ride home...they wanted to know about my life and who I was...and they wanted to know this because they knew that my arrival in Bogotá was just as much something for them and their lives as it was for mine. I live for the kind of conversations I had that night. The best part is that they are people I trust and people I know that I can ask about Colombia and get answers that, even if not perfect, desire to get to the very heart and depth of things rather than remaining on the surface. The same is true here in Medellín where a small group of the same lay movement also exists. The fact that they are here, in the same city where I am working is really a miracle for me...and I know it is FOR me. My friend Simon and I have a saying about coincidence...and that is..."What if coincidence happens everyday?". Well for he and I and many Christians it does...and for that reason it is a sure sign of God. In Colombia they call it Diosidencia.

There is more that I could say but I covered the most important bases. I'll continue to keep updating once a week. Probably on Fridays.

Oh, and the university where I work is the best public university in Colombia...its size and the seriousness with which it faces education reminds me of Berkeley and I already feel at home.

In the Adventure,

p.s. I want to take pictures but still not comfortable enough to do so yet...when I do I will post them

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Is it Possible to Live This Way? An Unusual Approach to Italian Existence | Vol. 1 Patience

I don't like getting email updates and if you've sent me one before I probably haven't read it. I swear we are friends. It's just I'd rather talk to you about your trip instead. I like being involved. Also not all of us are talented writers, and if I am going to sit down and read two pages about how you spent your first day in Alaska deep sea fishing, it better be either a really enthralling big fish story or an email you sent specifically to me because something hella funny happened to you that would make ME laugh and not 25 other additional people. Even better if it's both. That's really the main problem with study abroad mass-emails, they are boring (bad writer) and have nothing to do with you (the person receiving).

With that in mind, I decided to post about my time in Italy on this blog. That way if you really want to hear my thoughts about living and studying in Italy you can just check a website at your leisure. You don't have to feel bad about archiving my email or even promise yourself that you will come back and read the email later seeing as I am "your good friend and all"...instead you can just come here and skim through my bad writing whenever you want. And truthfully I might not even post anything after today.

So, Italy.

I arrived almost 3 weeks ago now. I don't really remember my first thoughts because I didn't write them down. I do remember getting off the plane and waiting for three hours for Stefano to come pick me up at Malpensa, but other than that I don't have a whole lot to say about my first moments in Milan.

You know what was cool though? I sat next to this guy on the plane who is from Oakland and that works for Motorola. We became friends and talked a lot about various high profile prescription drugs that he'd tried and more importantly about if they really do what the advertisements say they do. Viagra? Yes. Cialis? Different, but yes. Lunesta? Yes. Ambien? Yes, but make sure you get your full 8 hours and don't drink to much Cognac. We also talked about Japan and how cool it is and how I should go. And then we talked about people who say they were born into the wrong body, which in this case meant people that thought they were born the wrong gender. I obviously had my opinions on this. The good news was, I kept my cool. This paid off too. Because, as it turns out, he was a Star Gold Alliance Member and when we landed in Munich he got me into this sweet lounge with free beer on tap and good food/internet/every newspaper available in Berlin (also for free). After we said our goodbyes I spent the rest of my layover in the lounge and kept thinking about how God is always really good to me. Not only did I get to see what a Star Alliance Gold Member lounge looked like in Munich, but I also learned about pharmaceuticals that I know I will never use. Plus, the guy was just really nice and, when you have to sit next to someone for that long of a trip, getting a nice guy is really a blessing.

I spent the next couple days with Stefano at his home in Pavia. His family is really wonderful and I felt at home as soon as arrived (actually as soon as I saw Stefano's face at the airport I felt at home). From the moment I walked in, the house was filled with gunfire. His two brothers and cousin were glued to the TV playing the latest Call of Duty on Xbox and my first thought was that American culture is not something you can escape. My second thought was that I was glad they choose to be American and not Russian. That first night I ate everything Ste put in front of me. Everything was healthy, nothing was processed, and it all tasted amazing and decidedly not American.

My second day in Italy I went with Stefano to visit Don Pino from Genova (not the famous Don Pino of Cattolica). The first thing the man did was hug me as if he already knew me. We were invited in his study and conversed for about an hour. Toward the end of our time with him he poured us all some terrible whisky and told me I had to write to Traces Magazine about how I met the movement of Communion and Liberation. He said that kind of story has to be told because people need to know that Christ is a living Presence and one that has unmistakable features. He couldn't believe that an American was sitting in his study who had met CL in Chile. God really is great, and we really are witnesses to an incredible mystery.

Then Stefano dropped me off at the Metro and I made my way to the San Babila region of Milan
where I live with the Raimondi family. The first person I saw was the dad who is a hilarious guy with a great sense of humor. I got along with him from the moment I met him last summer. Actually the entire family is really incredible and living with them in their home has really been more than I deserve. They treat me like a member of the family and everything about my life with them is comfortable and enjoyable. I am really without want. They even took me to St. Moritz in the Swiss Alps.

That Alps were really something else. They're just like you'd imagine they should be, big. The are overwhelming, scrape the sky and put you in your place. You recognize you're human in front of the Alps, finite and yet still capable of grasping and affirming their beauty. They take over the entire horizon and you say to yourself "yeah, they should be like this, they should be huge and powerful and magnificent. I want them to be just like they are." I couldn't think up a better version of the Alps even if I tried.

We stayed there for three days, each of which we skied. I snowboarded, which was incredible. The snow there is so dry and has so much give. I had never experienced anything like it. The whole trip to the Alps was like that, everything was new, something I was experiencing for the first time and maybe even for the last. Everyone should see the Alps before they die, they are humbling, the epitome of God's grandeur (and if that sounds cliché its because you haven't been there).

Most of the time in Milan post-Alps/honeymoon period has been a trial in perseverance and patience. The bureaucracy here is a nightmare. I spent at least a week trying to get a "permesso di sogiorno" which is basically the government's complicated way of making sure that they know you are here and, more importantly, that they know you have verifiable fixed address. It's safe to say they have an illegal immigration problem here. I basically went to the post office like 50 times because that's where you have to go to turn all the paper work in and seriously no one ever knew what I was talking about. The only post office where people actually understood why I was there was the central post office where all the other immigrants hang out. It was kinda cool actually because while I was waiting in line I met this Korean girl who had lived in Manhattan and gone to fashion school and who was now doing a masters in jewelry in Milan. We didn't become such good friends that I could ask here if getting a masters in jewelry was really something you could get your masters in, but she seemed trustworthy. Anyway after I turned the paper work in they gave me a receipt with the date and time of an appointment with the police. So needless to say, it's still not over. Surprise.

The master's program I am in seems legit but I still have yet to see. The professors seem excellent and the course itself is really well organized and will be useful for the kind of work I hope to do in the future. However, I wasn't necessarily blown away by the caliber of my peers. I hope they prove me wrong in the next few weeks though, alumni is an important part of this whole thing.

Also the School of Community that I am supposed to attend is made up entirely of Africans. I'm sure I'll be returning to this subject in future posts.

There are obviously a lot more details that I could go into about the time I have spent here but I wanted to give an overview rather than going overboard, because that's something I also hate about travel emails, they are too long. I enjoyed doing this though so look for more posts soon.

And now its time for my favorite part of the post,

Things American's will find absurd about Italy

1. Sure, it's no longer strange to encounter a European that enjoys a good game of "basket" but naming your basketball team "Armani Jeans"? Absurd.

2. In Italy you won't find a single theater showing a foreign film in its original language. They are all dubbed. Every film, every television show, is dubbed and there is never the option for subtitles. If you ask to watch a film in its original language, usually English, with Italian subtitles Italians will complain but begrudgingly yield to your demands because they want to practice their English, that is, unless they are tired.

3. This is related to #2 but deserves its own paragraph because it is equally as absurd. In Rome you can find various schools devoted to teaching their students the art of "dubbing". That's right people go to school in Rome to become voice over "actors". It is a profession, and a quite lucrative one at that. In fact, a Italian voice actor ( or "doppiatore") makes his career voicing over a single actor and essentially "becoming" that persons voice in every one of their film. For that reason Italians will tell you that when they hear an actors real voice for the first time their gut reaction is that it can't be their "real" voice.

4. The song "Tik Tok" by Keisha and "Sexy Bitch" by David Guetta feat. Akon are extremely popular here. I know, that's absurd enough by itself, but the best part is that: (1) most people have no idea what the lyrics mean and inevitably sing the most inappropriate parts in public making me uncomfortable and (2) it confuses their English. I can't tell you how often people ask things like "Why does Keisha sing 'But the party don't stop' instead of 'will not stop'." To which I try my best at a decent expalnation of english meter and rhyme scheme (all of which I learned from Santi and my friend Sam) and "street culture" (from Everett)...but usually fail.

5. You can do everything at the Post office in Italy. They offer mobile service, bank accounts, immigration services and even health insurance. Oh, and they will mail your stuff. If you think the lines are bad at the post office in the states you obviously haven't lived in Italy.

6. 55% of the people in Milan own a Montcler Jacket. So does Kanye.

I keep a running list of these things and will continue to put up at least five every post. At this point it does not look like I will ever run out.

Also, I can't believe I live in Milan. I can and do walk to the Duomo whenever I want. I often say morning prayer there. I go to mass in Churches that have been there for centuries and walk along streets where I know Saints have been before me. I live in the city where Fr. Giussani began a movement that changed every part of my life. I'm learning Italian.

We really are given more than we deserve.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The Pope in New York

...I finally have time to reflect...

So as you guys know I headed to New York a couple months back to greet the Pope on his first trip to the US. I went because I wanted to see him for myself and because I have quite a few friends who mean a lot to me back there that I wanted to share the experience with. He amazes me. John Paul showed me how to love the Church and Benedict continues to show me why I should. For instance, this man came here to tell us one thing and one thing only, that Christ is our Hope. Not politics, not a bigger salary, not technology or lower taxes, or good grades at the University, but Christ. Who says something like that, and with such certainty? After seeing him it was clear to me that I wanted whatever it is that he has, I want that sense of certainty, that kind of faith, that kind of concrete relationship with Christ. He tells us that Christ is the only answer to our humanity, and when I saw him in New York you could see that he knew that to be true in his own life in the way he lives, he was so happy, so loving! For him Christ is real, someone that accompanies him as a friend in the here and now. That is why I follow him and why every chance I get I read what he writes or speaks about. We are truly blessed to have him as our shepherd. While I was there I got the chance to hear him speak at the youth rally in Yonkers. What impressed me most was how spry he was at 81. Also, everyone (the media specifically) before he came was calling him things like the enforcer, and saying he was too German and too stern, but the Benedict I saw was incredibly happy and loving, he looked at us like a father should. In the end we were all very excited to see him, and he was clearly excited to see us, it was very much of a mutual thing.
The church I saw and that he saw that day is alive, and being there verified what I have seen to be true for the last five years, that even though the church may be smaller now, it is stronger and more aware of herself and of the task at hand: to proclaim Christ as our only Hope to a world that has reduced Him to a figment of our imagination. For my friends that were there with me to greet the Pope, and for me, Christ is the only response to our humanity and our desire for truth. Seeing the Pope helped to reassure us of this fact.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Catholic for a reason

Sometimes I wonder if people really think its that simple. Like its that easy just to pass off 2,000 years of history as if it were nothing, as if it could really just crumble into nothing. One time some reporter asked the Pope if he was worried about the Church since the number of priests in Europe and North America/Australia was dwindling so rapidly and he just laughed, replying that the Church "started with 12". And its true. What's beautiful is what people outside of the Church, and many inside...the sleepwalkers, can't see. How right now the Church is being purged of all its dead weight. All those priests and religious who don't love the Church, the lay persons who joined their ranks, who assert themselves above the Church without even the slightest hint of if they were the Church as if they could do it better...all under their banners of social justice and dialogue...and yet we see through them and their hard hearts...we love the Church and we recognize that it is Christ that finds us, that moves us, and that renews His Church without the slightest nod to the best intentions of man. This is what the Catholic family has forgotten, to pray and to listen. Instead many have asserted themselves time and time again claiming that they knew best, listening to the world and bending to the rules of the world...listening they called it...dialogue they called it...and look at the fruits of their many of their orders are dying ...these priests and nuns who threw of their habits in some vain attempt for some supposedly egalitarian ideal! Sickness. What blasphemy...what shame...what chaos. And the fruits of their labor, the beautiful irony...thousands of young 20 somethings that want nothing more than to follow the Pope and make the mass beautiful be Catholic proclaim that the Priest, that the religious, is in fact NOT a lay person...we DON'T want that...that was never intended...screw the 60s and its reactionary ignorance...they are not equal and were never meant to be...shame on you! Shame on you for making a farce of the Church and of what She shows us in Her rituals and hierarchy...Christ! All that mindless academic dialogue and tolerance...and you forgot the Mass...what makes you! What shows us Christ! And in your arrogance you were blinded by your own hubris, your intelligence, your ability to argue subjectivity...anyone can argue subjectivity...and yet we know it is not what we were made for! We were made for Truth! And what's worse, you poisoned the Church and Her flock! Shame on you...lost shepards...with lost sheep. The game is up...look at the movements in the Church and how God renews His Church through the Holy Spirit...the new line of Jesuits...faithful to St. Ignatius's teachings! What beautiful, beautiful irony! The Church is regaining her balance and She is thriving! What optimism! And yet we still many are still asleep...Catholic only by culture...unaware that they are a new creation not bound by sin nor the world...pilgrims on Earth...we must face reality and we must live! FREEDOM! This is Christ. This proposal to live as Christ has asked us. We must regain our reason and employ it! We must embrace the risk of our faith. We must know why we are what we are, we must constantly verify so as to never repeat the sins of our past...of the great rejection of our humanity that occurred in the 60s and only grew worse..destroying our mass, the priesthood, the reverence, the papacy, OUR CERTAINTY! We must regain the mass in all its beauty and never again yield to the worldly...for we are not of the world! And in great faith we must bow to the Pope's authority because it IS reasonable! Because without it we are destined to be overcome once again by relativism and I REFUSE, I REJECT THIS CHAOS...WE must REFUSE to relinquish ourselves in front of the pursuit of the lies where faith and reason intersect...and we must always stay is a constant work, but it is the only work, the only work that makes life worth living...that makes it real. You have lost, and Christ has won...there was never even a battle. We must pray for all the souls lost due to the misguidance of so many well intentioned shepards drunk with arrogance...that they too may come home before the great equalizer of death has its last word, before the darkness descends and as the new dawn ascends. ¡Viva Cristo Rey! Pax+

Friday, January 19, 2007

Solo is cool.

I went solo to argentina. It was cool, at first. Now I am just board and want to go back home to Chile. While I was in Argentina I read a whole book in spanish, so I guess that means I am learning the language alright. Today I went to see the house where Che Gueverra was born, I dont knwo if that is how you spell his name, but a little secret, I kinda dont care, not a big fan of the guy or the iconic image of mostly myth that he has become. I will not rant further however.

So yeah, I spent the last 8 days in Buenos Aires and Rosario, Argentina. Rosario is the home of the argentine flag and a colossal monument of patriotism devoted to it. Pictures soon. As for Buenos Aires, once again it is an amazing place and I hope to come back one day for an even longer stay, hopefully with people who know the city.

bye bye for now, have to catch a bus back to BA and then tomorrow I fly home to Chile.


Tuesday, January 16, 2007

What am I doing you ask?

Well I am in Argentina right now, or more like Buenos Aires which is a whole differnt deal than the rest of the country really. The city reminds me of a really bad accident that involved only two drivers, New York and Europe. Yes, Europe completly clobbered New York in the crash but nevertheeless bits and pieces of New York can be found all over this city, although the majority of the streets and a buildings look like they came from France or Italy. I love it, I hoep in the future I get to live here for awhile, get to know it a little better, it´s a very cool place and is nothing like the South America I have experienced thus´s huge,well developed, well planned and old but as I say this I realize it truly bears the mark of the conquistador more so than any other city I have seen down here....every major company is down here, from mercedes to panasonic to sun microsystems you name it. Anyway, either way its a very cool place to vist and soak in, definitly a place everyone should see, gives you a better grasp of the world as a whole.

So I saw a movie the other day Deja Vu with Denzel...and yes, Val many of you already know, I do my best to see everything Val has done and thankfully he delivered again is this one...or did he, you be the judge.

Also, Ricky Martin has this newes to anyone else because it certainly was to me shit. Kinda pissed me off actually, i mean he is supposed to be a pretty boy, tatoos? Come on Ricky. Biggest let down thus far for me in SurAmerica....saw him on billboard...yeah i know, imagine finding out ricky´s body is soiled by tatoos by look at a billboard outside your hotel window in Buenos. I obviously haven´t opened my curtains since.

Um what else, nothing for now i guess, I should update more, i always think i have to wait till i put pictures up but forget that. I mean not forget the pictures, they will come some day, but i mean i can post without them. Well i am goign to make my sister read this, cause i dont think people read this anyway.

Con Cariño,

Sunday, December 03, 2006

I am unconsoled, I am lonely, I am so much better than I used to be

I'm sad today. Woke up that way. All the friends I made in these last three months are leaving, and the majority are leaving for good. These last three months have truly been some of the best in my entire life. I never thought it was possible to cross paths with so many good people in such a short period of time, and I have a harder time believing how many of these people ended up being some of the best friends I have ever had in my entire life. Concepción, as Robert would say, is something we could not have done better, it was as good as it could have been and we are all lucky to have been a part of it. I have to say goodbye to Robert tonight and when I do I know it will mean, at least for me, that this whole chapter in my life will have come to an end. There are some kids on this trip that I was much closer to than others, they know who they are and I hope that means they know how much I love them. I just can't believe this went by so damn fast. I keep thinking about how I will watch that bus leave today at 9pm and how my heart will sink. I know I am headed to Santiago to study and that I have traveling to look forward to, but it just won't be the same...all the laughs we shared and just the fact that we were all so comfortable together, how we meshed in seemingly incomprehensible ways, how we were all just so damn different, but maybe that was the genius of it all, maybe in the end we were more like a massive puzzle that finally got put together in Conce. I bet if we could take a step back and look at the puzzle completed, it would look more like a beautiful mural than some cartoony ass dibujo. Hah. Yeah. So here's to the other pieces in the puzzle, my better parts. I love you guys and I will never forget you or how you completed me. I can't wait to have a reunion, to meet you guys in the states with a fresh perspective and a bigger heart. Thanks for all your love, for all your patience, for all you laughs, and all the shit talking we did on pulga and precolombino. And yes, I am still looking for a way to keep in touch with Gaston, any sugerencias?

Con un amor fuerte y complejo,

Monday, November 13, 2006

New Pictures

Posted two new sets. Good pictures in both. One of my trip to Santiago to see the Beastie Boys and the other of the pilgrimage I went on with my girlfriend and her church. Hopefully I will have some more time here pretty soon to write about both experiences...but i don't now. Hopefully the pictures will suffice. For now.


Sunday, November 05, 2006

So what HAVE you been doing?

I haven't posted for quite some time, and I kinda even wonder if there are really people out there reading this, but I mean I'm gonna go ahead and write anyway because well, I figure one day I will probably wonder, "man that blog I had while I was in that thing still up?" and then I will return here and think wow Tim, great memories...great freaking super bacan recuerdos.

So what have I been up to the last two weeks you ask? Well I haven't been traveling, that's for sure. No, the truth is that I have been trying to figure out whether or not our Nana (housekeeper) is a Robot. I seriously spent upward of 25 hours looking for where she plugs herself in, or for a charger of some sort, i don't know rechargeable batteries (doubtful, it would take way to many)...but after countless wasted hours and awkward moments of eye contact with the Nana..who is on to me by the way...i gave up yesterday. Sadly, I am left only with suspicion.

And then I have a girlfriend as well. Thats probably the real problem.

yeah, but I am headed to a beastie boys concert this weekend and so i will post some pictures and have some GREAT things to say.

love tim

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Shout out

I didn't do anything "interesting," in these past two weeks. I didn't go travel or even leave Concepcion for that matter, and I don't really have any pictures to post. Instead I just went to school and hung out with Chileans. And I must say, these have been the best two weeks of my time here. I think I got to caught up in the travel thing when I first arrived, and because of that, the first month and a half of my stint here was a total whirlwind. So, I decided I would use this post as a shout out to my Chilean friends who have been unbelieveably warm and kind to me my entire time here. I don't think I have met one kid while I have been here that I didn't enjoy my time with. See I am in this program with 50 Americans and all our classes are together, but we have "hermanos." Hermanos are the chilean kids that actually go to the University of Concepcion and that we are paired up with. For example my hermana is Andrea and she is a first year Translation student. All the hermanos are Translation students and each takes three different languages besides spanish. They study two intensely and one not so intensely. The thing is, it could have happened that after the first few weeks we would have stopped hanging out with the hermanos...because now we are acclimated and speak good enough spanish to get around. That is infact not the case at all. We actually hang out with the hermanos all the time. And its great. Anyway. The hermanos are great. And that's all there is to say about that.

Saturday, October 21, 2006


New pictures posted. Sorry it took so long. More tomorrow. I promise.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

On how i didn't get out of bed for 4 days

Yeah, so for the past 6 days I was really sick with what I was told by the doctor was strep throat. Horrible. I honestly haven't been that sick since I was little, and I am just saying that because, well I really can't remember the last time I was that sick. My throat felt like someone had jammed a grappling hook down it and decided...well maybe that wasn't such a good idea, and so began to pull it back out...FOR 6 DAYS. It was aweful. The good news is that today, though I have almost no energy, I am not feeling sick and am planning on...finally posting my pictures from my trip to valdivia, and if I have the gumption, I might even put up a new post. I probably will. I also want to make a video to post. Also, a confession. I have two blogs. One is for me, and one is for you. The one that's for me I have had for three years now and it is not, and will never be public. It's more like storage space for my thoughts. Why am I saying this? Because well, I have been writing more there then I have been here and I kinda feel bad because it's a little selfish. I promise to be better baout posting pictures from now on, and also about just saying how life's going here. Well, I need to go eat breakfast.

Monday, October 09, 2006

And the sleep i've lost could rest me...the best the worst and the maritimes

Today is a holiday in Chile. I don't know what kind of Holiday, but I know that I've got the day off. I spent the last three days in Valdivia, Chile. It's a southern town with a strong and very recognizable German heritage. On that note, they have a cervezaria (brewery) there that produces by far the best beer in Chile, called Kunstmann ( Yeah, I know, I really don't drink but I must admit that while I was in Valdivia I did have my fair share of beer. I think this might have had a little to do with the fact that while I was there with two of my friends, we ran into some Brits who happened to be about our age and English teachers at a couple of the Universities in Concepcion. We hit it off almost immediately and soon enough the Brits conceded that it was "beer o'clock" for them and that if we wanted, we could join them at a local pub. We had great conversation over more than a couple pitchers of varying kinds of Kunstmann. We talked a lot about British politics, of which I knew almost nothing about, and the conversation was really interesting, especially when we began talking about the different "peoples" that make up Britain...the English, Scotts, Welsh...and "Irish" and the feuds that exist. We talked about quite a bit of other stuff as well and before we knew it, it was about 11:30 PM. At that point we had two things on our mind, food and the discotheque. We ended up at a place that considered itself a "Mexican" restaurant and that we (the Californians), after having completed our meal, considered a misnomer. The truth is that there is no such thing as Mexican food down here, and if there are restaurants claiming to serve it, they are mediocre imitations at best. Honestly, it was kind of the same way in New York. Makes me miss home. Anyway, that night, after the psuedo-mexican, we ended up at some random discotheque (nightclub), as we do quite often down here, and had a hell of a night, it was a great introduction to what would turn out to be the beautiful city of Valdivia.

The next day we got up late, having gone to bed at 5 AM, and headed for lunch at a great little pub that came highly recommended in our tourist books, Cafe Hausmann. Since we were still in recovery mode, hah, it occurs to me now that we didn’t have a drop of beer there. Anyway, after lunch we toured the city. It is situated at the mouth of two major rivers, the Calle Calle and the Valdivia. On the Rio Valdivia side of the peninsula there is an open air "farmers market" called Feria Fluvial, which specializes in fresh seafood. It was a really cool place, there were fishermen filleting salmon right at the rivers edge on enormous cutting blocks. They would throw all the excess scraps to sea lions. The crazy part was that the sea lions were right at the base of their feet, chomping at the bit so to speak. Even though the sea lions seemed trained at times, all it took was a big piece of salmon to get them all riled up and aggressive toward one another. I really don't know how the fishermen kept their cool, because I imagine that there have been times when they've been afraid of being bit...the sea lions were huge. The funny thing was that the fishermen really played into the fact that they had crowds of tourists, mainly Chilean, watching the feeding frenzy in awe. I think because of this the fishermen puffed themselves up a little, so as to appear more comfortable than they really were. I have pictures which should be posted to the right eventually and I plan on putting up some video as well.

From the Feria, we took a ferry up the Valdivia river and (in what is becoming the rule and not the exception with the countryside of Chile) could not believe how beautiful it was. The river snaked quite a bit through marshes and trees and grasslands, all amidst a beautiful costal mountain range. While we were enjoying the view, my friend Robert mentioned how this trip, and the fact that we are down in Chile studying in general, is the kind of thing you can't "do any better"'s the kind of thing, the kind of goal you might have for your entire life and never see come to fruition, but we have, and at that moment we both realized even more just how lucky we are to be here. The fact is, each one of us on this program is living out a dream, a life's goal and it will change our perspectives forever. It already has really.

After the boat ride and a quick trip to an indigenous local village, where Robert rode a horse…haha, I wish you had seen it…we went to the Kunstmann Cervezaria to sample beer and eat. We met the brits there and eventually ended up looking for a discotheque to go to, but for some reason the entire atmosphere of the town had changed and the place we were at the night before was dead. Anyway Robert and I walked around for like two hours trying to find a place to dance…haha…because as we have said many times before on this trip…we are only happy when we are dancing…but to no avail. We ended up at some dive bar with a group playing the Beatles. Had a good time, went to bed late.

I ended up coming home yesterday after waking up to rain and the realization that I had homework. The bus ride takes about 7 hours and I slept a majority of the way. The highway is listed as “the 5” on maps, just like the north to south interstate back home in CA. The scenery on the way home was beautiful but there really wasn't much out there, mostly farmland and forest, similar to driving up through northern California.

On a side note, some how our British friends had terrible luck in Valdivia. They were chased by rabid dogs, attacked by territorial foul, and marooned in some incestuous town near a Spanish fort. I have to laugh because I had no such experience and actually ended up with a date both nights I was there, although one night I couldn't find her anywhere. The point is, Valdivia appears to be a bit of a toss up...but if you ask me it comes highly recommended.

Friday, September 29, 2006


So the Spanish here is out of control. Chileans speak really fast, often dropping their "s"es, and have tons of colloquialisms that only Chileans can understand. I love it. This week especially I have started to catch a lot of it and it's made the whole experience way more fun...Chilean Spanish is just a good time, it really is. All our teachers in the program speak in "normal" Spanish but they always tell us that if we can understand Chilean Spanish then we will have no trouble understanding every other dialect as well. I hope this is the case...either way it is a hell of a lot of fun trying to get acclimated to it.

For those interested I am headed to Chillan this weekend to snowboard in the Andes. Pretty ridiculous.


Sunday, September 24, 2006

First thoughts

Well I finally decided to actually write something. Thing is, I keep a journal that I write in almost daily, so this is kind of extra. I am thinking that I will put something up like once a week...hopefully more?

As a lot of you know I arrived in Chile about two weeks ago and have been living with my host family for roughly a week and a half. I would say today is the first day I actually feel settled and have somewhat of a routine. The family I am living with, whom I adore, has finally let down their guard and is showing me their true colors, which I might add are brilliant. They are incredibly loving of one another and are touching to watch. They all treat me so well, and I feel like another member of the family. They have two children, Macarena 20 and Martin 16. They also have a small zoo: 2 birds, a dog, a rabbit, and a hamster. I don't know what the birds are named but the Dog is Mochi (pretty much my Mom's other son), the rabbit is a giant and is named Tambor, and the hamster is Merlin. My "Dad's" name is Roberto and my "Mom's" is Valeria (about my parents age). They are adorable with one another. Family is very important here. Though there are exceptions, the overwhelming majority even if "separated" still see one another and play a major role in one another's lives. My "grandparents" are over often and so are other members in the family. I am very happy here.

Chile is a gorgeous country. The people are warm and the scenery is breathtaking. In the last two weeks and I have had the chance to travel up and down the coast of my region and am in awe of how beautiful it really is here. Yet, it is still quite impoverished and dirty (the beach for example is often littered with trash, and graffiti abounds, though it is almost always political). They family I live with is an exception and most certainly not the rule. Last weekend the program I am in traveled as a group to the town of Lebu. There we stayed at a boarding school of sorts. Primary education (through high school) is mandatory here, so those kids which live far out in the country must be bused in to larger cities where they live for the week and go to school. That is the kind of school we stayed at. Sadly, it was in deplorable condition and it is truly a shame that these underprivileged kids must associate learning with udder filth. It is true that at least they are being educated and that they may or may not know any difference, but in the end the environment is not healthy. Black mold was everywhere, toilets lacked seats and paper, showers were without hot water and the windows in the gym were composed of black trash bags. In Chile, private schools offer significantly better education and facilities, but are a luxury. The majority of the population does not have the ability to give their kids what they deserve and what we in the states take for granted. That is the reality.

We are lucky. We are so so lucky, and yet we are literally clueless. Some may agree with me, and yet I know this is not enough. In the end I know that me saying this seems rather cliché. We have heard this countless times before, about Asia, Africa, and South America, the balkans...the the world, and the majority of us merely accept it and then immediately relegate this knowledge to the background. We fall asleep and move into the routine of our own lives. This is the true shame. That we neglect to do something no matter how small that "thing" may be. It is who we were meant to be. We are called, daily, to help those who were dealt a shitty hand. To be examples. For my Catholic friends, you know that we are all one body. And when we see an open sore, a wound, we know it deserves our attention, we must not let it fester, we must not lose a limb. Mother Teresa knew this, in one of here first visions Christ took her to the foot of his cross and had her look toward the horizon. In her view were the countless poor, the neglected, to which she could see no end. Chirst wanted to help them, but he could not because they did not know Him. This was Mother Teresa's calling, to teach them of Christ and his mercy through example. Suffering is a part of the human condition, it is who we are, and it demands conviction, struggle (perseverance) and growth. Never forget that we are all called to Sainthood. I am sorry for the sermon, i wasn't planning on doing this but I think it gives you a better picture of what Chile has meant to me thus far and what I spend my time thinking about. I am not asking that people start sending checks to organizations that work with the poor in Lebu, unless that is what you feel called to do, but I am asking that you look at your own communities whether they be poor in spirit or in general health and to ask yourself what you can do, how can you be a better example? Some will say they do enough...could it really be that they couldn't do less?

To end on a lighter note, I start school monday and am very excited. The spanish is coming along quite well and with the addition of actual spanish classes I can only imagine the kind of improvement to come. I have made some great friends and relationships continue to grow. I am also excited to travel; I have some pretty awesome trips planned for the entire look forward to great pictures and stories. If you ever have questions or want to know more about specific experiences, please email me and I will be happy to divulge even more details. There is obviously a lot I haven't spoken about...which is the problem with blogs, to bad it isn't linked up to my brain directly.

One quick last story to share. When I was in Lebu I did a lot of walking throughout the town. Once I walked alone to the river which was very close to where we were staying. It has a park that extends its entire length. There is a section of the park with a playground. I decided to stop near the playground and watch the children play. There were at least 30 kids and many of their parents were just relaxing, enjoying life and their children's laughter. Flying kites is a big deal here. All the kids do it and some of them even make their own. While I was watching, one of the kids noticed me watching (more like sapeando). Now I say he noticed me watching, but I am pretty sure it was more that he noticed that there was a "gringo" sitting to the side and that I stuck out like a sore we do pretty much everywhere. Anyway, he came up and began talking to me and in Chile, the children are by far the easiest to accent and simple words. We talked about kite flying and about the river and how it had a lot of animals from the ocean. He wanted to show me one and said its name "apancora" but I had no idea what this was. Turns out it was the Chilean word for crab. Anyway he brought it to me and a bunch of kids came over to see it. We hung out for about a half hour and then it was time to go. No real point to the story except that there is something special about children and their openess.

Until next time.


Wednesday, September 20, 2006

New Pictures

So I finally got the pictures up from this past weekend. I promise to actually write something one of these days but as for now it's my bed time.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Video de la Cueca

This is a video I took of traditional Chilean dancers doing the Cueca in Plaza de la Independencia. The pictures to the right in "La Cueca" explain it a little better. Anyway, enjoy.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

NY Montage

For those interested, I thought I would get started with some pictures and video i put together from when I lived in NY for two months and worked at the UN.


Okay. I finally got my act together. If you are interested in keeping track of me while I'm down in el Sur then this is the best place to come. Hope all is well back in the States.