West World Chronicles: 1.5

This week’s episode of West World is almost what I wish every episode of Game of Thrones would be. The continuing plot begins to take shape in the form of Dolores’ and Williams’ personal journey in and out of Pariah. But more importantly, we begin to see the development of several key characters, who step into bigger roles, if you will.

Ford (whom we finally learn his first name, Robert) begins the episode with an anecdote, of an old grey hound who finally catches a cat, and kills it. The saddest thing, Ford says, is watching the canine have no clue what to do after killing the feline. Perhaps it’s painfully obvious, but Ford’s childhood story points to this episode’s over arching theme: purpose. What is one’s purpose? And how do we find it? More importantly, what do we do once we realize our purpose? As Dolores has repeatedly said, “There’s a path for everyone.”

Dolores’ path, and her purpose are entirely altered in this episode. Her journey to Pariah with William and Logan bring her closer to the voices in her head, who tell her she must follow the maze. She is pushed to desperation, to survival mode, when she and William become trapped by Confederados. However, in another unsurprising twist, Dolores kills their enemies, telling William she imagines a role where she is not the damsel. Dolores makes a clear deviation from her “little loop,” choosing to step into a bigger, perhaps more dangerous role. Her actions imply that we all are the makers of our own fate, and, if we so desire, can alter our own destiny.

Although we view Dolores as a protagonist in the game, her conversation with Ford suggests otherwise. Ford interrogates her regarding Arnold, and whether or not he has been speaking with her. She clearly denies, later speaking out loud — and presumably to Arnold — that she didn’t tell him anything. We do learn how long it’s been since Arnold’s death, and that Dolores was there when he died. That said, Ford does not consider Dolores a friend at all, and regards her with a subtle animosity. This distinction causes us to ponder what hand, if any, Dolores played in Arnold’s death. In fact, Ford states she is the only host still “alive” who was there when Arnold died — 34 years, 42 days, and 7 hours. The plot thickens when Ford asserts that Arnold told Dolores that she would help him destroy West World, begging the question of whether she is good or bad. Would be painfully obvious to note that once Dolores is given a new set of attire (hence, her transformation), she has a brown hat. Unlike William’s who is distinctively white. Or Logan’s black one.

Dolores’ connection with William is a connection to the real world, one her clouded subconscious knows exists, yet continues to lurk deep within her. It is through William that she is able to unravel that mystery, and as she steps into a new role, she is one step closer to the real world. Her dreams, which are really conversations with real people (Ford and Bernard) do mean everything — they are stories we tell ourselves of what we could be and what we could become. Dolores “dreams” of real people — implying that she, too, could be real. I think it’s a no-brainer that once Dolores realizes what she is, she will inevitably desire to become “real.”

William, whose reserved and hesitant demeanor seem to shed light on the horrifying reality of West World, slowly shifts into an active, aggressive role. He finally stands up to Logan, leaving him imprisoned in Pariah (anyone else see Logan’s slight smirk when William decides to abandon him?). He kills a man to save Dolores. And most importantly, he believes Dolores when she says she’s searching for something more. She ties herself to him, as her anchor of what is and isn’t real, when she confides in him of the voices she hears in her head, urging her to seek.

Like Dolores, Felix, one of Maeve’s shades, has aspirations to become something greater; a coder for Westworld. This prompts us to consider how, and to what extent, we may be similar to the hosts. Although he is belittled by his colleague, he perseveres to fix a dead bird. And he does. This small victory is beautiful, because we, too, are hoping he is able to resurrect a dead creature within such a cold, lifeless building. We are offered a rare, short-lived glimpse of purity, that exists both within and outside of the game. But it quickly comes to an end when Felix finds an awake Maeve perched on a stretcher.

William’s connection with Dolores strengthens, and he grapples with allowing himself to believe that Dolores is not just another host, and that there is more to her than meets the eye. This innate hope resides in all of us, and serves as a tribute to the human condition of always hoping, searching for a better, more real world. Or, for lack of a better word, truth. Which is the ultimate irony of West World. In the search for something real, players are looking for truth and purpose in a completely false and artificial world. West World may act as an escape from reality, but it is also a mirror reflection of it. We bear witness to the extremes of human behavior — violence and sex. The violence we see in this episode explores the human understanding of death in violence. While we see it on TV and read about it, the park allows humans to experience it first-hand. Something that, in the real world, we don’t ever get to take back. In order for us to understand and experience death, we are only able to do so in a synthetic, unreal environment. Perhaps this is what happened to Arnold, who became so enraptured with the park and it’s world, his understanding of what is and isn’t real could only be distinguished through one unchangeable, certain action: death.

 

Advertisements

West World Chronicles: 1.4

In this week’s episode of HBO’s “West World,” we witness the further unraveling of the mystery of the maze, and the growing dissonance hosts begin to experience. The events in the fourth episode leave us both unsettled and begging for more. Here’s why.

The opening scene depicts Dolores, in another session with Bernard. Her memory has yet to be erased, and she is in shock and distraught that her family is killed — and that she herself killed a man. It reminds us that sometimes, we are much more capable than we think we are.  So this is the first time we watch Dolores process her feelings before they are deleted from her memory. She bears witness to her own suffering — one that the employees of West World have already witnessed thousands of times. She, like Teddy, has died a thousand deaths, only to continue living.

Bernard’s side project of experimenting with Dolores’ conscience seems to get out of hand, but he continues it regardless. In fact, he mentions the maze, which is only spoken of by the Man in Black — a mysterious veteran player who sets out to find the maze from the get go. This tells us that Dolores will inevitably cross paths with this man in one form or another. A bit for foreshadowing, shall we say. But hey, it’s the Wild West, so anything could happen.

We are then pulled from Dolores’ narrative to Maeve’s. I will note, though, that so far, the only two consistent host narratives that we see this far are of women. Teddy’s beef with Wyatt is momentarily on hold, and only serves as a secondary narrative to that of Dolores’ and Maeve’s. Both of whom begin to recall memories from another life. Maeve’s interaction with West World technicians, or “shades,” as some of the host Native Americans call them, continues to haunt her conscience. She even tells us that she has something on the tip of her tongue, but cannot for the life of her (ha) recall what it is. This marks a moment where we can all relate to her — which also serves to unsettle us — begging the question of whether or not we have past lives, or lost mysteries our subconscious continues to hold on to. We watch her struggle to remember a former life that she doesn’t have, one that does not exist — or so she thinks. In the midst of her paranoia, she draws the shade, only to discover previous drawings she’s hidden in the same place. This is where dissonance theory comes into play, nagging at Maeve’s understanding of the world and her fight to make sense of it. What is more haunting, though, is that the answers to the nonsensical happenings in Maeve’s life are right in from of her, hiding in plain sight — which is why she seeks out Hector Escaton’s knowledge on shades. The sense of dejavu is not just a feeling, it is a reality. Maeve’s conviction to piece together her fragmented memories with her life’s inconsistencies push her to the brink of insanity, only to find that her hunch and gut feeling was completely true. The hidden bullet within her stomach is the personification of her past life, as well as the proof.

Even though her memory will be wiped clean (something we now know to be untrue) as soon as she dies, Maeve’s ability to remember fragments will remain. Her premonition of Hector Escaton’s attack allows her to alter the chain of events, and in turn, her own destiny. The ability to change one’s own fate strikes an emotional chord with the audience, because by chance, Maeve’s inkling allows her to dig deeper into her understanding of the world and her path in it. Like Maeve, any of us are the makers of our own destiny, should we seek to alter it. The only way to do that, though, is by awakening our conscience. For Maeve, it is literally opening herself, and searching inside to do so.

Although this episode was full of flying bullets and grotesque images of the human condition, it also demanded from the audience a sense of curiosity. It asks us to consider the fantasy worlds we each live in, be it living in denial of losing a loved one, or the struggle to hold onto our own morality. While we may not truly be content with our own versions of reality, West World challenges our acceptance of them. Is there a way out? Perhaps this is the question Ford wants us to answer; but Arnold’s death serves as a warning and cautionary tale of one thing: do not lose your perspective.

 

An open letter to anyone who needs it

A foreword: It has regrettably been over a month since I last published a post. Re: my last post, let me punish myself by eating over-steamed broccoli in my mother’s house.
My online absence has not been due to my inability to believe I am a capable writer who can offer you words that will hopefully strike an emotional chord or two in you. I don’t believe in excuses, but my reasoning here is actually something I’d like to share with you. I know — haven’t I shared enough with you already?

I’ve spent the last month delving into the chasm that is my mental health. My mind, like any other, is an enigmatic labyrinth that both illuminates and clouds every thought, feeling, and action I have. I will spare you (and myself) the specs, but also because unless you’re a masochistic lost soul, I highly doubt you actually give a shit. We’re all selfish. Essentially, I ghosted my own blog because I was occupied finding my way through that very labyrinth in the form of art, road trips, music, and a little bit (what I mean is a lot) of tequila and 805. I made a conscious effort not to write. It was challenging.

After being  deeply and half-seriously preoccupied with my own mental health, I feel compelled to write a letter to anyone who is in need of having a letter written to them. I will save us all the same god damn spiel of how depression and anxiety afflict an unsettling number of people, or how millennials are riddled with mental health problems. We know that. I know that. I do not want to read another article from a 40-year-old telling me it is going to be okay because they, too, have been sinking in the quick sand that I and so many of my peers are currently stuck in. I’m tired of hearing stories about individuals other than those struggling around me.

For any other 23-year-olds out there reading this, this is for you. I will concede that this is also for anyone and everyone this speaks to. I am no longer in the fashion of writing letters, but old habits die hard.

I am not here to heal you. I am not here to tell you there is a magical way out of your own personal maze, or that I possess the mental ability to show you how. I can’t even give that to myself.

But I am here to tell you that despite what your anxiety, paranoia, depression or whatever the fuck is making you struggle (let’s be real, Donald seriously needs to fuck right off), your struggle is shared. Yes, this is a rendition of the “you are not alone” bullshit. But this isn’t coming from your mother, your therapist or Siri. And if you want to stop reading now and go back to your Facebook feed and dismissively scroll through “7 real ways to boost your mood in 5 minutes,” then that’s your prerogative.

And yet, if you’re struggling, and hoping against hope this in’t another empty blog post that doesn’t tell you anything at all, then I know you’re going to read through this.

I promise I’ll make it short. (A total lie.)

This isn’t an advice column where I bestow you my sagest of wisdoms. You’d have to pay me for that (in grilled cheese and your best puns, of course). What I truly want to emphasize is that yes, you are alone. At the end of the day, when you’re laying in your unmade bed staring blankly at the ceiling fan, wondering where the fuck things went wrong, you are alone. We all are. We each have our own versions of quick sand, and as much as I want to pull you out of yours, I can’t. I’m in my own deep shit, and any attempt to save you may fuck me over and shatter your faith in others. Here’s the thing: our forms of suffering vary, and while my anxiety may not be anything like yours (trust me, you do not want to eat an entire bag of onion-flavored Sun Chips at 10 p.m. on a Tuesday), the mere fact that you and I are struggling at the same time is what ties you to me. While this may seem like a stupidly obvious statement, it isn’t. How many friends of yours are battling mental health problems? How many of them do you actually talk to about it? Sure, the people in my life who are seemingly “normal” are great outlets and support systems. I would never, ever discredit that. For the record, mom hugs are, and always will be, the best. But I would argue that there is a tacit understanding between two people who have shared their fears, doubts, and constant battles to get up in the morning. These people inadvertently and perhaps unintentionally are maybe the only ones able to hold that mirror into yourself. It is a feeling of relief, of being seen as you are, by another who is also in search of that gratification.

You can call me out for grossly overlooking whatever it is you think I’m ignoring. If I spark the least bit of rage in you, then I consider my job done. I want you to be enraged. I want you to be infuriated that you feel this way, yet are unable to find the will to change it. You do not need to be fixed (right now). If you are struggling, then struggle. If you are tired, be tired. You are allowed to feel like shit. You are allowed to want to quit. But you are not allowed to quit. 

Why? I can offer you a million reasons, but I know you really just need one. But I can’t give it to you. You have to give it to yourself. All I can do is stand in my own quicksand and believe the mirror of my eyes allow you what you need to see.

And if my letter didn’t spell it out for you, here it is:

“I’m with you. No matter what else you have in your head I’m with you and I love you.” — Ernest Hemingway

 

The getaway

Every morning I hate myself.

When I think about it, there are a number of reasons why I hate myself, but the one I find myself most hating is my inability to go to bed early. Every morning I wake up, lazily roll over, and internally moan at the fact that I must get up. That I have to accept getting up to get to work. And I find myself resenting work. This happens every morning. And each time I chastisize myself for not going to bed like an adult (what is an adult, anyway) and vow to go to bed early. It never happens.

I also hate myself for promising to the future me that I will get up at 5 a.m. and go for that run, or get to work an hour early so I can leave early. I hate myself for not being able to keep promises I make to myself. It is a weirdly masochistic ritual that has become instilled into my life since managing to get a full-time journalism job.

When I say I hate myself, most people assume I self-loathe all day and have poor self-esteem. That may be true, but I also am a completely functioning adult who pays for her own health insurance and credit card bills. I have strangely transformed into a grown up version of myself, someone I don’t always recognize when I look in the mirror of the bathroom at work, or when I catch my reflection walking past the piers down Embarcadero. I am slowly crawling towards self acceptance. That I am me, and all I have is me. So whether I like me or not, I need to accept me.

Work is great. I always would ask my friends who had full-time jobs before me what work is like, and they all never failed to give me the most ambiguous, vague description of what they do 40 hours a week. I wanted to know so badly so I could prepare myself for the world I now find myself in. And now when people ask me, I too, give them a shitty answer. I’m such a hypocrite. But that’s besides the point. Work really is good. In the last six months I have made exponential improvements in my writing, editing and time managing skills. Everyday there is news. News for me to discover and read about and write about. I get paid to do what I love. Sure, it may not be critical analysis of film or writing about first generation Argentine female identity, but it’s a start. And that’s all I needed. I returned from South America with a conviction to pursue writing, in whatever shape or form that took. And to this day, I am so thankful for not canceling my interview because I was hungover from getting wasted with a college friend on St. Patty’s day.

Apart from my friends who graduated before me, I think I’m the only one from my graduating class who has most of their shit together. And that’s saying a lot. Because I spent a year of living in self denial and self discovery in the midst of depression and anxiety. I graduated in three years, but hung around for an extra one because I wasn’t ready to leave the dark paradise of Isla Vista and my ex. I have come a long way in being able to say that. I didn’t want to leave IV because I knew things with my ex would end, and that I would really be alone. And that, despite all my efforts, this person was clearly not the right person for me. Looking back, I can’t believe I didn’t realize how perfectly wrong my ex was for me. I wish I could apologize to the me who suffered so greatly a year ago. I wish I could save 22-year-old me from all the pain, dishonesty, and heart break she went through. But I also know she needed to go through that, and come out stronger, bolder, and more dangerous than ever before. Like a phoenix, I rose from my own ashes.

I won’t say that my breakup with my college partner was all fine and dandy. It left me depressed and hollow. When I was told they wasn’t in love with me, and hadn’t been for months the night we slept on a pull out couch at our friend’s house, I was crushed. It was like a sucker punch to the chest, leaving my reeling for air, and while also not wanting to breathe in air to avoid any pain. But it was impossible. It came crashing down on me, and I was paralyzed. I was trapped in a bed with a person who didn’t love me, yet I desperately clung to them, my snot and tears matting my hair and staining their shirt. I could tell you that it was one of the worst nights of my life and that I’ll never be the same because of it. But that would be a lie.

I’m a resilient mother fucker. My skin thick, my stare unflinching, my hands steady. There isn’t much that actually gets to me. So when my ex so graciously confessed to me, my life didn’t fall apart. He does not get to claim ownership in ruining me. The truth is, I was already ruined, and the reason his confession hurt so much had nothing to do with him and everything to do with me. The facade I had built for the last year and half came crumbling down, leaving me with the stark and brutal reality that I wasn’t really myself anymore. I lost who I was in the drunken summer nights and lazy beach days of Isla Vista. I had been living in denial, living to forget. Self-preservation will always be a human priority. And after my first two years at college, that’s what I tried to do. It doesn’t matter how good or bad you do it, just that you do. And I needed to survive, in any shape or form. And for me, that came with throwing myself into a relationship I knew was doomed from the start and getting into a drunken stupor every weekend. Because that’s what you do. You keep living.

Breaking up with the ex forced me to face my own demons, and my own truths that I had avoided for so long. I really did think I could be someone else other than myself. I thought I could bury the real me in layers of rugby, drugs, alcohol and an empty relationship. And facing yourself is harder than any breakup, messy or not. Standing in front of the mirror and looking at yourself is much scarier and painful than actually being alone in the world.

And that’s what I did. It’s hard to forgive yourself for the mistakes you’ve made. It’s hard to accept that you fucked up. It hurts to know you were kidding yourself this whole time. But it can’t be any other way. Because it isn’t until you’re crying in your car at 3 a.m. or hooking up with a person you don’t even like or blacking out just to get four hours of sleep, that you realize you have to change. That this isn’t the way you want to live your life or how you want to feel every morning you wake up. There is no short cut or clean way of realizing your own path to forgiveness, acceptance and self love. You can’t love yourself until you’ve hated yourself first. You can’t forgive yourself until you fuck yourself up first. And anyone who tried to convince me otherwise is clearly in denial and has yet to really see what I’m getting at. See, you can’t be the best version of yourself until you’ve been the worst version of yourself. It’s painful. It’s humiliating. It’s lonely. But there is no other way.

 

The Disadvantage of Not Having a Twitter (Or Facebook or Instagram)

“Please link your Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter accounts if you’d like to apply.”

“To apply: Include your Twitter account.”

These have been the constant requirements while searching for a job in writing and media. I got back from Argentina about five days ago. Needless to say, I’m struggling, in more ways than one. But wait! Let me tweet about it!!! ###

I managed to arrive back into the United States earlier this week, with my baggage, alfajores, and Cuban cigars in tow. My two and a half months in Argentina had regrettably come to an end, and it was time–as my father so kindly reminded me– to start thinking about employment. After graduating eight months ago, I’ve constantly and ruthlessly been plagued by the question of what I will be doing with my life. More importantly, what will I be doing to make money. And to be perfectly honest, I’m still not sure. I know what I’d like to be doing– but I’m not sure it’ll put a roof over my head.

Regardless of the uncertainties and doubts that seem to have settled into my everyday life about my career as a writer, I have indeed returned from South America with an even stronger resolve to continue writing, and that one day, I will indeed be paid for my words. It doesn’t do me, or my readers any good to read about my complaints about how hard finding a job as a writer, or even snagging a gig as a writer anywhere is. Complaining won’t do me any good. It won’t do you any good. And let’s be perfectly honest: if you’re passionate enough about something, there’s nothing that will stop you from doing it. And I completely believe that. So this post isn’t to whine with my words about employment. Fuck that. Rather, it’s a response to the growing presence of social media in careers.

Countless job listings I’ve responded to require that I send them my Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter accounts–most likely to see how well I utilize these social media apps, that will also be used at work. I have a huge problem with that. Not because of privacy. Nothing is private these days, especially if you put it on your Facebook. Not because I don’t know how. I’ve been knowing how. Not because I don’t have them. Because I have had them for several years. So why?

Why do I have a problem with this? As a Global Studies major, I should know better than anyone how the world has become incredibly interconnected, by and large to the Internet and technology. And as a millennial, who uses social media more often than not, I should know why. But the answer isn’t so simple. Even when I was thinking about this post while hiking in Marin yesterday with my mom and brother, I couldn’t totally pinpoint why.

What was it that bothered me so much about the high schooler that asked her bestie to snap a photo of her sitting on the cliff, arms thrown up to the sky, looking out onto the beach yesterday?

Or the other American girl who asked her friend to take a photo of her jumping mid-air, with Torres del Paine in the background?

Or my classmate two years ago at UCSB who literally tweeted everything our TA said during section?

Why did this shit bother me so much?

Because nature, knowledge, and our experiences are no longer what matter. It’s the public, Internet display of our experiences that give us validation and attention.  All of the former have come secondary to the publication itself of what we’re doing with our lives. It’s not about capturing that beautiful mountain range to cherish long after you’ve stopped traveling– it’s about getting the most likes on your Instagram, or showing all our friends on Facebook the cool things you have been doing, not all the cool places you’re visiting. It’s less about sharing beautiful moments or adventures, and more about proving to everyone that you’re actually doing something cool with your life. We’ve become more and more self centered–and social media both augments and tricks us into believing we need to do that. The need to insert ourselves–literally–into photos of cool places we visit, goes to show how obsessed we’ve become with ourselves. And what’s worse, is that we have the perfect platforms to continue doing just that.

I didn’t have a Twitter. Up until maybe three hours ago. Since I learned what Twitter was five years ago, I had refused to make one, or have anything to do with it. I found it so stupid. Why the need to tell the Internet that you’re driving home from work with your carmel macchiato in hand and that #TGIF? Or that you’re standing in line at CVS waiting to #turnup for the weekend? I could never, and still will never, ever get behind the concept of Twitter. It only makes the obsession with ourselves–and others–greater than it ever has before.

But I digress. This is the direction our society continues to go in–and I don’t see it changing anytime soon. And to be fair, I love watching Vines on FB, or seeing how Kanye West continues to dig himself into deeper holes everyday on Twitter. I also won’t deny that news sources have adapted to having a stronger online presence, and that I do find it convenient to see news pop up on my Facebook feed. I suppose by the end of this article I’ve come to accept the way things are–and that I can either run with it, or be left behind. I may not like it, agree with it, or approve Twitter or certain qualities about FB, but that doesn’t allow or excuse me from keeping up with the times.

Because really, who’s going to hire me if I don’t have more than a hundred likes on my Instagram photo of the Perito Moreno glacier? #FirstWorldProblems #YOLO

 

 

Kilometer 2014, Ruta 40, San Carlos de Bariloche

I like to think I didn’t find Peuma Hue, but that Peuma Hue found me.

My week there, was arguably one of the best weeks of my life. I say that with caution, because I firmly believe the best is always yet to come. It’s cliche, but damn, is it true.

Let me rewind a bit. Back to the end of January. I was reaching my month and a half mark of living in Buenos Aires, and I was starting to feel the wheel of monotony slowly spinning. Granted, I loved (and still do) tanning in my grandmother’s garden, burning through each book I brought from the states, and drinking mate everyday. What a life, right? In many aspects, I came to BA for simplicity, peace of mind, and nothing to worry about but the sun on my face and my feet dangling in the pool. To read and write leisurely. To make up for lost time with my grandmother and grandfather. To explore the city my mom and dad grew up in. I did all of these things, without hesitation and complete satisfaction. But after a several weeks of repeating the cycle, I started to feel restless. I thought about flying home early to start working, even asked the airline how much it would cost me to come home. Well, an eight hundred dollar quote and a firm “no” was what I got instead. I was utterly frustrated, I felt stuck. Trapped. But then I realized it wasn’t that I wanted to return home, but that I wanted to explore more.

That’s when I booked a flight to Bariloche, and single-handedly changed the direction, meaning, and experience of my adventure in Argentina.

It’s a blessing and curse to have your entire family dispersed throughout the world– on the one hand you don’t have the privilege of seeing them everyday, but on the other, you do have the privilege of traveling to some incredible places. That is how I found my way to Bariloche. My mother’s cousin happened to be living and working at an estancia (ranch) in Bariloche, and welcomed me with open arms (Ronnie, if you’re reading this, this is for you). Ronnie picked me up in his twenty year old, cooking oil-fueled Volkswagen at the airport, and zoomed me through the Ruta 40 to Peuma Hue. I had only met Ronnie a handful of times as a young cucaracha of a little girl, so this was more or the less the first time really meeting Ronnie. Again, staying with relatives you’ve never met in incredible places is an unexpected blessing to have, and damn, was I lucky to have Ronnie.

After twenty kilometers of driving on Ruta 40 with nothing but the VW’s head lights guiding the way, we turned onto a dirt road that climbed it’s way through the Nahuel Huapi National Park to the Estancia Peuma Hue. It was utterly, serenely quiet; a complete change from the symphony of dog barks and garbage trucks that made up living in San Isidro. Silence. It struck me, and I realized that maybe I hadn’t actually gotten a complete peace of mind I thought I did back in BA. I was in the country now.

I dropped my bag in Ronnie’s man cave and headed to the staff house, where I met some of the kindest, funniest, like-minded and unique group of individuals I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting. I was worried, actually, that I would spend most of my time alone– I had spent so much alone time in BA that I almost expected it. But that’s part of Peuma Hue: lifting the veil of life for me. I learned that these individuals were wwoffers at the estancia, many of them staying and working there to experience, work and live in Patagonia. Almost all of them experienced backpackers and serious outdoors aficionados. I felt as if I was meeting myself through some of these people, and it was my connection with them that pushed me to the edge of finding myself. Corny, I know. But hear me out.

I woke up the next day (and every day of that week) giddy with the promise of adventuring the incredible trails, estancia, and lakes I was surrounded by. Felt like I really took a page out of Emerson or Whitman’s books. I was completely engulfed by nature. How can I explain the feeling of inhaling crisp fresh air so deeply that my lungs were drowned in pure O2, so deep it flooded my entire body with modicums of bubbling energy and refreshment? The feeling of drinking fresh, unadulterated water from bursting waterfalls? The feeling of losing yourself in the masterpiece that makes up the sky of infinite stars, comets, and dusty milky way, much less sleeping under it? Or the feeling of jumping in a freezing fresh water, aqua blue lake with friends you made not a week ago, your laughter an uncontrollable and wild stream of happiness? These are the moments I will forever try to describe and eternalize in my mind. Because for me, that’s what I was looking for, even when I didn’t know I was looking for it.

I spent the next week trekking up incredible trails to breath taking views, making asado with friends, and falling in love with not just Peuma Hue, but with myself, and my life. It’s a humbling experience, really, to find yourself completely content with where you are and who you are. I found that in Peuma Hue. Or, rather, it found me. I peeled away the layers that made up my personal baggage; my anxiety, my PTSD, my parent’s divorce–everything. Somewhere in between everything that had happened in my life the last two years, I had lost myself. I forgot who I was. And it was in Peuma Hue that I rediscovered myself, amidst the trees, floating on Lago Gutierrez, and gazing up at the stars. I woke up.

So, like I said, I spent the week unraveling myself, savoring the sweetness that is self-acceptance, sucking on it like a lemon drop. I was hiking with a close friend one day, and he said to me,” We can take the yellow trail or the pink trail. It’s your decision.”

I responded passively and said,” I can do whatever.”

“No, you can’t just do whatever. You have to decide. I want you to decide,” was the response I got. And that got me thinking: I didn’t know what I wanted to do, because for so long I had fallen into the trap of not deciding, living in indecisiveness and passivity. I was rusty in the department of being decisive and vocal. I was used to taking a back seat in decisions, going with the flow, appealing to others before myself. And it took another person to call me out on it to realize that. I’m so grateful for that (you know who you are).

There is an inherent, cosmic, almost primitive healing quality nature possesses. I think people take it for granted. I know I did. I’ve always loved and appreciated nature, but at Peuma Hue, I realized I was a part of it, too. A feeling of belonging. Initially, it felt peculiar, as if meeting an old friend after many years, followed by recognition and gratitude. I felt it when I trekked up Refugio Frey, as I threw myself into Lago Gutierrez, and while being nuzzled by curious horses as I read “For Whom the Bell Tolls” in a hammock.  An incomparable feeling, second to none, except to hugging my dog.

It was hard to leave Peuma Hue. I didn’t want my adventure to end. But that’s the beauty of it: the very fact that it ended is what makes it so beautiful and special in the first place. And once I got on that plane, and watched the white caps of the Andes Mountains fade in the distance, I realized my adventure wasn’t ending, it was just beginning, again and again with each day. That’s what I would call a revelation; completely and irrevocably irreplaceable.

Argentine Political Talk

Before I left for Argentina, I had a very close friend and mentor request that I do some polling on what Argentines think of the United States of America’s current presidential campaign race. She wanted to know how Argentines viewed American politics, considering the spectacle that is Donald Trump, Bernie Sanders, and Hilary Rodham Clinton. Every time I venture down south is a blitz of visiting relatives and family friends– so I figured I could do some asking. The responses I got were surprising, and I ended up learning a hell of a lot more about Argentine politics than foreign perspectives on American political figures.

I proposed this question to each individual: What do you think of American politics right now, and what of the presidential nominees for 2016?

And nearly each one either disregarded American politics as unimportant or irrelevant, or made a remark regarding the stupidity of Donald Trump. That was it. A few referred to him as “boludo” or “tonto”–idiotic or stupid.  Some people asked me who was running for president, who was Donald Trump, or whether Obama was coming to Argentina any time soon. I was surprised, honestly, to hear such a lack of interest. But I quickly corrected the eurocentric, self-centered response I had– because it makes complete sense that Argentines could care less about American politics. And there are two very, very important reasons why.

  1. The United States of America isn’t their country. A no-brainer.
  2. Argentina just went through (and still is) a historic political change.

And because of these two reasons, and more so the latter, Argentines are too preoccupied to pay attention to American politics. Thinking about it now, I too, find the current political (and economic) changes in Argentina to be worth paying attention to. With that said, my Argentine friends and family ended up elaborating far more on what was going on in their own country, politically, economically, and socially. My questions about the USA served as a mere segue into a greater discussion of Argentine politics. The following is a rendition of what they had to say.

Disclaimer: These comments are biased. They are the opinions of Argentines. Not all of them. This isn’t a generalization. In no way am I claiming or implying their points of view are fact, whether or not they are right are wrong. I would argue, though, that everything they had to tell me isn’t bullshit and is a product of living under a corrupt, manipulative Peronist government (in my opinion). And if you’re going to throw a fit over anything I write, remember you’re reading a blog, not a newspaper.

In November of 2015, Argentina experienced a historic moment in its political history. After living under Peronist rule for since 1916, and the last eight under Cristina Kirchner, the republic of Argentina elected Mauricio Macri as its new president. He took office in December of 2015. On paper, it sounds like a uninteresting headline and a slight change in South American government. But if you dig deeper, and ask Argentine people, you will get a much bigger, intense, and eye-opening depiction of how and why this change in government is so monumental.

Again, after speaking with Argentine friends and family, I was given a biased rendition of Argentine history, its politics, its last president, and its latest one. These individuals were by and large anti-Kirchneristas– meaning they did not support, approve of, much less like the outgoing president, Cristina Kirchner. For years I always saw posts complaining or villifying Kirchner on Facebook from those living in Argentina. I never really understood the complexity of what Kirchner was doing to and in Argentina, but I knew it wasn’t good. So after eight years living under Kirchnerista rule, the people of Argentina voted for someone who was neither Peronista nor Kirchnerista–a big deal.

Why did these people despise Kirchner so much? Their answer was short and sweet. So much that I don’t need to come up with an eloquently phrased statement about Argentine politics. Because it in some ways, the answer is simple. Cristina Kirchner ran Argentina’s economy into the ground. Inflation skyrocketed. Imports and exports were closed. Nepotism (see “noqui’s” below). Bankrupting the national bank. Creating debt. Lying. Murdering dissidents. These were all short answers given to me, appalling and crude as they may be.

It was explained to me that the last eight years have been economically and politically damning for Argentina. Kirchner’s economic and foreign policy weakened Argentina’s economy and relationship with other countries, under false promises and a web of lies that composed the propaganda she used to manipulate the Argentine people. While many claim (Kirchner herself included) she championed human rights, legalizing gay marriage for example, those whom I spoke to claim she was only bandwagoning on said issues already pushed forward by former presidents like (Raúl Alfonsín). Mind you, we’re talking about the former president, who refused to give up the official Twitter account of the Casa Rosada, as well as biting her thumb at Macri by refusing to attend and participate in

the traditional presidential inauguration ceremony.

I also was told that her government was made up of “noqui’s.” Noqui’s were essentially officials hired under the guise of nepotism, doing absolutely nothing for the government except having their name on payroll, and collecting their “hard earned” wages each month.

The death of prominent journalist Alberto Nisman in January of 2015 was also mentioned in these conversations, many claiming that Kirchner was behind it, no matter how indirectly she was involved– because Nisman accused her of halting and burying the investigation of the 1994 terrorist attack on a Jewish organization.

Nepotism and murder are serious allegations. And while everything I have written is based on hearsay, it doesn’t mean that it’s complete bull either. These are thoughts and concerns of real people, Argentines that have lived under Kirchnerista rule for over ten years, speaking with me candidly. These are conversations Argentines have amongst themselves everyday. You’d have to be a fool to not give it a second thought. But you would also be a fool if you believed everything someone says. Which is why you should follow president Macri’s actions towards taking down corrupt government officials.

Regardless of what you think or if you’re completely appalled by this blog post– it is still written. Argentines are talking about politics. Always. And contrary to what us gringos might think, Argentine discussion, dialogue, and narratives about their own politics far outweigh that of our own, boorish American ones. Just some food for thought.

 

 

 

 

Epithets of Buenos Aires

While I haven’t felt the need to conjure up one, long-winded piece on how much I love Buenos Aires nor create some sort of online daily journal, I have felt the urge to write about the little things. The little details of life in Buenos Aires, the ones no one even recognizes because they are so second-nature, almost afterthoughts to the big adventure itself. The small touches that make Buenos Aires, Buenos Aires, for better or worse. The details that you won’t read in a travel guide, or see posted on Instagram. For without these little things, Buenos Aires would not be the charming urban jungle everyone has dubbed the “Paris of South America.” Buenos Aires itself can be compared to a wildly popular film seen by millions. But without the thousands of people working behind the scenes to create such piece of art, it would not exist. So, for lack of a better word, here are some (not all) of the credits to the film that is Buenos Aires.

1. In Buenos Aires, there are very few chain stores that exist. There are some, but none have such a presence as Starbucks and McDonald’s do in the United States. Starbucks and McDonald’s both exist in BA, but you won’t find them on every other block as you might in San Francisco or Los Angeles. Instead, there are hundreds of different coffee shops, book stores, and restaurants. Same goes for carnicerias, pastelerias, joyerias, and zapaterias. In other words, Buenos Aires still functions under a sort of specialization in the economy. Unlike in the United States, BA has a specific store and business for anything and everything you could imagine. There are stores that specifically sell fans, plastic bins, zippers, chairs, headphones, knives, etc. Specialization. There’s a store for everything.

2.  Incredible (and cheap) public transportation. In Buenos Aires alone, you have the bus (colectivo), Subte (underground tube), and the train. Sure, many other urban cities have all of these vehicles of transportation (pun intended), but it is the cost of them in BA that sets it apart. If you’re smart and get yourself a Subte card, which you load up with pesos at any kiosco, you’re looking at spending less than a dollar a day for navigating around BA. Each fare on any of these options is between three and four pesos. Right now, the exchange rate is one dollar for 13.6 pesos. Do the math. Incredible. Anywhere you want to go in BA, you can do it through public transportation. The city is that connected. And if you’re feeling lazy or don’t want to enjoy the refreshing downpour of a storm, you can hail a taxi where you’ll almost always get ripped off.

3. Irregular trash services. This is a minute detail only someone living for an extended period of time will come to understand. For reasons I have yet to research, the trash pick-up system is irregular and elementary, at best. I say this because dumpster trucks come by every house almost every single night of the week. Yes, everyday. Not weekly. Sometimes they won’t come for a few days, and the streets smell wreak of rotting garbage that’s been baking in the sun. Nor is there a regulated system for collecting recycling or compost. Every night, you will see Argentines tie little trash bags tied to their gates for the dumpster trucks to collect. You can hear them late at night, snatching the bags from gates and tossing them into the trucks. There is no separation of trash, recycling, or compost. This I find worth noting because, trashcans inside of Argentine homes are very, very small. Argentina still operates on a normal, small scale, day by day capacity concerning trash, food, and household needs. Unlike the states, most people don’t have large trash cans, nor stock up the fridge because they only visit the grocery store once a week. It might not sound like the most regulated, sensical, or environmentally friendly, but that’s just how things here are done.

4. This brings me to my fourth detail: food purchase and consumption. Argentines go to the grocery store often– but they also go to many other stores. As I mentioned above, specialization is alive and well here, and that holds true for food products as well. There are grocery stores such as Disco, Coto, and Carrefour where you can buy pretty much what you’d buy at Safeway or Albertson’s. But when it comes to purchasing meats, produce, fiambres, and facturas, many Argentines frequent these speciality stores. Given that many of these products are very perishable and consumed relatively soon after purchases, the need to buy fruit, vegetables, dairy products is assuaged once or twice a week. Back in the states, I normally would only visit Trader Joe’s once a week, maybe twice if I needed to pick up some Lagunitas for a get together. But here– people go often. I’m still perplexed as to why, but I digress.

5. Uber has existed in Argentina long before Uber was ever even created. No, I’m not saying Uber was created by Argentina or will exist there. What I’m saying is, the idea, and existence of this idea, has long existed here in BA. They are called remises. A “remiseria” is a car company you call to have a driver take you to a specific location. It is very similar to that of Uber. Remiserias exist all over Buenos Aires, and there a several different companies that operate in different cities and neighborhoods in BA. Like taxi drivers, each driver uses his own car, and has a license to work as a remis. You pay a fixed price, based on where you are going and what time of the day it is. Taxis have always been a part of metropolitan cities.  But the remis itself has been a unique component of Argentine culture for a while. Leaving your grandmother’s to go downtown? Call a remis. Need a right home from a late night asado at your uncles? Call a remis. They aren’t taxis. They aren’t Uber. They are remises. Check them out.

These are my credits as of now. More to come soon.

 

The Identity Ordeal

Part of my purpose in Argentina was to secure my DNI. A DNI is essentially an Argentine identity card and number, also known as Documento Nacional de Indentidad. Not exactly a Social Security Number, but more so the number your person is entitled to. Make of it what you will.

Now, many of you may ask, “why didn’t you just get it from the Argentine consulate in America?” Well, my friends, I tried. I had been pursuing the ever-so elusive Argentine Consulate in Los Angeles for about six months before I threw my hands up. Their website is both poorly organized and explained– even for a millennial like me, I couldn’t find a damn number to call. And when I did– yes, I thought I had triumphed– I was only talking to an automated message. With no option to speak to a real-life person. Bitter and frustrated, I emailed the suggested email address with hopes of getting some sort of answer. Weeks passed. No answer. Now, your heroine doesn’t give up easily. So I packed a bag, filled my gas tank, and made that glorious drive down the 5 to deal with these “Argentines” in person. Conviction can be dangerous when your blood’s had five hours to boil over 400 miles.

Alas, I made it to the Argentine Consulate located on Wilshire Avenue in Los Angeles. All official and needed documents in hand. At eight in the morning. I was ready. I even managed to drag my brother, a senior at UCLA, to benefit from my determination. However, it was all for shit.

After awkwardly waiting in the lobby of this grandiose building, the lobby receptionist informed us the “Argentine Consulate was now open” and we could “proceed to the third floor.” Up we went. I signed my name first on the list– I’m a selfish asshole when it comes to getting shit done– and sat down to wait for my name. Five minutes later, they did. And I’ll cut short the little story I’ve been telling you, because I’m a terrible story writer and I don’t have the patience for writing the story out myself. Anyway, this dude (yes, no other word than dude describes this dude) told us there was no way we could set up an appointment to begin the process without emailing a request. I told the dude I did send one. That I sent several. And that I couldn’t even find a real person to call if I needed help. The dude pretended to be puzzled, and proceeded to write down an email address and the name of the woman, as well as what to subject the email. Dude tells me this lady will respond in a couple weeks and get me sorted. I asked the dude normally how long the process to get a DNI and an Argentine passport takes, and the dude tells me about nine months. Both irritated and exasperated by the uselessness of my trip to the consulate and waste of time, I scurried out, my brother trailing me.

That’s the backstory. Pointless? Irrelevant? Maybe. But I chose to include this encounter with idiocy and bureaucratic bullshit to illustrate the “jodido” nature of my quest for DNI was from the beginning. As much as I love Argentina, it’s bureaucracy and sub-terranean level of efficiency is also why I despise it. This impotent encounter at the consulate was only a premonition of how things would go once I got to Argentina to secure my DNI, face to face with a nation I call home.

I suppose I should tell you that I did, indeed, file my papers for DNI at the National Registry of Persons in Buenos Aires last week. It did not come easy, however. But then again, nothing worth having in life does.

The essential documents I needed to complete a request and application for DNI was my father’s or mother’s birth certificate as well as my own, which needed to be apostilled, translated, and legalized. Simple, right? I am laughing as I write this. The hideous irony of my ordeal never ceases to infuriate and humor me. A very smart teacher of mine once told me: “comedy is tragedy plus time.” And so it goes.

Anyway, before I left for BA, I made sure I had all my papers in order. I had already send my birth certificate to be apostilled in Sacramento, California, sent in a request to the California Department of Justice for a background check and (nonexistent) criminal record. My father already had a copy of his birth certificate, so, with all documents in transit and prepared, I thought I was set. Of course, I wasn’t.

My apostilled birth certificate did not arrive until December 29, in part because the official man who apostilles things and whatnot, failed to process my certificate before I left the states, so it had to be mailed via FedEx internationally. I received it. Fine. And then I had to get it translated by a public notary in BA. I found a very nice lady who did it for me. She warned me, though, that the Registry might make me go to the Public Translator’s office in BA to notarize and approve her translation of my papers. I kept that in mind. But I had already spent 900 pesos translating papers and having my half- crazy grandmother chauffeur me around town, and I wasn’t going to do more than I needed to.

You’re probably sick of hearing about this stupid fucking story. I’m sick of writing it, too. It’s because it is so stupid I must write it. So you can see how stupid this whole thing is. So every time someone asks me how I got my Argentine papers, I can tell them to fuck off and go read my thousand worded journey of how I did it instead of wasting my breath on an infuriating quest. Or, I could always lie and say it was a piece of cake. But what kind of story would that make? Hemingway would be disappointed in me, and Fitzgerald would drink himself into a stupor at my poor attempt to use prose for a poor excuse of a story. But I will carry on, anyways. I’ll almost done, I promise. Forgive me.

Alas, I get all the papers I think I need. Mind you, I ended up meeting with my uncle’s friend who works for some organization that helps people with papers to double check I had everything I needed– a now seemingly pointless waste of my time and efforts. My list consisted of the following: a translated and apostilled birth certificate, a California background check, an Argentina background check, my American passport, and my father’s DNI. I was apparently set to go. But of course I wasn’t. I went the next day into the micro center, via bus and train to arrive at 155 25 de mayo, the National Registry of Persons. After being politely ushered in through the looming entrance of the National Registry, I waited in line for a clerk to attend to me. My turn came, and I presented a very nice lady my hard earned and sought after papers. She rejected them. Every. Single. One. But in a kind, sympathetic voice, of course. To my utter horror, she enlightened upon me that all I needed was my father’s birth certificate, and my own. Now the problem with my birth certificate, she said, was that the translation needed to be “legalizado,” just like my translator might have warned me. I kindly thanked her, gathered my papers, and left. I figured it best to avoid a public disturbance with my blistering anger and urge to swear profusely. Besides, I don’t think my grandmother could physically handle the shit storm of words I wanted to unleash into the already polluted air of Buenos Aires. But I didn’t. I’m an adult, and since graduating college, I have at least believed the illusion that I was one. And adults don’t pull Patrick Bateman psychotic meltdowns on the streets of BA, oh no.

Instead, I took it upon myself to get my birth certificate’s translation legalized that same day, because low and behold, the office was only a few Subte rides away. In fact, it’s right in front of the Callao Subte entrance, and I thanked the universe for taking pity on me. There, I had my precious–and now expensive– piece of paper legalized. All I had to do was return home, retrieve my dad’s birth certificate, and go the next day.

And I did! Boy, oh boy, did I make my way downtown, walking fast, faces passing, to the Registry. I was confident, that this time, I had everything, and I would not be turned away. And I wasn’t! Yes, dear reader, my application for a DNI was completed. I took a photo, scanned my fingerprints, and signed my signature. “You should receive it in fifteen days,” were the golden, glorious words I had been yearning to hear for the last six months. Feeling accomplished and very adult, I returned to San Isidro, where I treated myself to a bondiola sandwich and mint and ginger lemonade. You should try it sometime.

One thing, though. Have you ever seen a Quentin Tarantino film? Maybe “Django: UnChained”? Or “The Hateful 8”? If you haven’t, you’re an idiot. If you have, then you are aware of the both dreadfully long and dreadfully captivating plots, that seem to carry on even after you believe you’ve reached the end. My story is much like that, and alas, there is one last part to my utterly enthralling and boring story.

Serenading in the air-conditioned cafe in sunny San Isidro, enjoying my cortado after my meal, I receive a text message. “Who could it be?” I thought. “Maybe a long lost lover?” I indulged. But no. I was gravely mistaken.

It was the Registry. It read: “El tramite de tu Nuevo DNI requiere cumplimentar informacion.”

A text message. Telling. Me. I. Had. To. Return.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Note on Writing

I’m a writer. But I haven’t written for a while. At least nothing that’s meant to be published or for the public. I have my own personal journal, in which I attempt to write almost everyday. I’ve had a journal, well, by now, a great many, since a young age. I still have my pink Hello Kitty journal from when I was around six or seven. My journal entries have evolved from summarizing daily events to confessions and crushes as a preteen to pondering greater life questions to battling depression through the exercise of writing. Writing has always been with me. And I should think it will be with me until I die.

But, for some odd reason, I haven’t the motivation to write anything worth publishing; or should I say, used my writing for public purposes. Although I was actively involved in my university paper, serving as the opinions editor and senior copy editor during my last year, my activity has come to a halt. I often think about writing, and all the things I want to write about, but I never end up doing. It’s that last step of executing, and turning a thought into an action, that I’ve lacked for the last year. It has plagued me since.

Why? Why haven’t I been able to write? Well, I could argue, that I haven’t been able to mostly because I don’t have a copy writing job. Much less a job. I don’t have a job. I do not write because I do not have a job. What I prefer to writing, though, is editing. But for right now let’s focus on the writing. Now, why don’t I have a job? Ah, yes, that’s the big question. The question every individual my senior asks me when the subject of my career arises. Since graduating college, I’ve been harassed with this crippling question. Up until now, I’ve been telling people ” I want to explore the world,” or “I’m going to go live in Buenos Aires for three months before I really start looking.” I keep putting it off. I keep coming up with something that’ll further prevent me from pursuing my passion. It’s been a comforting lie I’ve been telling everyone, myself included.

So again, why? Why have I been putting it off? Why have I consciously been avoiding it all?

I finally figured out why.

Because I don’t think I’m good enough. Can you believe that? What a fucking joke. I can hardly believe it myself. I’ve subconsciously been avoiding putting myself into the world of writers because I don’t think I’ll match up. Because I’m afraid of failure and rejection. Because a whole shit storm of reasons I’m sparing you from having to read and laugh at. So I’ve  been idling away in between doing nothing and something I don’t care about because I’m afraid to really go after what I care about. Jesus Christ. Excuse me.

Yes, I had an emotional existential breakdown when my own mother, yes, my mother, was the one who pointed it out. I had just graduated from college, left all my friends, broken up with my boyfriend of a year and a half, and moved home. Poor me, right? I’m aware life can be worse, and to the reader, my “post-grad crisis” may come off as insensitive and privileged. I know. But this is my fucking story, so if you don’t like it, stop reading it and fuck right off.

So as cliche as it all sounds, its nonetheless true. Laughable, really.But only because I can look back and laugh at it myself. I’d probably laugh if you pointed it out before I did. I’ve now come to the realization that if I don’t get off my beautiful phat ass and pursue my writing and editing career, I never will. Outside of the sphere of careers and employment, I have always held true to the mantra of going after what I want, telling the person who I love that I love them, and even if it doesn’t work out, I can walk away knowing that I tried. I guess in my mind, failing at my life’s passion, was way scarier than being rejected by a person or a university or tearing two major ligaments in my right ankle (this is true). In a way, I believe this goes to show how fearless I have lived my life, and I’ve done so with passion and conviction. It’s a testament to the nerve and ambition that flows in my veins, and the desire that burns within my heart. Knowing I’ve done so much, and faced the obstacles life has placed within my path, I need to start believing I can do this, too.

Besides, why would I want to read other people’s words for the rest of my life, when I can write just as fantastically as anyone else? My words are worth writing. And that, is my written form of a self-pep talk, full of gall and conceit. Like I said, if you don’t like them, go fucking write your own.