May 31, 2013

High Heels in the Sand

Day 31: A vivid memory

It was the first Winter Break of our college careers, and we were all so excited to be back together. Though I had been raving about how amazing it was to finally be away from our small town, the truth was that that first semester was a bit lonely. I adored my roommates, but I still felt excruciatingly shy and unsure of myself, and it was hard for me to make other friends beyond those in my hallway. My anxiety shot through the roof at times, and I sometimes doubted that I would ever be able to call somebody up to go to the dining hall with me or hang out with on the weekends if my roommates were out of town for a volleyball game or debate club meet. It's a little strange to even write those words now because the rest of college ended up being so enjoyable and lovely that it's easy to gloss over and forget how hard that first year was at times. To be honest, I think I wanted to gloss over it even as it was happening, maybe even now despite it being over. Feeling it was just too hard sometimes.

So that first big break was a big deal. As strong as my doubts about making friends at college was at times, my relief about being back with my hometown girls was even stronger. We had been e-mailing each other non-stop all semester, chit-chatting on the phone, planning visits to see each other. Finally being back together felt like all of the anxiety and loneliness was melting away, and I could finally be myself again. There were five of us then, the Fabulous Five. Yeah, we had a name. We were silly and nerdy, and we had so much fun together. Together we could all squeeze into Katie's silver Echo, blast Brand New or Taking Back Sunday, and sing at the top of our lungs, laughing, squealing, and being oh-so-happy. Oh, so very happy.

We wanted to celebrate our reunion by doing something sophisticated. We were, after all, college girls now, and we needed something a tad more chic than chatting over hot chocolates and caramel macchiatos at the new Starbucks on Main Street. So one Saturday, we dressed in our fanciest dresses and skirts, hopped in the Echo, and drove out east to the Hamptons. We window-shopped, ooh-ing and ahh-ing over the designer stores as though a bunch of eighteen-year-olds could afford the Gucci purse we all were gazing at. No matter! That day, we were fancy ladies. 

We stopped in Southampton for lunch, where the waiter looked at us in amusement and handed us our menus. The next hour was filled with the usual rehashing of first-semester war stories. I whipped up a tale or two to keep up, and I even managed to forget the quiet nights spent alone in my room trying to get through the reading for my Philosophy class, listening to people partying across the hall. That day I was the funny one again, the one who who would do anything for a laugh, sang the loudest, and was the most outrageous. I sat back in my chair, content and relaxed in a way I hadn't been in months.

If we had driven back home after that, it would have been fine. Our Hamptons afternoon had been fun, and it had served its purpose. But our route back took us past the beach, and even though it was December and freezing, the beach beckoned. I don't remember who said it first. It might have been me, or maybe not. Either way, someone spotted the surf and shouted, "Hey, wait, let's get out here!" Everyone laughed, and even though we could hear the howling wind coming up from the ocean, we all jumped out and ran out onto the sand. I remember so clearly my gray skirt with black velvet trim fluttering wildly against my legs in the wind, and my strand of pearls felt so cold against my chest that I wrapped my cardigan extra tight around me as though that would somehow warm me. We all screamed into the wind, and our high heels sunk into the sand, nearly sending us toppling down to the ground. I couldn't stop laughing, and I could barely see the others through my once-carefully straightened hair, now a tangled mess strewn across my face. We managed to huddle together and grin brightly into the camera someone had brought along before we scattered down the beach, chasing the waves in the dimming light.

We probably only lasted a few minutes before we were herded us back into the Echo, where the heat had been kept blasting, but those precious moments felt eternal. No matter what struggles I had during that first year, those few minutes on the beach made me feel like I would always be safe, always be loved. It was cold, and it was getting dark, but I swear I could have stayed in that moment forever.

I was finally home.

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May 29, 2013

$90 Zappos Giftcard Giveaway!

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Musical Memories

Day 29: Five songs or pieces of music that speak to you or bring back memories.

I felt so excited for this post because it reminded me of a project I did at the end of high school wherein I created a soundtrack for the past four years of my life. It was so much fun to think back on the songs that defined certain moments and years, and I definitely used that as an inspiration for this post. These aren't necessarily all of my favorite songs, but they're some of the ones that I associate with specific moments in my life. 

"Papel de Plata" by Inti-Illimani

This is a Chilean folk group from the 1970s, and they are a major part of my cultural and family identity. The military coup that happened in 1973 in Chile forced my father to flee his home country, and when he eventually settled in New York and created a life with my mom, this music was always playing in our house. My dad plays guitar, and it still brings me so much joy to hear him sing the political folk songs of his generation and country. I chose this song because while there are better known Inti songs, this quieter song makes me settle down, listen to the words, and feel a bit somber. It's a song that I "discovered" on my own, and so it's a bit special to me. 

"American Pie" by Don MacLean

I don't care if people groan when they hear this. To me, it brings me back to my days at summer camp, also known as nerd camp since it was one of those programs for "gifted and talented youth" that involved taking advanced classes and being total dorks. Going to nerd camp was a defining experience for me. In middle school I started to feel really bad for being one of the smart kids, and I felt lonely and weird for wanting to learn. Attending camp was such a liberating experience because it let me feel good about being smart and gave me so much more confidence to go back to school and not apologize for who I was. I really think my life would have been completely different without this particular program. Anyway, every weekend at camp we would have a giant dance on the quad, and without fail, "American Pie" was the very last song played. The entire camp had certain choreographed moves and revised lyrics to go along with it, and it was awesome to be part of a giant dance party and sing at the top of my lungs with my new friends. "American Pie" is freedom.

"Hey Jealousy" by the Gin Blossoms

I had a very tight-knit group of friends by the end of high school, and it was hard to say goodbye to them when one by one we left for college at the end of the summer. The night before each of us left, we  all piled into somebody's car, drove down to the beach to climb up on the lifeguard tower, and then blasted "Hey Jealousy" as we dropped off the girl who was leaving the next day. There were tears and hugs, and then we played the song again on our way to our own homes. It was such a lovely tradition, and this song reminds me of how meaningful and unforgettable relationships like that can be.

"Mrs. Deegan" by John Estacio
In college, I sang with a women's chorus, and we were fortunate to sing a beautiful repertoire each year. "Mrs. Deegan" is part of a larger piece called "Eulogies," and we first sang it when I was a freshman in the choir. It can be a difficult piece to song if the choir isn't cohesive, and I remember when we finally mastered it, we all had chills and tears in our eyes. It was revived again when I was a senior, and singing this piece at my final concert gave the seniors such a feeling of accomplishment and the sense of having come full circle. I stood next to one of my best friends, and I remember that during that concert we kept reaching over to hold the other's hand as we sang. I'm fairly sure that I had tears streaming down my face as we sang together. 

"All For Nothing" by Face to Face

I first listened to Face to Face on one of those punk compilations everyone had in high school, and I even remember seeing them at a show in London when I was sixteen. They've never been a favorite band, and I couldn't tell you much about them, to be honest. Still, right before we got engaged, when the hubs said that he wanted to play me one of their songs because it made him think of me, I figured I would probably like it. "All For Nothing" was the song, and he played it over and over that summer until finally he proposed. This song quickly became the theme of our engagement, and we decided it should be the song for our first dance. It's definitely not traditional, but it's so much fun, and it absolutely fits our style and relationship. We had a blast taking dance lessons and finally performing in front of our guests, and even though I messed up the steps, I was too busy hysterically laughing the entire time to care. At the end of our dance, we grabbed our guests to come join us on the dance floor, and soon the entire room was filled with people jumping up and down and spinning around. It was fantastic!!

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May 27, 2013

Thank You

Day 27: A letter to your readers

Dear Readers,

I'd like to take a moment to thank you for being you and for visiting my blog. As I figure out my place in the blog world and try out different things here, it can be a little bumpy and confusing at times, but every kind word of encouragement has mattered so much to me along the way. Thank you for commenting, thank you for reading, and thank you for introducing me to so many other wonderful stories. It's a big, slightly overwhelming internet out there, and and it's nice to feel a little more at home with each post. 

Thank you.

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May 26, 2013

Sunday Currently : 21

This is my first international Sunday Currently! Morocco has been a blast so far, and we are looking forward to a few quiet days in the seaside town of Essaouira after the hustle and bustle of Marrakech and Casablanca. Barcelona awaits after that, and I just know that there are so many good times still to be had.

Today is a travel day, first on the train, then on the bus. Fingers crossed for an easy ride!

reading : Catch-22, and I love it! I keep laughing out loud at various points, and even though I'm only about fifty pages in I can tell that it will feel like a quick read.

writing : Emails to family about our daily shenanigans. At some point I will need to write a couple more blog posts but that's hard to do from an iPhone. Honeymoon takes priority over the blog! 

listening : To the new voices and sounds around me. Arabic, French, seagulls, train engines... 

thinking : About the nice Argentine couple we met at the train station. They are on a trip through Spain and Morocco to celebrate their 25th wedding anniversary, and it makes me happy to see people still having adventures together after all of those years. 

smelling :  Nothing at the moment, though Casablanca has been a mix of sea air, car exhaust, and mystery street smells. Given a choice, I'll pick the sea air. :)

wishing :  For not much right now. I feel very content. 

hoping :  For good weather in Essaouira and Barcelona! The sun has been out every day so far, and I love it.

wearing : Jeans, one of my many J. Crew t-shirts, and a DC United zip-up jacket. Travel days are all about casual comfort for me.

loving : The hubs! It's fun to travel with him, and we keep reminiscing about past travel adventures we've had together. Having a lifelong partner who I will see the world with is a really good feeling. :)

wanting : To wear my flowy red maxi dress. I need to wear a shawl with it in Morocco, but I might break it out Barcelona if its warm enough.

needing :  Water. I definitely did not drink enough yesterday, and I need to remember to bring a water bottle with us when we're out walking all day.

feeling :  A little tired, but excited to check out Essaouira!

clicking :  On not much these days. We are limiting our Internet time here, as we should. I'll be plugged back in after we return! Though I must say, it's really nice to feel more present and less distracted by a laptop.

On to the next adventure!

May 24, 2013

The Not-So-Great Things

Day 24: Your top 3 worst traits

We're all works in progress, yet sometimes it's hard to own up to our shortcomings. I certainly don't think I'm perfect, but it can be difficult to clearly see what our faults are. Hopefully we have some insight into our character, and we can try to see the areas that could use some improvement. Here's what I've learned so far:

1. I like to control things and for things to be done my way.
I know, I know. I'm a bit of a control freak. I have gotten much better with this, in part due to the life philosophy I've cultivated in my adulthood that reminds me that I cannot control everything, so accept that fact and move on. Even so, I can turn into a bit of a ball of high-anxiety when it comes to things like leaving our cat in the care of a friend or letting the hubs paint the living room while I'm away. I know that things will most likely be okay, but I would feel much better if I could supervise everything to make sure nothing is overlooked. I know how I like things done!

2. I get incredibly shy at inopportune times. 
When the hubs and I were traveling around South America years ago, I often was overcome with shyness/social anxiety and was so nervous about asking questions (to waiters, to bus ticket agents, to our hosts) in Spanish that I made the hubs do it for me. The problem? He didn't speak any Spanish, and I did. Oops! This, of course, drove him crazy since his language skills were so limited, and it would have been far more effective for me to do the talking. The hubs has gotten better with pushing me through these episodes and reminds me that I'm being ridiculous (in a nice way!), but I admit that my shyness still pops up from time to time.

3. I can be a bit moralistic and rigid with my standards.
Overall, I think I am a very accepting person, but from time to time I feel absolutely incensed when someone I love fails to live up to the expectation I have of them. This is very unfair of me, because oftentimes the expectation is superhuman or unfair to begin with, yet I still get so upset about it. When the hubs was trying to quit smoking in college, I would throw a fit if I would find him with a cigarette. The poor guy was trying so hard, and all I could see was the negative! This is without a doubt my very worst trait, and it's one I'm ashamed of. It's something I am very aware of and constantly working to improve, but unfortunately it still pops its head up every now and again. Again, I embrace our humanness and imperfection, but part of my own imperfection is that awful judgment. Thankfully this isn't one of my main characteristics, or I would be miserable!

Since I believe in balance and don't want to ruminate on my flaws, I'd like to end with three things I think are pretty great about myself! :D

1. I have a sense of humor.
Even when picking out my worst traits, I can laugh at them and love myself, anyway. If you can't laugh at yourself, what's the point? No matter how bad things can be sometimes, there is usually a laugh just around the corner.

2. I am capable of embracing love. 
My friends and family are so important to me, and I love them dearly. I like to let others know that they matter, and I enjoy expressing my love through acts of kindness or a nice word.

3. I am my own person.
I'm a quirky gal, and though I might not always be cool, I still love who I am. I don't mean this in the aggressive if-you-don't-like-me-go-jump-in-a-lake sense. It's impossible to be everyone's cup of tea, and that's okay. I just mean that I genuinely like who I am as a person. I love my life, and even though I could be better in some areas, I like being me. :)


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May 23, 2013

Party Details

A couple of weekends ago we hosted a BBQ to celebrate the hubs' graduation from grad school. We had such a great time, and despite my initial worries that our house wasn't in good enough shape yet to host people, it all went very smoothly. I wanted to share some of the fun moments from that day!

One of my favorite parts of our back porch!

"Congrats!" sign to satiate my love for crafting

Mexican chocolate cupcakes
Homemade veggie burgers! These are amazingly delicious.

No party for Latin American Studies graduates is complete without a mini sombrero.

Mint iced tea and striped straws
Tres leches cake from a nearby Mexican bakery-- OMG SO GOOD!
Since our cupcakes were such a hit, I need to share the recipe with all of you! I wish I could take credit for them, but I found them on Pinterest and followed the recipe that somebody had already created. They were very easy to make, and they weren't too spicy. I definitely want to make them again!

It was such a blast to hang out in the backyard, eat good food, and be with our friends. I foresee many more shindigs at our place in the near future. :)

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May 22, 2013

100 Best Novels: The Sun Also Rises

Ernest Hemingway is very quickly becoming one of my favorite writers, and I couldn't be more happy about it! Though I want to save some of his books for later down my Best 100 list, I'm glad that I went back to him for The Sun Also Rises so that I could be familiar with the story for our evening at the ballet.

In short, I enjoyed this novel. Though Hemingway's writing style tends to be terse yet nuanced, I thought that his prose in this particular novel was more fluid than in A Farewell to Arms. This brought me into Jake and Brett's world more quickly than anticipated, and while it was still true to Hemingway's trademark style, I do think it has a different feel to it than other books.

Part of the reason why I love novelists like Fitzgerald is because of the allure of the Jazz Age. Champagne, dancing, traveling, money-- they're all part of the magical lifestyle that many of his characters live in. It's easy to slip into the glamorous dreamlife of Gatsby and idealize that era. What Hemingway has done, however, particularly in The Sun Also Rises, is remind us that party must at some point come to an end. Those wild parties where the alcohol flows like water start to feel uneasily out of control. The characters struggle with hangovers, go to bed feeling ill, and Lady Brett Ashley is purported to be an alcoholic. Even the frivolous spending is revealed to be mindless, as the characters ignore their bankruptcy and rack up debts. This is not a whispy, lovely daydream in West Egg-- this is the reality of people who drink too much, spend too much, and end up alone. 

As uncomfortable as that reality is, Hemingway still manages to infuse beauty amidst the tragedy. The simple moments like fishing in the countryside, away from the raucous cities and belligerent relationships, are the moments of true peace. The scenes where Jake and Bill split up to fish in the river are endearing, yet it also stuck out to me that Jake only finds calm when alone. Keeping that in mind, it might be okay that Jake will not be with Brett. Though maybe a bit lonely, he's also at peace when away from others. Maybe, we can hope, Jake will be okay in the end. Maybe he can keep dreaming, and maybe Brett will spin herself into oblivion, but maybe he will be okay.

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100 Best Novels

1. "Ulysses," James Joyce
2. "The Great Gatsby," F. Scott Fitzgerald
4. "Lolita," Vladimir Nabokov
5. "Brave New World," Aldous Huxley
6. "The Sound and the Fury," William Faulkner
7. "Catch-22," Joseph Heller
8. "Darkness at Noon," Arthur Koestler
9. "Sons and Lovers," D. H. Lawrence
10. "The Grapes of Wrath," John Steinbeck
11. "Under the Volcano," Malcolm Lowry
12. "The Way of All Flesh," Samuel Butler
13. "1984," George Orwell
14. "I, Claudius," Robert Graves
15. "To the Lighthouse," Virginia Woolf
16. "An American Tragedy," Theodore Dreiser
17. "The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter," Carson McCullers
18. "Slaughterhouse Five," Kurt Vonnegut
19. "Invisible Man," Ralph Ellison
20. "Native Son," Richard Wright
21. "Henderson the Rain King," Saul Bellow
22. "Appointment in Samarra," John O' Hara
23. "U.S.A." (trilogy), John Dos Passos
24. "Winesburg, Ohio," Sherwood Anderson
25. "A Passage to India," E. M. Forster
26. "The Wings of the Dove," Henry James
27. "The Ambassadors," Henry James
29. "The Studs Lonigan Trilogy," James T. Farrell
30. "The Good Soldier," Ford Madox Ford
31. "Animal Farm," George Orwell
32. "The Golden Bowl," Henry James
33. "Sister Carrie," Theodore Dreiser
34. "A Handful of Dust," Evelyn Waugh
35. "As I Lay Dying," William Faulkner
36. "All the King's Men," Robert Penn Warren
37. "The Bridge of San Luis Rey," Thornton Wilder
38. "Howards End," E. M. Forster
39. "Go Tell It on the Mountain," James Baldwin
40. "The Heart of the Matter," Graham Greene
41. "Lord of the Flies," William Golding
42. "Deliverance," James Dickey
43. "A Dance to the Music of Time" (series), Anthony Powell
44. "Point Counter Point," Aldous Huxley
45. "The Sun Also Rises," Ernest Hemingway
46. "The Secret Agent," Joseph Conrad
47. "Nostromo," Joseph Conrad
48. "The Rainbow," D. H. Lawrence
49. "Women in Love," D. H. Lawrence
50. "Tropic of Cancer," Henry Miller
51. "The Naked and the Dead," Norman Mailer
52. "Portnoy's Complaint," Philip Roth
53. "Pale Fire," Vladimir Nabokov
54. "Light in August," William Faulkner
55. "On the Road," Jack Kerouac
56. "The Maltese Falcon," Dashiell Hammett
57. "Parade's End," Ford Madox Ford
58. "The Age of Innocence," Edith Wharton
59. "Zuleika Dobson," Max Beerbohm
60. "The Moviegoer," Walker Percy
61. "Death Comes to the Archbishop," Willa Cather
62. "From Here to Eternity," James Jones
63. "The Wapshot Chronicles," John Cheever
64. "The Catcher in the Rye," J. D. Salinger
65. "A Clockwork Orange," Anthony Burgess
66. "Of Human Bondage," W. Somerset Maugham
67. "Heart of Darkness," Joseph Conrad
68. "Main Street," Sinclair Lewis
69. "The House of Mirth," Edith Wharton
70. "The Alexandria Quartet," Lawrence Durrell
71. "A High Wind in Jamaica," Richard Hughes
72. "A House for Ms. Biswas," V. S. Naipaul
73. "The Day of the Locust," Nathaniel West
75. "Scoop," Evelyn Waugh
76. "The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie," Muriel Spark
77. "Finnegans Wake," James Joyce
78. "Kim," Rudyard Kipling
79. "A Room With a View," E. M. Forster
80. "Brideshead Revisited," Evelyn Waugh
81. "The Adventures of Augie March," Saul Bellow
82. "Angle of Repose," Wallace Stegner
83. "A Bend in the River," V. S. Naipaul
84. "The Death of the Heart," Elizabeth Bowen
85. "Lord Jim," Joseph Conrad
86. "Ragtime," E. L. Doctorow
87. "The Old Wives' Tale," Arnold Bennett
88. "The Call of the Wild," Jack London
89. "Loving," Henry Green
90. "Midnight's Children," Salman Rushdie
91. "Tobacco Road," Erskine Caldwell
92. "Ironweed," William Kennedy
93. "The Magus," John Fowles
94. "Wide Sargasso Sea," Jean Rhys
95. "Under the Net," Iris Murdoch
96. "Sophie's Choice," William Styron
97. "The Sheltering Sky," Paul Bowles
98. "The Postman Always Rings Twice," James M. Cain
99. "The Ginger Man," J. P. Donleavy
100. "The Magnificent Ambersons," Booth Tarkington

May 20, 2013

Project DC: The Washington Ballet

I am a big supporter of the arts and try to go to various performances whenever I can, but the truth is that with my student budget and hectic schedule, it's not always possible to go as much as I'd like. A few months ago I was browsing the Kennedy Center website, wanting to reconnect with the lovely performances they host, when suddenly the Washington Ballet's season caught my eye. I saw that they were doing an interpretation of Ernest Hemingway's The Sun Also Rises, and I was intrigued. Hemingway in ballet form? It deserved to be investigated.

I'm not a ballet expert, but I do know what I like. I used to dance as a kid, and my sister and I often went to performances by NYC Ballet and American Ballet Theatre when I lived in New York. I love those two companies, and since I hadn't yet seen the Washington Ballet perform, I figured I needed to give them a chance. Bonus: We unknowingly picked the night that the King and Queen of Sweden were in attendance! We are so fancy. :D

I just love the view from the Kennedy Center balcony!

First of all, the design of the show is very cool. They used digital projection to display the words that Jake, the protagonist, is typing on his typewriter and to portray conversations between characters, giving the sense of watching a silent movie. The black-and-white set and costumes in the first act also contribute to that feeling. There were so many beautiful moments in the first act, but I especially loved the whimsy of the characters barhopping through Paris and the enjoyable pas de deux between Jake and Georgette. Jake's nightmare of being back in World War I and the desperation of his bathing scene at the close of Act I were especially gripping and emotional, and Jared Nelson did a wonderful job of depicting Jake's struggle and isolation. 

Act II comes alive with a burst of color as the characters make their way to Spain. The bullfighting takes center stage, and Tamas Krizsa brought the bull to life remarkably well. Edwin Aparicio stole the stage with his tremendously talented flamenco dancing. Seriously, it made me want to jump to my feet and dance! The fight scene was also fun, and the dancers kept their energy high.  

The minuses were that there were a few moments where I didn't think the dancers and the orchestra matched up very well at the end of certain pieces, and it momentarily took me away from what could have been a strong ending. It was by no means a sloppy performance, but details like that are important to me. I also could have done without the can-can dance because it seemed a bit out of place.

Overall, the hubs and I both really enjoyed the performance, and we highly recommend it. I'm especially impressed that the hubs had such a great time because he is definitely not a ballet aficionado, yet he was smiling throughout most of the show, and he thanked me more than once afterwards for bringing him. Success! I'm interested to see how the Washington Ballet does with more classical pieces, and I will definitely return to the Kennedy Center to check them out again.

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Want to read more about having fun in DC? Follow along as I embark on Project DC:

2. Go for a leisurely hike in Rock Creek Park.
3. Go on a White House tour.
5. Visit Old Town on a day trip.
6. Take a day trip to Annapolis.
7. Go to the Newseum.
8. Go back to Jazz in the Garden when it starts up again in the spring.
9. Go to the Holocaust Museum.
11. See the FDR Memorial.
13. Go to the National Portrait Gallery.
14. Go to the Corcoran.
15. Visit the Vietnam Memorial.
17. Go to more embassy events.
19. See the drum circle at Malcolm X Park.
20. Mini golf at H Street Country Club.
21. Evening drinks at POV.
22. Visit the National Archives.
23. See a Washington Ballet performance.
24. Walk through the National Arboretum.