Appreciation(s) of the Week

Every once in awhile (if not every single day) it’s important to appreciate the things that make life fulfilling. Not that every waking and unconscious breath isn’t amazing, but to be more specific, the following list of life updates are particularly meaningful to me and help draw a beautiful picture of recent goings on…

  1. Today it took me 10 minutes to walk to work from home (and a brisk 50 degrees outside the week before winter!). My new apartment’s location = perfection. I walked to an event on Saturday and walked across the street to buy some groceries last night. If only the dance studio I volunteer/take classes at was nearby. I’d never have to take the metro again. Walking is free. Walking is healthy. Walking forces you to be alive in the now (or else I’d run into a parking meter or something..). Walking is great.
  2. Tomorrow I have a “coffee date” (I’m sure I’ll get a mango smoothie actually) after work where I will be practicing my Spanish with a young man from Colombia. Texting in Spanish is not so easy…especially when you say you “cooked” instead of “cleaned” the office. Whoops!
  3. I started reading Public Produce (do you pronounce it praw-doose OR pro-doose?) by Darrin Nordahl about the importance of being able to grow local food in urban areas. This is for personal and professional interest, as I’m writing a story about a celebrity chef who is teaching DC youth how to cook healthy vegan food. I should be visiting one of her classes this week!
  4. I can’t remember the last time I ate meat. Then again I have a really poor short-term memory. But I actually crave vegetables these days. I should really take that chef’s cooking class myself. And the Dupont farmer’s market goes all through winter. Last time they had free apple samples!
  5. I have a new interest in blogging about juvenile justice, particularly because I’ve been working with incarcerated youth in DC who write poetry for our publication The Beat Within every week (they are great artists too!). My goal is to get paid for it but either way it will be good writing experience for future positions. So if you hear anything related to group homes, foster care, youth arrests, trying kids as adults, etc., please send the news my way! I’m also looking for criminal justice blogs as research. NAM just posted a story about New Beginnings, the youth center where we do our poetry workshops. Check it out!

That’s generally all the updates for this week. Just typing up a list is inspiring. Everyone should do it frequently. It makes you more aware of the little things that you should appreciate each day and also tells you what you value. Knowing what you view as important helps you make better decisions in the future and thus feel more confident in your self-identity as well as expressing your true self to others. Blah blah blah the wisdom only comes out when I “write”. I should do it more often, yeah?


I must’ve realized it was my favorite time of year even before the calendar did. Yesterday I was in such a good mood despite the combination of things that typically make Mondays impossible to endure, like an unproductive weekend, little sleep the night before, and the fact that it was indeed…Monday. It’s sad that Mondays get such a bad rep, probably due to people’s self-fulfilling prophecy of making Mondays painful so they can then complain about ’em. But I had my share of Vitamin D yesterday afternoon…sitting outside in Dupont Circle for a good half hour doing nothing but people watching and intent analysis of how weird I thought birds were. The weather in Washington D.C. was perfect. What a great day to end the summer with…because now it’s time to officially say hello to autumn!

But maybe it wasn’t just the changing of seasons that made me high on life. Perhaps it was the fact that I actually paid attention to my surroundings and appreciated the many very D.C. moments that took place in front of me…

1. As soon as I started walking down Connecticut Avenue at 2:00pm I suddenly found myself directly behind the Real World crew. One person was spotting the camera guy as he walked backwards in front of two girls chatting and acting as if there wasn’t a video camera two inches from their faces. I couldn’t imagine ever getting used to that. I’d prefer to be one of the audio guys who stayed at the side, barely paying attention and mumbling to each other, but still looking important with equipment in their hands. The camera guy attempted to shoot at different angles, but then he kept having a heck of a time trying to stay in front of them as the girls continued walking. I’d rather work with actors instead of ‘reality show’ stars. “Um…can you do that again?”

2. Monday was also the first day my body was mostly recuperated from Friday night’s Boogie Bots hip hop dance class. Once a week is clearly not enough, because every Saturday I wake up sore all over. This weekend was particularly painful because Bryan “Boogiemind” East has a triple-time robotic style that my body hasn’t been used to all summer, not even close. I slept all Saturday afternoon and night mostly because it hurt too much to move. It’s not like I need to take more classes throughout the week…my wallet couldn’t survive that anyway…but I need to at least practice the dances I’ve learned or do some sort of daily cardio in my living room. Otherwise my Friday fun will turn into weekend incapacitation. Nonetheless I’m glad by Monday I can move again and can’t wait to dance with amazing choreographers once more in four days.

3. After getting settled around 4:00 at Cosi, a cozy cafe near the metro station, a man started charging his phone in the wall and sat across from me at my table. I seemed nice enough, so naturally he started telling me his life story. He went on and on about how the government was spending millions of dollars rebuilding tanks while plenty of Americans like him were laid off and struggling in today’s economy. But of course he still thanks God for what he has, including his 9-year-old daughter who just got her tonsils out earlier this month. I didn’t do that great of a job acting interested, but even if I wasn’t making an effort, which I was…kind of, he wouldn’t have noticed a difference. Ultimately he wanted my help in figuring out how to access the Internet on his phone. I ended up trying to explain how to create a yahoo email address. I still don’t think he understood, but of course I gave a plug for the library, the fan that I am. He continued asking me random questions like if I liked football. I can’t say it was an insightful experience, but it was indeed a D.C. moment.

4. After the man finally left and it was time to head home, I decided to take the bus. It was cheaper than the metrorail…plus the weather was nice and I wasn’t in a hurry. The most direct route home actually involves two buses. The G2 wasn’t coming for another 10 minutes so I just decided to walk the 9 blocks to the G8 bus stop. I even stopped at Whole Foods to buy some peanut oil (yes, for cooking! though that didn’t turn out so great…boo) but the G2 bus still wasn’t in sight. It’s really annoying how walking is faster than waiting for the bus sometimes. Though if I’m up for it, I do like racing the bus…it makes me feel productive. Once I get on what should be the second bus, the G8, I can relax all the way home. It practically drops me off right at my front door, give or take a few steps. Can’t beat that. It didn’t take me until the June metro accident to learn how to use the bus, but now it’s a frequent part of my life…that and walking when the bus doesn’t show.

Nothing too exciting for a day in Washington D.C. but pretty fulfilling for a Monday. I even had plans to cook..on a Monday! What a way to start off the week…or rather what a way to end the summer. Move over humidity…cool breezes coming through. Soon October will be here and Libras will be setting the balance. It’s my season afterall. 🙂

The law of attraction appears to be at work… It’s as though cool experiences are drawn to my gravitational force, when I choose to use it. Since age 16 I’ve managed to find jobs I’m really proud of and that truly match my interests. My first job in high school was at a music store owned by a family friend. Besides chatting it up with college musicians in the office every day, I got paid to DJ parties and videotape plays and dance recitals. Talk about an awesome first job. I worked there until college, where I seamlessly found a job doing video production for the university starting my first week of freshman year. After four years there, I am now an FCP expert.

Internships haven’t done me wrong either. I had a journalism internship working at the Beijing Olympics last summer…enough said right there. And this summer I had a social media internship for a national nonprofit in Washington D.C. Of course, the week after that one ended I started another one a few blocks down the street. I don’t seem to want to leave Dupont Circle (who would?). I’ve been at New America Media (NAM) for three weeks now and am enjoying every minute of it.

SW ConferenceNAM is like the AP service for ethnic media and something I discovered during my sophomore year of college as a place I’d love to work at in the future. They’re headquartered in San Francisco, and though I’d love to end up there someday, being in the small D.C. office has its perks. My supervisor is great and tries to provide me with a variety of projects. The main thing we’ve been preoccupied with is planning an environmental conference in Phoenix on October 8th (my birthday, what a coincidence), which will bring local social justice groups and ethnic media together in an effort to combat environmental issues in the Southwest.

Besides conference outreach, I’m also doing a profile on the Navajo-Hopi Observer, a newspaper that covers Native American news in northeast Arizona. It will be part of NAM’s profile series where people learn about different ethnic media around the country, what makes them unique and how they are surviving the economic recession. Another thing I’m excited about is writing Spanish-language media briefs. Last week I started translating Spanish-language news stories and summarizing them in English so that other ethnic media know what topics their fellow news outlets are covering. What a great way to keep up my Spanish skills!


The Beat Within, Volume 14.07

New America Media is all about conveying the unheard voices in our society, including minority ethnic groups, the elderly, women, and even young people. One venue that allows NAM to give voice to incarcerated youth is The Beat Within, a program that encourages kids in juvenile detention centers to share their thoughts and life experiences. I’ve read several poems that a few teenagers from the Oak Hill Youth Detention Center in D.C. wrote and they are truly enlightening. They reveal an alternative view of real D.C. life, outside of the politics and tourism that most people use to define the nation’s capital. My supervisor runs the literacy workshop every week and I can’t wait to get more involved in the program.

NAM overall is a great place to work and needless to say I love my current job, as is always the case. I make sure whatever work I do involves my passions. It’s an easy thing to achieve really. I’ll be doing some video projects for NAM too, no joke… With every job before now I’ve had it made, and my luck after graduation has been no different. So let’s keep it up shall we.

Loca en la cabeza…

When I was riding the metro to work this morning, I was so involved in my thoughts I missed my stop. I wasn’t even aware we had reached Dupont Circle and continued on again. I finally left the world inside my head only because my body alerted me that we hadn’t stopped in awhile. The metro stations after Dupont aren’t as close together. Luckily I wasn’t in a hurry and laughed in amusement, seeing the situation as proof of my intense imagination rather than my inattentiveness to reality.

I was only slightly embarrassed when I walked out of the train and just took two steps to sit on the bench and wait for the next one going in the other direction. I don’t know why I assumed people noticed…or cared. When the next train came I decided not to take a seat since I was only staying on for a second before getting off again. But several seats were empty and when I’m the only one standing it makes me very self conscious. So I was quite purposeful in how I leaned against the pole and put down my purse, making what now seems like an absurd effort not to appear clumsy or hasteful. When I finally straightened and glanced up, not a soul was even paying me any attention. Everyone on the metro appeared to be in a daze. Perhaps they too were skilled at being deep in their own thoughts.

At any rate, my self consciousness is truly a waste of energy. I am constantly rescarecrowminded that that’s the case but it doesn’t seem to help me be any less so. You wouldn’t believe the amount of mental preparation I go through in order to handle being the focus of any passerby’s scrutiny. As if they were trying to determine my character by how I placed my hands, or measure my life story by the calmness of my facial expressions. That’s just dumb…but tis my twisted, over-analytical brain.

I can’t even recall what it was that had me so absorbed in thought in the first place. For someone who sure does a whole lot of thinking, my memory is crap.

DC Public Library...only a bus ride away.

The source of my obsession.

My book obsession of late is nothing new. Every once in awhile some abrupt inspiration to read hits me and I go insane. I’m on my sixth book in two weeks, and that’s with a full-time job and a pretty decent social life. Now whenever I see someone, anyone, with a book in their hands, reading on the metro, I have the urge to run up to them and look at the title and ask if they would recommend it. Obsession is definitely the right term.

Whenever I have a sudden new interest, I have to exhaust all my energy into it until the appeal finally wears off and it’s out of my system. It’s kind of like when there’s a really good new song on the radio. You play it over and over (at least I do) and over and over until you’re sick of it and you need another new favorite song. It’s a bad habit really, but only an effort to replay the good feeling it creates. Listening to a good song is like eating a piece of candy…it’s really satisfying in the moment but afterwards it only leaves you wanting more.

Edvard Grieg, Composer (not Albert Einstein)

Edvard Grieg, Composer (not Albert Einstein)

A different example of my extreme tendencies when discovering a new passion is when I became obsessed with classical music for like a day. I don’t remember what sparked it but all of the sudden I was looking up every renowned composer ever, listing their songs and categorizing them in chronological order from the Renaissance and Baroque age to the Classical Period and Romantic era. Talk about going all out. My favorite became Morning Mood by Edvard Grieg (I love saying his name out loud…you can’t help but say it with an accent). If you want to purposefully give yourself chills, listen to that song. It gets me every time, if not earlier at least by 1:15 into it. My body can’t help but physically, and emotionally, react to the music.

But I was talking about books, not music…two very different languages. Perhaps I’ve been absorbed in reading because music has been a stranger lately. Without a car, I don’t naturally listen to the radio. My iPod is broken and whenever I’m home I don’t have the Internet so I pretty much ignore my laptop. Music calms my emotions but it doesn’t satisfy my mind’s need to process words on a page (or be lulled by television). These things distract the mind, inviting it to take a break and become enveloped in someone else’s world. Music is distracting but not in the sense that it provides thoughts for you. A song leaves too much to be interpreted, thus forcing me to come up with my own thoughts to fill the void…and who wants to do that?

Living and breathing through the habit of multiple tabs has got my brain used to multitasking. So it makes sense. Music and driving. Music and web surfing. Only when I’m truly inspired (like to dance or think deeply, etc.) can music stand alone (but even then, aren’t I truly multitasking?). I’m not diminishing the power of music but instead I’m explaining the restless immaturity of my mind. The point? Books take over my thoughts and place me in an already elaborate story. My eyes do the following but the author has done all the work, painting a vivid picture for me to indulge in for awhile.



In what started out as an attempt to babble about my new obsession has in fact become evidential proof of why I would be a very lame Buddhist. I am clearly controlled by my mind instead of the other way around. Yikes… Well at least rambling helped lead me to this disheartening but useful conclusion. When I put down a book and pick another one up, I’m merely fueling the greed of my mind for more distractions. Books, though in our society are viewed as intellectual stimulation, could instead be seen as hopeless attempts to stifle the endless traffic within our heads. Of course one can argue that books add knowledge and new perspectives…a source of entertainment to be sure. But the one who is a slave to the mind must be forever entertained… Hey, I can accept the notion of never being fully satisfied by my attempts at diversion. At least I’m conscious of my limitations.

One year ago today…

…or yesterday rather. Pretend it’s 08/08/09 and this entry will be more compelling…

Last night I was gabbing nonstop in Chinese on the way home from a party with a group of friends. They just chuckled and stared at me like I was crazy. I’m definitely losing my Mandarin skills, maybe partially because when I practice, it apparently makes other people feel uncomfortable.

GuardsToday is the one-year anniversary of the start of the Beijing Olympics (and midpoint of the most amazing 60 days of my life) last summer. Wow…it’s been one whole year? That’s 365 days since the tall security guard from our Beijing hotel lobby broke off the cap of my drink before a group of us went to watch the opening ceremony. He didn’t have a bottle opener so he just kept jamming it on the top of the desk, totally scratching up the wood. This was the guy who looked like he hated Americans when we first arrived a month earlier. I’m talking in-pain-just-breathing-around-us hatred, like he would die if he had to make any effort to acknowledge our existence. Ironically enough, he ended up being my favorite of all 20-some odd security guards that we saw day in and day out manning the hotel. Oh Beijing…

I am determined to write a novel about my China experience. I better start typing up some drafts soon before all the precious little memories are forgotten… Then again I don’t think I could ever forget. But it would be awesome to have something tangible that would forever capture my first and only time abroad. Writing a novel is in no way easy. I admire authors for their ability to tell a story, especially recently with all the reading I’ve been doing. A really good author can, in one page, make me laugh and cry. Now that’s talent.

Summer Palace, Beijing

Summer Palace, Beijing

At the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Library in Chinatown, there’s a whole shelf full of fiction and nonfiction books in Chinese. I got really excited but knew I wouldn’t be able to check any out until I got into the swing of studying Chinese again. Baby steps. I did go to a Beginner’s Chinese meeting a couple Sundays ago. It refreshed my memory on a lot of vocabulary words I used to know 12 months ago walking the streets of Haidian district in northwest Beijing. I nearly became fluent then. The language meetup in DC made me feel like I was in class again, not having done my homework. Another obstacle is the fact that being in DC makes me want to catch up on my Spanish as well. That’s a little easier to practice here. Frequently people just start talking to me in Spanish and I have to disappoint them with my rusty basic español that I haven’t really utilized since high school. And now I want to finally learn Italian…too many languages on my list.

It’ll happen though, someday…my novel, my quadrilingual aspirations, and perhaps another trip to China. These are just a few of my many preoccupations these days.

A Day in the Life…

I adapt pretty well to new places. After my two-month adventure in Beijing during the 2008 summer Olympics, anything else seems a piece of brownie, in other words effortless (though no one can match my aunt’s chocolate brownies, so maybe the idiom doesn’t quite fit). I’ve developed a comfortable routine in DC. Our house in the northeast neighborhood of Brookland is not but two blocks from the metro station. Though my average day will change after this week since my internship is over, the city and I have a pretty predictable relationship.

The Digs

The Digs...the clean version.

7:00am My alarm goes off in my pitch-black room with no windows. It sucks not having any natural light because I have to switch the light on to see even in the middle of the day.

8:30am The ride on the metro to work lasts about 30 minutes. Unless I’m lucky enough to get a seat and have a good book or the newspaper to read, I usually zone out the entire way there. But you can’t exactly stare out the window when you’re underground; the darkness is too close. That leaves for a lot of people watching, which is hard at times when it feels like they are all staring back at you. But I hate glaring at the floor so my mind ends up going crazy trying to find a place to rest my pupils. Eye contact protocol is so irritating.

9:00am The Red Line stops at Dupont Circle, a wonderfully eclectic and colorful neighborhood full of restaurants, bars, stores, and a couple blocks east there’s a number of apartment and office buildings, one of which is where I work. The best part of my morning on weekdays is the long ride up on the escalator. As I near the street level, I can hear my favorite street musicians, one violinist and the other a bass guitarist, harmonizing together. The acoustics are simply amazing and it’s what gets me inspired at so early an hour, besides the smell of Dunkin Donuts, which I’ve only given in to once…or twice.

Lunch on the Roof

Lunch on the Roof

12:00pm Work goes by pretty quickly. I stay busy with an endless to-do list that makes me feel productive: updating our social networking sites, producing videos about our organizers’ campaigns, chatting with my fellow interns in the ‘fishbowl’. A million little things make Food & Water Watch an awesome place to work. The people are characters, there are always treats to snack on, brownbag intern lunches, group runs to Whole Foods down the street, lunch in the courtyard or on the roof. Sometimes we’ll work through lunch but sometimes we just picnic in the ‘fishbowl’ with some soft background music as we chat about our plans for the weekend, which probably involve each other.

1:00pm Water/food/fish team meetings once a week. We’re on conference call with the rest of the designated team in our California offices, New York, Oregon, and other cities throughout the U.S.  Everyone gives an update and I take notes on things I can promote online through social media.

7:00pm Depending on when I leave work, I take my precious little time getting home. Unless there’s a spontaneous happy hour or a scheduled DC meetup, I’m usually looking forward to just relaxing on the couch with the roomies. I indulge in some reading because I have become a library addict since my laptop stopped connecting to our Internet and our landlord’s computer guy seems to be M.I.A. My Internet withdrawal symptoms have depleted for the most part, which is completely miraculous.

"Beat Ya Feet Kings" in Brookland (June '09)

"Beat Ya Feet Kings" in Brookland (June '09)

10:00pm Our TV remote doesn’t work but that doesn’t keep us from making the extra effort to be lazy. Angela and I have our weekly dates catching up on Showtime’s True Blood online. I’m also anticipating the new season of America’s Best Dance Crew (ABDC) Season 4! I’m trying to keep my expectations low just in case, but I am proud to say I’ve seen one of the participating crews perform just down the street from where I live. “Beat Ya Feet Kings” is from Washington DC and they have a unique style. We’ll see how far they make it.

??am Just because I have a 9-5 job doesn’t mean I go to bed early. I don’t know why I don’t crash at 11:30pm every single night. Must be those spellbinding novels I’m reading. I’m excited to start something new after today and change up my routine. No matter what, I’m still living for today.