jessicaphilie.com

Website under construction

As you can see from the last post, it has been a while since I’ve traveled significantly and updated my site. Life is good and busy, and I will be destroying this website and creating another soon to show my latest ventures. Thanks to all who read it over three years ago!

March 14th, 2012 Posted by | Blog | no comments

Dancin’ in the Closet

Well, it has been a while since I’ve shared with whomever it is that might actually read this thing. What have I been doing in all these months that I haven’t written? It’s kind of a long story, and I won’t tell it all now. I know one thing for sure: a year ago or so when I started this website, I would have never guessed that I’d be here in this place at this time of my life.

I moved back tot DC, at least temporarily, after spending much of 2008 in Connecticut. When they say the job market in the US is bad, believe it. Coming back from Peru I thought I’d have plenty of time to find a job that would suit me while helping my Mom out with the house in Bethany. I’d catch up with some old friends, take time to write, study Spanish, look into teaching in South America, and travel around the US a bit. I was able to do all of the above except one thing: find a job. I looked in CT; I looked in NYC. Nada.

Months of knowing you’re qualified to do a lot and well-educated but being unable to attain employment sucks. You feel frustrated, annoyed, stupid. As many times as you can tell yourself “it’s the economy and not you,” you still wonder what you’re doing wrong. I was willing to relocate; I was willing to go lateral. At first, admittedly, I aimed a little high, wanting positions I knew I could do, but still had to work up to on paper. In the end it was a friend in DC who was willing to help me out.

While in DC attending classes to get a TESL certificate, a friend who owns an interactive graphic design firm offered to hire me temporarily, as I needed work and he needed help. My plan did not include going back to DC at all. I love DC and could live here permanently someday, but before all that I want to try living elsewhere, especially in a Spanish-speaking country. Given my friend’s offer, though, and the fact that DC feels like my home, with plenty of loving friends to boot, I jumped at the job.

I didn’t have much to live on after being unemployed for longer than originally anticipated. Friends were kind enough to put me up for the fall and then some. Between their spare space, house sitting, and other people’s kindness, I’ve managed to survive in DC with little more than two suitcases of my own stuff. Being a packrat, this is quite a feat. I hardly see the friends I am primarily living with, because I’m usually passing through to pick something up, drop something off, or sleep. The gratitude I feel for them and others is beyond words. It’s the first time in 10 years (besides a year and a half at one point) that I’ve lived with anyone, and we’re like a little family.

In this last year of changing my life and exploring the possibilities I’ve learned a lot about myself and also a lot about other people. My friends and family have an incredible capacity to give and understand. I’ve always known the strength of the love I have with all these beautiful people in my life, but I feel I’ve truly come to appreciate it after the outpouring of support when I finally made the decision to leave DC, travel, and then come back. I guess all those people were happy to hear that I was finally pursuing my dreams of traveling, improving my Spanish, and studying other cultures. So they wanted to help. And some have gone above and beyond.

I feel lucky. So that’s why I really can’t complain about working three jobs right now to get back on track. At this very moment of writing this entry, I’m dancing in a closet to hip hop while being the coat check girl at Modern, a club in Georgetown. This gig supplements the full- and part-time jobs and gives me some cash for my sock drawer (or my toiletry case, seeing as I don’t have a dresser). I can spare some winter Saturday nights to help me get on my feet again. I boogie and think of all those people who love me. Their support in my time of need makes me want to work my ass off to keep pursuing my dreams and eventually be able to give back to them.

But damn, if I hear Beyoncé’s “Single Lady” track one more time, I’m gonna strangle the punk-ass bitches who constantly request it. (JK, hee hee.) I’m really not that hostile, but come on, Beyoncé and her new tough girl image? Give me a break.

December 21st, 2008 Posted by | Blog | no comments

First Gig

One of my goals for this summer is to work on my music more. I was overjoyed to find a DJ up here that wanted to do the same with his music. Well, actually, he found me…at the regular Cafe Nine open mic on Monday in New Haven, CT. The question “have you ever worked with a DJ before?” started a collaboration and a friendship. Much like the weekly Wednesday night I had in DC with DJ v:shal kanwar at Science Club (who now hosts electroganic in DC), with DJ Zoloft I rap or sing over instrumental tracks from Mobb Deep to Thievery to DJ Shadow. He is one of the most eclectic DJs I’ve ever heard and can satisfy crowds of all ages without going into the deep end of cheese. We had our first night of collaboration on Friday.

So we’re going to do it again this Friday and see if we can keep it up every Friday at The Blue Pearl in New Haven at 130 Court St. DJ Zoloft starts his set at 10:30 pm, and I intermittently do my thing on the mic starting at 11:30 pm-12 am, when the last of the dinner tables clear out. Love The Pearl, love the atmosphere and the people who work there, and it’s great that I was already a frequent customer before becoming part of the entertainment. Hope to see you out.

June 2nd, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | no comments

Miami

Last weekend, the long three-day Memorial Day weekend, I went down to Miami with some friends to celebrate another friend’s graduation. I’ve have never seen South Beach so full (and, no, I’ve never been there during the winter music conference). The reason for the fullness?…Hip-hop Festival.

Now, I’m a child of the older-school hip-hop…Tribe Called Quest, De La, Nas’s Illmatic (nothing of his since), Dr. Dre, Digable Planets, Public Enemy, old Wu–all the stuff that I was boppin’ to around my bedroom in high school cerca ’92-’95. So when an advertisement truck rolled by a few times with Lil’ Wayne, I believe, as a baby with a tear drop tattoo or two, or when the advertising plane flew above the water at the beach with a Rick Ross plug, I realized I was out of date and out of touch.

I gave up listening to the radio right around the time I graduated high school, because they just didn’t seem to play the good hip-hop anymore. Now you have to own a satellite radio to even get that stuff. I usually cringe when I do listen to most mainstream radio stations that play hip-hop nowadays, and I constantly say things like, “If they could be paid to write that crap, I should just start writing my own shit. It’d be ten times more insightful.” I know it’s not easy to rap or even write, but what was at one point an enlightening genre now seems to just go to the butts.

That’s right, the butts. Hip-hop weekend in Miami is a booty fest. I’m not really shocked by that–I’m all for women’s lib–but I was taken aback by some of the outfits. If you got it, flaunt it, I guess, but I was a afraid that some of the girls who were just wearing string bikini bottoms with their tiny tie on tops and high heels were going get more than a mild groping as they pushed through the crowds. And in the crowds, most often on the beach, were hordes of horny guys holding video cameras and taping every little young thing that strutted by or stuck her ass out in the splashing waves. I felt like I was witnessing the making of a tit-zoomin’, butt-jigglin’ music video…and perhaps I was.

So turned off by sheer number of people piling out of every club, we were, that we didn’t even bother hitting any of the scene. We were five good friends who really wanted to share each other’s company without having to shout over the music and buy $12 drinks. But looking back, I feel like a bit of a wuss for not at least giving the whole scene one shot. Sure, we walked around a gawked at others as much as they gawked at each other, but there’s nothing like being in a sweaty mess of people humping on the dance floor and listening to bad rap to make you feel alive, or confirm that staying away from the crowds is really the best decision. These thoughts have a vein running through them that I am almost afraid to say, but here goes…

Am I getting old?

I mean, when I hear myself talk like our parents did about “how music was so much better in our day,” I have to maybe say, “yeah, you seem to be getting old, Jess.” What happens when the mainstream is really just sucking in terms of quality rap, if what is deemed as quality has changed? It’s a matter of personal opinion and extreme ability to measure degrees of change over time in the industry to say, “this is good and that is bad.” I fear the years in which I gave up listening to mainstream anything greatly harmed my ability to fairly judge the clips of mainstream I hear today, because I don’t have a full set of baselines of each year going back to ’95. It’s almost like I stopped studying, and now I’m going to have to go way back behind the times just to get on top of today’s music.

If I’m so inclined, that is.

Another theme that sticks out in my mind about the yearly festival is the local fear of and annoyance with the pilgrims that flock there. I don’t know what it is like to live in a beach town, and I suppose I’d be exhausted with the yearly mutli-bombardments of visitors, but the thread of racism or stereotyping that comes along with the hip-hop weekend bothered me. Now there’s the whole saying, “what came first, the chicken or the egg?”…which is to say, do the statistics about increased violence, skipped bills, and property damage during that weekend mean that a certain group of people are wholly to blame, or does the constant presence of police and the underlying racism of part of the Miami community set a tone of mistrust and disrespect that insights bad behavior? In the end, I think it may be the classic case of trying not to let a few bad apples spoil the barrel, and keeping it in mind when equally brandishing racial thoughts (downright ugly slurs) are flung from the windows of rental cars. Always being a visitor there myself, it’s hard convince some locals to be more tolerant. This whole festival phenomenon merits a sociological study.

Miami weekend was, in the end, great. No better way to kick off a late-blooming New England summer than with a trip to sunny hot and wild South Beach. Let’s see, to sum up…I ate a lot of good food, laughed at a lot of stupid jokes, soaked up enough sun in just a few hours to thoroughly singe my rack; talked about life and what the hell we’re doing with ours; played with a little hairy sausage…

Murphy

…and re-frickin’-laxed.

May 27th, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | no comments

For Lula

Inspired by a note
From a passing eye
I decided to stop on by
My own spot

That has been so untouched
Because life until now
Has been so much
I

Have been thinking
I
Have been sinking
I
Have been cleaning
I
Have been naming

All of the fears
And the possibilities

All of the tears
And the near insanity

That can come creep up
When you’re taking the time
And you only feel rhythm
When you’re feeling the rhyme

And you set back
Watchin the fingers
At your tips
Never choosin

Which is that
And that is which

I feel from you
The real me is seen
And it’s so nice to know
That’s where I’ve been

There is something out here
My mind ain’t only mine
Swimmin’ in all these words
You are taking the time

Oh yes, I notice

Oh yes, I know this

And I thank you

April 30th, 2008 Posted by | Blog | no comments

Nieve en mi cumpleanos

It’s snowing late night, or, rather, early morning, on my birthday. I just came home from a a Wednesday night with a friend, looking forward to a Thursday of birthday. Can’t believe I am 31. Crazy. My how time flies. When was the last time I saw snow on my birthday? I feel it has been a while. It’s as nice of a present as anything else. I have spent more than a few moments recalling the last year and realizing that it has whipped by. There have been quite a few changes, which may account for the passage of time, and I’m not even going to begin to recount them. I have enjoyed them all, which I think is the main point. Yes, even the ones that sucked. So good to know I can still grow.

I can’t help but say to myself…what’s next? Where am I going from here? As if it’s a challenge to make something more of all that has been. Our whole life is a drama, a stage on which to play our our conquests, defeats, and joys. And I’m proud of it all, don’t get me wrong. I just still want to know…what is next?

Words spill forth
Escaping my own
Putting out there my fear
Always feeling at home
At the same time
Reluiquishing
A piece of hell
To balance a heaven
In between them I dwell

This feeling of upright
Pernicious intent
of goodness and badness
En todo
Consent
To the person
Known in my dreams
To be real
Hiding in tidings
Waiting to feel

A bit of sketchy poem for a birthday, but that’s the way the freestyle flow came out. Here’s to a great year…salud!

March 1st, 2008 Posted by | Blog | no comments

Getting Into It

Ah, how time flies. It is already the end of February, and I have been home for two months, though it seems like more. I have stopped comparing most things to “when I was in South America,” and I’m ready to press on with all those projects I’ve been dreaming up. In fact, I have been moving forward already with some. The family house is still as cluttered as always, but I’ve made chips in each area that needs sorting, which is everywhere, actually. I’ve been working on songs, and, for the first time recently, I heard a song that’s been going through my head for two years played by a real band, the West Rockers. My voice still needs work, but I’m beltin’ out the words anyway. Lovin’ it.

Writing a piece and being happy with it, and then performing it, is one of the few things I truly enjoy. It’s not always so easy to find those things in life. So much of the time is spent doing things that we think will make us happy, but really they just pass the time. This leads me to ask…what is happiness? Is it staying content from moment to moment and passing the time painlessly? Is it being able to appreciate your surroundings, throwing your head back in laughter, or just cracking a smile? I often find it hard to buy into the simplicity of all the little possible manifestations of happiness; following any one action of happiness and making a habit of it, I fear, would lead to complacency.

What is our mark on the world, when so many joyous moments can be fleeting? I think part of what would make me happiest would be knowing that I didn’t have to end when my time is up. Perhaps it is in the creation of new songs, poems, and stories that I find happiness, because they are theoretically things that will outlast me. I am arrogantly happy to think that I’d go on forever in what I produce. Reminds me of what must be part of the drive to have kids. I want to capture all the laughter, and I find there’s sometimes a tear in my eye when I see the smiles of those I love.

Being home has brought me closer to what has been bugging me for the last handful of years: the fact that we are not immortal. When you’re young you don’t always connect with death, and it wasn’t until I was 23 that my father died. Since then, I’ve been fairly afraid of the thought of death. I hadn’t yet found what makes me happy before he passed. Although I had known people who died before he did, I was never as close to any of them as I was to him; so his death was really the big reality check about losing someone you love deeply. It made me truly, in my gut, realize that I will die someday too. Scared the shit out of me. Made me want to run away from the thought. That raw grief brought on such unhappiness that all I’ve been trying to do since then is simply get happy. I’ve been fighting this whole time to define happiness. Perhaps happiness for me has become trying to be immortal–trying to defy what caused me so much sadness.

Yeah, I know I don’t have super powers. I know I expect too much of myself. (I know I’m not delusional.) So why pursue such thoughts about what makes me happy? Well, damn, something’s gotta give. There is something to this whole thinking about immortality; I think it’s wrapped up in my desire to make an impact on the world. At some point I have to start making sense to me…and after some years of post-tramatic fear, I feel that point is near. Not that I have all the answers, but I think I’ve stopped trying to find them. This has made all the difference in trying to accept me for who I am and be happy with myself.

Life’s all just one big puzzle. (No huge revelation there.) Reflecting on the past seems to help me move forward. So be it. Avoiding death? Impossible…yes, quite a stretch. At the very least I can understand how I fit together. There are so many pieces that make us all up. We need to respect those pieces; let them marinate in some big ol’ soul searching stew, in which at any minute a tasty carrot can float by, be scooped out and relished. Morsel after morsel of emotion and moments that make us feel alive. Little bites that eventually add up to a full meal. Even I can only eat so much, which means, theoretically, someday I’ll be satisfied.

February 26th, 2008 Posted by | Blog | no comments

When Pigs Fly

In my dream last night, I was at some festival or concert in a field in the countryside next to what I think was supposed to be my house. There was a guy who had a giant pig kite that he was holding onto and seemed to be a bit hard for him to handle. The wind picked it up nicely, and it had a short string, because of the design…the short string seemed to make it actually fly better. The guy lost control of it and let go of the string, and the big kite began to soar on its own, lofting on the winds, which would take it higher. It would then swoop down in large scary loops, and as it did, I noticed that it was a really large kite with a really large pig on it. The pig was strapped to it, and it was clear later that it was dead and cooked, so more like a huge dead pig roast, and the wings of the kite stretched out on either side about four feet. So this 10-foot across heavy kite was on the loose, picking up the winds, and eventually swooped very close to the crowd’s heads near the amphitheater, where a symphony was playing. It crashed into the lights and scaffolding above the orchestra, and the falling debris, including the pig, almost killed them. Blood curdling screams could be heard from the musicians. No one was seriously hurt, and I pitched in with the clean up. Everyone was repulsed by me when I thought it fitting to start eating the roasted pig…it is a picnic, I thought. Next thing I knew, I was carrying pig pieces around with me and grossing even myself out as I was eating them. (Warning at this point for the vegan and vegetarian readers.) I was chompin’ on a pig leg, from the knee (do they have knees?) down. And I could really feel the hard-to-bite-through skin, slippery fat, and edible meat being discerned with my mouth. I started thinking about how the whole scene was just wrong and why I was eating a nauseatingly large and greasy amount of pig.

As all good dreams do, this one then switched scenes completely. It was vague what happened next, but it had to do with me packing up the old house or office and loading up a Winnebago. I’m pretty sure the man helping me was my dad in this dream. He was in an impatient mood, so I tried to speed things up. We roared out of the driveway of my place in the small town I had been living in, after I had packed up everything, which included old Barbie Christmas gifts. My dad was driving and almost knocked over some outdoor gas station appliances as we ripped through some shrubbery and nearly tipped in the driveway of a nearby gas station. The owner of the station got mad at my dad, and my dad was cursin’ out the owner. 

And that’s pretty much where the dream ended. Now, I am trying to think about what it could have been about, but I’m not good at determining dream meaning. Instead, I will list what I ate, drank, and did last night: had some beers and such; then went to Las Canteras a Peruvian food place in Adams Morgan in Washington, DC, and had red wine, ceviche (and a beer with that), and a bit of papa a la huancaina, papa rellena, and avocado salad; for the main course had a Peruvian sampler of a yummy salad with olives in it, stuffed pepper, and tamale; for dessert we shared flan, lucma ice cream, and rice pudding; then we came home and all felt too stuffed to move, watched The Wire (first time I ever saw it), and passed out. So I’m not sure what interpretation we can apply to the dream, other than I ate so much during dinner that my mind didn’t want to stop eating in my dream. The dream’s choice of the pig also seems fitting, as it implies gluttonous, succulent eating. My dad’s cameo appearance was interesting. Perhaps he was there to say he would have loved Peruvian food and thinks I should move and go back down there. Not a bad idea.

January 30th, 2008 Posted by | Dreams | no comments

Un Poco Loco

Estoy aqui en los estados unidos; no, espera, estoy aqui en el mundo. And I am well, if not a little bit crazy right now, like the title of this entry suggests.

I had a dream the other night about kissing Jaime Foxx and then seeing my dad (events not related). Yes, that’s right, I saw my dad, who’s been gone for over seven years now. These dreams of him have happened a handful of times over the past years, but it is always startling and takes many days of wishful, tearful, and thankful contemplation to adjust to seeing him again. I gave him a big hug and asked him where he has been. He replied that he has been at the apartment on campus, which is where we lived when I grew up until I was six. It was no small dream….I feel he came as if to say, “I’m here with you.” (No comment as to what the Jaime Fox appearance meant.) But, damn, it was soooooooooooo great to see my dad. I needed that hug.

I just came back from a night out with an old friend. Talking philosophically the whole time as we had been, I find it fitting that I turn to you to share my feelings. Let me vibe on them…

So many nights, I feel alone; so many nights, I feel at home; so many nights, I feel entwined, and it’s when I really sit still that I can feel fine. True, I continue on with my quest, even though there are others that think they know best. I try to state my point of view, as people talk on grasping to straws so few. It’s all just the same; it’s all just a game. We’re trying to live lives that aren’t in vain. To know that I hold a different mind can circumvent pressure and undermine time. Pushing away a certain tranquility is a mode that’s a road to self ability….so many nights…

So many nights.

So many nights.

(And I give props to Manu Chao* for his propensity.)

*If you are not familiar with Manu Chao, he’s a musical artist with tracks in Spanish, French, Portuguese, English, and Arabic (with perhaps others) and is worth giving listen to, if you are one for the electronic music scene. He uses live instruments too, and I have a compilation mix that has been rockin’ my world for over a month now. Email me about him if you’re curious.

I told you once, I told you twice…

January 17th, 2008 Posted by | Blog | no comments

Back in the US and Happy New Year!

I’ve been back home in Connecticut in the northeast of the United States for three weeks now. Feels like no time has passed here and all is more or less the same. Great to see my family and friends. Been talking a bit about my trip, but not as much as I thought I’d be. I kind of sit back and wait for people to ask me about it, then I get so excited when I do tell stories that everything gushes out in a smiley incoherent mess. And when I volunteer information (comparisons of every day life things or comments that start off with “In Peru…”) I feel a bit self conscious and almost bad–I figure no one wants to hear about a fabulous three months without work while they were stuck here, and fear they would consider me a braggart. Perhaps I’m still processing it all and will find a way to best share my experiences.

I  had a peaceful family-filled Christmas up further north, in Vermont, at my brother’s house. It was fun watching my niece and nephews open up their gifts. They are the cutest. And I was excited to see everyone open up my presets for them from South America. For the most part I was right on with most of my gift ideas. The most creative idea was probably the dart blow gun from brazil, a bamboo tube that connects in three parts and has a holster of six feather-ended light-weight wood darts. Stick a dart in one end, blow as hard as you can, and a dart shoots out and sticks into fabric (or, theoretically, skin). Think opening scene from Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Arch (or Temple of Doom, can’t remember which is correct). Pretty cool gift, ay?

Had a great night on New Year’s Eve too. Met up with old high shcool buddies and some new friends too. Started the night with a house party at a big ol’ cool apartment with a pool table and instruments set up ready for jammin’.  Stayed ’til just before the ball dropped and then met those old friends out a bar/restaurant that is one of my regular spots in New Haven. Danced to songs that I had long forgotten and secretly vowed never to dance to again like “The Humpty Hump” and “You Down with OPP?”–being surrounded by other dancing fools made me feel a little less foolish. We were all dressed up too…like real adults. Haven’t seen everyone looking that snazzy in a long time, if ever. Last year’s New Year’s resolution was one word: balance. And I more or less achieved that in some ways in 2007. This year’s resolution is only one word again: patience.

Patience is what I need the most of right now. I’ve been frustrated a lot in the past few weeks as I adjust to my CT surroundings once again, which were tough to adjust to when I first moved back here in July. After living more or less alone for ten years, it is not always easy being part of a household again. I have a ton of ideas about what I want to do right now, which include writing, performing, recording, and studying, but I find myself getting caught up in the need to improve my physical environment. This old house has many projects that have been neglected for years, and I almost feel I cannot move forward with my personal goals until those are finished. Friends and my mom are reminding me that I can’t lose sight of what I want to do with my life, but I find it so much easier to focus on helping others before helping myself, which has been a sometimes debilitating theme during my whole life.

It’s tough to really know what you want. Well, maybe it’s easy for some, but I’m the type of person who wants to do many things and has the perhaps unrealistic idea that they’re all possible. I think you can do a lot of things in life, but the success of achieving goals is diminished with the more goals you pile on. And I’m stubborn, so when someone, even myself, says I can’t do something, I want to do that thing even more. So this is where I reflect on the 2008 resolution. Patience is going to help me get through the recent daily frustration I feel here in the US. I seem to walk around here a bit pissed off, and perhaps I’m being a whiney baby. I just had three months of selfishness, or deservedness (depending on how you look at it), and now I have to face reality. The reality is money doesn’t grow on trees, the world is still a fucked up place, and change needs to happen personally and externally for me to feel okay with this crazy life we all share.

I find myself still asking the answerless question…what is the point of life? I bet there are some friends out there that just roll their eyes and say, “Same ol’ Jess,” when reading that question, but I believe it is one that has and will continue to define what I do with my time. Happy to say that I think I’ve actually gotten closer to the answer, and my trip down south helped me a great deal with that. I will not depart any words of wisdom yet, as there are no words to describe this answer, which is really more of a sensation right now. There are some keys that are starting to help me unlock the mystery of life: people and our pulses; nature, specifically the sky, wind, sun, and moon; and luck. Hard to elaborate, so that’s all for now.

I wish everyone a Happy New Year. Hope all your respective holidays were/are festive as well. I’ll be spending a week or so in Washington, DC at the end of January. If you feel like visiting Connecticut, we’ve got a bed with your butt’s name on it. Peace and love to you!

January 9th, 2008 Posted by | Blog | no comments

T minus 2

So sad to say it, but I leave in two days. Can’t believe this ride has almost come to an end. And what a fantastic one it has been. During the three months, it didn’t feel like time was slipping by so fast. Sometimes I even felt a little home sick. But now, looking back, it did whip by a bit. And I’ve been more offline and out there recently to savor all the last little bites of Peru.

The beach was awesome, but nearly kicked my ass. Playa every “morning,” fiesta every night. “Morning” is in quotes, because my morning was usually my afternoon. I’m nursing a bit of a cold, which has two days to get out of my system before I hit the cold weather. The staff at the hostel I’ve been staying at in Lima between trips welcomed me back again with their friendly, familiar, smiling faces. They noted that I looked a little less white after the week or so at the playa, but I think they were just being nice, as I look virtually the same (I guess 50 spf sunblock did the trick). At least I’m not red.

These couple days I’m spending doing some last minute shopping and getting in some last favorites. I’ve already hit the clubs, walked the streets of Miraflores, walked along the cliff and over to Larco Mar, eaten lucuma (awesome fruit) ice cream, tried some other fruits I hadn’t tried yet, and hung with friends for the last time. Need to get in more doses of ceviche, causa, papas a la huancaina, pollo a la parilla, lomo saltado, arroz con pollo o mariscos–I actually don’t have enough meals left to fit these all in. Can’t wait to try cooking some dishes at home.

I’ve learned so much on this trip…the type of lessons that you can never forget and can change your life. It’s actually hard to put them all into words. I’ll try a bit…For one, I’m starting to realize who I really am and what I’m capable of–in good and bad ways. There were times that I was an all out idiot and allowed myself to be taken advantage of, with my trusting ways. And there were times that I was an outright goddess able to lead armies into victorious battles, or, rather, lead friends around the dance floor and keep the party going all night. I’ve stopped punishing myself and fearing as much the wrath of other people’s judgment of my life. I am who I am…up days, down days, party days, work days, and all. The potential for me to open up and understand more people has increased due to better understanding myself. And observation skills are getting stronger.

I feel super motivated to work. Having less than no money probably has somethig to do with this, but I am also excited to get going with some projects. Work for me when I return is going to be writing/creating and studying. I’ll be stuck up in Bethany most of the time, trying to figure out my next move. This trip has inspired me to follow some dreams. I’ve met people who have relocated here to open bars, who surf all day and give lessons to survive, who gave up being a lawyer to teach castellano instead, who fell in love and moved to join their spouse then started an internatinally successful clothes-line. There are so many things people can do with their lives, and the limits are usually just imagination and fear. Until I came here, I don’t think I really understood how much fear, both from personal and societal sources, held me down.

I’m a little nervous to go back. I really feel that I’ve started a new life down here, and I want to see where it goes. I want an apartment–so sick of the tourist lifestyle…always worried about who might steal my stuff and all. I’d like to get to know my friends better and not wonder anymore if they’re really my friends or just want to get some action (like in the States, I have a lot of guy friends here and chicas are harder to get to know). And another lesson I’ll be taking home…men are ridiculous. I can elaborate more on this blanket statement in person, and I usually try to avoid making generalizations, but let’s just say that many stereotypes about men are disappointingly true (for example, I didn’t think that ALL men think with their dicks first, but it’s true, ladies, ALL men think with their dicks first).

I feel like I just started dating in my life while here in South America. I never really got it in the States…I always had long-term-ish boyfriends. Never just tested the waters–I’ve been afraid of the sharks on land too, I guess. But the passionate latino culture kind of forces your hand to act, or react, and is hard to avoid. It has made me understand the whole man/woman relationship thing a lot better. This, along with other lessons, is the type of thing I fear I’ll forget or lose when I’m back in the US. I guess I just like the force of my being here: my essence, who I really am, shines through, perhaps because I am more vulnerable and have more time on my hands. This trip is the best thing I could have done. I feel saved.

Life has really been much simpler than I’ve made it out to be in my mind over the last handful of years. I think worrying just tricks us into thinking we are more important than we are. But we are all really just creatures who need to live simply and be humble, given all the knowledge we have. We must learn from and treat each other better. I love the people who work in my hostel. I have spent weeks here over a month or so, and they are like my family. Beatrice just came over, out of her way, to give me a welcome-back hug after being away at the playa. Right now, a couple others are painting bare branches white and sticking white confetti to the paint to create the illusion of snow, as they decorate the interior of the hostel with wintery Christmas apparel on this sunny 70 degree F day.

Ah, summer is almost here, and I am almost gone. Que triste. So I could keep writing here at my breakfast table about all my many impressions, but we’ll have time to talk when I am home. I have 48 hours left of Lima to enjoy, and I’m gonna get to it. See you soon in the States. Feliz Navidad and Happy Holidays! I’ll add the rest of my photos and keep the blog going when I get back. Besos!

December 17th, 2007 Posted by | Blog | no comments

At the Beach

I have certainly been taking it easy lately, and I´m topping it all off with a week at the beach. I am in Mancora, a surfing pueblita (little town), in northern Peru. I´m sitting at a table on the beach just steps from the water, waiting for ceviche and cerveza and watching the surfers. I have already made some friends who are out there somewhere catching some of these 8-12 foot waves. I keep saying I´m going to try surfing, but these waves are huge and I´m more scared of their size and strength than my usual fear of what lives in the water. I hear there are no sharks here, by the way, or that they´re rare. But with my luck lately, I´ll probably run into one.

Remember how in every city I visit I have something that goes wrong with me health-wise? Well Mancora has not failed me…I´m now fighting of lice. Yes, I now have bugs in my hair. And I should take a picture of my legs, becauseI have at least 50 mosquito bites (not exaggerating). In Peru, you put your face close to other people´s faces a lot. It is polite and the common style of greeting to do the single cheek kiss. Men don´t really do it to other men (but in Argentina they do). But women do it with everyone, so I´m contstantly meeting new people and not always getting the their name, but getting the “hi, what´s up” and cheek kiss. So I think it was somewhere on Wednesday, among all the cheek kisses, including those of some beach hippies, that a brave louse made the jump to my head. By Friday, I had a disgusting little community of lice. Now, I know what you´re thinking, “sure, Jess, it was only from innocent cheek kisses.” Sad to say, yes only from cheek kisses, as I haven´t had the fortunate experience of hanky panky here yet. (At the very least I could´ve been having a whole lot of fun while getting infested. But, like I said, no luck lately.)

No matter, though. I´m enjoying the weather, while using powerfully smelling head lotion and shampoo, and trying out the fashionable beach head scarf. This should clear up by tomorrow, and then I will try surfing. I´m really trying to talk myself into it, as I am pretty intimdated by the waves. All my friends who surf here, which is everybody, say that I can learn and there´s really nothing to be so scared about as long as I can swim. I can swim just fine.

I keep saying that I will be healthy here at the beach among beautifully tanned and athletic bodies and all. But I just can´t help getting up every day and having a cerveza in the afternoon with my ceviche–really, beer in the perfect compliment. Everyday I feel like Will Farrell in Old School…it´s so good when it touches my lips. Luckily there are enough beachcside bars to meet my needs. Mancora is  like Rio, with it´s outdoor, often in the street, parties. When thinking of where to move and live first, this type of environment is so tempting.

The water is coming up the beach more now and almost washed away me and my plastic table. Even some internet places are right on the beach–one good storm and bye bye computers. About every twenty minutes there are killer waves this afternoon. I could probably handle the ones in between. There are families and teenagers and couples and vacationers all over the beach. And the kids are great. They usually annoy me, but I think I am just jealous of their carefree inhibition. This is me practicing my observation skills more…perhaps they´re moreso analyzing skills.

Estoy demasiado sola con mis pensimientos. Quiero parar mi mente y estar tranquilla con mi vida. Pero parace que es casi impossible. Quizas el punto de mi vida es a pensar. Y pensar y pensar y pensar. Sin resultados.

If I have the chance to do nothing but think every once and a while, perhaps I am lucky. To be alive is lucky. To be at the beach right now is lucky. To live at the beach would be a dream, but I´d definitely have to get a hobby and stop drinking so much beer. I know…bird watching! The birds at this beach look like darker seagulls with thinner bodies and angled wings, like they have elbows. They hover over the ocean by the handful and dive for birds. Ah, nature. It´s interesting; sometimes boring, but nice.

…Mas cerveza!

December 9th, 2007 Posted by | Blog | no comments

Puesta del Sol: Feliz Cumpleaños, William

The sunset was beautiful today. My dad was in the sky with it, in all its rays and colors. The sun was setting among horizontal clouds of dark grayish blue that stretched  north and south in wide bands. The breaks in the clouds led to paths of light that glimmered on the wave-stubbled water. The everpresent light-gray/white ceiling over Lima was like a canvas on which the fading sun was painted first blinding yellow, then white-blue behind the clouds, then firey orange, then a perfect half of orange and half of pink, then just brilliant pink, with thin horizontal lines of blue/violet scarring it for moments,  finally it dipped behind the last of the far-away clouds and remained a light pink-purple globe until it slipped completely away. I stared at it in its entirety, until I could barely see the last of the violet sun blurred against the ocean horizon. And I clapped when it was over.

Followed up the sunset with a walk around part of Miraflores, mi barrio, near the cliff overlooking the beach. There was a book fair in the park, and there are always artisans selling their crafts on the weekends. It is summer but not quite, so the weather is around 70 with a light breeze. You wear a shirt and jeans during the day and bring a sweater with you for later. Everyone is out and about with their kids, dogs, sweatheart. And ice cream seems like the perfect thing to eat. Ah yes, a stroll is a great way to spend a Sunday.

A wonderful evening in Lima, and it´s also my nephew´s birthday. So happy birthday, William…this sunset is for you.

December 2nd, 2007 Posted by | Blog | no comments

Vivaldino

Well, I’m having a completely touristy experience in Lima today by sitting on the top of the cliff overlooking the ocean in Larco Mar (a shopping area in Miraflores) at the fancy Vivaldino. I’m about to eat ceviche, and I’m drinking a Cuzquena cerveza. “One is the loneliest number that you’ll ever learn,” is the chorus of the song playing now, and it’s fitting, because I can relate at this moment. Woke up on the lonely side of bed today, feeling the weight of my solitude on this trip for some reason. It’s all good, though; I’m still smiling. We have our up days, and we have our down days. Of course, I turn to good food and beer for a little more comfort.

Just bought a pair of new glasses on Larco, as I lost my others right before my trip down south. They only cost ~$94 here, as compared to the $300 in the US, with the eye exam and all. Not bad. I decided to use my credit card a little more to a get a fancy snack. I really could do this for the rest of my life. Too bad we have to work and earn money. Vivaldino is upper class…the ceviche is 30 soles and the beer is probably 10. The ceviche is fantastic, fish and octopus, onions, lime juice, a hint of ahi, choclo and sweet potato accompaniment–exactly what I was looking for.

I have been very pensive for the last handful of days or so. Culture shock in varying degrees has finally sunk in, especiallly after having my camera stolen. Needless to say, I’ve learned a great big huge lesson: I need to practice using my observations skills. They are crap and must be improved. The fact that someone else was a dick and took my camera is really my opportunity to see how I am in this world. My idealism is great–couldn’t lose it if I tried. But a friend recently said that to change the world I have to first change myself, which, for me, means tempering my idealism by peppering it with more common sense. I thought I had a great deal of common sense, but you should never be too cocky. And my thirst for trusting other people and only wanting to see the best in them definitely made me cocky.

Perhaps I was feeling a bit superior back in my annoying hostel. Perhaps I was the ugly American, at least internally and hopefully not externally–thinking I was so great with my Spanish skills and not wanting to deal with English-only speaking tourists. Hubris got to me and I was blinded by it? Chewed off my own foot? I’m reaching for some mythological analogy for my loss here that I can’t seem to find. These recent events and my current self analysis make me want to either slow down completely or self-destructively indulge. Finding the in-between in these last few weeks in Peru is my latest goal. I am going to the northern beach town of Peru called Mancora on Thursday. I hope that two weeks of doing nothing–no touring, no museums, just sun, maybe some surfing, and relaxing–will help me reflect on all that has happened in these last two months or so and will help me understand myself and the world a bit better.

November 25th, 2007 Posted by | Blog | no comments

Sudamerika vs. Milhouse

I have stayed in two hostels in Buenos Aires, Sudamerika and Milhouse. They are right next to each other, and when Milhouse is booked, they point you to Sudamerika. Milhouse was recommended to me by a Brazilian friend who was traveling through Lima. He said, if you like to party that’s where it’s at. I stayed at first in Sudamerika, while waiting for my reservation at Milhouse to start, and I was struck so much by the differences in my experiences with the two hostels, good and bad, that I felt I should write about them.

Sudamerika is like an old apartment building in New York, with its outdated elevator, dreary walls, and high ceilings. The people who worked there were nice enough when I arrived late at night and homeless, and after a couple more days of staying there, they were downright cool. When I spoke Castellano, and sometimes stumbled over my words, they were patient with me and helped me with whatever I needed. The place is not flashy, the bathrooms are shared and not in the best shape, the free breakfast was the standard bread and coffee variation, but the people that stayed there is really what did it for me. All of them were from other Spanish-speaking countries for the most part, and they were communicating in the language I was trying to learn. Also, they were, at least my roommates were, pretty open people who tried to get to know you a bit. On the whole, I had the better experience here because of the people. 

Milhouse is a bit much. It’s not the partying aspect I didn’t like…in fact, I loved that they had a bar open until 5 am, that they had DJs and dance instructors in for parties, and that you could theoretically meet people hanging out down there at any time. The staff for the most part were cool—had a few bitchy moments with some of the chicks, but perhaps that’s just a girl thing. I found that at first the staff preferred to try to speak English with me, I think for my comfort. But I explained a couple times that I wanted to practice my castellano, so please speak to me in that language. Then they would speak as fast as they could to fuck with me a bit, I think, after which I would say, just a little slower please. Find, no problem. But the reason they usually chose to speak to me in English is because pretty much everyone who stayed there only spoke English. Some of them were not even trying to learn Spanish. This pissed me off, and actually tainted Milhouse for me.

Now, I haven’t totally rejected my heritage, language, country, or anything like that, but when you’re in a country and the main language is not English, you should learn the frickin’ language! And the guests were not warm and open. Perhaps because I was an American, but that is not always so obvious, I don’t think. Perhaps it’s because I was traveling alone and all of them seemed to be in groups, more or less, but I did meet some who were traveling alone too. Perhaps I was being elitist with my slightly higher level of Spanish and put up and invisible wall between us, not sure…can’t rule out my own fault here, right? But, despite the better bathrooms, comfier beds, better breakfast, slightly nicer building structure, and better parties, the clientele just pissed me off. I did meet some nice individuals, but en masse my fellow travelers at Milhouse were like their own sovereign entity that seemed to just follow all the tour plans of Milhouse and not strike out on their own. 

Another thought just occurred to me. Perhaps I was so different from them because of my age. I seem to be the oldest person in some of these types of traveling circles (“no, you’re 30? I thought you were 25-26 just like me”); and maybe I was antsy there, because they all needed the helping, comforting, hand-holding environment of Milhouse, and I didn’t really want that. I also think I’m going through a backlash of sorts. Tired of always being the foreign tourist, I am trying to assimilate more with the locals and reject my nationality a bit in order to feel like I belong somewhere and stick out less. It is not always easy to be an American in the world these days. I did hear the words “fucking gringos” fly from the mouths of some of those English-speaking tourists at Milhouse, but this was even before I judged them. And that’s exactly what I did…I judged them before I got to know them, because I wanted to have a more Argentinian experience so badly. And it’s not like I’ve never heard a South American say “fuck the gringos.” I think I gotta check my hubris a bit in this analysis.

I have a month to go before I return home to the States, and I am already feeling a little misty-eyed about leaving. I want to get to know these places down here more. I think by understanding the cultures more I will better understand my place, and the places of other foreigners, among these cultures and in the world. I need more time in all the cities I visit to be able to make a fair assessment of things, and perhaps the same is true of Milhouse.

November 20th, 2007 Posted by | Blog | no comments

Argentina vs. Bolivia

On Saturday, at the last minute, I decided to go to the futbol match. Argentina was playing Bolivia, and when I arrived there were no more tickets left. It was a gamble to go anyway. At 3:15, when I arrived back in my hostel after having a tea at the oldest café in Buenos Aires, Tortoni (dating back to 1858), the staff at my hostel said I was pretty much screwed if I tried to make it to the game by 4 pm, especially since I didn’t even have a ticket. How do I get there?—I asked. The bus left over an hour ago…it’s far…a taxi may not get you close enough…streets will be too crowded—they said.  It only takes a half hour to get there by car, but they were worried about traffic making it take longer. I had roughly 45 minutes to get there, find a ticket, and not get lost in the crowd—challenge!

I found a fellow last-minute fan on the corner and guessed right by thinking he was a tourist too. We shared a cab to River Plate stadium and chatted the whole way—he in his Brazilian Portuguese and me in my ever-improving Spanish. The taxi got us within a five-minute walk of the game and only cost 10 pesos (~$3) each. The scene outside was not as hectic as I expected, and I was able to find a ticket from someone on the sidewalk—safe, real, out in the open, in front of the cops. I paid 20 pesos more than the value, but only spent 50 pesos, which was good compared to the 100 my Brazilian buddy spent. And it was a pretty good seat! First level, just off to the side behind a goal, and, most importantly, in the shade. 

The day was hot and I would have fainted if my luck had been bad with the seat location. I sat between two Argentinians, one who was in his 60s and at the stadium for the first time in his life. He and I chatted more than I chatted with the younger guy on my right, but after each goal the younger guy and I high-fived. As soon as I sat down he had asked who I was rooting for…my response—Argentina, of course!

In the air you could feel the weight of thousands of people being there (stadium capacity is over 65,000). Shouting, singing, and high-pitched whistling were thunderously amplified even in the open-air stadium, and the sounds rolled in waves throughout the crowd. My claps and whistling seemed to drown in the noise, but I know I added to it all the same. In the second half of the game, firemen whipped out the water cannons and sprayed the sunny sections. They were lovin’ it. Kinda wish I got showered too, because after over an hour of sitting in even the shadows of a packed stadium I started to feel a little light headed (I happened to be hungry too). A burger, coke, and slow breathing helped that. I thought it was odd, but was thankful, that they didn’t sell beer there. If people were to drink at these games, they’d be crazy. And the passion for futbol is enough to pump up the fans. Seems that everyone loves and even plays futbol down here. This is why I just had to see a game in South America. And Argentina won, 3-0.

November 19th, 2007 Posted by | Blog | no comments

La Recoleta and Palermo

La Recoleta is a cemetery that was created in 1922 next to the Virgen de Pilar Iglesia. It is the location of mausoleums of the rich, including the remains of the famous Eva Peron, and covers four city blocks. Each mausoleum is unique, though some do look repetitively the same, but, in general, they have slight difference in colors, age, style, ornamentation, and size. I think I spent at least an hour and a half walking around the cemetary. It was very peaceful, but I felt a bit odd being a tourist in a cemetary. There was a funeral that day, and I was surprised to see that this historic site is still being used. But 1922 wasn’t so long ago, so these houses for the dead will have some action for generations.

I’m now eating great Mexican food at a place in Palermo. Palermo Viejo is like the Soho of Buenos Aires. I just came from sharing a beer or two with some people from Panama and the US (my first real US-born traveling friend, I think), after an afternoon of walking through this hip little barrio and window shopping. BA is know for its shopping, as the peso took a major dive in 2001 and is still trying to recover. It is said to be the most European city in South America, and its fashion is one of the major reasons why. It is cheaper to buy here than in the US, for sure, but, as a friend noted tonight, you get a false sense of spending when the value is less—yes, things are cheaper, but you end up spending more than you planned exactly because of that.

Tonight I kind of feel like taking it easy and not going out. But we’ll see how long that lasts. When you only have six or seven nights in a place, it seems a shame not to go out on every one. At the very least I can try not to make my buenas noches a buenos dias. Famous last words, though, right?

November 16th, 2007 Posted by | Blog | no comments

And now, Buenos Aires

A good lesson to remember—always confirm your hostel reservation. Yes, yes. I know I should have known better…it just didn’t occur to me in the few days in Lima before my trip. I almost think it was deliberate. Like I wanted to challenge myself by arriving at 11 pm in Buenos Aires and having to scramble for a place to sleep. And, honestly, I prepared for these seven nights here the least out of all my trips. It’s all good, though. I found a room in the place next to where I was supposed to stay, and so far I have two nice roommates, Eddie and Santiago. I’ll make the switch to the original one on Sunday. The Sudamerika Hostel is just fine for now. 

I’ve already had one of Argentina’s most famous attractions: a steak. Probably the third best steak of my life, and that list includes Morton’s. I ate at a little restaurant, Danila, near my hostel downtown. Had a little bottle of Argentinian wine with it. The steak is so…tender is not even the word for it…it’s like you’re biting into sinew-less meat. Like there was never any tension on all those fibers in that cow’s body. It’s soft and juicy and definitely worth all the hype. I read that Argentinians eat more than their weight in beef each year. A little gross to think about, but now I understand why.

Downtown is pretty with its flowering trees, fountains, parks, staues, and monuments. It boasts the world’s widest street, Avenida 9 de Julio. The traffic is not beautiful, but if you can deal with New York’s traffic and still like that city, it’s the same here. And it’s better in the neighborhood side streets. I’m taking a long walk today and am headed to the famous cemetery La Recoleta. The sun is shining, weather is sweet. Makes me want to move my walking feet.

November 15th, 2007 Posted by | Blog | no comments

Bjork

I´m in the airport waiting for my flight to Buenos Aires. I´m siked. Last night was awesome. I saw Bjork in concert at the Vertice, a permanent large tent concert venue, at El Museo de la Ncaion (the national museum). Holy crap, it was awesome. She is amazing live. Her voice was perfect, and she didn´t have to use those little earphones that many stars use when in concert. Her new stuff is pretty good–definitely going to buy it at one of those cheap CD markets in Lima. But it was her older stuff from Debut, Post, and Vesperine that lit up the crowd. I love being at a live show and feeling the excited emotional energy that rushes forth from the stage like a wave from the band all the way to the last person standing in the back, especially when everyone knows the music. I was one of those people in the back who could see Bjork better on the LCD screen right in front of me than I could see the stage. The venue was not huge, but the stage was a bit lower than the last section and, of course, all the tall people got to the concert venue first. No matter. She was fantastic, and her band was as well. She had three guys on computers and drums and an eight-piece horn section, all women and they wore red robe-like dresses and had flags attached to them with the narrow pole standing stright up above their heads. Bjork wore a similar type dress, but with more colors–yellow, red, green, purple. She´s beautiful, and I don´t know her age, but she still looks like a girl. She does a funny little thing often while pausing between verses or words: she twitches her nose and mouth a bit. Hard to explain, but you can ask for a demonstration someday.

I went to the concert alone. Saw a poster for it one day and thought it was worth the 155 soles (about $51), because her concerts would probably be $155 in the States. I stepped of the taxi and saw the general scene you see outside a concert venue: people hanging out and taking their time before hopping in line; ticket scalpers and food, beer, and cigarette vendors; and security and maintenance people. I was surprised to see people drinking cans of beer (if this was Rio, I wouldn´t be surprised), but the rules of drinking on the street are different for this venue–the cops just walked right by without saying a word. I asked two people drinking a beer how much a can costs. They said 3 soles. Great, I thought, because that´s all the coins I have in my pocket (I wanted to save the cash for inside). The beer vendor refused to charge me less than 4 soles, probably because I´m a gringa, so I didn´t buy one. I went back to the two people and asked where they bought theirs for 3 soles. The actually brought theirs and then offered me one. I kindly accepted, and with that beginning, I now have two new friends from Lima, Angela and Paul. They had general section tickets too, and we ended up hanging out the entire time. Both long time fans of Bjork as well. We had a great time singing, dancing, and drinking beers. Angela snuck in her camera and I hope will email me the pictures, so I´ll be able to add them here. Even better than seeing Bjork last night was making new friends.

And it´s as simple as that. This is how it´s been happening on my trip. I´m traveling alone, so I never know who I´m going to meet or how. I´ve generally had good luck and feel that my dad or someone is watching out for me somewhere. You can´t always be totally open, but it´s amazing to think of how many people in this world are totally closed. Perhaps it´s to feel safe and secure that people don´t open themselves up to new experiences more often. But the less you know about others, the world, and yourself, the more probable it is that you´ll stumble into danger. I have had luck, yes, yet it seems there is some cosmic vibe dancing through my journey. I think it is akin to the wave I felt while seeing Bjork last night that ran through me and out my mouth as I sang as loud as I could her words with her and back to her at the same time. “I live by the ocean. And during the night. I dive into it. Down to the bottom. Underneath all currents, and drop my anchor. And this is where I´m staying. This is my home.”

November 14th, 2007 Posted by | Blog | no comments

Street Party

On a corner of Rua Barro de Torre just four doors down from Karisma Hostel in Ipanema, Rio, is a little outdoor bar. It probably offers juices and sodas, but when I went there the only thing to drink on the menu for me and my friends was beer. These little oudoor bars are everywhere in Rio and are a large part of what makes the night life unique. The one near my hostel was wild. During the day there was usually a bunch of guys hanging out who would undress you with their eyes, or, moreso, rip your clothes off with their eyes, when you walked by. The night crowd was a little more diverse and curiously less cat-cally than the day crowd. I was tempted to stop and stay a while every night, but I limited myself to only one.

I wanted to “take it easy” on my last night, so I hung out at this corner bar closer to home. Met some great guys and gals from Brazil, England, Malaysia, and the US. Brazilians love their meat (in more ways than one), and the guys that always hang at the bar, and I think work there, whip out a little grill on the sidewalk and cook up package after package of meat. That night I had chicken, different types of sausage, and steak. Mmm, bloody steak. Being the carnivore that I am, I was loving the midnight BBQ. The beer was just an added plus. I went back to Lima fat and happy the next day. And, remember that whole “maybe I’ll lose a few pounds from all the healthy food” comment when I first arrived in Lima?  Well, Rio wrecked that. Ha ha.

November 9th, 2007 Posted by | Blog | no comments