Thursday, December 23, 2010

Goodbye Riley

For the first time it seems, I'm the one saying goodbye. This time, I'm the one staying behind. I'm the one who gets to see a loved one move further and further away from me. I can't help but to watch, and wait, and almost helplessly wish for him to turn back to me... his absence is clearly marked from my sight, yet I still can’t tear myself away from the very last spot I saw him from.

I know I should go, but my body refuses to move; my mind is not quite ready to accept that I have to count on memories to hold and keep me warm from now on; and my heart… my heart continues to beat, even though I feel it slow to an almost muted thump.

Finally, finally, I leave. Yet as I do, my feet drag, a sense of grievance settles over me, it's actually difficult to breathe from the ache pressing into my chest. No one seems to notice though, as they move about in accordance to their agendas. People pass me by like a STOP sign on the side of the road, completely ignoring my presence. And I know, the one person who does care, just had to walk away from me. So I too slip away, reluctantly though, and like all the strangers around me, I pretend I'm alright, that it doesn't feel wrong to be separated from someone who's come to mean so much to me, that I'm whole and a part of me did not just leave the country. The only problem left is that I’ve never been a good liar.

By: V.S

Life comes at you fast… it did for me!

I’d always known this phrase existed and could be applied to for different occurrences in one’s life. However, it wasn’t until recently that I ran into it face first, the reality of it hitting me like a bulldozer. I suppose it always seemed slightly distant, this promise that my life could change so drastically. I expected it to happen eventually, but would never have imagined to be caught so wholly off guard. It was like closing my eyes for only a second, and then opening them to come face-to-face to a world altering decision. Even now, it’s as if I’m standing on the very edge of a cliff, looking down into the unknown, my breath held in fear and suspense, and some unseen force daringly whispers to me: jump! The temptation to do just that makes me inch ever closer; readying for that careless spring. And I know, I KNOW everything will change once I take that leap… the way I wake up in the morning, the places that greet me when I go out, the people I’ll run into in the street, how I’ll get ready for bed in the evenings… basically, I will change. Chaotic indecision suddenly wrestles with a rising desire to jump and be free, leaving behind all concerns and insecurities.

But I have a choice… accept that, change will come, and that, perhaps, this is my time to take a chance and soar… or to step back from this, leaving behind the risk of falling, and quite possibly denying a great opportunity to do something incredible for myself.

By: V.S

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

A breath of Italy


I want to say so many things about this beautiful place:
How leaves sparkle with green and gold colors in the morning sunlight,
How thick trees rustle invitingly through afternoon strolls,
How grapes practically glow with ripeness along the vineyards,
How mountains tower undauntedly, almost proudly, in the horizon,

I want to remember so many things about this peaceful place:
How there was an air of uncomplicated serenity once stepping outside,
How a sense of home always precede upon entering the nearest village,
How the languid Italian-lifestyle waits quite patiently to be enjoyed and appreciated,
How the simplicity of taking pleasure in a day could be so fulfilling it was easy to smile,

I want to cherish so many things about this inspiring place:
How the historic structures mark the passing of time in each town,
How a spirit of kind cordiality is emitted through the people that inhabit them,
How the touch of the Italian language can feel so right when conversing with others,
How the past can be so respected and valued through yearly traditions,


By: V.S

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Saturday, September 25, 2010

The Italian Way

Round and round I’ve gone in my head, trying to find the precise words to describe taking part of an Italian tradition: the lifelong ritual of picking grapes to initiate the procedure of making wine. However, I soon realized this poetic business just wasn’t working out. The job was simple, and so my words must follow suit.

Plucking grapes may sound exhilarating and pictorial, but the truth is… it’s pretty straightforward and to the point. Grab some work scissors, get out there in the vineyard, and cut down those grapes. You can slash through the stems to get to the grapes, or you can sever a few fruit filled vines, leaving them for others to finish off. The outgrowth goes into baskets, which later will be collected and transferred to the bed of a tractor, soon to be driven off and put to wine-ly use.

It may sound like a piece of cake, but you can actually build up quite a sweat. There are no fifteen minute breaks. No air-conditioning offices to cool down in. No outdoor furniture to relax in. You arrive on a full stomach ready to work and you keep going straight-through till sundown.

You get tired. You get thirsty and hungry. Your hands get roughened and sore. You’re practically a human-buffet for the insects lining up waiting to have a bite at you. And yet… with it all is a sense of appreciation for hard labor. You get a feeling of pride as you use your hands to work. A notion of kinship grows amongst all of us who refuse to give in to fatigue. We seem content to be rewarded by two things. The scent of the grapes, which is so pungent and sharp one can almost taste them - the aroma is sweet and juicy, like a mixture of fruit and candy that lingers in the air. And by the overwhelming impression of satisfaction that seeps in after a long day of hard work.

As for me, I was no expert. In fact, it was my first time picking grapes. I sure hoped I was of help, although I’m almost certain I might have slowed down their party. But regardless of this, I was still excited because for one day, I got to do things the traditional Italian way.

By: V.S

I just love chickens

Baskets at the ready, waiting to be filled

An Italian neighbor waves as he works in his vineyard

Up close and purple

They taste as delicious as they look

I just feel like diving in and swimming in this truckload of grapes

Monday, September 13, 2010

I remember when I took this picture. I was walking down a sidewalk when I noticed this man sitting on the ground. There was something about him that made me slow down. What was it, I wondered perplexed. He had black tangled hair and a bushy beard, his clothing was worn and tattered, and his fingernails were black. He looked like so many others who begged for money on the streets. It’s not an uncommon trait from where I come from.

Trying not to stare or be rude, I moved on. But soon, I found myself looking over my shoulder, thinking and wondering about him. What was his story? And what was it about him that made him stand out? I turned back. Hesitantly, I approached him. His dark brown eyes were steady and straightforward as he looked up at me. I paused. He didn’t ask me for anything. Not sure what else to do, I put some change into his cup.

Back then, I carried my camera with me at all times and I was bold enough to ask if I could take his picture. The man nodded without a word. He looked straight at me as I aimed the camera. He was still, he was quiet and he was firm. His eyes. His eyes were what had caught and held my attention. They were… faintly intense. There was no sadness or apology in his eyes, no pain or indignation. His stare wasn’t pleading in anyway. To me, he seemed dignified and proud, and that diminished his appearance of poverty. It made him stand out as a man.

I took his picture years ago. And till this day, I find the intensity in his eyes unforgettable.

By: V.S

Monday, August 30, 2010

What Venice says to me

I couldn’t believe I was going to Venice. I kept saying the word in my head over and over: “Venice, Venice, Venice…”, but incredulity still held a firm grip over me. I’ve thought about traveling to exotic places for the longest time that it felt almost dreamlike to cruise through the City of Canals. I had high expectations, eagerly anticipating the moment when I’d be swept off my feet by the beauty around me. I was so ready to be overwhelmed by all the different elements that compose Venice that I was practically spitting poetry.

The truth however is far simpler and much less frilly. You don’t necessarily hear instrumental music as the waterbus, bus dell’acqua, navigates down the Grand Canal. You don’t exactly feel singled out from the rest of the people crammed in the ferry, vaporetto, trying to reach the other side of the city. And you don’t essentially absorb the heart, cuore, of Venice by clinking pictures at historical sights. I found myself fascinated by the perfectly “normal” feeling I had just standing in the City of Water. Where was the jolt of awe and amazement, I wondered. Why weren’t my knees getting weak at the sight of this Italian landscape?

Unwilling to be disheartened, I traveled deeper, to the Piazza San Marco, the principal square of Venice. Here, people, pigeons, shops and restaurant chairs coat all around. It was impressive, the antique ambiance pulsing through the historic structures surrounding the square. Yet, as I saw so many tourists crowd around the Palazzo Ducale and the Basilica di San Marco, I couldn’t help but to feel a pull to drift in other directions. I wanted to see what other people might overlook… I wanted to catch a glimpse of Venice’s true charm.

Weaving through the city’s aged corridors it wasn’t difficult to understand how easily one could get lost. And I don’t just mean this in a literal sense. Venice gives the impression of an everlasting labyrinth, where every corner instills curiosity, every passageway extends an invitation to explore further and every bridge emits a thrill of discovery. There is so much authentic beauty etched into the city itself that you can find it anywhere you turn, the churches, the balconies, the canals, the gardens, the gondolas, and even in those hungry pigeons that harass tourists.

It was then that I realized... you can get so drawn in by the quintessence surrounding you, but only if you’re willing to look beyond the surface, beyond the crowds, beyond the tourism. There, is where you’ll find the heart of Venice. The allure, the pull of appreciation, is like a subtle whisper, a slight breeze you may not be able to see but ever so slowly you feel it sway you. It brings a smile to your face and makes you falter when you know its time to leave.

In the end, I wasn’t disappointed. To witness a place where time has engraved its mark, and still continues to shape the buildings, the language and the people, is truly enchanting. Venice is one of a kind. And I am not immune to its charm. Taking one last look at this floating city, I could almost hear the words that made it unforgettable… sono uno spirito del vecchio mondo, Venice said to me. That same old-world spirit is what breathes life into the city. And I was genuinely delighted to revel in that fulfilling impression, even for a day.

By: V.S

Sunday, August 29, 2010

I am but one city, one entity, one design, but I live in so many different spirits that you can find me everywhere you turn, Venice says to me.

Soak in the beauty of tradition, Venice says to me.

The echo of my history flows like the water, Venice says to me.

You can feel my essence if you look closely enough, Venice says to me.

I can take you through, across and all over, Venice says to me.

I take shape in all forms, Venice says to me.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

A blessed morning... when I wake

Drowsy and dazed I roll over, my mind a blur and my vision hardly something to trust at the moment. I blink. I blink again. Ever so slowly… I smile. I come awake amidst the ambush of sunlight. I lay still, luxuriating in the experience of beginning a new day. I strain to hear what awaits me upon my consciousness. Almost unavoidably, noise and chaos feeds my hearing… I smile wider. Yep, I’m still home.

No sense in lingering, so I rise and go about my morning ritual, my mind already wondering on the possibilities of keeping busy. I go straight for the radio and hope I get lucky with a good song. If not, I try to settle among the poor options. My body immediately latches on to a rhythm and thoughtlessly begins to move me. I face my unsavory reflection, and grimace. One more quick inspection, and I laugh at the funny looking lady on the other side.

Underneath my skin, I feel a distant calling; it simmers through my veins, calmly anticipating the chance to step outside. I’m anxious even. Soon, I try to reassure myself, still having to laugh at the toothpaste dripping down my chin. Ready to move on, I face the staircase that’ll lead me to the other half of the house. I look down at it with suspicion. One misstep and you’ll go tumbling down the whole flight – I learned that the hard way.

After a brief hesitation, I take each step with dubious care, treating it like a ruthless death trap. I sigh with great triumph as I reach the trusting flat surface, unscathed. At this point, I’m not only starved for breakfast but eager to stretch out under the morning sun. Call me a lizard, but I can’t help it. With a few subtle steps, avoiding the distracting bedlam of other family members, I make it outside underneath that shining star. Instantly, I melt. Not because of the heat. Just… because. I love it. The sensation of the sun raining down on me is utterly relaxing. Every single limb attached to my body is massaged with a warm hand, every layer beneath my skin is caressed with a sure and steady grasp, every nerve in my being sighs with absolute satisfaction as the sunlight seeps into my bones. And I melt.

I do my best to try and savor this carefree sensation. Heck, I’m about ready to swim in it until I get wrinkly. Eventually I look around, taking in the beauty of the day. I’m powerless against my surroundings, I have to stare with appreciation and admiration. I absolutely love how the sun brightens every single surface it touches with a rich, hot golden blaze, that almost pulses, alive with fire; the play of colors that grace the mountains at a distance, they seem so vivid as to blush with radiance; the shifting of the restless leaves in the green and yellow trees as the wind brushes by; the way the grass sways with little encouragement under the polish of sunlight… I breathe it all in… feeling fulfilled and completely pleased. Almost reluctantly, I think about how I should get back inside. I’m not exactly looking to roast under the sun either. It takes a few more minutes before I successfully convincing myself to turn away though.

But, in a second, I stop, something catches my undivided attention, which under normal circumstances is not an easy thing to accomplish… yet something so small as a golden leaf dancing through the swirling air, can take my breath away. Speechless I watch, wishing I was that free and lighthearted. I see that tiny grace of nature, flutter in the wind, ageless as it drifts with no exact course or direction, and still, it seems to glide joyfully through the air. For that peaceful moment, I take it all in… and give thanks to the Lord above the blue blue sky.
Then? … then I smile, a big goofy face consuming, lips-will-never-recover smile, from the inside out… because, well, it could be just because, but really… because that is my happiness.

By: V.S

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Opposite Me

The latest inkwell assignment is to name and describe ones alter-personality. Now, in my case, I can picture this woman perfectly in my mind. And if I ever were to meet this other me, I’m quite certain we wouldn’t get along for a second. Or perhaps, we’d agree to dislike each other.

Her name is Victoria. She has long blond hair and a body to match a toothpick, proudly artificially enhanced. The need to look neat before stepping a single heeled-foot out the door, rules her every thought. She prefers to watch soap-operas and reality-shows on TV, rather than read a book (which she can’t spell too well anyway). She believes that concrete should be the new Mother Nature, after all, what is life without a good restaurant, spa or theater? She enjoys watching horror movies at midnight, with the lights turned off, and alone so as to feel safer. She appreciates hypocrisy in others, as she herself lives by the same credo. Her highest aspiration is to be Miss Universe and be admired for just her looks. She hopes to marry imminently, a stocky self-centered politician who values women as he values material things. And when she dies, she insists on being placed in a glass sarcophagus (like Snow White).

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

List of No No's for Chapter 1

Browsing through Writer's Digest, at 'Guide to Literary Agents, editors blog'(by Chuck Sambuchino), I found valuable information for writers. It is a list of no no's that literary agents hate to see on the first Chapter of a manuscript. I advise you to pay close attention because these people may be the ones you submit your story to.

Agents Chapter 1 Pet Peeves:

"Anything cliché such as ‘It was a dark and stormy night’ will turn me off. I hate when a narrator or author addresses the reader (e.g., 'Gentle reader')."
- Jennie Dunham, Dunham Literary

"Sometimes a reasonably good writer will create an interesting character and describe him in a compelling way, but then he’ll turn out to be some unimportant bit player. Other annoying, unoriginal things I see too often: some young person going home to a small town for a funeral, someone getting a phone call about a death, a description of a psycho lurking in the shadows, or a terrorist planting a bomb."
- Ellen Pepus, Signature Literary Agency (formerly Ellen Pepus Literary)

"I’m really turned off by a protagonist named Isabelle who goes by 'Izzy.' No. Really. I am."
- Stephany Evans, FinePrint Literary Management

"I dislike opening scenes that you think are real (I rep adult genre fiction), then the protagonist wakes up. It makes me feel cheated. And so many writers use this hackneyed device. I dislike lengthy paragraphs of world building and scene setting up front. I usually crave action close to the beginning of the book (and so do readers)."
- Laurie McLean, Larsen/Pomada Literary Agents

"I do in fact hate it when someone wakes up from a dream in Chapter 1, and I dislike an overly long prologue. The worst thing that you can do is let that crucial chapter be boring - that’s the chapter that has to grab my interest!"
- Michelle Brower, Folio Literary Management (formerly Wendy Sherman Associates)

"I don't like an opening line that's 'My name is...,' introducing the narrator to the reader so blatantly. I might be prompted to groan before reading on a bit further to see if the narration gets any less stale. There are far better ways in Chapter 1 to establish an instant connection between narrator and reader. I’m also usually not a fan of prologues, preferring to find myself in the midst of a moving plot on page 1 rather than being kept outside of it, or eased into it."
- Michelle Andelman, Lynn C. Franklin Associates (formerly Andrea Brown Literary Agency)

"I hate seeing a 'run-down list:' Names, hair color, eye color, height, even weight sometimes. Other things that bother me is over-describing the scenery or area where the story starts. Usually a manuscript can lose the first 3-5 chapters and start there. Besides the run-down list preaching to me about a subject, I don't like having a character immediately tell me how much he/she hates the world for whatever reason. In other words, tell me your issues on politics, the environment, etc. through your character. That is a real turn off to me."
- Miriam Hees (editor), Blooming Tree Press

"Perhaps my biggest pet peeve with an opening chapter is when an author features too much exposition - when they go beyond what is necessary for simply 'setting the scene.' I want to feel as if I'm in the hands of a master storyteller, and starting a story with long, flowery, overly-descriptive sentences (kind of like this one) makes the writer seem amateurish and the story contrived. Of course, an equally jarring beginning can be nearly as off-putting, and I hesitate to read on if I'm feeling disoriented by the fifth page. I enjoy when writers can find a good balance between exposition and mystery. Too much accounting always ruins the mystery of a novel, and the unknown is what propels us to read further. It is what keeps me up at night saying 'just one more chapter, then I'll go to sleep.' If everything is explained away in the first chapter; I'm probably putting the book down and going to sleep."
- Peter Miller, Peter Miller Literary

"1. Squinting into the sunlight with a hangover in a crime novel. Good grief -- been done a million times. 2. A sci-fi novel that spends the first two pages describing the strange landscape. 3. A trite statement ("Get with the program" or "Houston, we have a problem" or "You go girl" or "Earth to Michael" or "Are we all on the same page?"), said by a weenie sales guy, usually in the opening paragraph. 4. A rape scene in a Christian novel, especially in the first chapter. 5. 'Years later, Monica would look back and laugh...' 6. "The [adjective] [adjective] sun rose in the [adjective] [adjective] sky, shedding its [adjective] light across the [adjective] [adjective] [adjective] land."
- Chip MacGregor, MacGregor Literary

For the complete list, go to this link:

Hostile Thoughts

It’s okay to think it but I strongly suggest not taking action…

Has an employee at a check-out line ever given you a hard time? Or the secretary in your doctor’s office? Or even the window attendant at a Fast Food joint? If you haven’t, let me inform you that you’ve been thoroughly blessed. For those of you who have though, I’m sure you understand the uncontrollable struggle of having hostile thoughts under such mistreatment.

I remember having to go to a government office to renew my passport. I had an appointment and arrived early to resolve my issue as quickly as possible. But after the first two hours of waiting, where the temperature seemed to match Antarctica, I began to suspect I was going to have one of those days. When I was finally called upon, I was snootily informed how I’d botched all my information sheets and would have to refill everything as well as wait for another turn. Naturally, I got a little… testy. And I believe I would not have gotten so upset if the woman at the desk was just as uncaring with everyone. She wasn’t though. The person behind me received smiles and courteous service. I thought the snob was going to give the bloody client a hug; meanwhile, she scowled at me. Oh the injustice! And before you start wondering, no, I was not rude or impolite. Yes, I double checked.

So, at that moment, I felt the heat of indignation and the spark of anger blend together, jolting my imagination into violent overdrive. Oh how badly I wanted to set that evil witch straight. No matter how nice I was, she treated me like a natural-born-idiot who couldn’t tell her left hand from her right foot. Needles to say, the longer I had to stay in that freezer, waiting, waiting, waiting, the more the situation crawled right under my skin. Hostile thoughts inevitably surged up with eager delight. Images of slaps, body slams, headlocks, eye poking, face kicking… I guess you get the picture… they were my only consolation through the exasperating ordeal.

This occasion made me realize that people are constantly and wrongfully insulted, verbally abused or have to suffer through rudeness – whether you’re the employee or the customer. Not fair! You have no fault over whatever has this person’s undies in a twist, why should you have to take the heat? But (and this is a really big BUT), no matter how tempting the taste of satisfaction promises to be for me, at putting these hostile thoughts into action, I do not. Why? Multiple reasons really. I don’t want to go to jail, I can’t afford paying for the damages I cause, I may be hurting a child’s loved one, I doubt many would congratulate me on the violent gesture, and in the end, it probably won’t be one of my proudest moments.

However, it truly is a difficult exercise on your self-control to not give in, when what you really want to do is introduce your fist to a few faces. So, what to do if I don’t want to test the law? Remind myself, persistently, to have patience. Sure, it may not be as satisfying as loosening someone else’s teeth, but it beats getting more intimately acquainted with an overgrown jail mate named Big Bertha.

Simply my opinion of course. Plus it is highly recommended to find any distraction possible, focus on that, and pray for a hasty deliverance.

By: V.S

Monday, June 14, 2010

Dying is easy... living is what's hard.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Most beloved untiringly classic favorite books

This discussion was originated through Inkwell, where we've decided to write about our preferred volumes. Like so many it’s hard to choose even two or three, but I have to say that the following books I thoroughly enjoy. Now, I say ‘untiring books’ because I find I can read them over and over again. Considering I rarely ever read the same book twice, this means there is some powerful content in these babies.

1.Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. (Just saying the title makes me sigh… I know, it’s pathetic) I fell in love with this story somewhere in my teens. I didn’t know what to expect the first time the book was lent to me, especially since I didn’t read too often then. But as I went through the book, I got caught up and swept away by the characters and the depth of self-discovery they have to confront, among other things.

This is the story of the Bennet family, but most of all, it is about Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy. These two characters come together after learning to overlook first impressions and after facing misleading appearances, pride and misunderstandings. Set around the 18th century, the story follows subjects of marriage, love, ignorance, morality, family, etc. I found it surprisingly funny too. In addition, the language used in the text simply enthralls me every time.

2.The Corset Diaries by Katie MacAlister. Fair warning there is some rated R material in this book… really steamy stuff, seriously. Nonetheless, this story is laugh-out-loud hilarious! And it’s still funny the next time you read it. I was surprised at the amount of comedy that could be placed into romance. I love it! It encourages me to be creative with my own storylines.

Tessa is a “skinny challenged” American, who’s agreed to not only partake the leading role in a Victorian reality TV show, but to also wear a corset for the duration of it. (The character assures that the second issue was harder to survive through than the first) Pretending to live in the 1800’s sounded better than the real deal, until Tessa meets her pretend husband, the Duke. Then, she can’t tell if it’s him or the corset that leaves her breathless.

How about you? What favorites make you weak in the knees or thoroughly hypnotize you? The kind of books that, once you’ve read them, make you say: “I never stood a chance of resisting.”

Sunday, May 16, 2010

The world grows smaller every day

I felt the ground shake early this morning, around 1:15 am. I felt the foundation of my home tremble: the walls around me, the bed I laid in, the second story floor I later stood in. After my initial confusion, I soon realized it was an earthquake.

I thought about all those places that had suffered through an earthquake. I thought about the damages made, the lives lost and the grief some still struggle to survive through. I thought… it could be my turn now. And I was thankful. Not because I was eager to take on a natural disaster, but because the youngest members of my family were not in residence. They wouldn’t have to face an earthquake and bear through its consequences. I was grateful for that.

In a matter of seconds, the quake was over. I was praying. Nothing was destroyed. No buildings shattered, no roads splintered, no lives lost. It was reported as a 5.7 magnitude earthquake. Later in the morning, I woke up to find everything normal. Nothing had changed except my awareness of the tremor, and the knowledge that it could have been much worse. I couldn’t help but to think… the world grows smaller every day. Earthquakes have rocked across continents, affecting nations and devastated people worldwide. Some recent recorded events are:

• Italy – April 6 2009
• Haiti – January 12 2010
• Chile – February 27 2010
• China – April 14 2010

We have seen the damages, the tears, the deaths, the devastation and the look of desolation in the eyes of some of these victims. Because of that, we, people from different cultures and upbringings, come together in a time of despair. We are brought together by grief, by fear, by the outcome of violence and destruction. We share pain, we share loss and we share the overwhelming feeling of being small that comes from such distressing circumstances. Instinctively, we unite, and with our differences thrust aside, we pray and help one another. Consequently, the balance of humanity is restored in exchange for a heavy price. I say this because, even though the method in which we are reminded is a frightening disaster, in the end, we remember to value one another as true human beings.

By: V.S

Friday, May 14, 2010

Happy birthday to a very special sister. I know we’re apart and we may not speak too often, but there’s no forgetting who you are and what you bring to the family. Happiness, love, laughter, creativity, warmth and a bond of sisterhood as strong as steel. You deserve every drop of joy. God bless you.

From a very humbled sister.

Never alone

Tell me everything will be alright
I need to know I’m not alone
Never alone

It’s not easy
You’ll never know how hard it is to get up in the morning
To feel like I’m one step short of disappearing into thin air

I can hardly recognize myself
Time won’t answer how I got this way
I’m falling to pieces I can’t replace

Tell me again, everything will be alright
I need to know I’m not alone
Never alone

The weight over my shoulders gets heavier every day
And each time I fall it’s harder to get back up
I feel myself fading away, and there’s no one to hold on to me

I’ve been paying life’s prices since I was born
I need this heartache to end
There are no tears left for me to shed

Please tell me once more, I need to hear you say
Everything will be alright
And that I’ll never be alone

By: V.S

Monday, April 26, 2010

You grow, you learn, you live

Education… a privilege, a right, or a journey that will change your life?

I remember how I hated school. I used to think it equaled imprisonment. And the only reward was the friends I earned in exchange for serving my time. Many of the correctional officers, or teachers, were intolerably obnoxious and seemed to think very highly of themselves - though to this day I cannot explain why. The walls of the school seemed not only to effectively keep students captive but to retain an environment full of hypocritical views, superficial values and shallow conversations. Amidst this restrictive ambiance, my learning experience was like being put in a stray jacket.

This image of high school hasn’t changed for me. However, once I graduated and continued my studies, my perspective about schooling began to take a big change. No longer was it an obligation I had little say in… I suddenly had a choice. I could choose whether or not to attend the classroom, or to participate in it, or to dispute a point if I disagreed. I had the freedom to do as I pleased (within reason that is.) I was now responsible for my own education. And that, is a GREAT feeling.

Once I was in the driver’s seat, I soon realized that if I didn’t commit time and dedication to learning, I’d be… well, plain dumb. And I’d have no one to blame but myself. The world was a bigger place now, and if I wanted to move around in it I would have to learn. Little by little I started to understand a few facts: I couldn’t grow as a person if I was ignorant; I couldn’t gain knowledge by indifference; and, I couldn’t acquire an education through negligence. The significance of my instruction had little to do with proving my intelligence or the ability to pass tests or obtain high scores… it was all for me.

When I finally understood the importance of my education, and how it affected me in so many ways, I stopped resisting my role as a student. It began to feel more like a privilege rather than a task. Recognizing the truth was liberating: I wanted to be there, I wanted an education and I wanted to learn more. And I was given this opportunity, encouraged even. Able to voice my own opinion, without being lectured for it; able to stretch out and open my mind, and not be judged for it; able to share my disagreements, and not be silenced for them… it was a gratifying experience. Before I knew it, I was growing, I was learning, I was living a life I didn’t know I could have.

I believe this is a journey I’ve yet to conclude, and I hope it never ends.

By: V.S

Friday, April 16, 2010

An adventurous heart

My adventurous heart beats harder in my chest
It is a calling to my wildest desires
The thumps rumble with tireless effort
A persistent reminder of the dreams I’ve yet to attain

The blood in my veins thickens with longing
For the prayers I wish to be answered
To feel a river of accomplishment rush through me
To live free of restraints, self-deception and limitations

A heavy craving in my spirit swells
It ripples through my being
Igniting my fears and aspirations alike
Though a seed of hope blooms with open vulnerably

My pulse thunders against my skin
It drills pure determination into my soul
A startling willpower fills my lungs
Knowing no risk of unpredictability will deter me from the taste of adventure

By: V.S

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Oscar Niemeyer, a 102 year old Brazilian architect, shares his view on life:

“Life is a gust of breath, it’s a minute. A person leaves here his little story and goes away. So it should be a worthwhile one.”

“La vida es una ráfaga de aliento, es un minuto. Alguien deja aquí su breve historia y se marcha. Así es que debe valer la pena.”

"La vita è una raffica di fiato, è un minuto. Una persona lascia qui la sua piccola storia e se ne va. Allora, dovrebbe valerne la pena."

"La vie est un coup de souffle, c'est une minute. Une personne laisse ici sa petite histoire et s'en va. Donc, il devrait valoir la peine."

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Atlanta... I see you

Atlanta it is.

I don’t ask what I’m doing here.
I know how I got here.
I even know for how long I’m staying.

Shabby, grungy, slightly dark and perhaps faded... these are things I expected to encounter. (Please don’t ask me where I got this image… damn T.V spoils the brain.) However, I was completely mistaken in my ignorant perception. There was so much in Atlanta that caught my attention I couldn’t stop from taking pictures and walking the streets, studying the structures, tasting the variety of foods, and just breathing in the city. I was, quite simply, swept off my feet by the sights, the sounds, the smells… it was all startlingly magnetic.

I was surprised, but not fazed, that things were not at all the way I pictured them. Though every city has its darkest most questionable corners you wouldn’t even think to cross by mistake, I hardly hesitated to walk into unfamiliar territory. To the contrary, there was a thrilling sense of discovery urging me onward with every step I took. It wasn’t enough to be told what I would find ahead. I had to know what was behind that building, had to see what I would find in the next street, had to view what there was beyond each park. Then suddenly, like some superabsorbent sponge, I started taking in all the details surrounding me: the cold biting through my clothes, the warm sunlight beaming from between the buildings, the sharp fresh air hitting my lungs like a shot of rum, the cars zipping down the street too fast to survive crossing, the faces of those walking by me on the wide sidewalks… Faces, that’s one of the things that stood out the most.

The pace in this city wasn’t so rushed you couldn’t even remember who was standing next to you in a two-hour-waiting-line. I constantly found myself wondering about the people I came across, even in the briefest of terms. It wasn’t like a sudden curiosity to know the statistical body count of the inhabitants in the metropolis area. No, nothing so detached. It was more… personal. There was just so much to discern from each person: unknown mannerisms, amused thoughts, concerned expressions, bored eyes, hesitant hands… Each time a person drew my attention, I wondered about their aspirations, what they were working so hard for, who they had to go home to every day… I remember the considerate taxi driver taking me to the airport, the shy elder woman placing my order at the bakery, the young lady fixing my reservation at the hotel, the waiter with a starling young expression, the stranger asking for food at the church, and the men sleeping on the ground in the park. So many people, that in any other place might have actually remained faceless.

But in Atlanta, it felt like I could see it all. There was a sense of unpredictability in the atmosphere, like you can step outside and anything is possible. Impatience didn’t make people scurry from one end of the city to the other in obvious intolerance. One can really SEE the people that keep the city alive and moving. Combined with an open and inviting ambiance, as though the city were exposed to me, I was overwhelmed. And it was well worth it, to be proven wrong.

I wouldn’t have asked what I was doing there.
I knew how I got there.
I even know how long I stayed.

Atlanta it was.

By: V.S

I see church windows burning brightly in Atlanta.

I see white blossoms in the air in Atlanta.

I see warm open spaces, with a refreshing invitation of freedom, in Atlanta.

I see buildings differentiated by styles in Atlanta.

I see history imprinted in the streets of Atlanta.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Happiness in pounds

It appears a near irrefutable truth that people are unrelentingly determined to judge each other by any reason they deem necessary. First impressions can be tough, but in some cases, they can also be superficially shallow. In some circles, I’ve had the opportunity to note, happiness is assessed by a person’s weight.

It seems that one is much likelier to present the notion of being happy if they can limit the number of digits to their weight. Being easy on the eyes gives people the idea that one has fewer troubles to deal with. So if one is considered, dare I say… (in a low whisper) obese, it just may be cause for pitchforks. For who could ever imagine that a person who is not skinny, thin, bony, scrawny, slender, trim, lean… wait, where was I going with this? Oh yes, apparently for some, happiness is in the eye of the scale you stand on.

Magazines, TV shows, newspapers ad, televised commercials, and a large number of movies feed and nourish the conception that weight is one of the things that will determine your chances of being happy. Under the belief that they have the right to judge, those who buy this concept are encouraged to scrutinize one another. Being thin means you are nearing the finish line, ever closer to achieving happiness. Being anything other than thin means you are far out of reach of ever being remotely happy. Poor you. Fortunately, if you change and slim and shape yourself into the role of Fitness Barbie or Ken, you may redeem yourself.

It almost never fails to surprise me how consistently people look for things to criticize in others. It’s as if differences are used to stand apart, dividing people into those who believe are superior and the ones they think are inferior. In this case, whether being cautious of one’s weight is a result of popular culture or an obsessive vanity to comply with society’s demands, in the end, it all seems to have an almost frightful effect on human nature. If people are willing to cut each other down because of the span of their waistline, then it appears we are no better than starving vultures circling a desert sky, waiting for our prey to kick up their feet and cry uncle.

It does seem fortunate then that happiness is not in the hands of those interested in selling it. Albert Camus puts it like this: what is happiness except the simple harmony between a man and the life he leads? What harmony is there in a life lead by superficial appearances that cast a shadow of constant insecurity? Why put yourself through such an exhausting and unrewarding practice? Instead of placing your happiness in someone else's hands, and letting them be the judge, why not make the decision yourself? Most people are about as happy as they make up their minds to be – so Abraham Lincoln said. Will you choose to be happy?

By: V.S

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

A closer look at Ohio

How do I find myself in Ohio, I wondered on the plane. I’ve never before traveled to this state. I haven’t heard much about it, other than having relatives that reside there. Unexpected circumstances have me settling in for a lengthy visit. And with mounting uncertainty, I quit the airport, with little option but to hope that my stay is pleasant and productive in some way.

Upon my first week, I made my conclusions about Ohio… It is spooky. I wake up in the morning and clouds obscure the sky, making it impossible to determine the time. It’s quiet. The neighborhood where I stay seems almost abandoned, as though all the residents have hibernated for the winter. It’s cold. I might easily be confused for the homeless, for three layers of clothing are barely enough to keep me warm. Looking out the window, the streets and sidewalks are still, without movement, except for the wind grazing the leafless trees. It almost seems like the world is mute, and, like a picture, it is caught frozen in time. At a distance, I see nothing but the promise of fog. With little comfort, I am reminded of the eerie town of Sleepy Hollow. It is just as smoggy here in Ohio. Not exactly depressing, but definitely cause to beware of headless-horsemen.

Afternoon descends and I can hardly detect the difference. There is no altering indication of its arrival. No signs of activity. Not a speck of sunshine. There is just a dull grey that hovers with no inclination to leave. However, I notice the streets are clean, almost consciously so. Trees and frozen ponds faithfully straddle the driven roads. Buildings aren’t cluttered by other buildings. Geese constantly fly overhead, from one end of the sky to the other. And no hordes of people tangle together, except to a 24/7sanctuary too overpowering for any man to refuse (or so it seems): WAL-MART. People pour in and pour out like zombies, not socializing, not conversing; they seem to be on a mission, too drawn into themselves to speak to those around them.

I can tell it’s nighttime now, only because the sky darkens. I rejoice in this sign of normalcy, even if clouds conceal anything beyond. Not much changes at night, other than the temperature offering to drop lower or the fall of snow. The former condition simply makes the cold air cut clear through clothing, while the latter, makes the ground and surroundings glow white. It’s pretty on the eyes but harsh on the skin.

During my time here, I was able to draw a pretty stable point of view. The best part of Ohio was the company I was with, and the enjoyably diverse activities we found - once willing to leave the house and face the weather. I also discovered there is fun to be had indoors as well, if one is enthusiastic enough to come up with games. This trip began as a last minute result, something sudden and unexpected, but it ended reluctantly and all too quickly in my opinion. Ohio may not have been on my list of places-to-go, but it is now on my list of places-to-remember.

By: V.S

Thursday, February 11, 2010

A man once said: “Until you do exactly as I’ve done in life, you can never have my happiness.”

And I replied: “Thank you, but I don’t want your happiness… I want my own.”

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Nature is calling...