Thursday, November 24, 2011

Cartoon 14: Body Image

The house I am living in has one mirror.  It's in the hallway and we all share it.  I am used to each person having a mirror in their room and than another in the bathroom.  For me, this access to my reflection has meant that I have always had the option of being perfectly put together in the company of others.  I am used to having all the privacy I 'need' to decide exactly where each hair on my head needs to go.  And now, any moment of 'fixing' myself, I have to do in plain view of the folks I live with. I have to face up to all those moments when I half consciously stare at myself, studying what I like and don't like.  I realize that I have spent much of my time watching myself brush my teeth or hair instead of feeling it.  I realize I have totally missed out on the opportunity to live these moments as delicious self care ceremonies!  I've missed out on how wonderful it feels to run a comb through my hair or the taste of a yummy toothpaste and the tickly bubbles on my gums. The sensation of my own hands spreading lotion across the curves of my face, my arms, belly and toes. Wow! What a discovery!
         It's amazing because naturally, my self image is shifting from an outside-in perspective to a feeling based one.  My concept of my own beauty has begun to be based on how I feel.  If I feel strong and healthy, I feel beautiful, regardless of how much meat I have on my bones or what I am wearing. I am now fully convinced that the less and less I look in the mirror, the more beautiful I feel. For real, if it's not already there, I highly recommend reinstalling your mirror in the hallway :)

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Cartoon 13: Day of the Dead

The Mexican legend of the Day of the Dead tells us that on two days of the year (Nov. 1 & 2), the dead come back to visit us.  To welcome them, people here build altars for the spirits of their loved ones, adorning them with all of the things that the departed enjoyed in life...fruits, candies, chocolates, sweet bread, tequila... The streets are filled with smiling skeletons dressed up in elegant clothing.  The holiday has a mischievous and playful tone. As I understand it, it's a way of embracing death as a natural, normal process, not something to be afraid of...

To celebrate, I gathered with a group of about 25 people, a few I knew but most I didn't, to make a procession through the main strip of the downtown area. We all dressed up as skeletons and danced and played music and stopped in various parts of the city to tell ghost stories.  People walking the streets stopped to watch and listen and some joined us as we continued our path.

Im trying to keep this post short and sweet but I have to tell you guys about the drama and the incredible power of looooove and music and dance to squash it!

So we arrive to our final destination to tell our last stories and do our final dances and we find a guy there with a huge crowd predicating in English about the sin of celebrating death!...but he wasn't just preaching, he was yelling like crazy and telling everyone that if they don't believe what he says they are going to hell.  I was like what is this guy doing here? He doesn't even speak the language! How could he think that he understands what is being celebrated here?   Did I go back in a time machine to the conquests?  I was so mad I could spit.

Anyway, so we see him and he sees us and we are like 'Crap. What do we do? This could get ugly...'  We all look at each other and with out even talking we decide as a group to just keep on moving and pick another spot in the plaza to continue our celebration. So we move and form a circle and start to dance and the frigin guy follows us! He actually brings his microphone and his translator and his whole crowd over to us and starts screaming, 'You are all going to go to hell!  Devil worshipers!'  He got louder and louder and we danced harder and harder.  He got madder and madder and I swear our music just got more and more beautiful. I lost myself swaying through the crisp night air, elated by the unity within our group of strangers.  We peacefully held the space and no one was lost to this mans' violence.  I assumed that he would go on forever, we responded to his violence with the strength of our song and I didn't even realize the moment when he left. By the end of our celebration almost his entire crowd had joined our circle and was movin to our groove :). 

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Cartoon 12: Schizophrenia (Fronterizos Series #3)

Now, the Fronterizos process has come to an end, and much to my amazement we did it!  In a month, we, seven folks from around the world, produced and toured a 30 minute long street theater piece with the theme of Borders that included elements of circus, dance, social commentary, and lots and lots of wooden boxes. Ha! We created our portable set using about 70 huacales, wooden boxes that are part of everyday life here, used in the market to transport fruits and vegetables, in homes used as tables and chairs and shelves and anything else that one could imagine.  We did 4 showings of our piece in 3 different towns each time using our make shift box scenery to tell 2 parallel stories... One, the story of an undocumented immigrant traveling from south to north (immigrants who travel through Mexico to the US suffer deeply at the hands of robbers, rapers, and others taking of advantage of their precarious status).  And two, the story of a box of arms traveling from north to south (as a result of failed US government anti-drug 'Operation Fast and Furious' 70% of the guns used by drug cartels here in Mexico came from the US). 

These two stories converge at the border-- the arms (pieces of wood from broken huacales) cross and are given to the public at the very moment when the immigrant attempts to cross. The border guard turns  to the armed public and says "Ready! Aim!..." letting the public choose how the stories ends.  More often than not, the public, laughing and smiling as if it were a joke, shoot the immigrant.  During the whole process my greatest reflection and the question I hoped to offer the audience is 'When the power is in our hands, how do we react? When in our own lives do we have the opportunity to break cycles of violence?'

In the exploration process, we played with the significance of borders on various levels from micro to macro. We discovered borders inside of ourselves like those created by fear or worry.  These emotional barriers have often kept me from taking a step into a new or unknown situation even though I believe that on the other side of that situation is a healthier way of being.  We explored borders between us and other people in relationships. How thick is the barrier I place between me and those around me? How much of myself do I share and with whom? We looked at borders between our families and others, like the walls of our homes. How do we choose who enters?  And of course we explored national borders, impressed at the fact that borders are totally relative to those who cross them, each of us experience them so differently based on our country of origin and socioeconomic status.

All of these explorations became encapsulated in the paths of the immigrant and the box of arms.  In the literal interpretation, I hoped to offer a snap shot of a reality of border dynamics between the US and Mexico.  Considering through the performance piece, as a nation what do we let in or deny entry to and what do we let out?... Also, I feel like there is a tendency for folks to identify an oppressor who plays the part of the bad guy and receives the for the blame for existing negative dynamics such as violence.  In the case of illegal immigration, the story that is often told is how badly people are treated as undocumented folks in the US.  Now I am learning that they also suffer incredible violence along the way as they travel through Latin America. 
On the micro level, for me the immigrant represented the part in each of us that drives us, either by necessity or desire, to face our interior emotional or mental borders and risk the security of the known in search of something better.  The box of arms represented the often violent system of fears and worries that can dominate us into a way of being that is safe because it is familiar although it may not be best.  

In the cartoon, I am trying to express a sort of schizophrenia I feel when thinking about these social phenomenon.  I am both the immigrant and the US.  Considering the US, in conversations around border dynamics or our role in leaving our borders to intervene in the paths of countries throughout Latin America, I feel totally crazy. I hear people be so angry at the US and I want to defend our system.  I am part of it, it is part of me.  I grew up happy and loved there, participating in the system and feeling successful.  Some parts of it work. The internal parts I guess, as a white middle class female, for me work. I feel free at home. I can dress how I want and practice the religion I want and stay out by myself as late as I want and leave a job where I'm mistreated with the confidence that I will find another.  That's how things should be!  That's my personal experience of the US.   But as I am privy more and more to the experiences of others, I learn that outside of its borders (and often inside), the idea of the US is much different.  The same force that assures me these freedoms takes it away from others in unimaginable ways. 

Because of this I feel aligned with the story of the immigrant.  I myself am an immigrant leaving the known (BY CHOICE which is not at all the same as leaving to survive) in search of another way of life. Leaving the comfort and security of the US partly because of what my comfort there means for so many others. I am so thankful for everything that I've had and have and I do NOT think that the right way to deal with privilege is to throw it away. That is part of why I follow this path, looking to understand the world context and understand how to use my privileges how I see fit, not just to be successful in a system in which I may or may not believe (don't know yet!).

Good lord I've taken to blabbing! Next time I promise I'll write less!! And wow I congratulate you, you patient person if you've read all the way to this point!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Cartoon 11: La Honey (Fronterizos Series #2)

This month we have the huge honor of receiving the first volunteer to our project: Emilia! a.k.a. La Honey (Bernardo, one of the guys in our group, likes to give the gals playfully sweet nicknames based on petnames in the girls' native language. I was called 'Sweety', Eva was called 'Shatz' [german for sweety], Gaby was called 'Dulcecita' [spanish for sweety], and Emilia was called 'Honey' [since sweety in english was already taken :)]) 

So Emilia, also from Atlanta, GA, USA, was with us for two weeks to document the Fronterizos process through photography, videography, and illustration. One of her many gorgeous sketches became the promotional poster that you see above. So nice right? Thank you Emilia! You absolutely rock.

For me, having Emilia here was so special.  It offered me a chance to get in touch with myself as the foreigner that I am.  Seeing her beautiful eyes widen as we drove through the countryside helped me to get in touch with myself as an individual in unknown territory.  Far from the self I have been trying to be, doing my best to adjust as fast as possible into the flow of things in order to find a life here (food, housing, work, a social support system), I was able finally to settle into my trip as the awe-struck tourist that I really am. 

I began to take in the inviting colors and colonial architecture nestled into breath taking fluffy deep green broccoli mountains.  I let myself revel in the somehow successful relative disorder of interactions between people, animals, and nature. 
I let my mind spin, taking in all the new input without trying to organize it into my own functional concept of reality.
Houses made of concrete painted in orange, blue, pink, and often just gray when there's no money for paint.
New tastes... Tlazcalate (corn meal, milk, sugar, water), Pozol (cornmeal and water), Horchata (rice, sugar, water, cinnamon). 
The smells... fresh sweet bread baking yum,  greasy carnitas sold on the side of the road eeck, flower stands full of bouquets for the equivalent of $5 mmmm, stray dogs' doo whereever it falls and no one to pick it up uh oh!
New social norms... we share everything, its nearly unheard of to eat in the presence of someone else without offering some... it's almost expected that we won't do what we say we will when we say we will do it,  everyone seems to have faith that it will eventually happen.  A boss hires me to perform a circus cabaret in his fancy restaurant/bar and tells me 'You guys do whatever you think the people will like. I trust your creativity.' =oO What??! Crazy!
I watched Emilia, who doesn't speak Spanish, patiently try to understand the conversations flying around her, trying to figure out when it was her turn to speak.  I thought wow, she doesn't know whats going on. But she is here just listening.  Just trying to enjoy the not knowing and discover other wavelengths to participate on.  The communication that was achieved between her and the group was on another level.  They seemed to get to know one another just by feeling each others' intentions. Emelia came to a new country, to a new way of life, to a new reality and of course, she didn't know what was going on. Does that mean that I'm not necessarily supposed to know whats going on either? Yes! I don't have to know what to do either! Freedommmmm!!! 

Emilia has ushered me into a time when I let myself watch and learn. Through seeing her patient observation, I realized that I have pressured myself to act, to push forward without fear, to pull my weight, like working in the traffic light in Cartoon 7: La Sema. I jumped right in weaving between cars without stopping to observe the flow of things. Without watching how Joaquin and Daniel work successfully. In wanting immediately to prove to myself, my coworkers, the world that I can do anything I set my mind to, I lost the opportunity to learn how to do just that. I do believe that I can achieve what I set my mind to but the best first step is not always action. Now, in so many new situations, its my turn to watch, to learn from the many teachers that the world provides me, and to act only when it comes from a centered Sara, moving from a congruent heart, mind and body.
Thank you Emilia, it was such a pleasure.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Cartoon 10: The Fronterizos Project! (Fronterizos Series #1)

As you can see, this month I'm working with an international group of social artists on a project called Fronterizos. We are doing a month long creative exploration of the concept of BORDERS culminating in the development and tour of a performance piece. (all this in one month, is it possible? We shall see...) 
Hmmmm what should I tell you about the process? One of our first tasks was to decide for what audience we want to develop the show. As a start, we have decided to do our performances in public spaces (plazas, pedestrian streets, parks, etc.) with the hopes of opening up access to artistic expression and to truly interact with the context here. Saturday was our first day of street exploration to get used to how people react to random folks doin' random things in places they're not supposed to.  We wanted to experience how to receive the unplanned stimuli of the streets, like
the random dog that walks into your scene or the police officer that tells you in the middle of your performance that you have to leave because you're obstructing public space. We went out with the assignment to considerately break the flow of things and observe which actions create communication and which ones just piss people off. 
I watched Joaco go onto the patio of a restaurant and stand under a closed table umbrella completely still for like 5 minutes. About 1 out of 3 people who walked by noticed him and they were so tickled :o)  At one point in my exploration I walked by a musician who was playing an accordion in the door of a restaurant and I started dancing to his music. I danced all across the pedestrian street and lots of people stopped to watch.  The musician got a huge smile on his face.  When I finished I looked at the people and smiled and nodded and they smiled back and we all continued on our way.  It was great! 
Near the end of our allotted exploration time, I found Daniel, our intensely dramatic quiet storm, sitting as still as a statue with his limbs tangled up in a fence around a tree next to a construction site.   The rest of the group joined me there and we watched for a moment.  Then we began to cover Daniel in unused slates of concrete from the construction site until he was boxed in completely.  In stone on the sidewalk in front of him we spelled out the word HELP.  We watched for another moment and then Bernardo took a sparkly butterfly clip that I was wearing in my hair and placed it on top of the stone that balanced on Daniel's head.   People watched curiously and one guy started taking pictures.
Finally Joaco put a pile of dirt on top of the butterfly and the slab on Daniel's head and that made the picture taking guy laugh. Then I think he felt bad for laughing and he ran off and so ended our day of street exploration.

The experience gave me a new perception of the possibilities of my participation in public spaces in general. I feel kind of empowered knowing that by simple breaks in the flow/norm, I have the option to bring sparks of newness to my life and the lives of others.  Sharing moments of random creativity with strangers was rather inspirational :o)... well okay not always. We definitely had some not so harmonic moments. At one point we danced out into a gridlocked trafficky intersection to see if we could break the tension of honking horns and furled brows but it just made people honk and yell more 'Frigin hippies get out of the way!' Hehehe.
Oh yes, and I did say "SEVEN people from across the world" so next cartoon I will reveal the identity of our surprise guest!! How mysterious...

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Cartoon 9: I've discovered that I'm a chameleon!

Now I'm in San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas and we are going to be here for a couple months working on a project called 'Fronterizos' which I'll tell you more about later.  Being in one place for a minute has given me the opportunity to self reflect a little and with this cartoon I hope to share part of what I've been thinking about personally. I really have no idea how to explain it but here goes nothing...

             Basically, I am discovering that things about me, unchangeable things about my identity that make me me, are totally changeable. Come to find out they are results of my environment.  This is true for so many things that I never would have expected. From my physical characteristics to my socioeconomic status to my tastes! For instance, while in Limonar, my hair, which is usually straight as the line between you and the baño when you gotta go poo, was super curly all the time because there was so much humidity in the air. So I got to thinking, if I had grown up in Limonar, I would describe myself as someone with curly hair. If I were to close my eyes, I would picture myself with curly hair.   When I lived in Mexico City, my skin constantly broke out because of the pollution in the air.  So, if I lived in Mexico City I would be a person with acne. 
            In the US, I have brown hair.   Here in Mexico, I am considered blonde because most people have black hair so everyone who has light hair goes into the category of blonde.  But my hair hasn't changed colors! Only the lips that are describing me have changed. Whoa. That's deep... jaja (in Spanish the sound of laughter 'haha' is written 'jaja')
            I was in New York during the gluten-free phase (is that still happening?) so I converted to spelt bread to try out the wheat free thing and I loved it! I almost never ate wheat, feeling that it made me tired and that I didn't digest it well.  In Mexico, with less access to vegetarian food, wheat bread has become a super important part of my diet and I crave it and I feel that it gives me strength. 
           But physical traits and food preferences are on the surface and don't really have that much effect one way or the other.  What about something like socioeconomic status? I have always understood myself to be middle class. But outside of the US, compared to the rest of the world, I have pretty much always been in the top 10% of earners.  When I was in Limonar I saw that I am so rich that it is almost silly to consider saving money by not buying myself a chocolate bar although it would make me very happy in the moment.  Or consider not giving 5 pesos to a street performer that makes me laugh.  Yet so much of my past has been dedicated to securing my future because as a member of the middle class our job is to work hard for the security of our retirement and an inheritance for our kids.  These middle class values have guided so many decisions in my life. If I had thought that I was rich I wonder how I would have lived differently...
             Basically, I am seeing that the definitions that I have of myself shape my life. The environments that I frequent turn me into the person I am, from my temperament, or most common emotional state, to my physical characteristics.  I think about how each of my jobs have made me as a person. It makes me thankful that I have the opportunity to choose my job and where I live.  And makes me want to choose really really wisely...

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Cartoon 8.1: Limonar, Chiapas

We worked for the last week in a small mountain community called Limonar, Chiapas.   Chiapas is the birthplace of the Zapatista movement, which is of Marxist and indigenous Mexican roots and started as an underground peoples organization.  It has developed into a social movement that looks to construct a society in which indigenous people are able to live their lives based on their own principles along side the dominant society.  (That was a super basic definition of the movement based on what I have been able to understand so far)

When I thought about going to the birthplace of the Zapatista movement, I must admit my thoughts and emotions went a little crazy.  Hearing the word Zapatista, a vision comes to my mind of guerilleros with handkerchiefs and big weapons. I knew that that vision was based on the education that popular media has provided me and I knew it was a super small and quite possibly false picture of a huge complex reality.  So I tried to educate myself by reading and talking to folks before arriving to Chiapas.  I learned that people often must choose between the support of the Zapatistas or that of the Mexican government and many communities and even families are split.  I knew that I was not going into a concentrated Zapatista community but when I saw the sign that I had enterred Zapatista territory, my feelings based on that image of an armed guerillero bubbled up somewhere between nervousness and excitement.  I was excited at the chance to interact with people who dedicate their lives to fighting for their principles. And I was nervous as a representative of a Neoliberalistic society with my Puma high tops and factory made clothes.  I wondered if I would be judged or rejected.  Deep inside, I imagined that I would go into the mountains and find all of the people with guns and their faces covered waiting for possible invaders.

What I saw when I arrived to Limonar was people living their lives in a simple mountain community working together to get what they need.  Folks were open and curious.  In the short time that I was there, I caught no wind of the Zapatista movement. I thought, Maybe that's the idea?  That its underground?

I meet a wonderful woman from here and she explained to me that there is a difference between the Zapatista communities and the Zapatista army (EZLN).  The communities publicly declare themselves Zapatistas and carry on their lives as usual working the land, earning however they can but with security support from the EZLN.  She said that supposedly the army is clandestine and lives in the heavily jungled mountain areas and that they are the ones who wear the handkerchiefs. She explained that the handkerchief is a symbol for the invisibility and lack of recognition of indigenous people...

Cartoon 8.2: Limonar, Chiapas

The folks here bathe and wash clothes in the river and this was my first time ever doing so. I was a mess. It always looks so easy and romantic in the movies! Knees are very sexual here so the women bathe topless with long skirts. I didnt have anything like that so I used swim trunks and a tank top.  I felt super awkward balanced on the rock bed of the stream trying not to kill my delicate city feet. Feeling awkward is becoming a bit of a habit for me.  I feel like a fish out of water in most of the situations that I'm in.  And in Limonar the people are super curious cuz most don't have the resources to travel.  It seems that their eyes to the outside world are the television and maybe folks that have gone to work in other places and returned.  They were very thankful that we came saying that not much comes through their community. So everytime I looked up there were at least five or six people watching me in my awkwardness haha.  Oh yeh and I almost lost my shampoo and then my conditioner to the current in the river but a kind young man with quick reflexes went running down the stream after them for me. :)

Cartoon 8.3: Limonar, Chiapas

There aren't many financial resources in Limonar so in exchange for the workshops and shows that we offered in the community, they provided us with food and shelter. The daily menu was: 6am- coffee and animal crackers, 8am- rice, beans, tortillas, chile, and coffee, 12pm- pozol (a drink made from the dough that is used to make tortillas mixed with lots of water), 3pm- rice, beans, tortillas, chile, coffee, and 8pm- rice, beans, tortillas, chile, and coffee. 

On the third day, they killed a cow for us.  In my understanding this is a huge deal because it means that the community no longer has all of the milk or cheese or babies that the cow would have produced.   One day I was coming back from the bathroom and I noticed that there were lots of dogs in the field between the bathroom and the church where we were working.  As I moved closer I saw that the dogs were digging into the top of a cow's head.  Apparently they had just killed the cow and given some of its parts to the many stray dogs that are always around.  It was quite a scene because the dogs are all suuuper skinny and the look in their eyes is usually a little sad and scared.  But at this moment they all looked like lions chomping into their prey.  For the rest of the time that we were there, I would find random rows of teeth or bones strown throughout the field...

It rained alot while we were there so we were constantly covered in mud. As you can see in this picture most of the children and some of my coworkers gave up on the whole idea of clean feet and just gave in to the perpetual mud puddle (Dang flower eatin hippies). I couldn't bring myself to do it because I knew that just days before the field had been doused in cow juice.  On the final day there was a huge celebration dance out in the field and finally I gave in. Cumbia in the mud. I have to admit, it was quite fabulous :) It was just the release I needed to start to integrate all this new information...

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Cartoon 7: La Sema

La sema= El semáforo= The Traffic Light.

Tuesday morning I earned money jumping rope in front of five lanes of traffic as they waited for the light to change.  (I hurt my shoulder a little bit the day before so I couldn't do my usually speciality: acrobalance) My traveling partner Joaquín has been earning money doing circus in traffic lights for about five years and this week, I was inaugurated...

Here's how it went... Joaquín, Daniel and I went out at about 7 a.m. to a traffic light that takes a little while to change.  We warmed up a bit and then we were off. As soon as the light turned red, I would run out into the cross walk and spin and twirl and try to make eye contact with each person in their car. Then I would throw the focus to Joaquín and Daniel who would enter juggling.  Next we would all dance around a bit, each of them juggling and me jumping rope until we found ourselves in a triangle formation.  Then they would start passing the clubs back and forth and I would run through the middle of the flying clubs without messing up the pattern (Okay well sometimes I messed up the pattern).  Then I would run into the middle of the pattern and stop and they would juggle around me.  Then I would run out and pose and they would do some big finale trick and TADA!  Then you walk through the cars and see if anyone feels inspired to give you a peso or two.  Rinse and Repeat for three hours.   And don't forget to smile!  Who would have ever thunk that I would get paid to jump rope??

Okay lets go a little deeper...
As we worked, underneath my skin was a roller coaster of adrenaline, sadness, frustration, excitement, disappointment, determination, and enthusiasm.  The sun beats down and you inhale so much contamination that your boogars are gray afterward.  And thoughts and questions flew through my mind: I bared my soul (performance is always that type of experience for me) for 2 pesos? Whatt?!! What am I doing? I have too much to loose to mess around and get hit by a car.  My heart was filled looking into the eyes of Joaquín and Daniel as we faced this monster of a city on its own territory, baring our teeth in the form of a smile...                     

Immediately after we finished our days work I basically collapsed into the van in tears.  Joaquín and Daniel enveloped me in their arms and we sat.  I cried because I have other options for work but so many people don't. I cried because the people in traffic avert their eyes, they play telephone call, they won't look or laugh with you so they don't have to give you a peso when really even just a friendly face would have been enough for me.  I cried because I have averted my own eyes so many times. 

But mostly I cried because I felt like I was risking so much.  So many people who have poured their love and support in me.  So many people who are sharing this trip with me.  So many people who have invested their hard work and creativity into this trip.  I do not forget this as I make my decisions.  I will not waste that on taking unwise risks.  Don't worry mama luna, working in the traffic lights is not something I plan on doing often... 

P.S. Next week I will be in the Lacandona Jungle in Chiapas (the home of the Zapatista Movement) giving our first workshops to youth in a clown convention!! Unfortunately this means I will not have access to the internet so my next cartoon will have to wait a just bit...

P.S.S. A huge huge thanks to Faithy, Kay, and Donald whose super thoughtful and generous financial collaboration is putting gas in the van to take us to the workshops in Chiapas!! Thank you so so so much! You guys made it possible for us to spend less time in la Sema this week and focus on preparing really powerful workshops for the yoots [youth ;)]!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Cartoon 6: Amazing Things in Mexico Part Three

As I was drawing these, I worried a bit that folks would see them and feel sadness or pity for the people pictured.  After getting over the first moment of shock at seeing a blind man sing for pesos as he navigates a moving metro car, a man with no legs begging as he rolls himself across the floor, and a woman nursing her baby as she calls out over and over the prices of the sweets that she sells, I was filled with deep inspiration.  It seemed like this is just these peoples' reality and they are just living it, no complaints, just determination.  Of course I have no way of knowing how they understand their challenges but I was left in total amazement at their resilience.

Picture one... You guys might remember this character from the previous cartoon 'The Metro Whoa!' I often see blind people out and about in the city, they seem to move around relatively independently. Everybody kind of pitches in to help to let them know what metro stop they are at or to warn them of any looming puddles (there are many of those since its now rainy season here).  They navigate the streets and metros with amazing confidence (as mentioned in Part One of this series, not the easiest thing to do :P).  Maybe as an act of solidarity, I like to close my eyes amongst all of the chaos here and try to feel my surroundings with my other senses. Sometimes my friends and I guide each other around the city for hours with our eyes closed, I haven't decided if the experience is more or less intense without the visual input... 

Picture two... The look on this man's face was one of absolute determination, he was not looking for pity.  Just a common understanding of his circumstances; he seemed to have an attitude of 'If you can give great if not okay, I'm gonna keep going'... I think if I had the chance to look at him straight into his eyes I could have absorbed chapters of wisdom on the subject of self worth.    

Picture three...  Like I mentioned before folks are out in the streets selling everything from joke books to these super yummy colorful rice snacks.  From what I have learned, the underemployment rate here is 25% and the minimum wage is 5 pesos per hour (~50¢)...  So people get amazingly creative.   This woman in particular touched me because somehow she was able to soothe her child into resting peacefully and while at the same time commanding the attention of passersby with her booming voice. 

So I hope to share this feeling of inspiration with each of you to carry you through the rest of your week, your month, your life... I would be happy with your next couple of breathes though :)

PS Sorry this image is a little small, I have messing with the for days tryin to get it to grow and it just don want to.  I decided to just go ahead and share it cuz I already have so many other things to tell you guys about and my hand is itchin to draw!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Cartoon 5: Amazing Things in Mexico Part Two

So now everyone go home and try it and let me know how it goes!! The only extra thing I want to share about this cartoon is that in the last frame the two characters exclaim 'Super!' cuz that's a common slang here amongst people who have some access to the English language.   For instance here, a 'super amiga' is like a best friend. Or you could say 'Como estas?' and the reply could be 'Super!' It makes me giggle when folks say it cuz its a word that we almost never use these days.  I hear English words pop up often within the Spanish spoken here in Mexico City. I just learned a new slang last night- the adjective 'Forever'.  From what I understand it's used to describe people who never finish anything; who have a million projects and ideas but when it comes down to it they get forever stuck in procrastination or disorganization. I.e. 'I think I have been a forever person lots of times in my life.' :S  Also, I took a Zumba class and the teacher kept saying 'Yeah' to pump everybody up. But it's pronounced like 'Yeeeeh Uh' with lots of emphasis all over the place :) So hope everyone is Super and not having a Forever week, Yeeeeh Uh!

Friday, July 1, 2011

Cartoon 4: Amazing Things in Mexico Part One

So this drawing shows one day when I was in the metro and, like I mentioned in the last cartoon, there are lots and lots and LOTS of people. At rush hour when the doors open at each station, if you want to get off you basically have to put your football pads on and sprint full force forward. If you hesitate even for a second, the wave of people getting on the train will literally carry you backward and deposit you in the middle of a sea of people far far away from your desired exit. The first time I encountered this wave, I was totally unprepared. I had never experienced being physically overpowered by anything and I was stunned. Then, I guess my fight/flight response took over and I hunkered down and started throwin' bows (pushing people out of my way) and I was able to get off the train. But then I realized that the wave of people had taken my yoga mat! I turned around to find that amazingly, the people on the train were crowd surfing my mat back to me, A guy handed it to me with a smile before the doors closed and the train rushed off.  My body buzzed, touched by my encounter with my survival instinct, and my heart soared at being so well taken care of by these strangers.

This cartoon is the first of three of beautiful/crazy/intense things that I've seen or have happened to me since I've been in Mexico so stay tuned ;)

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Cartoon 3: El Metro, Whoa!

I am here in Mexico City until July 15th (my bday!:)) getting everything ready to leave:  [getting the van fixed up, designing and getting the portable aerial rig built, creating a show with Joaquín and Daniel that we can perform along the way to make some $, etc.]   And guess how lucky I am? A friend of a friend happens to desperately need to learn a little English because he is traveling to Germany for work! So I have a steady income for about a month! Yupiiiii!! Its interesting because for homework I asked my
student to bring in an article about the differences between folks in the US and folks here in Mexico. One of the things that the article noted about people from the US is that we base our lives around our work.  I guess in other places life revolves around family? spirituality? I'm not sure because I've never experienced anything different.  Anybody have an experience of this?  For me, I think its really true.  Having a regular job somehow makes me feel like I'm doing the right thing even though I may not believe in the work I'm doing or feel like I'm really pursuing my unique path.

Anyway, I ride the metro to and from my job and goodness gracious it is just crazy the quantity of people that are stuffed into these trains! And the informal economy is really strong here so every five seconds someone passes by selling something.  On the way here for example, I was offered BandAids, Klennex, lollipops, ink stamps, Disney coloring books, gum, permanent markers and bifocals.  With this comic I want to share a little laugh I had the other day when I remembered something that happened in the metro in New York.  A guy got on the metro with his drum and started singing Bob Marley's 'One Love' and the man next to me said 'Ugh! How annoying.' I think he felt like his personal space was being invaded.  The contrast just made me giggle, here people are so used to it. Its funny how a behavior in one place can be seen as so wrong while in another it's just plain normal.

Next week I'm going to tell you about something
amazing and beautiful that happened to me in the metro. :)

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Cartoon 2: A Declaration

Just before I left, I was sitting with a friend and telling him about my plans for the trip and yes also, as you can see, my worries. And he gave some of the best advice that I have ever tried to learn over and over.  With this cartoon I just want to normalize the self doubting worrying moments that I think everyone goes through.  I know that in other times in my life I have let my worries stifle me.  I truly believe that it is each of our duties  to express our insides [its especially easier for those of us from the US and other countries that highly emphasize individuality] I think thats why each of is here and we just have to let ourselves out! The beautiful, the ugly, the confused, the right, the wrong, and the whole process.   So this is my declaration:  I promise to say !$%# it and just write and draw whatever is in my mind and heart and trust that even if I am wrong, exposing my thoughts and ideas will be the best way to learn and grow.

P.S. I just meet the other guy who I will be traveling with! (We are three: Daniel, Joaquín, and I) We went to this huge 10 story public library and we were sitting at a conference table talking about how we are going to fit a stove and a gas tank and circus equipment and guitars and tents and sleeping bags and food and clothes all into a Volkswagen van and a police woman with a HUGE attitude came up to us. She had already passed by like 3 times to tell us to do or not do different things.  This time, she said 'Could you kindly put your shoes on? You know, for sanitary purposes.' And Daniel began to debate with the police officer about the fact that our feet are probably way more sanitary than our shoes. Ha it was great!  To me this situation speaks to a possible cultural difference in how we perceive laws or representatives of the law.  I was riding with another friend of mine the other day and a police officer tried to give us a ticket and she simply said, 'No, señor, it's not right.' and they argued until he finally just got fed up and let us go.  Often here if you are caught breaking a law, the police officer will ask you for a 'mordida' (a little bite), a bribe, and you pay him/her and you go free.  But, if you can argue well enough or convince them that you don't have the money, they may let you go anyway. So laws are flexible here... This makes me think about how 'Americans' are in general and I feel like the structuredness and relative rigidity of the laws in the US encourages us as people to be more structured/solid/stiff? in comparison to other cultures in the world. Here in Mexico I find people, just like their laws, to be flexible with their timing, their work, doing what they say they will, etc. So these days I'm wonderin' are our laws a reflection of us or are we a reflection of our laws...

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Cartoon 1: Where are all the tumbleweeds?

So...okay wow here I am. Yesterday I arrived in Mexico City  and I am reminded of the experience I had the first time I came to Mexico. I know its called Mexico CITY but somehow somewhere in my consciousness I expected to see cactuses and tumbleweeds and desert and well yes...mariachis.  But no, walking the streets I see punks, yuppies, hippies, businessmen and women, skaters, rockers and everything in between.  Come to find out that Mexico City is actually 3 times the size of New York. So from the first moments of my trip my subconscious perceptions, my ignorances are reveled, accepted and blown out of the water.
On that note, its time for me to say goodbye.  Goodbye to a common language, gestures, way of understanding the world, history, way of defining success, value, work.  Goodbye to American "black" people and "white" people and the dense common history that has been so deeply present for me everyday of my life growing up in the south. Goodbye to the potent diversity of cultures from all over the world that we have the opportunity to enjoy in the U.S.  Goodbye to blonde bobby pins (they almost don't sell them here) Goodbye to instant hot water (in most public places there's just cold water and in most of the houses that I've been, to save energy they only turn on the water heater when they are about to shower).  And even goodbye to  idea of being "American" because most people here wouldn't call me that (in their vision we are all American as we all live on the American continent).
Goodbye to the amazing people that make up the U.S., I carry with me memories of generosity, brilliant creativity, dedication to justice, and a deep sense of rootedness in community. These memories will nourish me in every moment of my journey...  

Monday, May 23, 2011


Hello everyone! Thank you so much for checking out the blog! For more info about the trip, my intentions, and the work that we do please explore the left side of the screen.  And I love love love feedback!  To post comments just click follow (on the right at the top of the screen) or subscribe (at the very bottom in the middle).  The process is very fast and the conversational part of blogging is so inspirational for me.  It helps me feel connected and grounded as I'm on the move developing what feels like a different life with everyday.  Thank you again so much for your interest!