Sunday, August 26, 2012

Cartoon 29: Dancing Police

Huge shout out to Colombia. It has been one of the most profound places that I´ve ever been.  The amount and quality of the public art, the diversity of cultures and ways of thought, the intense natural beauty, and the generosity and fighting spirit of the people leaves me awed...
Can you imagine ever seeing a scene like the one above in the US?? This is an image I rode by while on the bus in Bogota.  I asked the guy next to me what was going on and he explained that the police are trying to do 2 things:
1. Find creative ways to teach people the law and,
2. Change the image that people have of police as oppressive authority figures.

So they hire stilt walkers and sing and play music in the street!! I died laughing picturing the APD, NYPD, LAPD, ETC. doing something similar. HAhahaha! I love it.

Later I found out that all young men here are obligated* to serve one year either in the military or the police upon graduating fom high school.  So the po-po dancin´ in the streets were probably some of those guys who don´t carry guns and are known as ´Auxiliares´.  But either way what a frigin´awesome vision to stumble upon. :)

*As always there are all kinds of exceptions that make it much more likely that only certain populations actually end up serving, i.e. poor folks.

P.S.  As you can see I didnt have a way of scanning the cartoon this time so its not all perfect like I might want it to be but hey a theme of mine lately has been embracing imperfections so here I am, imperfect!

Monday, August 20, 2012

Cartoon 28: Old Baggage, New Tools

Can you believe its been a year already since we started virtually crossing borders together?? At the year mark I was so thankful to go home for a bit and sit my butt down.  I got to take a look at myself and see what the first year of travel has taught me.  Literally and figuratively, I got to drop off old baggage that was weighing me down and conscientisize the new tools that I have acquired.  I apologize in advance cuz this is gonna be a long entry, but I guess thats a good sign cuz it means I´ve learned a lot! So I separated the entry into sections so you can read what interests you…

I´m leaving behind…
Uno.  Striving for ¨Perfection¨
One time Daniel, Joaquin, and I were hired to do a circus cabaret in a bar.  Fifteen minutes before the show was supposed to start, we hadn´t talked about lights or music and the boys were still painting their faces. I was so stressed I thought my head was going to burst.  I couldn´t understand why everyone was so calm! Just before show time, we quickly told the owner of the bar which songs were for what acts and we ran off  to start the show.  It was amazing! As we did our thing everyone, the waiters, the owner´s wife and even the audience organized around the success of our show. (Everything is relative of course cuz I think Daniel and Joaquin, both Mexican,  felt that the place was tough because people expected a well put together show…) Lights came on when they were needed, the music was adjusted as we went, and when we made mistakes, we smiled knowingly at the audience and for the most part they smiled back, enjoying our shared humanity. What??! You mean perfection is not expected?? I could talk for hours about how this space to mess up has calmed my mind and spirit. What a healthy thing to feel that my humanity is valued and that the goal is not to execute tasks like a flawless machine.

Dos.  The Fast Life- Impatience
A very smart man told me that impatience is born in priveledge. When you gotta wait for the bus, which is not tryng to accomodate you, you can learn fast that impatience doesn´t serve you.  In my experience down here, I can be as impatient as I want  but it ain´t gonna change the fact that people are  gonna stop and chat with neighbors and enjoy their morning coffee and arrive to our appointment when they get there.  The buses are gonna run late and maybe not even come and the excuse of traffic will always be a valid reason for tardiness no matter how long one has lived in the same city with the same amount of traffic.  So I have no other option than to sloooow down.  After getting used to it, it´s pretty great.  I find that I experience more fully each moment because I´m not so worried about what time I have to arrive to the next moment.  Of course I will admit that sometimes it drives me batty because things take FOREVER.  Even in the restaurants (nonturistic), they aren´t necessarily trying to accomodate you.  You could sit in a restaurant for 30 minutes before the waitress even talks to you and then it will take another 30 for your food to come out.  Uufff and if you ask for a change to your food thats different from what´s on the menu, good luck!!  But I really think that this slower rythym of things and less accomodation has helped me focus less on what I want and more on what I have.

Tres.  Not Honoring My Needs
You´ll never guess what I´ve found out that I need at this stage in my development…
I don´t need to know how I´m getting from Colombia to Peru or who I´ll be living with a week from now.  I don´t need more than a backpack of clothes for a two year trip.  I don´t need a job or a house or a car.  But you know what I need? Nice shampoo.
Sometimes I´ve judged myself for spending the $ that I could use to eat for a week on a bottle of nice shampoo, especially when I´m meeting groups of people who dont even use soap. They bathe themselves in saunas using their own sweat to cleanse themselves of toxins.  They smell like coffee and sweet corn.   They use the natural oil of their skin to keep their skin soft instead of fancy Victorias Secret lotion. Honestly, I think that makes a lot more sense but you know what? It brings me peace and happiness to run my fingers through my soft hair and I cant WAIT to get home to be able to use my delicious smelly good lotion!!!

Cuatro. Shame About Being From the US
Okay let´s face it, we don´t not have the best reputation in the world.  Down here, among many things, we are known for what´s on T.V., Hollywood, tourists who unknowingly support the exploitation of the people and land of a nation, and the actions of our government which more often then not are so heavily based on our financial interests that they clash with cultures whose tend to place more value on human relations.  I love my country and the people in it but because I was always so blind to the actions of my government outside of our borders, it was a huge shock when I arrived to Mexico and began to learn why people perceive us as they often do.  Sometimes its been hard to stay grounded in the things I love about my country when learning about the countless US supported genocides and our government´s tendency to support the policial party that most suites our financial and power interests regardless of how horrifically oppressive the regime may be.  And when I say support I don´t mean ¨Yeh! Go team!!¨ from the side lines.  I mean providing the ammunition and training to kill civilians and execute leaders that have been chosen by the people.  This is so hard for me to stomach.  And I was ashamed that I didn´t know that all this was done in my name.
But I´m leaving that shame behind.  Part of the reason I´m on this trip is to educate myself about these realities and there are plenty of people all over the world that don´t know what their government is doing when they are not looking.  The US is a beautiful place where incredible things are born and I am standing tall saying that I´m from the US and showing that we are so much more than many think we are.

And finally… Cinco. Disappointment at the Lose of My Team/Anger at Joaquin
What can I say about this… I guess just simply that I was carrying around a lot of weight from the disappointment of the lose of the original team I planned to travel with. And a lot of hurt for how things went  down with Joaquin.   (See Cartoon 16: Holy Shit).  But at this point in my healing I am so thankful that we decided to jump into this crazy dream together.  Just because it didn´t turn out how I ´d hoped doesn´t mean it was unsuccessful.  Joaquin and I did an incredible amount of learning together and I would never be on this amazing journey without his influence.  I would have never learned that I, and I believe everyone, have the ability to find what we need (food, clothing, shelter, love, and nice shampoo) wherever we are because the world and its people are generous and we don´t need half of what we think we do.  Feeling grateful to him (and Daniel) has helped me release the pain and find love and amazement in its place.

So for those of you who have made it all the way to the end of this entry, I greatly appreciate your patience. I know this is a fast world and it means a lot when we find the time to witness each other and share our experience.