Venice, Italy

August, 2017
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I like to imagine this scene with less people. I can see the culture that flows through this city in every canal, building, and bridge. But the truth of deterioration from tourism struck me while wandering Italian cobblestones. The labyrinthian streets of Venice that once held charm and art is now housing an endless supply of keychains and souvenirs. The innumerable sweaty forearms I glazed against my own heightened the inescapable fact that it was August in Italy and It. Was. Hot.

Then the day gets old and the city quiets. The churches can finally breathe as the tourists begin scurrying away to the next item in the itinerary of Yelp-approved dinner spots with poorly seasoned pasta and house wine. A gondola ride is an escape from the last bit of the retreating sun that has beat you all day. The oars hitting the water in a serene canal remind me of my reason to visit. But, the water that felt like my only solace is swallowing everything I see.

The reality of this sinking city is that it will be ruined and we did it.
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Madrid, Spain

July, 2017
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I had a dream to move to Spain before I’d ever even been. Many ask why I’d ever consider leaving a life of comfort, convenience, and freedom; but while I appreciate everything the United States has given me, especially with my proximity to the immersion of dozens of cultures at my doorstep, those Spanish-run convenience stores in Brooklyn pale in comparison to actually being in a foreign land. It’s knowing that down the street lies the oldest restaurant in the world, it’s being surrounded by food and traditions that date back before the US was even colonized. For me, it’s speaking the language my parents loved me in my whole life. Spanish is music to my ears–it has wrapped me in its arms, it has fed me every meal, it even reminds me of the sting on my arm from the time I talked back. It’s a familiarity and comfort of feeling like I’m home without even knowing a place. ~
While the summer sun drained me, I soaked in as much of the lively, loving, incredible city that was Madrid. I climbed to the top of the city to catch the sunset and found myself in a park. I was surrounded by young people in circles on the grass singing with guitars in hand and sharing food; a boy, no more than 5, kicking a fútbol with his dad saw me walking and passed it to me next; an elderly couple leisurely walking arm-in-arm whose love separated them from the world and all they saw were each other–still, after all those years. These are moments that happen all over the world. But to know all of these interactions began with “Hola” makes it that much more comforting. •IMG_9528

Copenhagen, Denmark

July, 2017
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Nyhavn used to be a place for sailors to imbibe and enjoy female company *ahem ahem,* but now is one of the most touristy sights to see in Copenhagen. After lunching with a Brit who voted for Brexit and an ex-pat American living in Berlin, I visited Freetown Christiana–a no-rules, hippie-esque colony–but not before getting lost through the Danish woods at night. It was like I was just minutes away from reenacting part of a Hans Christian Andersen novel!

But the most surprising part of this city is they don’t lock up their bikes. Being from the NYC area, this is absurd. But it being Scandinavia, it’s normal. I should’ve stayed here longer. •

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Stockholm, Sweden

July, 2017
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“No man is an island.”

I started and ended my solo European adventure in this chillier-than-expected Nordic country. I had 6 countries ahead of me and the daunting reality of traveling to most of them alone was settling with each mile I explored of this archipelago. There was no one next to me to point out amusing street occurrences; no one to laugh at my misfortunes as I frantically googled-translated food menus to cure my “h-anger.” ~
But I found peace on this bridge; the light wind against my face, the quiet street with distant screams of Swedes enjoying each other’s company, and the colors that painted this view–making it all the more incredible knowing it was around 10 PM. I started this trip timid to meet others and struggling to find my place. But the way I thrive is by connecting with people. So when a couple of tourists passed, I gathered the courage to mention the view. We stood in silence for a few minutes before parting ways. It was short and to some, didn’t mean much, but this view helped shape my determination in meeting as many people as I could on this trip. And I did.

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-Mariana

Traveling got me thinking…

I’ve looked for inspiration for much of my life. Looked so much that I’ve stopped living. Looked for so long that I never DID, I just looked. “I’m back-cataloguing this…for later…for when I DO something.” The list of unfinished ideas and transient thoughts surpass the distance I’ve traveled around the world—or so it seems. But the fear of succeeding, stemming from the fear of responsibility and thus, failing, is so easy to succumb to. It’s so easy that I take it, almost every time. I take it and I’m fooled into thinking this way will yield great results. I dream of great thoughts and possibilities that remain just that because I calculate that I’ll never have time to complete it or be as good as the expert who first impassioned me. I stop myself before I even begin. How you do one thing is how you do everything; and so that explains my life.

I’m caught in between two worlds: Doing and Watching. Living and Observing.

But traveling finds the most harmonious blend. The concept of limited time changed how I lived. While we always have limited time, it is the absolute knowing that the next days, weeks, or months of your life is a dedication to a lifestyle of movement, challenge, and change; so with that, I waste no time. Being a lazy artist means you’re inspired by everything and struggle to do much about it. It means that these countries I’ve been to could just remain stamps in my passport unless I can share an aspect of these places from a unique perspective because one of the biggest fear artists hold is unoriginality. Because if I don’t do anything about this, then I’m just a vacationer; a tourist with bad sandals and a worse tan. A traveler adapts, right? I had plans but then the human error aspect changed that. It was writing things down on paper that was the first mistake because who knew by day 4 I’d have a blister on my toe that hindered my previously planned city expeditions? Or that the baby on the plane would ruin the sleeping hours that had been carefully planned in order to enjoy the next country. Maybe a few more hours of sleep is more important than lining up early for a museum and there comes a time when acceptance of every occurrence in life is simply the best thing you can do for your sanity. Acceptance and then recovery. It’s not just getting downtrodden, it’s finding a way to fix it and as I was saying, adapt. Plans are essential, just know you’re going to be making running changes to most of those plans.

Technology or Hands?

Question 001: Technology has become a part of us. Would you rather lose the use of all motorized vehicles, all telecommunication devices and computers, or one of your hands?

Simple answer: I would rather lose all use of motorized vehicles, telecommunication devices, and computers.

Long form:

Much of what I hear nowadays is how our phones are glued to our hands, how we don’t know how to communicate, and we don’t remember life before the internet. At the risk of not trying to romanticize my childhood simply because the only worries I had were based on whether I’d win a kickball game at recess, I would personally be okay with no technology. But even as I say this, I know my mother will still never stop handing me articles to read that say how bad technology is for you.

I’m not renouncing technology—I believe that so many important advances in every field of study have been improved through technology. I also believe the reason why our world seems to feel on the brink of disaster is because of technology. Because we’re so connected, we’re able to hear every voice. Tech has made us God and it can be overwhelming because we probably weren’t meant to handle this much information.

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But how great is it that we ARE able to hear all these stories; that we CAN help anyone in the world…if we want. Sadly, the more I’ve worked in New York City, the less I’ve seen that “want” and the more I see the hardened society we’ve become. All this technology has distracted me. This society of meme-makers and fame-seekers saddens me because I feel genuine actions are few and far between. Maybe NYC is not the greatest representation of the country but I do realize I’m in a bubble of diversity and constant technological growth with apps predicting more and more accurately exactly HOW late I will be to work due to someone sneezing and causing a fender bender.

However, without tech, would our country be as loud in addressing racism as head-on as we’ve been doing since the emergence of the Black Lives Matter movement? It’s implemented body cameras on officers so there’s less of “their story, my story” and moving towards “the story.” It’s allowed, for better or worse, all the knowledge at the tip of teenagers’ fingertips, which I have seen firsthand (wah wah), forcing them to be more accountable for their decisions AND the countless videos that come across their screens showing injustices lends them the bravery needed to stand up for themselves without the shame maybe we once felt in high school. Make no mistake this is a different breed of kids coming up.

It’s connected my family in the United States to my family in Chile, otherwise who knows how long we’d go without knowing anything of them. I dig up old letters my grandparents wrote me from second grade and I wonder if having that authenticity is really as great as it seems or if it’s nostalgia driving that thought.

Without motorized vehicles, obesity rates would go down. Europe has a great model of this as I remember going to the outskirts of Munich and finding all the schoolchildren riding their bikes and walking to school; coming from a car-centric suburb near a thriving motorized vehicle metropolis, I felt I was in a fairytale—definitely wasn’t all the fairytale castles I saw, it was THE BIKES. Our environment would thrive and lessen our carbon footprint on the SUPPOSED climate change taking place. Supposedly. But obviously there’s not scientific proof yet…despite melting ice caps, rise in sea levels, and a glaring depletion of mother earth’s materials which has also led to destruction, war, and senseless deaths.

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Again, I can only assume this question applies to my own life and not speaking to the entirety of the country, otherwise I can’t imagine 300+ million people being as “successful” and maintaining their position in the Global North. Without cars, goods would not be transported as efficiently. I can’t imagine how long it’d take to get that bracelet I ordered from Amazon coming from China. Worse yet, Amazon would cease to exist and you could no longer order Christmas gifts on December 22nd with one-day express shipping, forcing us to become a more conscious and thoughtful society.

Now that I’ve stated many reasons why technology could potentially become the death of humanity, I believe it’s my hands that are going to save lives (not with knife though…I’ve cut myself many times by cutting bagels open at my first job, Bagelicious).

My hands will save lives in giving back to others and enriching my own self. I’m a guitarist. The thought of not having that part of musical expression in my life is far worse than being annoyed every twenty minutes with a *bing*, *bloop* and whistle from my phone. I’m positive I could adapt to some of my life without hands, as others have, but I’d be much more at peace emotionally and mentally knowing I could still slap my brother whenever I want.

-MAP

The Preface: My Intent

I was perusing an Urban Outfitters and came across one of the many pocket-sized, overpriced, quirky books they sell and it was simply called, The Book of Questions. There are close to 300 pages of “what-would-you-do” type questions that call for both simple and expansive answers—knowing me, I won’t do simple. I enjoy intelligent babbling and prattling and believe most things in the universe are connected. So while I plan on talking about technology in this first question, I will probably also relate it to brownies.

I bought the book as a challenge to myself to get writing again; something I stopped once I no longer had writing assignments for college and the fire called formal education that had been lighting my ass all my years got extinguished by how quickly I ran away from all-things college once I’d graduated.

I’m writing because I feel I’ve lost a bit of myself since graduating college. I think we’ve all been there where we’re now washing dishes at our parents’ houses again or not going out to dinner because we need be mindful of paying rent or even not talking as much to those friends from college simply because jobs placed us in la la land or boss-town or the city that never sleeps. I’m also writing to find my voice again; to gain back the light that dimmed—my comedic touch on most issues. Life has made me a little too serious as of late and I just want to laugh until I cry again.

Whilst in school, I hated the formal structure and could never succumb to the mindless prioritization that grades held over us as students. It bred competition and depending on the person, directed our focus away from retaining information and cramming took priority.

Despite hating, at the time, the formal structure of school and could not understand how grades were indicative of any of my knowledge, I have grown to admire that it still motivated me to do work. While I proclaimed to hate grades, I still tried to get good ones. So when an essay was assigned, I would wait until 4 AM the night before, pump it out, and hope for the best. The real challenge I’ve created for myself here is not just answering these questions thoughtfully but to rather create some more structure in my life and become comfortable with consistency. As someone who craves constant change, I’m hoping that through this challenge I’ll be able to enlighten others, make them laugh, have them challenge me, have them feel welcome to begin a dialogue with me about anything and most importantly, allow myself to complete something for once—since I have trouble even trying to finish cleaning my room.

I’m not doing this for views or “likes,” as this is something I’ve grown to detest in our society; simply another few words to read on the internet if you’re bored and avoiding work, like I’m doing at this moment. I also am an over-thinker that will be flexible about many answers because I can see the tail, heads, and ridge of every coin. I take a stance but I THINK I’ll probably never give myself fully to any one idea because to do so would be blind and I think everyone has an opinion that deserves to be heard. But no, flan is still horrible. Thanks for joining, stay tuned for more on the Mariana-issance–and trust me, I hate myself far more for wordplay than you could ever.

Delightfully,

Mango Pie