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Credit: Baha Danesh for Into Action

John Legend and Bryan Stevenson discuss mass incarceration during their “The Criminal Justice Moment in L.A.” panel at Into Action

Last month I made my way to Into Action –– a free nine-day festival of art, music, and activism –– at a warehouse space in downtown L.A. Other than wanting to check out the artwork and what the event was about, I was intrigued to check out founder and executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative Bryan Stevenson and singer and songwriter John Legend for their panel “The Criminal Justice Moment in Los Angeles.”

You can read my coverage of Legend and Stevenson’s panel for L.A. Review of Books here. 

Here are *MORE* words from Bryan Stevenson and John Legend from that evening because they dropped so many gems and the whole conversation between the two was so powerful.

Bryan Stevenson on our obligation to talk more about America’s history of racial inequality in order to change the current oppressive narrative:

We have an obligation to do more to talk about our history of racial inequality and a lot of times that doesn’t get added into the conversation when we talk about criminal justice work but I am persuaded that we’re not free in this country –– not just those who are in jails and prisons but none of us are free because of this history of racial inequality that haunts us ­­–– it’s like smog in the air. We have to do something to change the narrative of racial inequality in America. We’re a post-genocide society and we haven’t done the things we’re supposed to do when you’re a post-genocide society –– what happened to native people in this continent was a genocide. When settlers came, they killed native people by the millions –– famine, war, disease –– and they justified it because they said these native people were different. That’s when they created this narrative of racial difference, they said these native people are “savages” and we use that narrative of racial difference to sustain that abuse and it’s that same narrative that allowed this country to get comfortable with two centuries of slavery. […] I really do think the true evil of American slavery was the narrative of racial difference we created and the ideology of white supremacy that we made up to justify it. I don’t think we ever dealt with that. I don’t think slavery ended in 1965, I think it just evolved.

John Legend on his –– and a collective –– role as artists:

My role as an artist, as Paul Robeson once said, “Artists are the gatekeepers of truth. We are civilization’s radical voice.” We have a responsibility, to be honest with the folks that share our music, that share our art, we have the power to tell stories, we have the power to connect people, to help them see each other’s humanity, to empathize with their plight, and we need to see each other’s humanity if we want to solve this problem as well, it’s important that we tell the truth about what’s happened and it’s also important that we see the value in every human being that’s here right now because if we don’t we’ll continue to put people in cages, we’ll continue to dehumanize them, we’ll continue to [uphold] this system that’s so oppressive that it destroys families and destroys communities. We can’t continue with that, we have to see each other’s humanity, love each other and then act on that love in a way that makes a difference.

Stevenson on staying hopeful:

One of the challenges that I think we have to meet as we start dealing with this problem of mass incarceration, I really am persuaded that we have to stay hopeful. When I go into jails and prisons, I meet a lot of people and they’re fighting a battle ­–– the battle they’re fighting is whether they can stay hopeful enough to survive, to do the things that allow them to keep their heart where their heart is supposed to be. To keep themselves healthy. It is this struggle between hopelessness and hope.

We need to model a kind of hopefulness for people coming out of jails and prisons, for children being sent to jails and prisons and if we’re not talking about hope, if we’re not modeling hope, I actually think we’re part of the problem. I believe that hopelessness is the enemy of justice. Injustice prevails where hopelessness persists. We’ve got to stay hopeful if we’re going to do the things that end mass incarceration. I believe your hope is your superpower. Your hope is what gets you to stand up when other people say ‘sit down.’ Hope is what gets you to speak when other people say ‘be quiet.’ Without hope, we’re not going to do the things we need to do. So, when we’re having our conversations, when we’re talking about what we’re going to do, it is really important that we root our activism in an idea that we have to believe things we have never seen. […] We haven’t seen the prison population drop by half in a matter of eight years but we have to believe we can achieve that, we do.

Legend on staying involved in local and state politics in order to keep our elected officials accountable:

We do need to celebrate when we have success, we need to look at those examples of success and keep carrying those things forward. I know it’s frustrating when we know who’s in the White House, when we know who’s in the Justice Department right now, and their visions of taking this country in a backward direction because they think somehow it was greater back when our society was even more segregated, when our system was even more unjust, when there was even less opportunity –– they think that’s when America was great and they harken back to that era, they want more of that. We know better, we know that we need to keep making America greater, and the way to do that is not by going back.

The interesting thing about our criminal justice system is that so much of the decisions, the laws, and the policies and the policymakers that have a lot of influence are on the state and local level. So when we’re thinking about our activism, we have to make sure we’re paying attention to our local elections. Who are we electing as district attorney? Who are we electing to run our cities? Who are we electing to run our states? Because so much of the prison and jail population is in the local jails. We need to make sure we’re paying attention to those lawmakers, to those policymakers, and saying ‘we want to hold you accountable for having a system that’s more just and more loving.’

Stevenson on the litmus test we have subject every elected official to:

There’s a litmus test that we need to be subjecting every elected official to. What I do is, I go in and I say: do you know that the prison population in America was 300,000 in 1972 and is now 2.3 million, do you know that? Do you know that the United States has the highest rate of incarceration in the world? Do you know that we have 5% of the world’s population but 25% of the world’s in prison? Do you know that there are 6 million people on probation and parole in this country? Do you know that there are 70 million Americans with criminal arrest, which means that when they’re trying to get jobs or loans they’re disfavored? Do you know what we’ve been doing to women over the last quarter century, when the percentage of women going to prison has increased 646%? Do you know that 70% of the women we send to jails in prisons are single parents with minor children? Do you know what happens to those children when we take those moms away? Do you know that people coming out of jails and prisons in many states lose their rights to vote? Do you know in states like Alabama that 30% of the black male population has permanently lost the right to vote? Do you know that we have 13-14-year-old children sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole? Do you know that we have hundreds of thousands of mentally ill people in our jails and prisons? Do you know that the Bureau of justice now predicts that 1-in-3 black male babies born in this country are expected to go to jail or prison? Do you know that the statistic for Latino boys is 1-in-6? And if they don’t know, we have to tell them “you should know.” If they do know, we have to ask them “what are you doing to change this?”

Legend on how we should treat our children in order to put an end to our school-to-prison pipeline:

Part of our kids being free is allowing them to be kids. That should not be a luxury that our kids are allowed to be kids. Kids make mistakes all the time, kids respond to trauma in ways that aren’t always pretty. Kids are going to mess up, and part of what it means to be privileged in America is you’re allowed to mess up sometimes as a kid. We need to make it so that all of our kids are allowed to make mistakes and be treated with love, treated like they have a future, and not feel discarded. We discard so many kids right now, and it’s so painful [..] to see how many kids we’ve just discarded, disregarded, inflicting more pain on them after they’ve been through so much already. We can’t keep doing it.

Legend on getting close to the issue of mass incarceration if we want to help solve it:

Part of the reason why I connect with this issue [of mass incarceration] is because it was in my family, too. It’s still in my family. My mother was locked up for a time, I have cousins that were locked up for a time, I had close family friends who were locked up for a time. I know what it’s like for them to be incarcerated, but also to have to come back home and figure out how they can get a job, how they can take care of their families, how they can reintegrate into society, how they can vote in some states where they’re not allowed to vote. We all have to get close to the issue if we want to help solve it, we have to listen to people. It’s about amplifying the voices of activists that are already doing a lot of the work, it’s not about me getting the glory, it’s about me using my platform to raise other people up, to lift other voices up. There’s so much great work happening but we have to be the storytellers that connect the rest of the population to what’s happening and encourage them to listen, to see each other, to value each other.

Stevenson on staying on the side of love:

We can’t change the world with just the ideas in our mind, we’re going to change the world when the ideas in our mind are fueled by the conviction in our heart. It’s what’s in our heart that can actually get us to do the difficult things. When you’re doing hard things like this, stay on the side of life. Don’t let the struggle, don’t let the anger, don’t let the controversy push you away from the side of love because love is the thing that allows you to stay human. It’s the thing that allows you to see beauty when people see ugliness. It’s love that allowed enslaved people to keep holding on to their humanity when they were being chained and trafficked. It’s love that allowed people to survive lynching and terrorism. It’s love that allowed my parents to be humiliated every day by segregation and still teach me that I’m better than what society tried telling me I am. It’s love, and we have to love our young men and women, our children, that are caught up in this world. I think it’s important we hold on to that. Every great movement that has accomplished justice in this country, in this world, has been rooted in something that has understood the power of loving one another, caring for one another, being committed to compassion and mercy –– that’s the thing that distinguishes us from those who try to oppress, those who to try to abuse. You know who’s taught me about love? My clients. It’s the condemned. They’re the ones that have taught me we’re more than the worst thing we’ve ever done.

Image Credit: Baha Danesh for Into Action

IN PHOTOS: First Trip to New York

So before 2017 ends, I want to get these photos up of my first trip to New York posted. It’s been sitting in my draft posts for like a month now…

ANYWAY, here they are.

C and I traveled to New York City late August-early September, and it was a super fun trip. NYC was all I hope it would be and so much more. It’s always bustling with life and oh man, we walked so much. I can’t wait to visit again.

Enjoy! xx

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First of all, my trip started with some really good grilled cheese/Cuban food.

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C in front of a fountain somewhere in Central Park.

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Art somewhere in Bushwick.

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Outside of Strand bookstore.

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C on the train 🙂

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Somewhere in Williamsburg.

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Taken at the MET, during a Comme des Garçons exhibit.

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C and I taking a selfie with Frida at the MoMA,

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Overlooking the Brooklyn Bridge.

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Washington Square Park.

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SOME REALLY GOOD PHO BUT I FORGOT THE NAME.

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Me in front of the arc in Washington Square Park.

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C and his friend C walking around Times Square.

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At a rooftop bar overlooking the city.

 

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Ran into this great exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum. 

 

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Outside the steps of the MET living my Gossip Girl dreamz.

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Eating Chinese food with some cool lighting.

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C found an Oscar Wilde themed bar and I went NUTS.

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La Virgencita somewhere in Bushwick.

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Unapologetically Brown Series spotting.

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9/11 Memorial.

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On our last day, we also ran into a protest. #DefendDACA

September ’17: the Month of Music, Music and More Music

I could probably go on and on about most of the artists I saw live last month, or I can’t because I’m no ~ music critic ~ but I’ll describe each show in 3 words:

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Future Islands @ The Greek Theatre (09.19.17)

The first time I saw Future Islands live was at FYF fest in 2014 I believe, and I had never heard of them before that moment. But I instantly really enjoyed watching them live! Since then I’ve seen them once more time before September at The Greek.

The Future Islands show was: fun, exuberant, happy.

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Harry Styles @ The Greek Theatre (09.20.17)

I could write a novel about how beautiful I find Harry Styles but you probably don’t want to hear all that. Anyway, Harry’s debut album was ~ actually ~ pretty great, and I enjoyed it more so live.

The Harry Styles show was: beautiful, loud, crying. 

(Special s/o to the best gal ever, Lauren, for inviting me to this!) 

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Beach House @ The Santa Ana Observatory (09.22.17)

There are few voices I’ll never get tired of hearing, and Victoria Legrand’s from Beach House is one of them. I saw them live for the first time at Vicar Street in Dublin, Ireland. It was a magical experience.

The Beach House show was: celestial, heavy, sweet.

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Kali Uchis @ The Fonda Theatre (09.28.17)

So, I wasn’t new to who Kali Uchis was but I was new to her music! I had never listened to any of her songs before, except for the Daniel Cesar song “Get You.” Again, my friend Lauren invited me out to see her at The Fonda theatre and I’m so glad I went!

The Kali Uchis show was: badass, lit (yes, lit), powerful.

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Lauren and myself before the Future Islands show ~

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The xx @ The Forum (09.29.17)

This was probably the one show I had been looking forward to the most! I love The xx and their sound is so amazing and unique.

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Romy and Oliver Sim from The xx, Jamie xx in the background.

My boyfriend got us these tickets, so s/o to C!

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The xx (Photo by C, hehe)

Romy, Jamie, and Oliver of the xx were so humble, kind, and charming. It made me love the whole show even more.

The xx show was: emotional, colorful (just look at the lights!), warm. 

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Interpol @ Los Angeles Historic Park (9.30.2017) (Photo by my friend Jen, who was closer to the lovely Paul Banks)

This was my 3rd time watching Interpol live, and I swear I can never get enough.

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Interpol @ Los Angeles Historic Park (9.30.2017)

They were performing Turn on the Bright Lights in its entirety for the 15th anniversary of the album. It was the last show of September, and the perfect way to close a fun month.

Staring at Paul Banks for over an hour is also the perfect way to end anything, really. He is such a babe.

The Interpol show was: dreamy, packed, kickass. 

Thx for reading!

– P

We Woke Up To Hate

I woke up this morning to sexism, racism, bigotry, and hate.

I woke up to fear.

As I got out of bed this morning, I felt peace for a split second. Then it hit me like a ton of bricks.

I remembered the headlines from the night before: “Donald J. Trump becomes the 45th president of the United States.” I remembered walking to the living room, to the television turned off, and my mother sitting in the dark. Maybe she was playing bingo on her phone, or maybe she grew tired of watching a map change to the color of hate.

As I got ready for work this morning, I just couldn’t believe it. I felt my heavy heart, and I felt my eyes almost swell with tears.

I walked over to my mom’s room, and I just couldn’t bring myself to say anything. What can I say to bring her reassurance? Or a gleam of hope?

I just don’t want her to feel fear, but I can’t ask her not to be afraid.

On November 9, 2016, we woke up to a country that will show relentless disdain toward Latin@s, Muslims, Black people, women, the LGBTQ community, and any other minority.

I woke up to a country that doesn’t care about our families, or ripping away our mothers and fathers from us. Instead, I woke up to a country that is determined to do just that. We woke up to a country who will thrive off of that. We woke up to a country that doesn’t give a fuck about our ancestors, our siblings, our undocumented friends or relatives.

Today felt surreal. When will this start feeling real? Today I felt a strange type of fear, and a strange type of sadness. I felt fear not for myself, but for my mother, for my friends, for their families, and for people I haven’t met who are seriously afraid of the threats and promises this man made. I felt fear for the future of our children – how can we help them understand? Today felt like something in many of us died.

We woke up to a country where HATE TRUMPED LOVE. But it didn’t. It hasn’t yet, and it will not. I hope to dear life that it does not.

The jokes, the memes, the unthinkable – it all became our reality this morning. We ignored it for so long, and now we have to face the truth.

I said on Twitter as soon as the results came in on Wednesday night that we should not look away from our news feeds, “don’t look away from your television screens – let’s face this head on, more united than ever.”

We have to be more resilient than ever. We can’t turn the other cheek, not now. We’ve seen worse. We will see worse than November 9.

This country has gone through uglier days, yes. But we can’t let that make us complacent. Our parents, their grandparents, and their ancestors have lived through tougher times. They’re still standing, and for those who are not – we must fight even harder to make them proud.

The least we owe everyone who has come before us and everyone who will come after us, is to never give up. Keep fighting. Keep working. Keep educating. Keep inspiring. Keep motivating. And above all, keep looking out for one another.

Let’s not become cynical. Let’s not become even more disconnected and divided. We must stay grounded, focused, and wholly unapologetic of our existence.

Let’s remember the feeling in our chests, and the knots in our throats when Donald Trump became the 45th president of the United States.

Let’s remember that feeling, that fear – let’s remember it today, tomorrow, and for the hard years to come. For if we forget, we will have given in to the hate this man will continue to breed.

I can only hold on to the fact that resilience is in the blood of our immigrant families who came to this country, to give us the little they had, which has been more than enough.

La lucha sigue, and to everyone out there tonight, or tomorrow, protesting this indecency in U.S. history, be safe.

https://twitter.com/steph_marasca/status/796197625930383360

Make America Scared Again

It’s November 7, 2016. It’s also the Monday before Election Day.

I didn’t think the day would come so fast, and I was definitely not expecting to have to choose between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.

As any Monday goes, it’s been a tough day. But it’s been even harder as I reflect on what tomorrow will bring us. I think of what tomorrow will mean to my mother who can’t vote, my family, my younger siblings who have been exposed to this vile man, the African-American/Black community, the Latin@ community, the Muslim community, women of color and women in general, and all the communities that Trump has spoken so ignorantly about. What will tomorrow bring them?

Will it bring them peace, or will it continue to bring them hurt?

I don’t want to wake up on Wednesday and find out that a man incapable of respect, humility, empathy, and overall humanity is going to be our president for the next four years. This whole election has felt like our biggest nightmare, like the biggest joke. But he’s come this far, and what will tomorrow bring us?

I think about how hard it is already to walk outside my house and into White America, existing within spaces and around people who feel my presence is a nuisance or a discomfort – and I think about how harder it could be if we let Trump win.

I want to wake up on Wednesday knowing that as a country we came together and made the right choice. I want to wake up on Wednesday knowing we stood together and stopped this man from breeding more hate, from continuing to pin us against one another, from taking away from our humanity.

This election has been far from perfect, and Clinton isn’t the greatest choice. But we simply cannot let Donald Trump win. He will ruin everything this country stands for. So, what will tomorrow bring us?

In Photos: At Home With Monsters

Last Saturday, I finally checked out At Home With Monsters – a Guillermo Del Toro exhibit at LACMA. Mind you, I’m not a YUGE movie/film junkie, but Del Toro’s monsters caught my eye.

Walking into At Home With Monsters immediately transports you back to your most frightening nightmares, fears, and into a world you didn’t know could exist. You’re walked through not only the monsters that made Del Toro’s films unforgettable and flawless, but you’re also introduced to the trinkets, literature, and images that inspired him.

Guadalajara native, Del Toro is a man of many talents. He’s a film director, screenwriter, producer, and novelist. His innovative filmmaking has transformed his work into instant classics. His filmography consists of Cronos (1993), The Devil’s Backbone (2001), Hellboy (2004), Pan’s Labyrinth (2006), Pacific Rim (2013), and Crimson Peak (2015). Del Toro has also worked on many other film, television, and book projects as he reconfigures and reinvents his favorite genres: horror, fantasy, and the inexplicable.

At Home With Monsters was unforgettable and brilliant. It inspired me to not only watch more of his films, but to revisit Shelley’s Frankenstein, more Victorian period literature, and heck, even read Bleak House by Dickens (Del Toro calls his home in Los Angeles by that name).

The exhibit is running through November 27.

Check out some of the photos I took on my iPhone 6s:

Pale Man from Pan’s Labyrinth (El Laberinto del Fauno)

“You’re getting older, and you’ll see that life isn’t like your fairy tales. The world is a cruel place. And you’ll learn that, even if it hurts.”

– (Pan’s Labyrinth, 2006)

Schlitzie and Johnny Eck, Thomas Kuebler

“I’m really a freak in every place I go. I don’t quite fit in the independent scene, I don’t quite fit in the art scene, and I don’t fit in the Hollywood scene, so I’m a weird strange fat motherfucker. I’ll tell you this: I plan to stay that way, because there is something to be said… I think when you get comfortable, you start growing old. You are doing something wrong.”

Guillermo del Toro

“There is love in me the likes of which you’ve never seen. There is rage in me the likes of which should never escape. If I am not satisfied int he one, I will indulge the other.”
Mary Shelley, Frankenstein

Fauno from Pan’s Labyrinth

“What makes a man a man? A friend of mine once wondered. Is it his origins? The way he comes to life? I don’t think so. It’s the choices he makes. Not how he starts things, but how he decides to end them.”
Guillermo del Toro

“But the horror… The horror was for love. The things we do for love like this are ugly, mad, full of sweat and regret. This love burns you and maims you and twists you inside out. It is a monstrous love and it makes monsters of us all.”

– Crimson Peak

“Perfection has no place in love, Edith. I advise you to return to your ghosts and fancies – the sooner, the better. You know precious little of the human heart, or love, or the pain that comes with it.”

– Crimson Peak

“You’ll meet her. She’s very pretty, even though sometimes she’s sad for many days at a time. You’ll see, when she smiles, you’ll love her.”
Guillermo del Toro

“Well, the first thing is that I love monsters, I identify with monsters.”
Guillermo del Toro

365 Days Later

A year ago today, I left to study abroad in Ireland. I was excited then to make new memories in a different country and to really explore a different culture. I remember looking out my airplane window and seeing the coast of the Emerald Isle before arriving at the Dublin airport feeling insane for traveling across the world by myself.

I remember looking out the cab window and thinking of all the memories I would soon be making in this country. I remembered thinking of all the new people I would meet. I wondered if locals would be friendly and welcoming, I wondered how school, professors, and classmates would be. It was 8am, my body was already jet lagged but my mind was racing out of control.

I remember getting off that cab, tipping the driver for helping with my heavy luggage, and arriving at the house where I would stay for the first couple of nights before moving into my apartment. I walked into a house filled with people who had moved from Brazil, and who didn’t speak much English. They welcomed someone who didn’t speak a pinch of Portuguese, so you can imagine how that went. If being across the world wasn’t enough of a culture shock, imagine being in a space where I couldn’t communicate clearly with others. If it hadn’t been on the first day of my 3-month stay in Ireland, I would have otherwise not felt so isolated. But on that day, I instantly started to feel sad, homesick, and lonely. The excitement washed away. As soon as my head hit the pillow, I cried. I instantly missed my family, and everything back home. I wanted to get on the next plane back to LAX.

I had only been in Dublin for a couple hours, and I was already feeling homesick. In other words, I was being dramatic. “Is this how it would be for the next three months or does it get easier?” I thought. So I decided to take a nap because well, naps fix everything. My roommate and soon to be great friend who had also recently moved to Ireland from Brazil woke me up so he could show me around the city. We went out into the cold crisp air, and that excitement came back. I felt I would be okay (I mean, of course I would, I was just being a drama queen). The streets of Dublin sparkled. The buildings were nothing like I had seen back home, and everything was bustling with life. I WAS READY TO TAKE ON IRELAND AGAIN!

But before I could do that, I needed Wi-Fi.

The three months I spent living and studying in Dublin were a learning experience. Like a normal human being, I felt homesick on occasions but I didn’t let it get the best of me or ruin my days because my family was just a phone call or FaceTime call away. Being out of my comfort zone in a different country with a different culture and way of life was necessary. I learned a lot about myself and others around me by living on my own and with roommates from different backgrounds. As I reflect on my time in Ireland, there’s nothing much I would have done differently except maybe drink more pints of Guinness. I can’t wait until I get the opportunity to visit many times more, and re-experience those months with a different perspective.

And as I reminisce on the time I spent in Ireland, I can’t help but feel so incredibly lucky to have been able to live in a different country, if only temporarily. It was a humbling experience that I’ll never take for granted.

In the words of Charles Dickens, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness…

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Visited the Wicklow mountains on my second day in Dublin.

 

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More from the Wicklow mountains.

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Fish and chips, and potatoes plus more potatoes.

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Oscar Wilde in Merrion Square.

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Wicklow Mountains with Heidi.

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Visiting the Cliffs of Moher.

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Giant’s Causeway, featuring C.

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Selfie with Oscar Wilde ❤

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The most Irish thing I did, watch U2 live in Dublin!

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A view of the Liffey River on a rare sunny day.

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C and I taking photos at Giant’s Causeway, one of our stops through Northern Ireland.

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Mumford and Sons in concert during my last weeks in Dublin.

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Graduate Memorial Building at Trinity College.

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The Campanile during the first week of class at Trinity College.

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Temple Bar.

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On one of my walks home, a rainbow after the rain.

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Selfie at the Giant’s Causeway.

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Sunny days in Dublin were the best.

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Gui and I doing what we did best: selfies.

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The Long Room at Trinity College. I wish I lived here.

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Dublin Castle Grounds, featuring a beautiful Gui expression.

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A day at the cemetery.

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Somewhere in the West Coast of Ireland.

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Beach House at Vicar Street in Dublin.

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Wicklow Mountains during my second trip there.

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Coffee down the street from my flat.

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A panorama of Trinity College.

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Cliffs of Moher, truly a sight to see.

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O’Connell Street.

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At the Jameson Distillery.

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A walk at the park.

El Divo De Juarez, descansa en paz

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Source: gagadaily

El Divo De Juarez, also known as Juan Gabriel left many heartbroken this past weekend. Just days after he began touring, he died at the age of 66. Jaunga broke through barriers, stereotypes, and challenged heteronormativity until his last breath. He was a flamboyant soul, and a legend in the eyes of communities of people of color.

I didn’t actively or avidly listen to Juan Gabriel growing up or at this age, nevertheless I grew up with his voice. His music brings back so much nostalgia. I remember some of the best novelas featured one of his songs in the opening credits. I remember my aunt in particular always sang along to vamos al noa, noa, noa/ noa vamos a bailar –swaying her hips side to side.

I remember sitting passenger side in the car with my mom, with her Juan Gabriel CD’s playing. I remember sitting there at a very young age, simultaneously listening to her sing along and begging her to change the station because god forbid I actually enjoyed the music she liked! But I also remember thinking about the lyrics –tu ponte en my lugar, a ver que harias, la diferencia, entre tu y yo, seria corazon, que yo en tu lugar, si te amaria– and what it all meant. I remember feeling curious about how my mom felt listening to his music, and why she loved it so much.

Growing up with my mom listening to Juanga, I felt that was the only way I knew how she felt about life, love, and loss. So today, as I listen to El Divo de Juarez writing this, I think of the heartache, the joy, and the life lessons that his music must have helped my mom overcome.

Tu estas siempre en mi mente. RIP, Jaun Gabriel.