Mexico [Sinking] City

I realized during what was my fourth trip to Mexico since moving to Texas that I had not written even a word regarding my visits and adventures. That is a shame, really, as there is really quite a bit that I should have shared about my travels to Monterrey, Playa del Carmen, and Akumal. This post, however, is about my most recent trip to Mexico City, DF.

Ciudad De Mexico [Distrito Federal]

After being forced to take vacation for the entire week of Thanksgiving, I made a somewhat quick and spontaneous decision to travel to Mexico City to see what it was about. The enticing airfare from Austin to DF made the decision even easier, as AeroMexico was offering a promotional rate for their new direct flight. It actually cost less for me to fly internationally to Mexico for the week that to fly back home to Ohio. And, to seal the deal, my friend, Gaby, who I had met in Barcelona last year, is a native-born Chilango from Mexico City, and had invited me to visit.

The People

Next step was to get some friends involved. Of course I would be visiting Gaby, but it took a bit of convincing to get my Mexico travel buddy, Alex, to come along. Eventually, he, as well as his friend, Chris, agreed to come. All of us had studied in Spain and at least have some basic levels of Spanish, with (according to them) mine being the best.

Day 1 [The Arrival]

My eyes open. I am on a plane. I look out of the window for a sense of orientation, and there lies the vast expanse of seemingly infinite housing that is Mexico City. My jaw dropped- partially out of awe, and partially to equalize the pressure in my ears. We certainly didn’t have to descend as much as I am accustomed to, as Mexico City’s altitude is nearly 7350ft. After landing a bit late, the passengers were forced to sit on the plane for what felt like twenty five minutes as we waited for a bus to pick us up. Really, it felt quite unorganized and unprofessional. There is no reason they shouldn’t have expected us and had a bus there ready to go. I’m going to give them slack, though, solely because the airport was under heavy construction and the clearly new terminal was vacant of any docked airplanes. Certainly they were running low on resources until the new terminal was ready.

After going through immigration and grabbing my backpack, I waited in line to pass through customs. Over the crowd I saw a smiling face accompanied by a waving hand. Gaby. It was so good to see her smile again, and after customs was sure that I was not trafficking any illegal materials, I ran out and gave her a hug. The smell of the airport reminded me of Venezuela, the site of Gaby reminded me of Spain, and yet I was in a new place all together.

Gaby was kind enough to offer to pick me up at the airport and take her to her family’s home in northern Mexico City. I had been in cars in Mexico before. Nothing, though, had prepared me for the chaos that is driving in Mexico City. Luckily, I was not the one doing it, or I certainly would have crashed Gaby’s brand-new Renault Clio within minutes of starting it. I was amazed at how simply unorganized the driving was, yet how, beneath the surface, it all worked out and people got to their destinations anyways. It is simply a different mindset than what I am accustomed to, and even what I had seen in Venezuela, Europe, and the rest of Mexico.

We arrived at her home, where I was greeted by her mother and shown to their guest room which was in a separate building in the back of their house.

img_0142.jpg

It reminded me of the house that Emily had lived in in Venezuela, which had a completely separate house containing the guest bedroom, bathroom, etc. I left my bags and talked for a bit with my hosts, after which we left to grab dinner at a vegetarian-friendly restaurant back towards downtown, called Buena Tierra [good land]. It just so happens that this was exactly the same restaurant chain that Natalie, my cousin, had taken me to when I first arrived to Playa del Carmen. Apparently this is the best place to take vegetarians on their first day in Mexico.

We then went out to a bar/club called SkyBar, which was quite fun. They played some of the good old dance songs that she and I had danced to in Barcelona, and it brought back some fun memories. My Spanish, by this point, was nearly back up to full speed as if I had never stopped speaking it for over a year.

A ride home, a jump in the cold shower water to get the smoke smell off, and a bit of arranging of my luggage, I was asleep.

Day 2 [Exploration and Reunion]

Continue reading

Home to home through home

Perhaps I was a bit hard on Rochester in my last post. Overall, it really wasn’t too bad of a place to re-visit. It is amazing how much not being able to find something at a late hour can affect my judgment of a place.

On Wednesday, after a long day of recruiting at the job fair and running somewhat randomly into Favi and Nate, neither of whom I knew were still in Rochester (and were actually just there for the fair), I finally got to go do a few anticipated things.

First, Ben, one of the guys I was recruiting with from AMD, and I went over to the CE department to hand over a bunch of leftover t-shirts to the office for them to hand out to students. On our way into the new building, we actually bumped into Dr. Savakis, the CS department head. He quickly noticed our AMD shirts that we were wearing, and invited us in so that he could give us o tour us the new extension.

I must say, I wish that I had graduated High School in 2006 rather than college. I could have certainly enjoyed many of the new facilities that they have put in for new students. The CE department has moved from the Building 17 extension in all of its depressing darkness and into a much more friendly environment with plenty of natural light, space, collaboration areas, and fresh new laboratories. There is no way that Ben and I could not be jealous. RIT is certainly moving in the right direction, at least with the buildings.

As we were saying farewell to Dr. Savakis, one of the Intel recruiters walked up to the CE office. No, there was not bloodshed, and we actually had an interesting discussion. Dr. Savakis listened intently (or out of complete boredom, who knows) to our subtle digs at each other while maintaining professionalism. I thought the guy from Intel looked really familiar, and finally I realized that he was one of the guys who had interviewed me at Intel in Hudson, MA. He didn’t seem to remember me, though.

Ben and I headed out, and we stopped for a much-needed sub at Dibella’s. I had been longing for that gigantic NY-style brick-of-cheese on a bagel-crusted roll with delicious peppers and mustards for well over a year. Who would have thought that a simple sandwich could be so incredibly satisfying?

Later, I met up with Bill, a friend I had co-op’d with at Harris. It was good to see him again, and, apparently he had just proposed to his girlfriend the day prior. Luckily, I was there to celebrate with him a bit at Cibon, another much-missed restaurant of Rochester. We later headed over to Spot Coffee to meet up with some of my friends from La Hora de Español- Favi, Joe, and Jerry.

It was good to see them all again, though apparently the three of them had fallen out of touch pretty much since Favi and I went to Spain. We had a great time just chatting at the coffee shop (again, another place in Rochester which I dearly miss, and is in fact open late) and decided to go head over to Java’s down the street a bit later. I do really miss that group, and it was good to get all of us back together again. They even mentioned starting La Hora back up again, which would be great to have happen.

Six hours later, I was on a plane heading from home to home. With a connection through home. With a small amount of sleep and having just gotten accustomed to driving around Rochester again, it began to feel familiar and present. If I hadn’t met my friends, though, Rochester would have certainly felt void and foreign, and I like a ghost drifting along through a lost dream. But it was just enough exposure and intensity to remind me of how my life was there not too long ago.

Drifting in and out of sleep on the plane, I arrived in Cleveland. Home. Again. Where am I? Home? But I was just home? But neither of those are home now, right? I wander around the airport and grab a bagel, and remember many of the trips that I have taken from that Continental terminal. But my family was not there at the airport to receive me. I would never pass through the security gates and into the industrial Cleveland air, but would instead groggily board another plane to head home. To Austin, this time.

On the flight back, I woke up several times almost sick with confusion and disorientation of where I was and where I was going, and what parts were dream and what was real. Finally, after a clear bird’s-eye view of the downtown skyline and AMD, I was grounded. The plane landed. I was home. Really this time. I think.

Return to Rochester

I only get the urge to write in this when I travel. I wonder why that is.

Today, I am back in Rochester, NY. Home of my alma-mater. This time, instead of being a resident, I am a visitor. Instead of being a student, I am a full-time employed adult. Instead of seeking employment at the career fair, I am recruiting for AMD.

Of course I wanted to come back. There are many things I have greatly, dearly missed about this city. Mostly, it is my friends. As it turns out, though, nearly all but four of them have left this little city to move on with their lives. In another year, two more friends, I expect, will have deserted this place. My connections with Rochester have become lesser and lesser, and it has merely been a year since I have graduated. What will it be like in five years?

It will feel even smaller. Not only did I graduate from RIT, but I feel like I have graduated from Rochester as well. Returning here is like walking back into your elementary school as a high school senior. It looks and feels almost comically small. Suffocatingly small. It is quiet, and quaint, and there is so little to do here at 11pm on a Tuesday that it is actually confusing for me. Barcelona and Austin have shown me what a real city can offer (I’m not even sure Austin is a real city yet) and Rochester just isn’t matching up.

Here, I can’t even find a place to eat past 10pm on a weeknight. I went to Pita Pit, near downtown. My other options: Taco Bell, Denny’s, Jay’s (dysentery) Diner, and Tim Horton’s. Exquisite. You would think, maybe, that a town with two pretty large universities in it would just pack these locations with hungry students. Wrong. Pita Pit had a whopping four patrons in it. So much for late-night cravings. Come on, students, you shouldn’t even be having to study for midterms yet! Get off campus!

The roads of Rochester were just empty. I had them to myself, and driving around felt eerie, and as Derek once said about Burton, “It feels like by just being awake past 10 you are committing a tragic sin”. Yet, during my drive I did see about 6 cop cars. I’m not sure why, especially in the nicer neighborhoods I was driving in. Perhaps they should be back in the ghetto where I used to live, and my roommate’s car stereo was stolen.

Tomorrow is another day, and I hope to meet up with some of the people that are still here. I’ve also been craving a Dibella’s sub for a long time, and to go for a stroll down Park Ave once again. With luck, I’ll be bringing back some nice bottles of NY wines in my somewhat empty suitcase.

It’s a lot of small things that I miss about this place. But even compounded together, I’m beginning to question if those small things really amount to much. This, perhaps, is the most surprising thing I will encounter during this trip.

It was like I’ve always lived in this mess.

The title is not meant to sound negative. In a way, its what Austin really is. This entire city is a contradiction in my mind, and that seems to be the way I operate. On contradictions. Oh, and, by the way, I am living in Austin, TX now. Should it not have been for my friend, Sumiko, beginning her Castellano blog, I probably wouldn’t have thought to update this.

Contradictions of Austin:

  • Texas, but liberal
  • America, but I hear more Spanish here than living in Spain
  • Texas, but lots of tech jobs
  • Bigger (everything’s bigger in Texas), yet somehow smaller and dense
  • Sidewalk cafes… but on 5-lane roads.
  • A music scene… but not country
  • An art scene… but not country bumpkin
  • Texas, but without the heavy accent
  • Bush came from this town, yet it seems everybody here hates him
  • Strip malls everywhere, but small business is valued highly
  • A lively downtown scene, nobody lives downtown
  • Football is bigger here than any other city I’ve lived in, yet there’s no NFL team
  • Freaking hot in the summer, but green trees and foliage everywhere
  • Good job market, high incomes, but low cost of living and no income tax
  • Hardly visible on a map, yet one of my favorite places on Earth

“It was like I’ve always lived in this mess.” — A quote from L’Auberge Espagnole. The chaos and contradictions of this place are what make me feel completely at home. Nothing seems to make sense, and yet, for exactly that reason, it does.

Stereotypes

Sometimes I find it amazing how little Texans know about how their state is generally viewed by the North. I’d say it gets about as much of a bad rep as, say, West Virginia, Kentucky, and Kansas. Oh, and if you are from any of those states and don’t think you are the source of many jokes… you are. I’m not out to offend anybody, after all I am from Ohio and I get my fair share of being made fun of. Stereotypes of cornfields and farmland as far as the eye can see – though true for western Ohio is hardly at all like the northeast. The same goes for Texas. What applies to Dallas, Houston, Amarillo, Lubbock, and the boonies and desert does not apply to Austin. Yet, for many of us northerns, the sound of “Texas” makes us cringe. I’m not quite sure why we react that way, but we do.

On the plus side, that same cringe effect is what keeps Austin from blowing up with a heavy northern population and losing its special Austin-ness. Austinites, cherish the fact that you are a blue oasis in a sea of red desert. That desert can be very scary and impenetrable by many, keeping your city population at a manageable size.

My Case

So why did I move here? Simple – AMD flew my down for a job interview. I got to see the city, and quickly became less afraid of the possibility of moving here. I saw the contradictions immediately, and that is what brought my immediate attraction. I accepted the job sometime last year, probably in November, and now I am here after a chaotic end at RIT, study abroad in Spain, temporary move back to Ohio, and temporary job as a wedding photographer.

The Company

AMD is an amazing company to work for. It is growing so quickly, that at times I wonder if it’s going to be able to handle itself. I’m pretty confident, though, as our upper management is quite amazing in my opinion, and I’m certain they know what they are doing. I love having a job for a company that is constantly in business news, on geek websites like digg.com and slashdot.org. We are doing amazing things at AMD, and I doubt that the company will ever stop impressing me.

The People

With a good company comes good people. I look up to so many people that I work with on a regular basis. Whether they be managers or co-workers or co-ops. The simple quality of people that end up here is outstanding. It is also one of the most diverse environments I’ve ever been in. My mentor is Mexican. My upper-manager is Korean. We have so many Asians, Indians, South Americans, and Europeans working for us … not just globally, but right here in Austin. This diversity is something that I never really got working at Harris or ProQuest. Anybody who knows me even slightly well knows how much I value different cultures.

The Apartment

Though this may not be L’Auberge Espagnole, it is still rather ideal. I’m living here with my friend from RIT, Ed. He’s a pretty chill guy, unless he’s hungry or anxious to leave somewhere. Then it’s like trying to control a 5 year old who wants to go to the ice-cream store. He’s quite aware of this, and now I just take it as quite amusing, where initially it was rather annoying. We each have our own quirks, and I’m sure it took him some time (and continues to) get used to me.

Overall, we work things out pretty well. The apartment is furnished and decorated quite nicely, and we are both very happy with how it turned out. Much of our furniture came from this guy named Joe who we found on Craigslist. He wholesales furniture from a little warehouse he has up north, but all of it is name-brand stuff at nearly half of the cost of anywhere else. For the small amount of money we spent, our apartment looks almost like a Crate & Barrel catalog showroom. I’m sure the folks at C&B would highly disagree. That’s fine, they can continue to overcharge for their particleboard yuppie furniture while I get it for cheap.

Living Room

The apartment brings a perfect blend of city-living and country feeling. The entrance to our apartment is on one of the busiest and coolest streets in Austin. Our apartment, however, feels like a tree house. We are at ground-level on the backside, so we have no stairs to climb, but as the apartment is on a slope, the back side with all of the windows is up 1 level, and is completely surrounded by trees which come right up to the balcony and windows. From the dining room, living room, and kitchen, all you can see are trees. At night, I hear crickets and frogs – not sirens, gunshots, and subwoofers. Downtown is a 25 minute walk away.

Bedroom

The Neighborhood

I live on South Congress avenue. I basically picked the neighborhood never having seen it by describing the things I liked about Park Ave in Rochester to some rental agents down here. Sidewalk cafe’s, cool and diverse restaurants, some art stores and cool shopping, young professionals, etc. I was told by 3 sources “oh then you’re looking for SoCo”. How could you turn down a name like SoCo, anyways? It sounds like SoHo but it is also the name of a Louisiana Whiskey.

Why is it called South Congress Ave? When you drive north on it, you are driving right into the State Capitol Building. It is quite a view, actually. You see all of the shops, followed by the S. Congress bridge over Town Lake (where 1.5 million bats call home over the summer), and the downtown skyscrapers forming two walls on the right and left of the avenue. Dead-centered at the end of the corridor is the massive Capitol building in all of its Everything’s-Bigger-In-Texas glory. That is my view on my drive home from work every day. That is why I live in SoCo.

There is so much more I can write about, but that is going to have to come with time. One of my problems with blog-writing is that I get so backed up with things to write about, that I feel I have to tackle everything in the queue first before I can write about the thing I’m thinking of at the moment. The sad part of it is, once I do an update like this, I’ll probably never write about, say, my extended trip to Paris, or my experience doing wedding photography for my friends KC and Andie. You’re not going to hear about Austin City Limits, either. If I don’t write about it the day or week of, its simply not going to happen ever. I wish this could be more complete, but that’s just not going to happen. So it goes.

(Untitled)

I sit in front of the browser window

the tab is marked

(Untitled)

the blank white page

the blinking cursor in the address bar

begs me to go somewhere

pleads me to enter destination

to find something, a solution

to how I am feeling

to making things right

and permanent

but there is no such website

there is no such answer

even in this vast set of knowledge

where I often try to hide 

Jo estic català

Today was rough. In fact, it is less like one day, not even two, but more like three.

I slept two hours before going to the beach, and felt rather exhausted when I did wake. Kaitlin and I went anyways, and it was ok, but the weather could have been better.

Then the coming back and the going away dinner and the despedidas to everybody I met in the program. Surprisingly, I wasn’t too sad about it all. Yet.

Later, I went to meet some of my other friends at a bar, then a club because the bar closed before I even got to it. On my walk, I heard some guys behind me talking, basically wondering where I was from. One seemed pretty confident that I was from here. Enough to actually ask me, “Eres Catalán?”. I replied yes, to see if I could go with it, but somehow they could tell right away by my pronunciation of “sí”. Oh well, it was worth a try.

Later, after some hard goodbyes and feeling like my whole life here is slowly being pulled away like a thread from my belly button until it is all gone and I am completely empty, ready to be refilled when the plane touches down in Cleveland, I realized something – I passed as Catalán. The last few weeks, people have been asking me the time, how the food is, directions once and a while, which side of the train to take. People think I fit in, people assume I know the language. I am not the blatant American, I no longer scream “speak English to this tourist”. I am, for the moment, Catalán. Jo estic català.

I have triumphed.

My mission, complete.

I can now go home rest assured that I have, without a doubt, reached my cultural experience here, and not just remained a long-term tourist. This was real. The friendships permanent, though soon-to-be long distant. Barcelona stays, but I will not, and that is just something that this place and I are just going to have to figure out and deal with.

Twenty-four hours to go. I want to be sedated. These words have never meant so much to me.

Emotional Fútbol War Ground

Today began, perhaps, the emotional roller coaster ride of leaving Spain. I am, without a doubt, excited to come back home. However, there are certainly aspects I will miss about Barcelona, mostly, if not only, the people I have met.

My good friend, Iana, left today to Bulgaria. For some reason I wasn't really sad at all about it until I went back to her apartment to meet my friend/her roommate, Kaitlin. I walked by Iana's room and saw it completely empty, but it still smelled like her, and it suddenly hit me that she was gone. Then, I remembered that I really do plan to see her again and everything was fine.

After meeting Kaitlin, we went a few doors down from her apartment to see the Barça championship game in a bar. It was absolutely ridiculous, as not only was it my first Spanish/European public soccer game watching experience, but they won, and they won the European championship. Now, I've seen quite a bit of crazy fútbol fan action on the streets after the game, as I live one block from where everybody likes to congregate, drink, urinate on the street, break things, shoot off fireworks and flares, make police angry, fight, chant, sing, whistle, scream, and provoke all kinds of sirens and alarms. However, this time was absolutely insane, as one would probably expect. The Plaça Catalunya by me was entirely full, so people backed up all the way to Plaça Universitad to celebrate there. I've never seen so many people in the streets, not even for the nearly-civil-war-declaration Estatut marches.

I met up with some friends, and we observed the craze for a while before heading off to a bar, and then later to a club. At this point, I was feeling pretty good since my city just won a continental championship, people were happy, I was happy to see my friends before leaving, etc. Normally, the idiots on the streets near my house tend to bring me down a bit, mostly because its near my house and I have no way to escape it. Even with my windows and doors closed it is loud and obnoxious. This time, though, I was out so it couldn't bother me so much.

After a full night of dancing until 5am, a normal night out, it came time to leave and say goodbye to a few of my friends. This is the hard part. Saying goodbye to Iana wasn't too hard because I have plans to see her again, and it seems perfectly feasible. However, this group is going to disperse back to several different countries or stay in Barcelona, which I'm not certain I'll be coming back to visit any time soon.

Of course I knew I would miss these people before hand, but it never hits until you say goodbye. For some reason it just bubbles up all kinds of emotions that you couldn't naturally bring up before. And it is weird, because it is quite possible that it is not goodbye, as I may be seeing them tomorrow, Friday, or at the airport. Who knows. My friend, Dan, said that he never says goodbye anymore, but see you later. It seems better, to me.

The hardest was probably when Tonny, my one friend who kind of initially accepted me into this group of friends started going off about how he is so sick of meeting good people and making friends and then they all just leave in the end. I could feel nothing but terrible and guilty. I had such a good time with him and the whole group, and it was all thanks to him, and I just leave him in return. But, what can I do? It was destined from the beginning and not something really under my control. Even if I had the rest of my life free with no plans, I'm not so sure I would want to stay here much longer than I am. Of course I would want to stay with all of my friends I've met here forever, but it simply isn't possible. I told him I completely understand, and that is exactly why I am ready to go home. The nature of Barcelona is temporary. People come and go, come and go. They use this city for whatever reason and then when they are done with it they abandon. To anybody living here, it must be exhausting seeing such a throughput of people, but I don't see it changing any time soon.

The thought of settling down, for the first time in my life, is really beginning to excite me. Making friends that will (hopefully) stay around a while. Forming relationships with people that can last maybe 10 years will be amazing. Truley getting to know a place, inside and out. Culture, food, stores, roads, parks…. everything. I want it to feel like home. It seems like every time somewhere starts to feel like home, it gets taken from underneath me. Settling down and permanence used to scare me, but now I can't wait for it. I am, in fact, getting older.

Walking back to my place, I was enlightened with the aftermath of the massive street-party that took place around my apartment. Near Plaça Catalunya was a Levi's store, front window smashed and entirely robbed of all merchandise. Quality citizens. Obviously, winning a championship is a good time to do a little rioting and lifting. A further walk towards La Rambla revealed missing or torn down lamp posts, traffic signals, park benches, crosswalk signs, newsstand signs, etc, etc, etc. The streets were filled with beer and urine and vomit and broken glass and garbage and everything. There were still cops hanging around to disperse anybody who wanted to form a crowd. It seems disgraceful that these people treat their own city this way.

I am ready to come home. 48 more hours. Many people to see. Dinners and beaches and packing. I will soon get to do it all over again in a week, but next time in Rochester. I knew it was coming, I knew it would be like this, but I was willing to accept the consequences and here I am now, forced to go through with them.

Day of Coincodence

Today was interesting. It is a shame that this is actually my first post about Barcelona, but so it goes. I create a blog to document my happenings here, and of course what doesn't happen is exactly that. Since I have given you no previous Barcelona background, you will have to learn about my time here from context. If anything, it will certainly not be repetitive from something you have read before.

Everything started out pretty normal. I went to Spanish class and had an exam. Wait, I guess that really isn't normal at all, because I've never had an exam in Spanish until now. How many weeks I have gone without having any clue as to how well I was doing or seeing if I have made progress. Even then what I tell is a lie. It was a practice exam, one week before the actual thing. I did fine, a 78. Apparently "the ideal", according to the professor, is a 60. This means I am set to pass with flying colors. Wonderful.

After class, my Japanese friend, Sumiko, and I decided to go out to lunch together. My friend Sara, who is also a vegetarian, had recommended me an all-you-can-eat "Japanese" restaurant close to the university. We had been to a similar restaurant that we liked, but was somewhat far away. I gave Sara a call, found out where it was, and off we went to look for it. After finally figuring out where we were and what street it was on, standing in line to get in, we were greeted by a rather unhappy man. I told him I was vegetarian, and asked if there was anything for me to eat on the all-you-can-eat merry-go-round of food. Not really, he said. I asked if there was something on the menu I could order then, and he said yes, so we sat down. Lies. There was nothing on the menu I could eat, and he knew it. So we left and found a nice Arab restaurant with service that didn't suck.

Somehow, we got to talking about blogs, diaries, journals, etc. This blog came up, and she mentioned how I don't have a single thing written in it about Barcelona. It was true, and I and many others knew it. Perhaps that is why I'm writing this now, or maybe it is because I have to write a journal entry for my photography course and I don't want to write this twice. Something that sparked my attention about what she had said about her own Diary is that she writes about her roommates in it, but in Japanese. It is certainly encrypted from them, should they want to read it. Its not that she writes bad things, but it is certainly personal, and she certainly wants her thoughts to be hidden which is completely respectable. We all have things to hide, and that is OK.

Why this was so interesting is how it was so relevant to my photography project. When I initially came to Barcelona, I was amazed at how much effort people put into locking up bicycles, stores, restaurants, motorcycles, and homes. It is not just paranoia, it is necessary. Sometimes it does seem overboard. Is it really necessary to chain and lock your trees to your storefront? It makes you wonder if they didn't if somebody would actually come and steal the plants.

These photos of locks evolved to photos of barricades, walls, fences, and other ways to try to deter people from property they should not enter/see/disturb. The only problem with this is that people can only look at so many photos of locks and walls before they get really mind-drillingly bored. To make things interesting, I wanted to make the photos become more personal. I wanted to include how people choose to lock their things, and why. I wanted to show their paranoia and fear. I wanted to show how they not only lock their property, but also their personality and identity. This is a challenge, but I had some ideas. People hide their identities in wallets, and I don't just mean photo ID. They have business cards from clients, photos of children and lovers, entry passes to clubs, discos, gyms. Certainly almost everybody has a secret in their wallet. Certainly everybody has a secret in a drawer or filing cabinet or closet or under the bed or in the glove box. We all hide things and everybody knows it, but nobody seems interested enough to document it.

The diary, though, is something I hadn't considered. It should have been obvious, but it wasn't. People write some of their most intimate thoughts in a diary or journal, and they write them to not be shared with others. Sumiko said that sometimes she writes things that she doesn't think others will understand. People write things that they want to express, but don't want others to hear or judge. We write things in private to not hurt others. There are books containing the true identities of people which will never be shared, and will always be hidden. It is really amazing, and it needed to be shown in my photographs. Sumiko agreed to participate, and later, after lunch, we did a quick shoot with her writing in a planner. Not her diary, but a book which still contains information that she doesn't want people to see. Often times she looks through it, blocking others from viewing it by holding the pages close together. That was how we shot her writing, and that is how I will remember her and her book.

Sumiko Book

After that, I headed off to the photo lab to check out some photos that I had recently developed. When I got off of the metro at the stop, a man who was entering the train as I was leaving carried in his hand a newspaper, which, on the back side had a portrait of Picasso by Irving Penn which I had written an entire paper about for my Photo course. The odds of seeing that photo on my way to the photo lab seemed so small, that I smiled and wanted to strike up a conversation with the man. Too bad he was on the train, and I was not. I did catch a glimpse of which paper it was, El País. I would buy it later.

Inside of the store, while waiting in line, suddenly somebody grabs me by the waist and really startles me. It was my Bulgarian friend, Iana, who was also there to get some of her photos for class. Neither of us knew that the other would be there, it was purely coincidence. We sat and analyzed some of our photos, picking out the ones that we liked and disliked and gave each other some advice. She left earlier than I, and I stayed around to order some prints, which again I had to wait in line for.

At this point, everybody had gotten off of work, so the store was a bit more busy than when I had gotten there. The line was kind of long, with about 10 people waiting in it. I sat patiently, and noticed that the girl waiting in line behind me looked very similar to Audrey Tautou from Amelie. Turning to look at her, my mouth must have dropped to the floor when I noticed that over her bright red shirt she was wearing a bicycle lock around her neck, sporting it like a fashion item. It was perfect, and I asked her if I could take her picture. She had no problem with it, but seemed so amazingly uninterested in the whole ordeal that it was almost disappointing. She did ask if she could see my work, but said nothing. I'm not entirely sure, but it seemed that Spanish was not her native language either. Now, I have several photos of a girl wearing a bicycle lock in a photo lab while looking at my photos of bicycle locks. I can't wait to see how they turn out. Perhaps one will go in my final project.

Necklock
Later in the night, I was to meet Sumiko at a metro stop so that we could go to a restaurant for a surprise dinner party for her roommate, as she is getting married and moving out the same day that I leave for the US. As I was waiting, she called me rather distressed, and said that she had to tell her roommate everything because they couldn't convince her to go to dinner, that the dinner was no longer a surprise. More interestingly, it is my understanding they had also discussed many of the things with her roommates that she had confided to her diary, but had never talked to them about openly. It seemed to be a pretty emotional event, and everything worked out quite well in the end. The dinner was wonderful, and her roommate had a great time even though she didn't initially want to go out.

Midway through our time at the restaurant, I noticed that the person sitting back-to-back with Sumiko's roommate looked a lot like my friend, Jose-Alberto. It was impossible to tell if it was him though, since I couldn't see his face, only the back of his head. Anyways, the odds of him being there as well seemed so low considering the huge number of restaurants in Barcelona, the somewhat strange location, and large populace of the city. Sure enough, once he got up and his face was visible, I confirmed that it was him and went chasing after him to say hello. Apparently he was there with his co-workers. Neither of us could believe it. It was the second time we had randomly bumped into each other in Barcelona.

After dining, we went out in search of somewhere to go have fun. We must have walked an hour and a half, and finally ended up at the front of a discoteca. However, after walking for so long we were all so tired that none of us really wanted to dance, and we decided to go to a bar. It was ironic, though, because if we had decided to just go to a bar from the beginning we could have walked ten minutes instead of over an hour. I could not find a good way to translate Catch-22.

The night ended with us waiting in Plaça Universitat for the #2 Night Bus. We waited, and waited. Other numbers came, and came again, and then again, but the #2 never did. We saw two busses marked "Especial" (Special) go by, and figured that somehow, somewhere along the route, something was turning these #2 busses into Special busses that wouldn't stop. I didn't need the bus, but Sumiko and her flatmates did. I finally gave up after over 45 minutes of waiting and told them I was going home, and did, and slept in my comfy foam twin bed and it was a wonderful way to end such an interesting day.

Año Nuevo

So this is the new year, and it might be the first one where I actually feel different. This change is not just a tick of a clock and the rolling of the year’s least-significant digit. This year actually marks yet another new era in my life. William wrote about era shifts in his own live-journal, something that was heavily based on a thread of e-mails that he, Derek, Matt and I had shared.

2001 was the mark of graduating from High School and moving on to a new city, a new school, new life, new friends. 2001 was the mark of an era shift, and a good one at that.

2006 marks yet another new era. In 4 days, I will be leaving the country for a fairly extended period of time. I had a feeling that this wouldn’t make itself entirely apparent to my conciousness until after new-years-eve, and I was right. It hit me fast and hard. Out with the old, in with the new. Gone with the home-country and friends, in with the unknown and foreign.
5 months from now, I will be back here. By “here”, I don’t mean here where I sit (Ohio), but here in Rochester. However, it will not be back to the regular Rochester routine. I will not be taking any more classes of Computer Engineering. I will not be starting yet another co-op at Harris. I will not be sitting at Java’s attending weekly Spanish Hours. Instead, I will have yet another large era shift – graduation. This period should get its own year. Let’s call it 2006.5

Shortly thereafter will come yet another whirlwind to my life. Moving to Texas will be something exciting, interesting, and yet sad. I’ve spent so much time developing lives in Ohio and Rochester, and will have spent a relatively shorter but intense amount of time doing the same in Spain. All of that effort will hopefully prove itself worthwhile. My close friends will filter themselves out from the aquaintances. This is a natural progression, and I expect that I will be able to handle it, though it will be difficult.

If anything is comforting, it is that Austin may mark the first time in my life where I could see myself actually settling. It is early to tell, of course, since I’ve not even lived there yet. However, from a purely logistical standpoint, I’ll have completed high-school, my undergraduate studies, and done my long-desired study abroad. There really isn’t anything requiring a relocation from Austin, so long as things go smoothly with AMD (and I expect they will). It is somewhat relieving to finally see that option of settling down somewhere. Who knows, though. Maybe I never will. Maybe I’m a nomad at heart.

Whatever the far future holds, 2006 will be a year who’s face will stand out above the crowd. It is a year I look forward to and dread simultaneously. It is a year which I will look back upon and relive the moments which I have yet to sculpt from the material we call time.

Pittsburgh [again]

After waking up at 1:00pm in Columbus and having a wonderful breakfast (lunch), Matt, Katie, William and I spent some time just hanging out. We watched a movie, called Saved! which was pretty entertaining. It features some great one-liners like, “No, I’m not OK, I just ran my van into Jesus!”.

We also played Trivial Persuit. Matt and Katie beat William and I pretty well. It turns out that we’re all pretty good with the brown (science) questions. I think Matt’s largest advantage is that he is the only one of the three of us that knows anything about sports.

William and I headed back for Pittsburgh around 8pm, 2 hours behind planned departure. We consider this right on time.

I originally had planned on heading straight back home from here, but instead I’ll be spending the night (morning) at William’s yet again. While driving to Pittsburgh, I had the idea to contact Nate again to see if he wanted to hang out, since we weren’t able to before leaving for Columbus. We wanted to go to a coffee shop, but after William and I walked down to Walnut street, we found that it was closed earlier than we had anticipated. So, we ended up catching a ride from Nate and going down to Mad Mex in Oakland. That was good. We caught up a bit, told some stories of Senior Design to William, and headed back to William’s apartment around 2am. Nate ended up leaving William’s around 3am… 2 hours later than he wanted to be out. This, of course, is right on time.

Now, again, it is nearly 4am. Someday, maybe, I’ll go to sleep before the sun is about to rise. Tomorrow I go back home, and I don’t expect to have any other major traveling. That is, of course, until I fly across the Atlantic in a couple of weeks. I expect to wake up around noon. I figure an hour to get out of here, 2 hour drive. I’ll probably be back home around 5pm… right on time.