Sunday, December 29, 2013

Notes from my 21st trip

Living a life that's a lie. I have no idea what that feels like.

Sometimes we should give into impulse, because maybe it's not emotional, maybe it's the one time something was brave enough to break thru, even if only for a short while.

It really doesn't matter what kind of work you do, just whatever you choose, take it seriously. Show it respect.

I'm wrong about people, all the time, but if I don't like you, for a prolonged period, there's a reason. And it's not personal, I'm not that petty, at the end of the day.

A photographer is responsible for catching those moment, and the entire time, you're trying to control the light. Think about that. A photographer is a master of light.

We write out own fate, and the entire storyline is dependent on how we treat other people along the way.

Usually the things that we feel uncomfortable doing, 

are the things we're most proud of.

I just love the fact that there is this slightly obese woman sitting across from me w/ a T-shirt w/ the words "New York City" embroidered in gold letters. 

Everyone in my life makes sense now. They were all part of the departure, wishing me a safe journey.

Fighting is a strange space to experience. It is a place where the ego does not exist.

If someone were to ask me what my relationship w/ Flora is like I would say that it is like we are constantly trading, and it is always fair.

H'rina, I would say that you're like my twin sister. Artemis and Apollo.

It was really an honor to meet Loïc Wacquant. I would say of all his accomplishments, he is a fighter at the heart of it all.

You know why I loved you Desireé? It's because you're one of the most honest people I know.

Temptation is a really pretty bridge to look at, but it should never be crossed.

Respect comes before love.

Regardless of whether or not I liked my Fulbright cohort, I respected them all.

A gentleman always redeems himself.

Dismantling a pen is much like dismantling a gun. Now I understand how people can be so obsessive w/ cleaning their rifle. It is an act of care, to clean something or someone, and you're caring for its life, because it has probably saved yours, in all sense of the phrase.

True storytelling happens when all motivation of the ego disappear. Now you begin the work, the act of telling a story.

I've been learning how to draw and sheath a sword of the past couple of months. It's strangely similar to wielding a pen.

I love my samurai sword class. It's the only place you can yell in Japanese while swinging a 2ft sword. That shit is great.

Don't ever fuck w/ a wolf. They're always in training.

I'm really excited for the person you become, Flora. I'm along for the ride as long as you let me stay on.

First you have to decide if you trust your coach. After that's settled, you do everything that person says, no questions.

Sometimes it's good to hear anew, a joke that you once received before.

You should go thru your past work, see the person you once were, and ask yourself if you are paying it the proper respects.

My return to Seattle feels more like a task than a trip. But I realize, it is a journey to give thanks, to all those who saved my life.

Confronting someone to their face w/ the truth is like moving a critical chess piece next to an enemy pawn. It's like you're saying to them, "I am so close to you, but you cannot do anything. I am not afraid of you."

Yo, I almost died in Brazil. Twice. In the same day. That's some crazy shit when I think about it. But it's like my boy George said, "It wasn't a good trip unless you almost died." 

If I lose Flora, I will become reckless w/ my life. I can feel it. At least w/ where I'm at with it, at the moment.

Rabble rousers, the ones that know how to deliver speeches, you gotta watch those ones closely.

A truly good show will lead you along the way logically, then flash a question in your mind that is: "Wait, what's going on now?"

Now I understand why some people in my life wanted me to stay, even if they never said it.

When you are on the receiving end of a benefit from something you know is unfair, it doesn't seem so unfair now, does it?

I am training all the time we are apart, Flora, preparing for the moments we share together.

Right or wrong, Mikey always got your back, like a true friend does.

The way I feel when I miss Flora can be summed up like this: It is like the longing a wolf has for the return of the moon.

I'm sorry Marcella, but "Another Earth" was a really shitty movie. I had to stop it in the middle, and I eat a lot of shit.

Of course I'd be covered in tattoos. I'm exactly like that type of guy.

It's funny how I go to my 15 yr old cousin, for writing advice.

It's the humanity, that you're trying to touch. That is all art is about.

When you are writing a story about someone, they become part of your life.

It is when a man falls in the arms of his woman, because that is the safest place in the world.

I've tried temptation before. It doesn't taste all that good.

It's when the old man picks himself up from the nap and says to his legs, "C'mon motherfuckers, you still got some life to spend." 

You are a really classy white woman, Desireé. The exact opposite of what I am, at least image wise. Maybe it wasn't meant to be forever, but I did need to know what it was like to love someone like that.

I think Flora expected something like "Eagle" or Falcon" when she asked of my favorite bird. I'll never forget the look on her face when I said, "Pigeon".

Now I understand why I always choose to fight as the tough warrior girl in those arcade games. It's that type of person I'm looking to marry.

Sometimes you're caught between two separate set of rules, and it's then you don't know the difference between right and wrong.

Sandra, you're willing to trade blows w/ me. I respect that.

Thank you, Flora, for protecting my feelings.

That's the thing about people who don't understand serious, loving relationships. It isn't that your days of adventuring are over, on the contrary: you are about to go on the greatest adventure of your life.

When Desireé told me she loved me, I told her that I was moving to Brazil. I don't think I could have chosen a worse moment.

People come and go throughout your life. It's the ones you hold onto, that matter.

Teachers who know they want to be teachers, not because everything else was "too hard", are my heroes. They have assumed the responsibility of the hardest job in the world.

Forgive me at times, Flora. I am still very much a child.

Think it's about time I accept my parent's Facebook friend request.

It is apparent to me that you have arrive to that unfortunate place where you value people as assets to your company, rather than human beings. I feel very, very sorry for you.

Flora isn't scared of many things. I like that about her.

This is going to sound bad, but I really started writing by trying to pick up girls in AOL Chatrooms. A/S/L?

You know the difference between me + you? I know what the devil looks like. You? You're still a coward. 

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Lunch with Michel

It’s been a while since I’ve written about my ongoing relationship with my sparring partner, Michel, but for the most part, nothing much has changed. He’s still training at Fight for Peace, still winning tournaments (mostly by knockout), still on that very long journey to becoming a fighter. Since I last wrote, he was pretty much beating me up every time we met, and while that for the most part remains true, we now contest on more even grounds, or at the very least, I’m able to go a full 3-4 rounds during a sparring session and stay on my feet. But a few weeks ago we met under calmer circumstances, a time where two people get together and share another aspect of life as friends. It all started when I asked if I could see where he lives.

To recap, Michel is from Cameron, and in all senses of the expression, dropped everything to come to Brazil to pursue a boxing career. I remember when I asked Luke about Michel’s story, he kinda chuckled and said, “I dunno, that guy just fucking showed up one day and never left.” 

Michel lives in Jardim America, a neighborhood about 30-mins north of the gym, and while it is still in Zona Norte, it is not a favela, which means it escapes many of the complications that the drug trade brings to Brazilian shantytowns. We catch a bus at the entrance of Passerla 9, outside the supermarket where I usually get off to go into work. On the bus I go through the basic conversational motions that I have with fighters: When’s your next fight? How’s your weight? Do you have any injuries?  Once the pugilistic pleasantries are over, we stand and watch the street pass through the windows in silence. To break it, I ask a general question about his life.

He goes right into his relationship with Mara, another fighter at Fight for Peace who trains between boxing and Muay-Thai kickboxing. One time I remember watching him show her a proper left hook on the punching bag, and the amount of care laced onto his face has never left my mind.

He told me that they had broken up in the recent days. According to him it’s because he has no money, but when he explains the specifics, to me, it’s more that she wants to live a life typical to a 23 year old, one that allows the occasional drink with friends, nights out dancing, things that boxers are generally restricted from. At the same time, I see Michel’s point. Many of these things are financial challenges, especially for a someone who came to a new country with absolutely nothing and is living in a place that has virtually no industry for boxing. And though they both compete in combat sports, Mara sees it as more of a phase in her life, or at the very least, she isn’t as sure about it as a career as Michel is. Given the lack of demand for boxing in Brazil, and even greater lack of women fighters, one can’t really blame her. 

But for Michel this is his life, the one chance he took to pursue a dream ever since that first moment his father told him fables about Mike Tyson, and that thought of becoming a boxer entered his consciousness. In some ways, he knew what he was signing up for, perhaps not the exact specifics of the job, but this was just one part of the sacrifice.

“I don’t mind being hit by punches,” he tells me on the bus, “but when your heart hurts, that’s a different pain.” He eeks a grim smirk and clenches his chest in dramatic fashion. 

I try to tell him that I’ve lost nearly every romantic relationship I’ve ever had for the sport of boxing, not in the sense of pursuing a career as a boxer, but to be here, doing this project, yeah. I’ve lost a few. 

But I tell him that one day someone will appear and they’ll understand his life, and their life will somehow be going in a compatible direction. As long as you keep on the path of being a good person, I tell him, fate will take care of you. I realize that part of me is just saying that to convince myself. 

There is a glimpse of hope in his eyes when he looks at me, but at this point my words don’t do much good. They don’t fix the situation all that much, just maybe carry him on a bit further through the next step. He glances down at the floor to think about my words and probably about his life. When his eyes return to mine, he finally says, “Being a fighter, is hard.” 

I nod in return.

We finally arrive to our stop outside of large green and yellow building with the word “Coco Verde” painted in red letters. It looks like some kind of large manufacturing warehouse.

“This is where I live,” he tells me. 

“Here?!” I respond. 

“Yes, here,” he repeats.

“Wait. Here?!” I say again.

“Coco Verde” is a factory that makes decorative landscaping pieces from the left-overs of coconuts, things like flower pots and lawn ornaments, and Michel lives here. We enter the building and there are huge piles of brown boxes stacked throughout the factory. I have no idea what’s in those boxes, but they’re maybe large enough to hold kitchen appliances or living-room furniture. Michel leads be into the back and opens a flimsy aluminum door to a basic room tiled with linoleum. I take off my shoes at the entrance and pass a small bathroom into the main room where a long dark-brown table sits covered with his belongings. Shoe boxes, clothes, title belts and magazines are spread across the dark oak. A rocking chair, and a small 12-inch television finish off the living room and behind it is a kitchen equipped with a refrigerator, standard sink and a microwave. Michel digs into the fridge and pulls out a banana, then asks if I’d like one. I politely decline. When I ask him where he sleeps, he pulls out a twin mattress from being the refrigerator, drags it out into the living room, and plops it down on the floor. 

“Home,” he smiles and sits back onto his rocking chair. 

Michel doesn’t pay any rent, the owner of this “Coco Verde” happens to be a fan of boxing and on a chance encounter met Michel and told him he had a spare room at his factory. Additionally, he pays Michel $R300 a month for boxing lessons. With the income he earns from Fight for Peace, that puts him at about $R1000 a month, a little less than $500 USD. A tight budget for someone living in Rio, even in the North Zone.

To help further curb the costs, the owner, a French transplant originally from Algeria, also gives Michel one free meal a day, but on a day such as this when he is with guest, he calls to let him know that he won’t be eating at the main office. We go to the local pay-per-kilo restaurant across the street instead. 

The prices there are better than that in most parts of the city, about $R6 for as much as you can pile onto one plate. I gather a healthy serving of vegetables, pasta and beans, Michel taking far less due to making weight for his next fight. Our conversation during lunch is pretty basic. I ask him about his future plans in boxing and in Brazil. He tells me he’s going to train here for another 2 years in the amateurs, than maybe relocate to where professional boxing has more of a demand. I asked him why out of all the gyms in Rio, he chose Fight for Peace when it is located in one of more dangerous areas of the city. He told me that it was the best in the city, that they win all the tournaments. I ask Michel if he’s beaten everyone in his weight class. He smiles and nods, “Almost.” At a record of 49 wins to only 7 losses, it doesn’t surprise me.  

We get up to pay for our meal and I’m fully prepared to treat Michel for showing me a bit of his life. I pull out my wallet and unroll a multicolored fan of Brazilian currency, but before I can do anything, I see Michel pulling out his own. A lone $R20 bill sits in the pocket and he hands it over to the cashier. With his hand he makes a peace sign, signaling for two. I stand uneasily and do this nervous gulp, trying to explain to Michel that I’d gladly pay for him, or at the very least, pay for my own meal. Michel simply looks at me and smiles.

“Ah Nick, but you are a guest in my neighborhood," he says, "I must pay for you. It is custom.” 

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Notes from my 20th trip (ya-da)

You know why I love you, Flora? It's because you make me understand every single part of the word, "Adventure".

It's when you connect w/ the beast of a person, do the lies disappear.

The U.S. is like this really strange robot. Brazil is more like a human being. 

A second grade classroom is probably one of the most fascinating places on earth.

Rachel, sometimes I wonder what goes thru your head.

Sitting spots in parks, just think about how many ideas passed thru there.

Flora's pretty much the One. Mostly because she's the only one I've met so far that I think could put up w/ all my crazy bullshit.

My poor plants. But at the same time, they should know that only fighters survive where I live. 

Pretty much any time I acted like an arrogant prick, it's wound up biting me in the ass. It feels like I kicked myself in the face.

Barmen/women probably hear some of the most fucked up stories.

I'm the kind of person who is disgusted w/ people who have no manners.

If you really love someone, you have to especially love who they are when you are not in their lives.

A true warrior will mourn every life they have ever taken, and at the end of theirs, they will only look for a kind death, just as they were to so many others.

I'll pretty much fuck up anyone that tries to get at Flora. I think she'd be cool w/ it, at least she told me that she would have shot an arrow in the head of a girl that once looked my way, only she didn't have a bow.

Boxers sacrifice their bodies in an attempt to write history.

People who know like EVERYTHING about consumer electronics must live a ridiculous existence.

I'm a writer. I should fucking write more, but I'm too busy watching Japanese anime.

So all the stereotypes Brazilians have about Asian people, yeah. I've pretty much lived up to nearly all of them.

If people met my girlfriend, they'd like her. She's dope as fuck.

Randy Ai, you are one of the craziest fucks I've ever met.

I know too much technology is a bad thing, but when I think about how many friendships Facebook have saved, it's not so bad.

We all have a higher form of ourselves. Sometimes it pains me when I see people in the midst of that battle of finding it.

What if I turned out to be hella RACIST? That would probably surprise some people.

Brazil is like a different planet, and I don't mean that in a first-world privileged alienating sort of way, but seriously. This place is fucking nuts. 
(I think I found home).

This is our sole purpose on this earth, to help other people. When you see someone hurt, on the ground, you help pick them up, you don't step on them and rifle through their pockets. How you react in moments like this, defines who you are as a human being.

Fuck. That's what my book is really about. It's a story of a boy trying to learn how to be a man.

It's really humorous to me now, when people find corny-ass jokes actually funny.

Learning how to lose is really a part of growing up.

That's what being in a relationship is all about. You have a duty to protect their feelings.

When I stop to think about is, Flora is a really strange person.

When you think you're about to take this massively epic shit and it turns out mostly to be gas, that's always a bit disappointing.

Follow the footsteps of those who came before you, because at the end of the day, we're not that fucking original. 

Getting drunk + fucked up w/ your tattoo artist, then getting a tattoo, that is a delicacy only few are brave enough to venture. 

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

A speech I wish I would have given

In September of 2012, I traveled to Brasilia to attend the Fulbright Enhancement Seminar where I presented and learned of the research of the 2012 Brazil Fulbright Scholars. On the final evening of our reunion, we sat around a dinner table and gave final words of farewell to our cohort. I came up speechless at the time, perhaps too overwhelmed with the experience thus far, but it is with the recent departure of many of the fellows that I find these words now, and would like to share them.

I once asked a professor the difference between going to law school and going to grad school. He said that law school is learning how to fight for the truth, and grad school was learning how to shine light on that truth. While I might argue that learning to shine that light can be a fight in itself, I guess the take away is that one is not more valid than the other, rather that they are just compliments to the same goal.

I think, rather ironically, that this Fulbright experience has shown me that I am not an academic, not necessarily because I don’t want to be, but because I’m not built for it. I guess I don’t have the patience or the ability to produce and comb through copious amounts of research, but contrary to my former opinions, I now see the validity in the products of academic research, and that your fight, is indeed to battle through all the moments of personal uncertainty to find something real, because that is what you all are essentially doing: creating some semblance of truth in this world. 

One person who has been a prevalent figure in my Fulbright journey is the Brazilian photographer Sebastião Salgado. Once an esteemed economist, Salgado picked up a camera at the age of 26, and three years later decided he was able to communicate the messages he found in economics more effectively through photography than academics, at least for him. But I read once an interview with Salgado that made me finally understand why even though in most likelihood I will never become a full-time social scientist, the field of sociology has been so apparent throughout my life. He said that every photographer needs tools to their craft, and those tools are sociology, anthropology, psychology and economics, that those tools are what inform his photography and in essence what makes his images so captivating. I realize now, as a writer and photographer, that these fields are tools to me as well, but I cannot produce them. 

I leave that task to you, the future producers of knowledge, if that is indeed the path you have chosen. I know this may seem elementary, but I now see why these rigid rules of research and methodology are ingrained into the practice. They are there to ensure this truth. And I guess what I want to say is that that is how I view all of you now, as guardians of the truth, and I ask you, to protect that truth, because there are those of us whose lives depend on it.

This is the last time I will see some of you in the flesh. This is not meant to be a dramatic statement, but no, really, think about it, when do you think there will be another time where we will all be together in the same place at the same time? Given how life plays itself out and the inevitable emergence of new friendships and responsibilities, the odds are likely never. Think about that the next time you are with someone that you might never see again. After that final goodbye, they will no longer exist as a main character in your life, but only as a faint memory in the course of your continued existence. 

So with this as our last meeting and most immediate bond with one another, I want to say this to you in closing: It has been a honor, a privilege and most importantly, a pleasure, to have shared this year with all of you. Knowing there was another person perhaps experiencing a similar experience at a similar time in a similar place, made the journey easier when it wasn’t. So thank you for your work, your support, and your strength. I’ll carry all of those with me, in my own fight for the truth. 


Sunday, November 17, 2013

Notes from my 19th trip

It's really fucking stupid, like really fucking ridiculous, that a thing, like a police operation, a fucking shootout, is what keeps me from seeing the kids in Maré. Give me any other reason and I can take that: they don't like me, I'm not a good volunteer, fine. I'll take that. But a violence birthed out of the greed of the powerful, that I cannot accept. 

              Death will reveal what really matters in life.

To the Writers: treat your words as if they were arrows you crafted under the guidance of the moonlight. Send them out w/ intention and care, and they will not miss their mark.

Being called "a boring person" is a much greater insult than most realize.

We seal our commitments in fine sheaths of words, we must grow aware of these sheathes.

'A dying wish.' I understand that phrase much more completely tonight.

This reality is still mine

I am merely a composite of the broken dreams of friends that have fallen before me, and I am here, to claim what is theirs. 

There is not much evil can do, against a man who is in love.

No matter how far we go, Flora, there are still things I am afraid to tell you, in fear that they will scare you off. There is something about you that terrifies me, and I am not one to scare easily. 

You met me at an interesting time of my life, Marcella. Would you believe that I left part of myself the day we met? Keep it. It is yours to have.

Jonathan, I don't know if you believe in formalities or any of that business, but you've been one of my greatest teachers. A fuckin' genius.

Sometimes I think about the way I am dressed when walking down the street. I must look like a fucking maniac to some people.

It's funny how in the most serious of monologues I have in my head, I can still manage to fit in the word 'horse-padoddle' in the delivery.

        It's strange for me to lie now. It's like eating rotten fruit.

I know we don't see each other that often, Flora, but even just walking w/ you a street, or a surprise peck on the cheek, just the memory of it, save me, more than you might know. I hope you know that every moment is divine to me. A true gift from the heavens.

It's cute because as intense as we both are individuals, we still manage to surprise one another from time to time.

It would be easy to say that I hate Seattle, that I am unhappy there, but the truth is, I'm not. I actually love it quite a bit, which makes parting w/ it all the more difficult.

We need to find the humor in the personal conflicts we have w/ others. Oh yes, it's definitely there.

Sometimes I want to try on your head for a day, Desireé, just feel what you endure on a daily basis. I honestly don't think I could handle it. 

When I think of my friends I usually laugh and give a slight shake of the head at the memory of their inappropriateness. That is a mark that I have chosen well.

Money just distances us from the most uncomfortable component to our survival: human interaction.

Sometimes I see just how this is a psychopathic cycle of good + evil, that every new cause that emerges is like the only one that ever existed in the history of the world. But it is a bump, a mere sentence in this never-ending fairytale of heroes  + villains. Is there really not escape, from this sick sideshow?

If you're friends w/ me, and you know you really are my friend, you're a little bit crazy, too. That's why I like you.

Being a writer is being lucky enough to clasp onto the tail-end of a vanishing fantasy...and putting that into words.

I can tell that my fighting days are soon becoming a thing of the past, but I see now why I worked so hard in those days. And they're paying off.

Being in love doesn't mean you sit around thinking about the person all day. Being in love is a responsibility, in the other case you just need to find a hobby.

You know how Pornstars are aware that millions around the world experience orgasm to their image? I wonder if they find that complimentary or just really, really sad.

When I think about how much time I spend in my apartment, I really am just a fucking kid, allowed to live in his world.

Snake charmers are interesting people. I bet they would make for fantastic conversation over a cup of tea.

It's that part of you that says, "No. This is not how my story ends." 

When I think about it, artists are unlike so much of the public. It doesn't surprise me when people just don't 'get' their artform

I guess that is why death is so tragic and how it is sad that we've grown into a world that throws life away so carelessly. People are meant to teach us, through their entirety. And if they leave this world, this life, the lessons are much harder to learn.

When I say that I am a boxer, like I punch people in the face and get punched in the face. That must sound absurd to some people.

If all you get form me is that you are entertained. That is enough for me.

If you've upset me, you've managed to sneak into my consciousness. Take it as a win.

Not knowing what to do w/ a full, sunny day, is a blessing we are no longer afforded to in old age.

I see why they say, "Respect your elders". They know places we were too afraid to enter.

It's funny that the word for "puzzle" in Portuguese, literally translates to breaking your head open. Sometimes Brazilians just get straight to the point. 

What a beautiful mess I am. 

Jean Claude Van Damme doing splits between two moving semi-trucks is one of the funniest things I've seen in my life. Come to think of it, his name is funny: Van Damme. He has to know what's up. 

To be where I am now, to come this far, is a fucking miracle. I owe it all to people

I'm like this guy, who really, REALLY believe some magnificent war is coming, but in reality will never happen. It's like I'm training for nothing. It's funny when I think about it.

I seem to remember, quite often, the moment, where my friends, who I view as so strong, stumble in a moment of disbelief in themselves. That continues to be one of the few things that break my heart.

My diet here is ridiculous. I pretty much live off of juicing fruits and vegetables, then fry the pulp in coconut oil and eat that. That is literally what I've been eating for like the past month.

            A good laugh is a band-aid to protect us from the real wounds.

Flora's really nice. She pretends to like my cooking.

Everything she says, I have that confidence in her that I can trust that is what she really feels.

I would really appreciate it if no one says, "it makes me want to read more, what this that and that?" It's clearly an excerpt so spare me the obvious. I'd rather have your silence. It says a lot more.

I can see what she is offering in her eyes. I wonder, is that what I am afraid of? And if I run, will she come after me? 

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Being in love in Brazil

If I had to describe the experience of being in love in Brazil, I'd sum it up in one word: humbling. It's not so much the place that dictates the nature of the relationship, more like it just happens to be the setting in which I've encountered another person to completely change my conception of life while being in love. But truth be told, this narrative could happen any place in the world, just as long as the elements of fate are aligned correctly.

To recap my situation first arriving to the country, I had just gotten out of a relationship that taught me humbling lessons about love, that the highest form of love is indeed friendship, and that sometimes people hurt you not out of ill-intentions, but out of circumstance. It was quite possibly one of the truest relationships I've ever had the privilege of living, only that I had failed to grasp the reality of what 9 months in Brazil would do to our respective life stages, and the painstakingly obvious fact that in the end, I was the one that left. I was the one who ended the weekends out to the movies, the mid-week phone conversations of where are dreams were headed, the ten-minute morning embrace in bed before she went to work. It was me who ended all of that, not her.

I remember discussing the possibility of a long-distance relationship in which she merely responded, "I think staying together will prevent you from living your life fully over there." While I protested profusely with a stubborn posture, assuring her I was well aware of how to absorb my experience abroad, in the end she was right. And all that I've felt and experienced here so far, I owe to her, for letting me go.

I find myself in a similar situation now, though with less dramatic consequences, and an opportunity to actually make it work. Perhaps it is a mistake to be writing this publicly (the included parties will more than likely be reading this at some point), but the experience thus far has been challenging, at times downright confusing. I will say the person I've met is unlike any force I've encountered before, one that is seemingly my perfect compliment and counterpart. We have similar visions of the world, indulge in the same life pleasantries, just that she sees things in people that my anger often blind me to; that the way someone is, even at their worst, is merely a momentary snapshot of their entirety, and if I am to adhere to what I've come to learn in all my travels, then it is that the core essence of people is that they are good. I guess if I am to write my feelings about her succinctly, it is that she makes me want to be a kinder person to the world.

But to be completely honest, I am not without my doubts. I guess you could attribute this to a cultural particularity or just a difference of personality, but I am often left wondering where she is, sometimes literally  where she is, and sometimes in the relationship in general. But the truth is, nobody ever knows where they are headed in life, and that trajectory could change at the drop of dime, so in some ways it is pointless to worry about a future that has no certainty of happening, and the best I can do is to live the present moment as fully as I can. But these temporary lulls of silence has also revealed some deep-seeded insecurities rooted inside of me. Why do I need to hear from her all the time? Why am I in such a desperate need of this constant affirmation that I am loved?

I guess I've learned to accept that the nature of our relationship just isn't meant to be one where we are around each other a lot of the time, but that doesn't diminish the importance of when we are together, in fact it probably enhances it. I've found that in my own pursuits, I too have little time for love, and those few precious moments that I do share with her, they are moments of healing, of rejuvenation to my soul. And I'd like to think that maybe, I'm the same for her. When we see each other now, we sometimes spend hours in a silent embrace, and I am absorbing every morsel of a cure that gives me strength to face the battlefield of life.

I suppose the thing I worry about most is that I have no idea where this is headed, and I sit constantly in the shadow of fear that one day she will leave me, that life will call her upon a path where I am not included in the cast, something that I have done to so many people in the course of my own life. I guess the best that I can do is hope that our paths are headed in the same unknown direction, and to prepare - to train - as hard as I can, that if one day she finds a calling to run ahead without me, I will find the courage to let her go; because someone once did that for me in the past, and it was truly an act of love.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Notes from my 18th trip

             Politics basically fuck everything up.

Sometimes the best gift you can give someone is to be happy for them.

There is something so strong about her light that my dark side is afraid to even show its face around her.

All I can do is hope, that our paths are destined to go in the same direction.

You're the type of person that I'd be willing to do something a second time, just cuz your presence would bring a completely new experience.

With love, I feel like I am constantly resetting new contracts to abide by, new guidelines to follow, but then a sniper element comes in, and just destroys any sense of predictability. 

Saying you would be a certain way given a certain situation, and actually being that person in that situation is the line that separates heroes and cowards.

              My arch nemesis, I see now, is cowardice in all forms.

Younger people are meant to fuck up every once in a while.

I think the goal is to leave pieces of myself in as many places around the world before I dispose of this physical being.

Boredom, fatigue, hunger, sunshine, they are all just demons in disguise.

I'm amazed at how in the most dire of situations, I can somehow still mange to be such a sarcastic asshole.

Betrayal is just a type of wound to endure.

It's like, take a moment to step back and take a collective look at the entirety of your life. Do you like the picture?

What I am afraid of is while I think she is the last piece of my puzzle, I may just be one along the way to finishing hers. But I guess the beauty in always leaving that vacant space is that the game never ends.

Sometimes I feel as if my purpose in life is to transmit people's hate through my body. A place for people to throw their disdain for the world, because that shit is hazardous.

Think about the people who have to deal w/ other people's shit, like literally their shit, their biological waste. Those people should be given more regard in society and not treated like something that they handle on a daily basis. That shit is a blessing, not having to think about our shit.

             I have to be the same refuge for her as she is for me.

God, what a pain in the ass I must have been for my parents.

To say boxers are violent w/ a sense of judgment, is saying you are not. And if that is the case, you are denying a part of your humanity.

Your greatest strength and greatest weakness often reside in the same place, sometimes the same person.

I'm certainly not the most talented fighter or the best, but you'll really have to fucking fight to get that win over me.

I once said that 2011 was all about being the runner-up, 2012 was all about winning and 2013 was all about building. That for the most part has remained true, only that, I've come to find what I'm building is completely different from what I first intended. 

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Notes from my 17th trip

Being in Brazil has been a constant process of having my ass kicked and getting back up.

            Hunter's Moon

I thought I had my life figured out and then the full moon happened.

Let's get this George.

You know you've reached a certain point in life when you can say that you dislike someone and not have to explain why.

                      At the end of the day, I'll cut down anyone if I have to.

I am much weaker than I appear. But are any of you brave enough to tell me so? Think about that.

The moment you tell someone about your good deeds w/ the intention of receiving praise, they become worthless.

        I am looking for a home. Can't you see that?

                                            Love can beat out any differences.

You were brave to stay with me Desireé

It's me, isn't it? It's me that keeps leaving.

The thirst for the fear of others only feeds your cowardice.

Maybe they purposely make the paths to enlightenment illegal and perceivably dangerous. Maybe they're not blanket assumptionists or morally entitled. Maybe they just know.

My model does not come w/ a self-destruct feature.

Flora. I hope you surprise me wrong.

If you enter a place honest, they will usually take care of you.

           Don't send me out there, again. Not again.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Notes from my 16th trip

I have a fountain of thoughts wanting to come out; it's all just a matter of when I decide to turn the latch.

           True self-esteem is contra to corporate profits

I'm starting to understand those characters who never remarry if their partner passes. That kind of bond only happens once in a life, and the rest if kind of pointless after that. 

I find myself laughing more than being angry at personal tragedy nowadays. This is in some ways good; troublesome in others.

If you are reading this, take a moment to think about how you came to the ability to read, to pass through, to form an opinion and argue. Think about all the emotions in which our ability to communicate thru script has allowed. It is a beautiful thing, a true miracle.

How would you describe peace? I don't know, maybe like a flowing breeze that drifts thru your chest at just the right pace where all you can do is close your eyes and smile.

She told me she only had one remedy, a remedy called Love. She said you felt it in that space between your chest and your belly, a place I once wrote about in a poem. I asked her if it ever hurt, this remedy she spoke of, and she said at times, it did. But even then, it was still a remedy, and remedies are meant to cure you. 

                           How much do I really know about love? There are still so many doors that remain unopened. Perhaps she is brave enough to lead me thru them.

That search for meaning, that is a fight one should never stop fighting. 
Do not let the societal quicksand consume you.

    Many of us are foolish to think we are bigger than these systems.

She told me she loved me while I was telling her not to feel obligated to have the same feelings that I have for her.

If I am to die anytime in the near future, 
at least they will have one hell of a time going through my apartment.

I hate to say it, but if shit really gets bad and we all have to run to the forest, I'm only taking my strongest friends w/ me. Cuz dead weight is heavy.

When I sit and think about the things I've done so far in life, I only creak a small hint of a smile. Don't step to me on some ideological elitist bullshit, my mind's been fucked. You have no idea where it's already been. 

Monday, October 7, 2013

A Best Man's speech

James Chong is one of my oldest friends in life, and this past month, he finally tied the knot with his beloved. This is the speech I would have given at his wedding had I been able to make it. I don't know if he would have actually asked me to be the Best Man to give a Best Man's speech, but me being the egotistical bastard that I am, I wrote one anyways. Congratulations, brother.

Growing up, I always looked up to James, I mean how could you not? He had the baddest long-bang hairstyle at school, wore the coolest oversized yellow jackets, and I’m pretty sure one year he had a pair of JNCO jeans. I remember one time in middle school we both sat nervously in our chairs at the school talent show audition, trying to remember the lines to “Jinusean Bomb” before our turn was up. We ended up not going through with it, one of the biggest regrets of my life, but James redeemed himself throughout the rest of high school and college, and even now, is still living through his soul with music. So I always admired James for never letting that go, for his courage to display his passion in front of crowds, and every performance, every accomplishment I hear about, always brought a sense of pride in being his friend.

There were only two times when I didn’t look up to James. The first time was when Kevin Pana pushed him into a concrete wall at the Tyee basketball courts as he was chasing a stray ball during a game, and the impact ended up breaking both his arms. I remember meeting a friend later in life, Tiffany Hom, who went to the same Korean school as James. When I asked her if she knew him, she took a moment to think about it and finally said, “Oh yeah, I think he's that guy who sits by himself at lunch, trying to eat his food with two casts on his arms.” I don’t know which one was funnier: the image of someone trying to eat with two broken arms, or the fact that James had no friends to eat with.

The other time I was with James and our friend Jeff (we were still in middle school so Jeff was still our friend), and we were walking down Factoria Boulevard, probably on our way to the mall. I don’t remember what we were talking about exactly, but something suddenly exploded near our heads and I only remember seeing a goop of thick yellow and clear sludge splatter onto a tree next to us. Jeff and I checked ourselves clean, but James had a gooey mess dripping down the left side of his head. Turns out, we (or James really) were the victims of a drive-by egging. We walked into a nearby Taco Time, ranting with James about the absurdity of the situation, but once he went into the bathroom to clean himself off, Jeff and I burst out laughing, clutching each other’s shoulders to hold ourselves up from falling over. By the time James came back out we managed to put on our serious face and vowed empty threats of revenge. About 6 years later I ran into the culprit at Bally’s Total Fitness in Eastgate. Turns out it was one of my sister’s childhood friends. We all had a good laugh about that memory.

But aside from those two times, I’ve always had the upmost respect for James. I remember at 15, he was the first one out of all of our friends to get a job, hustling sandwiches at Quiznos while pursuing a rap career, and his sense of work ethic has always been the inspiration for me to pursue my own work. I’ve accomplished a few things over the course of my life, and I owe a lot of that to James, for instilling that sense of responsibility when I was young. 

I’ve known James now for over 10 years, drawing near towards two decades. We haven’t always been in the same place, but we've always been connected. I’ve watched him take courageous risks to follow his heart, and pick himself up with tremendous grace when on the ground; at least in my eyes, he's always managed to come out the victor regardless of the outcome. Now, I see him as a man, one with great potential and a bright future. One who has been there for his friends, and gives love and support to his family when needed. And today, he embarks on that journey to starting his own, and I have faith and confidence that he will succeed in that as well. 

So I toast to you, my brother, for your journey ahead, and know on this day, I look up to you once again.  

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Notes from my 15th trip

You know why I love her? Because she give life to everything. From the roots of a tree to the sketches on a tablecloth. Everything has meaning.

                                             I find it interesting that I can't imagine myself in old age. 
                            I find it even more interesting that I don't seem to be bothered by it. 

Sometimes I think about the people I'll never see again, and I miss them.

Sometimes hours upon hours of research will only result in one sentence. But that one sentence will carry wisdom.

I see now that many times we dislike someone simply because they are young. And it reminds us of how we once were.

It's funny, I remember really trying, like putting in sincere effort in learning how to imitate The Rock's eyebrow raise. And now I use it quite often.

          "We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors; we borrow it from our children."

Be careful around Peace; there is something very dark about him

               If I can't envision myself living a long life, it's because I won't.

                                                                    It's funny, we can't communicate but I understand you

Pushing the barriers

Keep playing those mind games.

Your anger echoes.

What if even she can't save me?

Boxing appears to those who are ready to mount their dark horses.

All of the boxers I've met on my journey, if they met me now, they'd be proud. 

Monday, September 30, 2013

Notes from my 14th trip (São Miguel)

If there is a war, you two will die first; not because you are too weak, but because you are too angry.

My solution to most conflicts nowadays is to buy the party which I offended chocolates and/or cookies. 

If you are afraid to approach me, please come by and say hello. God knows that I would appreciate a visitor every once in a while.

What happens when you meet your killer at the beginning of the story?

Don't you just sometimes wish you could go back + visit your adolescent self and relish in the fact that they wouldn't recognize you?

When you liberate your time for the space to be, to honestly be w/ infinity. That is one of the most precious gifts you can give yourself.

Question: what has it been like to be in love here in Brazil?

Answer: humbling.

All these boxing gyms, they were shelters of refuge, a place to rest my sword, as I went along the way.

When someone says they are afraid to do something, I'm actually quite impressed w/ how quickly they can recognize fear, and not confuse it for the many other masks it wears.

Marcella, we are guardians of each other's darkness. As friends, we bring a lot of light to the world, but as lovers, we would unleash a hellspawn onto this earth.

          We are each other's cures + poisons, Marcella.

All that 'free love' talk. Let's cut the bullshit. You're a coward.

cravings are a momentary emotion. They pass w/ patience + discipline. Hunger...well that's a different story.

The trust you have for Flora allows you the privilege of going on those solo journeys at night. Always be grateful for that.

                 I have absolutely no idea how other people view me. 
                 Hm. This could be a problem.

From now on my parents will have to say: "My son? Well, he lives in Brasil..."

Accepting shame + offense w/ grace. That is a code of a warrior.

Mom, I appreciate all the notes you send me thru email. Know that I read them all.

Akey, if you are reading this, I really, REALLY miss that big chocolate ass of yours.

James, congratulations on the wedding. Know that I still look up to you, brother.

We should be more conscious of the reality that some encounters we have w/ others, are the very last time we will ever see that person. They will cease to exist in your life, and you in theirs. Make that last impression count.

Out of all the Fulbrighters, I think Stuart, Duron and Rachel will be reoccurring themes in my life. Oh, and Cassia + Cecily of course. And Keane. Ah fuck it. All of em have a chance of coming back.

My blog is meant for the stragglers, the ones w/ souls as twisted as mine, trying to straighten them back out. It is meant for those w/ patience, because this becoming, of me, is taking a hell of a long time.

          I've soiled myself many more times than I care to remember.

I'm still very much a young wolf, still believing the fables that superheroes live forever.

All of you who trust me w/ your stories. Thank you. Know that I guard them w/ my life.

Gender politics should not make us forget about how we feel about another as a person.

       I forget half the shit that I'm supposed to write.

Oh yes. I've had my dance w/ the darkness. And its impression is Everlasting. 

For the writers: write from what feeds your soul. Always.

Parents. They start to make more sense as you learn more about life. 

The curves of this feather against my cheek. It fits perfectly, it fits like home. Thank you for watching my back, even in the times where I didn't notice, minha flecheira