Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Small Talk

About the weather...

Today I was sitting in a meeting and I gazed outside at the hot, humid, sunny day that never ends. The weather here makes for the perfect winters and hellish summers, and apparently, a great conversation starter. But everyone loves falling back on talking about the weather, no matter what the weather is like or where you live. I suppose it's somewhat more interesting because I am from the land of insane winters. The land of resilience. Earlier this year I would say, "It's 40 below at my parents house today." I would hear something like, "Oh, how do you survive those winters?"or, "I think 70 degrees is cold!" and I say something like, "We are a resilient kind."

But today in the meeting, looking out at this endless summer, I thought I saw a snowflake fall and it took me back to the student union. The building I was in resembled the west end of the student union near the piano where it was quiet and I would sit and catch up on homework or whatever it was I was doing...I imagined myself layering up in extra sweaters, wool scarves and a big coat, going outside and feeling snowflakes falling. Breathing the icy air. Walking home quickly as possible, starting bread dough and soup, then drinking inside with friends until the early hours of the morning.

I suppose I have lived with seasons my whole life, I never realized how valuable they are to the human psyche until now. Winter everyone hibernates and has time to reflect and be still, while summer was always the time for joy and life, when everyone is outside, so active, just thankful for every sunny day. Here, albeit beautiful, it's just another day in the sun. I haven't had time to reflect or be still. And because of it sunny days aren't so much associated with joy, but guilt. Sometimes I am just tired and I need to do laundry, but I just feel like I have to be at the beach! Or perhaps I just don't feel like doing anything at all, but I feel guilty because of the ingrained idea that summer will be over soon, the thought that I can't waste this gorgeous day, winter is coming.

I haven't truly felt winter since early 2012.

And now my first Florida summer is just beginning...

I suppose that if I had been in South Dakota this year, small talk would go something like this, "I just want to see the sun!" or "This is the worst winter we've seen in years..." and I would tell everyone to quit complaining, "Layer up and love it!"

In many cultures winter represents death, and spring follows as a time of rebirth and renewal.
In Florida, summer represents hell. So what does that make the rest of the seasons?

Here are some recent photos from my current life in purgatory:


And there's this random old guy. in Delray, AKA South New Jersey.

One of my favorite things about Florida are it's bridges, more photos taken from bridges to come.


Tuesday, March 18, 2014

You don't have to be rich in your 20s

This article circulated the internet recently...

I really enjoyed the first parts, until I felt like she was saying that by the time you are in your late 30s, you should start to become more concerned with money and possessions.

What if I don't ever think I will be able to afford a headboard or high thread count sheets, or even a proper shower curtain?

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Oh, the Palm Beaches

I won tickets to go to a Mayor's Ball, a charity event that supports the Homeless Coalition of Palm Beach County. My friends and I were very excited to have the chance to meet some of the most rich and powerful people in the county. But then we missed cocktail hour and therefore missed all of the networking possibilities. 

Mayor's Ball Fundraiser Poses Test for Ethics Rules
This article came out the following day. The Sentinel is basically calling the Homeless Coalition out for hosting an event that seemed to have more to do with money and power than it did the cause.

"It's another opportunity for those in power and those who want to water at their trough to congregate for their mutual benefit," Finkelstein said. "Everybody in that room is looking to see how it can benefit them."

Even I will admit that I wanted to to water at the trough! 

"To avoid concerns about people trying to buy influence or pay for access to public officials, potential donors and the event planners could just give money directly to helping the homeless, according Finkelstein."

But, Mr. Finkelstien, the event did raise more than what was donated, so it wasn't all bad. The event raised some serious money for the Coalition. 

I am thankful that the Sentinel is here as a democratic voice, questioning the motives of our elected officials. 

The Mayor and I!
It makes me wonder, are fundraisers like this a good way to raise money for non-profits? Are they really raising awareness and creating effective change in the area? Or is it more about publicity and politics? Is the Homeless Coalition listening to the voices of the 1,600 homeless students of the PBC public schools? Will the $250,000 raised actually cause change in the community? Or is the Coalition more concerned about being a place for the rich and powerful of Palm Beach County to throw there weight around? Or is this just the easiest way to find funding? 

The county has a goal to end homelessness in 10 years. This cannot be done inside the walls of the Grand Ball Room. This cannot be done by dressing it up or ignoring it all together. This can only be done if we begin to recognize that every human being deserves access to basic human rights, and that if we are to give this access everyone has to share a piece of the pie. This can only be accomplished if we talk about how the system is flawed, how there are laws in place that have created institutionalized poverty. 

I have been to the Lewis Center, the homeless shelter that benefits from this function, it's a a large new building, but there is no life there. What I see lacking in this organization is community. Without community inside the organization, how can you create change outside of the organization? Homelessness is not a pretty issue, but if the wealthiest people in the United States would start to realize that it is not about the thousands of dollars that they can throw at charities, it is about listening to the needs of our neighbors and meeting those needs while assisting each person to grow individually. It's about forming stronger communities. (This won't be an anti-capitalist rant...)

I know I am vague and idealistic, the reality is that non-profits don't have much choice when it comes to finding funding. The Sentinel can question the motives and the ethics all they want, and the motives may need to be questioned, but at the end of the night the money is in the bank. I work for a non-profit that focuses mainly on grant writing, which is time consuming and very competitive.  Another flaw in the system: The way we think about charities is dead wrong. 

Overall the night was uneventful, we sat with the other contest winners and ate our dinners. I felt like I had tried so hard to look beautiful and classy.
The young millionaires of Palm Beach made it seem so effortless, just another day in their glamorous life.  I spent half of my two week stipend to only to feel that I will never leave my servant status (not that I mind), and that history really does repeat itself. 

I appreciate the efforts of the Homeless Coalition. 
We have a long way to go.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Ed Croke

Today I met the dentist who is going to give me a free tooth.
A really good dentist who graduated from Columbia is going to give me a free implant.
I am overflowing.

This came about because I felt impressed to share my sad dental history with one of the volunteers at El Sol, who turns out to be a very wealthy man who plays golf with a very wealthy periodontist.
Ed called up a meeting with Dr. Feldman, and now I am his patient, 100% pro-bono.

When Ed called to relay the news, I wept.

Dr. Feldman also wants to find someone who will do pro-bono orthodontic care. I am not exactly sure if it is something that I want. I have grown to accept my wonkey tooth.

Living in poverty isn't easy, but you really do meet the greatest people and experience the greatest kindnesses. At least if you are open to it.

Welfare Queen

This is an excellent breakdown of poverty in the US, the welfare system, and who is really gaining.

I met with over 250 AmeriCorps VISTA volunteers this year at PSO, and in our small group we spent most of our time discussing poverty. "What is poverty?" "What causes poverty?"
I was disheartened when our conversation kept leading back to this concept of "Welfare queens". Many people, whether they had lived in poverty or not, felt that accepting food stamps was something to be ashamed of, something to work your way out of. 

I was taught to take what the government would give growing up because there were so many times that we felt disenfranchised by the system. Not having dental care, as all of our teeth rot and fall out like sand. Not having health care, as we rack up debts we will never pay. Not affording our taxes on the land we inherited, struggling, but always finding a way. Looking towards the future in all it's insecurity, unsure of how we will ever afford the medicine and the care that aging parents will one day require. As I watched my classmates and their families, with good credit and nice cars and excellent dental insurance, I never felt ashamed to take food stamps. And I never felt poor, and going to Mexico made me feel like a queen. 

I just listened and didn't say much at our orientation, I didn't want to sound like the nutty conspiracy theorist. But it is not a conspiracy that corporations and governments do not have the best interest of the people in mind. It is not a conspiracy that poverty, like racism, is institutionalized and ingrained in our history. 

I really love this video. Please watch. 

Momma Welfare Roll

Her arms semaphore fat triangles,
Pudgy hands bunched on layered hips
Where bones idle under years of fatback
And lima beans.
Her jowls shiver in accusation
Of crimes clichéd by
Repetition. Her children, strangers
To childhood's toys, play
Best the games of darkened doorways,
Rooftop tag, and know the slick feel of
Other people's property.

Too fat to whore,
Too mad to work,
Searches her dreams for the
Lucky sign and walks bare-handed
Into a den of bureaucrats for
Her portion.
'They don't give me welfare.
I take it.'

Maya Angelou

Friday, February 28, 2014

first entry. four months later.

4 months ago I moved to the Town of Jupiter, Florida.
I never thought I would end up here.

I am here because of my love for Hispanic culture and the Spanish language. When I was 13 I decided that I wanted to be a Mexican. So even though I learned that I will never be a Mexican, here I am in South Florida working with day laborers and their families. And what I gain from them is so much more than I could ever give.

In attempt not to bore the reader, I am going to keep this short and simple. I'm in love with my life here, in love with my boyfriend, my new friends, and the warm winter that South Florida provides.

My passion for food is all consuming. Some days I wake up with a craving so strong that it takes control of my day, sending me on a complex treasure hunt of sorts to create the taste that my mind is so fixated on. Some days the instant gratification of dining out reminds me to slow down and enjoy the simple things. Last night it was a liver pate garnished with raspberry preserves and gherkins.

My relationship with my boyfriend is also worth writing about, not because I want to bore you with the intimate details of our lives together, but because his identical twin and their good friend just moved into our one bedroom apartment. I am living with 3 men in a one bedroom apartment. This must be recorded.

There are moments that I grapple with such big questions about poverty, justice, Latin American and Indigenous culture, American imperialism, white guilt, women's issues, universal human rights, and building community and strengthening family. It is my hope to capture these questions and form a record of my thoughts, not a diary of the day to day mundane, rather, a diary of ideas and questions, news articles and recipes.

Bourbon Chicken Liver Pate- Easy and Delicious Recipe

Smoked Chicken Banh Mi Tacos

Last weekend I made these tacos, it was a 5 hour endeavor. So worth it.

Grocery List:
1 whole chicken, bag of whole carrots, a few bulbs of garlic, fresh ginger, 2 Cucumbers,  Tamari, Sesame Oil, Lemon, Onions, Chives, Cilantro, White Distilled Vinager, Sugar, bag of dried Chilis (Chile de Arbol.) Tortillas

If you don't want to make the chili paste, you can buy some, I recommend the sriracha brand chili garlic paste. But I do recommend making the sautee sauce, it's so good.

Chili paste Marinade:
12 or so chile de arbol dried chiles 
6-7 cloves of garlic
Dash of Salt 
2 Tbsp Vinegar (or to taste)
1/4 c Sugar  (or to taste)
1/4 c Water
Sauteé dried chiles until they are aromatic and changed color, but too dark. 
Add garlic cloves
Add water, sugar and vinegar. simmer until chilis are soft, about 5 minutes. 

Marinate 1 whole chicken in chili garlic paste for 1-4 hours.
Cut the chicken in half, thank the chicken for sacrificing his/her life for your eating pleasure. 
If I was a chicken, I would be thankful that I was going to be transformed into something so delicious postmortem. 

Smoke the Chicken
While the chicken is marinating soak the wood chips and get your coals hot. After the coals are hot set your soaked wood chips on the coals, then place the rack back on the grill. Let the grill rack heat up. Dry off your chicken so that you don't loose all of your sauce, then salt and pepper the bird and place it meat side down on the rack. Allow grill marks to form and then flip it over, allowing the chicken to slow cook with the bones facing down. Rub left over marinade on the chicken every 10-15 minutes, so that the chili garlic sauce is sufficiently saturated into the skin. If you have a meat thermometer, it should read 165-175 degrees when it is finished. It took me an hour, but I think I put the bird on before my coals were really hot, because I read that it should only take a half hour to 45 minutes. 

De-bone and shred your chicken. I saved the skins and fried them in olive oil and thinly sliced them to add texture and that delicious fatty flavor to the meat. 

Saute your chicken in this:
Chicken Delicious Sauce- Also my pot sticker dipping sauce - 
Blend together a 1/4 cup of tamari, 4 or 5 cloves of garlic and an equal amount of fresh ginger, a few splashes of toasted sesame oil. two scallions and the juice of one half of a lemon. 

For the slaw:
Use a peeler or grater to grate 4 or 5 carrots and 2 cucumbers. I also added a few handfuls of cole slaw mix, because I was lazy and it tasted goood.  
Dressing is just 1/4 cup distilled white vinegar. 1/4 cup sugar. 1/4 cup warm water. Salt and pepper. 

Heat up your tortillas in a hot skillet with olive or grapeseed oil and construct your tacos! 
Chicken, slaw and then garnish the tacos with lots of cilantro and a few dainty thinly sliced Julianne cut onions and chili garlic paste or siracha mayo. 

I will have a camera soon, to share photos.