Tuesday, 19 September 2017

Open letter to our “BanCuMichael” team

I wanted to take the time and write something before we go out to vote and enter which ever stage the elections results send us through.

Looking back at how it all started now fills me with infinite pride and wonder, from being in front of the cameras, exchanging ideas to calling and visiting the people of Aruba, going to so many different barrios I had never seen before. I got to listen to so many different opinions and stories from a wide variety of people and for that, I am humbly thankful. To the many people who opened their homes and their minds up to our team, I am once again humbly thankful. I am especially thankful to those who let me pet their dogs 

This experience was everything I thought it was going to be, and then some. I have learned so much about so much in such a short period of time. I got to experience and get to know aspects of Aruban culture for the first time, and my life is the richer because of it.

Most importantly, I sincerely believe that we all started on this together because we believe in the same vision, and we want to keep working to achieve this vision. I also believe this will not change, regardless of election results. With only a few days ahead, I believe we can make it! Working with each of you the past few months has been a true privilege, an invaluable learning experience, and an absolute pleasure.

~Pilar ^_^

Sunday, 16 July 2017

I'm older than I've ever been, but I'm younger than I'll ever be again.

The older I get, the younger I feel. I realize more and more that in the vastness of time and history I am indeed very young, insignificantly young, and faced with the infinite knowledge that has passed through the minds of mankind I know very little and still have much to learn.

Some days this fills me with hope and determination, thinking of all the things I can still learn, all the marvels yet undiscovered. Other days it fills me with anxiety, questioning why I have to struggle to make nothing out of nothing. Dangling from one side to the other, constructing and deconstructing my own experience time and time again, like the rising and setting sun.

I keep going back and forth between jaded and naive; trying desperately to hold on to that childish belief that everyone is inherently good, that we're all just hurt little children who can be cured with kindness while the concrete walls around my heart grow thicker and taller and the barbed wire expands. I want to remain open, innocent and loving, but I also want to remain, to be whole and not broken.

I want to forgive but I want to learn from the experience. There is a sort of resistance, a rebellion, that forces me to crack my own walls and let whatever is outside leak in, whether it's healing tenderness or corrosive aggression. Whatever seeps in causes some sort of reaction and transformation, no matter how many times concerned loved ones tell me to "not let it affect" me.

I let it affect me, time and time again, I let it break me down or lift me up in pieces, and then I put myself back together somehow in a different way. Again, trying desperately to remain the same but changing and transforming with every little encounter. It's the blessing and curse of being sensitive, of being aware of every little detail, of experiencing the mundane as sublime. To love without dying knowing you will die without love. To take on every risk even if it will destroy you, and hiding out when the monsters are too scary, but only to catch your breath and come back out.

With every battle, the truth remains that it can be my last. Every day can be the last, eventually one day will be. Perhaps the anxiety of this day motivates both the courage and the fear, no matter how much I think in my head that I do not fear death.

This is the human condition.

Thursday, 29 June 2017

The Hermit

"If you ever happen to go outside of your house, do you think you could run this errand for us?" - my boss, during a meeting.

It's safe to say I am always at home. Mainly because I'm at home every time I don't have something I have to do, that is to say, if I am free to choose where I want to be, I will choose home every time.
But why?
I've been thinking about this a lot, for the past few years, trying to pin-point the exact moment in which my abnormal sleeping pattern stopped being the only reason I wasn't engaged socially as much as everyone else in my circle.

Part of it is being a highly sensitive person (HSP). I don't know how canon HSP is as a diagnosis but I can say I definitely relate and thinking about myself as a HSP has allowed me to understand myself better and find solutions to my particular challenges. Basically, being a HSP is not necessarily about sensitive in the sense of feelings, but more in general, all your sensors are more fine-tuned and can pick up lower signals than average. For me, it means that I can find it hard to focus, and I tend to note everything that goes on in a room to the point that I miss the main event because I was making note of how all the people walking in and out.

Another big part of it is that I tend to overthink everything, and have a running anxiety that constantly weighs on all my attempts to do anything. So, as I go about my HSP life picking up very many signals, I also happen to overthink each and every little signal, leaving me with a very busy brain. And after a while, I feel really tired. Especially after a long day of social engagement, I feel exhausted, I need to retreat seemingly for long, long days. Yes, I am an introvert. I am also just a little bit shy, but that hasn't really been a problem.

Come to think of it, most of my favorite activities are solo activities or quiet-time activities as well, such as reading (number 1 favorite!), coloring, researching/learning, watching movies. The best companions for all of these activities are my little housemates, Eggy and Mimin, who are cats. Even so, no man is and island. And as I grow and mature, I'm starting to be a lot more grateful to all the people behind the scenes who have supported me all along and helped me succeed. I'm putting a lot more value on interpersonal relationships, because now I see that even though I am happy being alone, I still love, like, need, and want people in my life.

So it has come time to lose the identification with the hermit in me. The hermit is just another facet of my personality, but it's not who I am. If I'm a little bit more honest with myself, I will also talk about how much I loved hosting dinner parties when I lived in Scotland, how I traveled for a week with friends, lived with friends, and how much I enjoy going on walks and even, occasionally, I love parties. I suppose, being completely honest, that a personality is more like breathing, oscillating between extremes as you learn and adjust and try to find a happy balance where things somewhat make you feel complete. I spent the past three years on the inhale, isolating myself, taking in experiences, reflecting and hiding inside my own self. But I can feel it already, the exhale has begun. I am now ready to come out, like the proverbial butterfly all changed up, to show the world all what I can do in my new form.

So yes, boss. I will run that errand. I will run it today.

Sunday, 18 June 2017

Grow the fuck up

About two months ago I took a two-week trip to my homeland Guatemala, and it was everything I thought it was going to be, and then some. But (very) long story short, I returned renewed and with a major attitude adjustment, and figured I would nag at the poor souls who wander into this blog for a little while.

Man, I cannot begin to tell you how difficult life's lessons have been for me growing up. Life is hard as a woman. Seriously, it is. Society throws so much shit at you all the time that you end up with a really convoluted mind and sense of identity, and that in turn keeps affecting everything you think and do. So all through my teens I couldn't wait to be in my twenties, and then all through my twenties I feared the approaching end of the golden age. Because for a woman, you are rarely ever worth as much as you are in your twenties.

Spoiler alert: I am no longer in my twenties. When it happened, I hated it so much. I moved back to the island on the last of my golden years, and it truly, honestly wasn't at all how I wanted to spend that last moment of true joy. I felt I had been robbed of my one final happiness. But it wasn't all about the twenties, to be honest. While I was in Europe, I had a chance to develop as a person, away from everyone who knew "me" as I used to be. I used the opportunity to begin a change in habits and to try and crack my mind open to understand and patiently consider conflicting realities. I was happy there, but of course all that head cracking plunged me into a borderline suicidal depression.

So that when "the event that shan't be named" (okay, exaggeration) occurred, I sort of just gave up. I had always thought I would peak in my thirties, mainly because I was a late bloomer who only got interested in boys and Guess jeans until I was like, fourteen instead of like, eleven like the normal girls. But when I moved back to Aruba, it felt like a set-back, and it automatically translated to "that thing back there that just ended was the peak." Uber-bummer. Society was right, my best years were behind me.

Despite the tragedy, life had to continue being lived I supposed, and having not too long ago learned the benefits of pop-Buddhism, I was determined to learn whatever life was trying to teach me asap so that I could move on. I sincerely encourage this approach. It took me about a year (during which I worked hard and succeeded at my job) to get over the shocking turn my life had taken, but with the help of the patient, ever-loving world, my attitude started improving. I purposefully looked for lessons in everything and tried to learn them as hard as I could, emotional toll be damned. And then life threw me a little support in the birth of my niece.

I started realizing that I didn't want to work all the time anymore, that I missed my family, that I was going to be a stranger to that baby if I kept working in retail. I started filling out job applications, but it took a year of only a couple of interviews here and there to finally land a job offer. I hurriedly quit my job, only to have the new job offer rescinded. I had only ever had one full-time job up until that point, and I had no idea that people could take the job offer back. Regardless, I had made up my mind and communicated to my previous boss that retail wasn't the life for me, so I was determined to not fall back.

I went on a couple more job interviews before I was given the chance of a lifetime at my current job, but even that hasn't been without it's challenges. The more I pushed myself, the more I saw how great the effort you have to make is when you want to change your life. I addressed my depression and started treatment. Even so, I was still struggling to adjust and to find a rhythm and a purpose within it all.

Then I went to Guatemala, and I found myself telling friends and family about my life, my apartment with my cats, my job, my relationships with my family and friends in Aruba. And just talking about it and hearing myself, I started realizing how truly blessed and lucky I have been this whole time. It was just that I've always surrounded myself with happy and lucky people that I had started to think my own life was lacking. But it's not.

And I promise you, your life is not lacking either. We've all heard "count your blessings" but how many of us actually do it? How many times a day, a week, a month, do you take time to actually think up all the people and things you really love and are thankful for? So stop feeling sorry for yourself. I know it's hard, but stop it. Take responsibility for the things you can change, get over the ones you can't, and start being grateful for all the things you're taking for granted. In a moment, it's all gone.

Every cloud has a silver lining, make that silver your crown.

Thursday, 8 June 2017

How free life would be if we stopped measuring time.

How free life would be if we stopped measuring time. Our youth would be defined by our vitality and our eagerness to meet life. We would match up with people in terms of experiences, or points in life, rather than the times the earth has orbited the sun.  We wouldn't start feeling angst over a youth lost as soon as we turn 29, we wouldn't worry when to get married, we would take that trip when we're ready. We would work on a task for however long it took, or until we got tired, or bored. We wouldn't obsess about working exactly one third of the time it approximately takes the earth to rotate on its axis. We would go to sleep, and wake up when rested, or when the sun came up. Things would take however long they would take.

The Greeks had two words for time. One is profane time, χρόνος chronos, the time-keeping of watches and dates on calendars and alarms. The other is καιρός kairos, the spiritual time of the seasons and the natural rhythms. And ever since the dawn of chronos, I think that's the moment humanity began falling apart from nature and the earth.
I once somewhere read a story* that said, that humans are the only animals who count the passage of time, and therefor the only ones worried about their own mortality. I wish we could lose the bondage of time, of appointments, alarms and deadlines. That we could just live out our days in the raw intensity of nature where you live each moment as it comes, instead of being constantly a ghost in the past or the future.

Then again, the grass is always greener.

Monday, 22 May 2017

Yes, but... No, but... You're asking the wrong question.

Growing up, I always felt a little bit out of place, stuck in perpetual monachopsis mainly due to the fact that I had two home countries. I was too Arubian to be Guatemalan, and too Guatemalan to be Arubian. Because of this, I often surprise people, either because they perceive contradictions in my personality or my least favorite one, “I didn't think you'd know that!”.

In any case, recently, one of the most interesting responses I've been getting is in regards to my religious beliefs. With strangers, it's usually just asking if I'm going to be a pastor when they find out I have a theology degree. But with acquaintances and new friends, I always get met with surprise.

I call myself an agnostic, mainly because to me it is the only honest philosophical position to hold regarding religion. I can have a pretty good general idea of how I think it seems things are, but at any given moment, something can happen and I want to be willing to re-assess my beliefs when confronted with new information. That aside, when asked if I am a Christian I would 8/10 say yes. Why not 10/10?

Back in university, one of my favorite lecturers was Dr. Tuladhar. He taught us that in an exam, there would never be yes or no answers. That the best answers would be “yes, but”, “no, but”, and “this is the wrong question to ask”. And this is mainly why, sometimes, instead of “yes, but” I end up going with “no, but”.
My answer is yes, I am a Christian but I am not part of any denomination, I don't attend a church nor follow any organized worshiping. You could say I am an anarchist Christian, but I'm not sure on that yet, and honestly, I am a philosopher so I will probably be unsure of exactly what kind of Christian I am until the day I die or our Lord returns.

No, I'm not a Christian but I actually do believe in Jesus, what he stood for and what he was trying to do. The Bible has actually a really cool story and you can learn a lot, and Jesus was wise and had a poetic streak and a bit of sass. I'm here for all of that.

This is the wrong question to ask because these days, the word Christian has been charged with too much meaning and distortion, and there is too much attached to it beyond the original “follower of Jesus Christ”. It now carries a meaning of judging, meddling, corrupting and being corrupt, elitism, hypocrisy. Calling yourself a Christian nowadays will more often than not be heard as “I am on the right path, and I will be saved and live in the gorgeous rich new world with God while you burn in hell, because I am good and you are bad”, and honestly, I don't think this is what Jesus was trying to do at all.
It's so hard to even try to live in society while being a good person, and we're all sinners and don't deserve to go to the new earth with God and that sucks. But actually Jesus is trying to help us by giving tips on how to not be an asshole, and anyway we should show mercy and forgiveness to one another because we sure hope Jesus will show us mercy and forgiveness if there is an afterworld.
That's where I stand.
So my feelings where floored when a past romantic interest asked, incredulously, “how can someone as smart as you believe in that!?”

I don't want to preach. I don't want you to be a Christian, or read the Bible, or do anything. One thing I do believe is that each person is on their own path, learning what they need to learn, and I can't presume to know what is best for them.
Perhaps the best way to bring everyone to God is not by religiously converting them, but by showing them the way through example. Don't force people to say the words, just quietly show them how to live the life. Sort of like being a living gospel. You know, kinda like how Jesus did it.

Tuesday, 9 May 2017

Bird privacy

Oftentimes, I will be thinking about an issue concerning animals and think, "someone should write something about it", only later to realize, I should write something about it.
Why me? Well, first of all, I don't have anyone I could order to write things for me on command. Secondly, people have written extensively about most animal (rights) issues, so really, I just want someone to write out my opinion for me. Thirdly and surprisingly... I'm qualified! Legit, real-World qualified to speak and write (correctly or wrongly) on these issues.*

Anyway, let me get to it. I have one passion and two main hobbies, although honestly I like dabbling in almost everything. My one passion has consistently been writing, and my hobbies, at the moment, are Kpop** and photography.

Within photography, I particularly like fashion and birds. Most birds are not that into being approached or photographed. The city birds like pigeons are easy to photograph, but the cooler birds are usually hidden in trees, moving around, or will run away if you get within range. Bird-watching is an intrinsic part of bird photography, but I honestly have very little patience for it. Probably because I cannot see outside during daylight without sunglasses, and with sunglasses on trying to see through the viewfinder or even the screen is surprisingly difficult. I did buy a camera lens solely for the birds but, it was on the cheaper side of lenses because I am an amateur. So basically, my style of bird photography is just to spot desired bird, stalk carefully, and then shoot and shoot hoping I get a good shot.

Sometimes I manage. But, as I pick a target-bird (they gotta have that bounce in their step or something) and proceed to stalk and then photograph, I become increasingly aware of how... creepy? the whole thing is. Especially when the birds are hiding in the trees and kinda give me that look that lets me know they're uncomfortable.
And I convince myself by saying, I'm actually not doing anything to harm them. Just friendly human taking pictures.

But what if friendly bird was taking pictures of me? Sometimes, a bird or iguana stands by the window when I shower, and it is a bit weird but not too bad. But what if they were taking pictures? Not necessarily in the shower but like street photography, or you're out with your family and some birds start taking photos of you to show to their friends. Or if it got so bad, and so many people were harassed in this manner that people went off running if a bird arrived at a site.
I don't know if the bird cares about privacy, but this is making me realize that I do. But then, if I truly believe I shouldn't be photographed when out and about during my daily activities (AHEM!!!!!!!) then the birds and all fauna of the world probably shouldn't either.

And besides, birds do become nervous upon seeing people. When stalking them to photograph, I am, indeed, stalking the birds. Isn't that weird? And it sure makes them nervous, alert. It might even inconvenience them by making them changing their destination or current activity. Anyway, I get the sense that most birds in particular don't really like being photographed.

So why is the issue of privacy not even considered within animal ethics? Collective laughter aside, it is because even their right not to be enslaved and tortured by a human cannot be guaranteed at this point. Chickens are one of the most abused animals on our planet, both by the numbers in which they are killed and by the ways in which they are mistreated. Cockfighting is still an issue, and bird-mills (like puppy-mills used to breed exotic bird species in captivity) and the pet industry cause suffering and death to countless animals each year.
And don't get me started on how reptiles and fish literally do not have any rights.

I honestly believe (and it was an issue I explored in my master's thesis about fish) that part of the cruelty with which humans treat animals comes from misunderstanding or willfully ignoring the capacities or capabilities of animals, alienating ourselves from them, exaggerating the differences that separate us. So perhaps if we start thinking about whether the bird is feeling harassed by photography, whether it is wrong to stalk a bird to photograph it, who knows? We might start thinking it's wrong to keep a bird in a tiny cage and feed him hormones that disfigure him. We might begin to think it's wrong to destroy literally all the entire habitat of many beings, and then complain when they shit on our roofs. We might start thinking that hey, we're not the only ones living in this earth after all, and perhaps we're not really the center of it, either.

*See my credentials.
**If Sports fanatism is a hobby, Kpop fanatism is a hobby.

>All pictures taken by me.