Wednesday, 7 March 2018

The truth is just like the dark:

"It scares you witless, but in time you see things clear and stark."

One night on the last week of February, I was watching an episode of Firefly with my mom when suddenly the lights in the livingroom/kitchen area went out. I went to check the fusebox, but I was unable to push the switch back up.
My mom told me about the reset button so I went and pushed it, and boom! The whole apartment sank in darkness and silence. Completely disregarding the previous occurrence, I thought it would be a matter of pushing all the switches back up, but obviously it wasn’t.

The switch to the livingroom area went up smoothly and all was well. However, the other switch, for the bedroom (and a/c!) would not stay up for anything in the world. I started playing with it, if anything to prevent the panic of a night without a/c from truly entering my psyche. If I pushed it up very slowly, it came to a point where the light in the bedroom+bathroom+airco would turn on; but if pushed all the way until it clicked (as it is meant to), it went back off. I had Julian look at it just for safe measure, and we concluded that the box itself had damaged and would need to be replaced.

So, obviously, we would be needing an electrician. However, it was already nighttime and so we had to resign ourselves to a night slept in warmth.
No matter how long I live this life, I never learn to stop expecting things to follow a logical path, so I was expecting the next morning to have an electrician come over and fix the problem.

Giving that we are tenants, I went to the landlord and explained about the fusebox. He said we had to wait until 3pm when his wife got home, she would bring an electrician she knew from work.
But when the friend came over it became obvious that an electrician he was not. Already we had explained what happened, but even so we had to slowly walk him and the landlady through various simple-fix scenarios, such as “maybe water fell in one of the sockets and blew the fuse”; which, mind you, would not account for why the livingroom started it but then the bedroom took the hit. After much deliberation, they reached the same conclusion we did: the fusebox probably needed replacing.

The landlords asked that we find an electrician so I started googling and making some calls. You guys, what’s up with electricians in Aruba? Like are we having a shortage?  First of all, there are barely any registered electricians. I called five, of which three actually had a real person talk to me. Of those, one said they had no one available for the whole week. The other two took my information and said they would call back… the next day. Hooray for another sweaty night. #firstworldproblems

The next morning I went back to trying to find an electrician, since I didn’t want to sit around waiting for them to call me. But there just weren’t any more electricians to be found. There was even one who was recommended on vraag en aanbod but we couldn’t match times (that wasn’t his fault though so let’s not include him in this.)
In my confusion about the whole situation I managed to call back a place who was supposed to call me back and eventually they said they could send someone, but it would be after 3pm and that time is considered “overtime” (after 3pm!!!) so it would cost Afl.150 per hour + materials. So I went to ask the landlord and he asked if I could find a non-OT one.

Luckily, I got a call back from one of the companies I found on google and they send someone over, who was an actual electrician, so that just by hearing second-hand what had happened, already showed up with the right piece that needed to be changed. He fixed the fusebox in like 20 minutes.

While doing his work, he asked me “how come you called the company and not an independent electrician?” and I said I didn’t have the number of any electrician. He found that weird and funny, and then I realized that finding electricians is still, among others, one of the things Arubans like to do by word of mouth. So I took that electrician’s cellphone number, so that next time I can just call him and not have to worry about paying the middleman. Which is probably why there aren’t any electricians to find online or on the yellow pages or wherever. I’m always surprised just how much gets done “under the table” here on the island, and although I recognize this as part of Aruba’s spirit and charm, I wonder if it’s time for a change.

As Aruba grows, she must also mature. To accommodate more people, more experiences, more knowledge and technology, Aruba must adapt. Sadly, as it is now, the word-of-mouth way of life means some people are getting a friends & family discount on everything, while the rest have to pay overpriced for the same services.

Lesson learned. Yesterday, I passed on the number of the electrician to someone who needed one, so they wouldn’t have to pay “overtime” or sleep two nights without airco.

As a side-note, there was some dispute with the landlords regarding who should pay for the Afl.280 (!) repair. Me, not having learned yet again about the Aruban custom of word-of-mouthing everything, actually went to the Huur Commissie and asked them about it. We didn’t have to wait and were met by a gentleman who was very patient and helpful and even gave us suggestions on how to approach the matter. We resolved it amicably with the landlords in the end (they had to pay itJ).

Monday, 5 February 2018

The public beach is reserved

Recently, we had family vacationing on the island, so I found myself like the proverbial "turista riba mi isla", visiting the cool spots, dining out, and enjoying the beach.

One such day, we had just had breakfast at a beachfront restaurant, in a big group of about ten people, and we were just playing around the beach on the sand with my baby niece.
Not two minutes had we been there before we were approached by a woman, "nicely" asking us if we wanted to rent the beach chairs, since we were around them so much. I guess we weren't all that opposed to paying some cash to be able to frolic around the beach to our hearts' contents because we asked how much for the chairs.

It was $5. Per chair. Did I mention we were about ten people? Nahhh man. Nah. Miss me with that.

Ok, so we said no thank you, and the lady told us that the chairs a bit further from the ocean were allocated to restaurant customers, so we moved to those chairs and started setting up.
Not even a single minuted had passed, a man who was sitting on the chairs behind us started telling us about having to pay for the chairs. Seeing as we had already talked to the woman, we thanked him and carried on our merry way.

I don't know how patient you, my dear reader, are, but let me tell you that patience was never my strongest suit. So by now I was already sick and tired of the stupid chairs. The problem was, you see, that there was no space available on the beach that wasn't already occupied by the damn chairs. Like they literally arrive at the crack of dawn to the PUBLIC beach and set up their chairs all over the sand, and then expect everyone to just steer clear. Is this even legal?

Anyway, so after ignoring the random man.... we were approached yet again. I mean, we already had to clear our presence there twice but no, again, we had another man come over and say only if we pay the $50 we can use the chair. Mind you, we didn't even really want to use the chair, we werent even really sitting on the chair but because we were on the sand near the chairs, we were constantly harassed.
To the latest man, we even had to show our receipt so we would be allowed to stay.

But seriously though. It's a public beach. I'm all for people making their money and all but this is absurd. It's one thing if they placed the chairs on the beach as people rented them, meaning the chairs on the beach are being used. But that's not the case at all. Rather, those private chairs occupy the entire public beach even though the majority of them was unoccupied.

What if I want to bring my own chair and sit on the beach? Can I then remove the rental chairs and replace it with mine?
Point is.


Sunday, 12 November 2017

Of fishermen and fish

 Back in 2013 I graduated with a Master in Applied Ethics from Utrecht University. My last assignment, my thesis, which built on the work of biologists, veterinarians, and other scholars at my institution, sought to find the rightful place of fish in the moral compass.
Since then, I developed a stronger care for these wonderful creatures, and honestly believe that it is of urgent importance to protect the oceans.
Recently, there is a lot of talk about the new environmental law, which protects several native species of flora and fauna, and it is quite totalitarian.
It comes as a ban on fishing a bunch of different species, and the fishermen are in uproar. That is understandable. But here’s the thing, Rona, fishermen are grown men, not teenagers. We shouldn’t have to give in to their demands in the name of preventing an uncomfortable week for Daddy Government. We are currently way past the point of negotiation with this issue. Sure, let’s protect the traditional way of the fisher, all the way until there isn’t a single fish to fish anymore. Let’s pretend that there isn’t illegal fishing, hunting, and logging going on around the world, which already puts immense pressure on the global ecosystems.

Fish are incredible animals, and there is actually so much variety in what we call “fish”, that it sometimes doesn’t even make sense to group all these species together. They are not just a product to be pulled out of the ocean for a quick buck or a tingle on your taste buds. Particularly for those of us living close to the waters, species that live in the ocean “filter toxins from the water (,) protect shorelines and reduce the risks or algae blooms such as the red tide.”

This isn’t an issue where talking about it will help. We’ve been talking about the oceans since I myself was a kid, and we are still talking about it, and in the meantime, it is predicted that by 2048 the entire world’s oceans will be empty of fish. Oh, sorry, did I say predicted?
Nicola Beaumont, PhD from the Plymouth Marine Laboratory in the UK said in a news release “This isn’t predicted to happen, it’s happening right now.” She added that this decline in biodiversity means the marine environment will not be able to sustain our way of life.
This isn’t even about exotic species, but actually, 29% of edible fish and seafood species have already seen their numbers decline by a whopping 90%. It is not a gradual decline, either. It’s happening fast and getting faster.

Giving them more time is not a solution, not for the fishermen, and not for the fish.

Ok. So what can we do?

We can turn the fishermen into farmers! Yes we can. Growing food locally will not only leave the oceans in peace, but the reduction in transport costs for a portion of our food consumption will all-around help the environment. We can even set up a farm-to-table restaurant called “Former Fisheries”. We could teach the fishermen a new skill, like leather tanning, shoe-making, landscaping. Let’s support the fishermen in finding a more sustainable way of life.
It is not uncommon for professions and skills to slowly become obsolete. Think of all the people who lost their manufacturing jobs in the wake of the industrial revolution and yet, no one ever stood up and said we should stop introducing machines.

We are now once again at world-changing cross roads. “It’s not too late. We can turn this around. But less than 1% of the global ocean is effectively protected right now,” said Boris Worm, PhD of Dalhousie in Halifax and author of the study I’ve based this post on.
Sorry fishermen, but you will survive. The oceans will not.

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.