Saturday, June 28, 2014

Mascota is timeless

I don't know what it is about this place. I'm here with my grandma, sister, nephew and uncle after three years of not visiting, and somehow the place is remarkable unchanged. There are newer cars on the road, some restaurants have closed, replaced by a trade shop or even another restaurant, it seems to be raining a bit more, but the people still smile and laugh like nothing is different.

And in a weird way, nothing is. In other parts of Mexico, people are very affectionate, with PDA being expected, especially from young couples. This mainly speaks to the urban cities of the country: Puerto Vallarta and Mexico City, specifically. But Mascota, a "big" town of 8,000 residents, is still stuck in past. The planned construction of a movie theater was halted because older folks didn't want kids going there to make out. The half-built concrete skeleton still stands, without any current plans or demolition or construction.

I guess that adds to the feeling of the incomplete-ness of the town. The Preciosa Sangre, a 19th Century church that was never completed, stands about 4 blocks away from the Centro. It's clearly unfinished, but still beautiful, filled with bright fuschia buganvilias. It has come to serve as a local attraction, despite its crumbling walls and unintentionally exposed bricks. It serves as a symbol of how these people live: outdated and maybe a little broken, but still functional and beautiful.

Mascota, surprisingly, is a central hub to 5 satellite towns, the start of a chain of pueblitos with quirky names including Yerbabuena (Spearmint) and Navidad (Christmas). These towns are even smaller than Mascota, and much more desolate. Some would blame this perpetually-nostalgic phenomenon on the fact that, decades ago, many men would seek work in big cities, leaving their wives and children as the sole occupants of the towns. But I think it's more than that.

Despite being on the main route between two major cities (Puerto Vallarta and Guadalajara), Mascota is relatively isolated, located in the middle of a valley and surrounded by mountains. You see a sky full of stars on clear nights, unlike any city I've been to in the States or elsewhere in Mexico, and all movies on TV are at least 5 years old. I can't tell if the isolation of the Mascotenses is a product of the town's size and overall antiquated character, or if these "factors" are products of the people themselves.

There is some unspoken conversation between the people and the land here that sometimes makes me wonder if I can never truly belong. But when I take a look out the window at the gorgeous landscape while simultaneously receiving smiles from the kids across the street, I know that there's no way to separate them, and no use trying. I guess I'll just sit back and enjoy the reruns and Coke made with real cane sugar while they last.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

I still love Puerto Vallarta

A few months ago, my parents visited after not having been in years. While they had a good time, they were disappointed with all the development that had been made since they had last visited, it just wasn’t the same PV they had known.

After arriving yesterday, however, I do not feel the same way.

I wasn’t expecting much just because I didn’t want to get my hopes up only to have them crushed when I found a completely different Vallarta. I, too, grew up with an image of the city all of my own. After all, we had been flying in to PV since my first trip to Mexico. It was one of the cities I knew best.

But I was utterly delighted by what I saw yesterday.

We stayed at a hotel in a newer part Vallarta, one that’s made of shopping malls and highways and resorts. It’s about a 20 minute drive from there to the Centro, the oldest part of the city, the downtown part. After debating whether to stay close or go down there for dinner, we finally settled on going to the old Centro.

I’ll admit, it’s different. There’s more traffic and it’s getting kind of smoggy, the beaches are a little dirty and there are a lot of people who only cater to tourists. But old Vallarta’s still in there.

Despite all the traffic, people still roll down their windows and ask other drivers for directions, and they can always expect an honest response. The Plaza, although flanked by a Starbucks and a bank on either side, is still as beautiful as ever, and the church still stands proudly behind it. The streets are still cobblestoned in the old Centro. And the Malecon is still as beautiful as ever, filled with artists and young couples and just happy people. It's the little things that I can hold onto that make losing some of the bigger parts just a little bit easier.

Although Puerto Vallarta isn't the same as it used to be, it's certainly still my México lindo y querido.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Art in its various forms

Today in the car I was thinking about all the things I wanted to do this summer and how I wanted to document it. The best way I know how is to write about it, it's just my natural tendency, the way I document everything, the way my mind works best. And then I thought about how I would also love to take photos, because as much as you would like to believe you can describe something, you always leave your own mark, your own impression of it... and then I started just thinking about art in general.

Writing is a type of art that not many people give much credit. Art is essentially communication, and writing is one of the most well-recognized and appreciated forms of communication, and therefore art, even in what is considered its blandest states, such as essays or research papers. But writing is unique in that it is something appreciated over time. You can never look at a written work and see all of it at one time, it must be appreciated piece by piece, and the way you interpret it has some kind of correlation to how you feel that day, what you are wearing, and if you have eaten lunch already. Writing is unique in this way, it can be reread completely differently under different circumstances as when you had first encountered it.

Visual art, 2D and 3D, is a different type of art all together. For the most part, you see a photo or painting or sketch in its entirety and have an immediate reaction to it, only looking closer after gaining some overall perspective on the subject at hand, abstract cubism or still life. But there's still that image in your mind of that first glimpse, and when you step back from taking that closer look, you see how it fits in to that broader image, like a piece of a puzzle, the complete composition. It differs from writing because you can physically see it all at one time, there's no page-flipping to get through, no words to search for. And while the experience you have is also related to how you feel that day, what you are wearing, and if you have eaten lunch already, you can more easily take a step back and remember that initial gut sensation telling you how you felt.

Performed arts, live comedy and musicals, also have their own bubble. In some ways they resemble written work, because you can't view an entire play at one time, it's separated into acts and acts into scenes, and scenes into moments that all together, in the right order, create an impact and have their own place in the meaning of the whole piece. And no matter how hard the actors and actresses, speakers of word and comics try, they can never put on the same performance twice. Out of the three outlined "categories" of art, performance is the one most indelibly tied to the present. Not only the space changes, but the sound, the effect, and no matter how hard you try and remember a specific moment of a particular act of a certain play, after it's over, you can never relive it or experience it the same way, even if you watch it again the same week, even the same day. There's no way to replicate it, no photocopies or reprinted editions to refer to. Performance is the most transient form of art for sure, but also one of the most impactful.

There are more anomalies, film being that odd bridge between live and static art, poetry, which can also depend on the placement of words on a page and not only the words themselves, and every other form of communication: phone calls, letters, music (a beast all its own that captured my heart from so early on I couldn't possibly include it in this post without spending five hours I don't have sitting on my couch, hands glued to my laptop). But no matter the type of art, the harder you try, the more you feel.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Summer (Bucket?) List

Alright, this one's gonna be a long one.

Summer just started, the weekend is about to be over and I'm already kind of ready for school to start again. Even though I had an amazing time at Summer Bash last night and there are lots of things I really want to do this summer, I feel like school is part of me. I'm going to miss seeing my friends, the little schedules we had nonverbally agreed upon, the teachers and their smiles and their kindness. Instead of looking forward to summer, I find myself looking forward to senior year and college.

So to keep myself in the present, and save my summer, I'm creating a kind of list of things that I want to accomplish or at least strive for between now and school starts. It's kind of a weird list, some things are events I want to go to, others are tasks that have to be completed daily (you know, the everyday grind for DFW folks out there), or things I'm looking forward to, but they're all me. Hope you enjoy!


  • go to outdoor music concerts (Wicker Park fest, maybe?)
  • maintain my summer garden (and post photos to Twitter to document the progression)
  • enjoy my two weeks in Mexico (and blog about them!)
  • eat healthier (keep up with to get a general idea of calories and sugar)
  • swim club (6am every weekday when I'm in town, get in shape for swim season-potentially)
  • get stronger (go to the club for strength training, the Ceja special?)
  • work on my novel ("Things I've Been Told" drafts currently in Simplenote)
  • make a music video to an oldish song (I don't know why, but I feel the need to)
  • keep composting (may be we'll be able to use it by the end of the summer)
  • visit at least one school (probably UMich, but maybe Johns Hopkins and Penn)
  • go to the middle of nowhere and forget everything (nothing more to add here)
  • read (start by finishing I Am Malala and The Things They Carried and Death in Slow Motion)
  • bike to the Botanic Gardens (and along the lake and just a lot of places... the CTA is expensive)
  • work (robotics needs funding and yearbook needs designing)
  • sleeping (going for those 10 hours a night in hopes of getting taller... maybe?)
  • write about all of it (as in... actually use this blog because May was a disgrace after April)
So, that's me and my summer in a bulleted list!

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

I can smell summer

It's in the air here at school.
It's the smell of excitement and sweat,
of fruits finally in season and deodorant over-applied.

It gets closer with every tick of the clock,
with finals almost done and field days awaited.

It's been such a long year,
summer is inches away.