So she went to Mexico…

I told everyone I knew about my first trip out of the United States. I felt like something changed in me after I had been living in Tijuana for a few days. The terrain was less menacing, the language less foreign, and the walks of life less strange. Of course the biggest shock was driving from the I-5, the same freeway I’ve taken in both Washington and California, into a dusty highway that in no way resembled the roads I grew up around.

A la Iglesia
A La Iglesia (2016)

The US-Mexico Border class that went with me on this journey stayed with me at Esperanza’s Posada, located in La Gloria. While there we ate at many local shops including a panaderia, a taqueria, and a dulceria. What was special about living here for a week was the quality of the meals we received. Everything was homemade from scratch. At the taqueria we ate at one night I watched tortillas being made hot and fresh by hand.

Una Noche en la Posada
Una Noche en la Posada (2016)

The mission of the trip involved our cooperation with Esperanza International. They gave us a place to live in La Gloria and in return we offered our strength and perseverance in building a more dignified home for a family living in one of Esperanza’s communities. We worked for a family in Cumbres for a total of five days. Initially I was worried that I wouldn’t be strong enough to help, but everyone on the team was flexible. We were told that “being” is more important than “doing.”

Self with Dana
Self with Dana (2016)

I really took that instruction to heart. When my muscles ached from shoveling dirt I spent my time with the children of the community. We would bond over drawing and taking photographs of one another. I came to Tijuana with almost five years of experience learning Spanish so everyone seemed to understand me, but no one as much as the kids. It felt like some cute girl was always asking for me to draw them una sirenita, like Ariel from The Little Mermaid. I drew ponies, dragons, basically anything that they could imagine. But we also talked about their lives in Tijuana. We talked about their school and their families. They were all so excited that I knew Spanish as none of them knew any English.

Nuestro Trabajo (2016)
Nuestro Trabajo (2016)

Playing with the kids was the fun part. The real work came with shoveling dirt and transporting that dirt across the street and down a hill. We started our work by staring at a 15 foot wall of dirt wondering how so few of us would ever make this look like a foundation for someone’s home. However after five days of sweat and tears under el sol, our group managed to move enough dirt to create a trench and begin leveling the earth to begin the building process.

Fuertes (2016)
Fuertes (2016)

It was hard coming home and explaining to people that I hadn’t actually built any houses, per se. I’m sure my friends and family expected to see me covered in cement and/or bruises from mixing and applying said cement. However the work that we did was exceptional. The days were hot and long, but everyone found their place. It was even flexible enough that one day I was able to shovel dirt and bend metal into place with equipment that I had never seen before in the same day.

Miedo (2016)
Miedo (2016)

Talking to the kids also made the work worthwhile. I realized how different our childhoods were: my own and the children of Cumbres. Where they loved to get dirty and share things, I remember myself to be more of an indoor creature. I loved books and puzzles and clean hands, but these children loved to laugh loudly and run barefoot. My cheeks hurt at the end of each day from smiling so much.

Mamá y Bebé y Pollo (2016)
Mamá y Bebé y Pollo (2016)

My body was tired, but my mind was on fire. So many connections were made in such a short amount of time that I thought I couldn’t take it all. I got a bit anxious on the last few days in Tijuana, wondering how this trip would effect me in the future.

Veinte y cinco (2016)
Veinte y cinco (2016)

I’m still not sure how this trip will manifest itself in my future work. All I know is that I felt something very real and very strong in Tijuana. I felt it while holding a mother’s one-year-old baby. I felt it while I was playing soccer with the neighborhood boys. I felt it when I watched the children finally break open the Mickey Mouse piñata we got for them on our last day in Mexico. I may go on without knowing what this feeling is exactly, but I know that I have been inspired to action. Community service changed me as a child, but now world travel has changed me as a young adult. I see the two becoming more important to me every day.

El Solito (2016)
El Solito (2016)

 

-Bailee Hiatt

El Hombre de la Tierra

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The following is based off of an interaction during a trip to an Esperanza Clinic in Tijuana, Mexico. As one of the sisters talked about the mission of the clinic, the rest of the group looked at the dump from afar. A man climbed out of the wreckage of human waste and garbage and walked past our group. I immediately wrote a poem in response to this experience.

 

A form appeared from la tierra

Un hombre

Covered head to toe

In the sweat and the dirt

Of the Tijuana dump

 

As we stood and beheld

The world around us

He lived it

 

He sat in it

 

His perro sat in it, too

 

As the sister of the clinic

continued to discuss

Poverty

Disease

Drug Abuse,

El hombre de la tierra approached me

 

He reached for me

 

La mano

 

Without a second thought

I extended my hand to him

My porcelain skin met his chalky palms

 

I was so embarrassed.

 

 

BAILEE: An Introduction

Bailee is the name.

Other than that I can tell you that I am a freshman Visual Art and History double major originally from Santa Rosa, California. Seattle has been my first step into a life outside of California. I had lived in Sonoma County my whole life and by age eighteen I was ready to move out. I left behind three dogs, loving parents, and a younger sister that I miss every single day.

"Roxie" 2015
“Roxie” 2015

Needless to say, I have never been outside of the country. I have been up and down the west coast, but I had never felt what the air feels like anywhere else.

"Sonoma County" 2015
“Sonoma County” 2015

In approximately twenty-four hours I will be crossing the border from the United States into Mexico. I’ve studied Spanish for almost five years, I’ve read Fresh Fruit, Broken Bodies (Seth Holmes, PhD MD) and The Devil’s Highway (Luis Alberto Urrea), and I’ve had hours of discussions with my close knit US-Mexico Border class ; I’m more than ready to take this step in my life.

"Bathe" 2015
“Bathe” 2015

I’m only nervous for the heat. Other than that, my adrenaline from the atmosphere at Club de Esperanza should hold me through the hours of tossing cement buckets in order to build homes for the people of Tijuana.

"Capitol Hill" 2015
“Capitol Hill” 2015

I suppose I am anxious to meet the children at the orphanage we are going to visit. I brought a pad of paper and colored pencils to better bridge the gap of language between myself and my new friends. The artist in me couldn’t help wanting to share my passion with others.

"Self" 2013
“Self” 2013

I am primarily a visual artist, but since my move to Seattle I have been taking my Polaroids “more seriously.” What that means is that the rising price of Polaroid film has caused me to cherish each photograph I take. Unlike my smartphone, my Polaroid photographs are precious, one-of-a-kind. I also can’t help but love the portrait style orientation of the Polaroid 300 film. As a visual artist I specialize in portraiture, making each Polaroid I take all the more special to me.

"Andrew II: 2015
“Andrew II: 2015

Now why do I want to study abroad in the first place? That’s the question. I believe the only answer I have is to see something completely different. The longer I stay in one place, the longer I question myself and my purpose. Recently my purpose has been to serve. I’ve been volunteering at CASA Latina for two months now, and before moving to Seattle I did plenty of community service in Sonoma County. I also want to challenge my brain and my heart to be stronger every day. I’ve been learning Spanish for years now, but never have I had an opportunity like this to spend a week in a Spanish-speaking country in order to help others succeed.

"Capitol Hill Couple" 2015
“Capitol Hill Couple” 2015

There are people I will miss when I am gone, but they know that I can’t stay away from them too long. Bailee will come back sooner or later to remind those she cares about what they really mean to her. Without my friends and family who knows where I’d be right now.

"Bridget and Peaches" 2015
“Bridget and Peaches” 2015

Well I suppose I’ll finish packing. I don’t want to forget anything important like my sketchbook, my camera, and certainly not my sunscreen. I moved north for a reason.

-Bailee

We are Amused

“This is a silly country.” The words my travelling companion must have heard over a dozen times. Every day we walked the boroughs of London, I’d find yet another clue that this was, truly, a very silly country. England is weird. There’s no getting around it. They’re as weird as their sky is grey. Looking over my visit, it’s hard to decide where to begin, but I suppose there’s no beginning like the beginning, so I’ll start with my voyage from Heathrow. I took the ever so famous Underground, or “Tube”. Technically they call it the “tchube”, because, as I’ve said, they are a silly people. My first laugh, after popping a squat on the surprisingly comfy, cushioned public transport seat, was conjured by the cool female voice that rang through the Tewb:

“This is the Picadilly Line service to Cockfosters.”

I wish I could add the correct inflection, because after hearing that eighteen times in the course of an hour, I have it perfectly memorized. Needless to say, I giggled all the way to the Jubilee connection. The silly names didn’t stop there, heavens no. You know all the famous ones of course: Buckingham (Bucking-’em), Kensington, Hackney, Tottenham (Tot-in-’em), Wimbledon, and Westminster; but have you ever come across Upminster? What about Cricklewood? It helps if you imagine them said in the voice of an old British man. Wembley? Walthanstow? Finchley? Uxbridge? No? Well surely you’re familiar with Southwark? No, not ‘south-wark’; ‘Suthock’! They confiscate phonetics at customs if you have over 100ml. I could go on with the funny names–and I will. Teddington. Twickenham. Berrylands. Long Ditton. Norbiton. Coombe. Cheam. North Cheam. Penge. Orpington. Stoke Newington. Sewardstonebury. Kew. Chigwell. Molesley. And, of course, Tooting. These are just the names visible on the zoomed out view of the map. You can give two millennia of history, beheadings, and conquerings to a place, but as long as you can visit an Orpington, it will always be ridiculous. As I’ve said: England = Silly

This observation does nothing to to lessen the grandeur of the place. Anyone who knows me will tell you that I am, indeed, a very silly girl. Just recently I bought a pair of earmuffs and a cloak. This whimsical, pretentious humour is right up my alley. I am enamored with the capricious pretension, and the whole country for that matter. I much prefer the awkward, polite, albeit contemptuous nature of the British to the loud, pushy general public I encountered in Italy (though, in respect to food, Italy isn’t even in the same galaxy).

Even the advertisements are cheeky, hilarious, and molly-coddling.
Look at this PSA:
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How sweet is that?
And let’s not forget:
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That’s a term I will be using a lot. There’s also this gem that I found on the Czube, and cannot for the life of me figure out what it’s trying to say:
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Look at this man:
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He is a Royal Guard. He is called a Beefeater and he looks ridiculous.

I found this on the side of the road:
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I guess a brunch ended early.

I also came across these little ditties:

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As well as these charming personalities that were adhered to public transport:
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Well, do you know your puffs and pumps?

In case you’re still not convinced, keep in mind that this is a country with septagonal coins.
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That’s a shape you don’t see every day. Unless you’re a silly Brit, in which case yes, you do.

And look at the sheer size that was apparently necessary to allot to their two pence coin. A double A battery is next to it for reference:
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That’s a lot of copper for
two whole pence.

My closing argument for the case that England is simply a smattering of oddities, is their manner of speaking. Don’t get me wrong, their vernacular has me well chuffed (which is a good thing, apparently). As I was walking home one night, I overheard a man say, “Barbecue’s the latest pop-craze, i’ntit?”

An old woman on the Chube said, partially to her son, mostly to herself, “Are we getting off here, are we? Alright then.”

A man at the airport told me “you’ll come and ask if you have any questions then, won’t you, love.”
Syntactically speaking it was a question, but it was very clearly not a question. It was an order, and quite possibly a slight to my intelligence, but I can’t be sure. Everything is phrased as a question and it’s all very passive aggressive and I love it.

If it were not for the enormity of the city, I would say I’ve found my home. Really though, London is far too big for me. It’s a sprawling, beautiful mess that requires three separate modes of public transportation, and nothing is close enough to hoof it. The search continues. Maybe Edinburgh. I’ll sign off here, as I need to meet my doctor about getting rid of this chuffing grumble I picked up in the UK. Cheerio!

G

P.S. I visited the crown jewels. They’re kept in the Tower of London, along with a history of animal cruelty. I wasn’t allowed to take pictures of the treasures, but lucky for you, google images exists, so have at it. Now, I am not one for glamorous things. Give me fun over fancy. I don’t care much for luxury. However. The crown jewels inspired a covetous greed I didn’t even know I possessed. Diamonds are a girl’s best friend, but who needs friends when you’ve got a diamond the size of an egg. These are the kinds of rocks you’d use to hurt someone. I’d say that I’d sell my first born for those glittering wonders, but it’s a bit presumptuous to think I could produce anything grander than the Cullinan Diamond. If anyone is interested, I am now accepting applicants for an Oceans 11 type heist.

P.S.S. here are my favorite snapchats from the voyage:

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Pimp My Crypt: and Other Ancient Things

Something remarkable about the old country: it’s old. As such, there are many old things here, pretty much all over. I guess that’s what happens when people live in the same place for tens of thousands of years–they leave their crap everywhere. Have you ever heard the phrase “take only pictures, leave only footprints”? Well, neither have the French. There are decrepit churches scattered ad nauseaum throughout the countryside. Ancient, majestic spires towering out of nothing and nowhere. While on the train to Paris (how snotty and cosmopolitan does that sound?) I looked out my window to see an enormous gothic turret. I say gothic because I know next to nothing about ancient architecture, and I don’t have a picture for you to prove me wrong. It really was a beautiful relic, jutting straight out of a tiny, sprawling hick town. I know for a fact that it was a hick town because directly in front of the steeple was a large billboard reading “Leroy-Merlin”, and if that doesn’t conjure up an image of a used car dealership, I don’t know what does. That’s how Europe operates. They have lasting memories of long-dead civilizations that they’re not allowed to tear down, so they build their junk around them. It’s certainly an improvement to the United States. At the epicenter of our parking lots, we just have more strip malls.

As I mentioned, I went to Paris. Because I’m classy. I won’t bore you with the details; you’ve seen The Aristocats, you know what the Eiffel Tower looks like. Paris in the rain, yadda yadda. Well, somewhere in the 10 miles of walking per day, we visited a little hole-in-the-wall local favorite called the Notre Dame Cathedral. You’ve probably seen it in that Disney film about the wide-eyed, physically remarkable dreamer who wasn’t allowed outside, but finally escaped to see a festival. I think it was called Tangled. It was pretty impressive, how old and big it was. I especially liked the stained glass windows. I found it a little hypocritical how they kept shushing all of us, and had signs reading “silence please”, when they rang these obnoxiously loud bells every hour, on the hour. No one complained about that ruckus, but whatever. My favorite part of the cathedral was definitely the gift shop, situated right between the pews and the Chapel of Our Lady of Guadeloupe. Here’s a picture:

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I forget, who was the Patron Saint of Tchotchkies?

I even got this neato souvenir coin. One side has Pope Francis, and the other has Jean-Paul:

Pretty sweet, right? This little number cost me 2 euro. I guess not even the Papacy can resist the cold allure of capitalism.

We didn’t have time to check out the catacombs this go about Paris, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t seen my fair share of “bone”-hommes. Hardy har har. That sentence was humerus because it was a play on the French phrase “bonshommes,” meaning good men, and the English word “bone”, meaning what your skeleton is made out of. That sentence is humorous because the humerus is a bone. Comedy. Recently I took a tour of the Crypte Saint Laurent, in my very own Grenoble. It was a charming little arrangement of scaffolding suspended over the skinless remains of who knows how many dead people. Here are some of the friends I made there:

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They don’t speak much, but they’re great listeners. My classmates and I argued over whether or not they were real bones. They were skeptical that anyone would leave real corpses within poking distance, but I figure that Europe is lousy with disturbed burial sites. They’ve got more exposed remains than they know what to do with, so they might as well make some money off of them. I think it’s great. These poor souls never got the chance to make a facebook, but now they get the opportunity to feature in countless selfies. A really cool feature of this crumbling church was the ceiling adorned with sweet little swastikas:

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Being half-Jewish, this put just enough fear in me to really appreciate life, which is more than I can say for these puppies:

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I think I’m starting to notice a trend here… When I was in the Louvre I saw a beautiful arrangement of sarcophagi. There must have been 50 of them, There was even a mummy:

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I may be mistaken, but I’m pretty sure this is how you get cursed. Oh well, Europeans just can’t resist violating personal space.

French cuisine tip: Did you know that when eating escargot, you’re supposed to cook the snails first? Well I didn’t, so I need to make a quick trip to the toilet.

Until next time!

G

Writings on the Stalls

Here’s something odd about French Universities: Bathrooms. Pardon me, toilets. Because in France, the bathroom and the toilet are two separate rooms, sometimes connected, but more often separated by a hallway. That’s a lot of door-handles to touch before washing your hands. For whatever reason, the administration doesn’t believe in toilet seats. I don’t know if it’s political or religious, but you’re lucky if you can find more than two beseated toilets per building. Stranger still, there are still the broken remnants of long-forgotten seats, still fixed to the porcelain bases, begging the question: who took them? Where are they now? Quite frankly, the situation works for me, as I much prefer to squat and pee anyway. Keeps me svelte.

I am moderately unsettled by the fact that most of the toilet cubicles come equipped with nifty cages above them, like this one here:

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I suppose they’re to ensure that you don’t accidentally climb out if you get spooked by a loud noise or a capitalist.

Truly though, my favorite alteration to the campus is the graffiti peppering everything in arms’ reach. I can’t speak for other universities in the country, but this one is riddled with whimsical defacements of government property. The missives are most rampant in the toilets/bathrooms, though it seems like a lot of work to squat and write at the same time. They’re tricky, the French. I must say it is a wonderful distraction from your aching hamstrings. I haven’t called any of the numbers, but from what I’ve read, Carlie P knows how to have a great time. The messages vary in eloquence, but they’re all equally charming, as you can see:

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The youth here are so expressive. The best I’ve seen though is definitely this one:

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For those of you who don’t read French, or have difficulty making inferences based on similar sounding latin-rooted words, it says “The chamber of Secrets has been opened. Enemies of the heir beware.” I saw this on my first day of school and I knew that I was home.

Truthfully there’s a lot of writing all over the school. On the walls, the desks, the ground, the vending machines, and such. It’s just like elementary school, except bigger and you get in a lot more trouble when you bite people.

The street art is pretty great too. There are sheep hidden everywhere. Look at these sweet little nuggets:

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I also found a beautiful spray-painted mural of some dancing gazelle covering the side of a building. I forgot to take a picture of it, and all the streets look the same, but if I find it again I’ll take another picture. I’m a fan of the animal graffiti, although I could probably do without the excessive amounts of furries in advertising:

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I’m not really sure what that’s about.

That’s all for now, I think, but I have to get going anyway. The family mime got out again and I have to put him back in his box.

A bientôt,

G

What’s That in My Mouth?

(B)log date: 1/10/2016

It has been six days since my arrival in France. Still no sign of a bidet. I am beginning to question whether they exist at all, however I remain optimistic.

In almost a week of living here in Grenoble, I’ve started to notice some of the vast differences in our cultures. One of the most striking things is the French relationship to alcohol. Not only can teenagers wander into their local pubs, supermarkets, and gas stations to buy a 40 without getting carded, but my university sells beer in their cafeteria. In their cafeteria. Where college students eat. In the daytime. Is that not the most counterintuitive thing you’ve heard all day? What a country. I should probably point out that this doesn’t mean students and professors are drunkenly stumbling to their classes. Hilarious as that might be, the relaxed position of alcohol in Europe results in responsible behavior; having a beer with lunch, a wine with dinner, going about your day in total sobriety.

In a less agreeable light is the French relationship to coffee. Coming from Seattle, I’ve become accustomed to hooking up an IV of Sumatran blend as I do my makeup in the morning, and keeping a few packs of Folgers Instant in my wallet to snort in case of emergency. I need my coffee, and France leaves a lot to be desired in that respect. Yes, they drink it—they don’t call it a French press for nothing—but their cups are tiny. You know those 8oz coffees your mom orders from Starbucks that don’t make any sense and you wonder how she can even keep her eyes open let alone drive to work and pay your tuition? That’s a French cup of coffee. Sure it’s espresso, but that doesn’t mean what you think it means. It has a higher caffeine concentration per volume, but is generally too small to have as much as a standard cup of regular coffee. Thanks Wikipedia. At least they’re cheap. I can down three café au laits or two café crèmes in under 30 seconds. Impressed yet?

Next on the docket is the French and their food. I’m a vegetarian, but even so, French cuisine really is incredible and blah blah blah, you’ve heard it all before. What I find more interesting are the weird things they do to their food. Have you ever heard of Kinder Surprise? They’re German chocolate eggs, about the same size as Cadbury’s, but instead of a caramel or cream center, they have a little toy inside. Not ringing a bell? That may be because they’re illegal in the United States. Something about parents worried their kids might choke on the little throat-sized hunk of plastic hidden in their delicious chocolate ovoid. That’s just the tip of the iceberg for the French. They up the ante with a little gem called La Galette du Roi. The King Cake. So named after the biblical three kings from the nativity story (who weren’t actually kings, by the way, and were more than likely just travelers—but where’s the mystère in that?). Good on them that they’ve left behind a legacy as distinguished as the Galettes; these harbingers of dental devastation run rampant through France in the time between Christmas and Mardi Gras. They’re very tasty—usually filled with marzipan and sometimes fruit or chocolate fillings—but they have one quirk: a tiny figurine embedded somewhere in their sugary depths. Traditionally, the figurine is a little plastic baby, which is meant to represent Jesus. What’s a better homage to the son of god than accidentally swallowing him in his infancy? These days the festive little choking hazards are less infanticidal, assuming the form of little enamel crowns, or tiny wooden books, or itty bitty porcelain flags. Whoever finds the trinket (la fève) in their cake and manages not to swallow it or asphyxiate, is the king of the feast. It’s a sign of good luck, bestowing upon the king a little crown and the task of honor of purchasing the next galette. Here’s a picture of the porcelain crown on which I chipped a molar at my first meal in the Antoine Saint-Exupery airport. Next to the crown, for size reference, I’ve placed an American penny. You can see Mr. Lincoln, who was kind of a king.

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It must be lucky—my periodontist told me I needed a crown replaced…Badoom-Tss!

Really though, I have my doubts about the fortuity of la fève, considering immediately after that my travelling partner and I missed our shuttle to Grenoble, and subsequently our professor’s free ride from the bus station to the city. Here’s a snapchat of us on the later shuttle:

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We’re smiling, but there is fury in our eyes.

Monoprix, the French equivalent to Target, has a spectacular campaign for their king cakes right now. Instead of a trinket, ten lucky customers across the nation might find a diamond in their bite of cake! I say ‘might’ because anyone who’s ever seen a diamond before knows that they’re not too big. Even the French, savoring each bite as they do, have at least a 20% chance of swallowing that little treasure. But hey, I’d rather pass a diamond than the baby Jesus.

I’d better sign off now. My host family and I are about to go take our baguettes for a walk.

À tout à l’heure,

G