comfort food

“The ache for home lives in all of us, the safe place where we can go as we are and not be questioned.”

Maya Angelou, All God’s Children Need Traveling Shoes

From the smell of fresh baked goods always circulating the house to the comfort of a warm bed, the idea of home sparks warmth and happiness, and I have been so lucky to consider my home in that way.

The white door that creeks and the roof that leaks is where I find home currently, but I have a vision of where I want to be or see myself once I have finished growing up.  

Being a mix of all cultures, the Philippines in itself represents me. Living in a higaonon hut on one of the several islands, I would devour salty chicken adobo and lumpia.

Settling into my home, I would write in my journal about the culture that I experienced that day while looking out from my hut into the orange sunset reflecting off the ocean. 

With beams of warm colors bouncing off the water, I would feel my late grandmother and her mother, wrapping their arms around me with their soft, delicate arms. Eventually, I will feel a sense of comfort and understanding of my surrounding culture.

Living the simple life and knowing my roots, I would sense closure and be able to flee to my new home in San Fransisco, California. 

Even though I was not born there, my roots are in California and more specifically, San Francisco. Like my little Filipino grandmother, I would come from the Philippines and go to the Golden City.

My fate would bring me to the perfect two bedrooms and bathroom apartment on the seventh floor having an auburn red door. Decorated with poems written by my father, my apartment would have the smell of essential oils embedded into the walls, specifically lavender representing my mother’s spirituality.

This would be my sanctuary where tears would be shed, laughs would explode, and love would be felt. 

The Mission district, where my brother was born, would give light to the art forward theme that I created in all the rooms but made sure that every area had its own distinctive flair.

Wanting to explore more about my culture and ancestors, I would travel to the plains of Africa. Settling down in Nairobi, Kenya, where the lifestyle is filled with the history of the Bantu people and the Swahili language, my home would be in a Kikuyu house with no rooms.

Compared to my other homes, I would be connected with the earth where elephants and antelopes have carried their children on their migratory voyage.

This home would give me insight to my African heritage before Europeans came into their territory, before slavery, and before segregation. Instead of learning about the hardships of my culture, I will learn about the rich tradition that the country brings. 

I have always been a homebody. I find extreme comfort with the idea of my home and enjoy its atmosphere. I am excited to see where my future home may be.

photo credit: pinterest.com
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The Smoking Reaper

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Worried about the potential health damages cigarettes might do to him, my father quit smoking a couple years ago. Before his abstinence, he had been smoking for over a decade. Cigarettes were a major category of his life for all those years, but he still abandoned it steadfastly. Why? Because smoking kills. 

Many are unaware of the damages that come with smoking, whereas the others are unable to stop smoking. As a hobby, people don’t see the harm; as an addiction, people find it hard to abstain from. How is cigarette-smoking such a bad thing? To begin with, smoking jeopardizes your health, the health of the people around you, and the health of the planet. 

If you were a smoker, smoking cigarettes can induce lung diseases by damaging the airways and the alveoli located in your lungs. The regeneration in your lungs is slow and according to the studies of stem cells in the past few years, there is little to no effective way to regenerate lost bronchioles or alveoli in humans. Smoking damages your lungs while you have little chance to regrow.

Nicotine is a major part in the making of cigarettes. The nicotine-intake from cigarettes decreases the amount of oxygen your heart gets and elevates your heart rate. More stress is put on your heart because of smoking. That’s how smoking induces heart diseases. However, that’s not all cigarettes bring you, they also bring death.

The statistics speak volume. According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), more than 1 in 10 deaths worldwide from Cardiovascular Diseases in 2000 were attributed to smoking. “Cigarette smoking is responsible for more than 480,000 deaths per year in the United States,” the CDC stated. 

Photo credit: wikipedia.org

In total, diseases that can be caused by cigarette-smoking are: lung cancer, heart diseases, strokes, aortic aneurysm, oropharyngeal cancer, esophageal cancer, diabetes… There are many other symptoms triggered by smoking. However, it’s not just the smoker that’s affected by smoking, secondhand smoke kills as well.

According to the CDC, More than 41,000 people die in a year because of secondhand smoke exposure. All these people are going to be gone because there is a smoker in the office, in the hallway, or in the family. You are slowly killing your family if you smoke next to them!

Cigarette smoking also leads to environmental pollution as it releases pollutants into the atmosphere. The cigarette butts are littered everywhere—you would often see them on the ground. The leftover chemicals in cigarettes would also seep into the ground or waterways, inducing further pollutions. By the way, cigarettes can also be an environmental hazard as smokers often fail to put out cigarette thoroughly. When they dump the still lit cigarette butts on the ground, it’s a dangerous fire hazard. In a report from the Los Angles Times, on Nov. 8, 2018, a wild fire in California killed 85 people when it ripped the Butte County apart. 

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In my eyes, smokers are reapers. They come not with a sickle, but with the smoke that chokes, with a fire that burns. If you are one of them, listen to me: the one that’s eventually get reaped is yourself.

Photo credit: DeviantArt.com

Can’t Forget About Jew

I have always considered myself a person of faith. I was lucky enough to be born a Sephardic Jew in one of the most welcoming periods in world history. Because of this, I never had to hide my beliefs, I had the opportunity to inform countless masses of friends what the laws of Kosher are, sharing stories about my main man Moses, and having a global network of strangers and friends alike that I could rely on, that I could confide in. But that’s not what I wanted to highlight today. Recently, I went to Yom Kippur services for the “Jewish New Year” where I fasted the whole day and prayed in repentance of the misdeeds committed by me and fellow Jews this last year. At the end of the second night, after nearly 30 hours without food, water, or bathing, as night falls, your fate for the next year is sealed, your past year is wiped clean and are given a chance to start anew. As I left services with my father, I felt invigorated, I felt fresh, I felt strong despite my thirst and hunger, and it was all due to this faith of mine. I realized I possessed a luxury that many of my friends grew up without and still live lacking. 
 
My faith has always been something I could rely on. From a young age, when I questioned something, I found my faith would always give me a confident answer, giving me a sense of closure, a peace-of-mind not afforded to my peers. When my friends grew to understand the finality of their mortality, when they struggled to find meaning in their lives, when they tossed and turned trying to comprehend our loneliness in our vast expanse of the universe, I had Judaism to fill the gaps in my young mind, sheltering me from the despair. Now I’m not saying it by any means encourages ignorance, some of the best Jewish scholars throughout history have integrated the scientific understand of our universe and Judaism because “[Both] were understood to be two different manifestations of the same divine truth.” (MJL, 2007) I was always encouraged by numerous Rabbi and teachers from my Jewish primary school to find my own truths, but if I couldn’t find a why for any of these, an explanation for my truths, Judaism would always be there to support my conclusions, to give me confidence about my role in our universe, no matter how small. I can go to sleep every night knowing if I were to not wake up in the morning, it would be because I have served my purpose and my job is completed, for this I am incredibly grateful.  
Photo Credit: Kenzie Bruce, The Denver Post
Mjl. “Judaism & Science in History.” My Jewish Learning, My Jewish Learning, 4 Feb. 2007, www.myjewishlearning.com/article/judaism-science-in-history/.

Burned Bridges

The United States has a complex and deep rooted relationship with the rest of the world. We stood beside Europe on the march to victory in the first two world wars. But then the 60s and 70s yielded economic and political corruption centered in Latin America, casting us in a malicious light. Then the 1980s saw the fall of the Berlin wall/ Soviet Union, which the US had a large part in. We were the heroes – until the Gulf Wars and Afghanistan, when we invaded places where there was no need to invade, while withdrawing from regions at crucial, inopportune points. Now, in October of 2019, we burned a bridge that had been forged with blood and brotherhood, united under a common desire for justice and peace. For decades, the Kurdish people, an ethnic group living between Syria and Turkey, helped the United States with intelligence, manpower, and resources. In turn, we drove radical insurgents from the surrounding area. But as of this week, the Kurds no longer see us as the ally we have always been. Despite strong warnings from various agencies and the pentagon, President Donald Trump ordered American troops out of a buffer zone between Turkey and Syria, which had for years stopped the Kurds from fighting with the Turks over land. By essentially opening the gate for the Turkish Army, the United States turned its back on the Kurdish people, which has resulted in a plethora of problems. Two issues that stand out greater than the rest are the fact that we betrayed a long standing and loyal ally, and that because of Turkey/Syria’s concentration on the impending conflict, large amounts of prisoners that belong to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) have escaped from prisons that as of recent lack security. Many fear that an old and strong bridge has been destroyed, and that the future of the western Middle East may be drastically changed for the worst. The events that are to unfold are likely to be harrowing and unpredictable, so please read from reputable sources if you wish to learn more.  

Image result for kurdish fighters
Credit: The Times of Israel

for her.

As I have grown older, I have danced around with my faith in God. My extended family is very Catholic. Like, so Catholic that my great grandparents had fifteen children. 

Both my mother and father grew up in the church. With families that wholeheartedly believe in God and Catholic values, there was little room to be different and your own person with different values and morals. My parents saw flaws in this system and didn’t raise my brother and me in the church. 

Now, as my relationship with God is pretty non-existent, I wonder about the strength in religion and the power of spirituality. Around the world, there are all these varying forms of praying to a higher power(s) in order to feel something like happiness, clarity, or reassurance. 

My aunt is currently sick.  And I am waiting for a miracle. 

My family has urged people to pray to keep her alive and healthy. But, is that legit and enough?

We have been praying for months. 

We have been watching the sickness take over her. 

We have watched the weight drop off her like the tears that run off our faces when thinking about her future.

We are putting our hopes and prayers on one person and what is He doing to save her? 

But, I pull myself back from this cycle of negativity and think about her, just her. I think about her needs, what she wants right now. 

She lived and lives a beautiful life. 

She is surrounded by people who love her and will be for eternity. 

She has made hundreds of people smile. 

My sentiments on prayer and putting all your hopes on one figure can be pushed out the window. For now, I will pray because I know that is what she believes in.

photo credit: pinterest.com

reflections above the water

the pool, hot on a september slab of concrete. a speaker singing a distinctly weekend song, listing back towards the heat of summer struggling against the onset of school. but we just repeatedly submerged ourselves and lie on hot things in the sun roasting to save a bit of heat, sort of fattening up for the winter. Peter was ripped of course, how could he not have a six pack at 16, he’s just that kinda guy. strong silent type, super cool, badass; also relentlessly nerdy, shy as can be, and definitely one of the guys you have to know well to know at all. he’s perched like a lizard on the high dive rolling over to toast each side, occasionally and jarringly rolling off the diving board upsetting the water 10 feet below and the less fit, less shy, me on the low dive (because heights aren’t my thing.) 

you feel like the sun is shining through you when you lay on a black diving board like that, the surface burns your skin and the sun does its worst on the other side, you lie there. the closest we will ever feel to a cold blooded animal, or a zucchini in the midst of the broiling of a lifetime. we just lie there thinking that maybe if we didn’t move time might pass us by and leave us happily stranded in constant farewell to the pregnant bliss of the weekend. and teal, blues in abundance like a brochure to mykonos, both the sky and the water both are cloudless and still moving.

in those peaceful hours i saw fleetingly like a stag in your peripheral, the adolescence people tell you to hold onto. we did. we savored it. an experience we never talked about partly because it might seem gay and partly because what would we say. in a way it was my connection to the schoolboys i see in black and white, with my white gloves flipping through ancient yearbooks. content to lie on a hot rock by the creek with a friend you have been through hell and back with. i saw a glimpse in that moment, a glimpse of the school we would’ve attended had we been born in 1900.

Peter never chose me. he was content with the friends he had, i wasn’t cool, and i idolized him. terrible way to make a friend. but i just kinda showed up, next door, and i would just come and sit with him, uncomfortable as all hell at first, but within days we became happy to distract one another and would spend study hall sneaking back and forth between our rooms talking about rock climbing season and expensive climbing shoes. like two freshman boys did in a hundred years prior, one running into the others room discussing the intricacies of a new radio. wasting a two hour study period and leaving homework for 5 am the next morning before we went to muck their horses. and tomorrow we’d plan to sleep through study hall as a result of our long day but instead chose to scour ebay for deals on aforementioned climbing shoes.

 we weren’t fast friends, but when we needed to study we could sit in silence and study and that was comfortable. also wasting our time nerding out over lame climbing equipment, but both were necessary evils and a part of our lives. for me silence was always the enemy of friendship because good friends always had something to talk or argue about. but Peter liked to listen, to say nothing, to test if it would be awkward, sometimes it was, most of the time it wasn’t. but now when i see him once a month silence is my enemy again. i want him to tell me everything, tell me the gossip, what’s happened since i left, who’s with who, who hates who, funny stories. and Peter just wants to be with his friend and sit and eat obscene quantities of brie and just exist and pretend nothing happened.

You gain some you lose some

It’s a philosophical paradox. Am I gaining or losing? People often say that you get abs from training. But without losing the fat, you can’t see them. So is it really gaining or losing? I don’t know. Just like life, when you gain something, you’re automatically losing something. 

From ancient epics to nowadays trivia, the paradox applies. Achilles’ mother dipped her son into the styx, which made him powerful—except that Achilles got the fatal weakness in his heels. He gained strength but also weakness… you gain some you lose some. But was he really losing when he got the weakness in his heels? Although it was bad for him, he was gaining something. Or is it really a bad thing to have weaknesses? Immortality is considered miserable by some—gaining everlasting life while losing your humanity? Or should we stay animals, return back to the caves? Our existence does stop the evolutionary path, like Ishmael said. If we are animals, our IQs lower and we keep evolving. Is losing intelligence really bad? “Ignorance is strength,” George Orwell said in his novel… This is a paradox indeed.

Am I gaining or losing by being here right now? Not having an existential crisis, but what really am I? A person born to die, I would say. So, is my birth a gain (because I’m added to the world) or a loss (because I’m destined to die)? I fancy the idea of an afterlife and envy the people who believe in it. Everything turns out to be paradoxical when you look at the perspectives. Brutus loved Rome just like Caesar did, and he killed Caesar for it. Caesar was his friend and he murdered his friend for politics. Did he gain from his participation in the conspiracy or lose honor from killing his friend? Would I make the same choice if I were Brutus?

You gain some you lose some, so is there anything to be gained in life when you’re losing while gaining? I guess thinking too much about something can only make a simple subject complex. We should make choices that are good for us, and sometimes they come at a cost… Are you willing to make sacrifices for your desires?

Photo credit: urbanlife.org.za