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I Want My Daughters To …

The princess culture (Disney and otherwise) has confounded me. I’ve read articles decrying it (these are the ones I tend to agree with more), but I’ve also come across another current of thought: that the princesses empower the girls to be who they want to be.

However, I wonder why so few of these princesses have decided to be just that: princesses. Thus the prism of options for ourselves and our daughters is limited in the media.

I don’t want my daughters to be princesses…

I want them to be queens, khaleesis, empresses, goddesses. I want them to be owners of their own domain and destiny. I want them to be owners of their lives and bodies. I want them to be able to choose. I want them to be kind and compassionate to those who have fewer resources, who are deemed “less” by other authorities, who have been forgotten by the world at large.

I want my daughters to be firefighters against the flames of injustice.

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I want them to be veterinarians by virtue of the love for the animal kingdom they would inherit from me and their father.

I want my daughters to be doctors: knowledgeable about the human body and mind, and their ailments. No prudish taboos or fears allowed.

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I want my daughters to be lawyers, to be conscious of the society we live in, to know their rights. But I also want them to be aware that they can fight the system if they perceive injustice and corruption.

I want my daughters to be builders, so they can always have the skills to shelter themselves and survive  without depending on anyone else.

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I want my daughters to be athletes, bodybuilders, parkour performers, fire-breathers… I want them to push their own bodies to wherever they want to push them. I want them to be strong.

I want my daughters to discover all the colors of the rainbow, and to choose among them the ones they want to wear. I want my daughters to wear red, blue, purple, yellow, green … I want them to wear pink if they so wish, but I want them to choose this by their own volition, not by imposition.

I want my daughters to see their hair as a venue of self-expression. Do you want to wear a frilly bow? Fine. Do you want to do it up in a mohawk? Awesome! Do you want to do both at the same time? Fuckin’ A!

What I don’t want is for my girls to be limited by society, by corporations, by the goddamned gender marketing that’s taken the world by storm. I want them to feel that they are individuals with a definitive say on what goes on in their lives, their bodies, their minds.

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I want them to be able to make the decision to marry whomever they choose (or not marry at all). I want them to be able to decide whether they want to have children of their own or not. I want them to have a say on how the world works, and be able to fight if they do not consciously agree.

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I want my daughters to be more than dolls and mannequins to look pretty and smile. I want my daughters to be fucking warriors: fierce and strong and fearless.

I don’t know about the rest of you… But that is what I’d like for the daughters I don’t yet have.

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It will love you back

I apologize for the following rant, delivered in such a disjointed manner, so disorganized and unclear. Its purpose is less to inform about particular events, and more to reflect upon my current state of mind and emotions. 

October 8, 2013 marked the passing of an era: with a brief email, my life was derailed and launched towards the mountains.

Until then, and upon retroactive analysis, I had been making some crass, yet naive, mistakes. It all came from my desire to love and be loved, to set myself free from the shackles of fear, to lead a life true to myself. Perhaps the mistake was in not paying close attention to what MY SELF is.

I spent a long time surrendering my wishes to those of others. Most of the times, specially in more recent years, I did this subconsciously, convincing myself that their wishes were my own, adopting them blindly, giving myself abundant reasons to hold to their points of view.

Mostly, and this is probably the mistake from which all others spawned, I tried to become a predominantly logical and practical person…

I, who was born with a strong tendency towards emotion, tears, laughter, and romantic notions.

I attempted to vanquish my abandonment issues by destroying all illusions of permanence and possession. I vied to make my heart stronger by putting it through the wringer. I put myself out there time and again, holding onto the battering ram that was pummeling me into the ground, throwing myself down the rabbit hole with no regard for my own safety or sanity.

I was loved, I know. But I was also used and abused. They tried to break me and submit me. They expected so much from me, and I gave all I could give and more. I was drained. No wonder I got to my new home feeling exhausted. I left a lot behind. I wept. I got sick. Then I recovered.

I began exploring my new home, and I learned: “Love this city, and the city will love you back.” I needed to trust this. This was mine. My own city, my own home, my own life. I was finally going to confirm who MY SELF was.

And MY SELF is emotional, no matter how strong I am. And yes, I have romantic notions about … stuff … even if I have to de-program my default response, which has been to berate myself for being so mushy. And yes, I do want to get married, even if I could recognize and understand opposing points of view. And in spite of my staunch and vocal advocacy against procreation… Well, you’d have to know my intimate personal history  to understand what can only be misconstrued as a flip-flop by casual acquaintances.

Many other elements of my being have resurfaced after years of stifling and repressing them (for no reason whatsoever, really). This place is haunted in a certain way I cannot explain, and the way it’s affected me is that it has put me more in contact with the divinity within. I may not be retaking that spiritual path where I left off more than ten years ago, but I’m rediscovering the heartfelt beliefs that led me there.

I had no expectations when I came here. This place and its people definitely took me by surprise.

Most of all, he did.

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Not the dog (although the dog is awesome and bitey in his own right).

No, I wasn’t expecting to meet anyone new here (not for a long while anyway). Much less was I expecting to fall in love. Not so soon. Not so fast. Not so beautifully. And no, I wasn’t expecting the predominant feeling in a new relationship to be certainty. No fear, no falling down the precarious void of not knowing what the future may bring.

I may not have full control of my future, but I cannot deny the crystal clear message the universe has sent to me. Trust it, love it, and it will love you back.

It’s a new way of life. I may be “falling”, but my eyes and wings are open, and I am not alone.

 

 

 

 

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The Coquí Nest

I suspect not everyone got the memo, and for that I apologize, but here goes: I moved to Denver.

Yes, Denver, CO. A place I’d never visited before, never even mentioned in the long list of “Places I’d Like to Live In” or even “To Visit”. It almost felt like an arranged marriage. A very sudden one at that too.

I had been toying with the idea since earlier in the year, when Lynette, a friend who works at one of the companies I was freelancing for, mentioned that they needed another person. However, I was also considering following up my Master’s degree with a specialization in medical translation. The priorities were muddled there: Get a job? Or a better preparation?

I contacted my liaison in that company anyway, let her know of my interest, and that was that. I didn’t hear from them again for months. Lots of things happened in those months. Lots of lessons learned, lots of lives affected, lots of growing and rethinking was done in those meager months.

For one, I realized that, in spite of my staunch position against being a mother, I really do want to have a kid. Which brings my current main relationship under scrutiny, because we don’t agree in that, and that is one thing in which you don’t want to disagree in a relationship. However, for the moment being, it’s all in standstill. I’m not ready yet. But I cannot dawdle around too much either. I’m 35, the clock is ticking, yadda-yadda.

Not long after coming to terms with this, I got the call. We set up an interview for Monday October 7th. We Skyped. I got an offer on October 8th. I moved away on the 15th. And that was that. Here I am.

Colorado: a state I knew next to nothing about–no wonder it feels like an arranged marriage! But luckily enough, I’ve begun falling in love with the city, with its people, with the experiences I’ve had so far…

I know, it’s the “honeymoon phase”. But even at its scariest, I’ve concluded that if you love the city, the city will love you back. You just have to tread carefully, like in any other place in the world.

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One thing that struck me as awesome right off the bat is the bike-friendliness of its design. This has coincided with a highly politicized event back in PR, in which a cyclist was run over by a car. People have reacted with such vitriolic rage against cyclists in general, it makes me wonder about my fellow countrymen’s sanity.

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The change of colors (in the trees and plants) has also left me in ecstatic bliss. This is one of the tiny processes of nature I so resented my tropical latitude for lacking. Seasons. Denver has them. And that is beautiful.

Plus I also (finally) saw snow for the first time. Haven’t seen a snowFALL, but … damnit, I saw freaking SNOW! Finally, a lifelong dream: accomplished!

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Also, I got my first library card ever! It’s an actual library. With books in it. Which you can borrow and read. And you don’t need to pay a membership or be part of X or Y group of people. This is a motherfucking PUBLIC library. With many floors. I think I’m gonna spend a lot of time in there.

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Speaking of which, I took this picture of one of the first books I checked out. Because SNOOPY, that’s why. They have the entire Peanuts collection, and that made me cry a little with joy.

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Another good thing is that HEY! I got to a new city with a job. Which pays nicely. So I went to Ikea and I brought home a few gossiping rats (and a squirrel!). Here they are, up to no good, conniving with Woodstock (whom I ordered in from Kohls.) Feel free to take the picture and insert a caption. Share it with me, though. Don’t go being all stingy about it!

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Also, I’ve been lucky enough to shack up with Lynette, who’s as crazy as I am and loves chocolate as much as I do. And cookies. And helping Mr. Squirrely pose for the camera.

Still, baking’s gonna be a bitch here. High altitudes and whatnot. Same with the nosebleeds. The constant nosebleeds. I mean, body, c’mon! Three weeks is more than enough for you to get accustomed to the dry cold!

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And the sunsets. The gorgeous, luminous sunsets. Given that this is not a gloomy place, a gorgeous sunset is in the offering almost on a weekly basis. However, they are happening earlier and earlier. Soon, the sun will be setting during lunch!

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Still, sunsets looks gorgeous even from inside.

Today I took the train here for the first time (I travel around by bus, mostly, and that’s only until I scrounge up enough money for my own bike). It runs through a train graveyard. This is one place I’m gonna have to trespass into and photograph the living hell out of it!

Little by little, like a curious yet patient lover, I discover the nooks and crannies in this city. I am loving it. And it is loving me back.

PS: One other confession, which I only shared yesterday with my coworkers because what the heck!

I made this a while ago. Sort of like an exercise. It’s not that I’m pining for a wedding (who has the money for all that?) but I also realized I wouldn’t be so opposed to it as I previously thought. Oh well … pipe dreams indeed.

Back to this gorgeous reality …

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I, Interpreter

It’s been 9 months since I began working as a phone interpreter. It’s what other people would call a “cushy” job: I get to work from home (in my PJs–no–in the NUDE if I so wish to!), I don’t have a physical supervisor hanging onto my every move, I can work while petting my cat, I barely have any gas expenses… All in all it’s a pretty good deal.

The job has also taught me a lot about how most people view the work of an interpreter/translator. Whereas I get a thumbs-up email every once in a while (which means a client has called into HQ to commend my good job), most of the times we interpreters are dismissed as just an inconvenient necessity. Calls take a longer time to complete, sometimes we make mistakes, and there are a few days in which no one  in the three-way call is in any mood to take the others’ shit. This is day-to-day life for interpreters and customer service in general. We deal. We move on. No one takes personal insult to it.

This was pretty much my Xmas Eve
This was pretty much my Xmas Eve

I spent Xmas Eve sitting in on a long-ass 8-hour shift (and blessed be the 3-hour break in between those kinds of shifts!) taking not only the shit of callers and clients alike. It developed beyond that into a consistent stream of panicky 911 calls full of noise and screams. I wasn’t at my best that day, what with having to forget about any festivities other family members and loved ones were partaking from, but I completed the job and didn’t feel unappreciated. I know my job that night was an important one, just like the jobs of the 911 operators and the on-call nurses.

But what happened last night was something worth writing on this blog about. It started as a pretty textbook call: a client calling to make a car rental reservation. Those tend to be pretty effortless: the questions are the same all the time, people are pretty businesslike throughout the whole transaction, and unless there’s a complication to the call, it takes no longer than 5 minutes. This one caller started by asking whether an online reservation timed out after leaving the computer unattended for half an hour. He was an old Puerto Rican man. Some Puerto Ricans (and this I know, for gossakes, I was born here, and still live here!) tend to be very talkative. The reservations clerk, however, didn’t seem to be in the mood to take any unnecessary talk from anyone. As the call progressed, I realized this guy must live alone, cuz boy was he talking his ass off! So I tried to summarize his ideas into succint  expressions to help the call along. But here’s the deal: the guy mentioned at some point that he is a regular customer for that car rental company. This is a repeat customer, which–and I think most business-minded people will agree with me–is the most valuable kind of customer there is. He asked if I’m Puerto Rican (given my accent, etc) and then he started talking pleasantries, to which I yielded for a moment, but then reined it in, mostly because the clerk was already interrupting us with protests in annoyance. In the end, in spite of her insistence to end the call, because apparently, for her, the transaction was going nowhere, a reservation was made. The guy thanked me profusely and hung up none the wiser to the barrage of scolding I was gonna get in a few seconds.

Her points: I wasted a lot of her valuable time (the call took all of 18 minutes, my goodness!) and, after explaining the situation to her, she said “I understand the connection, but you have to learn how to keep the conversation focused on help me do my job.” I would understand and agree with her if the reservation hadn’t been made. But I spent those good 18 minutes keeping a customer happy by making him feel catered to, like any regular customer should feel. And in the end, a reservation was achieved. Now, I don’t know how that isn’t helping her do her job, but I will humor those who don’t quite get it yet or have arguments against my case.

Shit comes in, shit goes out
Shit comes in, shit goes out

The main purpose of an interpreter is to bridge the gap between two other people who do not share a common language. The most traditional view of good practices for our job (which is the view adopted by the agency I work for) is that interpreters should only translate that which is spoken, no less and no more. Basically, we are viewed as a voice-recognition software, a brainless drone only there to translate word for word. But the reality of human communication is so much more complicated! Not only is it that differences between languages compels translators to be a little more creative to achieve a sense-for-sense translation (which is what a translation should be within this context), but there’s also a culture barrier as well.

My clients are American companies for the most part. Their representatives tend to be pretty businesslike and to-the-point in their interactions, which is all and well when the other part knows this and takes no offense in it. But some people DO take offense. I’ve noticed that other cultures tend to be less formal in their interactions. Some are incredibly verbose (most Mexicans, for example,) and others can seem downright rude (Argentineans, I’m looking at you). Puerto Ricans tend to be in the middle of the spectrum: not too verbose, but not rude either. Loud, yes. Informal, yes. And we have a culture all our own, in which whenever an old person talks, you respectfully listen, and if they’re being nice to you, you nod and say thank you. It’s a cultural issue. We are in a multicultural world, with multicultural businesses, and if you want to do business with a Japanese person, you make like Don Draper in Mad Men and learn your target culture, and you do the job right.

La Malinche was also maligned for this shit
La Malinche was also maligned for this shit

Some people say translators and interpreters will become a thing of the past thanks to translation and voice-recognition software. But something a computer could never do (for now) is recognize a difference in culture and bridge that gap as well. This is where we, the translators of this era, become invaluable. Our ultimate goal is to help our clients do business, and a translation drone will not cut it for this job. We have been emissaries for millenia, helping build relationships (business and otherwise) where there would be none. I view my job as this: not only do I translate, I also help people do their work. And this rental clerk definitely needed some help. Her urgency to end the call because it seemed to be going nowhere wouldn’t have helped her in the least. Her little gestures of impatience could have done a world of harm in this regular relationship the car rental company had managed to achieve. But I turned it around, and the man was more than grateful. He felt listened to and taken care of. He gave me his blessing and literally said “If it wasn’t for you, this reservation wouldn’t have happened.” Thank you, good sir. No good intention goes unpunished, they say. This one wasn’t the exception.

I truly hope that a few customer service representatives will read this and realize that interpreters are there to help too. We may depart from the word-for-word approach to a transaction, and it may seem risky, but some of us know what we’re doing. We’re helping you build and sustain relationships. Again I say, if the reservation had not been made, I would’ve totally agreed with this woman and taken the reprimand quietly. But the transaction was completed. Tomorrow, this car rental company will be $30-something richer and  get repeat business from this customer, aside from the potential good word-of-mouth. I made good business. I helped. But if these companies keep basing their business models on let’s-keep-the-calls-short and let’s-call-1,000-customers-in-one-day, they are the ones doomed to extinction. In a world of advancing technology, human contact is the key to making a difference.

Next step for translators...
Next step for translators…
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A Return in Time for the Holidays

It’s been long–too long–since I last posted here. All for the sake of sanity (my own, my readers’, if any exist…) I held back, I sought out alternate ways to express myself, I hid behind the appearance of anonymity only the internet can bring, with its nameless and faceless blogs and accounts. Thus I neglected this space, came as far as thinking I would never use it again … and then, today I realized I was subconsciously waiting until I felt “in control” again. I was Humpty Dumpty, and all the king’s horses and all the king’s men took their sweet fucking time, and were never able to put me back together again. It took a Queen to do that (and more on that never … some things, I’ve learned, I prefer to treasure as a very personal memory).

Now I feel ready to come back to this space, refurbish it, reclaim it. Just in time for the holidays too, which brings me to the idea that finally sparked my return. Holidays don’t feel real anymore. Atypical work schedules and Grinch-y life partner aside, the holidays for me have lost the luster and excitement they used to have 15 years ago. “Obviously!” you would think to say, but it sometimes seems that there are still people out there who heartily enjoy all that jolly pell-mell. I wish I could too…

But today, as we drove through the neighboring light-speckled streets, a wave of nostalgia hit me. It’s like a memory imprint in my mind, reactivated by patterns of light and temperature, and it brings back an era of bittersweet joy and endless possibilities. I was 19, 20, 21 … I was in college, and then not anymore. I was hopeful, then disappointed, ultimately destroyed … I was just starting to know myself, and was terrified at the conflict between my choices in life and what I really was.

These times of uncertainty and fear came hand-in-hand with the sensation of gaining a family anew. My father had recently remarried, and we spent their first few years travelling back and forth to their new home among the mountains. Holidays were a combination of trips into the chilly unknown (particularly, the homes of family members and friends we didn’t know yet) and heady celebrations with friends and family at home. During the holidays, the local streets turn into tunnels of colored light. These became involved into a Pavlovian association to my era of dangerous explorations and intoxicating glee at the prospect of just being young and alive.

So now, I traverse these tunnels of light, I look out the car window, and I can almost feel the clammy wind on my skin, the wondrous sense of anticipation before a night full of liquor, laughter and fun … and I realize that all of this is over, has been over for nearly ten years now. Lights, alcohol and food cannot buy the rebirth of my naiveté. That was the main ingredient, and that is already lost and dead. My father and his wife have moved far away, my brother too. My little sister and I are now involved in life partnerships, thus extending our lineup of family members and increasing our commitments and responsibilities. All of us have started making our own homes and families now, regardless of how unconventional they may be.

Never again will I hop into Dad’s red Trooper to head to a 2-hour tortuous drive into the mountains. Never again will we carelessly light up bundles and swathes of firecrackers. Never again will I be able to go back home and feel unconcerned by bills and paychecks, to just lay down my head and have somebody else take care of me. I’ve grown up. And it may hurt a bit, or a lot, but you know what? I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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