Tuesday, May 31, 2011

On Becoming Boring

It's a thought that crosses my mind frequently these days: I'm becoming boring. More accurately, perhaps, I already have.

For so much of my life I lived abroad, traveled at every opportunity to places far, far off the beaten track, attended house parties frequented by an achingly cool international crowd, befriended people on planes and long-haul bus trips, changed plans in whatever way suited my fancy, and generally threw caution to the wind. I had many adventures, that's for sure, and a lot of my identity became defined by that exciting expat-traveler lifestyle.

Not that I wasn't aware of the downsides of the path I'd chosen. The frequent loneliness and depression, the culture shock and reverse culture shock, the isolation from family, the inevitable distancing from friends. Still, despite the negative aspects, it was a hell of an exciting way to live.

For the last couple of years, I've been shifting out of that mode. There were signs of it in Mozambique, as I increasingly craved time at home, with Rico and the cats, doing nothing and going nowhere. I thought it was a natural reaction to the crazy work habits we'd been keeping, taking on every freelance job that came across our plates. I figured I was burned out, in need of a break.

Then we moved to Casa Cali and the introverted, homebody tendencies continued strong. I rationalized that it was because we'd just moved, that in time I'd want to venture out and explore, that we'd make friends, that my old adventure-seeking self would bounce back.

Nearly two years in, and that hasn't exactly happened. I still feel like I'm plain, stay-home Jane. I have very little desire to go out, even to the city. My days are spent in the studio, gardening, hanging out at home. Social events sort of exhaust me. I can't remember the last time I set foot in a dance club or went to a fantastic late-night party, much less take a spontaneous weekend trip. We have a mortgage. We're in bed by midnight. Signs abound pointing to my very adult life.

Part of me loves this slower, home-oriented pace. I spent lots of quality time with Rico and my mom. I hang out with the cats. I cook and decorate and get my hands dirty in the garden. I make lots of art. It's relaxing, comforting work. More than anything I like the stability, the idea that Rico and I are building our home at Casa Cali and we will never, ever have to pack boxes and move ourselves halfway across the world again.

Another part of me, however, feels like I've let the train pass me by. I turn 30 in the fall, and I can't quite believe I'm this settled, this quiet, this grown-up. If I'm like this at nearly-30, the panicky part of me wonders, what will I be like at 40, or 50? When will I ever be adventurous and spontaneous again? When will I visit Lençóis Maranhenses, hike Monte Roraima, attend the Festival au Desert in Timbuktu? When will I do any of the other things that have been on my dreams list for years if all I want to do at this point is stay home? Because after art school comes kids, or so the plan goes, and if I find it hard to lead an "exciting" life now, I can only imagine how distant that concept will be with a child or two on scene.

I guess this is part of the grand cycle of getting older, making choices, becoming more conscious about what path you follow and how you spend your time. What a strange, bittersweet feeling to mourn and long for the person you once were, while at the same time not regretting for one instant the person you've become.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

April Showers Bring...May Showers.

I wish it would stop raining. We've had an atypically wet winter and spring here at Casa Cali and, while we're grateful for the full reservoirs and reduced fire danger, I find myself longing for sun and warmer temperatures. I am happier when it feels like summer outside, no question.

At least one upside to all this rain is that it makes for easier gardening. Rico and I are still waging a war on weeds, blackberry and ivy, those overly aggressive inhabitants of our backyard. We're making progress, though. We just covered a large portion of the big hill with a layer of weed-block fabric, burlap and bark chips. Hopefully it will do the trick and that part of the garden will remain clean.

We watched the final match of the Champion's League this morning with A. and D., a couple we've become friends with. He's a fanatic Barcelona supporter and a hilarious heckler, so it made for a really good time.

Later in the afternoon, Rico and I took the cats to the vet for a checkup. Never my favorite thing to do. Going to the vet stresses me out so much, I feel almost as worn out as the cats do once we are finished. Everyone seemingly has a clean bill of health, so we're hopefully good for another year.

We have a fire going in the fireplace this evening, complete with red wine and a game or two of Scrabble. Hard to believe given that it's Memorial Day Weekend, a holiday I associate with sundresses, barbecues and pool parties. Still, not a bad proposition at all...

Friday, May 27, 2011


I remember the night I started writing this blog. It was almost summer in Austin and I was in the process of packing up my apartment. I'd decided to move to Mozambique, that it was time for an(other) adventure. I had a ridiculously heavy Toshiba laptop that took up most of the cheap build-it-yourself workstation in the corner of my living room. Azul was sprawled out along the top of my chair, purring contently. I worried about finding a buyer for my Saturn sedan, whether my plane ticket to Maputo would arrive in the mail in time, what exact assortment of clothes I should put in my already overstuffed suitcase.

That night seems like an eternity ago, much more than the six-ish years that have passed. I feel like a totally different person now, and in many ways I am.

This blog started out with humble intentions - to record my experiences in Africa and beyond in a way that was accessible to my friends and family - but it turned into something much greater. I never could have anticipated the number of people I'd meet, virtually and in person, as a result of my writing. What an amazing age we live in that these sort of connections are possible.

Thanks to all of you who have joined me here over the past few years. It's been a pleasure to get to know you, and your presence makes me want to be a better, more diligent writer.

Here's to the next 1,000 posts.


Monday, May 23, 2011


Can you see it? The faint heart and scrawled red word on this otherwise unmarked gravestone? It makes me wonder who lies here, and who so touchingly left this message. Are they family? Or was it a stranger visiting another grave who decided to give love to someone seemingly without?

My mom and I had visited this old Japanese cemetery before, fifteen years ago, while aimlessly exploring the back roads of Hanalei. We managed to find it again this time, with the help of Google, as our memories weren't quite clear enough to remember that you had to turn up Kumu Road, not the much longer Old Powerhouse Road. I'm glad we were able to revisit.

Friday, May 13, 2011

The Plan for Summer 2011

My goals for this summer include:

1. Redesign my website. Increasingly I find myself wanting a site where I can show my portfolio of jewelry and metal objects I've made in art school, as well as other forms of art I find myself drawn to (i.e. work with patterns and painting). I want people to be able to see what I've made in the past and what I'm currently working on, not just what I have for sale. I'm in a funny position being in school. The jewelry I'm making right now is very different from what I've done in the past (basically higher-end, metal-based pieces vs. beaded and wire-work jewelry), but because each piece takes so much time and effort, it's hard to offer them for sale. I can still keep chugging along with the strung/wire jewelry because it's relatively fast to make, so that's what I'll primarily keep selling until I've graduated, I imagine. What I sell isn't representative anymore of the direction my art is headed, and I want a way for my website to reflect the whole picture.

2. Train for a 10k. I used to be one of those people who hated running with a passion. Running was suffering, a form of punishment, a way to compensate when I'd been "bad" with food. Something shifted about a year ago. I discovered that I actually love to run now. It's still really hard some days, but the payoff I get in terms of stress management and a runner's high is unbeatable. Rico has also gotten into running, and our New Year's Resolution was to do a 10k. We're targeting a race in September, so this summer is the prime time to train. I'm currently running about 4-5 miles, so it definitely seems like a feasible goal.

3. Work in the studio. I have a lot of projects I'd like to start/finish over the summer. I need to fabricate the clasp and do some final chasing and repousse work on this giant silver necklace I'm making for my mom. It was actually one of my assignments this past semester, and I wasn't able to finish. More on that later. I'd also really like to tackle some side projects that I've had in mind for months. My goal is to go to the studio at school 3x/week.

4. Gardening. Lots and lots of it. We have so much to do at Casa Cali to get the yard in shape, and it's only going to happen if Rico and I are outside with our hands in the soil. We have blackberry and ivy to pull out, a second stone retaining wall to build, vegetables to plant and much more.

5. Home improvements. Paint Rico's home office Azure, a gorgeous hue of royal blue tinged with gray (paint was bought at least 6 months ago and we still haven't gotten to it). Finish replacing the flooring downstairs. We're ripping out old carpet and putting in cherry wood veneers. Rico already did the hallway and the guest room, now we need to do his office and mine.

6. Go to Houston for a long weekend. We have my cousins AJ and Renaud to visit, as well as Tia Lindy, our friend and ex-roommate from our days in Maputo, not to mention my college best friend Angel and her Brazilian husband Tony.

7. Do something lovely for our 3-year wedding anniversary in July. I'm thinking wine or beach, a day's drive away from Casa Cali at most.

8. Paint a few portraits and do some color mixing exercises. I fell in love with painting last year, and sadly haven't had much time to keep experimenting. This summer I'd like to paint my mom's portrait, see if I can find an old photo of my cousin's mom who passed away and try to paint her, and do lots of color mixing gradients. Dark to light, mixing complementary colors, etc. I actually love the technical aspect of learning to paint. I feel it's akin to doing your scales and learning theory when you play a musical instrument, only I always hated that part of playing the piano and avoided it like the plague. :)

9. Go pick fruit in Brentwood and do another round of canning. Rico thinks I'm crazy for liking to pick my own fruit. I think it's loads of fun. I'm thinking cherries again for sure, and maybe some peaches and nectarines.
10. Hang out with friends. I finally have a small group of people here in the Bay Area I consider friends, and I'd really like to take the opportunity to have them over for churrascos, go hiking, go to museums, go to concerts, etc. Some are school friends, others are random friends, but I'm looking forward to further developing our fledgling bonds.

Do you have any goals or plans for this summer?

Self-Portrait with Taro Fields

Tuesday, May 10, 2011


The last time we were on this rainy island was 14 years ago. I was a teenager, upset that the rental car company wouldn't let me drive even though I had my license already in New Mexico, interested in, as my mom remembers it, virgin piña coladas and clothes shopping. Not that I was shallow, just 15.

To be fair, I do recall being thrilled with those tall, adult-looking drinks and the shops filled with batik-print tops and colorful swimsuits. I remember many other things, too. The rainy day (always the rain, it seems) that we went to the farmers' market and high-stepped through the mud to the stand with the lady with ribbon-entwined braids who gave us samples of breadfruit. The fish taco truck near the river bank, and the endless spotted green of the taro fields in the Hanalei valley. I remember being shocked when my mom picked up a hitchhiker on the side of the island's main road (a harmless-looking hippie college girl from Santa Cruz, but a stranger with her thumb out nonetheless), and the hundreds of miniature shells you could find among the grains of sand if you just looked hard enough and trained your eyes to see the right shapes.

I don't remember that we'd vacationed here three times previously, not two. I don't remember quite as many chickens (they are everywhere, and lay the most delightful pale blue and reddish-beige eggs), or that there was ever a threat of flash floods as a result of so. much. torrential. rain. I don't remember there being so many sophisticated restaurants, or such an emphasis on local, sustainably grown food. Then again, my eyes were focused on different things back in 1997, I suppose, and nobody's memory is infallible.

What began as a tradition of mother-daughter vacations has now evolved into mother-daughter-Rico. Plus a husband or plus a son-in-law, depending on whose perspective. We were all in need of a vacation, some of us more desperately than others, but all definitely due for some time away from the weight of our obligations and routines.

This morning, our first full day on Kaua'i, we all went for a run towards Tunnels Beach. It was early, enough so that the sun was just beginning to scorch and mothers were still waiting with their children by the roadside for the school bus to pass. My mom, Rico and I ran in a line, our heavy breath and pounding footsteps broken only by the occasional rooster's cackling or the friendly aloha-good-morning of a fellow jogger. It felt communal, cleansing, satisfying. The perfect start to a holiday.

Thursday, May 05, 2011


Early this morning, when the Bay was still dove gray and quiet, the sun rose at precisely the right angle as to brilliantly flash upon the lighthouse across the water in Tiburon. The shine was so intense it reflected a golden dagger of light onto the water, a sharp linear beam that seemed to indicate some divine moment or astronomical alignment. Alas, we are a far cry from the Maya or the early peoples who created Stonehenge. The golden line on the water was simply coincidence, an illuminated treat for those with their eyes open at the right time at the right random location. I took a photo, made some coffee, then went about my day. Still, I can't help but feel I witnessed some special sign.