The Poetry of Suburbia

I've lived in the suburbs basically my whole life. And yes, it is just as Mary Reynolds sings, "little boxes on the hillside/little boxes all the same/there's a green one and a pink one/and a blue one and a yellow one/and they're all made out of ticky tacky/and they all look just the same". There is a sort of "ho-hum" feel when people think of suburbia but there is poetry in it too. The friends you meet in elementary school are often the same friends you go to high school with, the same friends who live right around the street, the same friends you hang out with in the lull of the summer, the same friends you know your whole life. 

Ever since I moved here, ever since elementary school, I've been friends with essentially the same girls. Our friendship over the years has waxed and waned...there were times when we grew apart and found new friends and times when we couldn't get enough of each other. As we've been growing older though, I think we've all come to appreciate just how precious it is to have friends who have known you all your life. Who shared those awkward teen years with you. Who were there during the giddy beginnings of your first love. Who held your hand when that didn't end up being all it promised to be. Who were there just to lament the humdrum life of suburbia with you. That's pretty damn poetic, if you ask me...and it all happened in the "little boxes made out of ticky tacky".

My longest relationship ever. It must be true love.

This year we all graduated university and just like that we've been propelled into the real world with responsibilities (or at least the expectation of it) weighing on our shoulders. We're moving on to dental school, medical school, full-time jobs, and all that grown up stuff you hear about all your life. It's weird.

We spent this summer traveling (albeit separately) before we had to go on and do all of the things I mentioned above. When we all got back from our travels, my girlfriends and I drove up to the beach as we often do during the summer. And after the excitement and rush of constantly moving around for the past couple of months, there was this indelible simplicity where the whole world retreated and we had a moment's respite. Driving along the countryside with the music pumping, our legs out the windows, the wind blowing our faces numb, the sun coming down. It was all too perfect. Like time was in suspension for us to enjoy the last few moments before our lives and our worlds would change.

I know I make this out to be incredibly dramatic, but honestly in my brain this plays out like a great coming of age movie. Except it's not a movie. It's real life. And real life is messier, richer, more nuanced, and altogether more poetic than any Woody Allen film. So to the little boxes I've known all my life, thank you for giving me the loves of my life and the perfect setting for our friendship to unfold.

Friends You've Yet To Meet

Besides the thrill of sightseeing and the adventure of being in a foreign land, the joy of traveling, for me, lies in the interactions you have with the many people you meet along the way. During my time in Europe, I met so many different people from all over the world and from different walks of life. And, however brief the encounter, I had the pleasure of getting to know them on some genuine level and share some truly incredible moments...

I once sat on a park bench for hours in front of Lake Thun, one of the bluest lakes you'll ever see, talking about politics and literature with a friend I made while hiking up the Harder Kulm. I explored a mediocre city in a setting that just oozed with romance with someone who just oozed with charm (I guess it goes without saying that I didn't think it to be so mediocre afterward). Stayed up til 5AM at our hostel common area just shooting the shit with one of the most intelligent people I've ever met, talking about anything, everything, nothing. Smoked a joint with a Texan and deconstructed the reasons why women have always been so severely disadvantaged in society and why most men thrive despite (or is it because of?) their douchebaggery. Spent an early morning breakfast talking with a musician about our families, our parents, their failed relationship, our failed relationships. Watched a sunset with a panaromic view of Firenze, got pissed drunk and obnoxiously sang 90s hits with new friends we met at our hostel (video evidence below, I have no shame). Ate cheese, drank wine, and awkwardly fidgeted on the Ponte Vecchio as a friend and our newly made friend constantly made passes at each other (oh to be the third wheel!). Danced the night away to some seriously bass-heavy dubstep (the best kind) with some randoms at an obscure Berlin club. Listened with awe as an NGO worker told me about his time in India, which subsequently prompted my quarter life crisis as I began to fiercely question what path I want to take in the future.

Every experience different and each person a unique character with his or her own little nugget of wisdom to share. Every moment ephemeral but every memory enduring.

It's amazing how much you can reveal about yourself and how deeply you can connect with a complete stranger. You're from opposite sides of the world, can sometimes barely even speak the same language, and yet somehow you find some common ground. Is it easier to connect with those you meet on your travels? The ones you share but a fleeting moment with? Because with no history and possibly no future, you can leave all your pretensions behind and just say what you want to say and just be?

"Without a wrinkle in today, cuz there is no tomorrow. Just a picture perfect day to last a whole lifetime".

In any case, meeting fellow wanderers and the conversations I had with them has added even more color to the video reel I have constantly playing in my head as I reminisce about this trip. I appreciate all of our differences but it is our similarities that I rejoice in.

And so, whether by chance or by design, I welcome and look forward to the friends I've yet to meet on my future's to more conversations, serious or not, and to more dancing, more laughing, more drinking, more singing.

...May you and I always have room for one more friend in our lives : )

Kiva + Me = Birthday Love

Two weeks ago I celebrated my 21st birthday and as a present, I asked my closest friends to invest in an entrepreneur in any developing country using Kiva, my new found love. I discovered the awesome of this organization a couple of months ago when I made my first loan to Tarcila, a woman in the Philippines who makes and then sells furniture (blog post here). Ever since then, I've wanted to get more friends involved in it. And my birthday presented itself as just the perfect introduction I'd been looking for.

Shiyoen Chum groupThanks to the amazing generosity of my best friends of nearly 13 years (!!!), five entrepreneurs from all over the world have been given the chance to develop their business and potentially lift themselves and their families out of poverty. From the Philippines to El Salvador and from Cambodia to Peru, our entrepreneurs are involved in all sorts of different trades and industries, including baking, transportation, fishing, and retail! It's pretty awesome stuff.

But in addition to warm, fuzzy feeling of doing good, what I loved most about this year's present was that I learned something new about my friends along the way. After making their loans, I asked them to share their reasons for choosing whoever it was they ended up choosing...

LuciaMarisa chose Shiyoen Chum's family of fishermen from Cambodia because she wanted to invest in something that reflected health and nurturing. Val chose Aida who runs a motorcycle service in the Philippines because it struck her as a unique and innovative service. Carm invested in José, the baker from El Salvador, because she too is an aspiring baker. Cynthia chose on the basis of necessity, which Lucia's fruit and vegetable store provided for the members of her community. And finally, Gloria invested in Alejandra, who operates a buy-and-sell business, because she knew that Alejandra had to support three young children and would need the money to put them through school.

Honestly? Listening to these reasons was one of the most rewarding parts of this little initiative. Why? Because it gave me a deeper glimpse into who these ladies are and for me, it was an affirmation of how well these ladies know themselves, as their choices brought to the fore aspects integral to their personality.

So thus made my 2010 birthday! Who knew that this simple act of investing would reap so many wonderful rewards? 

Oh and did I mention that October is also Kiva's birthday month? A happy coincidence with wins all around : )

Thanks ladies for actually taking the time to actually educate yourselves about the organization, the process, and the individuals that you invested in! So happy to be on this microfinancing journey with you!

José Pedro QuinterosAlejandra Montejo Aida Navajo



Two weeks ago I celebrated my 21st birthday (legality all over the world, holla!) and as a present, I asked my closest friends to invest in an entrpereneur in any developing country using Kiva. At first they asked me if I was sure that there was nothing else I wanted. Believe me, this wasn't some kind of selfless act, I asked myself that question long and hard too before making the ask. I won't deny it I am absolutely the kind of person who loves being spoiled and showered with gifts on her birthday. But honestly, this time around, there wasn't anything else I could think of asking for. I'm priveleged enough to say taht at this moment, I have evverything that I could possibly need and that there's nothing more that I want. It's an odd but incredibly liberating feeling!

And so enters new found love.

I discovered the awesome of this organization a couple of months ago when I made my first loan to a woman in the PHilippines who makes and buys furniture (blog post here) and ever since then, I've wanted to get more friends involved in it. And my birthday presented itself as just the perfect introduction I've been looking for.

Now, thanks to the amazing generosity of my best friends Carmen, Cynthia, Gloria, Marisa, and Val, five entrepreneurs all over the world have been given the chance to develop their business and potentially lift themselves out of poverty. Investing in countries all over the world

More than that, what I loved most about this ask was that I learned something new about my friends along the way. After making their loans, I asked them to share the reasons for who they chose and that in itself was a wealth of learning. Marisa chose the fishing group because