Category Archives: Uncategorized

Finding The Bright Side to My Four Hour Commute

Commuting to New York is the bane of my existence, as I imagine it would be for anyone who similarly suffers the mind-numbing isolation of sitting pretty on a train for hours at a time. My twice daily trek between the Jersey Shore & Manhattan is an arduous one; I spend nearly four hours getting to and from New York. When you add it all up, that’s 22.5 hours per week, 90 hours per month, and 1,080 hours per year. As much as I cherish my proximity to the sea, commuting from where I live is not a breeze.

My commute is an earthly hell that I wouldn’t wish on anyone. Yet despite the cold resentment it’s brewed in me, it can be a slight meditative experience at times. At times, we pass through layers of leaves which rapidly blur into a woodland menagerie. Walls of green encapsulate us in a vision streaming forth. Trees and vines enshroud the shores that lead to the sea and alluring possibilities of escape. In some moments, phones are put down while curious eyes peer out to the horizon, longing for freedom from the stationary. In the morning, sunlight touches our skin and kisses our eyelids— a teasable return to consciousness. In the evening, dreamlike sunsets tell me I’ll be home soon.

The way we rush past scenery in nature whilst on a train mirrors the way our commute forces us to rush past the scenery in our natural lives. At home with family and friends. But beneath our grievances is a slightly soothing truth: I’m not the only one who sacrifices precious time and money to travel day in, day out. It’s calming to know that I share my commute with others.

Our collective nature to commiserate is in some ways a blessing. When I step onto the train early in the morning and see rough and familiar faces, my aching body exhales a sigh of relief that I’m not alone. It’s more than a gesture of coffee and pastries. Something in the morning air unites our consciousness, allowing sparkles of comfort to proliferate our daily travels.

Though no one speaks, I’ve grown somewhat attached to my company. I wonder what everyone does for a living, how long they’ve been commuting for, and if they ever think about me. When I notice someone is missing in the morning or heading home, I wonder what might have happened. Perhaps they missed their train, or were working late. Or maybe they quit their job or got a new one. Better yet, perhaps they saved enough money or received a promotion that allowed them to move closer to their work.

By the end of the day, it’s painful knowing we share more time with each other riding a train than we do with our loved ones. It’s unfathomable that some people have been doing this for years. But there’s still something delicate about sharing an experience that requires us to relinquish much control of our lives. For as long as I must bare NJ transit, I’m thankful for the people who make the trek just a bit more comfortable.

Featured image by Jörg Schubert.

Pitch Perfect and Off-Pitch Stereotypes

Kerishma.

Hanna Mae Lee in promotional materials for Pitch Perfect. They don’t even pretend to avoid the “Quiet Asian” stereotype! Via PitchPerfectMovie.com.

I don’t walk around looking for things to criticize. I don’t spend my time sniffing out items of pop culture to complicate or deem problematic. Believe it or not, I don’t like being offended. I really don’t. Sometimes I just want to hang out with friends, see a movie, and have a generally good time when outdated, inaccurate, or just plain offensive images are shoved into my face.

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Formation Conversation

It’s 2016. Why does the thought of diversity and the fact that people of color (like me) are fighting to achieve equality and representation, anger so many white people? If you live with a “color blind” perspective, then you will fail to see systemic discrimination and inequality as it stares at you in your own community. Unfortunately, people of color cannot yet afford to exist without consciousness of their color. I have harboured internalized contempt towards my own Filipino, queer identity because of the normalized perceptions of Asian people paraded by mainstream white society. When Kristen Stewart told entertainers of color to “Do something!” she failed to realize that we always are, but aren’t given the same amount of opportunities. Which is why we have resorted to our own means and I hope our success continues to grow. But generally speaking, we still need help. We need white people to realize that not everything plays out equally for everyone else, even from the start.

When discussing privilege, it seems that many white people only view it in a financial sense. But for people of color, it encompasses all boundaries in a socio-political cultural sphere. Even a friend of mine who is half white, half POC failed to acknowledge this. But that’s our reality. We all have internalized a false perception of where we belong in society. I’ve internalized that in a hierarchy of POC, blacks are at the bottom, Asians are at the top, and as long as I have my (still unfair) share, I’m cool with it. *Wrong.* This is still wrong. This is the systemic mental process that needs to go. I try to pull back from these seedlings of thought daily and I’m getting better.

To whomever is reading, please think deeper. Challenge your perceptions. Help us all get better and reach more equal footing in society.
*Final note, read The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin.*
Now let’s get in formation.

How to Survive Black Thanksgiving as a Non-Black Guest

this made me happy. will a black family please invite me?

Afroculinaria

How to Survive Black Thanksgiving: A Users Manual for Non-Black Guests/In-Laws and Black Folks that Don’t Have No Home Training, I.E. Culture

(HUMOR AND SATIRE TRIGGER WARNING)

1. DO NOT arrive empty handed to Black Thanksgiving. Store bought isn’t great, but if you aren’t sure how Black holiday food works, it’s better than getting the church lady look when you bring candied parsnips over. See rule 2.)

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2. The answer is ALWAYS sweet potatoes. Neauxp, no pumpkin, parsnips, rutabagas, butternut squash, nah-unh…sweet potatoes aka “yams.” (Not really yams)

3. As with our close cousin “Southern White Thanksgiving,” we don’t call cornbread “stuffing,” stuffing….we call it “dressing.” Calling it “stuffing,” is a dead giveaway you don’t know the quality of what you brought over. Throw that boxed stuff away.

4.  Bruce Almighty (wink wink) didn’t create “yams,” De Lawd did, so buy the ones that don’t come in a can when…

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Mashrou’ Leila / “One Night Project”

Tonight I got to experience something I wrote on my bucket list ever since I returned home after studying abroad in Jerusalem, and that is, I saw Mashrou’ Leila in concert. Mashrou’ Leila are a one of a kind indie band from Lebanon whose musical themes explore sex, sexual identity, politics, and other issues often deemed “controversial” since being based in the Middle East.

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Their lyrics exist as reactions that create reactions within the generally conservative political framework of the Arab world and music scene. The lead singer, Hamed Sinno, is everyone’s dream husband, including mine.

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ust look at him honestly.

I discovered them through an Arab girl I met in Jerusalem, a friend of a friend. I asked her to share Arab music with me and they were the first band she played for us. They were the band she was most excited about and as I continued listening to them and discussed them with other Arab friends, I understood why. They sing for the dreams of the modern Arab youth and their music, message, and poetry reflect the modern mindset that seeks higher purpose and equality in the Arab world. They evoke musical complexities, painting multi-dimensional states of being that smash cardboard stereotypes of what it means to be an Arab according to Western perspectives. They are quite simply, my favorite band that hails from the Middle East and perhaps my favorite indie band to date because of what they represent. Their spirit clangs with the rebel inside me. Their beats, their coos, their rhythms stimulate a feeling of rebelliousness and adventure. Unfortunately, their violinist Haig, was not available to join them because of crappy visa issues. He will receive his visa in time to perform for the rest of the tour dates however.
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Tonight was their debut U.S. performance which took place in the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism as part of a conference entitled Alternative Narratives of the Middle East. From the website:

“The premise of the conference is that the primary western narrative concerning the Middle East often casts those who live there as simply perpetrators or victims of violence. This immense oversimplification can have significant impact on both foreign policy and the treatment of diaspora communities.

The event will highlight best practices and offer guidance to journalists and journalism students on covering the people of the region in ways that move beyond the recurring conflict motifs to reveal the diversity and complexity of world views and lived experiences of those in the region.”

I RSVP’ed to the morning conference but ended up only going to the evening panel + concert instead. It was really grounding and motivational to hear the band speak with such grace and awareness about the effects of their music. Hamed may be the most intelligent lead singer I have ever seen or heard. He spoke with all the cues of an academic, social justice advocate mixed with nervousness and an unforgettably cute and dorky quality unique to him. At one point, the moderator of the evening panel, Ahmed Shihab-Eldin, said “it must take balls to write and sing about sex the way you do, especially being in the Middle East” and Hamed responded “or a really kick ass pair of ovaries.” Snaps, claps, shouts around the room. He is also an awesome and honest feminist. The most endearing part of the show was when Hamed said “I want to play in Palestine.” My heart melted, because of course, my heart always melts for Palestine, since many of my friends are Palestinian. The band went on to say that they tried performing in Syria in 2011, but things started getting bad, and they tried performing at the border of Syria and Lebanon but they sadly lost contact with the person who was organizing it. They hope to eventually play places like Syria and Palestine and bridge their fans in the Arab world.

Now on to the concert. Unsurprisingly, many of the attendees were Arab, but there was a surprising amount of people that were not. I saw whites, asians, some blacks, most likely people who were aware of who they are and what they do. They played so many of their amazing songs including Lil Watan, which he dedicated to his close friends and family that were in the audience tonight as well as all the Lebanese in the house.

They played their newest single 3 Minutes, which reminds me of an Arabic Justin Timberlake record.

Their own version of Get Lucky.

And even an Arabic version of Toxic by Britney Spears. When they announced their last song, it really was their last song. We all called for an encore and shouted “Leila, Leila, Leila.” But when they returned to the stage, they said they really couldn’t play more songs because it would be a disaster since they were having technical difficulties. Hamed’s earphones were broken so he couldn’t hear himself or the music, and the left stage speaker was going in and out. So we all reluctantly left, but with smiles on our faces.

At the end of the show, I looked around at the audience to gauge whether some of them were trying to stay and see if they would come out and meet their fans– One of my friends who saw them in Italy told me to wait after the show because the band meets with their fans. However, it didn’t look like it was going to happen so we just left. My sister and I followed some girls through what we thought was an exit, but happened to be the backstage area where the band was staying and preparing, and obviously retreated to after the show. We were stopped by one of the employees who said we were only allowed back there if we had bracelets, which was news to me because I never read about special backstage bracelets on the website or event page on Facebook. When we turned around to go through the regular exits, I looked back and saw a girl with a painted t-shirt, sneak back into the backstage area. I hope she got through. We on the other hand, left the building and decided to eat pizza. Outside of the building, I asked a Columbia security guard about the nearest pizza place and he told me how to get to Coronet. Before heading there, we decided to walk around the Columbia campus and almost immediately after we passed through the gates, on our left was a man standing outside of what obviously had to be the Miller Theatre where Mashrou’ Leila just performed, still wearing his stage outfit and distinct red jacket. It was Hamed Sinno. He called out to us from across the grass pathway and asked if any of us had a lighter. I remember meekly saying “no” in response. Then Micah told me she had matches and I asked her if she thought we should go to him. He was standing with an older man by the door, a back entrance to the theatre, surrounded by absolutely no one. The opportunity was ripe, the answer was obviously yes. So we went around the long grass pathway and Micah got her matches out to hand to him. As we approached him, the older man who was with him went back inside and now two other girls were standing with him while I was thinking of what to say beyond hello. Micah extended her matches towards him and he thanked her and told us that his cousin was walking around with a lit cigarette and that he didn’t need her matches anymore. After we said hello, he reached out his hand and said “Hello, I’m Hamed.” I shook his hand and said my name, clearly in awe of his presence. I told him how amazing he was and how much I loved his music. I told him that I was wondering if he was going to come out and meet his fans after the show, because that’s what my friend told me who saw him in Italy, and he sort of laughed and said “That’s a thing?” I felt I was getting uglier every second that passed standing in front of him. I said that I loved his moves, that he can dance. I told him that he is the ultimate package: that he can sing, he can write, he’s intelligent, he can dance, he has style, but I was too shy to say he was beautiful as well. Then another larger group of 7 or so people came and chatted for a moment. A woman who was clearly the leader of the group led the conversation with Hamed and told him to stop smoking. When the group left, I asked for a picture with him. Micah took a couple, then I said to make sure the lighting was good. I asked him if he didn’t mind taking more just to make sure, and he didn’t. So we turned around and angled ourselves and I put my arm around him as he just stood there with his hands in his pockets– classic Hamed. “Wait, this is awkward because I’m touching you and you aren’t touching me,” I joked. Eventually he put his arm around me and we took more photos. Then I asked one of the girls to take a picture of me, Micah, and him. After all the photographs, I said “I’m sad you didn’t play Shim el Yasmine. It’s my favorite song.” He said that it was his favorite song too and that they will play it in the upcoming shows. He asked if we were coming to any more and I said I was going to the one on Halloween. Soon enough, he expressed he wanted to go back inside to spend time with his family. We thanked him for meeting us, for the pictures, and the beautiful night of music. Thank you so much Hamed and the rest of Mashrou’ Leila. You are so incredible, incredibly superior, lovely, phenomenal. ❤
Mashrou’ Leila might be a one night project, but Part II happens Oct. 31.

Check out my favorite song by them, Shim el Yasmine, or Smell the Jasmine.

Seeking Faith, Building Hope.

Pt. II: Something brilliant happened in my church today. Something unexpectedly cathartic, freeing, and re-assuring. Throughout the years, my church has mostly avoided discussing controversial topics such as gay marriage and abortion [pretty much the only possible controversies the church needs to face]. That’s what I liked about it and still do. Out of all the Catholic masses I’ve attended in the history of my life, I’ve never experienced forceful condemnation for anything. As a gay church goer, I never had to hear “if you’re gay, you’re going to hell” or “Being gay is a sin,” and I am thankful for that. I’m thankful that the people in my church have enough grace to let the audience have a place to worship and pray and not have to be subjected to powerful political brainwashing. My church always focuses on the faith aspect, having it and living it. It stays black and white, pure and simple, which lets us all have our own minds outside of the church; It was always more focused on the message of the readings and praying for others and ourselves. During the homilies, the priests and speakers would connect the gospel readings to our present day– equating the values and lessons learned from the Bible and applying it to our lives for the moment and how to best live our lives moving forward.

But earlier today, for the first time ever, my personal favorite priest and speaker, Father Bausch, actually said the words “lesbian, gay, and transgender.” [I do wish he said bisexual.] It was like a Lady Gaga “Born This Way” moment for me. To hear those words in my church, where I go for communal worship, was a blessing. His whole homily was about addressing how to live on with Catholic faith in an ever changing world, a more secular world, a world that acknowledges that not all Americans are Christian, a world that has begun to acknowledge LGBT individuals as equals in society. Fr. Bausch, said “let’s get right to the nitty gritty.” Let’s get our hands dirty. I was nervous about what he would say. I was waiting to hear contempt and condemnation for this new queer and sinful generation. But it never came. Instead, he listed strong, encouraging statistics about Catholic families and their views on marriage, family, and homosexuality. Concerning our growingly secular society, he said that Catholics worry about passing on their faith to their children and grandchildren. How could they when they don’t go to church? What happens when my son brings his girlfriend home and they want a bedroom of their own? He discussed the effects of capitalist lifestyles. He mentioned divorce, reminding us that our church teaches he who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery on his first wife. And she who divorces her husband and marries another commits adultery on her ex husband. I was glad that he discussed divorce because it’s an issue that LGBT supporters bring up to Christians who think gay marriage is immoral. Kim Davis, who refuses to issue marriage licenses (breaking the law in the process) to same sex couples, has been married four times. To all the Christians who disagree with gays getting married, if you ever get divorced and re-married, I probably won’t judge you, but know that if I do, you judged me first.

For the sake of accuracy, I won’t list the exact statistics, because I don’t remember them. But he did say that many “Catholics view the traditional marriage of a man and a woman to make for the ‘ideal family’ but that ‘other families’ are fine too. Single parent families, divorced families, infertile families, and gay parent families.” Those are actually his paraphrased words and he had no qualms in saying so. He began closing by saying the church has always transitioned along with the times.

“We’re living in unusual times, with an unusual pope, one who has ambiguous views on gay marriage, in a society that is more secular and Christian suppressed, and we have to deal with this.” Christian suppressed, meaning socially religiously suppressed, which is a good thing since Americans are made up of more than just Christians. We are also Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhiest, Atheist, and so on. He said, “the Vatican Senate has formed to this new pope and the new world that we live in, a society with lesbian, gay, and transgender realities.” He hopes the Senate will be able to reach out to us no matter who we are. To hear those words come out of his mouth without a tone of disdain gave me so much hope for my place in the church. I hope to always have my faith, but being supported in my church would mean a great deal. Everyone knows the views of the Catholic church are very archaic, but the anointing of the wildly refreshing Pope Francis has been a welcome disruption for the entire world. Pope Francis not only met with the infamous Kim Davis, but also his gay ex student and his partner. The Catholic church is extremely slow when it comes to transitioning on any kind of issue, but to hear those words reflecting the deeper importance of Fr. Bausch’s homily today has rejuvenated me and my faith. His homily may have been one little pebble step in the right direction, but it’s still one step in the right direction and I’ll take it. Thank you Father Bausch.

Pt. I: Last Sunday, I was with my family and a million other people in Phildelphia to have mass with Pope Francis. It was an unbelievable day and sort of felt like how I imagine the end of the world to feel. Endless crowds of people with their families, waiting in line, the city a mess, and stores abandoned. As we waited in line to enter the public square where mass would be held, there was a particular looking man, dressed in a suit and wearing unfamiliar pins, standing in the middle of the crowd carrying a clipboard. He was asking for signatures for Catholics to be able to teach marriage in schools as defined by a man and a woman. I was instantly disappointed. But immediately after he said what the petition was for, a woman said, “I can’t sign that. I disagree. I think everyone should have the right to be married.” And another woman, who was standing right in front of the man, whom I was standing next to for hours, also immediately reacted. “Love is love. I believe in that. We have different ways to think and I respect yours, and I just need you to respect mine.” The man was spitting the regular Catholic rhetoric: “There’s one human nature, even from a biological standpoint. God created one man, one woman. That’s the true nature. That’s the one truth.” He’s wrong though. God has actually created billions of people throughout history, millions of which were LGBT 🙂 Thank you to those women who spoke up for me and all LGBT! With Pope Francis, these women, and Fr. Bausch’s homily today, my faith in the Catholic community is slowly restoring.

Now I leave you all with my favorite worship song of the moment.
I will call upon your name
And keep my eyes above the waves
When oceans rise
My soul will rest in Your embrace
For I am Yours and You are mine.

Beautiful photo by: https://instagram.com/p/0_kewVmZsO/?taken-by=godsfingerprints

Glasnost

Untitled.

When I was six years old, I gave my first blowjob.
“It’s a game”, said He. “Don’t you want to play?”
It was too big, and I threw up on him.
He said I’d do better the next time.

When I was seven years old, I watched a group of fellow second graders cheer as a boy in my class tried to kiss me. He hugged me from behind, giggling all the while.
I threw sand in his eyes, and was sent to the Principal.

When I was eight years old, I had an elderly teacher ask me to stay behind in class. He carried me on his shoulders, and called me pretty.
“Teacher’s Pet!” my friends declared, the envy visible on their faces.
They ignored me at lunch that day.

When I was nine years old, an older girl on the school bus would ask me to lift…

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