Lego Art

An amazing construction of a tall robot at the FAO Schwarz toy store in New York City, built with nothing but Lego bricks.

It would take clumsy person like me years to build that. I can’t even build a shoe-rack! There were other action figures just as tall, and as perfectly built, as this robot. I was impressed I had to snap a picture. So, great job to the artists who put it together.

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The Neighboring Country

Geographically speaking, Haiti is my neighbor. The Dominican Republic is my hometown and where I lived until my early teen years. My family is from a small city called La Vega, which is located in North-Central DR, about 250 miles from the capital of Haiti, Port-au-Prince. While studying in the Dominican Republic, I learned basic information about Haiti’s culture and history. The relationship between the two countries has always been tense, and a lot of it has to do with ignorance.

Brief History

In 1492, Christopher Columbus arrived in the island of Santo Domingo (now capital of the DR). He later claimed the whole island (now divided in two; the DR and Haiti) under the name of Espaniola. It remained a colony of Spain for many years. As French colonists began to arrive and settled on the northern and western coasts of the island, a massive amount of Haitian natives were being enslaved and killed. In 1664, France formally took control over the western side of the island (now Haiti), and later brought other thousands of African slaves to the island to work the plantations. After years and years of slavery and torture suffered under the hands of the French, Haiti claimed its independence in 1804.

Years later, in 1822, Haiti’s leader, Jean Pierre Boyer, and his troops invaded the Spanish side of the island (now Dominican Republic). Haiti occupied the Dominican Republic for approximately 20 years. The invasion is said to have terminated all slavery; nevertheless, Dominicans always wanted the Haitians off their soil. Dominicans did not have a large population at the time of invasion and had no military forces to fight back. It took years for them to declare independence from Haiti, on February 27, 1844. To this date, the tension between the Dominican Republic and Haiti continues.

My experience with Haitians

Everything I ever learned about Haitians when I was a little girl suggested that I should hate them. My earliest memory with this experience was in history class. My teacher said that Haitians had invaded our country by force back in the 1800’s and that they were “now trying to invade us again in a more passive way” — by ways of immigration. She lectured the class about La Guerra de La Independencia (the Independence War), which was fought between the DR and Haiti in 1844. I was quite young, and not knowing much about the subject, I had no reason to doubt my teacher. I also didn’t know anything about the Haitians, despite the fact that thousands of them were already living in our “backyards.”

In the 1990s, more Haitians had relocated to my town, La Vega, and that’s when I started to learn a little bit more about them. Usually, they would be out in the streets selling peanuts, women’s underwear, ice cream bars, etc. So my only contact with the Haitian community was the times that I approached them to buy an ice cream bar. They seemed friendly and always smiled. I never saw these people going to school or having fun anywhere, not even the kids, and I now wonder if they even had a place to go back to after long hours of work.

They did nothing but work hard all the time yet they were constantly discriminated against in the Dominican Republic. Ignorance, like anywhere else in the world, was the major cause of discrimination against Haitians. I realized that they are good happy people, whose history took an unfortunate turn that led to a number of terrible events, such as corrupt politicians and poverty. Some of them cross the Dominican border every day for the same reason that my family came to America: jobs and a better way of living.

I have come to understand the history and the tension between the DR and Haiti, but I don’t support this passive war that the two countries keep fighting. I don’t support the mistreatment of Haitians in the DR either. I think things have improved a little, but I remember reading a very gruesome story back in the 90’s about how some Dominicans murdered a few Haitians and got away with it. Simply disgusting. Racism is still alive and well in the DR—no matter how many times its president tries to hide it. I just wish the Dominican people gave Haitians a chance.

They’re hard-working people. I always remember one hot summer day when some Haitians were doing construction work in front of my house. Just like a lot of immigrants in the US, Haitians in the DR did cheap labor, and I’m sure they were abused and paid much less than they should’ve been paid. That day, I watched them work like animals with no water or food in such a hot day. I felt really bad, but didn’t know how to help. So my brother came up to me and asked if there was any food left from lunch to give to the workers.

Even though I sympathized with them, I was very ignorant and hesitated at first. But thanks to my big-hearted brother we did prepare some food and water and gave it to the workers. They had this incredible smile in their faces and thanked us sincerely. Whenever I think about that moment, I feel good about myself. I challenged what I had been taught, my beliefs. I saw the human in them. It should be a natural act; a human instinct. But when you know no better, it is a big deal.

Just like the old young me, a lot of young Dominicans are not aware of the truth and don’t invest time in learning about the Haitian people and culture, so this cycle of hatred and ignorance never stops. I don’t think we should take history books so seriously—the past is in the past. These are different times, and times when the poor country of Haiti could use some help. Besides, it is a neighboring country — be a good neighbor, DR! It is time to open minds and hearts (figuratively).

 

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That One Time Conan Went On Tour

Remember that time when Conan O’Brien was screwed over by Jay Leno? Messy story. Well, Conan resigned as a host and after some time, since NBC banned him from working on TV during that time, he came up with a brilliant idea: “The Legally Prohibited from Being Funny on Television Tour.”

He basically toured the country with his staff, performing in front of live audiences in major US cities. For his fans —and I’m sure for his staff, as well — this was fantastic. I’m a big Conan fan and was happy to hear that he would keep connecting with fans, online and on tour.

I took this photo at his live show in Philadelphia, PA. Can’t believe it’s been four years already! The show was funny, of course. He was his typical self. He also played the guitar and sang songs like “I Will Survive” and “On the Road Again.” So funny.

Not only did I get to see Conan that night, but Tina Fey was also one of the guests to drop by! Two of my favorite people in the entertainment industry on the same stage… Yeah, it was a great night.

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Lost Bag

It must simply be an awful feeling when an airline loses your bag, especially a bag where you carry your personal belongings and most of the values you purchased on your trip. I’ve never had that problem. An airline has never lost my luggage; I lost it myself!

I don’t know how it happened to me, but one time, after living in Spain for a year, I was returning home with way more baggage than the arms could hold. My boyfriend, brother and a friend were helping out — one bag each — and all I had to hold was my carry-on luggage and another smaller shoulder bag. We took the train to the airport, which seating area was spacious and allowed us to keep our bags close. Meanwhile, our conversations and jokes, and the anxiety of flying, kept me distracted.

Thirty minutes later, when the train reached its final destination, we all got out, bags in hands, and we set off. At the check-in desk, the lady asked, “How many bags are you checking in?” We started counting bags and that’s when I noticed my carry-on was missing.

I was frantic.

From the train tracks to the ticketing zone, it was a long walk and a few minutes had already passed since. That meant that, if I had left the bag on the train, there was a chance that somebody had already taken it. Not necessarily stolen it, but perhaps taken it to lost and found, which I had hoped was at least the case. After all the terrorism cases worldwide, we all doubted anyone would want to touch an unidentified bag.

I didn’t have much time to go back and search, so my brother did. He retraced our steps, but came back with nothing. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to change my flight then, stay longer and look for my bag. After all, my life was in it; my laptop (with all my unbacked years of writing!), everyone’s souvenirs, all my jewelry (this was stupid), my awesome makeup…my privacy. But time was running out and I had to go. So I made the tough decision of leaving it in the hands of my brother and friend to locate it and UPS-it to me, if found.

It was one of the most depressing flights I’ve taken to this date. I literally cried the entire way home. I’ll never forget it. Just like I’ll never forget the moment my friend told me they had found the bag! She posted this picture of my carry-on on my Facebook when she got it and it was the greatest feeling of joy ever. I was so relieved.

Apparently, after a few unsuccessful back-and-forth messages with the staff at Barajas airport (from both my friend and I), my friend took matters into her own hands. She knew someone who worked at Barajas and with her help was able to trace it quick.

Losing a bag that carries so much is no fun, people. I was one of the lucky ones. And I’ll be so eternally grateful for my friend, for helping me. I also now back up my work all the time. I don’t ever want to go through that pain again.

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Coke?

What you see here is a picture of, what seems to be, cocaine being flushed down the toilet…by me.  Here’s what happened. I was at a restaurant in Philadelphia one day during happy hour when I found this little package resting on the bathroom floor, right in the open.

Is that what I think it is? I thought.

What makes this a great story? Well, my genius self grabbed it after all and brought it to the table to show it to my boyfriend and friend who were sitting outside. I didn’t think they’d believe me otherwise. (There was no one around when I picked it up.)

“Are you crazy?” they said. “Go back and flush it down the toilet.”

Believe me; most times I do think before I act, but that day I clearly wasn’t.

Really. I guess I didn’t realize the risk of carrying illegal drugs — from one door to another — because I’ve never done drugs and when there’s nothing to hide, there’s nothing to fear. I even feel weird talking about coke (when not in Coca-Cola) because of its negative reputation in society. But trying to convince the authorities about what really happened, had I been caught, would’ve been really hard.

Anyhow, I was never able to confirm what this substance was. But pretty sure it was what it was, if that makes any sense. I wonder how many times people go to public restrooms to sniff cocaine? Ordinary young professionals was all I saw at the restaurant that day, so maybe this is more common than I thought.

I went back down to the restroom and flushed it, as instructed. But before I did, I had to at least take a picture of my big blunder! And to whoever dropped it: you’re welcome. 😛

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We Want Some Booze

I saw this picture at a bar the other day and thought, wait a minute, I haven’t heard of this one yet. Turns out I have — just not by number.  I always knew it as the “Prohibition era.” The picture is of a license plate (not sure if original) demanding the repeal of the 18th Amendment of the US Constitution, which prohibited the production, transportation, and sale of alcoholic beverages in the US.

(Can you believe alcohol was ever illegal?)

So we probably had a pretty sober America for a whole decade, huh. How did people handle the rough winters?! I know about speakeasies — illegal liquor stores / bars from the Prohibition era — because I go to locations that call themselves that name today, I guess as a retro theme. I love those places! Truth is people will always find a way, just like they do today with drugs. That’s why speakeasy establishments were quite popular.

Some of the photos and satirical images from the Prohibition era are hilarious because, other than getting back the right to consume whatever they wanted, people really just wanted their booze. Like this one:

Men march in the name of beer
Men march in the name of beer

Hey, I would’ve been right there with them! (If I weren’t a woman in the 1920’s.)

To think that it was illegal back then, is crazy. I’m sure 30 years or so from now we’re going to look back at some of the laws and prejudices we have today and laugh. It’s funny to see these sort of things now…at a 21st century bar.

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Winter in Ibiza

Ibiza off-season. The end.

No, really, that should be the whole story. Nothing goes on in Ibiza in January — I think this picture was taken around January two years ago. Some bars and restaurants by the beach stay open, but very few people visit. It was a ghost town with just enough tourists to keep it alive.

Despite it being so dead, it was much warmer than it was in Castile La Mancha, Spain, which is where I was living when I visited Ibiza, and definitely much warmer than it was in the US East Coast at the time. Looking at this picture reminds me how desperately I needed to feel the heat of summer. It was all I wanted. I believe that week temperatures were in the high 70 degrees Fahrenheit in Ibiza. It was lovely. Sitting there in the sun, breathing the fresh ocean air, looking at the beautiful blue Mediterranean sea with a refreshing cocktail in hand, while everyone back home whined and moaned about the snow…

Now it’s my time to suffer the bitter cold. Until next time, Ibiza.

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The Giant Flower Dog

This humongous flower dog’s name is “Puppy” and it sits outside the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain. It’s a work of art by artist Jeff Koons, built around 1992. The sculpture is made up of stainless steel, soil, and flowering plants. But at a first glance, it looks as though it is all flowers. What’s even more impressive is its size; approximately 40 feet tall.

I looked at it for a few, wondering how they put it all together.

The stick figure you see in the picture posing next to Puppy, that’s me; almost disappeared in its presence. When I first saw it, I thought it was “oh so Spaniard” before I learned the artist is actually from Pennsylvania. And I don’t mean it in a condescending way — no way! By a Spaniard thing I refer to the type of art that I think is prevalent around many Spanish cities — sculptures of animals, kids and nature.

It had been raining nonstop that afternoon, but luckily it was just drizzling by the time I walked out and I was able to snap this pic (and a few more). This is one of the better ones — its head is cut off in others. (Shitty camera.) I was also trying to get a pic without people standing around, photobombing me, which was nearly impossible as it is one of the main attractions at the museum.

There’s so much we forget from our travels…until we look at pictures. I love pictures, so long live photography! AND long live art!

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