Thursday, September 15, 2011

A Visit to Mexico to say Goodbye

Early last week I got the news that my grandmother on my father's side had fallen sick. This wasn't just any call - this was the call we have all been waiting for. The call I had been quietly putting money aside for for months, because I knew it would mean dropping everything in order to be with my family in Mexico.

It was that call, and so on Saturday morning, me and my sisters headed to the airport and a few hours later, landed in the blistering hot city of Manzanillo, Mexico. The area around us was lush and green, and I hadn't seen it in fourteen years. Cousins I haven't seen since that long greeted my sisters and mother warmly and me a little uncertainly - I was a stranger to them, of course, and then we piled into a truck and headed past army men (boys, really) with rifles and camouflage into what could have easily been Costa Rica - dense forest and so much green.

After an hour of curves and passing small little pueblos, we landed in Tequesquitlan, the small pueblo that my father grew up in. It looked exactly as I remembered it, with the stone, uneven roads, and the dogs panting and lounging in the heat. Horses trotted by and men with cowboy hats lounged in the plaza and watched with idle curiosity as we drove by. They stopped in front of a white house, and with my Paul Frank backpack in hand, I followed my family into the house to see both familiar faces and those I could barely remember.

This is my family - my father has about eight sisters, and with exception to one, they were all there, sitting in the kitchen with tired, red eyes. There was a little joy in the reunion, it had been years, after all, even for the ones who were there from Mexico, before my father (who had flown in two days before we did) asked if we wanted to see her.

When I remember my Grandma Rita, I remember a kind woman who spoke softly. She always looked tired, she had lived the hard life of the pueblo, raising ten children and losing her husband fairly early, but her sweetness was always so palpable, as was the kindness and love that shone in her eyes.

I remember soft skin and a raspy voice, and the utter patience to always be the friend, mother or grandmother someone needed.

It's how I remember her, so when I entered the room, and I saw my grandmother in a deep sleep - frail and tired and on death's door, the shock was overwhleming.

I cried, until my sister looked at me and reminded me that this wasn't the time for that. So I sat with them and said hello to my Grandma. Then began four days of waiting.

Decisions had to be made. None of them involved me. I was there to say goodbye to my grandmother, and in the process get to know family I hadn't seen or even met in the sixteen years since I had been to the small town.

Nothing had really changed, either. Breakfast was still beans and cheese with fresh tortillas, the milk still came from the cows, and the drink of choice will always be 'agua fresca' - drinks made with water and flavored with rice, or fruit. The avocados were so big I thought they were eggplants, and it was so hot that I took cold showers twice a day. Houses are open - and when we walked down the street, everyone knew that we were Antonio's girls, here from the States to visit Dona Rita.

Friends and family crowded my aunts tiny little house, sitting with my Grandma even as she slept. During that time I got the chance to sit beside her, and my Spanish wobbled, so I did the only thing I knew how - I sang her a song, one that my Dad used to sing and one I remembered by heart.

When my sisters, my mother and I left, my grandma was still sleeping, and it was only yesterday, a day after we had flown home, that we got the news that grandma passed on.

In away I'm glad for it. She lived a long, beautiful life, and she deserved the peace that came with leaving. When she did, her house was full with people who knew and loved her, and she'll always be with us. She'll always be a reminder to me that it's not really what we accomplished in life that matters, but how we touch the people that we leave behind.

And she touched me so very deeply. I'll miss you Grandma - you made me a better person and you never had to say a word to do it. You lived it by example, and my only wish is that when I leave this world, it will be with even half the legacy you left behind.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Resident Evil: Afterlife - Have Icee, Will Suspend all Disbelief

I've recently fallen in love once again with an old friend: the Icee.

It's a decadently sweet frozen treat, with just a hint of bubbles that spread the cherry-flavored sugar over your tongue in brain-freeze inducing bliss, and there's not an ounce of redeemable value in it, but isn't it just delicious?

It was the perfect beverage to accompany me when I went to go see Resident Evil: Afterlife in 3-D. I've been a longtime fan of both the movies and the video game series of the same name, and I've been waiting for the fourth installment with a giddy excitement that only comes with being a bit of a groupie.

Part of the reason is my weakness for all things zombie. The other part is the fact that for four movies, a female action hero has carried a movie with the same amount of badassness that a man would, and aside from an occasional Angelina Jolie vehicle, those types of characters seem to be regulated instead to character-driven dramas on cable.

Now, let me just get this out of the way: Resident Evil: Afterlife is a silly, silly movie. It's not nearly the horror-laden gore-fest that the first Resident Evil movie was, it's not the 'band of survivors zombie flick' that the second movie became, and it's not calculated and smart like the third movie.

And I'm not going to even try to mention the Resident Evil games, which are magnificent and genuinely terrifying (at least some of the better incarnations, like Resident Evil: 4). The simple fact is, the film franchise's heroine Alice is not in ANY of the videogames.

Resident Evil: Afterlife really just becomes a zombie-inspired Charlie's Angels flick, with action scene followed by action scenes, completely implausible situations, the ability to walk away from helicopters crashing into mountains and and find perfect make up when there's not a Wal-Mart to be found.

No matter what the circumstances, from being the last standing survivor in a apocalyptic world, to being drenched in sewage and blood, the leading ladies of Resident Evil: Afterlife will never look anything but slightly unruffled. Even Ali Larter's 'Claire', who begins the movie covered in dust and acting like a wild woman in arid Alaska, soon cleans herself off and has found mascara, blush, eye shadow and the perfect shade of lipstick, ready to stand beside Milla Jovovich and compete for the 'best pose while dripping wet in slow motion' award.

The script itself? Hokey and full of plot-holes the size of Antartica, following a formulaic-brand of shock-and-awe that leaves very little surprises. Two lead actors and a bit player jump into the water to swim to an armory. Guess which won't come back? Two lead characters and a bit player stand at the edge of a hole. Guess who is going to be sliced in half by the boss character who just showed up for no reason?

It kind of goes like that for the entire movie. Time for a fight scene! Time for Alice to look bad ass! Wait, has someone been mauled by a zombie in the last five minutes? Fixed it! Wait, we need some slow motion fight scenes with a completely implausible exit! Done! Let's have a guy keep a plane from sliding off a building with only his brute strength! He can do it! Yes he can!

But that's the point, isn't it? Resident Evil: Afterlife was shot in 3-D, with that same technology that brought us Avatar, and the result? A great looking movie. Everything about it is visually stunning. The women are stunning, the action is stunning, the cinematography is gorgeous, and it goes down as sweet and as sugary as an Icee.

The point is, if you're looking for a zombie movie? Rent Zombieland or Shaun of the Dead. Go see Resident Evil if you want to see hot chicks kicking ass, looking fantastic while they're doing it. Go see Resident Evil if you want to see awesome fight scenes, and get your adrenaline pumped. Resident Evil: Afterlife is worth watching if you can suspend your disbelief, go with the flow, and tell yourself that it's all just pretty movie-making.

And splurge a little and buy yourself an Icee to go with it. Trust me, it helps.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Costa Rica in the Rainy Season

Do you know what happens when you go to Costa Rica in the Rainy Season, and you travel with the same group of white people and you're the only Latina who looks golden brown and also speaks passable Spanish?

You're mistaken for the tour guide. A lot.

Not that I wouldn't be an awesome tour guide. I'm quippy and not afraid to get dirty and I don't mind riding in the front of the bus or translating a lot.And I'd probably get paid better. And I'd be getting commission anyway because, I'll be telling anyone anyways that Costa Rica? Is awesome. I live and die by the guide book. And before the trip I put together a binder with our flight itineraries and our agendas and helpful information about each area. Yes, I'm a nerd. But don't you wish you had someone like me on your trip? Our trip was booked through, and they were awesome. Picked us up right at the airport, handed us a detailed itinerary and made sure we were taken care of every leg of the journey. We had shuttles everywhere, which was a good thing because people drive like maniacs in San Jose.

Ethnocentric, you say? We were at a stop light and saw a car rear end a taxi right next to us. Yeah.

No one batted an eye.

Adventure 1: San Jose and Whitewater Rafting

Our trip began on the outskirts of San Jose, where we were to spend the night before being picked up to head to our white water rafting adventure. Being of the determined sort, I decided we needed to see the country's capital before we left, so we hopped in a taxi and headed in to San Jose. Right before this happened, I decided to douse myself in bug repellent. Did you know I'm allergic to bug repellent? Particularly, this stuff called 'Deet' in the bug repellent? Yeah I didn't either.

I found out soon enough when my skin began burning in the taxi and I was scratching myself quite improperly around my boobs and my back and my arms. What began as itchy morphed into feeling like I was being flayed alive. Did we come prepared with anti-allergic stuff? Of course!

Did we leave it at the hotel room? Of course we did!

Our trip to the gold museum was detoured to a trip to a Costa Rican pharmacy. No, we didn't take pictures. Still, the Gold Museum was interesting enough. When we headed out, we were greeted by a heavy torrent of rain. Because, you know, it's the rainy season.
Fear not! You think, we knew this, so of course we packed ponchos and the hotel hands out umbrellas, right?Of course! Except we left the ponchos in the hotel room with the allergy medicine and we neglected to bring an umbrella. Five blocks later, we managed to buy an umbrella from an entrepreneurial guy who sold it to us for 4 bucks, and landed drenched to 'Nuestra Tierra', a Costa Rican tourist trap that was recommended to us by the taxi driver.

We paid 60 bucks for mediocre chicken, steak and beans and rice.

The next morning, we were loaded in a bus and driven out of San Jose to an outdoor adventures company that does white water rafting. We were told all about the Paquares river, with class III and IV rapids and amazing waterfalls and canyons! It was going to be amazing!

Then we were told, yeah, we're not doing that one. It's too high and we're doing the Carmen instead, the baby river with class II and III rapids and a lot of mud.The majority of our time was spent laughing with the guides and splashing other boats. Not quite the adrenaline rush I was looking for.

Oh well.

From there it was a two and a half hour bus ride to La Fortuna.

Adventure 2: Arenal Volcano and the Tabacon Hot Springs

Rural Costa Rica is absolutely breathtaking; a tangle of jungle and cows and rivers, with an occasional town dotted in between. We were staying in tiny La Fortuna, mostly a tourist town thanks to the Arenal Volcano that looms over it.

Here, after a nature hike where we saw leafcutter ants in action, we headed to the Tabacan hot springs, where water heated by the volcano is gathered in 18 different pools that you can wander around and steam in before heading to the cooler pool to cool off.

It was decadent, and I wanted more time there.

Also, there was a water slide.

The next day, there was a shuttle to the manmade lake of Arenal, and a boat ride across it, where I was mistaken for the tour guide. Then a van picked us up on the other side of the lake and a two hour drive up a gravel, rickety road to the Monteverde Cloud Forest Preserve, where we are up so high we're literally blanketed by condensation.

Adventure 3: Monteverde and the lack of hot water
At first, we were in love with our little cabin. Then we discovered that we had either scalding hot water or frigid cold water for a shower, and no in between.

We were less in love.
But we did get picked up for our SkyTrek and Canopy adventure, where we got strapped into rigs, put into the little cars that ride on long lines (like at Disneyland) and taken into the jungle, where we then zipped across wilderness and canyons, high above the landscape, being tossed and battered by the wind and the rain.

On the shuttle ride back, we were dropped off at the Frog Pond, where we got a guided tour of all the native frogs of Costa Rica. Think it's silly? It was awesome.

Less awesome? Trying to take a shower after all that.

Adventure 4: Tamarindo surfing and puffer fishies
Our shuttle drive to the beach involved a two hour drive down that gravel road, which seemed bumpier and gravelier than ever. But four hours later, we had arrived in Tamarindo, at our beach resort.

We had three days here, and so there was time for lots of adventures and misadventures. This involved surfing (and a bruised knee), atv driving (through rivers! My socks turned brown), horseback riding in the rain (our camera broke), and snorkeling on a sunset cruise (remember the rainy season? There was no sunset).

And guess what? Our hot water fled us again.

Adventure 5: Trying to find the Coffee Farm

After the third day, we got picked up bright an early by a shuttle driver who promised to take us back to San Jose, to a coffee farm. The problem? He didn't quite know where it was.

There was a lot of driving on gravel roads (a habit in Costa Rica), before we landed as the place that farms coffee for 'Tres Generaciones' coffee.

We learned about coffee. It was interesting. Seriously.

Then we got to buy some coffee, went into a butteryfly garden, and were taken to our four star business hotel for the night.
We had hot water. I almost cried.

I got home on Sunday exhausted. Flopping on my bed, too tired to sleep, I turned on my television and took a look at my tivo to see what I had missed.

Saved on the DVR? The Southpark Episode that dealt with the kids joining 'Getting Gay with Kids' and getting lost in the Costa Rican rain forest.

I laughed my ass off.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Health Food Fail

I'm going on vacation to Costa Rica in about two weeks. This is meant to be awesome, and I know I'm going to have an awesome time, because my itinerary demands it. It goes like this: river rafting, AWESOME, volcano gazing, AWESOME, sky canopy, AWESOME, sea kayaking, AWESOME.

See? There's a whole lot of awesome.
Except the way I look in a swim suit? Not awesome. Which isn't to say I look BAD in a swimsuit, but ... yeah. Anyway, after a year or so of working out semi-regularly (which usually begins with me waking up at 5AM going 'YEAH WORKING OUT' and ending the week staring blearingly at the alarm clock saying 'oh who am I kidding' and rolling over again) I'm finally to the point where I get the 'OMG Eliza Dushku Lookalike' observations. Which I have to admit, I'm vain enough to really, really enjoy. Because, it's Eliza Dushku. Who would have a problem being told they look like her? I mean, seriously? Do I look like her? Hell no. But still. Nice.
So yeah, I still want my toned biceps and I still want to wear a two piece and not cringe, so I'm trying hard to eat right and I'm failing miserably.

You see, I do okay when I'm at the store. I pretend to be all knowledgeable and I do a lot of looking at the nutritional food labels going 'hmm' and widening my eyes in horror at the sugar content and then I do the right thing and pick the sugar free candy ...

And then I get to the breakfast cereal aisle. I go for the 'Honey Bunches of Oats with Pecans', and I'm doing well, and then I turn around and I see it: Captain Crunch 'Oops! All Berries'.

My self control crumbles into rubble.
But bright side? I'm eating Captain Crunch's 'Oops! All Berries' cereal and I do not regret it at all.


I had salmon for dinner. Does that make up for it?

Friday, May 21, 2010

Glee Tour 2010

Um... it was awesome. Like, really, really awesome.


Okay, quick points:

1. The opening act was Harry Shum's team 'The League of Extraordinary Dancers' and they were... well... extraordinary. I didn't expect Harry to get a solo but he did, where he gets 'magic shoes' and they basically make him go crazy, dancing to whatever music comes on. He was amazing. As were the other dancers. Really captivating stuff.

2. Lea Michelle was clearly losing her voice, probably from the strain of the tour. She went flat a couple times, but that didn't stop her from belting out 'Don't Rain On My Parade' and doing a really touching 'Defying Gravity' with Chris Colfer.

3. Heather Morris stole the show. When she wasn't in the group numbers, she was doing double duty with Harry Shum as the featured back up dancer, and she was absolutely MESMERIZING during Bust Your Windows. And they trotted her out twice between set changes to put on a 'brittany' act for the audience, which were absolutely hilarious. Especially one where she announces to the audience that she's made out with all the stage hands and is in love with Kurt because he gave her a facial. - Bust Your Windows - featuring Heather Morris being FIERCE.

4. Naya Rivera has PIPES.
She's also absolutely gorgeous, but I was REALLY impressed with her voice. When they don't autotune the shit out of her, she's just amazing to watch. - The Boy Is Mine

And then of course... there's Bad Romance:

5. They kept Kevin in the wheelchair. At first I thought that was weird, but then I noticed SO many people in wheelchairs there and I realized why. He's an inspiration to them.

6. Everyone but Dianna seemed to get some sort of solo (either dance for the 'dancers' or otherwise), which was a little disappointing, but she's effing adorable in Bad Romance.

7. It was a really impressive show. No intermission (except for the break between the LXD and the Glee group), and just non-stop fun. Vocal Adrenaline was just plain fun to watch.

8. Cheerios came out into the audience per Sue Sylvester's instructions to pass out Barf Bags. It was hilarious.

The Media Stuff

High quality pictures at

My flickr Album: here

Youtube videos (not mine): here | here

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Red Dead Redemption

This is just evil, Rockstar.

I mean, it's not enough that you had to go and release the completely awesome Red Dead: Redemption, with it's open world play and strong narratives and nearly limitless possibilities, but you had to go and make online multi-player FANTASTIC? And you do this so all my friends by it on PS3 and I'm left alone with my XBOX 360 and no friends?

How rude!

Monday, May 17, 2010

In Which Real Life Came About & Swallowed Me Whole...

This past month I've celebrated my one-year anniversary, (the steakhouse we went to gave you a free box made of cotton candy. COTTON CANDY. WIN.), grilled a ton of meat for my family's annual Mother's Day grill-a-thon (meat is expensive, yo. And tasty.), had a mini-scare that involved my Dad being put in the hospital (he's fine now, thank God), and yet the thing that may have been the most taxing was babysitting a baby.

We were tag-teaming it, and as we sat in front of the parents, little toddler Lucia was eyeing us up and down with a look of quiet disdain. "Don't worry," said the Mommy. "She's not like those other kids who make a fuss about sleeping. You just give her her bottle and she'll ask to be put to bed."


The lying parents lied with the LIES.

Not only did the kid refuse to be put to sleep, she insisted on being carried (apparently I exude some sort of maternal instinct, because she LATCHED on to me), and anytime a bottle came near her she sobbed like we were torturing her and pushed it away.

Finally we reverted into some sort of Mom & Pop cliche with Laura insisting I just put the kid in the cradle and let her cry herself to sleep, and me being a complete marshmallow and begging to give her five more minutes to come to terms with the idea. Finally, sheer exhaustion won out when the baby's eyes were closing even as she was refusing to come near the crib, and she cried about a minute before zonking out.

Kids, man. They don't scare me because I helped raise my gajillion cousins and foster cousins and I know kids, but I'm still constantly surprised when people ask me why I'm in no hurry to have kids of my own when I'm so obviously great with them.

Me: ... have you MET a kid? Have you taken care of one for more than an hour? Do that. Then ask me again.

This is not to say anything against the amazing people who actually HAVE kids, because honestly, I think parenthood is one of the most underrated and rewarding occupations one can have.


But I can't even take care of my fishtank.