Jun 14, 2016

Dream come true


I just had my dream vacation. DH and I went to Victoria, BC where we spent hours on a boat witnessing the majestic, breathtaking beauty of Orcas in the wild. I had dreamed of that moment for years and it was with tears in my eyes that I saw them swim towards us, so free and happy, jumping out and talking to each other, free to roam the hundreds of miles a day they cover when they are free.

The day before I could see the whale watching tour arriving every few hours and everyone getting off the boat had a smile in their face, I asked several groups if they saw Orcas and they said “we saw a lot of humpback whales and seals” and they seemed so happy. I wanted to see humpbacks too, but the decision to go to Victoria was based on the fact that they have a resident pod, the J pod. The J pod is part of a bigger clan of the Southern resident killer whales in the area and includes the K and L pods.

The evening before our tour I sat there, looking at the sun setting (at 9:30 pm) and begged the Gods of Whales, Neptune, San Francis of Assisi (patron Saint of animals), and all the powers that be to let me see some Orcas. I had flown almost 3,500 miles (even with my flying phobia) to be able to see them.

We had been warned that the rough weather the last couple of days had the Orcas doing Orca things in hiding and they had not seen one yet. I closed my eyes and just begged the universe for this. We were on the boat for 45 minutes, looking for them when the captain suddenly shuts the engine and says “They are coming towards us, up ahead”.

Sure enough, there they were. I could feel all the hair in my body standing on end (the cold might have something to do with that as well), there is no way to describe the joy in my heart when I saw that tall, shiny black fin cut through the water towards us. Unimpeded by walls, or tanks, just open and cold waters. When one jumped in the air and landed on its side I felt swamped with love and respect for them, so amazingly smart, so beautiful and close to each other. 

I have felt a fascination for Orcas since I saw the movie “Orca, the killer whale” when I was little. The male Orca in the movie wants revenge for the murder of his baby whale who got cut out of his mother by the boat propeller or some such nonsense.  The male Orca lost his baby and his mate who died from the injuries. He pushes his dead mate to the beach and I remember so clearly the sense of grief from the animal in the movie.

Ever since then, even though the whale is supposed to be the bad guy in the horror movie, I have been in love with them. While Seaworld and other parks were available to me, the idea of seeing them in a pool was utterly repellant.  So my dream of watching them in the wild was born.

I could feel my husband looking at the goofy awed looked in my face and waiting for me to burst into tears. It was a close call folks, I was one fin away from ugly crying and let me tell you, there is nothing like wanting to cry from seeing something beautiful, crying from seeing a dream realized, crying because you are surrounded by nature’s almighty power.

At the end of the trip, a group of whale approached us and one flipped belly up, the startling white of its belly shinning so brightly through the water and belly up, as if asking for a petting swam beneath our boat and away.

Among the J pod that we saw is J-2 or “Granny” purported to have been born in 1911, Granny is the oldest Orca in the entire planet. I saw the oldest mother fucking Orca in the world. She is 105 years old and the bad boss of her matriarchal community. We also saw J-22 (Oreo), J-27 (Blackberry), J-34 (Double stuff), J-38 (Cookie). Obviously the scientist have a thing with pastries.

I went back home to Florida, full of happy thoughts about the world. Happy that everyone we had encountered in our trip had such love for nature and our planet and were taking so many steps to protect it and the beautiful animals that live in it.

I saw the headline on Sunday about the club in Orlando and I refused to open it. I just wanted to bask a little longer on the happiness that my dream realized had brought. I just wanted to think about whales and their society and how they live together in harmony as a family, helping one another, communicating, talking, touching and loving. I wanted to think of Granny, living in the Victoria waters with her children, grandchildren and great grandchildren, eating 400 lbs. of Chinook salmon a day, eating some seals and jumping out of the water to get rid of the annoying kelp that tangles on their tails. I wanted to think of that and nothing else.

If you want to know more:

Mar 18, 2016

Déjà Vu

Dear Reader, 

I don’t want to turn this blog into a political one, I am sure what I am doing with it now that my struggles as an immigrant are over. At least, the legal struggles are over.

I can’t sit by anymore, though and not comment on the clusterfuck this campaign has been. I voted for the first time in my life on Tuesday. For the FIRST TIME EVER. When I lived in Venezuela I was Colombian and a Permanent Resident but not allowed to vote, I left Colombia when I was 3 years old so not quite old enough to vote. During the Colombian elections of 2002, I was old enough to vote but it was a month after I moved to the US and I was not in a mental frame of mind to give a fuck. In later years, it seemed too odd to cast a vote that in theory would affect how lives are lived in a country I had never lived in. 

Needless to say, this is the first time in my life where my vote would count in a country I live in and where that vote would affect change in my day to day basis. I know how the electoral college works, I know the delegate thing pretty much takes actual democracy out of the voter’s hand, I know all dad, Adam Ruins Everything already ruined that for me a few months ago https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=90RajY2nrgk     
Be that as it may, I cannot help but hold a shred of hope that we, the people can affect change, positive change in the way things are done, in how legislations are written, in how the law can work for us.

Look at Seaworld! Less than three years after the movie Blackfish, which documents the plight of captives whales, (specially Tilikum, the whale who caused the dead of trainer Dawn Brancheau) came out and brutally opened the eyes of everyone to the pain and suffering of Orca whales in captivity, the park has decided to cave to pressure and end their breeding and captivity program. There won’t be any more ‘circus like’ shows, there won’t be any more kidnapping or trading of whales between parks, no more breeding animals that should roam free to the unnatural habitat of a tank and performing like clowns. These 28 (the actual number varies between 24 and 58) whales will be the last whales used by Seaworld. They will educate the future generations on marine mammals without the circus act, without torturing those majestic creatures.

How did it happen? Because of the people, because of you and me and everyone else who complained and hashtagged the shit out of #emptythetanks and #blackfish and #seaworldsucks. People who boycotted, and protested outside the parks, complained, wrote emails and letters, called their representatives and senators, shared links on Facebook and Instragram and Twiter, talked to their friends and coworkers, educated strangers. Because of those small steps, little by little it changed the law. By law the trainers couldn’t get in the water or even close to the whales, which makes it harder for the show to go on, interaction, I believe it’s the key to training them.

Then came the California Coastal Commission who agreed to let Seaworld expand their park in San Diego only if they ended the breeding program. And so the breeding program is done, over with. Why? Because they had to, because the people won. The whales won too, the ones not to be born into captivity anymore, the ones who could’ve been snatched from their pods in the future.  This is THE biggest victory in animal advocacy in decades.

When I see stuff like that happens it quiets down the cynic in my that wants to rears its ugly head every time I watch a Republican debate, or hear someone say Muslims will have to be tracked (I don’t even understand how logistically speaking that would be possible)  every time I see a Trump rally full of spewing hate.  I refuse to give myself up to the dark side and become a cynic. I refuse to say I don’t care and stop being informed, I refuse to be charmed by ‘refreshing’ clowns that spout bigotry and racism and hatred and want to disguise it under the mask of patriotism. It hurts to care, but I refuse to become desensitized and swallow that pill that everyone has seems to have swallow and take pride on remaining ignorant because “all politicians are the same” or “my vote won’t count” or “they are all bought by wall street anyway” I won’t be suck down by this wave of anti-intellectualism where is cooler and somehow better to be ignorant, misinformed and uncaring.

I already saw this happening. I saw this exact same development in Venezuela. When Chavez ran for President, speaking about certain groups of people as if they were not Venezuelans, running a divisive campaign, with his polo t-shirts and his booming voice and his uber colloquialism, his ‘refreshing’ tell-it-like-it-is, isn’t it shocking but oh so funny persona.  He won them over, the ones who were looking for entertainment when they should’ve been looking for leadership. He won over the ones who heard negative things about Colombians, and realized they have been thinking those dark thoughts themselves but maybe they didn’t feel comfortable saying them out loud, but now the President was saying it too, so maybe it’s okay.  He won over the ones full of resentment, valid of imagined and he stoked that fire. Now the ember is still smoldering and there is nothing left of the country Venezuela used to be, with the values it used to have, and the freedoms it used to enjoy. Like Nero, now the whole fucking thing is burning down. 

History always repeats itself, I want to believe that we can stop it from repeating. Rise above the noise, don’t be a part of the common denominator, read, research, google, and ask questions, debate, be uncool and give a damn! Don’t settle for food and entertainment, free grain and circuses.  We can do better than that. We did for Tillikum, now let’s fucking do it for ourselves.

Feb 4, 2016


After receiving some pretty tragic news last night about a family member and feeling devastated about it, I had to rally and get ready today for my Oath Ceremony.

We left the house pretty early, because parking is impossible on swear in days. On the way there we had to U-turn and take another route because there was a three-car and a school bus accident (no one was badly injured).

We made it there with plenty of time and I sat with my family (aunts, uncle, my mom, dad and husband) waiting to be called to the ceremony room.

It’s funny because all this time I have felt this fear and apprehension towards the USCIS agents and today they were all ebullient and smiley. They took our resident cards, never to be seen again and handed us all a packet with a holder for the naturalization certificate, a passport application, a booklet about voter registration, an envelope with a letter from President Obama, a small book with the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, a Citizen’s Almanac and a page with the Pledge of Allegiance, the National Anthem and the Oath of Allegiance, and a little US flag.

People were actually late, I cannot even fathom it. I have waited so long for this moment that I can’t understand why everyone wasn’t there early or on time. We had to wait until everyone showed up and it started 45 minutes after schedule.

There were 86 of us being sworn in, 32 nationalities, or former nationalities I should say now.

We sang the anthem and saw a video and then the ceremony started. The USCIS Agent spoke fondly of how moments like these ones were what made her job the best job. I could tell she was so excited and happy for us, I don’t think you can fake her enthusiasm and I knew then she is chosen to give the speech at the ceremonies because she feels and believes what she is saying and we new citizens feel moved and appreciated by it.

They called every former nationality (made sure to impress that upon us) and when Colombia was named, eight of us stood up.

I hope people understand that as much as we all want to be citizens, we do not do so lightly. At least I did not do it lightly. I stood there renouncing my born country and I did it honestly, with all my heart because this is my home country now, but it is with a little pain that you let go of that.

After all former nationalities were called, we raised our right hand and pledged our loyalty to the United States of America. To give up loyalty any other country or sovereignty that we were citizens or subjects to, to defend and protect her from all enemies, foreign and domestic, so help us God.

The lady in front of me was sobbing so hard, I had doubt she actually said the oath out loud.
I had my moments, when tears clouded my eyes, and a knot in my throat made it hard to swallow but they were happy tears (especially when the President spoke to us, welcoming us as US Citizens, what can I say? I love me some Obama)

We waved our flag and smiled and then received our certificates, so crisp and pretty, with our picture in them.We left our numbered chairs to be hugged and kissed by our families and loved ones, by those who stood by us and held our hands and dried our tears and helped us throughout this journey. Dear Husband was in tears, so was my mom and aunts and uncles. I laughed and smiled and kissed them and hugged and just felt overwhelmed by love from them. There they were crying for me and I was so excited and hopeful and in disbelief that I was unable to shed one single tear.

We took a picture in front of the Department of Homeland Security Flag and the US Flag and it felt all sorts of surreal.

I know some people have very heated feelings about immigrants and why we are here and what we do, I know sometimes they don’t know us, our stories, and our reasons. I know sometimes they hate us, sometimes they fear us and I wish they could see inside my heart and my head and know that I am like so many others out there and they are trying to get to where I am. I love this country, I love its people, this is my home now, I will protect it and defend it and do my best to make it even better because it’s officially mine now too. Don’t worry, I won’t let it down.