Friday, May 28, 2010

On immigration

Oh no, she's getting political on us. Actually, not really. I hate politics and I hate discussing politics with anyone but my inner circle. I have this problem with seeing things both ways so it's hard for me to make a decision. I suppose I respect the other person and their opinions so much that other people might get pissed off at me for not being pissed off enough.

Immigration is a touchy, sensitive, divisive and personal issue for me so that's why I never comment on it.

I shall give a little background on my family, but keep in mind, this is all oral history.

My dad came to this country in the 1960s on worker visas. His dad came to work as a bracero in the 1940s. (Side note: my siblings and I are trying to find any documentation on this at and we might have, very exciting.) He did not stay here. He decided to move back to Mexico once his visa or arrangement had expired. My dad, however, had other plans. My dad only has a middle school education even though he loves to learn and one day dreamed of being an architect. But of course, his situations could not accommodate that. He lived in a room with my grandmother and 4 other siblings. There were no beds and barely any clothes. To this day, he'll never go camping because he grew up sleeping on the floor. His dad was absent most of his life. He decided that there is something more and better in life so he came to the US for his "American Dream". He got his paperwork in order and crossed the border....legally. Now this is where it all gets fuzzy. My dad is the type of guy that puts a sunny disposition on things. He doesn't like to talk about the darker parts in life, or the struggles unless there is a lesson to be learned. So my dad came here, year after year, with visas in hands to try to get legalized papers. He'd overstay his visa until he got kicked out, but would continue the process once he got a new visa. They were tough times. He showered in a bucket and had one meal a day. He lived in LA. He hated it, but he knew there was something more. Finally, the day came when my dad got his green card. By then, he'd moved up to Portland (I think). My pops LOVES to play the lottery, so he bet on the horse races and won. That was enough money to furnish the apartment and go marry my mom. So that he did. He headed back down to Mexico, married my mom, impregnated her on the honey moon and headed back to Portland. A year or so later, when my oldest brother was 8 months old, my dad came back with all necessary papers to bring my brother and my mom back... Legally.

Ok, so that's our story.

Now, this is what I don't understand about the debate. I honestly don't know how difficult it is to be a "legal resident alien" here in the United States. I know it took my dad YEARS, but still, he did it. Now, I'm not saying its not hard, but my dad didn't go into detail about HOW hard it was.

So now we have this debate going on (which is not new.) Illegal immigrants are invading. Unfortunately, they seem to want to put a color to those illegals. What about the Canadians, or the Europeans or even the white South Americans from Argentina, Chile...? I have not statistics, I'm not researching, this is all just my opinion and my questions. I'm not saying illegal immigration a long the border is NOT problem. I'm not, I sympathize. I can understand how scary it must be to feel like a stranger in your own town. But what gets me is the black and white view of either your illegal or a citizen. The reason I bring this up is becuase I read this article where US senate canditate Rand Paul says "... But I think what we should do is we shouldn't provide an easy route to citizenship." The "easy" route to citizenship is being birthed here. That's for another time though.

So my question is why is it either or? Either your illegal or your a citizen. Where is the "legal resident alien" status of people. In my opinion, the problem is how difficult, how many hoops it takes to come to this country LEGALLY.

Not everyone who comes here or visits wants to be a citizen of the United States. It's a big deal. It's like telling one parent you love them more. If you think about the lyrics of the pledge of allegiance, that's a big deal. You are pledging allegiance to a country you're suppose to love, honor and respect. I take that seriously. When I lived in Mexico for two years, I couldn't say their national anthem. I loved my country. I think that's how a lot of legal residents must feel during that limbo time. Do I really want to go ahead and turn my back on my country, one might ask? It took my parents 40 years to decide to become citizen, not because they couldn't, but because they still hoped to one day go home. But by being legal residents all these years, they still payed taxes, yet they couldn't vote. That was privilege that was not granted to them as non-citizens. After much thought though, they decided it was the right time and an historical time at that. It's small price to pay for the allegiance to another country.

I don't know. That's just how I feel. I have statistics, no studies, no research done. I just have a lot of heart, a history background and a lot of questions pertaining to why people can't try to step in other shoes and ask themselves, if I were in this situation...what would I do?

I guess its the historian with an Ethnic Studies emphasis (don't get me STARTED on that one) in me that makes me ask all these questions, because as you've all heard, history repeats itself and this topic is no exception.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Dance videos

Ok, so this is what I've been up to...

I've been going to Vega Dance Lab in on SE Water for a few months now. After deciding to quit going to the gym (because I can't run any more) I figured I'd supplement my Tango with work out dance classes. My friend Kate was the one that recommended this place to me after I mentioned I wanted to try out something a little bit different than standard partner dancing, but also needed to get a work out. Our first classes together was something called Burly Q. It's basically a Burlesque dance class and I LOVE it! The music, the moves, the instructor Evie. Sadly, she is on maternity leave, and I am on leave from that class right now too. The sub-instructor is super talented but leans heavily toward hip-hop which I TOTALLY suck at, and therefore does not make the dancing enjoyable, so I shall wait. In the meantime, my roommate had been going to Tease n Tone, so I decided to join her. And man, did I get addicted!

Tease n Tone is a one hour class. The first half hour is intense cardio, but dance style, the second half hour is a dance routine. Below is one of the dance routines. Usually, they'll change after 2-3 weeks. On the last day of class, the instructors tape the routine. If you look closely, you can see me and my roommate in the way back.

Now, here is a taste of what Burly Q is like. Man, I love it! Can't wait to start it up again.

Seriously people, these dance moves are so sultry and easy to learn and adaptable to any dance. Also, its a teeny little routine that I'm sure you can use for other times...if you know what I mean ;)

So, not only is Vega awesome because it has cool people and cool dance classes among other things, they also have workshops! As you know, I dance Tango. Even though I've been doing it about a year now and I know many moves and steps, I think my technique is bad. I know what to do with my feet, where to put them, how to stand, but I think I just lack proper technique in *how* to hold myself up, how to hold my legs, etc. Also, in Tease n Tone and Burly Q, there is a lot of hip shaking and leg turning and I figured I'd take a Beginners Technique to advance my understanding of how my body should feel when I do certain moves and what it should look like. So last weekend was my first day. Our instructor is awesome! He's adorable too and I think probably 10 years younger than me but I love him! He's so sweet and positive and its EXACTLY what I need stepping into this new realm. I'm scared of dance, but I want to learn and be good so bad, that I don't let it get in the way. And having an instructor that's all "hey, be positive, allow your body to move and learn and don't be afraid" is just that much better.

And just because I can't get enough of moving my body...I'm doing the Portland Bar Method five days a week. I'm on day two, so come next week, I'll have a little review of what's going on with that. But I will say: it's totally helping with my technique too.

So...enjoy the videos and maybe one of these days you'll join me at one of the classes. Seriously, its fun!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

On Dancing

I'm kind of a walking contradiction of sorts. I'm a reserved person, but I like attention. I like to perform, but I feel overwhelmed in groups of people. I like being one on one, but too much of that kind of solitude leaves me antsy for being social. Quien me entiende!

Growing up, I was an EXTREMELY shy kid. I didn't like the spot light, I didn't want people to notice me. As I grew a little older, apparently I grew a little bolder. I'd performed in choir since I can remember, and I even lip sank "Catch Me I'm Falling" for our 2nd grade talent show. Who the F was I back then!?

Then it all changed...I moved to Mexico. Why the move affected me so much, I honestly have no idea, but I can now pinpoint that I became a different more frightened person. It was also the time that I got my period and placed me a part from all the other little girls. I guess that was it. I was different, always have been and always will be. I embrace it now (to an extent) but when you're 9 years old in a foreign country, held back a grade, speak with a funny accent, have no friends AND start your period...ya goddamn do feel pretty different. Compound that with coming FROM a country where you just stick out like a sore thumb being the only Mexi-American...Yeah, I had issues...still do to an extent. I'll get to that on some point.

I didn't really have friends growing up in Mexico, but I did discover that I REALLY loved to sing. The dancing? Not so much. Why did I hate the dancing? Probably because my dad LOVED the dancing. At weddings here in the states, my dad would drag me on the dance floor and we'd dance rock 'n' roll songs. I did really enjoy it, but in Mexico, I dunno, something changed. I wanted to disappear, I wanted to hide, I didn't want to be noticed so I tucked the dancing away for a very very long time...a kind of rebellion I could control of sorts.

I think I'd always had the performer's bug. When we got back from Mexico and I entered middle school here in the states, I began to seriously think I could be an actress. I could really get wrapped up in emotions, "act" it out, cry on cue. I thought "this is it, I could do it." My mom did indulge me here and there and even took me on a few auditions. I'd look through the yellow pages for talent companies and such, but I think deep down inside, I knew the money to put me in a program like that would be too much, so I just started to give up. I did stay involved with choir in middle school and auditioned for a play here and there. I loved it.

I didn't start dancing, formally, until let's see, sophomore year in high school. I was in the musical "Little Shop of Horrors" as one of the 17 doo wop girls. (Yes, in the original there are only three, but our director decided it best if 7-8 girls sang the one part.) So I had to learn choreography and what better choreography to learn than music from the 50s. It was so much fun! It was a thrill to be able to express this silly, theatrical side of myself because for so long, even still, I keep it at bay. The for one of our multicultural assemblies, I volunteered to perform the Mambo with the only other Mexi-American (who happened to be also my psedo little brother) and it all came flooding at me like a side-ways flash from Lost (you like how I did that?) I thought to myself: "omigosh! I love this music, I can actually move, look at my hips? I can *feel* it..." So it was no surprised that when I was exposed to Salsa my freshman year in college, I was hooked.

Now, I'm not saying I wish I was all "Jazz hands" and such (I love "Bring it on"!) because I don't. I like who I am, but I could use a few self-improvements here and there. I love performing, singing and dancing, but that's just my performer self. Then there is the real me. The self-contained, quirky Andrea. But ms. quirks sometimes REALLY wants to cut loose and that's where performer me needs to step in. And what does that for me? Dance.

So this sounds so dramatic. No, I"m not going to Julliard, I don't care for ballet or Jazz and the thought of needing/wanting to learn hip-hop makes my tummy convulse. But the thought of just letting go and doing what I love half an hour every day, is quite appealing. I like my life, I like how its going (for now) and there are some areas that I definitely could change, but dance makes it that much more tolerable. It gives me a space to vent and to just be. And an added bonus? It's given me quite the ego boost...and I really need it. When I look at myself in the mirror while dancing to the latest routine in our burlesque class or tease n tone, I realize: "dude, I'm not as fat as I thought" or "wow, I actually DO look sexy doing this" and it gives me that extra pep, that extra confidence if I were to EVER go up to a guy and say hello, because regardless of what that guy might say or think, I can look back at the memory of my gyrating my hips and thinking "too bad for you guy, you're gonna miss out".

And what prevented me from taking dance seriously? Fear. Fear of sucking, fear of what others thought of me, fear of liking it even... So like many, after a 5 year relationship, I looked at myself and said "what do YOU want to do?" I told myself: I want to learn how to Argentine Tango. And the same answer popped up. "Oh you can't, you're terrified of physical contact with strangers, plus you always said you wanted to dance this with a boyfriend." (this is the third Andrea speaking, the one that kind of doesn't like me.) And so I told her "Fuck it. I don't care. This is what I want so shut your face." And her face did shut.

And yes, I'm one of those odd birds who only likes specific physical contact. Dancing at clubs was always very difficult and traumatizing for me. Can you blame me? I was raised Catholic. Being touched by someone that was NOT your husband is kind of no no. So I've developed this love/hate relationship with touching and hugging. And three months into Tango came the close embrace. Yeah, the embrace where you're basically boob to boob on the guy. It took me that whole month not to cringe. Not cuz the guy was smelly or inappropriate, but because I wanted to turn and run. But I wanted to learn and be good at Argentine Tango more. And now, almost a year later, I'm a close embrace whore. "Would you like to dance? Close embrace? Thank you!"

Now, why Argentine Tango over Salsa, you might ask? Salsa is fun and flowy and out there and in your face and sexual...Does that sound like me? Ok, maybe in the bedroom (did I just say that?!) Tango, in my opinion, is more like me: quietly passionate, self-contained but bubbling below the surface. The sexuality is not in your face, but in the subtly of the movements and the look in your eye. That's more how I am on an everyday basis and even though hugging complete strangers "titty to titty" as they say is TOTALLY out of my comfort zone...well, I like to do things that challenge so go figure. Salsa is fun, but that's all it will ever be...just fun, like that hot guy you flirt with but would never consider dating.

I know I may not be the best, most talented or graceful dancing, but I'm willing to put the work in to try. So what I've decided is to start working on strength training and flexibility versus just cardio. I can't run any more *tear* so most of my work out will solely benefit Argentine Tango. In addition to Tango, I also do burlesque dancing (really more of a work out) as well as tease n tone. I like moving my body in those sexy, sultry ways, but I like to move them in a safe environment and what better than a class full of women. Ok, sure, there might be some lesbians but I choose to ignore that. I guess I know my own power and don't want some dude coming up to me and humping my leg ;) Yes, I've had that happen before...Ah college.

So dancing? Check. Work out? Here I come. I've decided to join the Portland Bar Method. I've not started yet but it sounds like something that will be right up my alley. I've tried yoga and it just never worked out for me. I tried pilates and its OK, but I'm hoping the Bar will be more of a dancer's work out than anything and if I end up losing a few inches here and there, well fantastic. All I really want to do is gain strength in my legs and back so I can do turns and bend.

So off to my next journey. On the schedule for today? Argentine Tango. Practice makes perfect.

No wonder I've always liked dance movies...

Monday, May 10, 2010


This past Sunday was Mother's Day and I made reservations at Springwater Grill in Sellwood for us at 10:30am. It was all of us except for Dimitri (he's was with his mother) and Kim (who sadly had to work.)

I know families have their ups and downs. I know families can be close or far apart, but what I took away from my family this past Sunday is this overwhelming love I have for them.

I think when I was younger, I worried that if I didn't have someone, a partner, I'd die a very sad and lonely death. I feared the day would never come when I'd get married and create my own family. I want what my parents have (a 40+ year marriage), I want what my oldest brother has (an almost 10 year marriage) and I want what my older brother has...his media naranja, a marriage. But I now I know, whether I am single or with a partner, my family will always have my back. Being loved and part of a family does not mean I have to find one person solely, I'm loved by many friends and family and I'm finally starting to see, feel and believe that. I am no longer scared of living my life not within a marriage or childless because I have my nephews to love and its such a relief to no longer be scared.

It's really hard for me to articulate exactly what this all means to be, but I guess what I'm trying to say is that I am happy. I am so lucky to have a family this awesome and this close knit. We are not without our faults or our bad days, but I'd rather hang out with them all day, than a whole week with out them.

What's even luckier is that not only are they my family, I like each and everyone that's married into it...even their siblings. Man, my bros did a good job!

Anyway, I'm an inarticulate mess expressing how much I love my family and how lucky I am to have each and everyone of them...even if ONE of them drives me bonkers ;)

*note* These pictures are from Thanksgiving of 09 courtesy of Morgan Matthews.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Karaoke, and past reflection

Since I was a little girl, I've always loved to sing and dance. I was never trained in either, but I loved it nonetheless. I think I have a natural ability for both, since my mom and dad were avid and natural dancers back in their barrio days in Mexico. Looking back at my childhood, I realized that even though I did what was expected of me, what was good, I really rebelled against a lot of what my parents loved. My dad LOVED to dance, so I decided I would NOT dance. He wanted me to learn how to change my oil...I refused to listen. "You need to learn how to cook so you can get a man" I heard early on from him. F that, I thought. I'm my own woman. And what still gets to me is that my dad says "Your mine." Ok, I don't mean to paint my dad in a bad light. He's actually quite an awesome dude. He's super outgoing, funny, not afraid to shake his "bote" to the music and always willing to give advice. All these things were early on in his life and he's become more loose in his old school beliefs as time goes on. He helps my mom around the house cleaning, he folds laundry...but the food he leaves to my mom, but he is by no means helpless. I guess, when I was younger, I just felt like if I had to conform to all these rules about being good, I will rebel in other things and that was just doing the opposite of what my parents like. Also, I went through a brief identity crisis in middle school, so to me being liking what my parents liked made me that much more Mexican...which I did NOT like. Thank GOD I'm over that! Hence why I think little Mexi-American kids need teachers that look like them, yada yada yada...

So anyway, I got really into singing in 6th grade and hadn't stopped until my Freshman year in college. I sang all through middle school, all through high school, took some cheap ass voice lessons from an old crabby drunk emotionally insensitive old lady who would fart all the time, and I was on my way. I competed for regionals and my senior year I made it to state. I didn't with, but at least I finally got there after competing for 4 years. Also, since I was a senior, I could sing a solo at our winter concert. They wanted me to go with the usual, English or Italian, but I rebelled and went with Spanish. My teacher was really upset but I fought and worked hard on my song! When I graduated, I didn't think I would be a singer, but I just enjoyed it far too much. I loved being in the musicals because it allowed to express a side of myself that I don't reveal every day: Performer Andrea. I don't feel comfortable carrying her around in my skin, but she's there and I like her. I think a lot of this has to due with my culture and of course my family.

As a Latino, the best trait you can have is being humble. Never inflate yourself, you'll be seen as a pompous ass. So I never did. Sure, my parents told me I was smart and pretty, but I never felt like I was allowed to say that about myself. I'm still working on that....
So I suppose my point is that I like to be the center of attention. It's a weird mix though. I LOVE to perform and have all eyes on me and I can't wait for the day I get married because that's MY day, which is why I LOVE my birthday. Its the one day I'm allowed to be selfish and want everything to be about me...But, in my daily life, I don't allow myself that luxury but at the same time, I wouldn't want that. I'm not the life of the party, nor do I want to be. I'm not a social butterfly. Hosting parties makes me a bit nervous...but if I were to perform...that's another thing. It's my job, it's what I'm doing, I have a gig.

I've only Karaoked a handful of times. One time in HS, once in college, a couple times post college. For some reason, I get this weird stage fright that makes me unable to sing in front of family and friends, but strangers, bring it on! But a couple years ago, I decided I needed to change that. Singing was something I was good and I want to share it and I want other so see this skill as well, cuz by golly, I'm pretty good!
After college I took three years of voice lessons with an awesome teacher, but I quit because I felt like I wasn't going anywhere with it. I had no recitals, no musicals, no band to perform with. It was all kind of pointless, but I do realize now, my voice is MUCH better thanks to those three years. So on my 29th birthday, I decided I would have a karaoke party with all of my friends and loved ones. I was SO scared! They were ALL THERE (ok, except for you Kristin!) and all I could think about was, what will they think of me. I've hyped this up so much, they're going to think I suck. I think that's the other thing...the pressure. They know I've been singing since 6th grade so they expect Christina Aguilera up there! Ay!

But whatever, I got up there and I did it and I did it again and again and again... I loved it! I told myself this is something I wanted to do, that I loved singing.
Fast forward almost a year and I'd not returned to a Karaoke bar since. Not because I don't want to but, I don't really have friends who do it and I got really involved with dance and I have friends that do do that. But a friend of a friend was having auditions for this dancing girl group and the auditions were at a karaoke bar.
So, I gathered my two songs, a ballad and an upbeat tempo song, and off I went with a friend. I was so nervous cuz not only was it kind of last minute, I was getting over a cold so my voice was about 95 percent. I had to choose songs that fit with my voice, not that I necessarily wanted to sing, but I went with it.

The first was a miss. I was so nervous and I had to sing after this guy that sang a heavy metal song. So here I come with my ballad by the Dixie Chicks, "I believe in love" to a room full of drunk hipsters. Ah! I had nothing witty to say, so I just started singing. I couldn't find my voice, I couldn't hear my notes, but as the song went on, I got better and loosened up. Thank GOD. The next song was my uptempo, but as the hours dragged, then two, then THREE HOURS, I just wanted to get it over with, so once they called my name I was all "FINALLY!" and just got up there and went with it. Bonnie Tyler's "Holding out for a Hero" was a hit with the now 12 member audience. I know I faltered just a bit, but I even did a little choreographed arms mimicking the video. This is an audition anyway, right? It was so much fun. At times, I closed my eyes and that helped so much, but I just felt like a dork doing that, so I'd open them once in a while.

After it was all said and done, my friend said I did a great job, that he was blown away. A couple other people came up and complimented me. And since I'm new Andrea not old Andrea, all I said was thank you. I didn't down play or make excuses, just "Thank you".

So, I probably won't find out if I made the girl group until this weekend, but regardless of what happens, I'm going to start singing Karaoke. I know I'm a good singer, I have tons of fun and people enjoy my singing, I just need to gain the confidence to get up there and make it look effortless...

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

First hike of the Season-Klickitack

It's been a while since I posted a book review or well anything as of late. I've been really into self-help books and honestly, no offense, but the social commentary I'd have on those is a little too personal for public blogs, so I'm keeping those nuggets to myself. I need to finish up The Greatest Generation and then I'll start on Hero Street. I'm sure I'll have something to say about that one.

But in the meantime, the weather is finally getting nice here in Portland, Or so a few friends and I have been trying to get out and enjoy with with a few weekend hikes.

A couple weeks ago, by the magic of FB, a friend posted about going on a Sunday hike and if anyone was interested. Luckily, I was actually awake that early enough so I said I'd go. By 11:30am I was at her house and ready to go. I hadn't asked her any details about where we were going, how long, or if I should bring food. You see, I'm a newbie with the whole hiking thing. My family did not go hiking nor camping. Pop always said "Why would I pay to sleep on the floor when I slept on the floor when I was young because we were so poor." Good point. So we never did that and I grew accustomed to indoor activities: movies, dancing, drawing, singing, driving. There was the occasional walk around the neighborhood and maybe trip to the park, but never a full blown day of hiking somewhere beautiful, so when I met my roommate, who is super into the outdoors (except for the camping part!) I made a vow that I was going to get into it too. It's just not one of my default activities, but I'm trying.

So as mentioned, two weeks ago, my friend Kate and I ventured 1.5 hours east to the lovely area of Mt. Hood and crossed the White Salmon bridge into Washington. It was just the perfect temperature and perfect sun light. I even got a little sun on my neck.

Here is a shot of us driving toward Klickatack on the Washington side. Even in a car, its just beautiful

Afterward, Kate mentioned this beautiful rest area with a view. And that it was!

From there, we started. This used to be an old railway area. It was a very easy hike that was a long the river. I couldn't have asked for anything more. I was so happy it wasn't a hard hike either!

We did see a ton of wildlife including a frog, a variety of butterflies, vultures, herons and even seagulls, which I found to be quite funny.

Finally, we were coming to the end of our hike and off in the distance you could see Mt. Hood.

Perfect ending to a lovely day. I'd never hung out with Kate alone, as she is my best-friend from college's childhood friend (think about it...) so it was nice to have a wonderful background to a blossoming new relationship.