Photo to the (ahem) Soul


It was a sunny and humid day on the Caribbean coast of Hondo-land (Honduras, for those of us who are not familiar with the new-age lingo) a day just like the day before, and inevitably will be like the the day after. I was in the back of my grandmother’s house, washing my clothes the old-fashioned way on a pila, a huge metal washboard built into a slab of concrete with two faucets on the side. Though any other time I would have killed for a washing machine, I actually loved washing my clothes this way. It was the only time I was left alone with my music blaring in the background. My mother, who had gone to run errands in the city, had hired a young helper to help with all the chores in the house including washing clothes. However for some reason, I was never comfortable with that. I had no problems with her cleaning my room (although I did cringe when I saw her examining my things a little too closely) I even helped her sometimes, but when it came to my clothes, it was “no toque”.

So there I was washing my clothes, in my own world, when I heard the unmistakable sound of tires screeching into the front yard.

“Buenos Dias! MELÍ??!!”

It was my aunt Maria and her husband Tito. My aunt is only a couple of years older than I am, so she was more like a cousin, us having grown up close. Her husband was the same age as she was, a cool dude. Him and I connected through music, he was the owner and DJ of a club on the beach of the beautiful little town we come from.  That day they were headed into the city to renew some permits for the club. It had been a while since we hung out, so they were eager to bring me along. I looked at the wash bin full of my dirty clothes. I needed to finish while the sun was out, so that they could be dry by the afternoon.

The helper told me it was OK, she would finish it for me. Before I had a chance to say anything (NO!) my aunt said “Good, we’ll be back in an hour”. She grabbed my arm and practically threw me into the little pick-up truck. I tried to scream out to the helper not to touch my clothes, but my aunt pushed me back in.

“Hey ¿ que te pasa?!That’s what you pay her for!”

“I don’t pay her, my mom does”

“Whatever, same shit. What’s hers is yours”. Hmmm…I don’t think my mom would agree with that.

With a big sigh I sat back and let myself be carried away in the little pick-up truck, dirt kicking up on the Pan-American highway. This highway, which runs (unofficially) from Alaska all the way down into Argentina (officially) is one long stretch of road that connects fourteen countries in total. However, depending on which third world nation you happen to be in, it can be a pain in the ass to drive through. In Honduras, outside of the major cities you’ll encounter dirt roads full of deep potholes so if you happen to have the window down and your mouth open, you get a lunch full of dust. Since it is a semi-international highway, the government is  supposedly making improvements. When I was younger, it used to take us almost four hours to get from the airport, to our little town on the northern Caribbean coast. Now it takes about a little under an hour.

So we’re driving along the highway, wind in my hair, enjoying the tropical breeze and the beautiful views of the beaches with Bob Marley playing in the background when we finally pulled into the parking lot of the municipal buildings. We walked across the burning asphalt and into one of the offices. While Maria and Tito were talking to the secretary I looked around the tidy little office and out the glass window. Across the way there were park benches where people were sitting around, probably dragged from what they were doing and waiting for their friends/family to finish up. Since there was almost no air conditioning in the office, I told Maria that I was going to wait for her outside. Tito decided to join me, as he was going to let his wife do all the talking since her name was on most of the papers. (Umm…support?).

We headed outside to one of the benches, and sat down in one that was shaded by a palm tree. Tito bought me a bottle of water, a saving grace in the dry weather. After a little while an older gentleman came and sat by us, letting out a huge sigh as he took off his cowboy hat and wiped his brow with his handkerchief. He was a portly, short, balding  mestizo man with a huge bigote (mustache).

“AAAYYY que calor!” He exclaimed, sweating under the weight of the heat. I wasn’t sure if it was a statement or a question, so I just gave a little smile. Tito, who’s a DJ, and therefore likes to talk said “Only in hell is it hotter”.

“Well we’re in hell brother… hell” The old man replied, wheezing and eying my big bottle of water.  Thank GOD Tito is a good man and offered his bottle of water to the stranger. I can be a bit selfish.

He looked at us both and with a little smile on his face said “You two are a beautiful couple.” Tito and I looked at each other than at the stranger and proceeded to laugh. We assured him we were in-laws.
“I’m so sorry, my mistake” Meh, anybody could’ve made that mistake. He introduced himself as Santos, a farmer from a small town outside of the municipality. Both Tito and I and introduced ourselves. We chatted a bit about where we were from and I told him the truth; I was from NY but I was there on vacation.   He asked me if there was somebody special, and although I hadn’t discussed this with Maria and Tito, I told him there was. It was also a warning sign if he was trying to lure his way into my good graces.

“Love is a wonderful thing, a powerful drug,” he said, wiping his brow ” It is the best feeling in the world”. I nodded my head in agreement. Tito amen’ed that.
Then he continued. “I can’t stop thinking about my lady. She makes me so happy. Pero lastima, that I only see her about once or twice a week”. Now here was where I got a bit confused. Once or twice a week? I figured maybe he was a farmer that works for a corporation of some sort that only lets him go home once or twice a week? I know nothing about farming, so this was the best I could come up with.

” My wife is old and getting up there, she doesn’t touch me like she used to.” I looked at Tito, confused. First he complains that he does not see his wife, and now he complains that she doesn’t touch him? Tito, being the charismatic guy that he is, shrugged his shoulders and said ” Yeah well, women. What can you do?”. He laughed a bit and I joined him but I didn’t find it that funny. I turned my head and gave him the evil eye. Wait ’till Maria hears about this.

“But the way my lady touches me” Santos continued ” leaves me wanting her even more”. Now here is where the clarity comes in. Santos was spending his time with a woman…that was not his wife! To be honest, I was not surprised. Infidelity is a hot topic issue in many parts of Latin America and around the world, Honduras being no exception. It is almost a part of life, something many women, and sometimes men with lesser consequences, have to deal with. But that’s another blog post.

Santos reached around to his back pocket and pulled out his wallet, moving closer to Tito and I. “This girl right here is my everything”, he announced pulling out a photo. He showed the photo to Tito, whose eyes immediately widened. Tito looked at me, speechless. What? Was she super hot? Super ugly?  I didn’t know what to expect. To be honest I didn’t give a shit about seeing the photo. Hell, I’m a woman for God’s sake. I am not condoning his infidelities. But the way Tito’s eyes bulged outta his head got the best of my curiosity. I reached for the photo, took one look and my jaw fell open.

The young girl was naked, spread eagle on a bed. Completely naked. Front row seat to her uterus. I was shocked and damn near threw the picture back at Santos. “Isn’t she beautiful?” he said. What the hell?

I looked at Tito who had a grin on his face, and gave the photo back to Santos. I looked at him thinking he was going to at least acknowledge our shock, but he just took the photo back, kissed it and stuffed it into his wallet, completely oblivious to our reactions.

I chuckled to myself. Who am I kidding? I just saw this man’s wanker photos.Shortly after that Maria came out and we made our way back home. Years later and that image is still in my head. What an eventful day.


Air and Opportunity

The other day I was watching the year end review of a blogger/vlogger that I have been following for quite some time. Fly Brother is a black travel blogger who has traversed the world, he is also someone who is an incredible writer. He reminded me of an age old adage that I would always hear in the ‘hood when two people, namely boys, were so fed up with each other they were about to physically fight. Most of the time the beef was over some stupid ish, but when you’re young you don’t know no better. They would push each other sometimes with hands but most of the times with their shoulders. They would stand so close to each other their chest would bump and they would move around in a comical fashion. “What, what?!” they would yell until the braver  of the two (or dumber, your call) would push the other and say “Ain’t nothing between us but air and opportunity”.

Fly brother brought up a good way to turn this phrase around. Ain’t nothing between me and what I want …but air and opportunity. This will be my mantra, or theme for 2015. My plans are definitely not concrete, but they also are not impossible. I’ve always been private about my plans and I continue to do so. I believe in bad juju, and although my friends may want the best for me, there is always someone out there with a little envy. This envy can turn negative which could go out into the atmosphere and all I want right now are good vibes. I am not totally innocent in this. There have been times where someone has expressed their amazing plans and I feel a twinge of jelousy. Hey, I’m human.

But I can say that 2014 has been… Amazing. I’ve done quite a bit and have definitely reached a lot of my goals with a few surprises in between. Here’s some of the biggest moments…

1. Living in Europe

The year before I decided to go to Grad school in Europe. I had always wanted to live across the pond and I decided the only feasible way I can do it was to go to school. It also coincided with my plans to get a Masters anyway so…perfect timing!! I traveled to different countries like Germany, The Netherlands, France, Portugal and Spain. I’m back home, now but am looking for the opportunity to venture out again. Europe just may have stolen my heart.

2. You can make it on BuzzFeed, you can make it anywhere.

Ok , so this was a bit of a surprise. A while ago I submitted my photo to a Tumblr account Reclaiming The Latino Tag as a proud Latina of African descent. I am also a flag waving Garifuna-American. When people find out that I speak fluent Spanish, as expected, their faces go up in surprise. They never expect someone like me to be who I am: a dread-loced black nubian sista who can dance Salsa like the best of them. The Reclaiming The Latino Tag account has been instrumental in providing a voice to those of us who others may not consider Latina because of the color of our skin, or the way we look. In August, the account was picked up by Buzzfeed, and out of thousands of photos that was submitted, my photo was one of the few selected. Although it did not include my bio, it was still an honor to be included. Yes, we do exist!!

3. Sistas in Paris

My sister came to visit me while I was living in Belgium and we made our way to Paris. Why is this such a big deal? Because how many sixteen year-old’s from the housing projects in Brooklyn can say  they have been to the infamous City of Lights? She missed two days of school but she told me even her teachers were impressed- some have never been to Europe. I’m proud of her, making her way to Europe by herself. The first time I traveled on my own I was 21. Now she’s itching to explore.

4. Friends catch up

While in Belgium, I hopped on a bus and two hours later, I was with some great friends in Germany. I met these guys as a college freshman almost fourteen years ago as foreign exchange students. We kept in touch over the years and finally got together for a night of laughter and reminisced all night. It was one of the best trips I’d had in a long time.

5. I am a MASTER

After ten years of contemplation I finally completed a Master’s program. I had always been putting off getting my Master’s due to life and not thinking it was the time. But like with many other things, if you’re waiting for the right time, you might as well be waiting for forever. Opportunities don’t wait for you, and neither should you. And with that I picked the right program for me, in the place I wanted to live-Europe. Belgium was a great place to live with lots of interesting quirks, I enjoyed myself immensely. It was a tough year with a curriculum that took some getting used to, but I did it. I am a Master!


And with that I wish everyone a Happy New Year. If the ball has dropped in your area of the world, I wish you all the best in the coming year. And if not, I still wish you the best!

Remember- Air and Opportunity

Happy Holidays …to you!!

Honestly, the Christmas season has never been one I particularly enjoyed hence, the late post. I’ve never been a festive person or one for the holidays. It’s always felt forced upon me, as if we HAD to celebrate Christmas. And forget about gift giving. I have family members who are so ungrateful that it took whatever tolerance for Christmas I had and zapped it out.  When I lived in South America, though  Christmas is celebrated, it didn’t actually feel the same. It may have been because there was no snow and not a lot of commercialization of the season. I thought I would appreciate that but no, it actually made me miss the songs and festivities. When I was living in Europe, it kind of brought back the nostalgia. Over the years the Scrooge in me has lessened, and honestly it has a lot to do with holiday movies that I adore. It me takes away from my sour holiday feelings if only for a couple of hours, but it does the trick.

Here are five of my favorite Holiday movies. Enjoy!

Love Actually

OK, yes. Everyone loves this movie. You probably heard this a million, trillion times. But hear me out! I fell in love with this movie because…well… it’s not your typical Christmassy movie. Though it is definitely Christmas-themed, its’ star isn’t Santa or the Christmas spirit which most holiday movies tend to do. It’s love and before you go on and say “But Melissa…that’s part of the Christmas spirit!” let me tell you that this movie examines love as unpredictable. It connects ten stories that culminate around Christmas, but love is the actual central theme here. My favorite part in the film is when Keira Knightley’s character realizes that the man she thought hated her, a man who also happened to be her fiance turned husband’s best friend, was actually a man who had always been in love with her. What do you do with a love like that? Knowing that your love will never be returned? Ugh…kills me. It also has some cheeky comedy. You have to watch it!

Bridget Jones’s Diary

OK OK, yes- it’s technically not a Christmas film, but one of the first scenes takes place during the holidays so it’s on my list! What you gon’ do about it? Anyways, what woman does not love this affable, totally likeable character? Bridget is in her early thirties experiencing something we all worry about- being single, and professionally stunted. She’s miserable in the beginning, singing Celine Dion at the top of her lungs (I’m partial to Mariah Carey myself) but seriously? Who cannot relate to the woe is me I’m single dilemma. The rest of the film goes into her romantic mistakes with such hilarity I always find myself saying “Mmmhmmm, been there done that”. And if you can’t get enough there is the second installment-Bridget Jones’ Diary: The Edge of Reason, just as good as the first one.

The Holiday

Yup, there’s a pattern here. The two previous films on my list are British, or filmed in Britain and this one is no exception though half is bases in England and the other half in LA. I’m not an anglophile, but when it comes to romantic comedies, I can’t help but think that the Brits do it better. And The Holiday is no exception. It stars Cameron Diaz and Kate Winslet two women who switch houses for the holidays and end up in love. Not with each other, but with other cuties. Ok so it’s not that simple but you get the idea here. I fell in love with Kate’s characters little English cottage. So frickin’ cute.

A Diva’s Christmas Carol

Every Christmas there is always some version of Charles Dickens’ classic A Christmas Carol. Out of all of them, my favorite has to be A Diva’s Christmas Carol. Not only does it star the beautiful Vanessa Williams but also the gorgeous Chili from the mega-group TLC. Snappy dialogue and throwbacks to the eighties style, this version has it all.

The Polar Express

My sister is 17 now, but when she was younger, she was obsessed with this gorgeous animated movie starring Tom Hanks in multiple roles. I can’t watch it without feeling nostalgic and a bit sad that she’s growing up faster than I can catch her. It’s a beautiful story that kind of makes you believe in the Christmas spirit. Kind of.

So what holiday movies do you watch? Any recommendations? What do you think of mines?

Happy Holidays and Happy New Year!!

8 Things I Thought I Would Do When I Got Home

It’s been about two months since I’ve been home after a couple of years away. I am so happy to be back home. After living in South America and Europe for almost four years, it feels really good to be back.. Grad school itself was exhausting and mind consuming, so yeah, I damn near ran all the way to Brooklyn. In anticipation of being home, I was chock full of ideas with things I was going to do, dishes to cook and people I would spend time with.

Chile, I lied.

Where the hell was I going with little to no money in this expensive ass city. The subway fares alone keep me at bay. Here is a list of more things I thought I was going to do when I got back.

  1. Cook what I learned on the Road I was talking to a friend who asked me what was the first thing I ate when I got back to NY. My answer? A sammich from the corner bodega. For those not familiar with NYC jargon a sammich is a sandwich from the corner store usually referred to as the bodega, a Latino-owned establishment. Living in Europe and South America taught me how to make different types of dishes including crepes, duck confit, different thai specialties and many more delicious meals. I was introduced to spices I had never cooked with before. My plan was to come home and make amazing dinners for my family…et voila!! But as soon as I settled in, I knew it wasn’t happenin’. At least not right now. It was much easier to just buy something that I had been craving sporadically during my travels, and for me it was a tasty sandwich from the corner bodega.
  2. Meet up with Friends This was actually tough. Coming back home I was eager to meet up with my peoples…but I wanted to relax at home first with my family. It had been a tough year of paper writings and dissertations and I had just finished a month-long jaunt to southern Spain. Since I plan on being home for a while, I figured I’d see all of my friends… eventually. Usually, when I’m back from a trip, I post on social media or call some friends up. This time, however, I chilled. Though some people knew I was home through Instagram, even less reached out to see how I was doing and to be honest, it kind of hurt.The older I get the smaller my circle becomes and I feel OK about that. On a brighter note, those who wanted to get in touch did, and some even came to see me.
  3. Eating healthy One of the things I learned while traveling was a way to eat healthy. Crazy considering I damn near devoured everything in sight. I wanted to try all new flavors and spices but I also wanted to eat in moderation. It was fairly easy but when I got home, that shit went out the window. I arrived at the beginning of the holiday season. Not only did I eat dem sammiches, but I had everything else my momma cooked at home. Did I gain weight? Hellz yes, but it was worth it. I’ll start getting back into shape when everyone else does- at the beginning of the new year. Sike!
  4. Appreciate the sights and sounds of NYC Girl, bye. I’m a New Yawka at heart, this is where I was born and raised. True New Yawkas have been appreciating this city our whole lives; we revel in it. Sure there are new things I want to see and things that have popped up since I’ve been gone ( I had to ask what the hell the green taxis were for), but it’s called the city that never sleeps for a reason.
  5. Immediately start looking for work Now this has taken a bit of time mainly due to the holiday season. But I’m back and roarin’ to work. I’ll be honest and say I haven’t tried as much as my peers, I wanted to take advantage of being in Europe and travel around a bit. I’ve come home and deflated but it has not been easy getting back into the swing of things. Now I’m taking my time, looking at my options, rediscovering my passions and tailoring my resume to suit. I’m ready world!
  6. Tell my friends all about my travels See number 2. I love my close group of friends, but I have spared them from countless stories and they, in turn, have spared me from glazed over eyes. We understand each other.
  7. Chilling in NYC What the hell?! NY has always been a relatively expensive city but GAHT DAMB! New restaurants and little eateries popping up in places that were more or less affordable. Gentrification has reared its ugly head in some of my most favorite places, bringing with it high prices. It’s ridiculous. It’s already taken over South Brooklyn. But something that I have noticed is the number of closed down restaurants. Is the tide turning? Transportation in the city is something else, with the price of the train fare going up. In March 2015, there will be another fare hike which will break the bank of many NY’ers.

But I digress. New York City is still one of the BEST cities in the world. Hopefully, I’ll find a fulfilling position that will make it easier to enjoy all of its comforts.

Any advice for free or low-cost things to do in the city?

Time after Time

I’ve never understood the concept of Time. Or should I say I understand, but I never follow Time. Don’t get me wrong. I know what year this is, I’m a little fuzzy on the days but I at least know what month we are in (currently April…right?) After all, the seasons tell me so.

Let me explain by saying, I don’t keep time. I never carried a watch nor did I ever have a calendar hanging around my apartment. I don’t keep an appointment book, so if I have to meet a friend or attend an event, I mostly rely on memory or the social pressure that makes a person send a follow up email or reminder (thought I must admit, this can backfire). I’ve just never cared too much for Time, well, because I relish living in the moment. The present is where I am, and if it seems too far off, then I’ll think about it when it happens. Some people are much more reliant on Time. I’ve never been much of an itinerary person, in fact I find myself trying to break the schedule just because it feels too constricting. I need to breathe. To feel. To live.

Time is always unpredictable, but I’ve had great moments with Time. Like the first time I fell in love, I remember how it felt living in that moment, breathing the air, his smell intoxicating my presence. Or the time I followed my heart and threw caution to the wind, only to be led to exotic lands, with the waves of the beach tickling my skin.  Living without time has been exhilarating for me. Time is truly of the essence. Throw away the watch and just enjoy where you are and whom you are with at the moment. After years of being on a set schedule, it’s kind of amazing to just go by chance. I’ve had friends who tell me without time, they feel lost. What’s wrong with that? Embrace feeling lost. Go on…lose yourself!

There are times when Time is truly helpful. Like after suffering a broken heart. Time heals all wounds.

I remember someone once telling me they hadn’t seen me in x amount of years. What surprised me was that while I knew we hadn’t seen each other for a long time, I was not sure nor did I care to know exactly how many years it had been. When I was told how long, I felt a little disappointed. It had been a long Time. Time was slipping away.

I’m back home now from being away for three years. People who are asking me pretty tough questions? What are you going to do now? Settle down? Have children? Time is not on my side.  However, the older I get , I realize only Time will tell.

Me? I’m not telling.