Tuesday, May 30, 2006

catty and competitive

i don't know if i've mentioned it before, but this triathlon training has made me a little bit competitive.
i don't usually consider myself a competitive person. but there is a woman in my triathlon training class, and she seems to always be, well, racing me. she's a friend, but, because she's a competitor, she's also a frenemy.

this has not usually been a problem because i've actually been a little faster than her in all the events.
but this woman. she has been TRAINING. i mean, above and beyond. extra sessions. bought herself a tri-suit.
and she's gotten faster.

we had a bike/run a week and a half ago, and i smugly thought that i would leave her in my dust. actually, she left me in hers.

so this week, i have been on a mission. training harder than usual. eating relatively well. garnering my determination. to beat her.

saturday we had a mock triathlon. we were to meet at the race site, swim half a mile, ride twelve, and run three.
i felt prepared.

the open water swim was challenging because the water was murky, and i veered too far left and right at a couple of points during the race. but i felt like my stroke was strong, i was swimming at a respectable pace. but as i approached the end, i saw the woman--my frenemy--just behind me. i finished the swim, and tried to wade through the shallow water as quickly as possible to the shore. in my haste, i forgot about the rocky drop from the shore to the ocean and proceeded to ram my foot into the rocks and fall.

when i looked up, my trainer was snapping photos. i was not amused.
when i looked down, i saw one of my toes crooked and crossed over the other. and it hurt like ... well, you can imagine.
but my frenemy was already out of the water and running to the transition area.
so i hobbled after her, yelling to my trainer about my toe, and gingerly put my socks and shoes on, the bike shorts, the tank top, the helmet (yes, the helmet), and took off. my frenemy had already taken the lead.

my trainer told me to "be smart! if your toe is broken, don't ride!"

"it's just a ride," i yelled back. it's not like i'd be on my feet or anything.

i caught up with her. passed her. and rode the rest of the way without looking back. i finished the twelve mile bike ride with a significant lead. but when i got off the bike, i realized that i couldn't walk. which meant that i couldn't run! and couldn't complete the triathlon.

so my frenemy arrived after ten minutes and ran. and again left me in her dust. AUGH!

over the past two days, my foot has become more and more swollen and bruised purple and green. and i have been less and less able to walk. i've basically been hobbling around town like a little old lady for the past few days. and today i have been hobbling around office, clutching my lower back and popping advil.

i think the toe might be broken. i don't have health insurance until june 1st. and so i will aguantarme until then. and i am not sure if the toe will be healed in time for the triathlon.

i think that God is punishing me for being catty and competitive. *sigh* even so, i just know that, with a ten minute lead from the bike ride, i totally could have beat her running.


Thursday, May 25, 2006

the graduate

i participated in all the graduation festivities in december.

my family and two of my best friends flew out from california to be with me. my austin friends threw me a party, took me out. celebrations abounded.

graduation was the last thing on my mind at the beginning of may. in fact, my roommate and i had planned a road trip to chicago for graduation weekend (also known as, the week after classes were out).

but then people started to ask me if i was planning to participate in the graduation sponsored by the center for mexican american studies. no, i would reply. i'm going to chicago.

but they continued to ask.

it came to my attention that some of my chicano/a professors were asking about my participation. some of the powers that be.

like a good mexican american (catholic!) girl, i started to feel guilty. my roommate, also a good mexican american girl, likewise began to feel pangs of guilt and gracefully offered to buy a plane ticket to chicago.

i decided to stay.

it was a much more low-key affair. joseph drove down from dallas. i invited my closest friends, assuring them that it would be fine if they didn't attend. they had already done the graduation thing with me after all.

saturday came. it almost felt like an ordinary saturday until mid-afternoon when i put a dress, my special red shoes, and my cap and gown.

in a lecture hall at the university of texas, the professors sitting on stage were some of the most eminent Chicano/a scholars in the country. most of the Chicano/a graduation participants were undergraduates. i hadn't thought about it until just then, but i realized that some of my former students--some of my favorite students--were participating in the ceremony.

after the obligatory speeches, each graduate walked across the stage to receive his/her diploma from the director of the center for mexican american studies while a professor read their bios--their majors, their student organizations, awards they had received, future plans, people they wanted to thank. all of them impressive and inspriring. it was difficult not to feel proud and excited for them to see them complete this phase of their life and poised for the next part of their journeys.

after the undergrads had their diplomas in hand, there were a handful of master's students and two ph.d. students. i was the last person to receive a diploma. the director of CMAS gave me a hug along with my diploma. as i stood on stage, listening to my own bio, i was so happy that my own future plans had been solidified. "jennifer will be a professor next year at the university of ..." and to hear everybody cheer for me. it almost made my heart ache.

after the procession outside, there were pictures and hugs and congratulations. we then processed on over to the other side of campus for a reception with food and dancing to tejano music. my date did not dance, so i stole some cumbias with other professors. i had to make the most of my cute red shoes! (though i confess, and joseph will confirm, that i was hobbling back to the car...)

even though i was sorry to miss the trip to chicago, i'm glad that i stayed. the center for mexican american studies has been an amazing space for me throughout my graduate studies. the staff, the professors, the undergrads, and my fellow grad students have become like family to me. they have supported me, celebrated with me, and have been a dependable constant in my life. they've carried me through to this happy end. i needed to celebrate with them. because i realize that my life here, my texas would not have been the same without them.


p.s. thanks to joseph for the pics!


j E with Braille N N in a heart i F E mosaic R The Letter R O S E

thanks to xolo for sharing.
get yours here.

Friday, May 19, 2006

working girl

the semester is winding down.
submitted my final grades yesterday (two days late!).
will participate in yet another graduation ceremony tomorrow afternoon. it's a chicano/a graduation, and i'm one of two chicano/a ph.d's participating! (actually, i'm just looking for an excuse to wear the muffin hat again).

my last paycheck will dated june 1st.
my new paychecks will not be dated until august 1st.
so i've decided to do what normal people do. i went out and got myself an 8AM-5PM, monday through friday, JOB.
i will be basically acting as someone's secretary for the next several weeks. answering phones, scheduling appointments, dealing with vendors, probably typing, filing, etc. i'm quite qualified for the position. i have excellent phone manners. and i can type like the dickens.

i have to confess.
i do not want to do this kind of work. i want to continue to sit in coffeeshops and brainstorm my next article (or actually write the article i was supposed to have written two months ago). read up on all the latest immigration literature. plan my fall syllabus. and field work! i want to travel to south texas and conduct interviews. engage in participant observation of the emerging mexican american arts scene in the valley.
but all of that requires money.
thus my dilemma.
resolved by answering phones, scheduling appointments, dealing with vendors, typing, filing, etc.

sometimes i wish i were a trustfund baby. or that i would win the lottery (which, i guess, would necessitate me buying a ticket every once in a while). in the meantime, i just do what i gotta do.


Monday, May 15, 2006

anxiety attack

left my apartment saturday morning at 7AM, picked up a friend, and drove south on a nearly empty Interstate 35 south toward kyle, texas.

my triathlon traininers planned a mock triathlon at and around the park at five mile damn.

after half an hour on the road, we exited kyle. a typical small texas town, kyle has an old west type of downtown, the major edifices--businesses, banks, city buildings--wood framed and quaint. there was a group of politicos out at that early hour holding bold-fonted election signs for their preferred candidates in front of one central voting center.

we left downtown almost as quickly as we had entered and found ourselves driving along farm roads, green fields on either side of us, bright wildflowers sprouting along both sides of the street. enormous homes enjoyed acres of land. herds of white goats grazed and frolicked in fields under the watchful eyes of a shaggy sheep dog.

the park was beautiful and green, the water from the damn looked peaceful enough, but i could feel my levels of anxiety rising. i set up my bike and change of clothes in the designated transition area, participated in nervous chatter with my fellow trainees. soon we were wading into the water. it was clean and not too cold. looking down, i saw a small fish dart in front of me.

we were supposed to swim to the end of the dam and circle back to complete a half of a mile. but i couldn't see the end. i knew that i had swum the equivalent of half of a mile in the pool where we had been training, but it's much easier to wrap your head around a certain number of laps. there were no lap markers in this open body of water.

so i swam and swam. slowly. for a short while i was keeping pace with a flock of ducks. (they eventually pulled over on land to walk around and, i assume, rest from their swim!). but i kept looking up, trying to figure out how much longer i had to go. the way back was easier. i felt i could better gauge the distance.

i emerged from the water tired, but dutifully made my way to the transition area and tried to pull a sports bra and bike shorts over my wet bathing suit, a t-shirt over that. i tied my shoes and hopped on the bike. i was a little unclear about the path. the trainers told us where to turn, but there were no markers. i was convinced that i was lost most of the way until i saw people returning from the direction i was heading.

the sun was rising and hot, and i had too many layers of clothes on. i sacrificed my modesty at the six mile mark, stripping off my shirt. despite feeling cooler, the last six miles of the ride were brutal. i could handle the hills and the gravel-y roads, but the wind blew so strongly that i felt i was scarcely moving forward. i arrived at the park again exhausted.

somebody threw a packet of power bar gel at me to swallow before my run, but the idea of eating gel grossed me out. i decided to go with gatorade. parked my bike and began to run. the slowest run. came to intersections--forks in the road--and couldn't remember which way to turn. i made my best guess and ran, hating the dual feeling of exhaustion and disorientation.

sure enough, one of the trainers came riding along and yelled, "jennifer! turn around! you're going the wrong way! turn around!" turn around?

at this point, the friend who had joined me that morning was providing moral support, riding alongside me while i ran and offering me sips of gatorade.

but apparently i needed more than moral support. my breath became increasingly short. and my frustration got the best of me. i felt tears streaming down my face as i ran.

my friend asks me, "why are you crying?"

"because i hurt!"


"every where! and i can't. breathe."

"then stop running!"

that made sense. i stopped. we pulled over to the side of the road. and she instructed me to breathe. and so i did. breathe.
we walked back to the park.

drove away tired and hungry. grumpy. feeling defeated.


Friday, May 12, 2006

pies descalzos

crashed a birthday barbecue this evening.
a new professor who is affiliated with mexican american studies invited my friend cristina.
cristina recruited me and olga. i recruited another friend, faedah.
we figured that if we arrived bearing wine, nobody would notice the extra people.

this young professor has a beautiful house. she's painted the kitchen a cheery yellow, her bedroom a tranquil blue. the walls are adorned with mexican art, some rustic, some more modern. atop the long case that housed her CD collection was a collection of small religious articles. candles bearing the image of la virgen de guadalupe, large and small clay virgins with rosaries around some of their necks, patron saints, thick mexican coins.

in the kitchen, she had more food than i've seen at a party in a long time--ribs, chicken, grilled veggies, elotes, spinach strawberry salad, grilled pineapple, coleslaw, etc. and practically a full bar--hard liquor and sodas for mixed drinks, wine, blended margarita waiting in the blender to be served.

half the party sat outside, braving the nips of mosquitos. my party sat in the yellow kitchen and enjoyed our meals, conversation, and the music blaring from the professor's ipod, hooked up to speakers.

as i settled into my margarita happiness, a salsa song began to sound through the speakers. i looked at the young professor standing in the corner of the kitchen, stood, and held out my hand to him.

"what?" he asked and laughed, knowing what i wanted. he took my hand and we made the tiles of the kitchen our dance floor.

i was wearing inappropriate shoes. as he turned and spun me, i felt my shoes slipping precariously on my feet. my toes gripped the soles as we continued to dance. by the second song, i had kicked my shoes off and was happily dancing barefoot in the kitchen with my skilled salsa partner even as the rest of the room was engrossed in conversation.

the ipod granted us only those two songs, but it was just as well. the outside party goers began to drift inside and say their good-byes. my party was also ready to call it an early night. early or not, any night i get to dance barefoot in the kitchen is a good one.


Tuesday, May 02, 2006

may day

yesterday at 3PM, my friend, cristina, and i made our way, walking, from campus to the capitol.

the rally had already begun. activists, poets, activist-poets, spiritual leaders delivering their messages to the crowd that was slowly beginning to assemble at the south side of the capitol. and the people beginning to chant, sí se puede, sí se puede, sí se puede...

cristina and i ran into a good friend and joined him on the lawn for shade and rest before the march was to begin. mothers pushing strollers with babies flanked us on two sides. i noticed another small gathering of children, sitting, eating cookies and playing with mini-american flags just in front of me. the UT socialists, a mostly white, tatooed group of young people, gathered with signs to another side.

at 4PM, the march down congress avenue began. standing up, i realized that the crowd had grown enormous, and i began to feel a little claustrophobic. (generally, i make it a rule to avoid crowds, but i knew that i needed to be here). cristina assured me that once we got to the street, there would be more space.

and there was more space. space for this sea of people in white. brown people in white shirts. teenagers. couples. mothers. fathers. toddlers. infants. spanish-speaking people. english-speaking people. students. professionals. laborers. mexicans. all of us. mexicans marching slowly under the sun. past the businesses on downtown congress. past the spectators on either side.

it was a strange feeling to be watched. i found myself waving at people in office buildings. waving to people on the streets. i found myself happy and proud to be carried along in this crowd and chanting:

el pueblo! unido!
jamas sera vencido!

el pueblo! callado!
jamas sera escuchado!

no somos uno!
no somos diez!
somos un chingo!
cuentanos bien!

una gente inumerable enfrente de mi, detras de mi. caminando a lo largo de las calles como olas pacificas.

a woman several feet in front of me carried a sign with a quote from emiliano zapata:

prefiero morir de pie
que vivir de rodillas.

and even though i'd heard that quote before, that afternoon it resonated more profoundly than it had before.

it occurred to me that "viviendo de pie" was what this march, what this movement is all about.

we debate which civil rights should be afforded immigrants. the right to public education. the right to receive federal financial aid to help pay for college tuition. the right to be issued a driver's license.

that was not what drove this march (although there were definitely signs demanding--legalizacion!).

i think that this movement is about human rights. the right to dignity. the right to receive respect. for all the hard work that immigrants do in this country.

hemos vivido de rodillas. we have done the work that nobody wants to do. we have picked fruit and vegetables in the fields, we have washed dishes, we have cleaned bathrooms. we have done all of this in exchange for low wages. we have not complained. because we have wanted better lives, better opportunities for our families. here. in the land of opportunity.

but now we are tired. de estar callados. de ser invisibles.

we deserve respect. we deserve dignity. the most basic of human rights.

and by marching peacefully through the streets on a hot afternoon in texas, we are finally demanding what we deserve.