07 June 2008

The will to blog

The will to blog is a complicated thing, somewhere between inspiration and compulsion. It can feel almost like a biological impulse. You see something, or an idea occurs to you, and you have to share it with the Internet as soon as possible. What I didn’t realize was that those ideas and that urgency — and the sense of self-importance that made me think anyone would be interested in hearing what went on in my head — could just disappear.
From Exposed by Emily Gould New York Times

My life has become a big blog post that never ends and never gets written. After all I have been my own audience all my life. My diatribes only mattered to me, or so I thought. Then I discovered blogs. I commented on them for months. After finding myself re-inventing my self once again I decided to document my life in Canada as a Guatemalan. Toronto somewhat in the backdrop. My incorrect English and my stumbling Spanish helped me weave the thread of a well-intentioned search for identity. I have found the opposite reality of phrases like Homo homini lupus est and L'enfer, c'est les autres because diametrically opposed to this existential catch phrases (or should I say slogans) I have found the kindness in strangers. And thus I have borrowed, translated, stolen, re-crafted, re-cycled whatever I can find and whatever I have encountered throughout my life to write my postings.

When life became personal I failed to narrate it. And now, with a red-wine headache and my big YorkU mug full of freshed brew coffee on this sunny Saturday morning, sitting at my computer on my relatively dark and fresh basement apartment, I am thinking about pulling the plug on this quest of mine. Today I might go and buy a new camera. My cellphone not being appropriate for indoor or night pictures. That could become a transformation of elToronteco into something similar to LAGPD (the mother of all blogs if you ask me), although not as consistent or as well crafted as my friend Rudy does. I really cannot tell. It's not the same anymore. Also, my free time, though I spend some of it in self-reflection, is now being willingly and delightfully offered to Love.

So I must confess, I will keep blogging to myself, just not to you guys (the half a dozen or so of my readers). I have not switched to facebook, in which I still keep a profile as a fifth e-mail address and to do some of my student organization duties and some of my activism. I will keep smiling at the fact that some of the titles in my postings have captured unsuspected google searches into this fly trap. For now is a see you later. Google reader will keep me in touch with the blogs that I frequent and I will still make my sporadic comment.

For now, this has been Manolo Romero Escobar, for elToronteco, Toronto.

17 May 2008


I have lately been expressing my feelings out loud with a higher frequency. The verb for expressing in French is "exprimer", which always reminds me of the Spanish exprimir which means "to squeeze". As Canucka has blogged about, there are certain words in our L2s (L2 is language research slang for "second language") that just stick with us and we like to use. Most of them are swear words, I guess, because they don't carry as a strong feeling or meaning than to native speakers. However, I was talking to Gabrielle about how English has become my main language for expressing positive feelings. I *feel* in English, and that is not to say that I don't feel when I used words expressions like mi cielo or preciosa, I DO mean them. However, I have re-coded my life experiences into English.

Just last week I finished a five month individual counselling process with the Counselling and Development Centre(CDC) at YorkU. It is not my first time in my life in which I have sought help, nor the first time that I have attended the CDC to get help. In the half dozen or so opportunities I have been seeing a mental health professional this is one of the best experiences I have had. To begin with, I was driven completely by my own motivation to change and to explore my behaviour patterns, thought processes, and emotional responses to life. This sounds so dry and contrived, but really, that is all it is to experience life: how we act, how we think and how we feel. And I was (and still am) on a period of my life in which I needed to tame my wild introspection and finally make it work to my advantage.

Even though it was more a "here and now" kind of process, where every week I was able to reflect on the events of previous days, there was always the presence of the past. A reframing of my life and of the image I have had of myself throughout my life was at the centre of the growth I experienced in the past five or so months. My counsellor was not only the perfect squash court to bounce back ideas, but a very impartial voice of advice at the right time. The counselling stopped at this point because she was only doing an internship at the CDC. I've been asked if I would've continued going to counselling and yes, I would have. However this is a good point to transition into being my own voice of reason and will keep the hour a week to myself. I have decided to start going to play squash once a week, alone, to give me the appropriate time and space to review my week and continue the path I am taking.

All of this to say that I believe that among many many things, this process not only reinforced the recoding of my life into English, but also helped me integrate and accept all the different parts that form me, like a stained glass window or a 3D puzzle. My different identities can come out every now and then and I can let them be. I have been given the chance now to explore even further a new part of my cultural experience. As I start to get to know Gabrielle I get to see myself through her eyes. Moreover, being French her first language, it has given me a chance to understand and share this ESL experience, and also to push myself into using a third language (every now and then at least) to squeeze meaning out of this life. Just a couple of weeks ago, as I was trying to describe a Guatemalan enchilada to her, due to my lack of vocabulary in French, I wasn't able to come up with the word "betterave", but more interestingly both the words "beet" and "remolacha" (what betterave means in English and Español) were completely blocked. I was aware that I knew them and I had the image of such vegetable but I couldn't even do the "switch coding" and interject English into my very primitive French conversation. Oh, the mind and its games.

Note on frequency of postings/comments
As you may have noticed there was almost a month in between my previous post and this one. I confess I have been doing some living lately and thus have neglected elToronteco. I still read the postings on my favourite blogs and every now and then I drop a line as a comment. I also appreciate the comments on any posting I have written and I get a laugh at seeing the google searches that result in unexpected visits. I make no promises of future postings, but I am not riding towards the sunset just yet. After all, besides squash, blogging will become part of my self reflection exercise on a more consistent way now that counselling has ended. So, stayed tuned.

23 April 2008

Mis amantes

Durante mi programa de licenciatura en la UVG hace ya tres lustros solía decir (usualmente a mí mismo) que estaba comprometido con la Psicología, pero que tenía una amiga que era la Matemática y una amante que era la Antropología. El catedrático de mi curso de Matemática me dió dos años en "esa tu carrera". Era evidente que mi fidelidad a la psicología estaba en peligro y hasta llegué a hacer trueque entre mi práctica de investigación y un trabajo de campo en antropología. Eventualmente me licencié en psicología y trabajé como tal por un par de años antes de venirme a Canadá. Lo irónico fue que el casarme con una psicóloga produjo mi divorcio de la psicología y que sólo al divorciarme de la psicóloga que pude reconciliarme con mi primera prometida.

Más de cinco años luego de mi divorcio (el de la psicóloga) estoy bien avanzado en volverme a "casarme" con las ciencias del comportamiento. He retomado el camino que inició en el Liceo Guatemala, aprendiendo sobre desarrollo cognoscitivo y preguntándome por qué el aprendizaje es fácil para unos y difícil para otros. La Matemática me presentó a su prima la Estadística con la cual he estado saliendo de vez en cuando. Aun sueño con la Antropología, pero he encontrado que la Psicología puede ofrecerme parte de los encantos de la primera. Una perspectiva cultural, basada en el contexto en el que el individuo se desarrolla es una fusión ideal de Psicología y estudios culturales. Al menos eso creo yo.

En los próximos meses tendré que elegir tema de disertación doctoral. Como mi amiga Ale me recuerda, uno se "casa" con su tesis. Otra amiga bloguera, Stephanie Falla, hasta ha utilizado este medio para "rebotar" algunas ideas sobre como elegir tema de tesis. Aunque aun no estoy listo para "comprometerme" a ninguna idea, mi pasado, mi presente y mi futuro se reunen de vez en vez a platicar conmigo y, aunque nunca llegamos a nada, estamos conscientes que esta es una de esas encrucijadas en las que puedo tomar varios caminos. A veces me desilusiona la Psicología, especialmente el poco alcance que la investigación pura tiene en "el mundo real". La Estadística me ofrece una solución aun más "escapista"... un mundo de ideas y de números y de mundos simulados, y al mismo tiempo un arte y un potencial en cuanto a carrera profesional mucho más emocionante y amplio que la investigación psicológica.

¿Será que podré reconciliarme una vez más con la Psicología? ¿Terminaré cayendo en los brazos de la Estadística y para siempre teniendo una relación de semi-infidelidad hacia mi "primer amor" académico? ¿Hay alguna salvación para este pobre hombre entre dos tierras?

¿Escapismo o fidelidad?, que piensan Uds...

19 April 2008

Everything I learned about blogging...

Recently a dear friend pull the plug or better off "signed off" on her blog. I have since started to write this post that I hope to publish soon. It is an idea I have had from the get-go when I decided to create elToronteco. It is a huge tribute to the blogs that showed me the power of this new media. Then I realized, What do I know about blogging? Not much, I guess. But what I do know is that these blogs and their authors have influenced more than my "extra-curricular" activity of blogging but the way I see and live life. The very first blog I consistently read was:

Bitácora de Mauricio Romero http://romerogt.delaermita.com/ [Español]
Nepotism-shmepotism... I believe that the melange of personal notes, rants about open source technology, the occasional political diatribe, reiki and other spiritual and material matters really describes the person with whom I share most of my genetic configuration. RomeroGT is my older brother but more than that is a great friend and a real traveling companion. Space separates us, but distance is not measured in Kms. I've been reading this blog since 2004 and I believe I started by commenting via e-mail and then I figured out how to post my comments. This blog changes its css every now and then, always looking for different layouts. On one of those layouts had a widget with recent posts from other "Blogs chapines" (chapín is slang for a person from Guatemala) and through those links I was able to discover other blogs, particularly, in October of 2006 I stumble upon this blog:

Hello from Here http://hellofromhere.blogspot.com
LD is a Canadian journalist who was living at the time in Quetzaltenango or Xela as it is also known, the second largest city in Guatemala after The Capital. The personal touch of her postings and the struggle she was having with integration of her experience in Guatemala, which was in many different levels quite deep, with her Canadian identity caught my attention. Then there was a personal link because a friend here in Toronto actually have met her a couple of Summers before while visiting Xela. One important think I learn from HFH was to always keep it personal. Not just report the news (which in LD's case is her actual job), but find something that you cannot deliver in any other way. HFH could be seen as an Ex-Pat blog, one of those transition from the "dreaded mass e-mail" to the public posting of the author's adventures in the foreign land. On the posts of HFH you can find a human side of Guatemala and the transition from being an outsider to becoming part of that reality... because Guatemala, as Francisco Goldman describes in The Long Night of the White Chickens, is a country you don't live in but you live with. And LD also showed this on a post called "Ni de aquí ni de allá" just before returning to Canada.

LD decided to pull the plug on HFH recently. She's been back on Canadian soil for more than a year and the "novelty" of living in Toronto is not really inspiring. Believe me, I know, and you can see my own sparseness in posting as such. One last lesson from HFH is that sometimes you need to live in order to blog. It has to mean something to you. It took me a year to come across a situation that merited starting a blog. In the meantime, through the Web of relationships the Internet is I was able to find two of my best friends' blogs: From Ronald Flores, well www.ronaldflores.com [Es], and from Ale her two blogs Congo Days [En] and Desde Kinshasa [Es].

From Ronald's blog I have learned that I don't have to fear to elevate the level of the conversation. From both of Ale's blogs I have rediscovered that kindred spirit I met back in Guatemala and also to dare to write in both languages. I took the single blog two languages approach whereas she keeps two separate yet equally important blogs. These two friends of mine make me proud of being a Guatemalan blogger.

The last blog I would like to mention as part of my formative time as a budding blogger is La Antigua Guatemala Daily Photo (http://antiguadailyphoto.com) whose author, Rudy is one of the first great friends I have never met (although I will try again to correct this later in the year). LAGDP has given me the opportunity to craft my commenting skills (as HFH and RomeroGT did as well). It is also "concerned" with design as RomeroGT. However, one of the key lessons is the beauty of using pictures to tell a story.

I must mention two good friends (and their blogs) that I made since I started elToronteco. Carmencita, a Guatemalan woman living in California, where she grew up, is another two languages/two blogs kinda person with the recently renamed "Un viaje a las raices" (http://carmendebizet.blogspot.com/) and with her personal Xanga blog http://www.xanga.com/CarmenDeBizet/ , which heading reads "Given enough coffee I could rule the world". Carmencita is a wonderful story-teller with a good sense of humour and also with a complex identity (which is a common denominator on the whole bunch described here, me included). The other amiga is Cancun Canuck (http://www.cancuncanuck.com/) or Canucka as I call her in the blogosphere. A former Toronto resident now transplanted into that Caribbean tourist hot-spot of Cancún where she is living a life among the nativ.. I mean locals. Her insights are great, her stories are funny and human, and (I must mention it) her 3-year-old son is just the cutest MexiCanadian ever (there is something to be said about mixing the races ;-) ).

So, I might not know much about blogging. But my journey started by lurking and commenting, particularly on the blogs mentioned here. To all you guys, a YouTube dedication: