New Year, New Photography

For the past six months I’ve been working on improving my photography skills.   Some of you saw the ‘Curves’ 30 day project that I posted on facebook.  I also put part of it here.

Santa –(also known as my family) helped me improve my collection of lenses. After chatting with Mark Woodrow –one of the many wonderful parents that I know from the USD Women’s Basketball team –I did some research on prime lenses (lenses that take pictures as faster speed but do not zoom) and purchased two new lenses.  I’m excited to learn more about the possibilities of what I can capture!  I thought I’d share with a few of my favorite January shots.  You’ll notice two themes –Sunsets and USD Women’s Basketball.  I’ve always loved the colors of sunset.  Those who know me –you know I love USD Women’s Basketball (want proof, see this: .  I decided I would spend some time working on my sunset pictures and my action photography.  Here are my five favorite pictures that I’ve taken with my new lenses:

1) I took this picture at Sunset right behind the San Diego County Building in Little Italy.  I like the sky and light in this picture.

2) Ok, I have to admit that I like this second picture because of the expression on Amy Kame’s face.  She’s about to run into a screen. In the background, you see a very intense Felicia Wijenberg who’s probably guarding her own player, but it looks as if she’s studying the potential collision.

3) One of my favorite places to visit when I’m home in San Francisco is Ocean Beach. What most people don’t realize is that the best time to catch clear, crisp sunsets is during the winter.  Other times of the year, you often get a lot of fog.  I like the light, the colors, ad the reflection off the water.

4 & 5) These final two pictures are linked. Dominique Connors dishes the ball to Felicia Wijenberg during the game.  I liked that the basketball wasn’t blurry and that you could see their facial expressions very clearly.

What does “Home for the Holidays” mean?

As I sit here on the floor of the Southwest Airline terminal waiting for my delayed flight, it’s hard not to think about the phrase “Home for the Holidays” and the multitude of meanings embedded in these four words. During a class lecture on immigration, transnationalism, and homeland right before the Thanksgiving, break, I asked my students what this phrase meant. Their answers reflected the myriad of possibilities –a specific geographic location (city/hometown), a place where you’re always welcome without question, a space where you’re loved, a place where the people and things you love are, the smell of a home cooked meal, or a place where you feel safe. In essence, these sentiments and spaces live in our memories and provide us with the important memories that sustain us, even in the most difficult of times.

Home, however, is also a privilege –one that we often fail to reflect on. Whenever I teach about home and homeland, I always remember the time I was giving the lecture on home & homeland to a group of foster youth. During our discussion, one young man who had been in the system for a few years said, “home is wherever my laptop is.” When I pressed him for more information, he said, “I get moved from place to place. Families sometimes keep me for a few weeks, a few months, if I’m lucky about a year. I move all my stuff all the time –so my computer is the one way I can stay connected to the people I care about. I can email them, facebook them, something –so they know I’m ok. Or if they’re moved, I know they’re ok. “ I realized in that moment that I had forgotten that there are people who don’t have a space to return to –and that technology remains a key tool in keeping the connected in a constantly changing world.

For others, home for the holidays is a dream, a wish, a hope. During my time working with the Bayside Community Center in Linda Vista, San Diego –I’ve had the honor of meeting a number of really terrific elders. The center provides amazing elder wellness programs and provides services to homebound seniors. Over the past few weeks, I’ve talked with some of the seniors about their holiday plans. For some health, cost, or distance prevents them from being with loved ones for the holidays. My heart always hurts when I hear the tinge of sadness in their voice. It always makes me think that if I was in San Diego for the holidays that I’d want to host a big dinner for them. It does remind me though, that the feeling of home is sometimes just out of reach.

The point of this post was not to depress everyone. I just want all of us to remember that as we’re sitting in an airport or in traffic griping about the delays to our homecoming that there are others that would gladly take the two hour delay to have what we have. As I’ve typed this entry, I’ve watched countless travelers walk up to the Southwest gate agent and harass him about this weather delay –taking out their frustrations on someone who has zero control over what’s happening. Maybe this is a plea for perspective –-who knows.

What I do know is that I’m happy I’m heading back to my favorite city by the bay to spend time with family, friends, and loved ones.

Wishing you and yours a very Happy Holiday Season.


Ps: this is a pic I took with my God Daughter Nadya.

Things that drive a Professor of Race Relations and Immigration Mad

Over the past few days, I found myself wondering about the “New Class Warfare,” Troy Davis, the “Diversity Bake Sale” at UC Berkley, and a recent invitation I received to participate in a “No Che Day” sponsored by the Young Americans for Freedom and the College Republicans.  Although at a personal level, I find myself angered and at times offended by the type of vitriol, racism, and xenophobia being spewed in relationship to minorities, what concerns me more is the lack of open and informed discussion about race, immigration, the death penalty, and class –particularly with college aged adults.  Teaching moments present themselves all the time, but amidst the concern of creating a media maelstrom, we sweep these important discussions under the rug.  Bigotry remains unchallenged when we can use these moments to create real dialogue.  I was  really moved when I saw this picture in the SF Examiner, because it reminded me that we need to make “isms” visible.

UC Us Now (click link to see full picture)

As much as I disagree with some of the perspectives being advocated for by some of the aforementioned groups, I firmly believe that free speech is important.  I believe that the cornerstone of democracy is the ability to share your views without fear of persecution.  It’s at these moments at the crossroads that I believe it is most important to have real, difficult, uncomfortable, and even angry discussions in hopes of learning and finding new truths.  Yet, it is these very discussions we shy away (or perhaps it’s run away) from.  At these moments, we can actually share empirical facts and confront and challenge the fallacies that fuel so many of these movements.  Just as importantly, I think it is important to ask people why they feel the way they feel.

For example, I am really proud that faculty in the Theology and Religious Study Department at USD signed a public statement challenging the death penalty .  I believe that our community would be enriched if we heard why they felt making this public statement was important.   These statements are not easy to make, but they are important to be heard.

So what really makes me mad as a Professor that teaches about immigration and race relations is not that racism, xenophobia, and bigotry of any kind exists. What makes me mad is the unwillingness to talk openly and honestly, regardless of one’s political persuasion, about finding common ground without promoting and growing bigotry and hate.

Curves for Change: Installment 2

As noted in my previous entry, I’m working on a 30x project on the theme of curves.  30 days, 30 pictures.  I’ve also tried to find inspirational quotes that fit with the pics.  I’ve included my latest pictures and quotes here and try to provide some explanation when possible. I have to admit, my writing energy is at a bit of a low I have a ton of deadlines that are all due October 1st.  Craziness!!  So forgive the lack of written creativity in this blog post.

Kokopelli play for me,
So my heart may sing,
Magic flute of mystery,
Fruitful dreams you bring.
Song of Aztlan,
Fertile Fire,
Canyons of my mind,
Sacred union,
Heart to heart,
Speaks of the Divine.

I’ve always been fascinated with the image of Kokopelli.  The ancient connections connected to the Hopi is fascinating.  The poem reminded of the importance of our hearts, dreams, and minds.

I accidentally shot into the sun, but it had the unintended positive consequence of providing me with a rainbow.  When I was looking for quotes, I wasn’t sure if I wanted one on fountains or rainbows, so I chose one of each.

  • “Some people drink from the fountain of knowledge, others just gargle.” Robert Anthony
  • “And as he spoke of understanding, I looked up and saw the rainbow leap with flames of many colors over me.” Black Elk
I was trying to learn how to use the different exposure settings on my camera, and this candle ended up being a bit trickier to shoot than I thought.  It was a fun experiment though.  We all use candles for all sorts of personal and ceremonial part of our lives.  In darkness it provides the light we need to see the way.  This quote reminded me of the importance of self reflection.
“We are each gifted in a unique and important way. It is our privilege and our adventure to discover our own special light.” ~Evelyn Dunbar
I was trying to find a unique way of photographing something that I see everyday at work, the Immaculata.  I decided since the theme was curves, snapping a shot from the adjacent archways allowed for a new perspective on the same old thing.  With new perspective comes new experiences and knowledge. Alfred Lloyd Tennyson wrote,
 “All experience is an arch wherethrough gleams that untravelled world whose margin fades for ever and ever when I move.”
The picture’s fuzzier than I wanted, but I thought the flamingo was cool.  In truth, there weren’t any inspirational quotes about flamingos so I went with whatever I could find.
“Is there anything more beautiful than a beautiful, beautiful flamingo, flying across in front of a beautiful sunset? And he’s carrying a beautiful rose in his beak, and he’s also carrying a beautiful painting in his feet. And also, you’re drunk.” Jack Handy.
Again, I was playing with exposure with this picture.  I also realized I forgot all the lessons I learned on spot metering.  Anyways, I was listening to a song called “Good Friend and a Glass of Wine” by Leann Rimes and wanted to put together an image of that idea.
I dedicated this picture to my friend Anna Guevarra who just got tenured at University of Illinois, Chicago.  I read this quote by Emily Bronte and thought it captured what an inspirational person she is.
“I have dreamed in my life, dreams that have stayed with me ever after, and changed my ideas; they have gone through and through me, like wine through water, and altered the color of my mind.”  Emily Bronte
Today, Wangari Maathai, Africa’s first female Nobel Prize winner, environmental activist, professor, and leader of the Green Belt Movement passed away after a prolonged battle with cancer.  She focused on the interconnectedness of life and worked tirelessly to alleviate poverty, argued for environmental sustainability, and community lead initiatives.  We need to remind ourselves that resources need to be replenished –there is no such thing as an endless supply.  So the picture I posted today is the curve of the coastline in La Jolla, and reminds me not to take things for granted.
Here are a few quotes from the amazing Wangari Maathai.  Rest in Peace, Professor Maathai.
 “You must not deal only with the symptoms. You have to get to the root causes by promoting environmental rehabilitation and empowering people to do things for themselves. What is done for the people without involving them cannot be sustained.”
“In a few decades, the relationship between the environment, resources and conflict may seem almost as obvious as the connection we see today between human rights, democracy and peace.”

Curves in life

I’m starting a new project. 30 days, 30 pictures –the theme is curves.  I didn’t pick the theme, it’s part of this meet-up photography project designed to get me to learn how to use my camera a bit better.  For those following this on facebook, you’ll see that I’m attempting to find inspirational quotes and thoughts to match up with my project.  We’ll see how long it lasts.

I think these first two pictures, and the quotes I chose speak to my mindset these days.  Contemplating change and my place in the world.

My first picture was taken at the tide pools at La Jolla Cove.

After quite a bit of reading, I came across this quote by John Steinbeck from The Log of the Sea of Cortez. I liked it because it reminds us all that we are connected.   Steinbeck wrote,

“This is a simple thing to say, but the profound feeling of it made a Jesus, a St. Augustine, a St. Francis, a Roger Bacon, a Charles Darwin, and an Einstein. Each of them in his own tempo and with his own voice discovered and reaffirmed with astonishment the knowledge that all things are one thing and that one thing is all things—plankton, a shimmering phosphorescence on the sea and the spinning planets and an expanding universe, all bound together by the elastic string of time. It is advisable to look from the tide pool to the stars and then back to the tide pool again.”

My second picture was taken on the Kumeyaay trail at USD at around midnight.  I needed some air before finishing up some projects and found myself looking at the curves in the road ahead.

Sometimes we know where we’re going to end up, and sometimes we don’t.  It reminded me of my favorite Robert Frost poem, “The Road Not Taken.”  He writes,

 “Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference. “

Sometimes we just need to keep faith and know whatever journey is ahead of us will take us where we need to go.

Harvest Moon Meanderings

The Harvest Moon –what’s it’s significance?  I actually thought about this the other day when I was at Ranch 99 –the ultimate Asian Grocery store (just in case you didn’t know.)  As I walked through the bakery section, we came across the stacks upon stacks of moon cakes.  My friend asked me what they were and why we ate them?  I said that I assumed that it had to do with the Harvest Moon, but I wasn’t sure. Yes… I know, I’m losing what little Asian street cred I have, for not knowing the meaning. When I got home, I picked up my copy of “Good Luck Life: the Essential Guide to Chinese American Celebrations” and found out that moon cakes “symbolize the heavenly blessings of longevity and good health.”

For those who follow the Farmer’s Almanac, the harvest moon suggests the end of summer and a time of abundance.  It allows farmers to harvest the rewards of their hard spring and summer’s work. This moon also rises earlier and provides farmers more time for harvest.

As I searched some more, I read that in Chinese Taoist philosophy, that this moon served as a reminder to “slow down our frantic outward activities, rest, and reflect inward on our life’s journey so that we can continue to stay on our golden path.” That , “as the sap of trees move into their roots, leaves change color, and animals begin to store food for the winter, this is the time of year for us to start focusing on internal cultivation.”   In other words, it is a reminder for reflection and self care.

Of course, if you read scientific websites, you’ll see that many say there’s no real significance.

Personally, I’m just taking this as a moment to remind each of us to reflect on how we can best take care of our spirits and souls. Just as importantly, know that I send you wishes for good health and heavenly blessings for longevity.

PS: It seems only appropriate to listen to Neil Young’s Harvest Moon on an evening such as this.

Never Forget…or actively remembering the forgotten: a 9/11 reflection

Today’s theme: Never forget. I hear this and somehow wonder if we truly remember…

Like many of you, I remember exactly where I was 10 years ago when the planes hit the World Trade Towers, the Pentagon, and the crash in the fields of Pennsylvania. I remember sitting in front of my tiny TV in my studio apartment in LA watching the news coverage and the endless replay of the towers crashing down to the ground. I remember receiving a call from my father, a SFPD police officer at the time –telling me that if anything happened in LA I should travel east and out of the city. I remember the eerie silence that fell over LA and walking on the USC campus wondering what we should do and if we’d ever be the same. I remember regretting being so far away from my family. I remember praying that my friends living in New York and DC were safe.
Today, I find myself thinking about what we’ve forgotten as we’ve moved forward from that fateful day.

Do we remember the immigrants –documented and undocumented that lost their lives that day(1). From day one, many of their names eluded the lists of the missing. Do we remember the 27 foreign nationals who died in the towers that day –making this an international day of mourning? Do we remember the fact that 21% (568) of the people confirmed dead that day were immigrants?

While we commemorate the lives of those lost this day 10 years ago, what goes unspoken has been the long term effects of prolonged exposure to the toxins at both sites. Multiple studies have shown that the surviving 9/11 first-responders have higher incidents of cancer and overall health illnesses than is normal. Yet it wasn’t until January that President Obama signed a bill into law that helped provide financial help for the medical needs of 9/11 recovery workers. For almost ten years, these individuals racked up huge debts and had their medical needs unanswered .(2)

I also think about the lives that were changed through no fault of their own. While we’ve written about the children of 9/11,who will never know their parents, we’ve forgotten to talk about victims of the increased hate violence all over the country. Racial profiling, hate speech, religious intolerance became acceptable in the most heinous of ways. In recent writings, we see what the post-9/11 realities look like for Arab and Muslim youth (See Moustafa Bayoumi’s How Does It Feel to be a Problem: Being Young and Arab in America). These issues aren’t localized. In her recent article, Monster (3), for the New Yorker, Zadie Smith writes about implications across the world in London. She says, “

For some, the basic political insights of adolescence arrived with an extra jolt: your people over here were hurting your people over there; your home was attacking your home. Then came the cataclysm. The end of the world for nearly three thousand innocent people. The beginning of a different sort of world for the rest of us. From the epicenter in Manhattan, shock waves rippled across Europe. In North West London, a small but significant change: the stereotype of the Muslim boy was transformed. From quiet, sexless, studious child—sitting in the back of class and destined for an engineering degree—to Public Enemy No. 1”

It seems that part of what we need to remember is that we’ve been a country built on advocating for change and fairness for all workers. In one of the many inspiring stories that came out of 9/11 –we’ve seen the former workers of Windows of the World ban together to create both a training center for immigrant restaurant workers and for workplace standards. What started in New York is now present in 5 other cities. In the face of great tragedy, they created positive change.(4) The story of Mrs. Bingham(5) –who in the aftermath of her son’ heroic actions became a tremendous supporter and advocate in the LGBT community. Working tirelessly to support the causes that were important to her son’s heart. Working in his memory has made the world a better place.

Part of what I struggle with today –is not just with the memory of the horrible act of terrorism that took over 2,996 deaths that day, but the immense amount of death we’ve witnessed. To date there have been 6,028 deaths of US Military in Iraq and Afghanistan. They also estimate that Iraqi civilian death tolls range between 102,000 and 112,000. What scares me most is that we are living in a time where war and national vitriol seemingly take precedence over building community and finding spaces and places of healing.

So today, I remember, by actively thinking about the forgotten, the unnamed, and the work we must do to both address their needs and to act in communion with the world they might want to see. I think it’s time we take positive action to provide for those who’s lives we’ve forgotten despite their service, then and now, to our country. Today, I say a prayer that we can become a country that values life, works for peace, and creates an inclusive community.






Notes from a Professor: the First Day of a New School Year

There’s something magical about the first day of school.  It’s all about new beginnings, students; fresh energy, and replenished creativity.  In preparation for day one,  you craft and create the new syllabi and assignments.  You remind yourself that you can use the same canned jokes again because most of your new students haven’t heard them before. You pretend, for a minute, that you are going to change the calendar of when you’re delivering midterms and settle on the same pacing you’ve used for years, even if it means students all end up with all their midterms at the same time. (Inevitably, your colleagues are using the same math to decide when to give their midterms too.) Then you send the document off to print, reminding yourself you can always make small adjustments on the fly, if need be.

Then, it’s off to meetings, and ceremonies, a few parties, orientations that really disorient everyone involved, and if you’re lucky a quick trip to the bookstore to see the ridiculously high prices they’re charging students for books that could be ordered on or another book retailer for a third of the price. Then, Somewhere amidst the craziness of the beginning of the year madness, you’re reminded  that it’s important to take a breath, and tell yourself, “I’ve got this.” Then after taking that confidence-boosting moment, you pull out the old lecture that you feel like you could give in your sleep –remove pop culture references that are “so yesterday” in the minds of your 18 year old students, and polish it up with some new, and timely examples.  You hope you’ve remembered everything necessary for the first day of class.  Right before ‘show time’ you say a little prayer and hope that the powers that be bless you with the strength and fortitude to make it through the semester, the grey matter necessary for remembering all your students‘ names, and the common sense to check and make sure you’re all zipped up and buttoned up before you’re in front of the classroom. Then, when all is said and done, you walk into the classroom and own the room –this is their space, but you facilitate (or perhaps dictate) what happens within those 4 walls, for 1 hour and 20 minutes, twice a week, for the next sixteen weeks.

Yes, there is definitely something magical about the first day of a new school year.

Good luck to all involved.

Calling All Angels: A Time to Give Thanks

Today, I am grateful.  Over the past few days I’ve learned of friends, former students, and acquaintences that escaped physical harm, overcame adversity, and found the strength to make difficult decisions that gave them peace of mind and a sense of calm.  I am grateful that they are surviving.

These past three months have tested me in ways I never expected, while I won’t say I’m grateful for those tests and experiences, I will say that I am beyond appreciative for the unconditional love and support I’ve received.  In the face of adversity it’s easy to forget who you are, what you stand for, and what’s truly important in life.  Although tested, I find myself stronger, more determined, and committed to work for changes I believe in.

In this moment, I’m thankful for the angels (spiritual and physical) that have kept my friends and I safe from harm.  I’m grateful that even amidst the craziness of life, these angels have appeared and reminded me to keep faith and keep safe.

I wanted to share the song Calling All Angels by Train which pretty much says it all.

Thank you to all my angels –you know who you are.



Funny how the simple things bring you peace of mind….
—the sounds of the city you grew up in
—the feel of the frigid summer San Francisco air
—the sound of the L Taraval rolling by
—the local restaurant you ate at too often to count
—sounds of familiar voices in the morning
—the feel of your old bed
—being somewhere where it’s not bizarre to wear a jacket even in July

I’m sure this list will grow…. but just thought I’d take a moment to affirm why the places we call home can be a positive thing.

It’s nice to be home –it’s definitely been too long.