Rain, rain, go away and come back another day

outdoor_raining-1280x800I was dreaming that I was sailing a small ship through a tremendous storm. The rain was heavy and dense, battering the ship and causing metallic thumps that scathed my ears. Then I awoke from my sleep and the sounds had not ceased. I cleared my eyes and sat up in my seat and saw a heavy downpour battering my car, where I was sleeping.

The rain had always made me feel blue. It’s common among people deprived of sunshine to feel blue and even develop a condition known as SAD, or seasonal affective disorder. It comes to no surprise to any of us that it rains for most of the year in Portland. Still, why do so many people feel blue because of the rain?

Indigenous people tend to see the rain as sacred and as a sign of life. For some reason, it seems that modern society and individuals do not see it in the same light. Perhaps our need for comfort through materialistic and superficial things have deprived us of the opportunity to reflect on ourselves in solitude.

America – SHUTDOWN

Are we really, "Closed for Business"?

Are we really, “Closed for Business”?

There is no one reading this that has not heard that our U.S. Government is, “SHUTDOWN”.

As of midnight on October 1, 2013, the U.S. Government went into shutdown mode because Congress could not agree on a budget for fiscal year 2014. It has occurred 17 times in the past, but this time it is different- and it will affect some students at PSU.

Because of the Affordable Care Act, ACA, which was put into law on March 23, 2010, PSU stepped up and revised its existing health insurance plan. The school is now offering a very comprehensive and affordable health care package benefiting many students. But some members of Congress do not like this law, ACA, and have made it a priority to have it repealed. They do not wish to approve a national budget unless the ACA is repealed. President Barrack Obama has refused to compromise with them and considers this action to repeal this important and existing law, “Unacceptable”. Thus, the government is in stalemate and our government in a shutdown mode.

Because of the current government shutdown many federal agencies have to furlough federal employees because they no longer have the money to pay them. Over 800,000 federal employees are being laid off now. Included in this are many employees of the Veterans Administration. This is the agency, which takes care of our veterans in terms of health care, educational assistance and disability payments. PSU students who are veterans and using educational assistance via the V.A. may have their benefits cut or even stopped until this shutdown is resolved.

This event is unique in our history. Congress has never before failed to pass a budget with the sole reason, “We don’t like this existing law. Repeal it- or we will not allow our government to function.”

In times past the government has shut down for a variety of reasons, a new bill before Congress, arguments over how the government spends its money (our money), etc. But it has never before gone into shutdown over an existing law.

Let us hope our Congress and our President can resolve their differences. Arrive at a compromise where our government does not have to, SHUTDOWN. And PSU students will continue to get excellent healthcare from the school and our veterans, who have given so much for this country, can once again receive the financial benefits due them.

River rafting in Estacada

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The last three weeks have been torture for me trying to get back on my feet. I am slowly moving again and creating a structure for my life. My friends, family, school advisers and work teammates are supporting me though out this tough time. Last weekend, I made no plans nor did I want to do anything.

However, a friend encouraged me to go with him on a trip. He assured me that this trip would put things into perspective and bring me back to reality. There was nothing to lose, so I took his offer. So we started packing what appeared to be camping gear and had one more thing to obtain: dry suits.

I was not aware that the Outdoor program at PSU rented out gear. Being a student, I was able to get two dry suits for $50, a bargain when they are worth up to $300 a piece. Early the next day, we were off to Estacada in gloomy and rainy weather.  We arrived to a scene of people, kayaks, rafts, dry suits, wet suits and gear along the river.

We immediately parked on the side of the road, dressed down to a T-shirt and shorts, put on our dry suits, helmet, and life vests and we were off to find his friends. Upon finding them, without hesitation we got a raft, carried down to the river, and got in to raft downstream.

My heart pumped and my senses were on full alert. All I could think of was not to fall out of the raft into the river. The water was freezing hence the dry suits we had to keep us not only warm but alive. The rapids were strong and I tried to literally bury my feet into the wedges of the raft and held on to my paddle for life.

Downstream, we hit stronger rapids, being pushed from side to side, the water pouring down on us, as we tried to maneuver through without falling out or flipping over. Everyone around me was unnerved.  I was hoping I would not fall out. After what seemed an eternity of freezing water and near heart attacks, we rafted and finished in calm and safe waters. This trip was much needed for me even if it distracted me from the world of depression that I was in and still am in.

What price freedom?

It’s a normal day on campus. The sun is out (always a welcome thing), the birds are singing, and the normal crowd is milling around between Cramer and Smith Union. ‘All normal.

I took a seat outside Cramer Hall facing Smith. I was tired. I had just gotten out of a history class, Greek 300, and I wanted to catch some fresh air before I crammed down a sandwich in the Smith cafeteria and trudged on to my next class, French 101.

It was then I noticed him. At first glance all seemed normal. A 20 -something male student, jeans, old Chuck Taylor All Stars, black-grey hoodie…but with the hood up. He had a cardboard box with him. He looked kind of pensive. Maybe he was waiting for someone? Continue reading

Speaking French

I presently speak no French. Or I should say, the French I did attempt to use with on a recent trip to France had the natives there staring at me and then turning to my wife, who does speak French asking her (translated here), “Madam, is this man your husband? What is he trying to say?”

When my wife, Janet, and I were discussing marriage six years ago, there was one caveat she placed before me that I had to agree to if we were going to marry. (At this point all kinds of things were racing through my mind–prenuptial agreements, mother-in-laws wanting to live with us, religious rites involving hoods, pet snakes, etc…) And then she said in all seriousness, “It has been my life long dream to move to France when I retire. If we marry you have to agree to move there with me. Do you?” Instantly a wave of relief washed over me. I put a big grin on and said, “Yes, but I don’t speak French.” She replied, “Yes. I’ve heard you try.”

So years later now and our France move is getting closer. I am busy working to finish my BA degree in Liberal Arts here at PSU. I know I need six terms of a foreign language to complete for this degree. I start French 101 next fall term.

Bon chance moi.

Au Revoir ~

Searching for the right haircut

For the longest time, my father cut my hair growing up. My two younger brothers and I never went to a barber shop to get the job done. And this job is complicated to say the least. Around 16 or 17, my father just didn’t have the same precision as before and my hair was just too difficult to cut. Soon after, my father simply retired, if you will, from cutting my hair and my brother’s as well. I was confident that if my father could cut my hair, anyone else with experience could do it just as well. Continue reading

Work has increased but support has not.

I don’t visit the Multicultural Center, Casa Latina or the Diversity and Multicultural Student Services offices as much as I used to. But in the past few weeks, I have been stopping by, and I’ve noticed an increase in the number of Latino and students of color using these resources. The number of programs and events has grown just as well. However, as I visited each place, I felt like an outsider to some degree.

When Casa Latina opened, I believed it would develop community among students. When I was part of that growing community a couple years ago, I could see small but solid steps towards the needs of the students. However, I should point out that I lived on campus at that time. I moved to Oregon City this past summer. Since then, I have been out of what is going on, who is new to the community, how are the needs of the students being addressed and ultimately why must this work continue?

Perhaps, I have distanced myself too much without even knowing. However, I have given much thought as to why I or these places feel different. It seems that these places have become over the years fast paced, overloaded with work, expectations have risen higher, and yet moral obligation and duty is still present among these departments that are undoubtedly understaffed and under supported. My feelings I believe stem from my concerns for the students.

As a student, I feel empowered when I can connect deeply and grow from a program or from an individual. What concerns me is being regarded as just a number rather than a person. It seems that when a department is understaffed, the meaning of their work shifts and becomes more quantitative than qualitative. Students cannot afford to be seen as a number. I hope that this does not unfold within these offices. They are too vital and necessary for the growth and education for students of color and their communities.

Portland State is More Than a School.

Bosc-Pear-Harvest-BinThe first university I visited during my middle school years was Portland State. I vaguely remember seeing the Smith cafeteria and the Broadway computer lab. At the time, I was curious about attending college, but by my freshman year in high school, I knew I was going to college. I had no school in mind, but I was determined to enroll with or without financial aid.

During my senior year in high school, I made a trip to Phoenix, Arizona. All of my mother’s side of the family moved there a decade ago. A cousin of mine was attending Arizona State, and she suggested that I should enroll there. I visited the enormous campus and was excited at the idea of leaving Oregon for something different. Ultimately, I chose to stay and enroll into Portland State for financial and family reasons.

I had come to the conclusion that I simply could not afford to attend Arizona State. My lack of knowledge about financial aid blurred an opportunity for me to go out of state. I had worked hard in my rigorous classes in high school and had harvested pears and cherries during the same time. However, many low-income people of color do not have access to a solid education let alone higher education.

I have been fortunate and privileged to have both. Portland State and all the institutions of higher learning are more than just a mascot, brand or colors. They are the places where we should gain knowledge, develop our skills, and empower ourselves. It has been a journey for me to mold a better life and to give back to my family and community.

Finally, a Place to Call My Home and People to Call My Family.

homeI have lived on campus for three years, and in three different locations. Living in the city was a drastic change for me. I grew up in a rural area where I had no neighbors, surrounded instead by acres of orchards. While living in the city brought me new experiences, it was expensive and at times lonesome for me.

I have had a total of seven male roommates, have lived alone, and at one point, I lived with five roommates. One can just imagine how things went living in a place with five guys. We were all single, young, and a bit naive  Yet, throwing parties, going out, hanging out as a group, and goofing around just wasn’t for me. At the end of the day, I would always feel alone or being left out of something meaningful.

My mornings, evenings, and my life are now spent with my new family. I moved in with my girlfriend this past summer into her sister’s house in Oregon City. It’s a full house; there are two cats, two dogs, her husband, her sister in law, and her 2 year old son who, I like to say, is the king of the house. It’s a great welcoming and friendly environment. I often hear the little boy call out everyone’s name from across the house. I get up every weekday at 7 to get ready for my day and help my girlfriend get prepared as well. I see the cats walking back and forth, and I hear the dogs in the yard barking for attention.

At 22, I love my new home, my girlfriend, my new family, and myself. I have left behind my single, lonesome, and confused life. And I wouldn’t want it any other way.

Guns on Campus

We’ve all seen on TV the horrific scenes from Newton Connecticut, the shopping mall in nearby Clackamas, a Regal movie theatre in Colorado…and sadly so many more incidents of guns taking lives in senseless murders. I am a student just like you. I know when I walk the dark walkways of PSU I now think of this deadly scenario. I worry that this might occur here too. I cringe at the thought and hurry along my way.

I know that I could probably obtain a concealed weapons permit from the county where I reside that is good for all of the state. I know then I might “legally” carry this gun, this piece of hardware that is created with one real purpose, to kill. But then I also ask myself, “Is this what I really want to do or do I feel threatened and worried, that my own life may be in danger and that is what is prompting me to think about actually carrying a gun?” And when I get past this question I also ask myself, “Is this who I am? Do I let fear run my life? Do I really want to kill someone?”

"Is this you?"

“Is this you?”

For me, I am not that kind of person. I have always believed in “live and let live”. I don’t want to be the kind of person that would kill another human being because I believe my own life is in danger. I believe we are an intelligent and resourceful people. I believe there are other alternatives for me, such as fleeing, calling 911 for help, not placing myself in vulnerable situations if I can, and believing that the school I attend, PSU, has taken all the precautions it can to protect me and my fellow students in our goal of receiving an education and becoming a valuable and contributing members of society.

I realize my choice is not for everyone. But having served in the military, having been in real life and death situations, I know sometime in your life you must find out who you really are? Do we give in to the TV and media hysteria? Do we allow ourselves to be manipulated into doing something we do not believe in? Do we really have to kill to live? Is that what our society, our culture, is really about?

I do not think it is.

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“Or…is this you?”
You really are the one to decide.

Note: The following is the current PSU policy on carrying a gun at our school and was adopted by the Oregon Board of Higher Education on March 2, 2012.

“…forbids students, employees, individuals with a business interest with the campus (such as vendors and contractors), event attendees, those who rent or lease University property, and campus visitors from carrying a firearm on University owned or controlled property…The prohibition is effective whether or not an individual holds a concealed handgun license.”