Monday, June 27, 2011

Lost Notes From Spain - My last day.

I've reached my last day in Spain. I am ready to come home. Whatever my reasons for coming here, I am leaving with a sense of contentment and of completion.

I didn't realize how bad it was. Before I left I was... Pain. I couldn't stop hurting and I didn't know why. I didn't even fully recognize that I was suffering. But I was sitting on the train yesterday and I did notice something; the absence of that pain. It was if it had manifest itself as this coiled copper ball of energy, electrically snapping at the bit with my silent anguish. But this tightly wound expression of what I had been living with daily was no longer inside me, no longer sapping my strength and personality.

I glanced at the table in front of me - as the sun streamed in, the lanscape shooting past while I jostled gently in my seat with the movement of the train - and I saw it there, in the middle of the table, flickering weakly.

I laughed softly to myself, intrigued by the mental image I had conjured, and thought, I think I may just 'forget' you there.

For the rest of that train ride I had a secret smile continuously playing across my lips. I truly felt lighter, and for the first time in many months, years even, I felt genuinely happy; right down to my core.

It took an entire month away. Filled with a hodgepodge mess of confusion, happiness, loneliness and fatigue. I felt fear, moments of peace and discovery, joy, and yet an overwhelming sense of being lost. But somehow I got what I came for - two day's before the end of my trip, cut right to the wire - but I got it. And it has all been worth it. I picked up something new here, something glowing and bright, and I think I'll place it where that pain used to be, tucked up safely inside, and take it home with me.

It is time to go home.

Madrid, Spain.

Lost Notes From Spain - set to reflection

The sun is hot, pouring down. I lay languidly amidst the rays, soaking it in. Granada. I whisper softly to myself. EspaƱa.

I've been fortunate on this trip to meet a myriad of amazing people. Goofs, free spirits, lost souls, the rule bound and people simply set to discover. I love this. The continual catch and release of personal experience; the gossamer touch of individual perspective.

Today I lay on the balcony of a friend I may have made for life. A distant sister soul found thousands of miles from home. She studies quietly on the other side of the sunny balcony, a comfortable silence easily achieved.

I am set to reflection. Why do we travel? To find ourselves, find beauty.. love.. Why do we do what we do? Travel, work, play.. on a continual quest for fulfillment, gladness, gratification, peace, pleasure, repletion, satisfaction, serenity... A thesaurus of aspiration. We crave an abstinence from confusion and discontent. Like a game of hide and seek we smuggle ourselves away from dissatisfaction. However we chose to do so.

I find through world travel a constant wonderment at the highlighted flood of desire and need. Here it is heightened. Brightened. I watch people needing to discover, to experience, to find themselves. I am them, too.

I have it inked into my skin. Right below the scar on the back of my neck that symbolizes my brush with death. Life.

Granada, Spain.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

El Perro y el Hippy

My breath was coming out in short pumps and gasps. One foot in front of the other, I limped and wobbled my way, bound and determined.

Just think, Kristina, I breathily whispered to myself. Think what you'll be able to say. You walked 4 hours in the Alhambra and climbed a freaking mountain in one day. With, Kristina, I continued to murmur to myself, with a spinal cord injury. Just think.. just imagine what the photo's could look like. You can beat this sunset. You can get there in time.. Push.

I absently swung my Canon 50D camera around to a more comfortable position and continued my personal cheerleading, You can do this...

Hearing a voice clear I looked up from my focused stare down with my wayward feet and suddenly realized my motivational whispering wasn't quite as inaudible as I imagined it to be. People were looking, peering at me curiously. 'Loco touristica.' and a shake of the head.

I giggled silently and continued panting my way up the extensive stretch of long steps that pass for streets in the Albayzin quarter of Granada, Spain. Set on a mountainside the walkways are wide and meant only for foot traffic. Gradual steps press upwards relentlessly to the height of the hills. Tourist style tea houses, shops, and tapa's bars line the beginning of your climb, but eventually melt away to houses and local places to eat or drink. Beautiful, and completely charming, but, I'll admit, a touch challenging for a woman with gait, stability, and fatigue issues.

Still, I pressed on stubbornly.

Incredibly, more than once during my strenuous ascent, I was stopped by a concerned citizen. 'Tu es bien?', Are you okay?

I love the Spanish!

Seeing my labored breathing and awkward gate I was often stopped to see if I was all right. One gentleman even took my arm and walked me for a ways. After letting me go he sagely advised me the best way to reach the top was to dance my way, and with a flourish and a bow, which left me grinning from ear to ear, he actually danced his way back down the street of steps.

I love this place.

Caught unaware and distracted with my determined walk and chance encounters, the end was suddenly in sight, or rather, ear shot. The rhythmic pulse of distant djembe drums throbbed in the air, invisibly tugging me on. Practically bursting out of the end of a closely walled walkway I saw the edge of the square I had been so obstinate about reaching. Glancing up at the sky I grinned happily. The sun had not yet set. I made it.

Almost laughing I awkwardly climbed the last few steps and entered the square, lit brilliantly in the late sunlight. Dancing, singing and lounging people were lit afire by the last vestiges of the sun. I entered a hippy heaven, complete with an abundance of puppies and pooches running free and playing with each other and their owners. Soaking it in I looked peacefully to my left, and saw the gentle slope of the city leading to a view of the Alhambra on another hill of its own. The massive palace constructed during the mid 14th century by the Moorish rulers of old glowed majestically in the dying light. Drawing my gaze back to the square my senses were assaulted by the gypsy-like celebration that happened every night. Poi spinners, jugglers, guitarists, percussionists and a surprising number of canines all joined the evening and shared their voice, their talent, their moment, with each other. This was just life here for them.

Idly I wondered if other locals turned their nose up at this congregation of clearly new age mentality. Within walking distance (my walking distance!) there was another section of the city with wide boulevards and expensive shops. The contrast and closeness of these wildly different mentalities tickled at my curiosity. But I wanted to live in the here and now, so letting that thought slip innocuously back into the recesses of my mind - unimportant in comparison to my need to experience what I'd worked so hard to see - I swung my camera up, and began to photograph. Some noticed, some didn't. A few felt the rush of having an audience and immediately began showing off. I didn't mind.

Eventually I let my lens drop and just breathed. I wasn't photographing very well and my battery was dying. Distracted and quite fatigued from my long day I ached to simply exist in this one moment, this physical manifestation of the reason I travel. This was an experience so simple yet so heart warming in it's newness and easy beauty that peace and contentment coursed through my tired limbs. So I sat, with a goofy contended grin on my face, and bathed it all in.

You made it, Kristina. I smiled gently to myself. You knew you could.

And so I did.

Granada, Spain.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Friday, June 3, 2011

The Poison of Text-based Messaging

I am no saint. I text. Though mainly I do it because everyone else does. You can't force someone to meet with you, or pick up the phone. But I hate it. I really do. And hate is a strong word I passionately apply to my feelings towards this abhorrent phenomenon of communication.

I want to write a paper on how our reliance on texting is creating a psychological rift in our social demeanors. It's the same epidemic that preservatives in our food have caused. Because the problem isn’t clear and obvious it is slowly ruining our psyche like those preservatives have ruined our gastrointestinal systems. One day we woke up and realized that the reason we all have such problems with our stomachs is because we've been slowly poisoning ourselves; just as we'll realize one strong reason why we have such issues communicating with each other is because we've slowly trained ourselves out of human contact and relations.

I think we're letting the importance of physically present communication fall by the wayside. "But I'm at work." "But I just have something quick to say." "But it's just easier." These are convenient excuses, but I believe, simply blinders that help us ignore the quiet killer. Patches of 'quick and easy' versus 'quality and health'. It's the McDonalds cheeseburger of communication. We've been moving steadfast into the realm of realizing how bad and unhealthy that kind of food is for our bodies. We need to recognize what unhealthy communication is doing to our minds and our emotional connections.

I watched a study that researchers made on infants. This study was actually about the linguistic learning curve in humans, and how it dramatically decreases after only a few short years. It also discusses a critical learning point between 8 and 10 months wherein an infant will learn specific sounds related to their particular language, and after that period the infant is no longer able to process the distinctions in other language’s sounds that are different to it's own.

What I found interesting, though, and as relates to the current issue, is that during this study researchers decided to see if it would make a difference if the child would learn equally as well from having a human teacher, as compared to a television, or simple auditory stimulation.

The children learned absolutely nothing from the television or recordings. It required human contact and interaction for them to acquire the skills.

No, we are not infants. But I believe that this highlights the importance of verbal, visual, and physical contact. It is ingrained in our psyche. We need this contact; straight from the instincts of birth.

I have been back from my trip to Europe for only 2 weeks and I already feel a serious decline in my state of happiness. I keep finding myself wishing I were there, chatting with people over breakfast, having coffee with new friends, going to dinner with people. And therein lay the obvious connection. Now that I am in Vancouver my main form of communication is back to text based messaging. It's just too difficult to get a hold of my friends and too easy to text. My physical contact with people has declined 10 fold, and so has my level of joy.

I'm sick and tired of eating McCrappy text messages. I honestly believe it's an epidemic of our human connectivity and that this is directly tied in to our level of happiness. I believe a strong reason for the general malaise many of us feel is directly linked with our addiction to text based messaging. I know from personal experience that if I am upset about something and ‘talk it out’ through text, I am left distinctly less satisfied than if I were to have a verbal or physical conversation. And there have been one too many instances in the past years as texting became more and more common, of a long drawn out text miscommunication, (who am I kidding; fight), that upset me to no end, only to be resolved and deflated within minutes on the phone or conversation in person. And more often than not, even if the argument was still worked out over text, that lingering itch of dissatisfaction would linger.

For the most part, we are social creatures. We crave, desire, and need social acceptance. Our basic psychology demands communication between each other. But, like eating McDonalds instead of a healthy meal, we are poisoning ourselves. Sure, we may not always be able to eat perfectly, and likewise communicate healthy, but we should put in a sincere and motivated effort to achieve the highest level of health. Physically, psychologically, and emotionally.

Patricia Kuhl: The linguistic genius of babies -
Image 1 pulled from:
Image 2 pulled from:

**I also realize a large reason we text as much as we do, is because it is cheaper than minutes on the phone. I feel this should change. This world is driven by money, and in a tight economy such as we have now, every penny counts. I believe if using minutes to call someone were cheaper than texting, it could make a huge difference.***