spring break + a monday mixtape

Finally, spring break is here! I feel like the cat in this photo, excitedly trying to get my hands on every book that I want to read, every DVD that I want to see. Though to be honest, I can go without any of those right now and just catch up on my sleep.

Feb-March has been really rough for me. A couple of times I felt like my body was ready to fall apart from sheer exhaustion. When you work with children, its not like you can put your head down on your desk and not do anything for 15 minutes, you have to be on your feet pretty much the entire time and be energetic even if you feel so tired inside.

But here we are and I have the entire week to relax and make some big decisions. I am taking it easy on technology and the internet for the next few days so I probably won't be able to answer your emails right away. In the meantime, I made a mixtape that I wanted to share with you, all of these songs really helped me get through the rough days. I hope you will like it, too.

Listen to my mixtape here.

Tracks: Air (Alone in Kyoto) / Feist and Ben Gibbard (Train Song) / Sufjan Stevens (To Be Alone with You) / Mychael Danna (The Winner Is) / Iron & Wine (Flightless Bird, American Mouth) / Rufus Wainwright (Cigarettes and Chocolate Milk) / Au Revoir Simone (All or Nothing) / Lykke Li (Little Bit) / Local Natives (Sticky Thread) / Seabear (Lion Face Boy)

Also, I want to say thank you to Gillian for letting me use the photo above. I love her film photos, especially the ones she took in New Zealand. Check out her photography here.

Image credit: Gillian Lowyck

young adult fiction


I've been meaning to write a post about young adult novels for some time now. I just started reading them again last year, mostly because I tend to gravitate towards heavy literature with meandering narratives and I really needed something light for a change.

Two of those YA novels are Shannon Hale's Book of a Thousand Days and Suzanne Collins' The Hunger Games, both I read in one sitting because it was almost impossible to put them down. Both are also first person narratives by female protagonists who are very intelligent, passionate, and brave. I really like that both of these young women were written as independent characters with a lot of inner strength as opposed to your damsel in distress that is so common in fantasy and romance novels.

Book of a Thousand Days is a story about a young maid named Dashti and her personal account of the years she spent locked inside a tower together with the lady that she was serving. I had no expectations before I started reading this novel and was so captivated by it right away. Shannon Hale's writing is very lyrical and she created a world that is both bleak and yet very enchanting at the same time. And as a narrator, Dashti may be one of the most unforgettable voices that I've read in awhile. She is such an inspiring character and you can't help but root for her as she fights to survive and help the ones she love.

Another aspect that I loved about Book of a Thousand Days is that the romance subplot is very believable and realistic.  How Dashti fell in love with Khan Tegus without seeing his face first but by talking to him through a tower wall and sharing the same sense of humor. Their conversations and the way they relate to each other felt very real to me and I liked that the story focused on their friendship and how they can make each other laugh. These are the type of characters that you'd want to revisit every now and then or read the story out loud.

On the other hand, The Hunger Games is a plot-driven rather than a character-driven novel. The writing is straightforward and simple but what keeps you hooked is the element of suspense. I wasn't surprised when I found out later that Suzanne Collins was a television screenwriter before she started writing novels because The Hunger Games is very action oriented and fast-paced. And while I thought the plot started to fizzle towards the latter part of the novel, I still really enjoyed reading it.

Because of its upcoming movie adaptation, there's been a lot of comparison between The Hunger Games and the Twilight series but I can tell you right now that aside from having two boys falling for the same girl, the two novels are completely different. The latter is mainly focused on the love story while The Hunger Games is broader in scope and there is a lot more at stake than just the romance. Katniss, the novel's heroine, is so much more independent and kickass compared to a certain someone who is constantly whining and in need of a man to rescue her.

In fact, it is interesting how in both Book of a Thousand Days and The Hunger Games, there is somewhat of a role reversal in your typical male-female dynamic with strong heroines ending up having to protect or risk their lives for the people they care about, Dashti using her wit and healing songs and Katniss with her bow and arrow. In a genre recently dominated by sparkly vampires and weak female characters, this is very refreshing indeed.

Do any of you read young adult novels? Which ones are your favorite?

Image scanned from Fudge Magazine via clever nettle

after the rain, spring.

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It was raining persistently for days here.  In my journal, I wrote:
Rain allows us to slow down and pay attention.
To the sound your rubber boots make while stomping in water puddles.
To the taste of green tea, the weight of a cup as your fingers curl around it for warmth.
To every word on a page, while you read and wait for your clothes to dry inside a laundromat.
To the smell of damp earth, after the rain.

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Explore: these lovely photographs by miki.
She took them with her Rolleiflex camera.
I really love the stillness of these images.

Happy first day of spring, my friends.

All images used with permission from miki*

like a raft

I often feel so inadequate every time I try to explain why I love poetry or why I carry poems with me all the time. And last night, after a truly inspiring reading by Jeanette Winterson and how she said that it was language that kept her from falling apart, I can only nod and say, yes.

So many times in my life when I feel sad or overwhelmed by loss, and even as I walk around my chest still feels so heavy, its always poetry that I come back to, over and over. The poems that I've memorized, they know my story, shared all of my pain.

In the same way that Naomi Shihab Nye wrote this poem for Edna St. Vincent Millay. Especially the part about poems being portable, something that you can hold on to, like a raft.

You Know Who You Are

Why do your poems comfort me, I ask myself.
Because they are upright, like straight-backed chairs.
I can sit in them and study the world as if it too
were simple and upright.

Because sometimes I live in a hurricane of words
and not one of them can save me.
Your poems come in like a raft, logs tied together,
they float.
I want to tell you about the afternoon
I floated on your poems
all the way from Durango Street to Broadway.

Fathers were paddling on the river with their small sons.
Three Mexican boys chased each other outside the library.
Everyone seemed to have some task, some occupation,
while I wandered uselessly in the streets I claim to love.

Suddenly I felt the precise body of your poems beneath me,
like a raft, I felt words as something portable again,
a cup, a newspaper, a pin.
everything happening had a light around it,
not the light of Catholic miracles,
the blunt light of a Saturday afternoon.
light in a world that rushes forward with us or without us.
I wanted to stop and gather up the blocks behind me
in this light, but it doesn’t work.
You keep walking, lifting one foot, then the other,
saying “This is what I need to remember”
and then hoping you can.

--from Words Under the Words (1994) by Naomi Shihab Nye

here's to you, jack keroauc.

“I felt like lying down by the side of the trail and remembering it all. The woods do that to you, they always look familiar, long lost, like the face of a long-dead relative, like an old dream, like a piece of forgotten song drifting across the water, most of all like golden eternities of past childhood or past manhood and all the living and the dying and the heartbreak that went on a million years ago and the clouds as they pass overhead seem to testify (by their own lonesome familiarity) to this feeling. Ecstacy, even, I felt, with flashes of sudden remembrance, and feeling sweaty and drowsy I felt like sleeping and dreaming in the grass." -- The Dharma Bums (1958)

A favorite quote in honor of Jack Kerouac. Today would have been his 90th birthday.

And always, I go back to his advice whenever I need of inspiration:
"Write in recollection and amazement for yourself."

Read the rest of his list of writing essentials here.


// Today

Watched: 1 foreign film
Wrote: 4 letters
Folded: 7 origami hearts
Drank: 1 cup of coffee, 1 cup of tea
Read: 2 chapters of 1Q84, 1 chapter of Yun Zhong Ge

Not just because I want to
But because it was necessary.

have a lovely weekend.


Five really good things this week:
Writing this post from a library by the ocean.
An ice cream shop a block away from this library.
4 p.m. and sunny, the sight of kids walking home from school.
My sisters embarking on their own adventures overseas.
One good pirouette after thousands of not-so-good ones.

I am thinking how there's so much truth to this quote. There were times this week when I was ready to pull my hair out and hide under the bedcovers and do absolutely nothing. But I am so glad I did do something. Little steps.

Have a lovely one, my friends. I hope you do something that you love this weekend. xo

Photo by me. Taken last summer in Bolinas, California.

today's inspiration: pina


I recently saw the documentary Pina, a dance film in 3D dedicated to the famous choreographer Pina Bausch. To say that I was moved by it is certainly an understatement. It was as if someone took me by the hand and said, "Watch this and do something (with your life)."

What that something is, I have no idea. But this documentary is one of those works of art that inspires you to look closely at your own life. Not just accept the status quo but take risks. Or at least stop over thinking and just do. I went through a whole gamut of emotions throughout the movie and I am pretty sure anyone who watches it will take something from the experience, whether you are interested in dance or not.

Ideally, it would be best to see this film at the theater because of its 3D feature but if its not playing anywhere near you, I really hope that you guys can watch it on DVD.

Have a look at these clips below, a tribute to Joy and Love.

Photo and clips taken from Pina (2011), a film for Pina Bausch by Wim Wenders.

letter no. 2


Hello, friends! I decided to continue my letter project. The plan is to set aside some time during the weekend to put away my computer and cellphone and start writing by hand. I can't promise that it will be a weekly feature but I will try to post a letter at least once a month.

Here is letter number 2. I wrote it on a stationary set that I got from a Japanese dollar store and added some polka dotted washi tape on the envelope. Click on scan for a larger view.


P.S. In case you haven't read it yet, here is my first letter. xo, Odessa

after work, twin peaks

twin peaks

I have been so exhausted and feeling overwhelmed in last few days that the sight of these little wildflowers bathed in golden sunlight was almost too much.

Really, this city just breaks my heart sometimes.

Photo via my iPhone