Merry Christmas Mio

I’m reminded of you every time I walk into our house and I don’t hear your little paws and your shrilled bark. I’m reminded of you every time I walk past the living room and you’re not perched in your little spot staring out the window. And I’m reminded of you each time I sit down and you don’t race over to make yourself comfortable on my lap.

I’m glad my mom, my dad, my two brothers, my two sisters and I were all able to get together to bury you. It is hard for us all to be in the same place at the same time so thank you for bringing us together. It brought me back to when you first became part of our family. My brother brought you home around this time as a Christmas gift for my mom and we were all surrounding you on the floor in her room as we tried to come up with a name for you. You were the smallest thing. Eventually my mom settled on the name Mio because you were hers. As time passed though you never belonged to any of us, you simply became a member of our family in your own right. Tony described it the best, saying that you just fit with our family. I think sometimes people may find our family to be a bit overwhelming but you just found your place in all the madness.

Mio, my heart breaks that you’re not around. Especially during a time where we are meant to be surrounded by friends and family. The fact that you’re not here makes Christmas different this year and you should know that our house is not the same without you. I’m sorry for all the times I told you to quiet down when you barked, I’m sorry for all the times I ignored you when you wanted me to take you on a walk. And I’m so sorry for each time you followed me as I left the house and I closed the door on you. I realize at times I took your love for granted because now that you’re not here I notice just how much you loved us, all of us and how willing you always were to share your love.

Not having you around fills me with regret but also constantly reminds me of all the things that made you special. Thank you for everything buddy. For the times that you woke up my parents when I would forget the keys to the house. Thank you for making me laugh when you would sit next to anyone and just stare at them with your peripheral. Lastly, thank you for making the darkest days brighter just by being there. I’m confident that when you were here, you felt just how much love we all had for you.

To everyone who reached out to send their condolences, thank you so much but especially to those who’ve lost a pet and shared how much it sucks to lose these members of our families. For anyone that has a pet, please show them just how much they mean to you and don’t forget about them as members of the family during the holiday season. If Mio were still with us I would do the same. I love you so much bud and I will miss you.

 
 
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Qui ne tente rien n'a rien

I know a lot of people have their reasons why they cannot travel whether it be time, money, etc. It is not something that is accessible to everyone but if you do find yourself having this opportunity, I cannot stress how important it is to take yourself outside of your everyday environment. I have been back in New York for a week now after traveling for two months. Towards the end I kept saying how I was ready to come back home but now being back I would do anything to have kept going. I am so privileged to have gone for the amount of time that I did and I am grateful to all the people that welcomed me into their homes during this trip.

I think we are able to learn more about a place by talking to the people that live and work in those areas. You witness it through their eyes and in their routine. I was able to see so much more because of this, more so than if I were to have just gone by myself. The beginning of my trip was to participate in an art residency in the south of France for two weeks and the rest of the time was spent visiting friends and family. I could write about all the things that I saw but it would be too difficult to summarize eight weeks into this already lengthy post. As I was writing I kept thinking what do I want to talk about. My thoughts kept going back to all the people I met and those I was able to spend time with. So this journal entry is more of a thank you letter to a few people and maybe through that you'll be able to see part of my trip. 


 
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ELOISE

The title of this entire post is something that I learned from your book where you illustrate your experience in creating the residency. At one point you mention how twice in the same day someone told you Qui ne tente rien, n'a rien. Which I think sort of translates to "nothing ventured, nothing gained". This saying is something that I thought about throughout the rest of my travels. When I arrived to the residency I was not entirely sure what to expect but my stay in Sainte-Valière was better than I could have imagined. The house itself, the other residents, the people I met in the village, and those surrounding Sainte-Valière all made my time there really special. I think there is a generosity to people who live in small villages. In that they value personal encounters in a way other people may not. There were a few nights where everyone would go to bed after dinner and the ones left would be you, Antoine and I. I'm thankful for these late night conversations about music, film, art, language and almost anything else we could think to share. I have a lot of admiration for you and your perseverance in creating Hôtel Sainte-Valière into what it is. I think all the residents can attest to how much you care about the residency as well as how it represents the village. More than this, I respect your ability to admit when things can be better and your openness in asking the opinions of those you want to cultivate the best experience for. At this rate, I predict the residency will continue to grow greater than it already is. 

 

 
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JONAS

I would not have been able to see as much as I did if it were not for you. When you picked me up from Arras we didn't really have a plan of where we were going or where we would end up but you left it up to me to decide. You were willing to drive so many hours in a day without hesitation and because of that I was able to see my brother in Czech Republic, my uncle in Spain and my cousin in Belgium. Still, the trip was not without setbacks which we experienced when the car broke down in Avignon and we were stranded for the night. That day when we were stranded while everyone was stressed out, you bought a deck cards so we could play to pass the time until we had a solution. It was a small gesture but I'm thankful for it. You had all the reason to be the most stressed but you didn't show it for our sake. I really hope that I have the chance to travel with you again.

 

 
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CARSTEN

We were at Rembrandtplein when you told me that if we were gonna make the last train back to Haarlem that we should have left already. We took an uber to catch the last one but we were dropped off a bit outside of the station. You had me run non-stop until we were both sitting inside the train, panting. You were laughing and I wanted to laugh as well but my mouth was so dry I could barely get a word out. I remembered something your mom told me earlier that day while we were sitting in the kitchen after she picked me up. We waited for you to get home from work and we talked about a little mishap involving you back in February while you were in New York. I mentioned how you had the ability to charm your way out of things and your mom said "that boy was born on a Sunday." Besides you actually being born on a Sunday, she told me that this is a Dutch expression for people who have the habit of getting away with things and the description was fitting. Last year when I was in the Netherlands I only saw Amsterdam and I was sort of lost in the things I think most people do when they visit the city. This time around I was able to spend some time with an actual Dutch family and see other parts of the Netherlands. Eating dinner in Bloemendaal and seeing Haarlem and Utrecht, were even better than my time in Amsterdam. You and your mom were incredibly accommodating and I'm glad I got to see a different side of the Netherlands because of you two. Thank you so much for your trust in me and the freedom you both gave me. 

 

 
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DANIELA

Visiting you in Brussels was the first time that we truly had a conversation together. Of course not literally but you were my older cousin and I was very much a kid all the times you visited New York and I was in Ecuador. Then when I went to Ecuador in 2015, you were married, had your first daughter and we didn't have the chance to really talk then either. Now you've been living in Brussels for a year and you have two kids. The thing I never really knew about Brussels is how much of a cosmopolitan city it is. Besides noticing this through their three national languages, seeing flags from different countries hanging from windows and finding a place to eat Ecuadorian food with you, I recognized that quality of the city in your children. You have only been living there for a year but their feasibility to switch from French to Spanish and vice versa, is really impressive to me. Both of our families are really large and I think I have always fell back on that support system, of having them around. You mentioned how you've sort of lost that when you moved but it is not hard to see that all the decisions you make is to ensure the best possible outcome for Amelie and Juan Miguel.

 

 
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TONY AND NIKOLA

I miss you both more than you know. Nikola, you have an incredibly special family. There was a huge language barrier between us and your parents and their respective partners but you could feel how much they care about you and Tony. As well as how willing they are to extend that love to the people important to you both. Sixth months is the longest time I've ever been away from you Tony but the day I arrived to Ceske Budejovice really felt like no time had passed. You two were living your lives in a different country and had this new routine but part of me still felt like you were both back home and we were bickering about little things. I think when we originally said goodbye in Ecuador, I wasn't so sentimental about it because part of me knew that I would visit you both soon, even before I had the actual plan to do so. But now it hits harder because while I'm positive I will see you guys again, there is this feeling of uncertainty. Mainly because I cannot predict how long it will be until then. Snix, I hope you never lose your impulse to learn about new things and the way you see your actions and how it impacts those around you as being bigger than yourself. Tones, I really miss your unwavering generosity, the way you offer support to all of us back home without hesitating even when you are all the way over there. I hope you never lose that quality of your personality. I love you both more than you know.

 

 
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Emil and Daphne

I could not have imagined a better way to spend my last days in Europe than the way I did with you both. The capacity you both have to talk about something serious while at the same time not taking yourselves too seriously is what I respect the most about the two of you. The amount that we laughed was too much to bear at times but I hope you both always keep this amazing sense of humor. I had the chance to see things with the two of you that I saw last time I was in Denmark like the Louisiana Museum and Christiania as well as new things like Reffen and Tivoli, with my friend Thorbjorn. I also appreciate you both putting up with my awkwardness on a bike as we rode around Copenhagen. I know that I slowed us down a bit at various points. This was a sight in itself. Emil, thank you for all your facts and history about the city as well as taking me to try the most decadent hotdogs. Ones that outshine the States in almost every aspect. Daphne, thank you for your open honesty about everything and for being the most hospitable person our age that I have ever met. I am certain that won't be my last time in Denmark.

 

 
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Clement

I can't thank you enough Clem, the best memories I made on this entire trip were because of you. When we first hung out at a Yankees game and at a Passafire concert almost two years ago, I didn't think I would see you past your time in New York. Thank you for showing me your home in Arras and taking me to see Lille, Bruges, Cassel, Versailles and even Sainghin-en-Weppes (the city that never sleeps). Celebrating La Fête de la Musique in Paris with you, Mathilde and Jessica is an experience I'll never forget and I have my stained white shoes to remind me. I've never encountered so many people outside dancing and the way you can find live music being played on almost every block throughout the day and into the night was really something else.

Learning to play pétanque with you and Valentin as well as celebrating his birthday with him, his family and friends is something I doubt I would have experienced had I been by myself. I want to thank your mom Isabelle for her warmth and how welcoming she was. I'm thankful for all the home cooked meals because this is the thing I usually miss the most when traveling. The grenouilles and the tartiflette she made were two things I loved that I don't know if I'll ever have the chance to eat here in New York. The cheese is on another level and if I wrote about all the ones that I enjoyed, the list would be too long. The best moments were spent in your dining room listening to the conversations between your mom, Quentin and your friends. Of course there was so much I did not understand but the more we sat there, the more I felt like I was beginning to learn French and the more I found it an incredibly beautiful language.

I originally wanted to create this journal entry after I left France because Arras was the one place during that trip that I wanted to stay in for as much time possible. When I was not in France though, I found it difficult to write about because I felt like I had not really left. After visiting Czech Republic and Spain, Jonas and I stopped by Antoine's to watch the Uruguay vs. France match with you and all your friends. The enthusiasm you all displayed when you won that game was full of so much energy. After that day we said that if France is in the final I would come back. I was in Brussels watching Belgium vs France and rooting for the French team to win. I couldn't display it so openly considering I was surrounded by Belgians, but the moment France won I bought my ticket to go back to Arras for the World Cup final. This was the best decision I could have made. 

You picked me up from Lille and we headed for Arras to watch the game in the main square. All the chants and people cheering had this effect on me. One where I was cheering along with you guys but had no idea what I was saying nor if I was saying it right. It was just this adrenaline of being surrounded by all these people who had so much passion and pride for their team. The score was 4-2 but even before the match ended people could not contain themselves. They chanted, screamed and threw their drinks in the air. When I saw you, your eyes watered and I felt why people are so passionate about this sport. The rest of the night people filled the streets cheering and celebrating. Being in Arras for France's victory in the World Cup Final was the best way I could have spent my last days in France. I left two days later and this time when I said goodbye, there was much more weight to it because I knew that I would not return, at least not during this trip. I've been lucky enough to travel to several places these past months and within the last two years but my time in France is unmatched. I'm grateful to have found a brother in you.

 

If I only wrote about the things I saw, it wouldn't represent my trip in the way I would like it to but if I thanked every single person I met, this post would be never ending. To all those people who I haven't mentioned, who showed me their cities, introduced me to new people and gave me new experiences, thank you. Those are memories I will always hold on to. As an illustrator, this trip gave me two sketchbooks that acted as my camera filled with memories and stories front to back. I've only been back for a week now but I'm certain that all the things I create moving forward will be to work towards my next trip.

I'm Still Learning...

I started a blog on my website at the end of November last year right before I went to Ecuador. I had these expectations of documenting that entire trip everyday as it happened. The first post I created happened sort of effortlessly because I was reacting to something. So I assumed that I would be able to do that everyday but this wasn't the case and a few of the posts I created after that now feel forced to me. I quit after a few days because I had food poisoning but even when I got better I didn't continue because truthfully, I did not have the motivation to, not in the way I felt it the first day. I didn't encounter that feeling again until a few days before my trip ended where I wrote in reaction to something again.

Today is the end of April and I haven't written anything since December. I had this idea that anything I would write about wouldn't be worth reading because I was not traveling anymore but looking back I regret thinking that. Since then a lot has happened and I don't know if I could write about it all in a single post but I'd like to share an update to anyone who may actually be reading this about what has been going on these last few months.

January

When I came back from my trip to Ecuador I returned to my part-time job. I thought I would continue working there until I could figure out what I would be doing with my Illustration degree. I was working there for two and a half years but things changed so quickly and working there when I got back from the trip felt like a different place from where I was before I left. It took me some time but I realized that I was not happy there anymore. So I gave a two weeks notice and left in the beginning of the following month.

February

I never tried being dependent only on freelancing before because I became comfortable with a steady paycheck. I didn't really know what to expect after leaving because I didn't know if opportunities would be out there. My first "gig" was doing these commissions for the website of a bed and breakfast but I notice more and more that those opportunities exists. I guess it is a combination of actively searching for them and chance. In February, I also participated in two shows at the Greenpoint Gallery. It's an amazing gallery space where anyone can submit and artists can exhibit/sell their work. Each submission is $5 dollars and you can submit up to five pieces. There are also live bands that perform every show and they have a show almost every Friday.

Back in October, my friend Sam Shumway brought me on as an assistant for this stop motion shoot he was doing with Nickelodeon. We created characters from Nick out of candy for "Candy Corn Day." He reached out and asked if I was interested in doing this again for a day of shooting in February because it was similar to the last one we did. This time it was for "Cereal Day" and we created characters from Nick Jr. out of pieces of cereal. I am mainly an illustrator but it was great to be able to learn so much from Sam and the way he works with stop-motion, props, fabrication and animating.

March

I had been a bit skeptical of freelancing apps or networks mainly because I actually had no experience using them. My friend told me about Fiverr which is an app where you can offer a "gig" to someone and get paid for it. I made an account the month prior but I sort of forgot about it because I had not received any offers. Eventually someone saw one of my listings and I had an offer where I was creating quick storyboards and got paid a fair amount for the work. The bummer is that Fiverr takes 20% of every gig. So I don't know if I could survive only working off of that platform but its nice to know that this is another tool that I am able to access as a freelancer.

I think the other thing that has been great about working for myself is that I when I have the time, I am able to create the work that I would like to be creating. I had started a comic back in October and I finished it in March and for me it was sort of a milestone. It was something I never imagined I would do. I knew storytelling is something I was always interested in but creating a comic and holding a hard copy was a big deal for me.

April

This last month for me feels like it went by so quickly. At the beginning of the month, I tabled alongside my friends Dylan and Abby at MoCCA Fest in Manhattan. I created some zines and prints to sell alongside my comic at the festival and that whole process has been a learning experience. Working with Abby and Dylan, I thought more of the way I present things and package the products I am creating. The last few days before MoCCA I created a series of "Travel Zines", one for three different places I traveled to and they are filled with sketches created during that trip. I've been fortunate to travel and I create these illustrations when I go to these places but these zines are the first time I recognized that those drawings could be used in different ways. I also created an online store through Etsy this month and I've uploaded a bunch of stuff that I had from MoCCA on there and I hope to add other things soon too. I've ordered my first set of enamel pins for the store which I'm excited to share once they arrive.

These last few months have left me a little uncertain about the future but I want to welcome that feeling because it leaves room for possibility. After I graduated from my university I found myself having conversations with people about the things we were supposed to be doing. I thought if I didn't have a full-time job I wasn't where I needed to be, but this is not the case. The things we do are not going to be so linear. What I do with my life is not going to be the same as the people around me and definitely not at the same pace. Before I quit my part-time job a lot of people asked me if I really thought it would be a good idea because there was a chance I might not make enough to sustain myself. Which is a valid concern but I think if I didn't leave I would have stayed comfortable with where I was. I was making money (which definitely was still not enough to sustain myself) but I was also unhappy. I don't know if I would have accomplished the things I did if I had not left, but I'm glad I did make that decision. I definitely don't have things completely figured out. To be frank, I'm clueless about a whole lot of stuff, but I'm learning and I'll keep learning.

Back in February I was accepted into a two-week art residency in the south of France. I bought a one way to France and my flight departs on May 30th. The program ends on the 15th of June but I thought I would travel for a bit after that. I'll keep a sketchbook with me for sure and draw the things I see and when I come back I'll keep working and I'll continue to figure things out.

If you read this whole post, thank you so much. I don't know if these entries will be frequent but I sincerely appreciate that you took the time to read what I wrote.

December 19th

 “Would you guys like a cup of coffee?”

 

Kjetil and I waited in my aunt’s living room for my uncle to return so he could bring us to the airport. We had just finished folding our clothes and were trying to pack everything into our carry-ons. I wanted to avoid carrying around this red suitcase. A suitcase filled with things my mom sent for our family here in Cuenca. On our way from Puyo to Cuenca the suitcase snapped. The handle just broke when it hit the ground too hard coming down the stairs.

 

I probably shouldn’t have dragged it as we walked down the stairs.

 

I was on a video call with my mom when I mentioned that our flight back to Quito would depart at 8:20. My aunt surprised tells us she had understood the flight was departing at 9 and that usually we should be at the airport an hour before. It was already 6:50. Paco was with Amanda at the ER because Eliani had fallen sick with a fever. I hang up the video call quickly because the extra hour we thought we had was cut short.

 

We tell Mirta that we should take a taxi because we couldn’t get in contact with my cousin Amanda and didn’t know what time they would be back. She tells me to speak to the guard of the condominiums so he can call a cab. While I run to the guardhouse, I think to myself that the things that don’t play out as intended are unfair. At least they feel unfair.

 

Now I think, it isn’t that it is unfair, just unfortunate. And while it is unfortunate, it is also necessary. Moments like these serve as a reminder that at times life will act beyond our control and we can only react.

 

Kjetil and I didn’t get to have that cup of coffee.

 

The taxi arrived within five minutes. We loaded up the cab with our bags and hugged Mirta goodbye. I felt my throat close up and my eyes water. She looks so much like my mother. I know it’s her sister and they have similar features but she looks so much like her. I felt like I was saying goodbye to another maternal figure I’m fortunate to have had. We head on our way to Mariscal Lamar, the airport in Cuenca. From the back of the car I see the uneasiness in Kjetil who was sitting in the passenger seat. I try to remain calm and tell Kjetil that will be arriving soon and that we have enough time before the plane departs.

 

I wasn’t calm. I kept refreshing the map on my phone to see how much time we had before we arrived to the airport.

 

Watching the little blue circle on my phone, I notice the driver goes straight past the airport. I ask him how long until Mariscal Lamar. I know how long, two minutes. At least that’s what it should have been according to the map. He had understood we were going to the bus terminal. He turns the car around and we head to the airport. Checking in and airport security was quick and we arrived to the gate ready to board.

 

A lot of things didn’t go “according to plan” during this trip. The night we arrived to Quito I was supposed to see two of my cousins who I had not seen in almost 11 years. But the day we left Cuenca to go to Quito was the same day they left Quito to go to Cuenca.

 

I also didn’t share as many posts as I wanted to after I got sick, but I have a lot of illustrations and pictures that I will continue to post and write about on here.

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Curveball

On Monday morning we had to get ready to take the bus to Baños. We all woke up to breakfast served at the table and spent the time we had left with Andrea and Isabella. Marthita said her goodbyes the night before because she would leave before we would wake.  

Angelito, Andrea and Isabella

Angelito, Andrea and Isabella

Tony at breakfast

Tony at breakfast

Once everyone was packed, we all crammed into Angelito’s car one last time and went on our way to the bus. Angelito apologized about the weather and the things we didn’t get to do but most of us will remember the things we were able to do and all the things we got to see because of him and his family. We were all still in the car when we saw the bus about to depart. Angelito honked the horn and we waved them down and the bus waited. We hopped out and began to unload our stuff out of the car and into the bus as quickly as we could. We said our goodbyes but Kjetil and I would return to Quito at some point towards the end of this trip.  

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The bus ride to Baños wasn’t too long, I was in and out of sleep on our way there so there was little I remember. I made some sketches of sights I saw on the way There is something very beautiful about looking at clothes drying on a clothesline.

Sights on the bus from Latacunga to Baños

Sights on the bus from Latacunga to Baños

When we arrived to Baños we checked into our Hostel Athene Moon. The couples each had their private rooms and Kjetil and I shared a room with one of the employees of the hostel from Israel and an older woman from South Korea. We unpacked our stuff and started walking around town to grab a bite. We walked into a restaurant that I was sold on because of entrees that cost around $5 but Niki and Franky found a spot where you had to take off your shoes and sit on the floor to eat. Luckily for me, the place they found didn’t open until 5 in the afternoon. 

 

I would regret this later 

 

Kjetil and I walked around town to explore. We went to Basilica Nuestra Señora del Rosario  and sat down during a service. The choir was beautifully jarring.

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Back in New York Kjetil mentioned how he wanted to get a haircut and we happened to pass by a barber shop. The guy that was working and cut our hair was Venezuelan and the shop was his brothers. He also taught us how to dance salsa choke. He taught us the basic step but he was really talented and could do more than we could keep up with.

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Niki learning the dance (the picture is blurry because it’s a video still) 

Niki learning the dance (the picture is blurry because it’s a video still) 

In the evening we went to the restaurant Niki and Franky wanted to go to and the environment was cool but we were so close to the fireplace I was sweating throughout dinner. A couple Amanda met at our hostel joined us. Lauren was from the UK and her boyfriend Inti was from Mexico. Lauren works as a freelance writer and Inti used to work as a designer for video games.

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Entering this trip knowing I would be here for three weeks I imagined there is a slight possibility a few of us get sick. What I didn’t predict was that it would happen five days into the trip. Kjetil was sick the first few days but this started before we left New York and he recovered pretty quickly.

On Tuesday morning I woke up in sweat. I felt nauseous and light headed and I had chills. I tried ignoring it for a bit while Kjetil and I went to find the rest of the group for breakfast. At the restaurant the chills began to feel worse and the trembling spread from my hands to the rest of my body. Franky, Amanda, Tony and Niki finished breakfast and went to go get ready because our original plan was to do the extreme sports (something this town is known for) before heading to our cousin’s farm. Kjetil and I were sitting at the restaurant and I asked a waitress for help. I explained to her my symptoms and she said she believed it was food poisoning and walked me to the ER. I waited under an hour and received a check up where the doctor determined it was food poisoning from the pork I ate at the restaurant I chose the day before. He gave me a prescription and when I asked how much everything would cost I was surprised that both the checkup and the medication were free. I told the group I would sit out from the sports but they decided it would be easier for all of us to go to our cousin’s farm earlier.

Nauseous and waiting for the bus to Puyo

Nauseous and waiting for the bus to Puyo