Commuting From Home

After going through a life-long search to find the perfect house for my family, I knew that there was no way in hell I would be able to live in apartment that I could pay for myself until I was a functioning adult. Most of this sentiment comes in part by the reality of getting zero assistance from my parents to pay for an apartment and the other fees that come with this responsibility. And since the cheapest apartment I have ever come across that is close by to campus costs $900 a month, I have decided to live at home for my junior year of college. I know, I know, I think I might have lost my mind but at the same time, I have no problem being a scammer.

For the most part, I am a home-body. I like the comfort of having a home or at least little pieces of comfort that remind me of home. And I have made myself quite the home here at Emerson but I am looking forward to having real food, free laundry, and a couch that I can lay on without disrupting someone else’s personal space. If it was up to me, I would gladly live on campus next year but that’s not possible as the junior lottery is a fake scam in itself and there’s not enough space for everyone.

What I noticed the most about making the decision to live at home is that I get a plethora of reactions from those I mention it to or those who ask about my living situation for next year. Overall, people tend to respect my decision but I have gotten a lot of confused facial expressions, some form of amusement, and a lot of questions. And for the purpose of this post, I have decided to share these quirky questions and give you my equally quirky but honest answers.

Continue reading “Commuting From Home”

How to Have a Rad Spring Break at Home

Hello spring breakers! That infamous season is almost here. It’s one long week of wild, crazy, totally uncensored mayhem for college students to take full advantage of.

Some of you will undoubtedly be jetting off to popular destinations like Cancun, Miami, Jamaica, or the Bahamas. But what about those of us who are going to be stuck in the middle of nowhere, passing the days in our podunk hometowns? This year, I’m one of them.

Do not despair, my fellow staycationers. There is still hope on the horizon for rad times right at home. I have taken the liberty of planning out five days worth of mind-blowingly fabulous activities to sprinkle throughout your week at home, in between Netflix binge sessions and staring into the abyss, of course. I guarantee you’ll have just as much fun as your friends in palm tree paradise and all without damaging your liver!

Day 1: Beach Trip!

beach bonfire

The best way to kick off spring break is at the beach, no matter where that beach may be. If you live on or near the coast, you can probably find one within an hour of you. I know East Coasters like me will say that the beach is too cold in March, but have a little faith and you just might have more fun than you expect. And if where you call home has no beach access short of a plane ride, well, you’ll have to improvise. Are there bodies of water near you, like a lake or a river? Don’t write it off just because you think it isn’t “beachy” enough. Even a local pond can be a beach if you use your imagination like the great prophet, Spongebob, commandeth (though you don’t have to sit in a cardboard box.) Grab a beach towel, an umbrella to stick in the “sand,” some snacks and a cool, refreshing beverage. If the spirit moves you, I suppose you can even be “that guy” and bring along an obnoxiously large stereo to provide the necessary beach jams. On the east coast it might not be quite warm enough to wear a swimsuit, so this is where the imagination comes in. Bring along a bunch of friends, build a bonfire, wrap up in some blankets and feel the imaginary salt air on your face.

Day 2: Let’s Get Crafty

painted mason jar

Picture me rubbing my hands together maniacally as I prepare to plunge you into the magical universe that lies in the heart of the world wide web: Pinterest. I believe that there are three types of people in this world: those that love Pinterest and devote far too much time to it, those that vehemently reject Pinterest and all that it stands for and those who have not yet discovered it.

I have personally spent many an hour on Pinterest, scouring DIY craft ideas, home decor and yummy recipe boards alike. This fascinating website can improve your life in the realms of organization, creativity, time management, decorative skills, and more. One DIY craft I’ve always wanted to try is painting mason jars. There are endless possibilities for these cult-favorite drinking vessels–you can even make cute little herb gardens. Just type “craft ideas” into the search bar and you will embark on a wild ride.

Day 3: Nature Walk

nature walk

It’s time to put on your hiking boots (or at least some old sneakers you don’t mind getting dirt on) and become one with nature. If you live in a town full of boy scouts like I do, there are lots of mapped out trails all over town to explore. If not, you can probably find some kind of park or wildlife refuge not far from you. If you’re from the city, a public park works just fine, too. In the middle of a long week at home, it’s nice to go explore places you never knew existed. Bring some friends with you and walk around in the trees. You might even see some birds or other animals you never noticed before.

Just make sure to be safe–tell someone where you’re going and pay attention to where you are so you don’t get lost. 

Day 4: Pillow Fort!

blanket fort

Harken back to the days of your youth for the fluffiest, coziest day yet. It’s time to build a fort the likes of which you’ve never seen. The location can vary, but in your room would probably be most courteous to other members of the house. I used to build them in the living room and sadly they all got dismantled before their time. But you’re an adult now! Not only do you have the freedom to do with your bedroom what you wish, but you also have sharper engineering skills! Gone are the days of forts caving in due to poor foundation laying. You’re gonna do it right this time.

Once you’ve assembled the ultimate pillow fort, it’s time to bring in supplies. Snacks and drinks (when was the last time you had a Capri Sun?), adult coloring books, movies and books. If you’re the type, you could sit in there all day and read an entire novel. Or just watch “Napoleon Dynamite” all the way through. You are the king of the castle: the world is yours.

Day 5: Spa Day

spa

As Donna and Tom from “Parks and Recreation” once said: treat yo’ self. That’s right, this day is dedicated entirely to your comfort and leisure. The best part is that everything you need to make this fantasy a reality can be found right in your mother’s cabinets! You don’t even have to spend a dime. You just need a big ol’ tub, some simple household ingredients, a bathrobe, towel, and lots of bubbles.

The options for spa time are really endless, but my personal favorite is to draw a hot bath, put on some relaxing tunes, slather on a face mask and hang out in the bubbles for a while. Here’s a simple recipe for a fool-proof, soothing and moisturizing face mask:

¼ cup plain yogurt

2 tablespoons honey

1 ripe banana

All you have to do is cleanse your face, mash up that banana, mix it in with the yogurt and honey and smooth that gooey deliciousness all over your countenance. Leave it on for about ten minutes. If you want to get fancy, you can steam-open your pores before applying the mask by leaning over the tub as it fills with hot water. You can also add cooked oatmeal to the mask for more calming benefits. When you’re ready to take it off, rinse with cold water to close those pores back up! Then slip on a bathrobe and parade around in your slippers while continuing to treat yo’ self into oblivion!

Home Remedies for the Change of Seasons

The change of seasons and the cooling weather can make you sick. Getting a cold in college is never fun. Medicine at the pharmacy is expensive. The cold breeze seems to want to keep you sick.

I want to share with you some of my natural remedies to get over a cold.

  1. Sleep

Sounds obvious, right? Well many a times we are so caught up in our lives that we don’t want to take a break. When you are starting to feel your energy levels are down, allow your body some rest. Take a break that night, go to bed early and use the excuse to catch up on some Netflix.

  1. Honey and Lime

This is your best bet if you have a cough, and can also help you to get over a cold. Lime is a natural expectorant, which helps loosen the mucus in your lungs and sinuses. Honey is an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory, and will soothe a sore throat. You can also add ginger to the mix.

Just go ahead and mix the lime juice with the honey in a small bowl. You can take it with a spoonful. Do this at least twice per day.

Tip: try to get local honey. The darker the honey the more nutrients it has.

Read more here.

  1. Tea

When you’re sick, it’s important to drink liquids to help your body cleanse itself. Hot tea is a great option. It will soothe your throat and detox your system. My personal favorite is green tea, because it is so rich in antioxidants. I like to mix it with mint or ginger tea. Mint tea aids digestion, and ginger soothes the throat.

Try to drink as many cups of tea as you can. Add honey if possible.

Tea is a magical thing. Learn more about tea here. 

  1. Nasal Wash

It sounds gross. I know. I was terrified of nasal washes, but I had a terrible sinusitis a couple of months ago and the nasal wash was what cured me.

My favorite brand is Alkalol. It is made up of only natural ingredients and is not harsh in taste.

If your sinuses are clogged, don’t stuff yourself with medicines that will only block the mucus from being released. A nasal wash will cleanse your nasal passages and sinuses and will get rid of all the stuffiness. This will help you heal from the inside out, and will prevent you from having leftover mucus after you get over the cold.

  1. Yoga

You probably won’t want to go to yoga in the peak of a cold, and you shouldn’t. Even if you have never done yoga and are not interested in it, there are some yoga positions that can help you heal and release.

Yoga is much more than an exercise, it is an ancient practice aimed at helping us heal and relax the nervous system. I believe that yoga is an integral part of healing from any illness, and this is why I include it as such a large part of this article.

Do not be intimidated by the Lulu Lemon’s and the crazy Yoga Instagrams. Yoga can be extremely simple, and you can do it at home.

The following positions will help you relax and restore.

Try to stay in the positions for at least 30 seconds to one minute, repeating them 2 or 3 times. Your body is your best teacher, so hear what it has to say. Don’t overwork yourself. Most importantly, relax and breathe.

Bridge Pose

This position will open your chest in a subtle way and will allow blood to get to your head.

Supported Bridge Pose

If you like bridge pose, but simply want to relax in it, then this is the position you will want to take. Using a bolsters blankets (4) or blocks, slide them under your lower back.. Measure a height that works out for you. If you don’t have these props, pillows and towels also work.

Camel Pose

Camel pose will open up your back and chest. It will also clear your passageways.

This pose can be intense on your low back. Take it easy. Bend back slowly, with your hands on your lower back. If you feel like you can do more, then place your hands on your ankles. Come out of it slowly.

Plow Pose

This pose is considered to be the best to clear your sinuses. It will open your passages and bring blood to your head.

This is a position that can be hard if you are not flexible or have not stretched in a while. Take it easy and go for it slowly, don’t just swing yourself back. If your hamstrings are tight, bend your knees and place them close to your ears. Stay in the position for at least 30 seconds, breathing deeply.

Standing Forward Bend

Stand with your feet hip-width apart and slowly bend forward, trying to place your hands on the floor. If your hands don’t reach easily, bend your knees. This pose will bring energy to your head and respiratory area and help clear the sinuses.

Legs Up The Wall

Relaxes the groin and opens the chest area.

Lay on the floor and simply put your legs up on the wall. Relax and hold for a minimum of 3 to 5 minutes.

Now, remember to take it easy and don’t push your body. When you are sick, the body is asking for rest. Listen to it and feel better!

On a Changing Country: Coming Home to Costa Rica

After a long, snowy winter in Boston, I get on a plane to go home. Just before the plane lands, I can see from the window green mountains, rivers and valleys. I see home.

I was born and raised in Costa Rica and only moved away to start college in Boston three years ago. Three years does not sound like a long time, but in a small country like mine, it can mean a lot.

As my mom is driving me home from the airport, I can’t help but feel infinitely grateful for living in such a beautiful country (with perfect weather, if I may add.) On the way, I start to spot things that were not there before. ‘When did they build that new building?,’ ‘Wow that was not there last time I was here,’ ‘Wait, is that a P.F Chang’s?’Am I still in the States? Because I feel like I landed in the wrong country.

Costa Rica implemented the Dominican Republic-Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA-DR) in 2009. This is the first free trade agreement between the United States and smaller countries with developing economies: Nicaragua, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Costa Rica and the Dominican Republic. Costa Rica was the only country that voted through referendum on the signing of the agreement. 51% of Costa Ricans voted for it. 

Since then, the influence of the United States in the country has been heavier than ever before. Now, I can go home and walk through a mall that looks just like any American mall. There is a Forever 21, a Gap, a Chili’s and a Dairy Queen. There is even a Starbucks! A freaking Starbucks, where they sell coffee for 2,100 colones, which is approximately $4. And people buy it, because it is cool and from the United States. I have nothing against Starbucks, but coffee is one of the biggest industries in the country. Costa Rican coffee has been imported and sold to Starbucks for many years, and now Ticos are willing to pay for overpriced coffee produced by its own people, and that brings no substantial profit to the country only because its cool and American.

A country often considered ‘the happiest country in the world,’ where there is a sloth sanctuary, amazing waves and pura vida people. A country where there are no street names and a GPS will never work. It is also a country where now, you can find a Walmart.

Over the last couple of years, Costa Rica has become the most expensive country in Central America. Many national companies have started to set home in other, less fortunate countries in the area like Nicaragua and El Salvador, where labor is cheaper.

What makes me itch about this situation is that it is so upside down. Some Ticos believe the country has made a lot of progress and I agree in some respects. But I do not think progress should mean having transnational companies like Walmart, or hotel chains like the Four Seasons, come in and make money out of the land they have not treated. The money all goes back to them and the only progress made in Costa Rica are low end jobs for its own people.

As the country becomes more expensive with more American companies coming in, education and growth for its own people becomes less of an opportunity. Last year, public school teachers were on strike for over a month because the government had not paid them for over three months. Tell me, is this progress? What good is it to have more jobs from transnational companies, when the government cannot even set things straight to provide a salary for its educators? I know one is not related directly with the other, but my point is that the government that leads Costa Rica is so backwards that it is forsaking the opportunities of growth and empowerment that could be found in the country right now. The growth of the country and its economic opportunities should be encouraging education.

As Costa Rica keeps changing, filling it’s empty lots with buildings and brand name stores, I cannot help but worry. I do not want my country to lose its identity, which makes it unique and beautiful. So my question is, where does the country draw the line between progress and it’s cultural identity? How much can it benefit my country to be owned by transnational companies? Are we willing to lose our culture for brands? And when will it be that time that I come back home and don’t recognize my country anymore?

Self Discoveries at the Berlin Wall

Berlin 2014 016

I had always imagined that the Berlin Wall would be full of graffiti; however, to use such a term to describe the true art work that stood before me would have been an understatement. I could not help but become entranced by the beautiful illustrations as I moved from one mural to the next. Each one touching upon social, political and historical issues that have impacted not only Berliners, but people from all over the world.

While walking along the wall, I took in each segment carefully until I came across a quote that hit extremely close to home. In white and green text, first in German then translated to English, read the words: “Many small people who in many small places do many small things that can alter the face of the world.” I knew I was standing with my mouth agape, but I was not embarrassed. Instead, I was rendered speechless, far too immersed in my own thoughts to be self conscious.

I have always had an insatiable wanderlust that the small town nature of my home state has never been able to quench. I’d be the first one to defend Rhode Island and I can understand why a typical Rhode Islander never leaves—the state is beautiful, after all— but the usual routine of attending the local college or university, finding a job and starting a family not too far away from the town where I grew up was never the life I wanted for myself. So the summer after graduation, I packed up my childhood bedroom to move out-of-state and officially begin my freshman year at Emerson College.

It was not long until I signed up for the Kasteel Well study abroad program, even though I knew that getting in would be a long shot. About two months later, I received my acceptance and my fascination with the notion that I could break the mold and do more and be more than the generations who came before me was stronger than ever.

Considering how much I’ve grown in the past two years, I couldn’t help but wonder what that quote on the Berlin Wall would have meant to me in high school. Would I have felt just as moved by it as I do today? I’d like to believe so. Looking back on all my teenage angst and desperation to hit the road, I think that that quote just put into words what I had always felt and never knew how to articulate; how simply that quote was able to summarize one of my life’s aspirations: to be one person from one small state who, through her experiences and interactions with others, lives in a way that can help change the world.

Even as the other members of my group had continued along the sidewalk of the East Side Gallery, I found myself lingering behind to pull a pen out of my purse. Although unsure of how to sum up the personal significance of the quote, I began to sign the Berlin Wall:

“This is important.” –Charlotte 10.12.14 

And it still is. It’s been almost a full semester since I’ve returned from the Castle and I still find myself thinking about this quote from time to time. From that point forward, it has continued to serve as a reminder that the “little” things I’m doing here in Boston or even back home still matter. Yes, travelling Europe was an awfully big adventure, but I no longer believe you need to travel across the ocean to find yourself or make a difference in the world.

There are small moments in the everyday where I am discovering new pieces of myself. The Castle pushed me out of my comfort zone but now I’m finding myself taking those new skills and applying them to my experiences here, the ones that may seem small to some people, but to me, are the most important thus far.

I don’t think my time here in Boston is complete just yet; after all I still have two years of college to get through, but at the same time, the idea of settling back in Rhode Island post graduation no longer makes me cringe. It can be easy to feel like you’re above going home, but at the end of the day, adventures can be created anywhere and even the smallest of people in the smallest of places can make a difference. And perhaps the most surprising part of that revelation is that it took going to the biggest of places to discover it.

Homecoming

Although I recognize that “home” may not always be the place where people feel the most welcome, it certainly hasn’t been that way for me. There is always something special about going back home after being away for a long time.

First, there’s the food. For the most part, it’s good. It has taste, substance and doesn’t instantly send you running to the bathroom. Most of the time, even if it isn’t necessarily good, it’s familiar and it’s something you’ve grown up with your whole life, which is a feeling that always makes me smile.

Then, there’s the comfort of being somewhere that you know like the back of your hand. You can stumble out of bed in the morning and make your way to the bathroom without even fully opening your eyes. You can sink your into the familiar spots of the pink carpet that you picked out when you were five and the horse posters on the wall offer a bit of comfort that the Fight Club posters in your dorm room never quite will.

And of course, there’s the people. You may not always get along with your family and your friends from home may be far from perfect, but there is usually someone that you’ve been dying to see. Personally, I find myself constantly surprised by the people I end up missing after being away from home for a while. Sometimes, you end up missing the weirdo kid you’ve known since first grade who actually makes you laugh or maybe it’s your best friend’s ex who was kind of a jerk but now is sort of getting his act together.

There’s something about home, something so comfortable, that comes back to you in unexpected ways. And of course, if all else fails, at least there’s the food.

Home Is Where the Heart Is

Think of middle school. Try not to cringe.

The reason I say this is because for myself, and for most people I know, middle school is our most embarrassing time period in our past. (I feel my face turning red even just thinking about it.)

There were braces and Hollister t-shirts that were so simple and boring but cost a fortune. There were crushes, AIM profiles and giggles exchanged next to vending machines– attempts to talk to cute boys from class. There were angsty pop-punk lyrics written in your math notebook and Jonas Brothers posters hanging in your locker (maybe this was just me, but humor me here.)

I think of that time and feel utterly astounded that I had any friends at all, never mind many of the same friends that I still consider some of my best friends now. I stop and think about it and realize that my friends at the time were just as cringeworthy as I was.

We were all navigating “teenage years” and constantly changing social hierarchies. We were coming to terms with our bodies as “adults” and feeling more emotions than we thought possible at such a young age. Life was starting to become real, at times too real, which is why we whispered to our friends over a bag of Doritos at 4 a.m. on Friday nights.

And I think there’s something so inherently beautiful in that. The friends I cried on the bathroom floor with when I was thirteen over a bad report card became the people I turned to when I had my first broken heart. They were the first people to call me out when I lied about being okay, because they had seen me in middle school when absolutely nothing was ever okay.

Friends that you have grown up with just fit you so perfectly. You were shaped and formed all throughout your childhood and adolescence and during this time you were surrounded by people that slowly filled the cracks with laughter and salty snacks. When you are an “adult”, or at least you are told you are one, these friends have already been cemented, a foundation so strong and unforgettable that it can never be ripped apart.

Small Town Tourist

When I originally pitched my idea for this blog post I planned on going out, exploring my town like a tourist (seeing things like museums and parks) and then going back home and writing about them. In the process of writing this article I would look back on my day and think something like: “Huh, my town really isn’t that bad, I’ve been acting like a brat these last 12 years.”

A few weeks have gone by since I pitched that idea. In the mean time, I have worked on articles for Atlas and other blogs that discuss my life in Stuart, FL. I’ve thought a lot about my position here and planned to give this article more of a positive spin.  I even went out to a museum, saw a show and was prepared to write about that.

I realized in this process though that going out to new places I wouldn’t normally go to (though an interesting experience) was not going to change the tense relationship I have with my hometown. This happy conclusion was the point I was assuming I would make at the end of my original article. When it came time to actually write that though it felt extremely sugary and fake.

The truth about Stuart is that no one here is a tourist. I guess there must be people whose cars break down on their way to Key West and instead of being tortured by serial killers or sacrificed to fields of hay, they are greeted by a town full of charming citizens. Those are the only people I can think of who might reside in the rooms of our local Marriott Hotel.

This is mostly because Stuart is strictly a family town. My hometown, like so many others, is extremely safe and quaint. It’s ideal for bike rides, Christmas parades, and cub scouts, perfect for raising children. (I had a job when I was 16 where my only responsibility was to go around to festivals and shops and blog about how cute my town was. Seriously. That was my job. It was for a real estate company and they said Stuart’s charm was its number one selling point for new families.) Everyone here is part of a family and they probably have a sister whose best friend is dating your brother and works at the local barber’s shop. Most of the “festivals” are exhibits of old locals paintings and the shops cater to dog lovers and new parents.

Because there is no reason to stop here on your road trip, there is no reason tourism would exist. Because of this, I found it extremely hard to look through the eyes of the nonexistent tourist.

But then I thought- and this is where this post gets super meta- what if there was a tourist in Stuart, what if I had been a tourist all along? It makes sense. Sure I lived in Stuart, but it never really felt like I belonged there, so it wasn’t a home. I’d always planned on leaving and going to school in a big city, so was I not just biding my time until I moved on (like Stuart was some kind of cheerful, hotel-like purgatory)? So, I originally planned to impersonate the tourist identity for a day, only to discover I had been residing in it all along.

Of course, I’m not the only teenager who feels this disconnect from where they grew up. (Isn’t that feeling the characterization of every young adult novel available in Barnes and Noble?) But because of this realization I now find that I can write about how to act like a tourist in your hometown. You don’t have to go to museums and live theatre (though they’re totally cool) you just gotta act like the rebel babe you already are. For me, personally, this means at least these three things, all day, every day.

1.) Drive around your town with the windows down playing loud, mildly offensive music. A personal favorite of mine is Kanye West (but the clean versions; your act of rebellion should not hurt the children). Bonus points if you have a cute, unassuming car.

2.) Wear the weird ass clothes you normally wear at Emerson and let people call you a hipster but whateves because you look great. You’re expressing yourself and they just don’t understand.

3.) Get mad at your parents even though they didn’t do anything wrong. Feel bad for them and yourself, apologize and continue to glare at the world outside your window.

It’s a tough life feeling like a stranger in your own town. Of course as a tourist it is implied that you’re traveling and wandering, so rest assured that your days of wandering will one day end and you can go and discover a place that feels more like home.