August 29, 2013

The Promise

Coco, my baby

One of my favourite blogs out there has got to be Gala Darling. I love how this woman's always full of energy and good feeling, I love her absolutely amazing way of writing, and I love her mission: transmitting what she calls radical self love.

I was just reading her blog, and realized today's the day when she posts her "Things I Love Thursday," where she basically shares all those things she's thankful for... This inspired me to make my own thankful post.

When I started this blog, I remember choosing Laura of the Valley as its name because it made me think of lilies, my favorite flowers. And, among them, lilies of the valley are particularly special because they are a symbol of returning to happiness. I remember saying that moment of my life was my definite return to happiness...

And I think I've achieved it!

Being happy doesn't mean you can't feel sad, angry, disappointed or frustrated. To me, being happy is learning to accept this moments and working to get over them. Being happy doesn't depend on a specific moment in your life, but it is something that happens in the long term.

I was born in a rush. And this made my life quite stressful until a couple of years ago. But I realized that this was taking me nowhere, and I needed to take life easier; only that way, I'd be able to enjoy it completely! Of course, there are some ups and downs (nipples and thorns, some good friends of mine would call them), but, in general, I'm aware that if I keep my happy objective in mind, I will definitely achieve it.

In the end, happiness is a state of mind, isn't it?

That means that only we can work to achieve our own happiness! It doesn't depend on friends, relationships or material things (although I guess these might help a little bit). It's something we do for ourselves. And this is probably one of the things I admire the most in Gala Darling. I'm pretty sure she knows there are some hard times in life, but she manages to make it worth every single day. And she teaches women to love themselves -which is, to me, the ultimate form of happiness-, which is even more admiring!

Today I went back to that first post of this blog, and realized how happy I am. I'm still learning to know myself, and I'm trying to find who I am. Over the past few years, I've changed a lot, and I'm pretty sure that the girls who's starting her senior year in college is very different from the one that graduated from high school. But, in the end, it's the same Laura and the same baby her mum always admired for laughing hard, even in difficult times... And it's the same Laura that loves exploring life and finding loving, happy moments in every single atom of it!

And it's the same Laura that made a promise to be happy and share her happiness to the world... A promise I want to restate today!

Thank you for reading!


August 28, 2013

A very opinionated post...


As many of you might already know, today we're celebrating the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr's I Have a Dream speech. I remember hearing it for the first time when I was in middle school, and it was used as an example of how to give a good speech. We studied all the literary figures he used and we analyzed the way he spoke...

But I remember that I had a difficult time doing this job (even though I already was a big nerd by then...) because I couldn't help but get distracted about discrimination, which is, indeed, the big idea he's talking about. I was born and raised in a family that claims to disagree with discrimination but, unfortunately, the society that shaped their way of thinking is nothing but discriminating. I live in a country where, unfortunately, Afro-descendants and natives don't have the same opportunities as white people, where women face gender-based violence of all forms in a day-to-day basis and where there is a general lack of acceptance and tolerance towards what's different. All in all, I live in a place where discrimination is present all the time!

One particular form of discrimination––probably the one that bothers me the most––is the one faced by those who are disabled. Mentally or physically. (And I'm really sorry if I'm not being PC here, but I just want to make my point clear). I could say I'm already over the lack of infrastructure and facilities especially adapted for people who need them. There are no elevators, if they don't have a car and/or enough money to pay for a cab, public transport will definitely not work for them... And nobody is willing to help. The government does have a limited budget, but a great part of it is probably being lost in corruption and not reaching those parts of the population that really need a little bit of investment on their welfare.

I'm also over the whole health issue. To be honest, health services just suck in Colombia. There's no coverage and those who do have access to health services need to be healthy and rich in order to get them. If there's someone handicapped, then they won't get all they need because health insurance companies won't cover them at all.

But what I'm not over is the lack of opportunities for education and everything that's related to it. At my university––which is so proud of being "the best" in the country, and is supposed to have the best educated students here––, there's one special boy who has a limited ability to walk. He's been improving, and I really admire him because I honestly don't understand how he manages to live here. It takes huge guts to have made it so far (I'd say over 2 years). But whenever people see him around, nobody gives him the chance to go by, or let him take the way. Everybody is just so into being "the best" that they don't give a penny for the rest of the world. To me, this is far from well educated and the best university. We don't only need to learn mathematical models, but we need to become citizens of a democracy, where there are some people who deserve special attention just because they don't have the same opportunities as we do.

Now, going to another university... I honestly had some hope for this one, especially in this human focus mine clearly doesn't have. But I was probably wrong...

A beautiful girl who has some physical issues that make her learning process really complicated and much slower than ours, was given the opportunity to enter one of the most demanded courses in the country. This university made a compromise and decided to acquire the responsibility of helping her––and this included making the lecturers help her as well––in her special learning process. But truth is, this probably won't work.

I realised it when mid-terms came. All the students in one of her history classes had to write some sort of paper -during the exam- about the topics they had studied during the semester. She had also studied, and I'm pretty sure she would have been able to write this paper, if she was given a laptop and some extra time. When she told me everything she'd learned, I could have easily confused her with the lecturer. She was a pro.

But the professor––if that's how he's supposed to be called––decided to "make it easy" for her, and give her an oral exam. Cool, I thought, she'll just need to tell him everything she just told me. The problem was that this guy wasn't willing to spend more than 10 minutes on this examination, and he asked her two questions she could only answer I with a couple of words. Is it me, or this is just unfair?

Instead of giving better opportunities to these people––and I'm sure these two cases I know are only a few––universities are probably making life a lot harder on them. And the government doesn't help... And we don't do either! So what's going to happen to them?

Going back to Martin Luther King Jr, I'd say this is clearly a new form of discrimination. And our societies need to become aware of this. There's nothing the government will do if we don't ask for it, as citizens. And we probably won't do so because we're too sunk in our own lives to think about others and to realise there are people out there who need some of our help.

My contribution is fighting with everybody who gets in the way of this kid at my university. Or with people who use parking spaces that are specially designed for people with disabilities while they're in perfect shape. Or with people who fill up elevators when they see there are people in wheelchairs waiting to use them...

I hope this blog post also makes a little contribution. I hope it, at least, makes you think about it. Maybe the next time, you'll take the escalators. If you do, I'll send you a big virtual hug!


August 21, 2013

The Wall

The Wall

I found this amazing graffiti at the East Village the other day. It's nothing but perfect, colourful and very full of summer! If you're asking yourself why, there's no apparent reason. I personally love graffitis... There's something about them that always catches my attention. And Diego loves art, in general. So why not?

Speaking about graffitis, I just remembered a group of students who did an excellent job about a year ago on urban cultures and graffitis in the class I was assisting. The interesting thing was that graffiti artists were uniting here in Bogota to claim for their rights and they were getting paid to embellish some parts of the city with their graffitis, and to remove the ugly tags (those that only contain names or short––often political––phrases).


August 19, 2013

A Day At The Museum

Museo Nacional

Museo Nacional

Museo Nacional

Museo Nacional

Museo Nacional

Museo Nacional

Museo Nacional

Museo Nacional

Museo Nacional

Museo Nacional

The summer is reaching its end and that means I'm now back home for some time... I'm back in uni, meaning I need to start focusing on my studies and do some work! Although there are some lucky ones who still have quite a long time of holidays left, I'm pretty sure that many of you are in my situation. But if there's something I can say about it, is that it's absolutely not an excuse to stop having fun!

Being back home has meant seeing some of my friends again and, what's best, getting to hang out with my lovely sister again! And that's exactly what we started doing last week, as soon as I arrived from New York: we went to the Colombian National Museum, where they're showing this amazing exposition about the gods, myths and religion in Greece, showing a ceramics collection from the Louvre Museum.

The exposition is only one room, but it was pretty enjoyable, although, to be honest, if you've been to the Louvre, it won't change your life. However, I wanted to go and see it, as my own way to support art here in Colombia. I've always had the impression that it's one of the things that people don't really appreciate that much here and, although it's improved in the las few years, we still have a long way to go in such cultural aspects...

What I did find amazing in the exposition was another room –especially designed for children– full of didactic activities designed to teach them how the Greeks lived. My sister and I decided to just be us, and lost our mind there! We were the happiest "kids" there! Among the different activities, we got to play with the Greek alphabet, send sand messages to the gods, and swing to avoid becoming crazy!


Photography: Laura Beltran-Rubio

August 13, 2013

New York: The Last Weekend

As I told you on yesterday's post, my last weekend in New York was a very exciting one. It all started on Thursday, when Diego and I woke up at noon, had a lazy breakfast in bed (made of orange juice and cereal with soymilk) and then headed out to the Big Gay Ice Cream Shop to eat their delicious salty pimp (i.e. ice cream with salt).

I was then off to the Hilton at the Ave. of the Americas, which I didn't leave until Sunday, having one of the best adventures in life. I had the time to get inspired at the wonderful New York Public Library and write about maternal health in the sex industry, as well as being part of a wonderful leadership workshop, based on individual personalities. There was also time for some fun, which included spending a whole afternoon at Central Park and having dinner at the wonderful Ellen's Stardurst Dinner.

The people that spent the weekend with me are all absolutely amazing and I couldn't have changed the time I spent with them for anything. I learned a lot, and I grew as a person. I really can't thank them enough for giving me such an amazing time!

Now I'm back home –back to reality– and working hard. I miss my Diego and my loves from the Hilton. I wish I could go back now!


Photography: Laura Beltran-Rubio

August 12, 2013

Travel Diaries: New York, Day 6

On my sixth day in New York, Diego and I went for lunch to The Smith, in East Village.

For a starter, we ate the most delicious fried calamari. I loved them because they had spicy tomato sauce, which was something completely new to me. I don't know how common this is, but it was no less than a new food adventure in my life.

Then came the grilled chicken paillard, which was probably one of the best combination of chicken-salad I've ever had in my life. The chicken had this truly unique grilled taste, the salad was fresh and the dressing was absolutely appropriate!

We were full after lunch, but we definitely wanted some dessert. So we went all the way up to the Upper West Side, where we had dark chocolate chocolate chip cookies at Levain. We actually shared one, since they are monstrous! If you've ever had them, you might understand why: their size is just completely out of normal! And so is their taste: best cookies ever!

We went back home walking, taking our time to digest all that food. We went to Lincoln Center and enjoyed the water fountain, and had a good night sleep before the weekend. I'll explain more about it on my next post, but my weekend was the most exciting I've had in a while, so that's why this day was more of a relaxing type of day!


Photography: Laura Beltran-Rubio

August 10, 2013

Travel Diaries: New York, Day 5

I've realised that, so far, my trip to New York has been an eating adventure. I don't know if you've noticed it, but all I've been doing so far is eating! I've actually been working for the past couple of days (which is the real reason why I came here), but most of the week was spent eating unhealthily!

My fifth day in New York was no exception to the rule... So I had Poutine in Pommes Frites for breakfast. This was probably a bit unhealthy (and I don't even feel guilty about it!) but it was absolutely delicious! Who doesn't like fries at any time of the day?!

We then had lunch at Miss Lily's, where I ate the most delicious fish sandwich ever. And let me tell you this takes a lot, since I'm not that much of a fish lover. Getting me to say that something that has fish in it –except if it's sushi– is that delicious actually breaks a record!

For the drink... I chose watermelon juice from Melvin's Jukebox –at Miss Lily's as well. This was, too, absolutely delicious! But I must tell you that what I liked the most about the place was the music. It was all tropical and full of energy and it couldn't go better with the decorations and the general idea of the place. If you don't believe me, you should totally try hearing their broadcast at Radio Lily!

We then spent a few hours in the sun at Washington Square Park, until we got soaking wet because a boy started playing with the water in the fountain... Refreshing, but not quite appreciated!

After that, we went to Strand to do these geek things I love like finding cool books –and a couple for college, too– and going over my favourite fashion books.


Photography: Laura Beltran-Rubio

August 9, 2013

Travel Diaries: New York, Day 4

On our fourth day in New York, we woke up early to do some work at the Fashion District. For those of you who are interested, my mum owns a boutique, and she gave us the honourable task of curating the items she’ll be selling for the fall. I felt really proud that she trusts us so much, and I truly loved doing this type of job. In the end, who wouldn’t love shopping for a job?

After such a long morning working, we ate lunch at Luke’s Lobster one of my favourite places in the city. Diego suggested we should get the so-called Noah’s Ark, which is a combination of Lobster, Crab and (something else I can remember) rolls, but I chose to have my beloved Lobster Roll. We had it with the hand-made sodas they sell at the place, which were also pretty delicious.

After lunch, we walked all the way up to the MoMA, where we watched a movie. It was called National Security and, although I was a bit shocked by the end of the movie, I must admit that it was really good. It was mainly about torture in South Korea in the 80s, so I didn’t like that part… But the effects were really good and the protagonist was a great actor. And, although it was a bit crude, it was just perfect to illustrate reality!


Photography: Laura Beltran-Rubio

August 7, 2013

Travel Diaries: New York, Day 3

My third day in New York was kind of a lazy one, especially because it was Sunday and we were tired from partying the night before. Diego and I woke up near noon, had a late breakfast and then were ready to go.

We went to China Town to buy some exotic sweets, to take back home, but we ended up spending most of the day there. We tried lots of different fun sweets (I particularly loved the ginger ones), and then had late lunch there. We went to a noodle place Diego had tried before, and had noodle soup with won-tons and noodle soup with mushrooms. They were much better than their looks in the pics below, trust me!

We went to Times Square at night –something we hadn't done in a while– and walked all the way back. All in all, it was a good lazy day. There's nothing better than just hanging out around New York.


Photography: Laura Beltran-Rubio

August 6, 2013

Travel Diaries: New York, Day 2

On my second day in New York, Diego and I went to the Met Museum to see the exposition Punk: Chaos To Couture. It's truly amazing to see the huge impact of punk culture in fashion.

Pictures were strictly forbidden... But Diego –probably inspired by all these rebel punk ideas– managed to take a few, which I'm sharing with you on this post.

After visiting the exposition, we were starving, so we went to Lexington Candy Shop, where we had the best egg sandwich ever, with onion rings and chocolate milkshake. It was everything but healthy, although truly delicious!

We walked by home, having a beautiful promenade on Park Ave., Madison and the Fifth. We then had a little nap, and then were ready to go out. We went to phd, where we met a hilarious Australian girl who didn't stop dancing in the whole night. I'd never seen someone with all that energy! I loved her! We also saw Cee Lo Green having a good time on the table right next to us. But what I loved the most was the view of the Empire State right from the terrace of the club.


Photography: Laura Beltran-Rubio