Wednesday, June 30, 2010


This was an essay question I answered for a scholarship. I enjoyed my answer so I put it here. =)

Essay question: "What does being productive mean to you?" (provide examples of how you have
been productive and the effect it had on your life)

Productive. If you asked me last year what this meant, I would explain how it is a description of a personality, a characteristic trait one possesses. But productivity has changed its meaning in the last year or so to me, ever since I entered my first year of college. Within the realm of society in the US, we can walk on nicely paved sidewalks, drink free filtered water, and wear comfortable clothes in easily adjustable indoor climates, and to be productive is to be useful for your own future and expect rewards for your positive results. “Productive” is the cause, and your dream coming true is the effect. And to be frank, there is nothing wrong with this mindset; even I lived with this reward system throughout my 13 years of schooling before college.
It was not the new academic setting that has changed my way of thinking; it was my work study position as a Social Justice Coordinator. Over my first year of college, I arranged three Justice Immersion Trips: to the eye opening event of twisted Governmental systems at the School of the Americas Protest in Georgia, to the core of Immigration issues on the US/Mexico Border in El Paso, and to the faces of those suffering from Homelessness in Denver. I have been a witness, victim, and leader of productivity and the lack of it. In fighting for Social Justice, there is no room for zero productivity. There is no time, space, or money in this world for slacking off, for procrastination. If there is one person in your organization that is not productive- lives are lost, homes are destroyed, families are separated.
So my definition is not what the comforts of America has brought to me, or what the school books in my own college has taught me, it is from the face of a homeless man in Denver, and the eyes of an immigrant farmer, and the mother of a disappeared child in Venezuela has hardened in me. Injustice is the cause, and to be productive in counteracting this should be the effect. And further, to be productive is not for your own future, but it is for their future, and for the future of generations to come into this world. It is not for your own dreams; it’s for those people who have lost the ability to dream. It is said in a dictionary that “productive” is an adjective. And I am going to say that this is false; in that productive is an action. It is an action that our future is dependent on. To be productive, is to be allowing everyone access to nicely paved sidewalks, drinking free filtered water, and wearing comfortable clothes in easily adjustable indoor climates. And I am being as productive as I can every single day.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Little Bee

Little Bee is a book I picked up with only 5 minutes of entering the Harvard Coop. There is something truly magical about this story that I can't really explain, mostly because it is all in the storytelling. I'm only 18 pages in, but I have learned a good handful of lessons for my lifetime. I also do not know how a white male can enter the head of a Nigerian woman entering the western world after being released from the immigrations centre. I won't tell you the entirety of the story, but below I have a paragraph that was beautifully crafted. Enjoy =) PS: If you could not tell, I highly reccommend this if you were looking for a new read. Only 11$ at the Coop =P

On the girl's brown legs there were many small white scars. I was thinking, Do those scars cover the whole of you, like the stars and the moons on your dress? I thought that would be pretty too, and I ask you right here please to agree with me that a scar is never ugly. That is what the scar makers want us to think. But you and I, we must make an agreement to defy them. We must see all scars as beauty. Okay? This will be our secret. Because take it from me, a scar does not form on the dying. A scar means, I survived. (Cleave, p.9)

Friday, June 25, 2010

"How Did You Like The Food?"

I was asked by a couple of people to post this. This was my little speech on the Border Awareness Experience at Mass a couple of months ago. Enjoy =)

How did you like the food?

Have you ever been on a beautiful vacation in a completely different culture, and had come back and told your friends? Do you remember the first, very first question they ask you? How did you like the food. Now that’s quite acceptable, after a vacation of course.

I didn’t go on a vacation. I went on a week-long trip, immersing myself in the heat of a very controversial issue: immigration. I was in the very heart of multiple organizations who were reaching out to these people. People who were, and still are, fighting to live, to feed their children, to find peace here in a country filled with opportunities that are becoming more and more limited. Yes, I am thankful for being born here, but why must they be denied the same opportunities?

You know, I also met these people. And what was amazing, was that they looked just like you and me. They are human beings, they are people.

While in Texas, we got an exclusive tour from Border Patrol. This tour was meant for politicians, or those related to them- but it wasn’t meant for a small group of young adults, a group from a private university in Minnesota. And the first thing we saw was a 20 min. video on how they are stopping terrorism; that these people are terrorizing our country. We then arrived at the 14 foot tall fence, where the holes in the fence were big enough to fit the fingers of a small child. It stretched too- for miles into the mountains, the very fence that drives people into deserts and dangerous terrain, where these people probably lose their lives before stepping onto our land. And do you know what this Patrolman said? A direct quote about when these people die, he stated, “Well it cost an innocent- well no, an immigrant’s life.” As if an immigrant was a criminal. Did you know that if they get caught, they get booked as committing a crime?

As I looked at the fence, trying to imagine the lives that were cost, Patrol was describing what the fence sometimes looks like. Try to imagine people leaving their homes; they’re going to bring their personal possessions on the long journey to the fence, their pictures, bags, shoes, jewelry, and their prized possessions. And when they arrive at the fence, they have to strip of all the stuff because life and death doesn’t have time for you to grab that photo of you and your daughter. Trash is what they called it. The Patrolman told how the fence was lined with “trash.” Would you call this trash?

When I got back to Minnesota, I was angered. I was enraged, and wanted to tell everyone about it. And do you know what everyone- and I mean ev-ry-one asked? How. Was. The. Food. I will tell you how the food is. The food is delicious. But you know what else? These people from Mexico, Argentina, Brazil, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, China, Japan, and more; these people have much more to offer us then great food. And we have more to offer them then a criminal record and a ticket to a house that is no longer their home.

I don’t know yet how we can achieve lands without borders, I don’t know if it’s possible, or even if it’s a good idea. But I can tell you, what we are doing right now isn’t a good idea either. I don’t have the answers, I have questions. I have so many questions, and right now that is better than me sitting silently. I dare you to ask questions too. To ask me what I witnessed, to not just settle with what the media tells you. You might be able to find someone who has the answer, a better answer than I do.

Our second reading has told us today, “Brothers and Sisters, join in imitating me, and observe those who live according to the example you have in us.” Please, observe those who are acting, right now. And imitate. And you can all start with a simple question.

How’s the food?

Monday, June 21, 2010

Bring Your Own Bag!!!

This entry has been a good month or so in the making with research, numbers, and my own little project. Thanks for waiting my readers =)

So in all honesty, when you go grocery shopping, what bags do you use? Do you use reusable bags when you go grocery shopping, or even shopping in general? Most of the world doesn't. My family has been transitioning to recycling and composting and reusuable bags, attempting to be "green." And this movement of "green" can get old real fast when growing up in the "e" generation. (The "e" generation standing for electronical, economical, environmental, educational, etc.) It didn't really hit me how important the green movement is until I was a witness to the amount of waste from a start up lab, grocery business, and educational system can produce in a given year. And I am going to start my green rant here, with shopping bags.

The Plastic Bag
This is the easiest for us to put our finger on in terms of an ungreen lifestyle. In a given year, 1 million birds, 100,000+ whales, seals, and turtles, and much more marine life are killed because of plastic bag litter. And just because you may reuse your shopping bag as a garbage liner, does not guarantee the bag will make it to a landfill. Due to poor handling, and simply wind, it can still make its way into (whats left) of nature. Also on the animals-being-killed rant, no matter how big or small these pieces of plastic bag there is, it is still indigestible.
Secondly, plastic bags take between 20 to 1000 years to break down, and they are in no way biodegradable. As they break down into smaller and smaller pieces, it becomes easier for animals to mistake for food, or it becomes "plastic dust," eventually polluting our air.
Also, natural resources. It takes 3 million barrels of oil to create 19 billion shopping bags. That is how many bags California uses annually. Lets not even consider the amount for the US, or even for the globe.

The Paper Bag
Paper isn't that great of a product either. Yes, paper bags are better for marine and animal life, but are not a solution to the environmental problem. Plastic bags actually take 40% less energy and less fossil fuels to produce. Paper bags also generate 70% more emissions and 50x more water pollutants than plastic bags. So its honestly your pick on which is worse.

Your Own Bag
Bringing your own bag will save you the trouble of trying to rid of both the plastic and paper bag. Neither one is good for the environment, and that can be explained because of the landfills. The landfills that your garbage is sent to will most probably be underground, cold, solid, and dry. To be honest with you, nothing can really decompose in a landfill today. A study actually had a newspaper from the 1960s from a landfill removed, and it showed that the paper was still intact and readable. So before the world can figure out how to properly dispose of garbage, it is your job to reduce the waste going into these failures of landfills.
It will also be a benefit to you as a shopper, because it can help declutter your living space. It can also help you budget your spending and food supply. If you bring two shopping bags with you, that is how many groceries you will get and won't leave much wiggle room for spontaneous spending. If you also don't bring more then one bag, you can manage the way you eat. A healthy lifestyle is more attainable.

My Experiment
As some of you know, I work at a small, locally owned grocery near the highschool. Since I was disgusted by how many bags was used, I took a tally. This tally was taken on Saturday, June 19th, from 4 to 9pm. I only included my register too. There are three categories, plastic, paper, and neither. These are the results.

Plastic Bags: 113
Paper Bags: 57
Brought Own / Did not Use: 65

I don't know if this disgusts, excites, or doesn't phase you. But to me it was more the percentages, which is more relevant in the pie graph.

I was rather impressed actually that a little bit over a quarter brought their own or simply did not use a bag. But really, the world needs that to be at least 50%. I was also disgusted with that Plastic Bags were that much as well. It should also be noted that I wasn't the only register, so one could assume we used 240 plastic bags in those 5 hours. These are numbers from a local grocer as well, just imagine the amounts on 10 registers at Shaws or Cub Foods. On the business side of things, I am a large supporter of being charged 15 cents per bag. Or giving a 5% discount if they did not use a bag. In terms of individuals, just bring your own bag. Help make that 28% a 50%. It'll do the world and yourself a favor.