Becoming an expat

So I haven't written on my "present" blog since being in California, which feels like forever ago. So much has happened between now and then. For brevities sake, I continued through California, saw friends in Arizona and New Mexico, then spent three weeks with my dad in Texas (but also during that time I drove up to Kansas to watch the eclipse, though it was a bit overcast). I then flew to New Jersey and saw my two favorite bands (The Bouncing Souls & Lucero) perform on one stage! It was an amazing summer needless to say, filled with friends, family, national parks, music, and booze! 

Me & Stephanie at the Stone Pony before the Souls and Lucero played!!

Me & Stephanie at the Stone Pony before the Souls and Lucero played!!

It was then time to take the big trip east! I flew from Newark to Lisbon, Lisbon to Budapest. Thankfully, for a small fee, I was able to upgrade to first class on the last leg of my flight, which was pretty cool. I had already arranged a car to pick me up, and it was waiting for me as I exited bagging.  As we pulled up to my apartment, we were stopped a block short, as they were shooting a motorcycle scene for a upcoming spy thriller (my guess is The Red Sparrow with Jennifer Lawrence). My landlord, was thankfully waiting in the doorway, and then showed me around the neighborhood, also taking me to different ATM's to get the rent, since my card wasn’t working right away. My colleague and office mate, Yoav, saw I had arrived and invited me over for a small get-together. By the time the day was over, I was exhausted. The next day, I found my office and began to settle in, which my office is one of the only ones at CEU that overlooks the Danube River and the Buda Palace! 

View from my office!!

View from my office!!

Before I could get too settled in though, I was whisked off to Barcelona for the European International Studies Association, to give a presentation. For all my academic friends who may be reading this, know that this is one of my all-time favorite conferences to attend. Not only is it held in beautiful places (last time I went it was in Sicily, Italy), but most of the panels are critical and interesting. As on of my committee members Jairus Grove first explained it to me, "it's all the cool theory kids from around the world, who usually go to ISA, and without all the boring normative stuff." And sure enough that is what it was, both times. This time I was able to make a lot more connections and made a lot of friends who I will hopefully work with in the near future on different projects around militarism! The panels were great, the people were fantastic, and the food was amazing. I feel a little bad that I missed the last day, since me and some new found friends/colleagues were out till 7 am having fun! But that's the price for fun I guess.

La Sagrada Familia

La Sagrada Familia

I returned to Budapest reinvigorated to write. So far I have submitted one article for publication, another intervention series article, and a book proposal. I have also transitioned multiple chapters from dissertation format, to read more like a book should. Needless to say I have been a bit occupied. Though I have been trying to have fun as I have been exploring the city. The beginning of this past week my buddy Nic from SteakOut and his partner Kelsie, visited and we did a bunch of touristy things! Other than that I have been spending a lot of time playing my phone games, finding new places to eat, and arguing with folks on Facebook (mostly over the NFL players who have been kneeling in protest of the injustices folks of color face in this country and as of late gun control, which I will likely write about soon).

           There is a lot of things you learn about yourself when moving to a new country all by yourself. First and foremost is how much you rely on your community and how much you miss it once you don’t have it anymore. So much we all take for granted. But sometimes we need to go somewhere else for inspiration, or to be remotivated. Or how much you miss the little things, like good tacos, and being able to clearly express your thoughts to a complete stranger knowing they speak the same language as you (likely). I have found the bureaucracy sucks just as bad in other countries as it does in the US (sometimes worse since I do not speak the language, though sometimes that makes it better, ha).  I also realized that while I'm a decent cook, if my life depended on it, I could not make you an omelet (for some reason, there is something about folding the egg in half that always gets me). It gets lonely at times and it is those times I regret my decision, but then there are those moments when I am walking down the street gazing at beautiful old buildings or sitting in a café listening to all the different languages, that I am happy and thankful to be living in a different country & culture. That this is an amazing adventure, there is no doubt, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything (ok, that's not true, but there's not much I would trade it for).

 

         I really hope to start exploring more of Europe in the coming months! I'd like to get a few more countries off my list (currently sitting at 30). So we will see what adventures are on the horizon. That is my update for now. Hopefully more folks come to visit me soon, and I can show you some of the beauty Budapest has to offer! :)

The Parliament Building (Yes, that was shot with my iPhone!)

The Parliament Building (Yes, that was shot with my iPhone!)

Colorado to California

As I left Colorado a mix of excitement and yet a bit of sadness swept over me. On the Colorado/Utah border was a sign that said, "Now Leaving Colorful Colorado," and I thought to myself, when will I be back to this state that I love; honestly, I do not know. I drove across the Utah desertscape admiring the barren mountains, and playing cat & mouse with 2 blue cars down I-70. Then I turned South and headed towards Bryce Canyon National Park, arriving around 2 PM. The scenery was beautiful, but it upon first look, I realized that this would be a quick stop as my main goal was to visit Zion National Park. A quick downpour freshened the area as I pulled into Zion. The set up is interesting as half of the park you can drive through, while the other half you must take shuttles to. I ended up hiking around 8 miles seeing as much as I could see before the sun set, and taking the last shuttle out of the park.

Bryce National Park

Bryce National Park

Zion National Park

Zion National Park

The drive from St. George to Yosemite was long, but cathartic as I drove through the lonely deserts of Nevada and California. There were times when there was not another soul on the road, which was liberating and unnerving at the same time. I thought about the thousands of people driving on the interstate, and wondered why no one took these back roads and small highways. There was so much beautiful scenery, that many will never see, perhaps it's a secret that those who live there want to keep. Do those who live there wish to escape, or to be seen, or are they there to stay hidden and live in their slow pace of life? I pondered these things as I drove the windy roads, one being like a 10 mile long rollercoaster that had steep inclines and declines, making your stomach turn if you drove it too fast. Some of it looked like a fairytale, some a nightmare, but is there really a difference between the two…

I arrived to the backside of Yosemite and took my time driving through, stopping to take in the beautiful vistas, north of the Yosemite Valley. As driving in, a quick glimpse of Half-Dome could be seen, which excited me for the day to come. Driving through Yosemite National Park a wave of loneliness swept over me. There was so much beauty around me, and I just wished there was someone to share that with on a more intimate level. Strange enough, one of my favorite artists came over the radio, Tim Barry. It was a song titled, Wait at Milano, and it opens with him singing, "Let that lonely feeling go, let that lonely feeling go, let that lonely feeling go for just today…" The song goes on and seems to be meant to help a friend who is going through a rough time in life. I started thinking about loneliness, what does it mean and why do we feel it? It seems to be one of the most powerful feelings we face in the human condition. Some would chalk it up to the biological aspect and the drive to reproduce, or some may point to the utilitarian aspect in the ways that we rely on others in order to survive and live our day to day lives.

My reservations for the first night were for Cedar Lodge, just outside the park, which I would later find out was the site of the serial killer Cary Stayner. The room was extravagant as it had a huge bed and a jacuzzi. But at dinner my mood would change. Sitting at the table next to me was a family, a woman, her three daughters, and a father wearing a "Don't Tread on me" hat. The hat immediately turned me off, but I chose to ignore it, but what couldn't be ignored was his loud ignorant statements, such as: "that's how they teach you these days… Andrew Jackson was a great president… Might equals Right… how do you think we got our country… people just need to quit being lazy and work…" on and on it went. At one point, I said out loud, so hopefully he could hear me, "that's some ignorant bullshit." I feel like he did hear me because he was a little more hushed after that. I wanted to say so much more, but chose not to. Part of me wanted to go tell his children, "you're father is a moron." Hopefully they realize that for themselves.

The next day I was in Yosemite. I couldn't check in to my tent until 4, so I decided to hike around. Interestingly enough, I found myself thinking the same things I thought of while driving through the desert as I found trails where I was all alone, but also find trails that like the interstate were jam packed. The sites and scenery of Yosemite is legendary, and I was in awe of the beauty I saw. I hiked a trail up to Mirror Lake, where nearly no one was on. But at times from the trail could see the main path that was packed with people. As walking around, I was amazed at how many people didn’t just come to Yosemite for it's sights but also purely for recreation, as families came up to swim, bike, and just relax. It felt different from most National Parks I had been to, as many it seems purely for hiking and seeing beautiful vistas.

I walked back to the main village to grab a bite to eat, and to get away from the crowd I went to the upstairs restaurant. I sat at the bar, but where I could see the rest of the room. Within minutes I heard a loud annoying voice of a man rudely asking where his food was. I looked up to realize that it was the same guy from the night before who was wearing the "Don't Tread on me" hat. The bartender politely told him that the kitchen was behind and it would take 30 minutes to make his family's pizza, he stormed off in a huff. The waitress turned and I could see the frustration on her face, so I assured her not to worry, I ran into the guy the night before and I know that he is an asshole. She laughed, and refilled my drink. He came up again and ordered an appetizer, paid cash, and walked off without tipping. We both looked at each other, rolled our eyes, then laughed again. I wondered if he got slow service everywhere he went because he was an asshole, if he didn’t tip most people, if he always felt so entitled to say and treat people however he wanted. I could tell he had never spent a day of his life in the service industry, it is often easy to tell those who have not, because those who are shitty to service industry folks almost always have not worked as a server or bartender. I left mildly amused, but also a little irritated.

I walked into the information center and looked at the exhibits. I was glad that they do spend a significant portion looking at the indigenous people of the area, but a bit annoyed at how glorified those who removed them were. It seems to be this sort of give and take all across America. We try to honor the achievements of those who have been killed and oppressed, but then glorify those who oppressed them. It is a strange and often times horrific duality we live with. It makes me wonder what it would look like if we actually cared about justice and equity in this country, and what it would be like if we actually told the truth about the genocide of Native Americans, the terrorism of African Americans, the exclusion of Asian Americans, on and on and on. Why do we distort these histories? Does it really make it easier for people to live without knowing about these atrocities? Like I have always said, your ignorant bliss is my educated hell… But I know if we could pull people out of ignorance, perhaps we could make people more conscious of their privileges, compassionate towards the pain of others, and willing to make a difference; though perhaps I am too idealistic, but I will continue to fight.

I wondered into a video highlighting the history of the park, and one of the things that I found that connected to my work was the fact that for a time it was protected by the military, before there were park rangers. Even more interesting was that for a time it was protected by 24th Infantry and 9th Cavalry, also known as the Buffalo Soldiers. I though about the idea of these soldiers defending this land from poachers and people grazing their sheep here, in order to protect this beautiful environment. This would seem to be one of the earliest intersections of soldiering and environmentalism, as well as an intersection of race. Framing it within my work we see a shift in the social contract to include the environment as a resource for generations to come. Furthermore, there has been a long history of environmentalism as being a very white movement, which was often built to exclude people of color, with many of it's founders holding very racist ideals and beliefs. But the Buffalo Soldiers who protected this land not for the white folks who wanted to spend their leisure time here, they protected it for the future of all, so that some day their decedents could come look at this beautiful space, even if the white racist environmentalists didn’t see them as equals.

I hiked a bit more before heading over to check in to my tent in Half-dome Village. As I was sitting down resting my feet, an older gentlemen sat next to me and sparked up a conversation. He was a photographer and he clued me into a great place to take pictures at sunset. At first I went to the wrong place, but upon my drive back I saw the turnoff he told me about and I made just in time to watch a beautiful sunset.

El Capitan on the left, Half-dome in the middle, Bridal Veil Falls on the Right.

El Capitan on the left, Half-dome in the middle, Bridal Veil Falls on the Right.

While up there, a nice couple said hi because they had recognized me from around the park throughout the day. Their niceness, as well as the old man I was talking with earlier softened my annoyance with otherpark visitors, as not all are like the entitled dickhead I had ran into twice before.  The day closed, I was tired, I had a whiskey ginger at the bar and headed off to bed.

The next day I went up to Glacier Point, which overlooks the whole valley. It was busy, but I got there just before they closed the road and made people take shuttles up. It was an amazing view, but because of the miles I had hiked the day before my mobility was severely hindered. While I was in pain, it was worth it, since I got this beautiful shot!

Yosemite Falls on the left, Half-dome in the middle, and Vernal Falls on the right.

Yosemite Falls on the left, Half-dome in the middle, and Vernal Falls on the right.

 

I then headed to Placerville, CA to spend time with my father's side of the family, who I knew the least growing up. It was great getting to know them, and I look forward to staying connected with them! I then headed to Oakland to hangout with a dear friend from grad school, but that is blog for another day, since this one is already getting long, and that one could be an opportunity that could eventually shift my professional outlook for many years to come! But more on that later…

The Road to Budapest

Today I begin my road trip to Budapest (via Colorado, Utah, California, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, and New Jersey… so possibly coming to a city near you). One of my favorite things in this world, as many of you know, is road trips. The feel of being on the road, traveling to new places, meeting new people, seeing old friends, always excites me. While I leave a lot behind, I gain so much in my new adventures. It is through travel and these wonderful experiences that we see how small the world actually is. We see the humanity in others, and the similarities in those we think we have nothing in common with. Perhaps this is partly why I have been so infatuated with travel stories of late. It started last year when I first read George Steinbeck's "Travels with Charlie in Search for America," and I began to feel that travel itch once again. It wasn't long after that, I had decided to travel extensively come hell or high water. I told both departments I was adjuncting for that I would not be back in the fall. The original plan was to fly to Barcelona for the European International Studies Conference in September, then spend a couple months in the city I love and have many wonderful friends, Nuremberg, Germany. I would then travel to Prague, Czech Republic for a couple months to spend time with other friends. All the while I would be focused on writing: turning my dissertation into a book, poetry, fiction, reporting what I'm seeing and experiencing, and political happenings. Once I tired of Europe, I planned on flying to India, and slowly work my way over to Thailand and Vietnam. I wanted to live and experience the most grand travel story, and maybe write it. But life has a funny way of working as I was in Vancouver for a conference, I received an email from Central European University, stating they wanted to set up an interview. With my plans formed of a great adventure, I had already forgotten about the postdoctoral position I had applied to at CEU. The position was a call for someone who did narrative politics, which was right up my alley. They emailed on a Thursday, I skype interviewed on Tuesday, and they offered me the position on Thursday. So within a week I went from gallivanting around the world to having a job in Budapest, Hungary. It seems that this is the best of both worlds, since I finally have a job that will help me progress in my career, and it also allows me to travel the world (while getting paid, added bonus). 

          The two months leading up to this road trip have been a rollercoaster ride, mentally and emotionally. While I had already consigned to leaving Fort Collins, it felt more real. It makes me wonder if I had not been hired, would I have gone through with my grandiose plans? I would like to think that I would, but it was comfortable in Colorado. But perhaps that's the problem, I think I was getting too comfortable, too stagnate. There is a good and bad tension that comes with being a wanderer. While you are free to do what you want, with no real attachments, and there is nothing really holding you down, it can also be very lonely. It seems that me not knowing where I will be in 6 months has always been my fall back excuse for not being in committed relationships. Constantly running, but not sure what I'm running from or to. I know I want something more, I know I don't want to be alone, I know that I want to be successful, but I'm not sure what that means or what it looks like. It's hard to tell right now what my future holds, much of that is dependent upon the next year, maybe this will be a launching pad for a great career, maybe I fall in love again, perhaps both, or possibly neither. Either way I seem to be once again in a constant state of flux, which I love and hate at the same time. Which brings me back to the road. There's something great about road trips, sometimes we hard charge on the interstate, getting from point a to point b. Sometimes we take a detour or take back roads. All the while it is as much of an internal process as it is an external process, because while we think we may know where we're going, who we will see, and what we will do, it is always subject to change, much like life. So perhaps I will see you on the road, maybe I won't, but hopefully I inspire you in some way to take your own road trips, maybe you can come see me. Again, the more we travel the better this world becomes, and the richer our lives are.

 

Last week in Fort Collins

I have just about a week left here in Fort Collins, and I have been experiencing all the emotions. Sadness that I will soon be leaving the community I love and have invested so much time, energy, blood, sweat, and tears. Happiness and excitement that I am going on a new adventure and progressing my career. Anxiety in the idea of moving to a new country on the other side of the world. Part of me is in denial, as I try to push away all these emotions. I am going to miss my friends and family the most, but those who are closest, will always remain. I am going to miss my routines, and favorite spots around town, from my coffee shops like the Bean Cycle, to my favorite eateries like Aloha Café and the Colorado Room. I will miss Colorado weather and FoCo summers! I will miss my roommates and my downtown apartment. Hell, I'll miss my drive to and from game night down in Denver. There is so much I will miss. But I know there will be new memories, new routines, new eateries, and new friends (not that the old will ever be replaced). I really hope my friends come visit me in Budapest!

It wouldn’t be a proper post if I didn’t at least bring up the political. A part of me is grateful to be leaving this mess that our country is in right now, but that is very selfish, and the other part of me knows I should be staying here to fight! But hopefully I will be gaining new knowledge, skills, and tactics to come back and fight. While I would like to believe that while I am gone, America will get its shit together, and I will come home to a more thoughtful and gracious America, the reality is, many of the problems will still be here when I get back, and it doesn’t seem they will be getting better any time soon. So I need to come back more armed and ready to try and create change. We are more divided in this country now, than any time in my memory. There is a serious lack of empathy in this country, as well as high levels of ignorant hatred, which brings me back to Fort Collins.

Fort Collins is not the perfect community. It has a long way to go. It is very white. It's lack of diversity, and the way it tries to claim how diverse and "woke" it is makes me sick. It is starting to be very expensive and over populated. But even with all these problems, it is still my community, and there are people and programs here working to fight some of these problems. Somedays it feels like a losing battle, as greed, hate, and anger show up in the community, and somedays it feels like this a great community with all the answers (though I know it doesn’t). All of this to say, I will miss this place, and I do hope I am able to return to this community for a long time. But for now, I must leave.  

Ethnic Studies Graduation Keynote Speech

I was very honored this past week to give the keynote speech for the department I graduated from with an MA in 2011 and was teaching in from 2014 to 2017. Here is that speech, I am posting it, because I feel some of the topics I touch on are important to think about across academia as a whole.

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Thank you for having me here today. So I was asked to come talk because sadly I'm leaving for a postdoc in Budapest, but I want to start off by telling you a little about how I got here...

My senior year of my undergrad I took Dr. Eric Ishiwata's Contemporary US Race Politics class out of the Political Science department. I was excited for the course as I had heard about what an amazing teacher Eric is. On the first day of classes, my first class was 20th Century Fiction, which was a great class but the teacher treated us like we were in elementary school. I left annoyed that I was taking a class where I, an adult who had already fought in a war, was being treated like a child. I then stepped into Eric's class where he not only treated us like adults but also didn't hold back any punches, told us his expectations, and it was clear he wasn't going to take any shit from any of us. This charged me, and after the class I went up to introduce myself to one of the people who would become one of the biggest influences in my life. I'm sure at the time he thought I was just another ass kissing student who bombards the teacher on the first day, but throughout the course of the semester I proved that I was committed to the lessons that was being taught, lessons about understanding and fighting oppression, how our everyday lived realities are both political as well as tied up in histories of racism, sexism, classism, and homophobia, and lessons about creating a critical attitude of the structures of power that create our identities, our culture, and our country. Eric then invited me to apply for the newly formed Ethnic Studies graduate program, where I would become apart of the first cohort to graduate with an MA in Ethnic Studies. 

The cohort and the professors opened my eyes and my heart not only to a new literature of thought, but more importantly to a new way of thinking and understanding. I was able to understand the different ways I have been complicit in systems of oppression, how I am privileged, how to listen, and also how to fight with my words. This was also one of the first academic communities I felt apart of, as we would all hangout in the middle of Aylesworth C 3rd floor. While I like our new space, and Aylesworth was not a great building, the community space that we built in Aylesworth has yet to be matched. 

I was fortunate enough to continue on to Hawaii, still following in Eric's footsteps as I went and got my PhD in Political Science. While writing my dissertation, Irene asked if I would be able to come back to the department to teach some classes around my work on militarism and war, as well as fill in for some other courses. It felt like my dream was coming true, as I was able to return home to the community I loved most. I was able to come home and as Eric puts it, I am able to try and be infectious with my thought! I am very grateful for the opportunity to return and teach classes in this department. I am honored by the faculty that I have been able to work next to, and I am always inspired by the students who are engaged in Ethnic Studies. 

I truly love this community, but I am also worried about it. So I want to say some words of advise for not only the outgoing students, but also the current students and faculty that will be continuing on in this community. 

Since Ethnic Studies inception at San Francisco State in the 60's it has been about fighting the powers that work to oppress, subjugate, and divide us. It has been about creating communities of resistance, and reclaiming space that has been colonized and controlled for the gains of the few on the backs of the many. It has been about relearning our histories to include the history of those who have been oppressed for 500 years in this country and around the world. It has been about creating tools to fight oppression.

But since the Civil Rights movement, and since the birth of Ethnic Studies, there has been a constant backlash at the gains made by the marginalized. This backlash has comes not just from racist hate groups and from Republican dog whistle politics like the Southern Strategy, but it has also come from liberal institutions including the academy. A shift to neoliberal policies works to undermine the gains made by the Civil Rights movement and Ethnic Studies. As the academy becomes more and more corporate we all start to be treated merely as numbers. I want you to know, you are not a number! By caring more about class sizes, enrollment numbers, and money coming into the college we undermine everything Ethnic Studies stands for, as it is the stories and community which is what we should be about. We must resist! We must not become a regular department! We must be loud and proud! We must not be afraid! And we must keep fighting! 

If we are not that critical voice that hangs signs in our window that says Black Lives Matter, who will be? If we are not the professors who come to stand behind our Muslim community when acts of hate are committed against them, then who will be? If we are not the department that comes and stands behind immigrant and refugee communities, then who will be? If we give in and conform, then we are doing exactly what they want, sitting down and shutting up. 

Whether you are staying here or going elsewhere, you should never give in, you should never stop fighting. The academy is changing, the world is changing, we must change to, but that doesn't mean we need to conform to what they want. As Audre Lorde reminds us, "The masters tools will never dismantle the masters house." So we must find new ways to fight, without giving in, and without going against the history that makes Ethnic Studies so beautiful, strong, and important. 

You all who are graduating and leaving are now moving to the front lines of the fight! Keep up the good work, stay critical, and stay strong! It can be difficult, you will feel alone at times, and you may get burnt out... I know cause I've been there, but know we are still here for you, and hopefully we will continue to train reinforcements to come help in the fight!