The Wrap Up

This semester, my assignment for my social media class was to blog every week. I chose to format this blog as a personal diary of experiences. This was a huge challenge for me!

You would think talking about your week would be an easy subject. Let me tell you that it is not. Week after week I had to try to come up with ways to talk about my life while following specific parameters. First thing I found out? My life is not that interesting.

Either way, I’m glad I was able to record some parts of these last few months. Once I could figure out what I wanted to blog about, I had a lot of fun doing it.

Will I continue blogging? That is yet to be decided. I want to start a Latin food cooking blog but for that I need time actually to try the recipes! For now, I need a writing break. My brain is completely fried after this last year of working on my Master’s full-time and job searching. Both tasks have come to a fruitful and happy ending (thank God!), and now I want to relax and enjoy the new adventure that begins.

After having blogged for the last year (I have another blog about digital marketing), letting go of this discipline might be a little hard, so maybe I’ll be back right after Christmas. Stay tuned for updates.

Happy holidays everybody!

My First Experience Flying Southwest

No, I do not live in a cave. Southwest doesn’t service Puerto Rico or international flights, so for a long time I’d heard about this fun, creative and affordable airline but had been skeptical about the whole thing (all this, at the same time, did not seem possible to me). Thanksgiving weekend I got the chance to experience what many have been talking about. I booked my flight from DC to Jacksonville through Southwest online. The transaction fast and easy. Loved all the options, but didn’t understand the seat coding system, at all.

I got to the gate, and the lady explained that I had an A seat. (A is good, right?) Oh yeah! I was the 14th person to grab a seat. First row, window seat. Heavenly. The experience reminded me of the PanAm show on ABC. Everybody was happy, and the crew was constantly making jokes. I must say, after this experience, I look forward to flying Southwest more often.

I’ve read before about Southwest’s heavy use of social media and how they are an example to other brands. After having the experience to fly Southwest, I decided to look at their blog and see if my experience, and my perception of the brand, compares to the personality they portray online.

First of all, at first sight their blog looks amazing. It’s social media heaven without being too overwhelming. I had a feeling I was going to like what I saw.

As I read through the blog, I could feel the same vivacious personality that I saw in their crew. Their blog is all over the place talking about everything from going green, to passenger stories, to their current promotions. In this variety of themes there is cohesiveness because their blogs tell stories that their audience would enjoy and informs about themes of interest to their customers; and all of these are relatable. Out of the blog posts that I read, not one bored me. I cannot figure out how they do it but it works.

It also seems like I am not the only one who feels this way. Overall, their posts have a steady amount of supporting readers who ‘Share’, ‘Like’ and ‘Love’ their posts in massive amounts. No wonder this brand is such a hit. In this era of social media, this brand is capturing their customers where they are most present: in the digital channels.

Kudos to Southwest!

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I Waited in the Cold for Versace for H&M

Versace for H&M

Yes. I waited in the cold. Mostly out of intrigue.  I had no idea what I was getting myself into.

I’ve never been a fan of Versace; he doesn’t design for me (a more serious, less daring person–although only in clothing style). Versace designs usually lack the classic element that I look for in the labels that I love.  I am very picky with the designs I invest in. Versace is bold and busy; I love boldness but rarely feel comfortable in busy.  However, there is still an artistry in the designs that is worth my admiration. Plus, Versace is iconic, and I cannot deny that.

The Versace for H&M collection came out Nov. 19th. I got to the Metro Center store in DC at 7 AM and thought that I was going way too early. How can somebody stand in line hours in the cold for H&M? Well, had I done my research or read the blog post-Versace for H&M by Take An Intermission, I would’ve known that all of their designer events are a huge deal. By the time I got there, the line circled the block and the bracelets that determined what time you were allowed in to see the collection had already been handed out  (people actually started getting in line the afternoon before!).  This meant that I would be able to go into the store when they opened at 8AM but I would not be able to shop Versace until 1PM. Bummer.

A sneak peak of the collection (and the determined shoppers).

I stayed for a while with my friend just in case there was a chance to get in before the assigned time but it was useless. By 9AM the men’s collection and the women’s accessories were sold out.  I kept seeing people come out of the store with huge bags full of stuff and kept asking myself: if you have that much cash and love Versace that much why don’t you splurge on a few original pieces rather than by the whole H&M line?

Turns out, a lot of people there were buying to sell. Freaking genius. The famous Versace leather (pleather) jacket was selling for $600 bucks on eBay! I can buy a real leather jacket for that price, what is the big deal?  I love designer fashion but mostly I love their quality and craftsmanship. I am sure this line is beautifully made, but does the cost justify the quality?

Take An Intermission writer wrote in her blog: “Will I be there? Honestly, probably not. Lol… as much as I would love to get my hand on some of those items, priorities (code for “Work”) always takes prevalence. I could go on my lunch break, but I’m pretty sure everything will be gone.”

I have some inside advice for you. Go now, there was so much impulsive buying that day (since customers are only allowed 15 mins to see the collection) that this week returns must be pouring in. In fact, I heard from an employee that through returns is how employees get to buy these special collections. Don’t count on getting your hands on the leather jacket though; any smart cookie will be selling that on eBay for a huge profit.

The closest I got to Versace for H&M was the store front.

As a Single Lady, Here Are My Thoughts

I recently read an extremely long article from The Atlantic titled,  All The Single Ladies. Once I started reading it, I was hooked. The author talks about how men and women relationships have decayed and how society’s developing pressures have created a confused and disoriented generation.

I started reading it because I could identify with the author’s initial anecdote. I can feel her confusion. I just got out of a very long ‘situation’ (not sure if I can accurately call it a relationship) and I find myself wondering if the string of bad romantic choices I’ve made throughout my life will now come to bite me in the butt.

I’ve always assumed the right kind of love will come along at the right time. But I also wonder if this romanticized way of looking at life even makes sense. It’s as basic as are there even enough (good) partners for all of us who do eventually want to settle down with a partner for life?

A few months ago a friend told me that women past 28 are not dating material because all they think about is marriage and babies. I argued that marriage and babies are life goals whern the right person comes along, not relationship goals that imposed on every partner. The moment I want marriage and babies I won’t automatically want to marry the first guy I date. Quite the opposite.

This begs the question: why am I being punished now for wanting that someday? Maybe I am not being punished. It’s worth considering that maybe this mentality is more a reflection of men’s unwillingness to commit rather than a reaction to my relationship wants and needs.

The author states: “My spotty anecdotal findings have revealed that, yes, in many cases, the more successful a man is (or thinks he is), the less interested he is in commitment.” Well Kate, mine too. I never thought of the possibility that men’s lack of desire for commitment was a direct result of their ambition. I never imagined that there is a possibility that these guys I have dated or that I have known maybe never want that commitment. What happens when you live in a city full of successful, ambitious men? What happened to finding the right one? What happened to fate? Or, to love conquers all?

In addition to discussing the dating man’s brain anatomy, the author tackles another also very confusing subject for me. Who is the modern day single woman?  I cannot fit myself into any of the common stereotypes society has for single women. “[T]he single woman is very rarely seen for who she is—whatever that might be—by others, or even by the single woman herself, so thoroughly do most of us internalize the stigmas that surround our status.”

Whenever the issue of being almost 30 and single comes along, I don’t know where I stand. I compare myself to my mom; she was married, was a professional and had two kids by the time she was my age, but I don’t feel ready for that. Yet, when I think in numbers, I feel like I am milestones behind from where I am supposed to be. Growing up, 30-year-olds had their life together, and I hardly have a plan. What I was taught life should be, doesn’t seem on par with what life is. That leaves me figuring out things as I go but feeling completely lost and, at times, torn, in the process. But, when I rationalize these feelings, they don’t make sense. Shouldn’t society be okay with women waiting for the right time?  I feel too much  even though I live a perfectly fulfilling and happy life (plus,  as life expectancy keeps increasing shouldn’t people take things more calmly?)  See my conundrum?

So, I find myself unsure which way to go, making the romantic choices of a college student but yearning the emotional fulfillment and stability that I though maturity and adulthood would bring. In this generation where women (and maybe men too) were raised to choose “independence over coupling” (as the author puts it) and where we constantly guide our decisions on abstract reasoning—such as”does it feel right?”–where do we stand?

As the author talks about the evolution of relationships and how society’s pressure on relationships has inadvertently contributed to its decay, I wonder if luck will be by our side or if happily-ever-after will eventually only be seen in the movies.

If you have ever asked yourself any of these questions, you should read “All The Single Ladies” by Kate Bolick. I don’t assure you that you will agree with her skeptical view of relationships or men, but I do assure that you will have a strong opinion that you will want to share and discuss.

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Light At The End of the Tunnel

Yes, I see the light. The tunnel is this draining experience called a post-graduate degree, and the light is the day I hand in my graduation project. That day is only three weeks away, and I am freaking out. Will I make it? Of course, there is no other option. Will I survive it? The drama queen in me asks herself this question every day.

The truth is that the project is not horrible, although it is very time and thought consuming, but it is the project that will decide whether or not, after two years of hard work, I will be receiving my diploma. This is no longer about passing individual classes. This ‘capstoning’ process validates my knowledge, my experience and my qualifications. Talk about pressure.

Days like today, when I  am under the pressure of a tight schedule, I feel like I am catching a cold, tired and overwhelmed with life, I tend to be good for nothing. That especially sucks when your days are counted. So what do I do to get over my funk? I take a nap to the most beautiful sound in the world. The sound of the Puerto Rican Coqui (a tiny frog called like that because the sound it makes sounds just like that co-qui!).

Years ago, when I lived in Spain, I told my best friend that I missed falling sleep to the sound of the Coqui. Turns out his uncle had an almost hour long recording of the beautiful coquis singing with a river in the background. As proof of how much of a Jibarita (small town Puerto Rican girl) I am, I still lie down and rest my eyes to this amazing soundtrack whenever I am stressed. Twenty or thirty minutes of this and I am completely cured of any worry, anxiety or inability to produce that I might be going through. (I realize that this blog is turning very Julie Andrews, but I promise I won’t break out singing “Favorite Things.”)

Today, I want to share this sound with you because, in the middle of the madness, it is always important to sit down and enjoy life’s simple pleasures. For me, doing this makes it easier to focus on the light rather than on how much time or effort it will take me to get there.

[audio http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z4mYG6Ar6-4]

What do you think? 

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Are You Saying Now I Can Parranda in DC?

Yesterday, I was looking at plane tickets to fly home for the holidays. Not only did the outrageous prices give me a small heart attack but the limited time that I have to visit this Christmas made me a little melancholic. I started a new job three weeks ago so I can only go for Christmas weekend (barely three days!).

I should be happy that at least I get to spend Christmas Eve and Christmas day with my family. I cannot imagine waking up on the 25th without a tree or presents. Every year, it’s a ritual that  me and my brothers (and even my parents) look forward to! We are all grown up but my brothers and me still wake up at 6AM because “Santa came!” and my parents still lock the door to the lower level of my house (where the tree is) to make we wait until they wake up. We might all be past our Santa believing years but even my dog gets excited on this morning. I am very grateful that I get to share this with my brothers, parents and my dog one more year, but this only takes care of two days out of a whole holiday season.

Mantecaditos

So it got me thinking, what can I do to bring a little Puerto Rico into the other three holiday weekends I will be spending in DC? (The week before Christmas which is usually when all of my friends get home and the parties start, New Years Weekend and Three Kings Weekend on January 6th–we refer to this whole timeframe as Navidades). First, and sorry for the spoiler, my friends will be receiving Coquito (the yummy Puerto Rican version of egg nog) and Mantecaditos (almond shortbread cookies)  as Christmas gifts. Second, and most important/fun/exciting, DC will learn how to party Parranda style.

Coquito

What is a Parranda? This is a party that starts around midnight. Informally, a Parranda starts with a group of bored friends who decide to go wake up whoever decided to stay home that night. The trick is to make sure the people in the house are already asleep so this could start past midnight. You get to the house quietly with as many people and as many instruments or made up instruments you can find (pots and spoons work). Once people are there and ready, everybody starts singing Christmas songs really loudly until someone wakes up and decides to let the group in to the house. The host offers whatever food and alcohol is in the house and then gets dressed to join the group for an asalto (an assault, literally) at another house. This usually goes on until the sun comes up. Parrandas can also be planned to make sure the host is prepared to receive the group and in planned Parrandas the groups can add up to hundreds of people. These latter ones are more acceptable but I think it takes the fun out of the whole experience. With unplanned ones you always wonder who will turn on the lights (the signal that indicates that the person you came to wake up will open the door.)

The beauty of these parties is that very little people can say no to the Christmas spirit. It’s the equivalent of  shutting the door on a Christmas Carol–although maybe a slightly wilder version of one. But, even with enough quorum to accomplish this in DC and with a few pots and spoons that make some noise, the joy of the Parranda would be lost without the authentic sounds of our instruments. But, fear not because there is now a Parranda Cuatro iPhone App! This App includes the melodious sounds of the Cuatro Puertorriqueño, the güiro and the palitos for the user to freestyle.

Regretfully, 3AM curfews and noise control laws after 10PM would make it really hard to successfully Parrandear all night. This means I will probably be crashing my friend’s houses with my iPhone, singing alone and during the day, but I am sure I’ll be having the time of my life.

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Let’s Talk Food

I love DC. The monuments, the sites, the history and the changing of the seasons (which doesn’t happen in Puerto Rico). I also love how DC is such a metropolitan city without being as crazy and overwhelming as New York. However, there is one thing that I don’t I like about DC: The food.

I am a devoted foodie. Growing up Latina made food a huge part of my life. Everything is celebrated around food (and coffee maybe). Also, restaurants back home are diverse in both type of food and price range. You can get a great plate of food for any price and you can satisfy your craving for any kind of food–Latin, Mexican, Indian, American, Greek, etc.—all of them, of course, with a Puerto Rican twist.

After growing up foodie and then traveling all around the world and savoring the most amazing food many countries have to offer, I have a demanding palate.  DC just doesn’t fulfill my needs in that sense. Not to say that there are no good restaurants. There are plenty and you can find them by looking for at the $50 plus price range in OpenTable.com. (Although another big turn off is that there are no truly good Latin food restaurants.)

It‘s not my intention to be a ‘hater’, I’m just calling it as I see it. Whenever I go to NY or Miami or even home, I have a dozen recommended restaurants that I want to try and a dozen more that I want to go back to. I look forward to trips and planning brunch, lunch and dinner outings. One time my best friend and I tried six restaurants in two days because that was all the time we had in NYC and we just HAD to do it.

Living in DC, I just don’t crave going back to the restaurants in the area and the few that I do make me break the bank every time I go (see: Oya, The Capital Grille, Teatro Goldoni). That doesn’t mean that all the rest suck, it’s just that I feel that the food is usually pretty bland. The most enjoyable culinary experience I’ve had recently is the Truckeroo— those food trucks sure know how to cook. How can a truck with such limited kitchen space and resources be more enjoyable than a $150 fixed menu in Citronelle?

Now, in DC’s defense, a culture of enjoyable and diverse food is just starting. Over the years, I’ve seen how restaurants have become trendier, and dining experiences have become more sophisticated. I don’t know one person yet who doesn’t like to frequent Chef Jose Andres’ restaurants; Zaitinyas, Oyamel and Jaleo. They are the spot for us young professionals. Why? Because it’s good food at affordable prices, in a fun and sophisticated environment.

With the city’s continued growth and expansion to previously ‘restricted areas’ such as Columbia Heights and The H St. Corridor in the NE, has come a new wave of restaurants and tapas bar that offer more variety.  Along with these new developing areas, the culinary community is shifting to a more diverse and trendy one but it still has a long way to go.

I look forward to the time when DC compares to NYC or Miami when it comes to culinary offerings. In the meantime, I guess I should practice my cooking.

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Getting The Job…Finally!

As you might’ve seen in the last few posts, I have been surrounded by a lot of uncertainties lately. What is going to happen once I finish school in December? Am I going to move? Where would I move in search of new opportunities? When do I need to make a decision? All these questions have been haunting me for a few months.

I have been living with one foot in D.C., another in Miami–I’ve been working remotely for a PR firm there–and my eyes back home, in Puerto Rico because it is the most cost efficient option while I find a full-time job. I would sweat every time somebody would ask me: “what are your plans after graduation?”

Well, not anymore. Today, I received the phone call that every unemployed person is desperately waiting for. This was not a regular “we want to join our team” call, this was the “we want to give you the opportunity of a lifetime” call… I accepted.

Throughout my job search, I felt like companies were looking for this niche candidate. A candidate with very specific experience that included very specific requirements, in addition to the basic skills. Although I had no doubt that I could do the job and easily learn the specifics, I soon realized that companies didn’t want to teach. They want a person that already comes with the required skills, and they can do that because there are so many great candidates actively looking for jobs right now that they can afford to be picky.

For the first time since I started my search eleven months ago, I knew this job was describing me… but a better me. It was describing my experience in their requirements, and it was also describing where I wanted to go professionally in their expectations for the candidate.

I went through four interviews and one writing test. With every step, I yearned more for the position. This was the right job for me, at exactly the right time–since I am only a few weeks from finishing my master’s degree.

Today, as I was working on my capstone project, I received the call and I want to share my excitement with the whole world. My mom always tells me that everything works out at the end and I have never doubted that. All those jobs that I interviewed for and applied to didn’t work out because Somebody had other plans for me. Now, I cannot be more grateful for the time I spent searching for the right opportunity.

If you are in D.C. and are looking for a job, good luck. It’s an uphill battle but don’t give up. Below I’m including some web sites that were very useful in my job search. I hope they help!

  1. Brad Traverse Job Listings
  2. JobsThatAreLeft
  3. DC Public Affairs and Communications Blog
  4. Monster
  5. Indeed
To those of you who are looking, good luck and don’t give up! If you ever need advice, you know where to find me. You can tweet me or comment on this blog.

The Coca-Cola Side of Life

Today, I was having coffee with a friend. The last few weeks have been super hectic, and we haven’t been able to catch up. She is planning her wedding and dealing with all of the headaches that go along with that. I am working on my capstone project and dealing with all the headaches that go along with that.

I told her about my blog, in an effort to get inspiration to write this week’s post. I told her that my blog talked about what things I wanted to accomplish in the near future and it also randomly reminisced on my good times in DC.

My very assertive friend picked up on an interesting thing. For a long time now (almost a year), I have focused on either remembering the past or hoping for the future. This made me think, what is so wrong with my present that I refuse to live in it?

Before I answer this question, I will give you a little summary of the events that led me to this exact point in time.

I moved to DC in August of 2007 for an internship with a prestigious senior member in Congress. After completing my internship, I was hired by a committee office in the U.S. House of Representatives. For three years, I went with the flow of things. Although I thoroughly enjoyed my time in Congress, I just always felt like this time was a life parenthesis for me. These were opportunities that I had to take because anybody would kill for them. But, what did I really want?

I wanted to live the moment. Enjoy life. Learn new things. Push my limits, and all this, I did. In December 2010, when the Democrats lost the majority of the house, I lost my job. Although I always knew my job was not what I wanted to do forever, this was a devastating loss because it wasn’t my choice. Life had imposed on me the end of my parenthesis. Now, what?

Thankfully, I never let go of my professional aspirations and in spite of my crazy/long hours in Congress. Earlier that year I had started my master’s degree in public relations. For the last year, I have studied full time, taking on consulting projects and seeking guidance everywhere I can think of in search of the right opportunity.

It hasn’t been easy, studying, consulting, and job searching has taken all the energy I’ve got and more, but looking back I see that I am where I need to be now. I forget that a lot. Not many people have the incredible opportunity to dedicate full time to their post-graduate studies or any education. Not many people have the amazing support system from friends and family that I have.

When I look at my life, I tend to look at all that is missing, and I seek comfort in my memories and my hopes for the future but in reality nothing is wrong with my life. I need to stop that, ASAP. Life is great  and life needs to be lived now.

I did a year abroad is Spain when I was in undergrad, and Coca-Cola had this great campaign there about always looking at “the Coca-Cola side of life”. My friends and I still say “gotta look at the Coca-Cola side of life” to each other from time to time when we want to be funny and sarcastic about happiness and our pursue of it. Thinking about it better, Coca-Cola has a point. Life is all fun and games but you have to be willing to enjoy it and be grateful for the friends and family who go through it with you.

Now, in order to celebrate happiness, friendship and why they are important (oh… and continue promoting Coca-Cola), here is a video that always reminds that when you have friends and you are having fun, you don’t need anything else. 

How about you? What makes you happy?

What Midnight Runs To Walmart Have Taught Me

For the last three years, I have lived alone in a great apartment in downtown, D.C. After two failed experiences with roommates, I decided I was better off living alone. That way, I have control over everything. I don’t get home to find my roommate wearing the dress I was planning to wear to work the next day. I don’t wake up in the morning to an empty jug of milk. I don’t get home from a trip to find that the Mickey Mouse Club (yes, mice and lots of them) have moved in, or that the kitchen sink has been clogged for two days and nobody has done anything about it.

When you live alone, you get home to a house that’s exactly how you left it. When you look for your new blouse to wear to work in the morning, it’s hanging in the closet like it’s supposed to be. But, I do feel that I am missing out at times. For example, during the snowpocalypse, I was bored out of my mind. Also, I sometimes feel the need to chat with somebody at three in the morning.

That said, I’ve been living with two crazy Latinos for the last two weeks. They showed up at my doorstep and haven’t left. Having them at the house has helped me remember the fun part of having roommates even though they are terribly annoying at times. (Exhibit one: one of them is currently screaming at her father over the phone, and he is on speakerphone screaming back, while I try to study. Exhibit two: the other one refuses to let me take a nap and diagnoses me with depression every time he sees me reach for the Nutella.) They are pretty awesome company. Having them around has helped me forget about all the slightly-less-than-wonderful things that are happening in my life right now. Their spontaneity and nonsense ideas have had me laughing non-stop for the last 11 days, and I love it.

Last night, we went to Walmart. We’ve been trying to study all weekend and, between all of us getting sick and general silliness, have gotten very little done. It was midnight and the mountain of work was too overwhelming to deal with on a Monday night, so a run to Walmart seemed logical.  We didn’t buy anything written down in the carefully thought through list. Instead of laundry detergent and paper towels, we ended up buying arts and crafts supplies so we could paint new art for my walls.  I can buy laundry detergent at CVS later, but the memories of three twenty-somethings running through Walmart in little kids costumes should not wait. Life must be lived now.

Sometimes, I forget that life shouldn’t be taken so seriously. My new living situation has been showing me that. I feel full of life and energy again, and I’m excited to see what lies ahead while living and enjoying the present. That is what I want to accomplish with my bucket list–I want to rediscover the passion that I once had for this city. I have lost that in the last year because I have been too focused on trying to be a grown up–and whatever that is supposed to mean–to enjoy the ride.

Now, I realize that it’s not that bad if there is no milk to put in my coffee, and I have a new appreciation for having it black. In the past, I might have thought that I can’t live without my ‘cafe con leche‘ but now, I can spare the milk to enjoy the company of the two loved friends that finished my milk and are fighting over the last piece of toast.

The kids section at Walmart should have age restrictions.

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