Monday, May 7, 2012

The Girl with the Purple Hair

"The desire for self-expression afflicts people when they feel there is something of themselves which is not getting through to the outside world."--Fay Weldon

Driving home from my son’s school this morning, I saw a girl, I should say woman, walking to the university. She had purple hair in a sloppy ponytail. I admired the color of her hair and thought, wow, her parents must let her express herself in whatever way she wants. Then I thought, a girl with purple hair must not have parents because surely a parent would be disappointed if their daughter, granted adult daughter, had purple hair.

I realized that my thinking stems from my Chamorro upbringing, as well as my Korean one, in which children are not allowed to really express themselves. I have been told NO so many times by my parents (and I love them both dearly) that it has taken me several decades to truly express myself. Many times I think I want to be the type of woman who would do this, get that, act in a certain way. But, out of fear from my family, from my Chamorro upbringing, I don’t. I am keenly aware that I do this to my children and it’s an effort to change the tides. There are days when I sound like my parents and I have to stop myself.

It took me 18 years to get my first tattoo, to really commit. Why? Because I was afraid of what my family would think. My mom has accepted but doesn’t want me to get another. My dad, he’s probably shaking his head with a smile from above. Just yesterday, I showed my tattoo to a Chamorro woman I truly admire. I haven’t really showed anyone Chamorro who is over the age of 45 because I don’t want to hear it.

My true form of expression is my writing. I get to create characters and worlds that I want. But, there is a filter or a gate if you will that is still there. I come up with quips or funny observations and people tell me, “I never thought of it that way.” Or, “Where are you getting this stuff?” Because I say or think something warped, does that mean my mind is warped?

I remember my first completed manuscript and explaining to my mom as each chapter was constructed. She enjoyed the storyline and when it came to the more intimate portions of the story, I find myself stuttering, worried of her judgment. I did glaze over the details and even with that, she asked, “Well, why do they have to have sex?” I was frustrated, but explained, well, because that’s what people do when they care about each other, right? Sex sells, beauty is a currency, etc. etc.

This image of a pool of water always arises when I think of my life, my childrens’ lives. When that pool overflows and begins to trickle away and naturally move, parents, society, peers can serve as either a path to a true destination or barriers. I think of my life as this movement of water, the natural desire to move when I’m full to a new experience or destination. If I wanted to travel west, my father may have placed a river rock to block that passage. My mother may add hers. An aunt or grandparent or cousin throws their little stones in my path. That stream then stops and dries up. This process can continue as another stream moves and flows, so instead of blocking yourself or your children, let them extend and create pathways with the creative desires they have. So many people have their dreams and hopes dry up and I find that truly tragic.

I’m realizing the reasons why I stop myself from doing or saying things. My eyes are wide open in regards to being a better person. I’m okay with other people’s responses to me, positive or negative, because the only one that truly matters is my opinion of myself. With that said, I’m going to allow my pool of water to overflow and travel in whichever direction I chose.

Thank you for letting me share and don’t worry, my hair won’t be purple anytime soon…, perhaps, but not purple.


Friday, May 4, 2012

Blog of a Beastie Girl-RIP MCA

"But like a dream I'm flowing without no stoppin'
Sweeter than a cherry pie with Reddi-Whip toppin'
From mic to mic kickin' it wall to wall
Well I'll be calling out you people like a casting call" --MCA

A few months ago my prima said out of the blue, “One of the Beastie Boys is dead.” I denied it, said “No! MCA has cancer, but I didn’t hear that he died.” Of course, I grabbed my phone and Googled his name. Nothing popped up. I told her. The Beastie Boys is on my short list of favorite musicians and I was certain I would see them if they ever rolled into my town. Now, I can’t.

With sadness, I texted my prima, “A Beastie Boy is really dead now. :(”

I wouldn’t call my taste in music extremely eclectic, but if something has cool lyrics and a great beat, I’m in. With the Beastie Boys, I enjoyed how the rapped rhyme and rhythm came alive with some tongue and cheek in their videos. “So Watcha Want” will forever be one of my faves, reminding me of college, having it on blast as I drove from home to class. When “Sabotage” came out, matched with their huge moustaches and wigs in the video, I so wanted to be a Beastie Girl.

I bought a Check Your Head shirt two years ago, and it’s one of my faves. I sometimes wear it when picking up my son from his elementary school and love it when another mom tells me she loves my shirt.

I don’t typically take the time to blog about a celebrity’s death, but MCA meant so much more to me than any other musician. His lyricism and the collective rhythms of the Beastie Boys were the soundtrack of my life-a time when I was figuring out who I wanted to be as a woman, (because'I'm Every Woman' didn't do it for me)--“So Watcha Want” made me feel tough, smart and like I could take on the world—being single and angry at men at 19 helped too.

So, for Adam Yauch, Rest In Peace. I may never see you in the original trio one day, but if your boys, Ad Rock and Mike D do find the will to tour with someone who has any of your talent, I will be there. Say hello to my dad, he dug your music too.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Storyboard 12-University of Guam: The Perfect Mother's Day Gift

"A book is a gift you can open again and again."--Garrison Keillor

I am so happy that the University of Guam and the team of Storyboard-A Journal of Pacific Imagery continue to publish this literary and artistic collection of work. My first experience was with Storyboard 6 in 1999. I was a graduate student at UOG and teaching at JFKHS. When I was an undergrad, I tried submitting poetry--only to be rejected, twice. I took that as a sign that poetry wasn’t my forte’. But in grad school, in a feminist literature class, Dr. Jeanine Talley my professor was also the new editor. Like a snail coming out of her shell, I began to show pieces to her. She liked my essays and encouraged me to submit. I was at this point nurturing a desire to write novels and was penning short stories when I could.

So, in Storyboard 6, two of my poems were featured and I was elated! Then, my regular life--teaching, parents, boyfriend-- eclipsed my writing dreams. I was able to ride this little wave of being published for a short time. I got my fix with opinion pieces in the PDN. I did a stint with Marine Drive Magazine for a few months. When I called a boutique owner for an interview, she said, “I do not want to contribute to a magazine that has underaged girls on the cover who are half dressed.” I agreed, and as a teacher of teenagers who were reading the magazine and seeing my name attached to articles (even if those articles were about sandwiches or coffee shops) I had to make a choice. I quit.

With that, another opportunity arose the next week with MDM’s sister magazine. I met the very serious editor and began another short burst of writing with Guam Business magazine. It felt like real work and churning out facts and putting a spin on it was good exercise, but it wasn’t my passion.

So, moving forward, the joy of UOG’s Storyboard fell to the wayside. I believe they lacked an editor for a few years and for Storyboard 11, a call for entries was made. I was already off-island when my Auntie Patty sent me the flyer. I contacted the editor and verified that I was qualified. She indicated that as long as I was an alum I was good. Ten years after my first appearance in this journal, I submitted three short stories. There was a blind review of all entries and two made the cut.

This Friday, Storyboard 12 is being unveiled on Guam and like last year, I can’t be there. Something about $1,500.00 for a plane ticket and 6,000+miles over the Pacific Ocean holding me back. Thankfully, my brother will be attending, cruising from our grandmother Julia’s 1st death anniversary mass in Asan to East Hagatna to represent me. I miss my grandmother and find it poetic, if you will that the unveiling falls on her anniversary.

I wrote the short story, “Reach” for my mother. It is more than loosely based on her ‘crossing’ from life in South Korea to life as an adopted Chamorrita, because that she is. She is living her life as a Chamorro and I am proud of her.**Painting is of my omma (left) holding me, grandfather, mom's sister, Yong Cha with daughter.--painted by my brother, Sonny K. Chargualaf

Excerpt, “Reach” 2012:
Un Cha signed her name on the letter, written in Korean for the only man she loved. She tucked it into her purse and dressed into the black outfit her daughter helped her pick out. They found their funeral garb at a Korean clothing store in Anigua. With her children and her grandson in tow, Un Cha left their home and sat quietly during the drive to Asan church, in the village that Ted grew up. She imagined many times what her husband was like as a child and often thought that her three children were solid reminders of his legacy.

Before the funeral director closed the casket for the final time, Un Cha walked up alone.

“Yobo, my love. I will meet you again someday. I love you.” Un Cha placed the love letter securely in Ted’s cold hands, still strong, still the color of earth. She bowed deeply and hugged him. Her children were by her side, anchoring her in the world of the living, when all she wanted was to crawl into the space with her husband.

**Dad & Mom in Asan-by Sonny K. Chargualaf

Happy Mother’s Day, Omma!

A Story of a Stolen Mermaid--(and the Infringement of an Artist)

Fact: I wrote Sirena: A Mermaid Legend from Guam in 2010. Fact: My brother, Sonny Chargualaf is the talented artist behind the imagery. ...