Life, Thoughts

Getting Paperwork Today

This weekend I fly out to San Francisco to get my paperwork submitted for my au pair visa. I have to gather some additional things before the trip, which is what I’ll be doing today. I am going to go to Walgreen’s to get two passport sized photos and then USPS to get a prepaid express mail envelope so the Spanish Consulate can send me my passport back after it’s processed. It seems as if everything is in order.

I have some concerns about my paperwork. One of the requirements for the visa was that I get a doctor’s note proclaiming that: “the student has been examined and found free of any contagious diseases according to the International Health Regulation 2005”. When I went to go get that doctor’s note earlier last month, I was told by my primary care doctor that they couldn’t say that exact phrase in the note due to legal restrictions. So I have a note that does not say this exactly, but has documents with test results that say I’m free of particular diseases I was tested for. I am hoping that it is enough for the Spanish Consulate.

I also attempted to get a police report of myself from my local police department. I got an email with a PDF earlier that showed a police report and a note saying they do not conduct public police screenings for people. I don’t know if that is a complete police report, but I did everything I could to get one.

I have shelled out almost $1500 out of pocket so far to make this Spain trip a reality. I am hoping that it is worth all the investments I have made, because it would be such a disappointment for me and the family I’ve been in contact with if my visa gets denied. I wanted to have a year overseas to learn Spanish and explore a new country, and if it gets denied I’ll only have 3 months to go there instead. Hopefully things will fall into place and my work will be worth it.

Life, Thoughts, Uncategorized

Au Pair Visa – Preparations for Spain

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Over the past month or so I’ve been talking to family in Spain who wants me to be an au pair for them. I have been gathering paperwork in order to submit them to the Spanish Consulate on January 7th in San Francisco. This week I leave to submit the paperwork and then I have to wait a month to see whether or not it gets approved. After I find out if I get the visa in February, I make plans to leave the country by the beginning of March.

The family I have been talking to is really cool. Out of all the families I had talked to, this one seemed like the most appealing and understanding. I have been talking to the mother of the family mostly, M. Angeles, and she seems very kind. She has been helping me through this process the whole time. She even paid for the tuition for me to attend a Spanish University online in Madrid while I’m staying there. The children are all above the age of 13, which was ideal for me. The other families I had talked to had children that were around the ages of 2-8, which would have been difficult. I like that the children are older because they understand and speak more English, which is good since the only language I’ll be able to communicate with them while I’m there in is English. I also don’t have to actually watch and take care of them, I’m just another member of the family. I wanted to be able to focus on actually getting to know the family, the country, the culture, and the language, so being free from the responsibility of childcare was ideal for me.

I am both excited and nervous about the prospect of being in a Spanish-speaking country. I’m not the best at communicating in English, and my Spanish is really poor. I took Spanish for two years in high school and French for a year in college, but I don’t remember everything from the lessons. People have been telling me the best way to learn a language is to be immersed in it and the culture, so I guess this is the best way for me to learn. I also will be attending a Spanish University online, taking Spanish classes for 20 hours a week, so I’ll be learning the language both formally and informally throughout my stay there.

I have some fears about traveling with my mental health. My mental health has been up and down over the years, and although I have been pretty stable with my new medication, I still have worries that I’ll have another manic episode overseas. This is my greatest fear, because if I have an episode overseas in a country that doesn’t speak my language, I will be in very different and stressful circumstances than my last episode.  My family and I are hoping everything will turn out okay and that I’m healthy enough to travel. I wanted to do this opportunity because I don’t want to constantly be afraid of my mental illness, having it stop me from doing the things I want. I don’t want to be thinking throughout my life, “What if I had done this?” I want to be living in the moment and embracing what life has to offer despite what I’m suffering through.

All in all, I am excited for this trip. I think it will be a great opportunity for me to learn as much as I can in a new country with exciting people and experiences. I have always wanted to travel and explore the world, and this might be the first of many opportunities in the future.

Book Reviews, philosophy, Review, Writing

“Being and Time” by Martin Heidegger

The following is an exploration into the question: How does thinking relate to saying? It is a philosophical essay I had written in the past about Martin Heidegger’s thoughts in his book Being and Time. I don’t remember which book I used to get the quotes from so I am unsure if the page numbers coincide directly with every version of his book. Alternatively, if you are having trouble finding the quotes in your version of the book, I would suggest copy and pasting a section of the quotes I used into Google and looking up which sections correspond to which quote. This article by James Fieser has some of the quotes I use with the sections cited with them, along with other notes.

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Image from Amazon

 

How does thinking relate to saying?

Saying is the verbal manifestation of thinking. Thinking is primarily concerned in the subconscious, while saying is in the realm of conscious effort as it takes reflection and deliberate intention in order to communicate what one says. Heidegger references Dasein, or “there-being”, where all modes of thinking originate and exist. Dasein requires world-relation in order to exist, as its relationship and interaction with the world is what colors all its worldview. Dasein seeks to understand and comes to understanding through an introspective reflection on the subjects at hand, continually and ceaselessly rearranging its own contents. A conscious being not only thinks about things to come to an understanding of it, but also expresses its understanding externally in order to communicate its own knowledge and engage in discourse for more knowledge. Heidegger expresses this in the following passage: “[…] Understanding in itself has the existential structure which we call project[ion]. […] The project[ive] character of understanding constitutes [Dasein’s] being-in-the-world with regard to the disclosedness of its there as the there of a [possible being]. And, as thrown, Dasein is thrown into the [way] of being of projecting. Projecting has nothing to do with [relating oneself] to a plan thought out, according to which Dasein arranges its being, but [rather], as Dasein, it has always already projected itself and is, as long as it is, projecting. As long as it is, Dasein has understood itself and will understand itself in terms of possibilities” (Heidegger 136). Understanding is in the realm of possibility, where there will be no complete or infinitely objective Truth as Dasein has sense-perceptive, cognitive, situational, and time-constricted limitations that affect understanding.

Phenomenology is the only way to approach the ontological questions; the questions about fundamental being. This is a nod to traditional metaphysics while also trying to deconstruct the tradition itself, re-contextualizing the information to come to a deeper understanding of it. I acknowledge that the purpose of Heidegger’s phenomenology is to approach the ontological questions in an attempt to deconstruct and revitalize the claim, however I critique that there is no need to do this when it comes to thinking and saying.

By consciously thinking something into being, Dasein has already interacted with “saying” as it says to itself what it thinks. Dasein also already “says” about a subject when it thinks about it, as Dasein is constantly relating to whatever is at hand: ““Understanding is the existential being of Dasein’s own[most] possible being, [such that] this being discloses in itself what its [very] being is about” (Heidegger 135). Any public discourse that stems from the individualized thinking, or in other words, any external “saying” that happens between two individuals, is presupposed by the individuals’ subjective thinking. Therefore, saying is permanently tied to thinking in the sense that one must think a subject in order to have anything to say about it. It’s hard to argue against this, but I also see no reason to question or differentiate between the two. Why posit that saying is in a different realm from thinking? It is interesting to dissect the importance of thinking in what one says, but to say that thinking is different than saying or work in separate ways is to say that an almond is not a nut, or is different than a nut. One is a subsection of another, encompassed in the mode of being that is Dasein.

Finally, Heidegger makes interesting points to listening as an integral existential part of Dasein: “Listening to … is the existential being-open of Dasein as being-with for the other” (Heidegger 153). By listening to what another individual is saying, there is an exchange of understanding of each other’s being. It is primarily through saying what one thinks to another individual, and having that individual listen to the content of what is being said, that defines its understanding of being-in-the-world. As we have already established that the act of relating is imperative to Dasein’s existence, the act of listening is imperative in relating. It is through an open inquiry of the other’s words and self-reflection of what is being said that Dasein maintains its own sense of authenticity in the world: “Hearing even constitutes the primary and authentic openness of Dasein for its ownmost [possible being], as in hearing the voice of the friend whom every Dasein carries with it. Dasein hears because it understands. As [understanding] being-in-the-world [with others], it ‘listens to’ [and is bound to, hörig] itself and to Mitdasein [being-there with], and in this listening [being bound] belongs to these” (Heidegger 153).

Book Reviews, philosophy, Review, Writing

“Philosophical Investigations” by Ludwig Wittgenstein

The following is an exploration into Ludwig Wittgenstein’s “Philosophical Investigations“. This was an explanation I had presented as an essay to my philosophy class, “Language, Meaning, and Understanding”. Hopefully this provides some sort of insight into this work. In particular, I explore the question: How does meaning relate to use?

 

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Image from Amazon

Wittgenstein claims in his “Philosophical Investigations” that meaning is how a word is “use[d] in language” (Wittgenstein 20). Meaning is contingent on usage, as it is grounded in the reality or ideality in which the word is used. Usage is imperative to meaning, as sense-perception is how one comes into contact with the context of a phrase. There is the tendency to problematize the relationship between knowledge of a word and usage; however, it is necessary that there is the acknowledgement of something referenced in order for a word to be created in the first place: “What I really see must surely be what is produced in me by the influence of the object..a sort of a copy, something that in its turn can be looked at, can be before one; almost something like a materialisation …” (Wittgenstein 199). It is not an argument of whether or not the subjects are, in the present moment, coming into physical sensory contact with a word. It is an argument towards what a word means in the context of the reality it is being used. In order to determine meaning, there are several foundations upon which it must be established; a normative linguistic stage, and an exchange between a receiver of the information and the giver of the information.

The normative linguistic stage this paper refers to is described by Wittgenstein as the rules of interpretation. He claims that all that is said and communicated “is, on some interpretation, in accord with the rule” and that “interpretation still hangs in the air along with what it interprets” (Wittgenstein 80). The main rule of interpretation has to do with how a word is societally accepted and established, and also serves as the foundation for how meaning is created.

A word’s meaning is inherently embedded in usage within a society. Words in it of themselves are tools in language to express ideas and interpretations to other folks who are on the same normative linguistic stage. This stage is determined by the culture of the society in which the individuals interact: “Certainly. From time to time he gives [them] the right tip.—This is what ‘learning’ and ‘teaching’ are like here.—What one acquires here is not a technique; one learns correct judgements. There are also rules, but they do not form a system, and only experienced people can apply them right,” (Wittgenstein 227). The two characters on either end of the bridge, the giver of information on one end and the receiver of information on the other, play on this normative linguistic stage. Play or word usage is not completely open-ended, it relies on already-established and societally subconscious rules of interpretation. Words serve as the bridge in which one crosses over to meaning, always on a journey forward towards closer levels of understanding with the other. It is important to note in this metaphor that both characters must be on the same bridge in order to interact: “What happens when we make an effort—say in writing a letter—to find the right expression for our thoughts?—This phrase compares the process to one of translating or describing: the thoughts are already there (perhaps were there in advance) and we merely look for their expression” (Wittgenstein 108). There are many instances of miscommunication based off of not starting from the same place; there is a humorous image of two characters on two different bridges crossing two separate streams, where both assume that they are getting closer to the other, but aren’t even close to getting across the same bridge.

Both the giver and the receiver of the information must be clear on their intent on interpretation in order to be playing the same game and understanding the same rules of word usage. Without these things, meaning cannot be completely transferred from either party. Both must make it clear where there is any disconnect in their own subjective usage or meaning of a word. It is impossible to use the correct string of words to perfectly communicate one’s own ideas, as the mind already abstracts itself in the process of conferring a phrase to say. In understanding how a word is being used and under what context, general meaning is easier to discern.

Movie Reviews, Review

Movie Critique: Roma

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Yesterday my friends and I went to watch “Roma” in Berkeley. Set in the 1970s in Mexico City, this film follows the story of a maid who works for a middle-class family. It was written and directed by Alfonso Cuarón. I don’t want to reveal too much about the film, as you can watch it in theaters, (soon) on Netflix, and you can look up the plot online.

All in all, this film was pretty great. The cinematography was beautiful and I was thoroughly impressed by the filmmakers’ attention to detail. One of the things I loved the most about this movie is their use of long, sustained, one-take shots. In several of the scenes that played in the movie, the directors decided to film all the action of the scene in one long shot without any interruptions or cuts. What resulted were these beautiful vignettes that captured the life of the characters.

The movie is shot in black and white, which I appreciated. The choice to shoot in black and white placed the emphasis on the characters and their actions, as opposed to what was happening visually. It was still a visually compelling film, but the choice to make it black and white caused me to take in the scenery of the scenes more passively and focus more on what was going on.

I think the length and the pace of the film was alright. It might have been my own restlessness, but in some parts of the film I felt like the pace was so slow that it made me antsy. The filmmakers chose to include a lot of long, slow, sustained shots throughout the movie, which had benefits and drawbacks. Since there weren’t a lot of quick shots that propelled the movie’s actions, it felt a little long in some scenes. However, I think that some scenes in particular benefitted from how long and sustained and slow the shots were, as it increased the immersion into the film and built a lot of emotional depth.

If you’re planning on going to watch this movie, I should warn you that there is a lot of triggering content in the film. I don’t want to ruin the movie for anyone, but if you have unpleasant experiences with children’s deaths or gun violence, I’d recommend that you hold off on watching this.

Life, Thoughts

Countdown to the Philippines!

My mom and I are very excited for our upcoming trip. It’s less than two days until we fly out from Portland to begin our adventure to the Philippines! We’ve been packing and getting our travel necessities together this past week. I will try my best in the upcoming month to keep this blog updated with our adventures. My dad was kind enough to let me bring his iPad with me on the trip, and we will have internet connection on and off during our stay.

In preparation for our trip, I’ve gathered some helpful tips and tricks from travel blogs across the internet:

https://www.travelzoo.com/blog/20-tips-before-traveling-internationally/
https://www.travelandleisure.com/blogs/12-tips-to-make-international-travel-easier

Book Reviews, Life, Movie Reviews, Review

The Southern Reach Trilogy + Cartopia

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Image from: wired.com

I was blessed to be able to receive the Southern Reach trilogy from my friend, Thom. We caught up yesterday at Cartopia in Portland and had a great time eating delicious crepes and Mexican foods.

The Southern Reach trilogy, written by Jeff VanderMeer, is a great mystery, sci-fi, action, and thriller series. Recently the first book, Annihilation, came out as a movie featuring Natalie Portman, Gina Rodriguez, Tessa Thompson, and Jennifer Leigh (all-star, all-female cast). Thom and I went to see the movie when it first came out in order to compare it to the books. The movie by itself was pretty good, but deviated away from a lot of what the books reveal. I highly recommend reading the series before tackling the movie, just so you can have a full appreciation for the context of the books.

I don’t want to give any spoilers out for those interested in reading the books, but I will say that the trilogy is one of my favorites I’ve read. VanderMeer is a compelling writer and leads you through an intense exploration of an imaginative world. I cried, got goosebumps, and had sleepless nights because of this series. It features wilderness, spies, relatable characters, extraterrestrial life, and mystery. The series will leave you with more questions than it does answers, and make you think about Area X for a long time after you put the books down. Here is a description of the book from Wikipedia:

“The book describes a team of four women (a biologist, an anthropologist, a psychologist, and a surveyor) who set out into an area known as Area X. The area is abandoned and cut off from the rest of civilization.[1] They are the 12th expedition. The other expeditions have been fraught with disappearances, suicides, aggressive cancers, and mental trauma. The novel won the 2014 Nebula Award for Best Novel[2] and the 2014 Shirley Jackson Award for best novel.”

Check it out!