I guess, dear Olavia, that you are condemned to walk around with a pencil stuck in your heart.

Try wrenching it out—you’ll die within minutes. You will have to let it vibrate with every beat, accept it as a part of you. Perhaps if you let the graphite meld with your blood, one day you’ll be able to transfer your bruises onto paper. And if you can stand it, pain will have acquired a whole new meaning.

“What a delightful thing it is,” so ran my thoughts, “to have done with study! Now I may really enjoy myself! I know as much as any girl in our school, and since it is the best school in England, I must know all that it can ever be necessary for a lady to know. I will not trouble my head ever again with learning anything; but read novels and amuse myself for the rest of my life.”

This noble resolve lasted, I fancy, a few months, and then depth below depth of my ignorance revealed itself very unpleasantly!

Frances Power Cobbe, Autobiography (1894)

Manchmal fühle ich mich, als ob ich fliegen könnte.


“Ganbatte!” was one of the first words I learned in Japanese. Minori had taught it to me when we were together in Iowa. Back then, I was like a little puppy who could make itself understood when hungry, thirsty or tired in this new language. I think Minori had fun trying to teach me new tricks; I was his pet, this girl who had recently left her third-world home to see the world–or cornfields–for a lark. Somewhere around that time I was dubbed “Acosta-sensei,” by our friend Kotaro, maybe out of irony.

After I returned to Colombia in 2003, my bond with Japan was reduced to Minori and his boxes full of candy, occasional e-mails from Kotaro, and the fervent dream of experiencing myself the things I had only been able to live by proxy. I still thought fondly of the expression which reminded me of a man I loved and inspired me to hang on to whatever goals I had. To me, “ganbatte!” was not just a wish: it was a philosophy. The reason for this could be found in Minori’s tendency to deepen even the shallowest ideas. I still cherish this man and admire him a lot. His achievements illustrate what the word used to represent for me.

However, now that I’ve been living in Japan for the past three years and a half, the meaning of “ganbatte!” has faded as it no longer represents something special nor dear to me, just as the nickname Acosta-sensei doesn’t ring a bell anymore since I lost contact with Kotaro. Everyone around me wishes each other to hang on, whether the feat is big or small. I find no fault for this loss in the word nor Japanese society, but it’s just the sacrifice that dissociation brings.

And so this blog goes on, almost devoid of change (after all, what’s in a name?). It is still the same collection of excerpts from the story of a girl who once looked up in wonder at a star cluster whose existence her eyes found to doubt. That girl still looks up, fascinated at the myriad of twinkling marvels she could never even hope to fathom, and yet gathering inspiration from them to lay down scrambled lines on random pieces of paper.