January 27, 2017

I Navigated By Building Joy


Right now, I’m in a city that’s so beautiful and strange it feels unreal. Valparaíso, Chile, is built around a cluster of hills, so all its streets wind up and down like a labyrinth. Colorful stairs run between and around buildings and artists have painted unique murals around the whole downtown. To add to the feeling that the city is from some other unknown era, 26 funiculars dot the hills—they’re touristy, but people also regularly use the steep, aging railways as public transit, an easy way to skip walking uphill on their daily commute to work. 


I’m here to visit my uncle, Pedro, who grew up in Valparaíso. He now lives in Switzerland but comes back to visit whenever he can. It’s been really special to have him show me around and answer all my many, many questions about Chilean life and politics.  




I met these two inspiring ladies, Suzy and Neta, in Ushuaia, the southernmost city in the world. They’re traveling together for a year, speak eight languages between them, and have lived in Belgium, Poland, England, France, Italy, and Israel. So they’re an excellent duo to talk to about global politics. And to share snacks with. 




This week, my uncle and I went to visit the house of Chilean poet Pablo Neruda. The house is now a museum and the line to get in was gigantic! Though waiting an hour to get inside was annoying, it gave me ample time to reflect on how cool it is that hundreds of people want to visit the home of a poet. Where else in the world does that happen? This phrase “Navegué Construyendo La Alegría” is from a Neruda poem that’s carved into one of the walls of the house. The poem is about a dark time in Neruda’s life—in the 1930s and 40s, he was a Communist and a strong advocate against fascism. When the president outlawed the Communist party in Chile in 1948, he had to flee. Friends hid him in their basement for months until he was able to escape the country. But this line from the poem is surprisingly bright. It translates as “I navigated by building joy.” Good advice for these times, too. As we exhaust ourselves fighting against inequality and oppression, I need to remember to navigate by building joy with friends, family, and strangers. 




Podcast • Just in time for the deluge of terribleness that is Donald Trump’s first week in office, I present the Popaganda podcast “Laughing at Tyrants.” The show features advice on using humor to deal with darkness from comedian Aparna Nancherla and Satanic Temple organizer Jex Blackmore. 


Comic • For excellent political comics website The Nib, I wrote a short comic about ways to resist Donald Trump. It’s illustrated by the fantastic Shannon Wright (who you should 100% follow on Instagram).


Zine • I always love having something in my bag to gift to new friends and people I meet, so I made a little zine about the street dogs of Valparaiso. It’s full of all the Spanish-language dog puns I could muster. If you want a copy, just reply to this email and I’ll send you the PDF to print out! 



Postcard Powers - Artist BT Livermore (based in Butte, Montana) printed these beautiful postcards that you can put up in your window or use to write to a legislator. Money from the sales goes to the ACLU and the National Immigration Law Center. 

Sarah Glidden - Comics journalist Sarah Glidden tells very empathetic stories about hard stuff, like war and political discord. Her Instagram featuring sketches about watching the news unfold this week has been a salve. 


Chilean Spanish Slang - My uncle has been teaching me all these funny local words used just in Chile. Here’s a short list of some Chilean words—they’re very fun to say. Some of my favorites: bacán (“cool”), guagua (“baby”), palta (“avocado”), cachai (“get it?”), and pololo (someone you’re hooking up with).


The V-Word - A year ago, I wrote a chapter for this nonfiction book aimed at teenagers that’s all about virginity (edited by Amber Keyser). This week it landed on the American Library Association’s 2016 list of best feminist books for teens!  




Gay Gigante - I picked up this bright pink graphic novel in a bookstore in Santiago and immediately fell in love. Artist Gabriel Ebensperger (AKA Gay Gigante) writes with humor and sweetness about being young and gay in the big city. Definitely recommended if you can read Spanish! Even if you can’t read Spanish, you can get the gist of a lot of his jokes because of he’s so good at expressive graphics. Check out the Gay Gigante website



Keep up the heat. The graffiti above reads: “Against all authority, except my mom.” 😬 After the huge, historic Women’s March last week, it’s essential that we keep staying informed about issues like the Keystone Pipeline, abortion funding, and immigration policies. I’ve been using this app Countable that shows what bills are facing Congress and how my representatives have voted on each law. 


I’ll write again in two weeks! In the meantime, you can follow me on Twitter and Instagram for more frequent updates.