Saturday, August 26, 2017

The #WATWB August Edition: On Hope & the Worthiness of the Effort It Takes


Photo by Berlian Khatulistiwa (Unsplash). Typography by Guilie Castillo.
It's been a hard couple of months, and it hasn't been easy to focus on the positive. Last month, in fact, I found it impossible (one of our dogs died). And then the drama with North Korea started. The situation in Venezuela got much, much worse (Curaçao is like 75 km off the VEN coast)—including a threat of military action from the US and, just yesterday, new financial sanctions. And then there's that spate of white supremacist rallies and demonstrations wreaking havoc in the US.

Is it any wonder that I'm still struggling to find the light? Maybe not. But I have a choice, don't I? I can allow myself to sink into the darkness, to lose the fragile hold I have on hope, to give in to despair. Or... I can make an effort. Grasp that hope tighter. Feed my strength with the superfood of finding the good in the world.

Which is why the We Are The World blogfest, a monthly event that seeks to spotlight the good stories, the positive outcomes, the reasons for hope, is all the more important. And important, too, that I—that all of us—make the effort to find those stories.

Those outcomes.

Those reasons.

Even if it's something small, something tiny and apparently insignificant compared to the enormity of everything else. Every bit of hope helps. Every bit of feel-good we're able to muster, even if only for a moment, pushes the darkness back. And, inch by inch, we'll gain ground. Because, finally, this is about keeping alive not just the ideals but the reality of the world we want: a world of light, and of hope.


And it starts with us. Be the light you want to see in the world, right? In order to be any kind of light, though, we need to keep that spark alive in our own consciousness.


Sunday, August 20, 2017

The Other Side of Hope: Film Reviews from the Curaçao Film Festival #ciffr

The Other Side of Hope, a film from Finnish director Aki Kaurismäki about a Syrian immigrant in Finland and officially labeled a comedy (more on that below), was the opening film for the Curaçao film festival on Wednesday April 5th. When we were making our selections for the festival, I marked this one as a must-see: immigration, especially from Syria, has taken a prominent role in news and debates worldwide, and after my dushi spewed a few anti-immigration sentiments (on which I swooped down like a rapacious bird of prey, no mercy, no quarter, until I saw a dawning light of reason in his eyes), I thought a story such as this one might help elucidate some of the finer points in the refugee-crisis dispute.



Sunday, July 2, 2017

The #WATWB June Edition: Celebrating Diversity

Love rules!!!!

June 30th, was a landmark day for Europe. The German parliament voted to legalize same-sex marriage after an emotional, if brief, debate that resulted in a 393-vs.-226 vote in favor. After three decades of the struggle for equality, and especially given the present rise of conservative policies worldwide, this victory for equality comes as a beautiful, and much-needed, source of hope for a more inclusive climate everywhere. As one member of the German parliament put it during the opening debate, with the legalization of gay marriage "many will receive something, but nobody will have something taken away.” (Thomas Oppermann, parliamentary leader of the Social Democrats)

June 30th also brought cause for celebration on a more personal, but still related, note: my dushi celebrated 20 years since coming to live in Curaçao. He never imagined, back then, that he'd stay on this rock so long; like most financial services employees, he came to the island with a three-year contract, and he hadn't given much thought to what he'd do after. But Curaçao won him over rather quickly. People who had arrived around the same time he did began leaving: to other financial centers, back to Holland, or changing career tacks, marrying and moving away... And, year after year, farewell party after farewell party, Cor stayed. He was offered a couple of good opportunities elsewhere, but—for one reason or another—he ended up turning them down. (Which was a good thing; otherwise we might never have met.)

Curaçao does that to some people. Not to everyone, maybe not even to the majority of expats and immigrants who come here. Lots of people have a hard time with the island; many never adapt, several can't wait for their contract to be up so they can leave. The smallness, the endemic limitations, the heat, you name it: there are plenty of reasons to dislike living here. But, for some of us, the cons can't hold a candle to the pros.



The pros might seem obvious; we're a Caribbean island, after all. Sun, sea, flip-flops and shorts, seafood and ice-cold beer, feet in the sand, cocktails with umbrellas in them. Not to undervalue these, but... well, pretty much any seaside destination offers variations thereof. No, what makes Curaçao special—truly special—has to do with diversity. Over 50 nationalities live here; all religions are present, all cultures, all colors. Just imagine the variety of delicious cuisine we have! And food becomes a metaphor for all sorts of wonderful things. No, Curaçao is no melting pot; that would imply a homogeneity of flavor and texture that would become antithesis to diversity. Food, however, says it best: flavors meet in combinations that build on each other, that borrow from each other not just to improve but to broaden the experience. Our experience. Our selves.

Today, July 2nd, the island is celebrating Dia di Bandera (Flag Day), and our new Prime Minister—a man who stands for diversity and inclusivity—posted this message on his Facebook page:



TRANSLATION FROM PAPIAMENTU (mine): "Our island is very diverse. People from different origins, cultures, and religions, together forming a nation which is unique. Which lives from union, united in our diversity. We are proud to live together with each other, here in our dushi Curaçao. Let's keep caring for and supporting each other, so that we can all continue prospering, together under one flag. Happy Flag Day."

And this year it's an especially happy celebration for Kòrsou: our soccer team won the Caribbean Cup last week—for the first time! EVER! It was the first time they even made it to the final. That footage in Mr. Prime Minister's video above showing the crowds waving little flags are from the welcome the team got at the airport Tuesday evening. Yes, we're very, very proud of them. 

Celebrations at Brionplein last Tuesday, when the Curaçao soccer team returned to the island after winning the Caribbean Cup — for the first time in history!

But I digress. The point I'm trying to make here is about diversity, and about how sharing space—a city, a nation, a life—with others, with very different others, is no impossible dream. Curaçao is living proof of that. This island is far from perfect—same-sex marriage, for instance, is still not legal here—and there's certainly room for improvement on all sorts of areas (corruption is a big, big problem; illegal immigration is, too, and there's still a lot of unresolved conflict with Holland), but the thing that makes Curaçao different from other diverse places is the attitude. In Curaçao, difference is normal. No one expects anyone else to be the same as they are. Diversity in background and religion is a given; people take it in stride, take it even for granted: everyone is different. It's not just how it is, but how it should be. And people here do, mostly, get the enormous benefits of a diverse society. 

I have hope that the world will, one day, not too far away, take the hint and follow the example.




Curaçao's national anthem (original Papiamentu, with the English translation—mine, don't quote me—in italics):

Lantá nos bos ban kanta
     Raise our voices to sing
grandesa di Kòrsou;

     the greatness of Curaçao
Kòrsou, isla chikitu,

     Curaçao, small island,
baranka den laman!

     cliffs at arm's reach
Kòrsou, nos ta stima bo

      Curaçao, we love you
ariba tur nashon.

      above all nations.
Bo gloria nos ta kanta

      Your glory we sing
di henter nos kurason.

      with our whole heart.
Nos pueblo tin su lucha,

      Our people have our struggles,
ma semper nos tin fé

      but always we have faith
di logra den tur tempu

      we'll achieve every time
viktoria ku trabou!

      victory with our toils!
Ban duna di nos parti

     Let's do our part
p'e isla prosperá.

     so the island may prosper.
Laga nos uni forsa
     Let us join forces
p'asina triunfá.

     in order to triumph.
Nos patria nos ta demostrá

     To our homeland we show
Honor i lealtat,

     honor and loyalry,
meskos na e bandera

     same as we do to our flag
union di nos nashon.

     union of our nation.
Nos bida lo ta poko

      Our life is a small thing
pa duna nos pais,

     to give to our country,
luchando uní pa libertat,

     fighting together for freedom,
amor i komprenshon.

     love, and understanding.
I ora nos ta leu fo'i kas

     And when we are far from home
nos tur ta rekordá

     we all remember
Kòrsou, su solo i playanan,

     Curaçao, its sun and beaches,
orguyo di nos tur.

     pride of us all.
Laga nos gloria Kreador

     Let us give glory to the Creator
tur tempu i sin fin,

     always and endlessly,
k'El a hasi nos digno

     that He has made us worthy
DI TA YU DI KÒRSOU!

     OF BEING CHILDREN OF CURAÇAO!


This post is part of the We Are The World monthly blog hop, an effort to change the focus of our ill-riddled world to hope and positivity, hosted by the most excellent Damyanti Biswas, of Daily Write fame, and co-hosted this month by Belinda Witzenhausen,  Lynn HallbrooksMichelle WallaceSylvia McGrath, Sylvia Stein


Monday, June 5, 2017

30 Odd Questions #Blogfest (via @DebbieDoglady)

I'm joining Debbie's and Emily's 30 Odd Questions blog hop! Responses in italics.




  1. What did you want to be when you were a kid? A writer. Yep. From the time when I was 8 and a short story I wrote won a school competition. But 'Nancy Drew' was a close second.
  2. Which “Friends” character do you relate to the most? Why?  Pffff... I was never really a big fan of Friends. Maybe because I never could relate to any of them? Jennifer Aniston always seemed too much of an airhead, too ditzy, too flighty. Monica seemed cool, but then she had this underlying OCD thing that seemed a tad disturbed to me. And the blond girl with the guitar... she was always so much fun. But... she never made sense. Sorry.
  3. Do you like your name? Why?  Ha — good question. Yes, I do like my name. For a large part of my life I didn't; too complicated, too unique, called too much attention to itself. Always had to be spelled, and even then there were mistakes... One of my school diplomas had to be redone because they misspelled my name. But, as time passed, I came to see my name as part, maybe more obvious than for most people, of what makes each of us individual and unique. And there's also the fact that my father invented it (so he claimed), and that made it extra special.
  4. Are you messy or neat? Messy. VERY messy.
  5. How tall are you? 1.73 m. According to this site, that's 5'8".
  6. How tall were you when you were 10? About... 1.65 m? Whatever that is in feet?
  7. What is your guilty pleasure? Just one? OK, then. Neil Gaiman novels. I just finished 'American Gods' for the third (or is it fourth?) time, and I'm a third of the way through Anansi boys — for the first time. 
  8. What are you saving money for right now? Save—? Error 404: The requested URL was not found on this server.
  9. How many Pringles can you eat at once? Not a Pringles fan.
  10. Tea or coffee? Coffee. 
  11. Are you an introvert or an extrovert? Introvert. Though most people who know me would disagree. (I'm such an introvert that I keep my introvert nature secret :D)
  12. What will be your Halloween costume this year? Okay... I outgrew Halloween costumes a long, long time ago. I'll dress up for a Pimps & Whores party, or any other themed thing, but... nah, not Halloween.
  13. Sweet or salty? Salty, baby. All the way.
  14. Favourite social media? Facebook. But I'm trying to wean myself from it.
  15. Who is the last person you kissed? Kissed-kissed, as in lips and tongue and all? My partner, Cor. But if you mean just cheek-kiss-hello, then... someone at a friend's farewell get-together on Friday. 
  16. What is your favourite breakfast? Something real 'Murican, like eggs over easy with bacon and sausage and hash browns and dollar pancakes with lots and lots of butter and syrup.
  17. When is your birthday? 17 Feb 1973
  18. When did you start your blog? June 2011
  19. What is your opinion on the Kardashians? The who?
  20. How would you describe your style? My... dressing style? My writing style? My hair style? Unclear. I'll go with dress. Probably 'beach bum' describes it best: shorts, flip flops, t-shirt. That's it. For all occasions.
  21. What colour is your hair? Brown. With ever-multiplying, but very natural-looking, gray highlights :D
  22. What colour socks are you wearing? See above for 'beach bum' style definition.
  23. What is your dream job? Writing fiction.
  24. Dogs or cats? Both. I've never understood this 'I'm a cat/dog person' differentiation. To me, cats and dogs are like two sides of the same coin; they balance each other out perfectly. At the moment, though, I only have dogs. (But, given my rescue proclivities, that could change any moment.)
  25. What makes you weird? Pfffff... The list is probably endless. And, of course, it's all about what context you use for 'weird'. Here in Curaçao I'm weird at all sorts of levels: I'm a 'Latina', but I dress like a Dutchie; I speak perfect English but don't speak either Dutch or Papiamentu; I don't have children (and don't even like them)... In Mexico I'm weird because I chose a place no one has ever heard of to live. And because I speak Spanish funny after so long under the Venezuelan influence of Curaçao. And because I'm an only child (in Mexico? seriously weird). I'm weird everywhere because I left a great job, and the corresponding great salary, to write and rescue dogs. 
  26. Celebrity crush? Wow. Leonard Cohen. T.S. Eliot. Roger Waters, right now (have you listened to his new album? BLOWN. AWAY.) More shallowly, the guy that played Superman in the new movie—but with whom I fell in love for his role as Charles Brandon in 'The Tudors'.
  27. Opinion on cigarettes? YUM. Been a smoker since I was 13 (that's... 31 years). No, I wouldn't recommend taking up tobacco to anyone, given the health detriment, but... yeah, I love smoking.
  28. Do you want/have children? How many? Nah. Not my thing.
  29. Three favourite boy names? Michael. Santiago. Duncan.
  30. Three favourite girl names? Kiana. Alexandra. Inés.



This was so much fun to answer, and I'm very much looking forward to reading everyone else's responses. If you enjoyed reading this and would like to join the fun, check out the guidelines here and sign up in the linky list below. Feel free to hop over to the other participants and get to know them... Some really entertaining and creative responses that are sure to make you chuckle—and several cool blogs and bloggers that you might be missing out on.

Thanks for reading!

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Elections in Mexico this Sunday. Key Elections.

This coming Sunday, June 4th, there will be elections in Mexico. Not presidential; only three states will be voting for new governors (and a fourth will be electing some 200 mayors). But these elections — the results in one state in particular — will shape the future of Mexico, for at least the next decade.

Elections for mayor are happening in the state of Veracruz, and elections for governor in Nayarit, Coahuila, and the state of Mexico. Yes, we have a state called after the country; someone must've run out of naming ideas... No, not really. It's more like the country is named after the state—or, actually, the city. In brief, when the Spanish conquered this land they'd call La Nueva España (New Spain, stretching from Nicaragua all the way up to British Columbia), they divided it into reinos, which translates literally as 'kingdoms' but it's in practice more like provinces, and one of these provinces, because it included the Mexica capital of Mexico-Tenochtitlan (now rather in ruins), was named xico. After independence from Spain came about and Mexico City was proclaimed the capital of this brand-new nation (1824), the city separated from the state into the Distrito Federal, DF for short (kind of like Washington, DC ). And so we ended up with both a city and a state (and a country) named México.

La Nueva España, circa 1821. At one point, the territory also included Cuba and the Philippines.
Back to the present. As I write (and as you read), the electoral process is going on in the state of México—and it promises to be one of the dirtiest ever. Which, if you know anything about Mexican elections, you know that's saying a lot. For as long as I can remember, and as long as my parents can remember, elections in México have always been 'arranged'. We all knew upfront who the new president would be, who the new governors, mayors, members of parliament, all of them, simply by virtue of the party they belonged to. The PRI held on to its dictatorship hand-me-down rule for 70 years by becoming masters of electoral fraud—and, of course, this resulted in a growing cynical defeatism in the population, which played right into their hands.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Jackie: Film Reviews from the Curaçao Film Festival #ciffr

It took me long enough, didn't it? Finally—finally—I'm here with the first review. Of the first film in our festival roster. (I could've started with my favorite and worked my way through to my least favorite, I guess, but—given the obvious time limitations in my blogging—it just seemed faster to go down the list in order. Plus, this way, you as the reader won't know in advance whether the review is a positive or negative one. Fine, there are no real negative reviews—except one—but there are a few four-stars-with-caveats.)

The film festival opened on Wednesday April 5 officially, but one week earlier, on March 29, they had a pre-screening of what the festival organizers expected to be one of the films in highest demand: Pablo Larraín's Jackie.




Monday, April 17, 2017

I am shameless... (And I apologize.)

So much for my new year's resolution to not let more than two weeks go by without posting... It's going on 3 months since my last post here, and more than that on the dog blog; it's a wonder I even remember how to. Shame on me.



Much has happened to blog about, and plenty of times I began composing drafts of posts... I just never got around to finishing them before things changed. Again. I got a job, which upended my 'carefully balanced' schedule of dog walks and writing and (at least the intention of) blogging. I've since quit said job (yeah, short-lived experiment; one learns more from mistakes than from success). Two of the four puppies we took in as fosters back in December are still not adopted, which means they're still here, and as part of our effort to make them more adoptable I've begun taking them to training (well, one of them, since that's all I can afford time- and money-wise). I'm still not done with the dog book, but over the last two weeks I made some serious progress. I hope to have that done and delivered to the publisher for another round of edits before the month is out.

The dog book cover, as designed by Everytime Press

Oh, and we had the film festival here in Curaçao two weeks ago, April 5th to 9th. Forty-seven absolutely extraordinary films (well, except one). Impossible to see them all, obviously, but we did manage, with careful logistics planning that included Cor taking off two whole days from work (and one extra one after the festival, just to rest up), to see fifteen of them. Sixteen, if you count the preview film, Jackie, which screened one week before the festival began (and again during the festival, but seeing it beforehand allowed us to fit in one more film over that busy weekend).

Our film-fest booty, courtesy of Cor (who, unlike me, remembers to take photos of these things for posterity):
tickets grouped and stapled by day, from Wed Apr 5th through Sunday Apr 9th.

And I desperately want to share those fifteen (fine, sixteen) films we saw. They were thought-provoking and gorgeous: their narrative styles, the cinematography, the diversity of stories and points of view, their timeliness and value in view of current events. So, as of this week, I'll start posting a review every few days here. No, I won't make the mistake of committing to a certain day of the week or even a fixed (-ish) schedule; we all know how well that's worked out for me in the past. But I do want to share them, for you film-lovers out there, of course, but also for me, as a sort of journal record of the impact these films had on me.

So... See you soon!

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

The One Positive Thing About #Trump? Endless Fodder For Ridicule

It's true. The man practically begs to be made fun of. That bit about 'the best crowds ever' at the inauguration—seriously? His choices for cabinet members—an illiterate moron for Education, a climate change denier for the EPA, a freakin' banker-slash-Wall-Street-scammer for Finance—and his own son-in-law as 'Senior Adviser'! I mean, you can't make this stuff up. Any dystopian novel that included even a fraction of this goofed-up circus would be laughed out of even the most amateur of literary agents' offices. To quote Monsieur Cheeto himself: Unbelievable. 

And tragic. And—to put it mildly—worrisome. But a sense of humor is the hallmark of an educated mind, and if we can't see the hilarity in all of this, we're that much farther away from gaining the perspective we need to fight back.

Enter The Netherlands.


(Updated video, since original is 'no longer accessible'... Censured, perhaps? :D )

Got to love the Dutch. (Plus, Cheeto-man really hates to be laughed at, which makes the laughing all the more enjoyable. Thank you, dude, for elevating laughter into an instrument of resistance.)

Thursday, January 12, 2017

2017 To-Do List

Lately I've been doing more visual "art" than writing... Not sure why. Maybe creativity not only comes in different shapes of expression but actually requires these different shapes to feed on, to renew itself, even to deepen itself. (Or maybe I'm just a five-star procrastinator and spin doctor.)

Here's one of the latest: the 2017 To-Do List. Hope you like it :)

The 2017 To-Do List, by Guilie Castillo
Created in Photoshop, January 2017

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

On the Money We Make (or Fail to Make) Through Writing

Getting paid more than zero for your work is the first step toward learning what it’s really worth to you, the best way to learn to stop obsessing about what it’s worth to everybody else.

This brilliant piece I just found on Slate.com touches on some of the key elements of making a living through writing. Many authors I know say it should never be about the money. Many others believe it shouldn't be about anything else. Some feel that making money off their 'art' is akin to 'selling out'; some consider payment the ultimate validation.

Either way, though, and as the article says, 
"Few connections are more mysterious than the one between writing books and making money."

Oh, and this:
In their candid moments, most publishers will admit going into business with writers whose work they regard as subliterary because they believe that they can profit from their books. This is still considered shocking in some unsophisticated quarters, but publishing isn’t literature: Literature is literature.

Read the full article at Slate.com.

Friday, January 6, 2017

The Voice of Frustration

We—all of us falling under the liberal, progressive label—have just about had it with being told to "get over it", "work together", "move forward". Two months after the election and the divide is only growing wider. I've seen plenty of material—call it rants, or apologies, or whatever you want—in the blogosphere and elsewhere, and as brilliant as much of it has been, none of it has captured both the frustration and the sheer reality of it as perfectly as this post. My highlight (WARNING: strong language):

You can stop explaining the white working class rural conservative Christian farming folk, hot-takers and self-justifiers. Instead, why don't you explain liberalism to them? Why don't you explain that jobs are drying up and communities are dying not because of abortion and same-sex marriage but because of Republican economic policies that have favored the wealthy, most of whom live in cities, including a certain president-elect they voted for who took advantage of those very policies in order to stay rich? Ultimately, though, it won't matter. Because despite every fucking word to the contrary, the real problem is that those who voted for Trump are racist. They are sexist. They are Islamophobic. They are ignorant.  
The whole thrust of these "let's learn about the yokels" articles is to imply that there are real Americans and there are coastal elites. Sorry, motherfuckers. We're all Americans. And if I have to suffer under your stupid, you have to hear about our smarts.

Exactly. (Even if I take exception to the use of 'Americans'... America is a continent, which makes not just US citizens but Mexicans, Ecuadorians, Peruvians, Brazilians, Costa Ricans, Guatemalans, etc., etc., also 'Americans'.)



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