I Wrote a Short Story!

Dear Readers,

For those of you who’ve been long-time followers of my blog, you’ve read about my journey to India this year and my journey back home to the U.S. It’s a home that I don’t love, but I want to.

Throughout the past month, I’ve been somewhat silently working on a short story. When I began it, I didn’t really know where it would end. I allowed the story to tell itself. What has come out of that has been the best writing I have ever done, a short story called “Gabrielle and Tom: Three Days with an Israeli in Goa.” Experience really does give your writing the power that it needs. I have finished after 60 pages! If you would like to read my story, I will be selling it. Let me know and I will get in touch with you. Thanks! To the creatives, KEEP CREATING! Take a break when you need to but never give up the beautiful art that can only come through your hands. The world needs more artists!

Included below is an excerpt of my story. Check it out! Please consider supporting this small artist and purchasing my story! It’s only $5!

 

 

 

While talking together, Tom and I dove into touchy subjects for most people, but it didn’t seem like anything was out of line or inappropriate for us. We talked about everything. I loved hearing his stories and he was enraptured by my stories. We enjoyed throwing shade at our respective countries. He was fed up with the hypocrisy of Israel, the military, and its highly Orthodox people. The hypocrisy pushes people away from embracing Judaism. Personally, I was done with America’s love of guns and hatred of people of color and women. I opined that the U.S. loves to exploit people of color and our countries but when the time comes to return the favor and help us, they’re not there. A prime example of this was how the U.S. responded to Hurricane Maria’s aftermath in Puerto Rico and the tragically unnecessary loss of life that followed.

When in the U.S., speaking about these issues is always so daunting unless you speak with a socially-conscious white person or another person of color. The rest of the time, people call you a “crazy liberal” or “race-baiter”, disregarding the valid and factual points you have made because they don’t like your skin color. But with Tom, because he was not American, it was so easy to share my opinions without fear. I told him what really happens behind that shiny façade America loves to wear. He learned about the mass shootings, the police shootings of unarmed black people, mass incarceration, and the Latin immigration crisis. I argued that because only rich, old, white, straight men had all the power in the U.S., we were all suffering. I shared the history of my country, pointing out that it was, again, the rich, white, straight, men’s abuse of people of color that led to so many issues in lower-income communities of color with ramifications still affecting us today. With little experience in these highly esoteric American problems, Tom nodded, asked, “Really?” every so often and eventually joined me a little in berating “the white man”. We mentally shook hands with each other.

“So, Gabrielle, you talk about white men. I’m white, too, right?” He gently asked the question, challenging me but not intending to offend.

I hadn’t thought of him like this. He, as an Israeli man, had no part in any of the egregious acts of violence my ancestors endured, but he wore the same skin as those who did. He could be considered white, but I suppose that when I think about white people, my mind reverts to slavery and oppressive acts. He was not culpable for that. Besides, he was Israeli. He was Middle Eastern.

“Well, you’re from Israel, so I guess I don’t really think of you as white.”

“You know, my family actually came from Ukraine and Russia.”

“Really! Did they…uh…come after the Holocaust?”

“Yes, they did.”

“And the rest of your family back in Ukraine and Russia. Did they…?”

“Oh, they all died. All of them.”

He shook his head and shrugged his shoulders as if this were commonplace. My ancestors were murdered by racist white men centuries ago. His were murdered by racist and anti-Semitic white men just a lifetime ago. You can’t quantify suffering, but this thought gave me pause. His grandparents must have fled to Israel right after the Holocaust, just when Israel became a country. As hard as it is for me to live with the ramifications of slavery, segregation, and the continuing colonization of Puerto Rico, I can’t imagine how difficult it is to cope with the knowledge that just a few generations ago, you would have been exterminated for being Jewish, for being who you are. He thought I was strong, but that kind of history produces profound strength. I could see that he had it in droves. But, I could also see that his heart was soft. He didn’t serve in the Israeli military, which is generally required, so I wondered what had happened to him to prevent him from serving. Was it religious beliefs? Heavy emotional stress? Tom was funny. He made me laugh each time I saw him, but his quick jokes were often dark. He claimed this was an Israeli thing, and it probably was a part of that culture, but something in his eyes told me that he was tired. He was tired of living in a country where war is constantly threatened. Where it’s common to see soldiers with guns walking around every day. Where you could lose more than one best friend in war. Where you have no choice in whether or not you want to risk your life for your country. Growing up in that type of environment undoubtedly produces stress and his artist’s spirit was heavy. His shoulders had taken multiple beatings, but he threw them back and carried on. An artist’s heart and spirit are malleable. This is not to say that we are weak. We are strong, but our strength lies in our ability to express our emotions, to feel pain, and to transform that pain into art. The courage it takes to create a piece and share it with the world is striking. Not everyone can do that, because it’s not simply something you make, but it’s a part of your soul. If someone criticizes your work, what are they saying about who you are as a person?

 

 

Gabrielle G.

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I’m Betraying My Culture? My People?

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about Puerto Rico and Puerto Ricans. I made a decision when I booked that one-way flight to India, which I don’t think I fully understood at the time. I made a deliberate decision to pursue holy overseas work in India, not in Puerto Rico or any other place. Sometimes I feel a little bit guilty about that, especially considering what has happened on the island in Hurricane Maria’s wake. There is a severe shortage of teachers. There are hurting women, men, children, and teenagers. There are a lot of suicides happening in Puerto Rico. The U.S. government won’t openly admit this, by the way. Those who can leave are leaving the island in droves. It’s completely falling apart even though the U.S. government has a responsibility to provide for Puerto Ricans just like they would for white people in the states. BECAUSE WE ARE CITIZENS, DAMMIT.

 

Yet I didn’t go to Puerto Rico. I absolutely could have. For a while, I was in talks with this organization that sends people out to do holy overseas work. We extensively talked about Puerto Rico. Instead, I chose to come to India, a place where I’d have to learn multiple new languages, change the way I dress, eat differently, behave differently around men, and say goodbye to my favorite American/NYC things. Oh, and I said goodbye to my family and friends, too. I said goodbye knowing full well that I had no intention of returning in the foreseeable future. The only way I will return is if God audibly speaks to me and tells me to leave India or if everything completely falls apart, leaving me with no one to help. The former may happen and the latter is  borderline impossible.

 

Some may say that I’m betraying my culture by doing what I’m doing. Why am I not focused on Puerto Rican suffering? Instead I’m intentionally immersing myself in a culture I was not born into, changing so many things about how I present myself to people, and even changing the way I spell my name (although I hate it), because I want my name to be better understood and pronounced by the Indian people. I will belt out “Jana Gana Mana” in a heartbeat but will never again sing “The Star Spangled Banner.” You don’t have to reject your home country completely in order to do this type of work, but I just intensely dislike the U.S., so that’s me. Sometimes I pull my hair back into a bun so that my afro isn’t so striking. I try to stay in the sun for a bit every day to steadily darken my skin. I’m intentionally getting darker, which baffles every Indian I talk to about being tan. They tell me that my color is good and not to get darker. I tell them I want to get dark. They stare at me in amazement. I don’t see any of this as a betrayal. I see it as beautiful. I think of Amy Carmichael who went to Tamil Nadu from IRELAND, basically one of the whitest places on Earth. She wore Indian clothes and was one of the first overseas workers to do so. She stained her skin with coffee so her light skin wouldn’t be too shocking to the Indians she served. She had a strong cultural background as well and she gave it all up to be His hands and feet in India.

 

For now, I have traded arroz con habichuelas for rice and dal (chicken curry as well if it’s a good day). I have put the t-shirt and jeans aside in favor of salwar suits. Jhumkas jingle in my ears and chudiyan sparkle on my wrists. I have just about given up the hope of finding many people who speak Spanish, although the Lord has blessed me with one here who is learning Spanish! She calls me a “chica bonita”, a “pretty girl.” I probably won’t see my biological family for quite some time. But, to me, it’s all worth it. He’s worth all this effort, which honestly doesn’t feel like much effort at all. It’s all so easy for me, which I thank God for. To be frank, I don’t really see what I’m doing as very different or special. To me, this is the only way I know how to live. But, while writing this, I heard God say to my heart, “Do you realize the magnitude of what you’re doing?” I really don’t! I pray that He shows me. Just like for those who came before me and for those who will come after me, it’s all for Him. This is what I want to be remembered for: loving Him and loving His creation.

Goodbye, America

Wow. I can’t believe I’m actually at this point. After three years of dreaming, praying, hoping, crying, cursing, screaming, and all of that good stuff, I’m finally leaving the U.S. I have plans that will keep me for 6 months in India, but it’s likely that I’ll be able to stay on longer. I have no intention of coming back to the U.S. for quite some time. Seeing the amount of school shootings, shootings of unarmed people of color, and the disgusting way the U.S. treats immigrants and Puerto Rico, I knew I could no longer live in such a place. The facade of freedom in this country is strong. No country is perfect, but the U.S. loves to pretend that we’ve got it all together, that we’re NUMBER ONE! We’re not even close.

As I reflect on my 24 years of living in the U.S., most of them spent in New York, I think about all of the amazing things that being an American has provided me. I have an incredibly strong passport, one that people trust and respect around the world. I was able to study at college with no problems whatsoever. I was able to live on my own and work, building up a career for myself. When I had my period, I wasn’t shunned or cast aside from the rest of society. No one forced me or pressured me to get married.

I was able to walk around my neighborhood at night and feel safe (except when it came to drug dealers -____- ).  I was able to freely post on social media about my disdain for Donald Trump and how much I dislike this country. When called in to jury dury, I was able to look the judge in the eyes and tell him, “I can’t serve on this jury because I don’t trust cops.” A cop’s testimony was going to be included. He asked me why and I responded with, “Cops systematically assassinate black people.” I was easily dismissed from jury duty and wasn’t silenced or attacked for speaking the truth. After Hurricane Maria destroyed Puerto Rico and the U.S. government did nothing, I openly railed against the government and attended protests in NYC with no fear for my safety. 

No one expects me to do less because I am a woman. No one thinks there’s a stopping point to my dreams. I can do whatever I want. I can easily work hard, land a well-paying job, and watch the money flow in. It wouldn’t be a struggle for me to develop that kind of life. Most of the people I know are quite content with that kind of life. Yet, I am not. 

It is insane to most people that I’m choosing to leave behind a life of luxury to pursue something else, something bigger, something of eternal significance. I’m choosing to live a life in a new place where I’ll have to learn a new language (or three), figure out how everything works, and develop a new life there. 

While thinking about how hard this is going to be for me, even though I know people there, even though it’s not my first time there, a realization came to my mind. This is how foreigners feel when they begin new lives in the U.S. They have countless hopes and dreams. Many of them don’t speak English. They live below the radar, cleaning after us, cooking for us, and managing our gardens/yards. They don’t want to be seen too much. They just want a better life.

I’m going in search of a better life, but not for myself. I’ve already been given so much. I have no expectations of great wealth or health. I want to show women and girls how incredibly special they are. I want them to learn that God made them to do great things with their lives. I trust that He will help me do this.

So as this chapter of my life closes, well it’s really more of a book (24 years!), I look toward the future with thick anticipation, a little fear, and trust in a God who knows what my heart needs. 

Jesus paid it all; all to Him I owe.

Blessings,

Gabrielle G.

Still Dark in Puerto Rico: My First Protest

Friday, December 29th marked 100 days since Hurricane Maria attacked Puerto Rico, leaving the island completely without power or water. Medical attention was next to impossible, as the hospitals had no electricity. Even getting to the hospital was unimaginable, due to fallen trees and the lack of gas for cars.

 

After Hurricane Maria initially struck the island, all communication ceased for a few days. Family members desperately tried to contact each other both on the island and the mainland U.S., but found little luck. I personally did not hear about my family for several days and when we finally received word, we heard that they were safe, yet had no food, water, or power. Initially my first thought was, “They have to leave the island! Let’s get them off!” I consulted my mother and we determined that I could house four people in my apartment and she could house some in hers. After concocting this plan, we learned that no one wanted to leave the island. Not even parents with young children. I could easily discern that Puerto Rico’s immediate recovery was going to take an extremely long time and schools could be closed for a while, if not shut down permanently. Why wouldn’t a family with young children move to the mainland for a better life if a positive future in Puerto Rico was impossible? Well, I guess the people of Puerto Rico have more faith than I do because, although many of them left the island, many stayed behind.

 

One of my aunts in Puerto Rico regularly uses her Facebook page to update her friends on life in Puerto Rico. She typically writes brief status updates: “No hay luz. (There’s no light)” “No hay agua (There’s no water).” “No tenemos comida (We don’t have food).” Each status update brought new waves of despair over me and I felt completely helpless. At times, she posted that they had electricity and water only to post again a few hours later that they lost it. With my current financial situation, I’m pretty unable to tangibly help my family in Puerto Rico. Literally the only thing I can offer is prayer for everyone and everything affected by Hurricane Maria. But, I try not to doubt the power of my prayers. God moves mountains when those who love Him pray to Him and ask for His intervention.

 

As the days have passed, mainstream media has completely forgotten about Puerto Rico. While the media initially remarked on the damage, the number of deaths (we’ll return to that in a minute), and Trump’s idiotic and tone-deaf response to the island, coverage has diminished. It’s only natural; other news stories take precedence, I suppose. But, people on the island are still suffering. Many people still do not have power or water. People don’t have food. Yes, these are people and are valuable because they are image-bearers of God, but they are also American citizens. How can American citizens suffer in this way when the U.S. can do whatever they want? The U.S. has absolutely everything and its disposal, yet has not used that privilege to expedite help to Puerto Rico. In fact, it seems like more than just neglecting Puerto Rico after the hurricane, they are taking steps to lie about how damaged the island is. One facet of this cover-up is the death toll. We were first informed by mainstream media that a few dozen people in Puerto Rico died from the hurricane. Questionable as that statement was from the beginning, I thought, “Well, even the Puerto Rican government is saying this, so I suppose it must be true. Certainly the Puerto Rican government wouldn’t conceal the true death toll. They want aid!”

We’ve just learned that the death toll is over one thousand people, most of them dying after the hurricane. This means that because the U.S. didn’t act expediently, people died from its negligence. People undoubtedly died because of lack of water, medicine, and food. The U.S. has Puerto Rican blood on its hands, but this is definitely not the first time that has happened.

 

On December 29th, many Puerto Ricans and supporters gathered in Union Square Park in New York City to protest this ridiculous response by the U.S. government. I was one of those Puerto Ricans. Standing outside in below 15 degree F weather was certainly not my idea of a good time, but as one of the speakers, Rosa Clemente, said, “Standing outdoors in the cold for two hours is nothing compared to what our family and friends have suffered on the island over the past one hundred days.” Since it was my first protest, I wasn’t sure what to expect. When I arrived, protest organizers handed me a sheet of paper with the Puerto Rican national anthem and some chants as well as a few articles about the truth that the U.S. government doesn’t want us to know about Puerto Rico. My toes and fingers ached with cold and my ears cried to be covered. But, I felt so proud to stand there along with different generations of Puerto Ricans as one cohesive unit. No matter our borough or language, we were one. Spanish-speakers, English-speakers, Puerto Ricans, Caucasians, African-Americans, former Young Lords members, people in their 20s, parents, and teens all gathered together. The solidarity in the air was incredible. We sang the Puerto Rican national anthem together and while most people didn’t know it, I did and I sang it with solemn pride.

 

The protest finished out with drum playing and joyful victory chants. We believed in a victory that we couldn’t yet see. That’s faith. My first protest was a cold and serious experience, but I thought about everyone who couldn’t be there that night. Rosa Clemente said that each person standing there represented a hundred people who couldn’t come. That deeply resonated with me. I stood there, in New York City, one Puerto Rican among many, yet representing my mother, my grandmother, my great-grandmother, and on and on until we reach our Taino, African, and Spaniard ancestors. I knew that my grandmother would have beamed with pride if she were alive today and knew that her granddaughter was woke, passionate, and committed to Puerto Rican restoration. My grandmother was a strong Puerto Rican woman. My mother is a strong Puerto Rican woman. This is the stock from which I’m made. I will continue to push forward, writing the truth each step of the way, praying that it sets someone free. Pa’lante. Siempre pa’lante.

 

 

Blessings,

 

Gabrielle G.

 

Self-Denial and Your Calling (Puerto Rico?)

Readers,

I’m sure you’ve been keeping up to date with the news on Puerto Rico, as we all should. Although the President says that the government’s relief efforts have been extraordinary, the faces of the people in Puerto Rico are telling me otherwise. The incredible mayor of San Juan, Carmen Yulin Cruz, has given passionate pleas for Puerto Ricans, using such strong words like “dying” and “genocide.” Wow, and that’s the capital city.

So if those in the capital city are suffering so viciously, we must accept that there are many in the campo (countryside) who are worse off. They have no water, no electricity, no food, and no medical supplies. I’m certain that the death toll is much higher than the government believes it to be. I have no doubt that there are many Puerto Ricans in the campo who have died in their homes and relief workers simply haven’t found them yet.

This disastrous hurricane has raised so many feelings inside of me. I’ve been turning various options over in my mind, trying to find how God could be calling me to respond in the wake of this tragedy. The Lord knows that my Spanish isn’t the best and I don’t have enough work experience to convince myself that I can make a difference in Puerto Rico.

While many Puerto Ricans are leaving the island, as recovery is likely to take decades, there are countless others who have no such luxury. They cannot leave the island. They must stay until their dying day, which may be quickened by the terrible conditions Puerto Rico now suffers from. 

How can I get involved? What are my talents? Well, I can teach English. I can work with children. I can hand out supplies to those in need. I can be a mentor to teenage girls.

What are my spiritual gifts? I have the gift of exhortation, empathy, teaching, and faith. NO DOUBT God can use those.

But, what do I lack? Language skills. I know that on my own, without the Holy Spirit’s help, it will be incredibly difficult to share the gospel with anyone in Spanish.

This is what keeps me from moving to the island and investing in my fellow Puerto Ricans. Funnily enough, a lack of language skills hasn’t deterred me from thinking about serving God in India, because I’m not Indian. No one would expect me to know Hindi, Bengali, Malayalam, Tamil, etc. But, because I’m Puerto Rican, I face some backlash for not speaking the language as well as I’d like. I face shame. I face rejection, I face questions about my upbringing. 

I think of Moses. When God called him back to his own people, the people he wasn’t raised with, he kept complaining that he wouldn’t know how to speak to the people. God gave him Aaron for that. I hope to find my own Aaron along the way to be my mouthpiece until I can become fluent in Spanish.

Will I move to Puerto Rico? Perhaps. Do I want to? Hell yeah. To go back to the island my grandmother called home would be an honor. To return to my roots and invest in my people would be a gift. I pray that the Holy Spirit helps me get over myself enough for me to actually do this.

 

I don’t want to meet the King of Kings face to face and say I never left New York City because I was scared to be rejected. I want to tell Him that I left all I ever knew, planted myself in a poor country where I hardly spoke the language, and loved the people well. All for Him. It’s all for Him. It’s time to pray.

 

Blessings,

 

Gabrielle G.

 

Hurricane Maria and Puerto Rico

It is very hard to be a Puerto Rican, which is to be an American, and to read some of the nasty comments people post online about how the US government should or should not help Puerto Rico in Hurricane Maria’s wake.

I have read many racist comments about Puerto Ricans, saying that we are unintelligent, incompetent, rude, white-haters, etc. These people tend to be the first to island hop throughout the Caribbean, tasting the delights of the islands, while simultaneously hating the black and brown hands that serve them Mojitos on the beach.

My mind is blown when I read these comments, but it should not be so shocking. Most Americans are terribly ignorant of the fact that Puerto Rico is a colony of the US. Oh did I write “colony”? I meant “commonwealth.” (We’re really a colony.)

When Spain and the US fought over our island, we were shifted from Spanish hands into American ones. America granted us citizenship in 1917, oh how convenient. Right when they needed men for WWI.

The US is the country that denied us the right to fly our flag and to govern ourselves for quite some time. It is also the country that forced sterilizations on Puerto Rican women, most of whom were completely ignorant of the operation and the repercussions of it.

Why did they sterilize us? Well, it was an effort to “help” us, they proclaim, yet we know the truth. They were tired of using their precious money to care for poor, colored Puerto Rican children. They thought that sterilizing us and testing birth control on our women would rectify that situation.

So, does the US owe anything to Puerto Rico in terms of humanitarian aid? You bet your ass they do. They stripped us of our autonomy and our right to be free. US taxpayers should pay for the restoration of a land that so many Beckys enjoy during Spring Break.

Puerto Rico is a beautiful island, filled with resilient, intelligent, colorful, joyful people. I am one of them, although I was born in NYC (Puerto Rico #2). We are teachers, doctors, mothers, sisters, nephews, shop-owners, preachers, and above all, people. We are people. We are American. Help us.