Meaningful Corners

It was a nice New York afternoon, the sun was out and there was a light breeze sweeping through 5th avenue, crowded with people rushing in and out of the stores shopping before the weekend. I was feeling incredibly overwhelmed when I said to myself “I really need a vacation!” I had been thinking about Miami Beach for awhile, trying to figure out the best time to visit but also if my budget allowed. I texted my friend Jasmine “Are you down to go to Miami?” She immediately texted me back saying “100% down.” That night we booked our flight out of New York. We were set to spend 5 days and 4 nights in Miami.

I’ve been to Miami twice before, I missed the Cuban food, laying by the pool and swimming. For vacations, I usually try to visit cities I haven’t been to before but I really wanted something tropical, and Miami is one of the places I can visit as a TPS recipient under the strict immigration laws to not leave the U.S that has nice beaches, warm water and coconut trees where I can get fresh coconut water from. It’s also pretty affordable and during my recent trip I fell in complete love with new discovered corners.

Stay

Freehand Hotel

I am a huge Freehand Hotel enthusiast. I’ve been to the Los Angeles, New York and now the Miami location becoming my favorite of them all (haven’t been to the Chicago one yet). The Freehand Miami is a block away from the beach, it has an award winning bar called Broken Shaker with a colorful and plant surrounded patio that plays music throughout the day. They played everything; Amy Winehouse, Nina Simone to my favorite late 90, early 2000’s R&B. The art throughout the Freehand was one of my favorite things, they have murals filled with bright colors surrounding the hotel, a garden with fruits and vegetables that they use to cook with or for the bar, and a restaurant with a very distinguished menu called 27 Restaurant. The furniture and interior design in there adds to how tasty the food is, the walls are filled with prints, the furniture gives me bohemian vibes and of course there’s plants. I had the Summer Salad and Yucca Fries and my friend had the Chickpea Masala with extra Malawach which I couldn’t stop eating even after I complained of how full I was. Everything about the Freehand Hotel was amazing but the staff there is the highlight of it all. Everyone was kind and accommodating, they made our stay perfect. We stayed in a Quad which we booked through Airbnb, it’s basically a hostel like room that accommodates four people. We didn’t have to share the room which was great and the beds were comfortable. Being a quad guest at the Freehand Hotel also comes with free continental breakfast which is nice but we didn’t really take advantage of it as we wanted to try different restaurants around Miami. The hotel also offers free bike rentals, beach umbrellas and there is a free trolly stop nearby that goes throughout Miami Beach. I can’t think of a better place to stay at in Miami Beach if you are on a budget and want something comfortable and cute. I definitely plan on staying here again.

FOOD

Latin Cafe

I discovered this small, local restaurant during my vacation with my family. It’s one of my favorite places to eat at while in Miami. You’ll leave this place stuffed, craving more in a few hours and all under $15. My favorite thing to get there is the shrimp with black beans, rice and maduros. They also give you Cuban bread with butter and their cafecito is the best. We ate there twice and I regret not eating there more.

Taquiza

We went here for dinner during our first night in Miami and it was so good. I never know what to expect from taco restaurants as my standards are high but this place fulfilled my standards. It is located in South Beach but they have other locations throughout Miami. We made it to happy hour so we ordered a margarita pitcher ($20, serves about 3 margaritas for 2 people), I had a Cameron taco, a Chorizo taco and an Elote. The cilantro-jalapeno crema on top of it was my favorite. The corn tortillas are blue and made in house. My friend had a camaron taco, al pastor taco (brought pineapple on it) and a quesadilla and it was the best quesadilla I’ve tried. The cotija cheese with beans made the quesadilla very tasty. I will definitely be visiting this place again!

The Taco Stand

I really wanted to eat as many tacos as possible while in Miami so during our visit to Wynwood we went to The Taco Stand. This place is so cute, the menu is easy to read and visible over the cash register to everyone who comes in. You can see the team members preparing your food and you’ll probably want everything. I ordered a chicken taco, an asada taco, chips and guacamole and an elote, a whole elote. It was a lot of food, I didn’t even finish half of my chips as my friend also ordered two tacos, a quesadilla and an elote but everything was delicious. They have a sauce bar with different sauces like a creamy cilantro and a chipotle one, pico de Gallo, and your typical red and green sauces. They also have churros if you have a sweet tooth! The interior design was very on point, they had graffiti and art on the walls, and pictures of El Capulin. We also didn’t spend more then $20 and we had so much food and a beer. I definitely recommend if you’re in Wynwood and are craving tacos.

Doce Provisions

I will admit I saved the best for last. Doce Provisions is one of my new favorite places in Miami. THE FOOD WAS SOOOOOO DAMNNNN GREAT!!!!! I was eating thinking about the next time I could visit this place wishing it wasn’t my last day in Miami. Their menu is seasonal so what I was walking in set to order (I look at the menu before and usually have an idea of what I want) was not available which made me sad but I didn’t know the treat I was in for. I ordered the award-winning Chorizo Croquettes that brought a sauce and fresh cheese on top to start and OH MY GOD. They were the best, my order brought four and every single one I savored. Then I had the Little Bird Fried Chicken which is a piece of fried chicken, sweet plantain waffles, picked peppers, guava marmalade and sriracha honey. That’s the best chicken and waffle I have ever had. My friend started with the Lechon Asado Bun which brings orange-achiote, aji amarillo, grilled pineapple confit over it and her main course was shrimp lo mein. The buns were delicious, the lechon was soft but crispy on top. When I go back I will definitely order those. The lo mein was creamy, not your typical lo mein but better. We left Doce Provisions very, very satisfied. I couldn’t stop talking about it and now thinking about it. Definitely visit Doce Provisions if you are in Downtown Miami.

ART

Miami is a hub for art. Most people might know this because of Art Basel but it’s more than exclusive galleries and parties after dark. You can find art throughout Miami in almost every corner. There are sculptures, murals, graffiti, and more that could be found throughout the vibrating streets. It’s a destination for art and artist with the help of Miami-Dade County Art in Public Places, a program that has been providing residents and tourist with art across public parks since 1973 . Wynwood, where people can stroll through The Wynwood Walls and galleries isn’t the only place that provides people with art but it a very popular place for tourist. We visited the Pérez Art Museum Miami which happened to be free that day (every 2nd Saturday of the month) and enjoyed the current exhibits up, some of my favorites were by Kara Walker and Teresa Margolles. The two floor museum is overlooking the bay with a museum park alongside. It’s definitely a place I’d recommend to visit.

Although Miami is known for the nightlife it has more to offer than clubs and bars. I personally hate clubs but we did make our way to a day party at El Patio in Wynwood where my hips swayed side to side to some of my favorite Bad Bunny songs and Reggaeton. Sweat ran across almost every back in that patio but no one cared as we danced the afternoon away.

My vacation was everything I wanted and more to the point I felt a deep sadness departing, a usual feeling after a vacation but none like before. It’s going to be one I remember as I let go of a lot and gained so much. I gained a profound amount of confidence that I didn’t know I lacked. I’ve always been pretty confident but during this trip I wore less and owned my body, the curves, the cellulite and stretch marks more. I often hear people complain about their body during the summer but I have no complaints about mine. It looks good and I feel good.

I been –

going through it. I been feeling down. I’ve been having too much to drink. I’ve been… for some time.

And throughout this entire time I knew I wasn’t ok but I kept pushing myself repeating “this is temporary, I’m going to get through it.” I’d temporarily get through it and then I would go back to the very anxious, stressful body of my mine that I was holding hostage from feeling good. I didn’t realize how much I was affecting and hurting myself working over 50 hours a week, freelancing and being a full-time graduate student until now. I kept reminding myself this like everything else I do is for my family and my community but what is for me? The drinks I was consuming after work to “release stress” and help me cope with my current state of mind? The comfort food that didn’t make me feel great after I was done eating it?

I started going out more. I was ignoring all the issues I was going through to simply help me deal with whatever was lingering. Adding fuel to the fire.

But I’ve also been taking care of myself – more. I’ve been practicing how to treat myself kind, how to feel good in my body and feel good daily, not temporarily.

What am I grateful for? What can’t be taken for granted? What causes me pain? What causes me discomfort? What doesn’t benefit me long term? What is temporary right now, that doesn’t add value to tomorrow? What feels good? What makes me happy?

Those are the questions I’ve been asking myself every morning to walk with purpose, not only intent.

Everything I was practicing before with “self-care” written on the subject line was not self-care… the drinks? They made me feel like shit the next day. I’d stay in bed all day, complain and do it again the following weekend. It took too many drinks and a terrible hangover for me to realize that I am not ok, my behavior: not ok and alcohol isn’t really the answer to my problems.

My anxiety and stress will probably still remain because life but I am practicing healthier alternatives to help me get through difficult times.

Grounding ~

  1. Take a walk. I walk down to a park nearby and swing on the swings, sometimes I walk down to my favorite book store in my neighborhood called Cafe Con Libros. It’s a feminist bookstore.

  2. When I’m anxious I drink water, practice my breathing and step away from any situation I’m in to ground myself again. Going into a quiet space and doing all of this is the most effective.

  3. Unplug. I've reduced my time on social media as I’ve also noticed that has began to make me anxious and uneasy. I give myself 2 hours a day but I recently decided to delete the app from my phone. I’ve felt much, much better.

  4. Sit in silence. I sometimes just need silence to let my mind run wild for a few seconds.

  5. Clean my room and water my plants. Plants heal.

  6. Cook. I’ve been trying to make more meals that don’t make me feel sluggish and tired after I’m done eating.

  7. Read a book. Currently reading Swing Time by Zadie Smith.

  8. Listen to soothing jazz or music. Currently been having a few songs on rotation:

  9. Write. I’m trying to take my twitter venting to my notebook, y’all don’t need to know everything.

  10. Call my family. (This can build my anxiety family could be a trigger.)

  11. Go to the gym. I don’t ever know what I’m doing there, and it’s not my favorite place but it allows me to focus on other things like not dying or getting a cramp.

  12. Take myself on dates. This doesn’t have to be fancy, my last date was to get pupusas from El Olomega, a Salvadoran food truck in RedHook. I then sat at a park bench and watched some girls play soccer, I low-key wanted to join them. I ended my date laying in bed listening to music looking out my window as the sun went down.

  13. I’ve started to see my therapist again. For the last couple of months I’d schedule appointments and cancel them the day of. I’m toxic to my own self. Some things are too big for oneself.

These actions help me ground myself, help me feel balanced and assist me when I feel like everything is falling apart and I am losing control. Hope they can help you.

My roommate was super hesitant about me buying this plant because it looked so sad and mistreated inside the store. I brought her home, repotted her, watered and cleaned her. She’s growing and has a new leaf. What you water will grow.

My roommate was super hesitant about me buying this plant because it looked so sad and mistreated inside the store. I brought her home, repotted her, watered and cleaned her. She’s growing and has a new leaf. What you water will grow.

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Identity in two different places –

Los Angeles self: 323 girl, 90044 raised, she’s outgoing, outspoken, an extrovert.

New York self: 11213, Crown Heights, confused, listener, quiet, she’s different, she’s an introvert.

Learning to adapt to both, to use both, to be both at all times and balance myself in spaces that were once familiar but are now unknown. I felt different in Los Angeles. I missed New York. I missed my independence and solitude. I miss being away even though New York means confusion, depression and emptiness – but I’m learning about myself through these feelings. Los Angeles Estefani would had never acknowledged these feelings, she would had continued overworking herself until she hit rock bottom. New York Estefani is fighting to get out of the house everyday, some days to even leave the room. She’s seeking help, asking for help, and confronting every feeling holding her down. She’s allowing the feelings to inspire her to turn darkness into light a day at a time. It’s not easy but this is all to tell you that sometimes we might look like we are ok and are not. It’s ok to not be ok. It’s ok to ask for help and it’s ok to seek it professionally. Moving across the country was never easy for me, my journey here hasn’t been either. I am fighting to survive and I continue reminding myself what brought me here in the first place. I am accepting the journey for what it is and not for what I want it to be. It is not the paved road I wish it was, it has potholes. Those potholes sometimes cause damages like the pothole that damaged my tire right before I departed Los Angeles. The potholes here in New York are also out of my control but what is in my control is what I make out of this journey…

Don’t be afraid to look for help. I am doing that for myself, shamelessly.

11213: Eucalyptus showers are said to help with stress, they also smell good. I keep eucalyptus hanging in my shower.

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90044: Bike rides through the hood; home.

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I met a man, his name is Freedom.

In the summer, when the sun was still shinning by 5:00 pm and the sweat crept my back I began taking afternoon strolls around my neighborhood on my bicycle. I was trying to escape the heat the frijoles on the stove created. While on my bike ride, I came across some random things and took pictures like I usually do. "Take a picture, it will last longer." I posted the pictures on my Instagram story and called them "Hood Stories." I was in my hood, taking pictures, posting them on my story. When summer ended, the bike rides ended and so did Hood Stories. 

Today, after a few months I went bike riding again and I met a man named Freedom.

He said, "my name is Freedom,"
and just like that the bike rides are back. 

Hi, Hood Stories
You've been missed...

Oh, and you'll learn more about Freedom soon. 

 

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PROTECT TPS

On Saturday, January 13, 2017, TPS recipients and allies gathered at Placita Olvera in Downtown Los Angeles after DHS announced the termination of Temporary Protected Status for Salvadorans on Monday, January 8th, 2017. Today we marched around the Federal Building (the majority of the people in there are awaiting deportation.) As we raised our voices and chanted, banging from the inside of the windows got louder and louder. They heard us. People waved back and forth and cried. It was one of the most beautiful, heartbreaking moments I have had to witness. #PROTECTTPS

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