Nicky's Blog

The Story of Ferdinand (El cuento de Ferdinando)

July 18, 2010

Everyone ought to read the Story of Ferdinand. Someone designated it a “children’s book”, but that was a silly thing to do. The story’s timeless motif of compassion and non-violence is one adults need pay mind to because children innately love unconditionally and, with age, “learn” otherwise.

Frankly I don’t remember when I first discovered this book or where I was because memory is funny like that. I do remember the little epiphanies that this book triggered within. I fell in love with Ferdinand as a little girl and I’ll tell you why.

Ferdinand is a bull. He lives in a pasture in Spain and prefers to sit under a particular cork tree: “He liked to sit just quietly and smell the flowers.” The story unfolds by way of a bumblebee stinging poor Ferdinand, which leads him to huff and puff. One would think, upon naïve glance, that he is an angry and mad bull. But really Ferdinand is just in pain. Two bullfighters witness this sight and perceive Ferdinand as the “best” bull to compete in a fight.

The bullfighters whisk Ferdinand to the ring where he finds himself surrounded by flowers the Spanish women adorn in their hair. Ferdinand, much to the dislike of the crowd, sits in the center of the stadium breathing in the lovely floral scent. The image of a big, strong bull sniffing flowers quite joyfully is funny to me. This pacifist bull that would rather smell dandelions than fight or behave in any aggressive manner instantly became a hero to me.

The message of my hero ought to be internalized by the world at large. Ferdinand is not swayed by others to behave outside of character. No one or no external circumstances can deter Ferdinand’s gentleness. The story reminds me that the spectrum of human emotion is complex, multifaceted and can surprise us in really positive ways.

In passing, I told my mom I might tattoo my dear friend Ferdinand somewhere on my body; of course, she nearly died then and there. Someone once told me to wait a year before you ink yourself even if you are shaking with conviction that this is THE symbol. I will do this even though I believe in Ferdinand very much so…


Caracas, New York

July 16, 2010
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A meal should have the ability to awaken you– to make you think about the minuscule ingredients not visible to the eye. Each swallow should rekindle your senses. The arepas at CaracasArepasBar garner that power over me.

Walking through the doors, I am immediately transported to a jazz-filled room with sweet smells encircling me. The restaurant is small, but the energy grand. The space has an earthy feel with its wooden chairs, open brick walls, unfired ceramic bowls and glass jars. There are handmade dolls and other brightly colored figurines adorning the wall. The dolls are fashioned with intricate details; each time I return to this restaurant, I notice something delightful I neglected to see before.

An arepa, if you don’t already know, is an ingenious concoction of kneaded cornmeal (baked, fried or grilled) with pretty much anything delicious sandwiched in between! I almost always order de pabellon, which has shredded beef, black beans, cheese, and sweet plantains, striking a much-loved balance between salty and sweet. The arepas are deceptively small, but can easily satiate your hunger.

Still, there’s more to be had. The guasacaca and chips are crunchy, crispy, and full of flavor.  And no  one can turn down made-on-site guacamole. The papelon con limon is hardened, unrefined sugar cane juice with a splash of lemon. During these summer days with the hot beaming sun, this Venezuelan lemonade is a delicious remedy to quench your thirst. The sweetness of the sugar coupled with the saltiness of the chips again creates a nice harmony among your taste buds.

If what I have described is beckoning you to explore my beloved restaurant, know that the most popular visit is in the evenings. I prefer the early afternoon, still I also encourage you to delight in the bustling energy that these merry eaters and drinkers offer. This home-style restaurant is a gem with a modest price tag. A mere $7 or $8 is worth the experience.

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Good Things Come in Three

July 14, 2010
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“Nic-jo-tat,” mom stutters. Amused, I ask: “Mom, who do you want?” “Taty,” she says distractedly.

I am one of triplets. My sisters are my constant source of amusement, insight and drama.

With triplets, its apparent from birth what personality type each sister will have for the rest of her life. Mom once told me Jolie was born last, as she wanted to swim in the liquid oasis one minute longer before making her grand appearance. When I heard these words, I immediately envisioned baby Jo doing the backstroke inside mom’s belly. I adore this mental image of Jolie because it reflects her spiritual essence so well. She is the adventurous, yet frightened sister. We all embody contradiction and this contrast has always amazed me.

I know though that secretly Jolie is the strongest sister. She hasn’t quite allowed this realization to penetrate her conscious, but she’s gradually opening her eyes and seeing. I mean that’s all we ever want, isn’t? To know ourselves authentically.

Taty has always known what values she carries close to her chest. Taty is the sister who would ask to bring home “the people” we encountered on each street corner. “Mom, can we?” She’d ask naively. When mom politely declined the invitation, Taty would ask: “Can we bring them some food?” And then another question would arise when the “no” hit her ears again. And another question. This is Taty. She’s the mom when moms not around, the soul nurturer, the miniature Mother Theresa. Taty has an endless stream of love to offer people.

Now, I am probably succeeding in making caricatures of my sisters. They are complexly imperfect, curious and conscientious sisters.

We share many similar strands of each other. We are nutty and stubborn. Oh boy, are we are ever stubborn. The other sister is never right or at least not fully. We are also self-identified extroverted introverts. Being part of a trio dynamic inevitably inspired this reserved demeanor. We always had a best friend in every situation. Started first grade. BAM. There was Taty waiting for me on the cafeteria line with a smile. Went to a party. BAM. There was Jolie to deliver clever introductions.

We know how the other thinks with precision. We just need to note the raise of an eyebrow or the biting of a lip to know that the other sister is upset, hungry, bored, or wants to leave the party that very instant. Since we know each other with such heightened sensitivity, we know how to love one another like no one else possible. Conversely, we know how to hurt the other unlike anyone else ever could. I know this too well.

I am incomplete without my triplet sisters. I make less sense without them. I am myself entirely without reservation when in their company. They balance me. They remind me of what matters right now, ten years from today and what must be let go. They hold the truth of my own existence and I am forever grateful for theirs.

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About author

A lover of people, the arts, parks, curiosity, spontaneity, altruism, self-exploration, and story telling. I believe in living your life nakedly and on fire. I am one of triplets: I have two sisters running about in the city coping my look. If you see "me", think twice. Much of my writing is inspired by my daily happenings. Much of it is also closely connected to my years at Bates College. This blog is for anyone looking for inspiring insights and stories.