Eye of the Story

The Evergreen State College

Author: Vairea (Page 1 of 2)

Journal Entry #10

A Closer Look at Relationships in:

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao


Ultimately this book is about the “fuku,” the curse or doom that plagues the Wao family. A curse that just uddered allowed could bring the possibility of disaster upon your life. Touching upon the idea of the “supernatural” and it’s hold on all our lives, and its ability to bring about pain and suffering on families. As I continued to read the entwined lives of Oscar, Beli, Yunior, and Lola I became increasingly aware of their unhappy relationships to each other and to people around them. I made my own assumption that the curse is actually their relationships to men, women, and each other. I’ll elaborate below.

It all started with Beli and her life growing up as a young girl with La Inca. She was neglected by the incarceration of her father and the death of her mother. The start of her life wasn’t a happy one. Further on she was raised by La Inca, Beli’s Aunt which is only mentioned briefly. She is addressed as “abuela” by Oscar and Lola. La Inca and Beli do not get along but La Inca is truly a supernatural goodness in this book. She almost magically saves Beli after her brutal beating by the Elvises in the canefields. On page 161 Diaz writes, “At last they had the relationship La Inca had always longed for, except that they didn’t speak.” La Inca had always wanted a strong bond with Beli and had even accepted her as her own daughter. She acts as a savior to the curse in this scene. Beli began her life with abusive and absent parents, her relationship to them disastrous. I think that Beli never truly accepted La Inca as her mother because of her unfaithfulness in mother’s and father’s and the independence that was instilled in her from an early age. I think that the curse begins from Beli’s birth and her relationships furthermore leaving a domino effect to her daughter and son. Beli is always nagging at Oscar and criticizing Lola constantly. Lola especially mentions her resentment towards her mother with good reason most of the time. On page 208 Beli is picking up Lola from La Inca’s home. “And then the big moment, the one every daughter dreads–My mother looking me over. I’d never been in better shape, never felt more beautiful and desirable in my life, and what does the bitch say?

“Cono, pero tu si eres fea. Those fourteen months—gone. Like they’d never happened.” Cono, pero tu si eres fea literally translates to “Damn, but you’re ugly.” That’s a horrible thing to hear from your mother, especially on account of not seeing her for months. It’s no wonder that Lola hates Beli. Lola even says she would have ran away “disappeared like everything disappears.” She would have left just like her father left her mother too. But then her ex-boyfriend Max died, a boy that loved her so much but that she left and cheated on soon. An effect of the curse? I think so. Lola made a big mistake in letting him go, only to end up losing him forever.  Yet, Lola is one character that truly believes the curse is just life. She doesn’t realize it’s her own actions creating the curse.

And Oscar, his life is ashamed of his body and therefore affected by the women in his life. He sends himself through loops and determination when girls are involved, working out and writing more. His friendship with Jenni is very important to him. To the dismay of Junior who couldn’t believe what Oscar was doing to get her attention. “How can you be in love? You just met the bitch,” Junior says to him. After he found her with another boy Oscar was devastated. He stopped writing, he stopped playing video games, it’s like he gave up on the fantastical elements of his life. The possibility of having her was gone and so his writing and video games became lifeless. Just a game.

Oscar takes a drunken trip to the New Brunswick train station. “Reviewing his miserable life,” he regretted not getting  Jenni, all the books he’d never finish, his body. But then he sees something magical (what he’d always waited for) which he calls the Golden Mongoose. The vision that he sees could have been the end to the curse. But then again maybe it saved him. Saved him by an error in his judgement and instead he fell into a garden divider, not the concrete. With two broken legs and a separated shoulder he had survived. The mongoose represents a fantastic force of good. The exact opposite of Trujillo. Possibly the very same mongoose that saves Beli from the canefields, telling her to pick herself up. “So as Beli was flitting in and out of life, there appeared at her side a creature that would have been an amiable mongoose if not for its golden lion eyes and the absolute black of its pelt.” It told her to rise, a vision, even telling her she will have two children in the future. It wouldn’t be the first time saving Oscar’s life either. I wondered why this furry devil of a creature played such an important role in his book. I mean, I think of mongooses as a terrible chicken killer myself. Due to how many baby chicks and geese I’ve lost to forgetting to shut the chicken coop door at night. But, here the mongoose is a savior, a real supernatural phenomenon.

This story is filled with fantastical elements and true villains. I think that the curse begins with Beli and her relationship to her mother and father, leading to a tumultuous relationship to her daughter and son and vice versa, and further their relationships with men and women. I truly loved this book for its wit and pain and its ability to surpass that into a greater meaning of life and destiny. The curse is not bad things that happen in the Wao’s lives, it is the relationships that they destroy and ultimately lose.

Journal Entry #9

Experiences in Indonesia-

I realized very recently I should have begun my character thinking about details of my trip to Indonesia and the many things I got to experience and do.  I’m going to elaborate on some below. 

Motor Bike Taxi Ride in Bali- My second cousin Fiona was really excited to have us take a motor bike taxi through the  main streets of Bali. She said it was an experience we had to have. We were all skeptical because motor bikes were the ones dangerously driving between cars to escape terrible traffic.  We used the Go-Jek motor bike service on Fiona’s iphone. She ordered them and a nearby driver would be alerted and show up to our location. We ordered six. One for me, Fiona, Kerrie, Tanner, Dylan, and Ava. Arifin , Rosita, and Wilhelmina said they were too old to be traveling on the bike. So they picked us up at The Kartika Plaza Hotel and took us to Seminyak Beach where we sat at a restaurant in bean bag chairs on the beach, complete with live music. The motor bike taxi only cost 10,000 rupiahs which translates to under a dollar US. Anywhere you go on the motor bike is 10,000 rp.  

That night we sat in those bean bag chairs eating pasta and drinking iced tea listening to a young man singing american songs with his friend on guitar. We kept requesting music most of the night. I remember him playing Lucky by Jason Mraz. They sounded great. Then Fiona bought a floating lantern from a man walking around the beach selling random toys for kids and lanterns. Fiona and I opened the lantern and he lit the bottom of it and it inflated. We held the ends of it together until it was able to take flight on its own and we watched it take off into the night sky for a short while. Then it fell farther down the beach and Fiona and I took off running to catch it and lift it back into the sky.  I stood in that exact spot in the sand and waited until it got so far into the sky I couldn’t see it anymore. The light shined for a long time until it was gone.

Out on the street by our hotel were little tourist shops that were open for bargaining. We should have waited for the Aunties to come with us that day we tried to bargain on our own. But instead we went alone, our Indonesian not reaching farther than “Mahal” which means expensive. One of the store owners wouldn’t let my brother leave. He was casually looking a t-shirt and the shop owner kept going “Discount. 350,000,” which we knew was a “tourist” price. My brother politely said no thank you to which the man kept putting the shirt back on my brothers shoulder. Dylan would say no thank you but the shirt would be put directly back on his shoulder. “He said he doesn’t want it” I said exasperated. I had to escort my brother out , making sure I placed the shirt back into the owner’s arms. Later in another shop, a man actually pushed our little cousin into the shop insisting he buy one of the knock off soccer jerseys. We learned that we never go to bargaining shops like that without our Aunties who know how to get good prices and not “boulai” (white) people prices.

Journal Entry #8

35 Shots of Rum

By: Claire Denis (French)

A family drama that focuses on blood ties and household relations, this film is mellow compared to our reading of Oscar Wao for the week. Lionel a widower has realized that Josephine has grown up and will eventually leave him. The real life emotion of having someone leave your side after being your sole companion for so long is relatable. I know my parents had a similar feeling when I left for college. This situation speaks to many in different ways.  It’s a movie of moving on and the shifting of structure. For example, Lionel dancing with the restaurant owner, the passion is obvious. Gabrielle is heartbroken. Josephine and Noe light up the dance floor as well. Afterwards everyone’s relationships have been altered with just one scene. Lionel realizes he has freedom from Gabrielle. Freedom is a recurring theme. It is especially reminded to us in the footage of the trains. We are shown trains at day and trains at night. Josephine and Lionel both ride in the trains. Lionel is a train driver which speaks to his life (stuck) in that situation, not being able to choose what he wants. There is a big difference between riding the train and driving the train. Trains made me think of Oscar and his attempted suicide.  The train was a deciding factor for him as well. Freedom to let go of everything burdening his life or to stick it out. He chose to jump but the golden mongoose had another fate for him. I think freedom is a big part of the Brief Wondrous Life.. too. Everyone in that book has the chance at freedom and to break the curse but they are continually creating more trouble for themselves and choosing the wrong path. Their relationships (like this movie) are about family. Daughters and sons and mother’s and father’s.  Except Josephine and Lionel have a much stronger relationship to each other then Beli and her children or with her own mother.

Both Claire Denis and Junot Diaz have the ability to create characters we care for. The emotions in both this movie and the book have the power to be both leading and misleading. We see that in Oscar Wao with his relationship with girls in his life, his mother Beli was blind sided by the Gangster, and Lola broke up with a boy that she later reflected, really loved her.  The power of creating compelling characters is a real art. Junot and Denis have styles that can help writers with their form. Junot has the ability to make light of dark situations without taking away their meaning and Denis has the talent of creating powerful characters. I can understand why the book and movie were chosen together.  Being able to write about family relations is directly related to what I’m writing.  In fact my writing could use some laughing points like Diaz has or simple but strong dynamics like Denis’s movie.


Journal Entry #7

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz

I really enjoy the interweaving of Oscar’s life story, his mother Beli’s, and his sister Lola’s.  The Fuku curse is entwined within each story. A curse that I think can be related to many people’s lives, in the way that we all believe that a particular unfortunate event “only happens” to us.  The Fuku, said to be derived from the new world.  So it is a curse that comes from new events entering into a world we don’t want changed. The examples of the fuku’s curse on Oscar’s family began with Beli’s relationship with the gangster, Beli and Lola’s tumultuous relationship, and Oscar’s struggles with girls, his virginity, and his weight (to name a few). Lola’s friend that tries his hardest to take care of Oscar at Rutger’s by working out with him mentions in the beginning “I guess I should have fucking known. Dude used to say he was cursed, use to say this a lot, and if i’d really been old-school Dominican I would have (a) listened to the idiot, and then (b) run the other way.” (p.171)  Can’t we all agree that we have a curse following us around? Waiting in the shadows to pounce?

“It’s perfectly fine if you don’t believe in these “superstitions.” In fact, it’s better than fine—it’s perfect. Because no matter what you believe, fuku believes in you.” (p. 5)  Can’t we say that these “superstitions” in fact follow all of us. It make’s me curious over what the author incorporated from his own experiences to create this book. I think that alot of writer’s accidentally or purposely incorporate their own experiences into their fiction writing. Diaz does a wonderful job in this book because of his wit but also his writing style, the ability to write about terrible moments (for example, Beli’s beating in the cane field) but do so in a manner that draws us in farther into the story.  It makes me appreciate fiction pieces even more and how they can help those of us writing non fiction as well. He makes me believe that everything in this story actually happened. That Oscar, Beli, and Lola are actually out there and their curse continues to plague them.  

The curse makes me think of some stories that my Auntie’s in Indonesia told me about when we were in Bali. The Hindu temples there believe that if a woman menstruating walks into a temple they will go crazy. My Auntie’s claimed to have actually known a woman who’s daughter did and they claim she did in fact go crazy. This “superstition” may seem crazy but I would never defy it for the chance that I too could lose my mind. Some of these curses, like the fuku could seem ridiculous to think but  can we really deny its existence?


Journal Entry #6

Prompt: Talk about an author who speaks to you the most.

Out of all the choices I would say Didion, because I like the subtlety that her memoir writing poked through. She had the ability to describe the house she lived in in 1971 and the memories that came with it while really talking about a historical event that she witnessed. She had the ability to make the story not completely about her and that’s why people question if it’s memoir writing or not. She inspires me in my own writing because of her beautiful descriptions of simple places like a home she lived in or a broken rib that amounted to serious questions about age and her place in the world. She is able to relate to events even if she didn’t live them and makes the reader feel as if she is an expert on them. 

I also felt a connection to Lise Yasuo’s film  Family Gathering. She was able to document a hardship in her family many years after the fact. The pain that they went through  in the internment camps during WW2 has a similar connection to my own writing. My grandmother was in the Japanese run concentration camps though. It makes you look at the real issues that came with integrating yourself back in society after becoming a “criminal” to others. 


Redemptive Voice: Journal Entry #5

“Voice presents the facts of the event, then steps back and steps up, and comments on the events. The voice is not linear. It can time travel.” – Tom Spanbauer. Tom continues that writing encourages us to describe the scene. Comment on the scene. Be in the scene. Step away. Go vertical. It’s so liberating.

I decided to try redemptive voice:

I knew the loss of my grandmother would have resounding affects on my family. What I didn’t know then what that it would bring us all back together again.

I knew it would be hard to watch my mom see my grandmother in her assisted living home. What I didn’t know was that my grandmother would say those three little words my mom always longed to hear growing up.

Working on redemptive voice reminded me of the importance of creating a scene that draws the reader in but also allows them to question just how much I’ll be sharing/ and makes the reader think critically about what I am saying. Although I am writing creative nonfiction I want my reader to be just as curious and engaged in my detailed writing as they would be in a fiction piece. It’s important to know that a reader can be just as enticed in nonfiction as in fiction writing. Redemptive voice is important in setting up a scene for a story that brings about a very important aspect of writing for yourself but also for others. 

Redemptive is defined as “acting to save someone from error or evil.” This is interesting. So to use redemptive voice in your writing you are using it to essentially save your own reader from committing error or evil in your own story but giving them enough sustenance to keep on reading. Or, are we saving our character from error or evil by writing to change their actions. Redemptive voice has a personality and it speaks from within the story. It literally speaks to the reader from inside the story. We cannot forget to give the reader a look on the inside so as to draw the reader into the story line. My writing has a very important job and that is to make the reader want to know more about a person that they do not know personally. I want the reader to become just as curious about my grandmother’s life and her mysterious past just as I was in knowing her. With doing this I cannot forget to make this writing also for my family members, it is important to keep in the family for generations to come. Most importantly I have a duty to myself to create who she was on paper, as best I can. Redemptive voice is another tool to do so.

Journal Entry #4 Childhood Dreams

Prompt: Write about a moment after which you were different.

The sand at Fort Worden would mold to your feet as you walked past people and their dogs excitedly leaping over those enveloped in the sand. I remember sliding down the sand dunes creating an almost volcanic eruption with my friends as we created a never ending pile of sand at the base of a log turned seat to those lounging along the sand wall. We would be laughing and giggling at our stumbling (almost drunk) as we’d try to scale the wall again in an effort for height and stunned clarity of our playground beneath us. We felt like we owned the world, the water, and the sand,  our never ending play set. The nearby store carried the popsicle’s we’d hurry to finish before it turned to a sticky mess between our finger tips. The nearby bunkers is where our rebellious consequences took place, becoming our canvas for spray painted smiley faces. We’d run up the stairs to the top of the bunkers and dangle our feet over the edge. We’d take turn taking pictures  as the wind bubbled our shirts up like balloons, almost carrying our light tween bodies to the sky. In the summertime the sun would take us across the old splintered maritime center dock and bring us to it’s railings. We would peer over the side in wonder of the oceans depths below us. The idea of jumping off like a bird from it’s perch kept me at a stand still. While my friend’s climbed over the side and swayed their feet above the water I stood landlocked in my own fear. To take the plunge or to stare at my fears until the water would come for me and swallow me whole. Maybe it was a month later, or even weeks, but eventually I let my fear take hold and I leaped over the edge and let the water consume me. I hit the water like a slap in the face and plunged underneath it’s depth in finality and childlike ending. This was it. My childhood had come to an ending.

Journal Entry #3

I recently read a really great article in Poets & Writer’s magazine. The article was called “Dangerous Writing” by Tom Spanbauer. He delves right into the heart of storytelling and his goal of getting his students to write about their most emotional and life changing events. He writes “to be human is to be engaged in an enormous battle within yourself.” He challenges people to understand their battles and use if for our writing. Everybody has a battle within themselves so why don’t we come together to create stories from our own personal narratives. He poses the prompt “Write about a moment after which you were different,” to his students.  This prompt stumped me. I had a few different things to choose from that I think changed me forever but to find the most relevant at this moment was hard. I remember when my dad got sick in 2011. He was always the strongest person in my life, he was the anchor for the entire family. When he got sick I saw him in ICU in a hospital bed. curtains drawn around him. Nurses poking and prodding his bruised skin looking for a vein. People rushing in and out from behind those white curtains. No one can take these memories from me or erase them.  I remember sitting around his hospital bed trying to keep a straight face rather than break down in front of him. I remember sobbing on the phone for my brother to come to the hospital. He was unconvinced that it was serious.  I watched as the medics carried him down our stairs and out to the ambulance, the second time around, exactly a year from the first accident. I think about these memories every time I look at my past. These memories define me but they also give me an opportunity to stretch my roots and further my journey forward. These stories of mine are incredibly rich to share with other people. They’re dangerous but they’re needed.

Movie Viewing/ Vairea

Vairea Houston

Close Movie Viewing


Perchance by Caryn Cline


I decided to take a closer look at Caryn’s short found footage film that was shown last Thursday. To me this film is about controlled environment, the kind of environment we are used to being brought up in. We are used to our day to day activities, especially as a child. Here his activities are being woken by his mother and attending school. We see the playground where he attends school and then the classroom where he has a certain routine. He naps and that’s when he dreams about his time at the beach. I can’t decide if this is a dream or an actual experience that he may have had.


The beach is a freeing place to him. We see him smile as he is dreaming of the beach and the sounds of the water lapping on the beach is heard as the background sound. He seems to think fondly of the beach with a smile so clearly spread across his face. Water is symbolically known to represent our emotions that ebb and flow from us, reminding us to control our cycle. Water is never far from us and is often shown in stories to help people find their way home. The sounds of water have a calming effect. Used often for meditation. The sound of water is used in this film while the boy is deep in thought.  He picks up a giant shell from the wet sand. Maybe he feels confined like the shell, stuck in the sand. Or maybe he is jealous of the shell because it is able to stay with the water, free. It is said that dreaming of seashells is interpreted as physical, mental, and emotional protection, usually of oneself. Therefor, he dreams of being in a free environment and finds solace at the beach with the water and the seashells.  When the teacher sentences the children to sleep in class the boy raises his palm in the air and it immediately flashes to when he held the seashell in his hand. This particular image is of great significance to me because of how perfectly the two different clips align to represent the feeling of the shell in his hand. Dreams hold a very powerful meaning and can usually lead the dreamer to what they really desire. The life he dreams of is of him younger (based on the longer hair he had and younger face on the beach) with a much more carefree feeling. He runs along the beach exploring the beach and the sea creatures he finds along the way. The ability to explore is another aspect of being free. He dreams of the ability to be free enough out of his normal day to day routine to be the boy on the beach. The seagull that is pictured so majestically in this film (with it’s slow view over the length of it’s body) is prevalent here. Seagull is a poor name because they can actually thrive in fresh and salt weather areas. This speaks about their opportunity, resources, and adaptability. They move to where the best food is, scavenging in unknown areas. Many people deny their opportunities because they feel too safe in their comfort zone. We could think of seagulls as creatures that fly out of their comfort zone and take risks with the goal of finding better conditions for our well-being. The word “gull” comes from “gullible” because the seagull swallows anything it can fit. You may take this away as, do we swallow everything we hear or see? We should recognize rather than blindly follow without further questioning.

The Era:

The footage appears to be from the 1950’s. We glimpse his mother waking him up from school. She is dressed like a 1950’s housewife in the dress and bob haircut. On his bedside table is a radio similar to an old Winchester from the 1950’s. The classroom had old style desks and the teacher appears to be from the era as well with the vintage seaming haircut and dress. The 1950’s were a time of suburban living and women were urged to stay at home and become housewives. Magazines and articles published advice urging women to leave the workforce and stay home and rear children. Women become more and more dissatisfied. There was a lot of tension at this time not only with the oppression of women but also of blacks. This era was mostly about “controlled environment” and keeping everyone to their day to day activities so as not to let anyone speak out against their dissatisfaction. The boys life is divided by his free life with the sand between his toes and the other is controlled by the confinements of his everyday routine.

I see this film as a boy dreaming of an environment that allows him to be free. He wants to spend his days running across the sand and explore the unknown world ahead of him. The seagull symbolizes his want of exploration. The seashells symbolize the protection and fondness he feels of the water and beach. I think that the boy is living in the 1950’s, a very controlled era at the time, confined to very minimal thoughts. We see some of his day to day sights and activities, a strict time to wake up, to nap, to study, to play. Everything is controlled. Therefor he dreams in class of the beach and holding seashells. This film reminds me to find better conditions for my own well being. To not constrict myself to normalcy. Being free is an important aspect of living. To be confined is to live a harder life. There is a part of all of us that wants to be free and extradite ourselves from confined society and be like the seagull, free to fly away. It reminds me not to follow the crowd, the idea of nonconformity. A specific scene in the clip shows on the lower half of a man dressed in a suit and tie. This is most likely an image of the boy’s father. It is who he could become one day. He has the choice to choose his path, he could either be the free seagull or the confined man in the tight suit. So, do we conform to society or explore our own path?


Journal Entry #2 Family

Vairea Houston

Week Two Journal Entry


My Oma used to live in a little apartment tucked in behind a side street leading off of the main downtown area of Bainbridge Island. It was called Finch Place.  It was small, with very few apartments, mostly consisting of elderly people. Most of the tenants had balconies covered in hanging flower pots or little figurines. My grandmother’s place was on the second floor and I distinctly remember waiting in the car outside looking up at her balcony window, waiting for my mom while she went to go get her.  I remember walking into her apartment. It always had a distinct smell of curry or sambal hot sauce. Her little living room consisted of an old flower printed couch she had had for who knows how long. A small table beside it was covered in a white lace doily that always held her TV remote. The TV itself almost always had her favorite channel on, wrestling.  Inside her bedroom she had simple white bed sheets and a pink stuffed animal cat lay perfectly in between the pillows, a cat that now sits in my room. 

My Oma was always up to going anywhere. She loved when we’d call her and ask her to go to the mall, even walking around with us while we grocery shopped.  But she really loved when we were all together as a family. We used to have such big celebrations, every holiday was celebrated with so much food and laughter. We’d all crowd around my Aunt’s dining room table during Thanksgiving, passing along all the fixings to a major feast. I remember jumping into the arms of my Uncle Bobby when he’d come to visit on special occasions after having been working on a cruise ship for the last several months. Uncle Rio would be the one making inappropriate jokes at the table and playing games with the younger cousins. Aunt Arisa and I were talking about the latest book she had read. My mom and Aunt Kerrie were usually gossiping in the kitchen while preparing the food for everyone. Oma would be sitting in the center of the table, smiling at all of us together. 

Those are distant memories to me now. Several years later Oma was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and that’s when the family celebrations became fewer and fewer as her disease pressed on.

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Olympia, Washington

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