18 9 / 2014

imageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageNathan’s first Jiffy Pop is also a terrifying picture. If you look too long at the face coming out of the light-fog, it’ll reach through your screen and melt your brain. imageI actually had nothing to do with making the Jiffy Pop but wanted a photo with it. imageThe first bite to the popcorn chefimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageThe accidental photo I fell in love with. The camera was still set to the dark, canopied woods, so when the self timer went off it turned out a super blasted photo. You basically couldn’t see us through the white. I was curious to see what was there, though, so a few adjustments later and this overexposed picture evened out and showed us fairly in the moment of what we were doing (taking the tent down). The larger version of this is pretty cool, the overall feel is interesting and being able to see our faces. I’m rarely that caught off guard in a photo. 

imageimageimageimageimage

Documenting our first year of marriage, by the week, turned out to be better than I could appreciate at the time I started it. It’s pretty incredible to be able to look back at such an extraordinary year. For any moment of your life, it’s an interesting way to glimpse our lives and really see it as we won’t remember once it has happened. Nathan, busy as ever, would pop in and scroll back through the weeks. Every once and a while throughout the year, I’d do the same. I can only guess, like I did when I started the week-by-week project, what it will be like to see that first year of marriage several, and especially many, years down the road. 

With that, we wondered how to keep it up in way that was reasonable for the amount of effort we wanted to contribute, but also didn’t feel overdone. We settled on 12 months to glimpse our year, being as low key as a photo and some words, a highlighted event, or a collection of moments throughout our month. This is Month 1: 

For years I had a National Parks pass (the college years, specifically). I grew up outside of Yosemite National Park, and I spent my college years touring our country and National Parks, California especially. Some of my favorites to visit were in Maine (I’d be happy to live in either Maine or Vermont), in the incredible South West, California throughout, and in my last few years in the US, Shenandoah National Park. It’s a different kind of beautiful than we are used to in Yosemite. The drama is different, but commanding all the same. Just before leaving the US I made the trek to the top of Half Dome one more time, what felt like my personal goodbye to the US and to my home state. That would be my last time in a US National Park up until the first days of August of this year. 

I had been something like desperate to camp in that US-REI kind of way for probably the last year or two. I think I was desperate to feel that lost feeling I deeply enjoy when away from the man-made world. It didn’t need to be the usual full-on backcountry experience, but to at least get out and sit around a campfire while looking up to the stars, hearing the trees sway and the rain prattle away on your rainfly at night. I needed that. And? I was eager to have that experience with Nathan, too. We kept it pretty straight forward for this first round back. So while I wasn’t lost in the Sierra Nevada of my childhood, you still saw it written all over us. And if you weren’t sure, Nathan kept saying it: “This is so amazing! This just feels so good! When things settle, (maybe we’ll aim for next summer), we’ll be eager for some backcountry trekking. Load up the backpacks, disappear for… well, we’ll see how the schedule works out. But I could use a good Henry David Thoreau I went into the woods moment. Although, I guess we already have in the sense he meant it, live deliberately and all that. 

This trip was perfect in that I did puzzles and read the newspaper, we hiked about a bit, but mostly, we let our shoulders drop and went into the woods, for at least a few days. Nathan read, we cooked, drank Tecates and sipped mate throughout the day, and to get there I drove for the first time in years. We live in this great setup, for many reasons, but one of which is that our basement neighbor lets us use her car if we ever need it, which while rarely, was of course nice for our near 2-hour drive to Shenandoah. We arrived back home, a bit more familiar with what was going on in pop music and ready for showers. It was a nice start to our August. 

Un abrazoté, 

[A]&N

11 9 / 2014

16-years-old, junior in high school

About a year later I’d head to Pismo Beach and start this life…

#15yearslatergram

16-years-old, junior in high school

About a year later I’d head to Pismo Beach and start this life…

#15yearslatergram

10 9 / 2014

Nathan Mahaffey
For me there has been no other option than to become a designer. My own career trajectory into architecture happened organically as my personal explorations led me from one step to the next, one perspective shift after another, following what seemed to be the most logical way of becoming the type of architect that I wanted to be, one who pursues design for inclusive, alternative modes of development.
As a child, I analysed everything around me and realized that many spaces in buildings and cities seemed to be overlooked by designers who were focused on the “more important” elements of the project. Reflecting on this thought as an adult, I realize that below the surface was my desire to design things holistically without any piece being excluded or given lower priority. The more experience I gain, the more I notice this trend of exclusion being repeated in the world. Many of the celebrated designers and planners responsible for creating our built environment focus on certain aspects of society and particular groups of people, while the rest go unnoticed and underserved.
Earning my bachelor’s degree in Architecture, I received rigorous training and skills essential to becoming an innovative thinker and designer. I learned about holistic design, that each piece is integral to the larger whole. These lessons inspired me, as I have always been a creative problem solver, someone who is very perceptive and analytical of scenarios and constantly inquiring about how they can be improved. 
Upon graduation, I began my career working as an architect in New York City, but quickly opted out of what I experienced to be a profession in need of a radical course correction.  With the devastation left by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita to the US Gulf Coast in late 2005, I decided to move back to my home state of Louisiana. There, I was able to combine my professional development with community engagement. By working for a small architecture firm with ties to a university, I was able to experience the dual role of architecture and community development by working with people in New Orleans who had been affected by the disasters. 
Although this work was not directly tied to any design projects in the office, I began to imagine what it could be like to work in this community engagement capacity and then forge direct connections and collaborations around policy and design projects geared specifically towards addressing these challenges. This dual role—and the given disconnections between conventional practice and real problems encountered in the wider community—inspired and motivated me to fuse these roles into one full-time job as a Peace Corps Volunteer.
As an Urban and Regional Planning Volunteer in Honduras, I had the great opportunity to work directly with the municipal government and local communities, both urban and rural, to collaboratively design and build three projects, as well as plan several others. My work involved re-aligning the aims and goals of the municipal projects with the needs of the community, while simultaneously engaging different actor groups to equip the community members with the skills and awareness to effectively participate in the process. The successes and challenges of embarking on participatory design, as a foreigner in a different context and culture, left me with more questions than answers. How can a foreign designer pretend to know the best way to design in a language and culture that is not one’s own, one with different social processes and mechanisms for development? What is “participation” and how can it either change or reinforce existing power relations? How can we re-think design processes to question what an act of design should be? 
In the MSc Building and Urban Design in Development (BUDD) course, I found an environment of like-minded practitioners, academics and students, which allowed me to critically reflect on the teachings of architecture school and previous experiences in community-based design practice. I was exposed to a new level of theory, knowledge and resources applicable to the re-configuration of architecture, urban design and planning practices in the context of international development. Studying these themes in an interdisciplinary program that is embedded within The Development Planning Unit (DPU) and The Bartlett offers a unique opportunity to explore and learn from the overlaps of design and development planning. The combination of individual classroom learning, interdisciplinary studio explorations and field research allowed me to take the innovative thinking and design skills acquired in architecture school, and imbue them with meaningful purpose—to further develop my ability to shape and contribute towards a course correction in architecture. I developed my dissertation as an exploration of a critical re-positioning of architecture in an expanded design field—one that analyses and speculates on the ethics and methodology for a re-conceptualised design field—seeking to understand “how” to engage with cultural, social and political dynamics.
After graduation, I worked with a local chapter of Architecture for Humanity in Bogotá, Colombia to develop co-design strategies, which incorporated ideas directly from my dissertation topic. I worked with students to develop design frameworks that allowed them to use video games to explore their own design solutions for a new school project. After six years of working in various cultures and scenarios from Southeast Asia to the Middle East to Latin America, I returned to the US to work with Inscape Publico. At the Washington D.C. based architecture nonprofit firm, I work on strategic planning and international outreach, developing new projects and community partners. 

The BUDD course has been a critical point in re-aligning my career path towards a convergent design practice. My work and continued research interests seek to develop innovative approaches that redefine participation in an expanded design field, incorporating formal and informal logic towards creating more evolutionary design processes that are responsive to and determined by marginalized populations in both “developed” and “developing” contexts. My varied experiences, renewed and challenged through the BUDD program, have informed my desire to connect the theoretical and the abstract with the concrete realities faced in scenarios of everyday life.

The Bartlett Development Planning Unit 

Nathan Mahaffey

For me there has been no other option than to become a designer. My own career trajectory into architecture happened organically as my personal explorations led me from one step to the next, one perspective shift after another, following what seemed to be the most logical way of becoming the type of architect that I wanted to be, one who pursues design for inclusive, alternative modes of development.

As a child, I analysed everything around me and realized that many spaces in buildings and cities seemed to be overlooked by designers who were focused on the “more important” elements of the project. Reflecting on this thought as an adult, I realize that below the surface was my desire to design things holistically without any piece being excluded or given lower priority. The more experience I gain, the more I notice this trend of exclusion being repeated in the world. Many of the celebrated designers and planners responsible for creating our built environment focus on certain aspects of society and particular groups of people, while the rest go unnoticed and underserved.

Earning my bachelor’s degree in Architecture, I received rigorous training and skills essential to becoming an innovative thinker and designer. I learned about holistic design, that each piece is integral to the larger whole. These lessons inspired me, as I have always been a creative problem solver, someone who is very perceptive and analytical of scenarios and constantly inquiring about how they can be improved. 

Upon graduation, I began my career working as an architect in New York City, but quickly opted out of what I experienced to be a profession in need of a radical course correction.  With the devastation left by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita to the US Gulf Coast in late 2005, I decided to move back to my home state of Louisiana. There, I was able to combine my professional development with community engagement. By working for a small architecture firm with ties to a university, I was able to experience the dual role of architecture and community development by working with people in New Orleans who had been affected by the disasters. 

Although this work was not directly tied to any design projects in the office, I began to imagine what it could be like to work in this community engagement capacity and then forge direct connections and collaborations around policy and design projects geared specifically towards addressing these challenges. This dual role—and the given disconnections between conventional practice and real problems encountered in the wider community—inspired and motivated me to fuse these roles into one full-time job as a Peace Corps Volunteer.

As an Urban and Regional Planning Volunteer in Honduras, I had the great opportunity to work directly with the municipal government and local communities, both urban and rural, to collaboratively design and build three projects, as well as plan several others. My work involved re-aligning the aims and goals of the municipal projects with the needs of the community, while simultaneously engaging different actor groups to equip the community members with the skills and awareness to effectively participate in the process. The successes and challenges of embarking on participatory design, as a foreigner in a different context and culture, left me with more questions than answers. How can a foreign designer pretend to know the best way to design in a language and culture that is not one’s own, one with different social processes and mechanisms for development? What is “participation” and how can it either change or reinforce existing power relations? How can we re-think design processes to question what an act of design should be? 

In the MSc Building and Urban Design in Development (BUDD) course, I found an environment of like-minded practitioners, academics and students, which allowed me to critically reflect on the teachings of architecture school and previous experiences in community-based design practice. I was exposed to a new level of theory, knowledge and resources applicable to the re-configuration of architecture, urban design and planning practices in the context of international development. Studying these themes in an interdisciplinary program that is embedded within The Development Planning Unit (DPU) and The Bartlett offers a unique opportunity to explore and learn from the overlaps of design and development planning. The combination of individual classroom learning, interdisciplinary studio explorations and field research allowed me to take the innovative thinking and design skills acquired in architecture school, and imbue them with meaningful purpose—to further develop my ability to shape and contribute towards a course correction in architecture. I developed my dissertation as an exploration of a critical re-positioning of architecture in an expanded design field—one that analyses and speculates on the ethics and methodology for a re-conceptualised design field—seeking to understand “how” to engage with cultural, social and political dynamics.

After graduation, I worked with a local chapter of Architecture for Humanity in Bogotá, Colombia to develop co-design strategies, which incorporated ideas directly from my dissertation topic. I worked with students to develop design frameworks that allowed them to use video games to explore their own design solutions for a new school project. After six years of working in various cultures and scenarios from Southeast Asia to the Middle East to Latin America, I returned to the US to work with Inscape Publico. At the Washington D.C. based architecture nonprofit firm, I work on strategic planning and international outreach, developing new projects and community partners. 

The BUDD course has been a critical point in re-aligning my career path towards a convergent design practice. My work and continued research interests seek to develop innovative approaches that redefine participation in an expanded design field, incorporating formal and informal logic towards creating more evolutionary design processes that are responsive to and determined by marginalized populations in both “developed” and “developing” contexts. My varied experiences, renewed and challenged through the BUDD program, have informed my desire to connect the theoretical and the abstract with the concrete realities faced in scenarios of everyday life.

The Bartlett Development Planning Unit 

06 9 / 2014

#latergram #20yearslatergram

#latergram #20yearslatergram

29 8 / 2014

And the sky flared red. Off of history’s massive stones, and a noble peak, and all the domes. The blue dropped down into the night. The last of the first day of her 31st year. Tired, they dropped down into the night. 

#libraryofcongress #uscapitol #dcyoureup

And the sky flared red. Off of history’s massive stones, and a noble peak, and all the domes. The blue dropped down into the night. The last of the first day of her 31st year. Tired, they dropped down into the night.

#libraryofcongress #uscapitol #dcyoureup

05 8 / 2014

06.09.2013_After finally packing our things and mailing boxes, I ran to UCL to return the library books, made it back to East Finchley to help Ana throw away last bits and leave Bernard Johnson Hall. Had a long walk with too many bags, Victoria Station to Victoria Coach Station. Made it onto the bus and situated our things. Felt an enormous release of having finally “arrived” on the bus although we knew we needed to reduce our bags. I felt like a rusty machine grinding to a halt that may never be restarted. The overnight bus stopped once or twice where we tried to use the last of our British Pounds (later, at the airport, we would find about £15 tucked away in a pocket!). There were people sitting near us speaking Russian. The bus staff were super friendly when we were getting on the bus, but the new staff in the morning were grumpy to rush people off the bus at each stopping point. 07.09_When we arrived to Paris in the morning we realized for the first time how little we had been able to plan in advance. We had no idea how the Paris transportation worked. Ana sat in the grass, sorting things to throw away while I walked around to look for the Metro and internet. Across the street from the bus station there was a big modern building that had interesting planes/slabs extending randomly from the facade. The other elevation, facing the Metro and round-about, had monumental, open curving stairs that criss-crossed. We noticed right away that the old Paris buildings had a distinctly different European feel than those we were used to seeing in London - more artistic, more Art-Nouveau. Finally, we bought tickets and caught a bus to Aurélie & Tristan’s flat. On the walk from the bus to their house we caught our first glimpse of the Eiffel Tower from a hill, through a narrow street vista, down towards the tower in the distance.Their flat was fairly big and had a view to a green roof garden from the bedroom and kitchen.  After a much needed shower we set out to explore Paris. We instantly liked the streets and buildings of Paris better than London - more flavor. Funny though, Aurélie and Tristan both liked London better - they said it was more alive, with more activity. “Paris is more of a museum city”, they said, which amusingly enough is how Ana more or less describes London, or more accurately, like a theme park. I prefer the quality and feel of the physical elements of Paris to London - more artistic, more flavour, more expression. We started in the center of Paris, near the Louvre, walked towards the opera house and had lunch at a café for an hour or more, the café was tucked away into a corner with a view of the main street. I had grilled meat, and Ana a Parisian salad, one cappuccino for each of us. Walked back to the Louvre and took pictures, the glass pyramid seemed smaller than I imagined but still appropriately sized to the courtyard. I liked that the walking path through the park before the courtyard was nothing but dirt and gravel; it seemed more natural and simple. Next we walked to Notre Dame. It seemed massive even though it wasn’t very tall - no spire. The entrance doors were impressive and the bells sounded for about ten minutes before we left. Nearing the end of the day, we quietly walked to the Centre Pompidou, where very narrow streets opened unto the large plaza. I preferred the opposite, street-side with the majority of the pipes (Ana did too). Before the plaza we experienced our first Parisian public “pod” (restroom) that cleans itself after each use. Slooow, but interesting. After Pompidou, we quickly passed through the canal area (where “Le fabuleux destin d’Amélie Poulain” was filmed) then went to the Eiffel Tower at sunset and into the night. It was a very grand and great public space all around, watched the tower light up with its ‘sparkling’ lights that Aurélie said was copyrighted by the artist. Ate dinner at a restaurant around the corner near a few loud Americans that seemed to be from New Orleans area. 08-09_Next morning had another great breakfast of croissants and coffee at home. Went out with Aurélie, Tristan and Arthur for lunch and wine in the neighborhood at Sacré Cœur Basilica, Montmartre. Had the Parisian grilled cheese & Rosé wine. Then walked to the basilica to see an incredible view, both of the basilica and of Paris. Later had crepés and upside-down apple tart and strolled back through the streets to their flat. Packed our slightly less heavy bags and rushed back to Metro to the train station and caught the overnight train to Roma. Found our six berth compartment already full. Two people from the US and two Canadians (older couple). Enjoyed some conversation then the Canadians left to find the dinner car. We unfolded our bunk and sorted some more of our luggage. Relaxed a bit in our raised cubby-hole beneath the ceiling, then went to the dinner car. We shared a pasta box and some wine while overhearing the Canadian guy sharing memories of times passed with a new found friend, and his wife talking to the other woman about their dream vacation. Then I fell asleep in my bottom bunk, tiny chamber with armrest cushions dangling inches from my head. 

imageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageWe were having fun with all the people taking perspective shots hereimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageCutting it close for the train to Rome, we were dashing through the streets of Montmartre, back towards A&T’s flat. But we paused when we saw “Ana María’s” because hi, my name is just that. N pulled out the phone and in the click of that moment I was already in motion. I’m always a quick mover, and the second shot he took caught me in a blur of motion and smiles as we began our way out of France and towards Italy that night. imageimageimageimageimageimageimageimage

The opening text was written by Nathan while we were in Paris. The first part of the entry is an understatement, a scratch of all that went into leaving London. When he talks about our “enormous release” to arrive to our seats on the night bus that would take us from London to Paris, it was precisely shaking, sweating and bursting into silent tears. Once the world couldn’t see, and we tucked into our seats, there was a long-awaited and enormous release. I once wrote about all this, and it’s amazing the details and experiences that mark our time abroad as vastly different than the typical experiences you see in blogs or hear from others who live outside of their country short-term, or even a few years but in a different context. We’ve earned our stripes, for sure.

Our honeymoon began in Paris. I had contacted Aurélie about meeting up in Rome where they had been living the past year, but as it turned out they had just returned home to Paris two weeks before we set out. So, Paris became our first stop. I’m grateful for the time Nathan and I got to spend in this city, and to be able to see Aurélie & Tristan again, and to finally meet Arthur. He wasn’t even in utero when I left, and here he was, on the eve of four-years-old. Faustine, Arthur’s little sister, was in Aurélie’s belly during our visit, and she arrived to the world earlier this year. We all made tentative plans to move to San Francisco when their US-citizen, Arthur, is of college age. 

Then, the train from France to Italy, continued…

24 7 / 2014

"Post Honduras turned 4 today!"
While I wouldn’t have known this if not for Tumblr, I do remember N and I setting it up at my place in Yuscarán, not long before leaving Honduras for Oman. So yes, that would be 4 years ago. We choose Tumblr because other platforms (and in turn layouts) were too bogged down for our style, and we wanted ‘clean,’ just the story without all the sidebars and links. As much as I saw others change their blog design, they still felt the same, too bloggy, and like too much, which you’ve probably caught on by now is not our thing. I knew we could change the design later, but I marvel that 4 years later it’s still just what I want, what we like, clean and simple. Happy birthday to the place that streams our story, and lets us keep seeing it grow. As well as everything to come, I looking forward to adding in the missing pieces. 

"Post Honduras turned 4 today!"

While I wouldn’t have known this if not for Tumblr, I do remember N and I setting it up at my place in Yuscarán, not long before leaving Honduras for Oman. So yes, that would be 4 years ago. We choose Tumblr because other platforms (and in turn layouts) were too bogged down for our style, and we wanted ‘clean,’ just the story without all the sidebars and links. As much as I saw others change their blog design, they still felt the same, too bloggy, and like too much, which you’ve probably caught on by now is not our thing. I knew we could change the design later, but I marvel that 4 years later it’s still just what I want, what we like, clean and simple. Happy birthday to the place that streams our story, and lets us keep seeing it grow. As well as everything to come, I looking forward to adding in the missing pieces. 

23 7 / 2014

imageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimage

Nathan always says rain is our thing. The first time we kissed was in a tropical depression after we had suddenly ran out of a birthday party. It was a party for me and another sweet friend of ours during Peace Corps. 

We seemed to burst out of the house suddenly. How did it even happen? We said some things and a moment later I grabbed his hand and we ran out of the house together. The world felt like a snow globe, the part where it’s a container filled with water. Rain came down like opened faucets overhead. The skies were dark in Cantarranas. I don’t remember if it was daytime or nighttime by then; it had been dark and stormy all day. As we ran, the water pushed up our shins with small waves crashing through the streets. I felt the the water completely fill my little red ballet flats. Each step would press the water out only to simultaneously refill again. In Honduras we quickly learned the word “aguacero,” a downpour. 

At some point it was so intense we let go but kept running towards somewhere. There was no defined destination but we were pulled forward by the intensity of the moment. I ran quickly just a couple paces ahead of him. Now Nathan always says he chases me, like he did “that” time in the rain. If a sudden rainfall begins, I always dash forward, and he says he loves chasing me like he did that day, reminding us both of this particular memory.

We eventually found ourselves under a tree on the hillsides that wrapped this little Honduran town. On a sunny day, which was most days, you could climb to the ridge and look down on this beautiful place with the singing frogs. Today it was dark, though. Was it was nighttime by now? We were out of breathe and completely soaked. My little red ballet flats were filled with mud and water, my shirt clung to me and my jean skirt was weighted by the water it held. My hair whipped when I turned my head, it clung to my face and neck. I remember pausing for just a moment, looking at each other. Water slid down his matted hair and onto his face.

The water continued falling everywhere around us. The hillside we stood on was thick with saturated mud. That was the first time Nathan and I kissed. 

The aguacero stayed steady that entire night, and I arrived to my host family completely soaked. Everyone at that party would have, just walking outside from one house to the next would have saturated your clothes. The water in the streets would have rushed up your legs. 

That was the first time rain or water became a part of our story. Oceans around the world, rivers in Southeast Asia and Honduras, creeks in Cantarranas and DC, living by the sea in Muscat and Lima, islands in the Caribbean and the Pacific, and all the little stories those waters hold. 

When it starts to rain and he says with a coy smile, “rain is our thing,” I smile and look at him, and we share a small moment. The outfit I’m wearing in these pictures above, for our one year wedding anniversary, they’re the same shirt and skirt I wore the day Nathan and I kissed for the first time, six years ago in late August.  

———

I can’t say it enough, but where we ended up living has been a perfect surprise. Because of us landing in the Latino community, because of our housemates, in the house and in the basement apartment (their pets), proximity to all Columbia Heights, Petworth and Mt. Pleasant have to offer, and lastly, Rock Creek park. That’s where we decided to spend our anniversary. I could say more about why it’s so perfect for us to be so close to such an amazing piece of nature, but I’ll leave this post with just a final note that will mostly mean something to us. The water bottle in the picture was filled with wine, and Ernesto and my elephant from Kigali were with us. I wore my “M” necklace with our wedding date on the back and my Nepal earrings I wore on our wedding day. And I always wear my delicate gold “M” bracelet that I have had on since London. 

[A]&N

*Images of Cantarranas and the early stages of our relationship: The backdrop to this story

23 7 / 2014

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//Working at home & Rock Creek park/ ‘Yuscarán' hat & high school x-country shirt  - I still can't believe the house and location we ended up in. We're feeling grateful for all those alignment of stars that landed us with built-in friends and in a community we care about. I have a couple of other garden, neighborhood and home related photos I'm debating adding in here, but I think I'll just keep this one light, like our old school weekly photo posts. 

18 7 / 2014

image

La Basílica del Voto Nacional, Centro Histórico, Quito, Ecuador

To my wife,

Since the day we met, life has been exciting and wonderful. Our first year of marriage has been extra- extraordinary. Getting married and strolling along the Thames in London, the streets of Paris, the Colosseum in Rome, La Sagrada Familia en Barcelona, ceviche en la costa verde en Lima, historic Quito, World Urban Forum in Medellín, tejo and arepas en Bogotá, and great friends in Lima and Colombia. ¡Muchisimas gracias a todos que han sido parte de este camino nuestro!

In a parallel reflection I remember making dinner together, despite fire alarms in London student housing, while grinding out a masters degree; carrying 500 pounds of books because we were homeless in Paris; nearly missing the train in Rome; Barcelona … was perfect; vagabonding and overstaying our visa in Peru, 26 hour bus ride escape route; sleeping on the cold airport floor in Ecuador; poverty and displacement in Medellín; and living with circus performers in Bogotá.

I could not have imagined a better partner to share the highs and lows, the challenges and beauty of life. One year ago today we shared a beautiful day filled with the calm of just being together, married. Cheers to living that day, all of our memories, and all those still to come.

A&[N]

18 7 / 2014

My health, wealth and happiness, mi media naranja. It’s been an incredible and unique first year of marriage :: Where you invest your love, you invest your life. 


Right about now we stood in the tube last year, in a wedding dress and your wedding clothes we had picked out along Oxford . We were headed to the Westminster Council House to be married. It was one of the last ceremonies to be preformed before this historic building, where Beetles and movie stars had married, closed for renovations. We had gone ahead of our small group for pictures, so it was just you and me on that tube. It wasn’t overly crowded at 10:00 on a Thursday morning, but we stood anyway and talked quietly. I had my bouquet in my hand and a piece of bread I kept holding in the other. It was something to put in my belly, but I didn’t care about eating. I love that quiet memory of whispered conversations just between the two us, as the tube pulled us along. I became your wife a couple hours later. The rest of the day we all made our way through London, Regent’s park, crossing the bridge along Parliament and its famous ‘big’ clock, the ferry along the iconic sites that border the River Thames, a late lunch and a wedding cake at Greenwich, and by the time we reached the pubs along Fleet street, we had had a full day. That night when we set off to our tiny and modern urban hotel, I was ready to slip away with you. I’m grateful for the memory of that day, and everything that came after. Tqmm, Tito-


*Nathan put these images together six month ago… and shared it on our half year anniversary. 


[A]&N

My health, wealth and happiness, mi media naranja. It’s been an incredible and unique first year of marriage :: Where you invest your love, you invest your life. 



Right about now we stood in the tube last year, in a wedding dress and your wedding clothes we had picked out along Oxford . We were headed to the Westminster Council House to be married. It was one of the last ceremonies to be preformed before this historic building, where Beetles and movie stars had married, closed for renovations. We had gone ahead of our small group for pictures, so it was just you and me on that tube. It wasn’t overly crowded at 10:00 on a Thursday morning, but we stood anyway and talked quietly. I had my bouquet in my hand and a piece of bread I kept holding in the other. It was something to put in my belly, but I didn’t care about eating. I love that quiet memory of whispered conversations just between the two us, as the tube pulled us along. I became your wife a couple hours later. The rest of the day we all made our way through London, Regent’s park, crossing the bridge along Parliament and its famous ‘big’ clock, the ferry along the iconic sites that border the River Thames, a late lunch and a wedding cake at Greenwich, and by the time we reached the pubs along Fleet street, we had had a full day. That night when we set off to our tiny and modern urban hotel, I was ready to slip away with you. I’m grateful for the memory of that day, and everything that came after. Tqmm, Tito-



*Nathan put these images together six month ago… and shared it on our half year anniversary. 



[A]&N

17 7 / 2014

Tomorrow Nathan and I will celebrate an incredible and unique first year of marriage. Here is the story of our rings…

Spending money isn’t in my nature. If you know me, you know this is simply my practical nature. It’s something that makes me so different from the majority, specifically within a capitalist context.

Years before becoming engaged, I mostly faked my reaction when others shared their engagement rings. To me, they seemed the same, like too much - and I couldn’t imagine how something like what I was seeing would fit with my personality. How did something that most people’s aim was ‘big’ and ‘flashy’ fit on me, the tomboy who enjoyed dressing up and feeling pretty, but mostly enjoyed running around in a fitted tee, shorts and tennis (you have to read that as the Spanish shorthand for “tennis shoes.”)? I have loved wearing baseball hats since I was little, and at 30-years-old I still do. I couldn’t picture myself with an engagement ring. The diamond and the setting all looked basically the same to me, ring after ring, and I wondered what I was missing that everyone else saw when they got excited about engagement rings. Then I wondered if you could simply bypass one of the biggest traditions in the western world, because I didn’t feel like I needed or wanted a “ring.” I wasn’t trying to make statement, but it felt like I would be simply by going against tradition. I wasn’t sure how I would approach this or ultimately feel about it when the time came. 

I didn’t waste much thought on it, though. I didn’t know it yet, but I still had a good half decade before meeting Nathan. Either way, I knew I had time…

During our time in Honduras Mayan jewelry was in style with the elite class. It was beautiful and I thought it’d be nice to have a Mayan piece. You really have to have some time in a country before approaching buying jewelry. You need to know ”what’s up” in order to get a fair enough price. So sometimes we looked around, but kept holding off.

Towards the end if our time in Honduras, N’s house was flooded out. All the drama tied to that, especially N needing of a new passport that only arrived hours before we flew out of the country, dominated our last two weeks in Honduras. 

Flying from Honduras to San Francisco (then NOLA then DC then Oman), with all that was coming our way, and in preparation of moving to a conservative Middle Eastern country, we decided to buy “wedding rings.” At the airport in Tegucigalpa, we bought my Mayan ring, for $25. It became the piece of Mayan jewelry I had hoped for, and it was the ring I would wear on my wedding finger in Oman. Right there in the airport, as I looked at my new ring, I told Nathan, “This could be the ring we get married with. I don’t need anything more.” It was the ring I wore for three years before we married, and it was the only ring I wore the day I became Nathan’s wife. 

It was one of two rings that mattered to us. Before meeting up with me in Oman, Nathan spent some time with family in Louisiana. He had planned to look for a ring that he would wear on his ring finger in Oman. If I haven’t mentioned this before, in Oman it is illegal to live together unless you are married. Doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen, but Nathan and I went six years without an incident abroad. We have always been on the conservative side of how we behave and dress outside of the US. In most of the countries where we have lived this has mattered. Out with his mom and his brother, Nathan went to the French Market where he found his ring. It’s the ring he still wears today, officially his wedding ring.

I can’t imagine not wearing these two rings. They were our “wedding” rings before we were married, and they were the rings we placed on each other’s hand in London. I can see us doing it right now, that moment in our history not so long ago, with our hands and eyes and just us; I can see us marrying each other with those rings. Those rings, probably both collectively under $100, meant more to us than any engagement ring could have. Those rings had a history that laced through our unique story.

We did consider an engagement ring in the years leading up to our actual engagement. I had sometimes seen pearls in the Mayan jewelry designs, and I thought it looked amazing together. In Oman we looked for a delicate ring with a delicate pearl that might pair with my Mayan ring. 

Delicate is the one word to describe what I wanted in a ring. It could have an antique vibe, I knew I didn’t want a diamond, and before the Mayan ring (because I thought a pearl would pair nicely), I had thought about an emerald or a sapphire. Mostly though, I knew I needed the ring to be delicate. I still couldn’t imagine an engagement ring, like so many I had seen, on my hand. It needed to fit my life and personality, and a delicate -and not overly “haloed” and “decorated”- ring was the only ring I thought would fit me.

It was hard to find anything other than bulbous and polished pearls that weren’t too large for what I envisioned. For the record, I love the unique shape of ‘natural’ pearls. And again, delicate ones, i.e. not too big.

We thought about emeralds and sapphires. Sapphires, as engagement rings or rings in general, became too popular some years ago. So nice, but played out.

An emerald came on my radar because it is something truly different. I could finally “see” a difference among engagement rings when I pictured an emerald. And an emerald tied me back to a gift my mom had given me when I was a teenager. I love emeralds in gold and with some diamonds, and the ring my mom gave me was just that. That was the ring to make me notice emeralds. It was a unique choice, and still off the radar of those going the non-diamond engagement ring route.

The world’s emeralds largely come from Colombia, 55% are mined and exported to the world. The next countries to follow are in the teens and single digit percentages. If you have an emerald, it’s likely to be from a Colombian mine. Like the ring my mother gave me, an emerald also tied me to my father, to his country. Like my Honduran ring, an emerald also tied us to our current host country, a country that ties me to its roots, my roots. An emerald is beautiful, and for someone who loves history and people’s stories, an emerald would become a part of ours. 

In our last days in Colombia, Nathan and I found what is now my “engagement” ring. With jewelry shops, an emerald trade center and men with white sheets of folded papers holding emeralds to sell along the roadside, Nathan and I completed my wedding set. My Honduran Mayan ring and Colombian esmeralda, and Nathan’s New Orleans French Market ring, these are our wedding rings.

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It’s a delicate ring and happens to be a design I had liked years before. Brilliant Earth has a sapphire version, with the same infinity design with tiny diamonds wrapping the sides. I had hesitated in the past because I wondered if it was too fancy for my everyday life. Seeing it in person and trying it on, it looked right on my hand. Now that I’ve had it for over a month, to my surprise, the ring has slipped into my life. For a long time I had wondered if I would fit a ring, but in the end my ring fit me. I don’t understand why, but my ring, that I can envision looking beautiful on a fancy night out, turned out to work with me even when I’m in a t-shirt and shorts. It’s elegant but seems to play itself down when I need it to. //In the future, we may add a string of small emeralds placed loosely in one of the cutouts of N’s ring. We’re really into the emerald’s pretty green color.\\

imageOn a rainy Bogotá afternoon on May 27th, 2014, two months before our 1st wedding anniversary, I started wearing an “engagement” ring, our ring. And as a bonus, we have the ultimate souvenirs to remember our time in Honduras and Colombia. 

Tomorrow we celebrate one year of marriage. 

17 7 / 2014

imageimageimageimageimageSide note, after a month in the US we finally got a phone. I hardly noticed we had passed a month here without one. If it came up and I pointed out that we didn’t have a US phone, I think it simply hadn’t crossed people’s minds, but it mostly wasn’t an issue. For the most part you just pretend it’s a world before mass cell phones and set a time and a place.This worked nearly 100% of the time. This is our first ‘reverse’ selfie on N’s new phone. He’s finally bumped out of the 3G iPhone. He said he’s excited to play games and Instagram. He’s playing Risk right next to me as I type this. 

//Fourth of July in Washington, DC! I have a special love for The 4th in the Nation’s capital. It’s amazing to be living here, and being here during The 4th is one of my favorites. This year is also the 200th anniversary of the Star-Spangled Banner being written. The first exhibit we saw when we arrived to the US, was the actual Star-Spangled Banner, the US flag that inspired our national anthem. This was my second time seeing it in the new permanent exhibit that opened a few months after we had moved away from the US. When I first began at the National Museum for American History in 2006, the museum had just closed down for the major renovations. My main task, among others, was the relocation of 45,000 objects with a small team of just a few people. They were temporarily relocated from the 4th to the 2nd floor, so that the new skylight could be added in. That, and the new permanent exhibit for the Star-Spangled Banner were the cause for the major renovations to the museum. It’s never left me that I love and miss being a part of that world. Anyway, The Fourth in the District will always be a favorite for me. This was my 4th time and Nathan’s 1st being here for the 4th. The first time I moved here it was July 3rd, and this time it was a month earlier. I think it’s the best time of the year to move to DC. Well… the humidity is also some of the worst I’ve been in, but still. Nathan had the near-immediate realization that as much as he said he loved the humidity and heat, as a Southern boy, he realized in Louisiana everyone has the aircon on in their homes. For some that’s true in DC, for our house it’s not. So to be clear, if it’s humid + hot, I’m in it. It’s all less charming that way. That being said, this is the easiest July I’ve ever experienced here. There are hot and humid days, but there have been a lot of nice days with heat + low humidity. It’s amazing. July and August are mostly miserable, and I have never had a Fourth of July here that you didn’t spend the entire day so sticky you didn’t even want to put your arms down because then your arms would be touching your body. This Fourth, though, it was almost chilly. It had stormed hard the afternoon before and it turned into the nicest 4th of July weather. 

It was Colombia’s last game in the World Cup so I wore my Tricolorjersey with a red, white and blue ribbon in my hair and a red, white and blue stars bracelet. It was a perfect outwardly display of my connection to my roots and the many directions those raíces come from.  

I also just realized it was my first time having “Nathan’s Hotdogs.” I wear my Nathan’s shirt which is a “Nathan’s Hotdogs” shirt, but until my friend Beth mentioned buying those specifically, I had never had one before. And they were really delicious. Beth also reunited me with some of my things that I left behind in DC. My favorites from this round was my saxophone, black jewelry, business clothes and high heels, a pair of white summer sandals that are so comfortable and perfect, and my white winter coat.  

The weekend wrapped up at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival, where China and Kenya were showcased this year. One of the things I loved about Folklife in past years was that each year not only were two countries highlighted, but so was one state or region of the US, e.g. Texas or Appalachia. The countries are clearly the highlight and broader aim, but I loved to see a focus from within our country as well. I don’t know if they just no longer do that or if it was just this year, but only Kenya and China were present. That aside, Folklife is an easy favorite and I was happy to go with Nathan for his first time. 

16 7 / 2014

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//”My Uruguaya/Colombiana can’t lost today!” -Nathan. It finally happened that two of my teams were up against each other. It almost happened in that last World Cup between the US and Uruguay, but Ghana won that match and went out in the next round to Uruguay. 

//Baleadas at Catrachitos after the Colombia/ Uruguay game :: Our friend from Honduras, who is currently in England and may end up in the District in a few months, was passing through on his way back from work in Nicaragua to finish up his grad program in Leeds. Phew, that sounded complicated. Anyway, Dan is our superhuman friend that is just a smart and all around great guy, and this was our first time seeing him since we left Honduras. He came over to watch the URU/COL match and we had Tecates and my chips and salsa and baleadas afterwards. We enjoyed some fun conversations with Hondurans from Tegucigalpa and San Pedro Sula. 

We also finally got to see and hold our graduate degrees! As it turns out, the UK ones are underwhelming. We laughed a bit because it seems like a normal document that anyone might print out, maybe like a transcript. I’m not sure even the word “distinction” fancied it up much. There’s a small foil-like piece that seems to be what makes it official. Then again, my undergrad degree is signed by Arnold Schwarzenegger, so… 

// Master of Science in Building and Urban Design in Development :: Master in Global Management / Graduate Certificate in Conflict Transformation Across Cultures

15 7 / 2014

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Fresh off the plane from Colombia, we dove right into crawfish boils and football games and Fourth of July actually in the US. And? About two quick seconds after arriving I was having PTSD as I found myself packing another bag and consequently in another airport.

We made the most last minute trip plans ever recorded in history for a wedding we imagined we wouldn’t be going to. We spent Thursday through Sunday in New Orleans and Baton Rouge. It was a complete whirlwind and I got to meet a few important family members that I had missed on previous visits, since they live outside the state. Nice things from the trip were that I attended my first fun wedding. The moment I walked in to the reception the only thing in my view were people dancing, and it stayed like that the whole night. There was a brass band and the whole thing felt like I was in a movie about how fun it is to be in New Orleans. I can’t wait for another Southern party. After the reception we all headed to Bogie’s, owned by N’s cousin and one of the biggest bar stops for LSU students. We also murdered a bunch of tacos that we had the cab driver pick up in the wee hours. We lost N’s brother at some point in the even wee-er hours when he walked out of our hotel room but the rest of us had gone to sleep. I figured he didn’t know what room we were all in since he was drunky when we arrived back. And so only a few hours after falling asleep, N’s sister and I went out to find him. As the elevator *tinged* and the doors opened to the first floor, there was Brent, no shirt and only tuxedo pants and socks. Clever of him to sit outside the elevator; we had to come out at some point.  

The other highlight was Nathan being able to go to his grandfather’s grave with his siblings. Daddy Clayton had passed away last year when we were in Perú. Chandler, as they call his grandparent’s house for the street the property is on, was also about to go on the market, and after Bogie’s some of us gathered there for a few drinks, a one last time thing. The following day N’s sister had to stop back by there to pick up a box and we saw that the realtor had just put the “for sale” sign up. She offered to let us all walk through one last time. The pictures below are a few I snapped at the cemetery and at Chandler. 

imageimageimageimageimageNathan looked at these photos on my phone when we got in the car and then looked at me, “Thanks for getting these.” This house and property, and Bonnie and Daddy Clayton, as everyone called them, has been the nucleus of the Mahaffey family since N’s dad and uncles were little boys. 

//La H in the World Cup - All of our teams played in the span of our time in NOLA and BR. We kept up with first Uruguay and Colombia, Honduras and the US. Three of our teams won this week and Honduras put in a goal against Ecuador, scoring it’s first Cup goal for the last two World Cups. Our jerseys are the two from the 2010 South Africa Cup. 

//Baton Rouge and New Orleans - Thursday and Friday were in BR and Saturday and Sunday in NOLA 

*Last time I tried to post this my computer did the scary shutdown

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