July 22, 2008

RRRRRRRRita!

Posted in paris tagged , , at 2:27 am by Malia Yoshioka

RRRita, 3 R’s.

That’s how she introduced herself on the first day of class. I remember sitting directly behind her at orientation. Haifa had taken a seat next to me and we all were strangers at this point although it seems no coincidence now, looking back, that we would choose these particular seats. During introductions, when Haifa had made a comment about trashing pieces when she didn’t feel that they were “perfect,” Rita turned to Haifa and said that she would “murrrrder her inner critic.” For emphasis, she said this while making stabbing motions with her hands.

rita’s famous “papaya dance” performed in front of shakespeare & co bookstore
rita's famous papaya dance

Oh, Rita. At the time, we had no idea just how seriously she took the job of taking our inner critics, ripping them to pieces, and stabbing them to death. At the time, I’ll admit, I wondered what I’d gotten myself into. I had no idea how much I’d grow to love this woman in just three weeks time.

Rita is Filipino-American nurse who lives in California with her husband and two kids. By day, she’s saving lives and helping people, and by night she moonlights as a writer and a poet. The subject matter of her poems is varied — sometimes a bit racy, sometimes a lot racy, and sometimes serious too — but always told with her trademark joie de vivre. When you hear her read poetry, her Filipino accent comes out stronger as she pronounces every letter, every syllable, letting the words and their meaning sink in to your soul.

She’s also part of a writing group in her hometown that has a rule that the group gives nothing but positive feedback to its members. To me, something seemed so wrong about this – how are you ever going to learn to grow or to improve your writing if you never hear the opportunities to change? What about “constructive criticism” and feedback? But now I realize that my experience at this program would just not have been the same without Rita and the constant support and cheerleading that she had for our individual writing styles. She helped us to silence – no, to murrrder – our inner critics and to write from the heart, without fear.

Unfortunately she had to leave the program a week early, so she flew out of Paris this morning. Knowing that her time was almost up, we asked Rita what she wanted to do for her last night in Paris. Her answer? She wanted to go fly a kite, she wanted her new Winnie the Pooh kite to “say hello to the birds in Paris.”

In the shadow of the great Notre Dame cathedral, on the banks of the Seine, Rita unrolled her kite and we watched as she tried her hardest to let it catch the wind. There wasn’t much of a breeze, and soon a crowd of tourists was gathering, taking pictures, and laughing – not at her but with her. No matter that there was no wind to fly the kite, her joy was contagious.

let's go fly a kite!

We only have a few class sessions left, yet I miss her already.

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5 Comments »

  1. Mom said,

    Good post:)

  2. Brianne said,

    omg, I love Rita by your blog. I would instantly love anyone who wants their winnie the pooh kite to say hello to the birds in paris. I can see why you had a soft spot for her…..kinda like our pho guy……

  3. christy said,

    very cute post malia. i am now a rrrita fan myself. 🙂

  4. wisa said,

    I’d love to meet her…

  5. sheryl said,

    oh that makes me want to fly a kite


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