The Little One in the form of an Owl...(but don't tell her I said that!)

April 28, 2012

Bonding Over Body Bits

              A few nights ago, I arrived home from rehearsal like a walking zombie (due to a previous late night youtube marathon of My Big Fat Gypsy's Wedding).  Ms V was wide awake still, having decided to wait up for me.  I sat on her bed and she blurted a question she had clearly been deeply ruminating in my absence:

              "What is this???" (points to her bellybutton) 

              Her angelic sincerity snapped me out of my lethargy.  I impishly tired to convince her that the bellybuttons sole reason for existence was to make that trumpet sound when someone blows on it (I demonstrated).  She protested my claim amidst much giggling, but her perceptiveness couldn't hold out to my insistence, especially as I had shown that neither the elbow, cheek, or shoulder were adequate places to make said trumpet sound.  And when she tried it on me, she could find no tangible fault with my irrational argument.  

            I could not bring myself to leave her so deluded and eventually admitted my treachery then gave a brief lesson on the true purpose behind the bellybutton, using her doll and a lamp plugged into the wall as props. Unexpectedly the conversation turned;  Never play with a child's imagination, unless you're in the mood for a trip

            "I wish I could see a woman with a woman or a man with a man; oh, I wish I could see how that looks like!" 

            (Uhmmmmmm, Pardon the Fuck?) "What? Why??"

            "Mukaka says they are there! Like in America or what.....I just want to see how they get a baby....or what....."

            We had, a couple of months ago, been forced (thank you much progressive parenting 101) to honestly respond to Ms V's classic "where do babies come from?" question with a brief synopsis of the biology behind procreation; we smartly used the broader example of the entire animal kingdom to keep things safely scientific (frankly, one would expect trying to imagine ostriches, giraffes, and lizards making babies would be overwhelming enough that there wouldn't be the time or imagination left to ponder same sex coupling-bah!).  Apparently Ms V's imagination had used these scientific basics as a diving board into the deep dark depths of Adult Content!

            I still felt myself in somewhat familiar territory.  When I was her age there was a couple who lived across the street from us; a gay couple.  I used to sit in my living room and keep watch at the window hoping for a glimpse of the fabled pair. Once during my vigil I "caught" them in an intimate moment: they were both outside trying to change the bulb on a floodlight at the side of the house.  One man climbed a short ladder to reach it, and the other reached up and put his hands around his partners waist to brace him (to protect him).  I felt I'd caught a glimpse of exactly what I'd been looking for: evidence that, despite the negative connotation when the gay couple was ever mentioned in the neighborhood, there was nothing at all negative or mysterious about them.  They were good; they were right; they were Love.  This notion was amplified by the contradicting fact that the rest of the neighborhood, including my home, held dysfunctional, lonesome, and sometimes violent families in which Love was a barely contrived facade.

           In any case, wherever my curiosity led, from the lofty ideals of universal romance to the more carnal realms of Danielle Steel imagery (I was a young and avid reader) I had the prudishness, fear, and wherewithal to keep my musings to myself; the Little One has no such filters:

            "I also want to know how they put their cho-chos (vagina) together, or..... what. And they have like holes-?"

            "Vannesa!! Where did you get these ideas from?!"

            "Eh! But you said I should tell you all what's on my mind!"

            "Ah, yesss," (damn you psychobabble degree) "but who told you all these things? Why are you even thinking of them?"

            "Uhmm, I think television or something." (we don't have a t.v-hmph!) "So do you have a hole in your cho-cho?"

            "Oh for Gods sake!" (For FUCKS SAKE!!)   

            I then launched into a Progressive Parent 101 spiel which supported her right and desire to be curious, affirmed my commitment to be honest and open with her, and redirected all such detailed-oriented questioning for when she will be old enough to understand the answers. (Whew!)


     Ms. V also has a running joke (that only she finds amusing) that slightly varies each time but basically involves my acquiring (sometimes at through her direct effort) an extra set of "buttocks", one or two extra sets of "bleasts", and (of course) a spare "cho-cho".  Sometimes though, she is the one (usually by taking mine) who gets a secondary set of female fertility organs (Yes, in Africa this most definitely includes the buttocks!).  She will choose the most innocuous conversations to intercept with this imagery, and will giggle adoringly at her fantasy.  At which point I thank God for my highly pretentious academic background which is steeped in the social sciences.  In these instances, images of ancient (and not so ancient, depending on the source) fertility God and Goddess statues come to mind; the classic Greek tragic hero, Oedipus also occurs to me (but that's probably my psychobabble training reminding me of Freud's say in such matters).  In the end, though, my daughters "joke"  seems more a ritual in which she uses these images to substitute our bodies having never been joined in organic creation; in mother-daughter coupling (a thing, I'm afraid, dear Freud would never have been able to understand).  

            Lucky for me, I do.  My daughter is my muse, and I use her stories, her words, her ways of seeing the world to guide me on my path as a storyteller; it is an odd thing to do; though she does not fully understand this ritual of mine, she accepts that it is my way of learning her, knowing her, and thus knowing myself.  It warms me to think that this ritual she has developed, of amplifying my femininity and then (rightly) claiming it for herself, is her way of learning me, knowing me, and thus knowing herself...... 

            Or maybe she thinks she's gay. Either way, works for me.  

April 26, 2012


Once Upon a Time.....(time, time, time)

         When I was roughly 11 years old, give or take some months, we took a trip to Malaysia, specifically the island of Penang.  We stayed with an old friend of my mother's who was, at the time, in an open marriage with an obviously (even to me, then) gay man and she was obviously (even to me, then) a lesbian.  Why they insisted on being married, I cannot understand now, but this odd discrepancy also seemed acceptable and obvious to me, then.

           During this trip, our hosts took us on the Penang Hiking Trails; we mostly just trooped along the ridges enjoying the view.  I believe this was my first mountain hike,
after which we came back down to feast on steamed fish and rice cooked in coconut milk by vendors on the side of the street. We never saw the inside of a restaurant that whole trip (it is a blessing to see a new country with foreigners who live there-they have the perfect balance of understanding of where you are coming from and knowing what gems to show you that may be dismissed by locals as sub-par).

        At night we would visit a food stall area popular with tourists that was well known for every stall being named Chez whoever owned it: Chez Joe; Chez Ahmed, etc.

        Our hosts ordered for me a pile of hot steaming noodles covered in a melange of fresh seafood. My stomach was not sophisticated enough to eat more than a few bites, but I made note of that image and have spent the rest of my life drooling over the memory of that neglected meal.

        One morning we visited a beach cafe and I sat with my mother and brother (who was 7-ish) eating eggs for breakfast.  On a nearby table a young, brooding, Adonis-like, man sat alone, drinking coffee, looking at no one.  His long hair, and delicate hands, screamed "sensual artist", even to my pre-pubescent self.  I hated the humility of being there with my family, and supposed if I were alone, then we would surely meet and have a torrid love affair, the details of which I'm sure I hadn't quite figured out.  This was my first taste of Lust; and to be honest, my M.O in men has never changed.

          Later we visited the Kek Lok Si Temple, to take a magical tour of gigantic golden and stone Buddha statues set in caves; this was my first experience of religion on such a grandiose scale.  This was my first sense of the Sacred Spirit.
        After the statues we met a Malay Intuitive Reader (Psychic); we prayed with her and she blessed us; she then shuffled my brother and I into another room so she could give my mother a personal reading. My mother was frightened by the experience and never spoke about what the woman said though implied it was too close to the Truth.
           We found ourselves, on a hot, bright, sunny afternoon, in a dimly lit, empty bar/restaurant, looking for a cool drink.  It was quite empty, but there were a few businessmen scattered at tables nearer to the bar and the karaoke stage where a very drunk Asian businessmen crooned into the afternoon air:

                    Raindrops keep fallin on my head
                   And just like the guy-
                   whose feet are too big for his bed
                   Nothing seems to fit.....

         This was my first experience of Karaoke; I have loved it ever since, along with that song which I try to find and sing in every karaoke bar I have ever been too.  I felt sad for the lonely, drunk, man then but think of him fondly today.  I understand, now, the look of a man who was proudly fearless, even in his sorrow. The quintessential Cowboy.

          Our hosts lived just a short walk away from the water and one afternoon I confidently left the house and made this walk, inspired by the calling of the wild ocean tides-I was growing up; I was weary of my mother's skirts.  I sat on the small cliffs and looked out into the sea, captivated.  I must have been quite caught up because I don't remember the men approaching me.  One minute I was alone, the next minute two fat, shirtless, hairy, sweaty white men had gathered around me.  They must have been in their forties, their language delineated them as Eastern Europeans. They cackled and cajoled (at me? how would I know what they were saying?); then one man came next to me and put his arm tight around my shoulders pulling me into his sweaty naked flesh; the other stood before us and pointed a video camera at us; they continued their garbled, rough speaking; the one man kept grinning and pulling me tighter-I think they wanted me to smile, but they never spoke to me; I was a thing.  I scrambled away and disappeared back to the house.

         I sat on the steps outside the front door, until I was sure my bright shame was tucked down, deep inside.  Nothing to get worked up about, right? Doesn't even make it on the radar of possible happenings to young girls alone in the company of men, right? Except from that day on, long before I had developed a sexual identity, I knew what it was like to be a sexual object.

         Last week I decided to become more proactive about this weight loss thing.  I always envy the young men who, ritualistically, come to the shore of any beach in Dar or Zanzibar, at sundown, and begin a casual regiment of the most fierce and disciplined calisthenics and exercise routine I have ever seen outside of a military setting.  It is an awe-inspiring ritual, but it seems reserved for boys and men only. But still, I thought, what could be the harm in taking a walk on the beach? (This question ruminated in my mind for at least two weeks, so I suppose, somewhere, deep inside, there was an answer).

         I made one circuit round the beach then scrambled for a cliff top, where there were some Muslim school girls sitting, I came and sat close to them (for some reason this made me feel safe) and took in the view, allowed my shoulders to relax from the tension I didn't know I was holding.  I saw him approach out of the corner of my eye but still thought nothing of it, until the sweaty, stupid, shameless man was sitting so close to me I could feel his hot breath. His leering eyes looked through me (why ME? I wanted to shout, go for the Muslim girls then! I am NOT A PRETTY YOUNG THING!!!) It was the way he greeted me, like my response or reaction was predetermined, like pressing power on a computer screen and just assuming it will light up; I was expected to respond, I was expected to greet him for the SOLE REASON that he had greeted me (Why do men DO THIS??? Why is this SUCH a constant in my life?? Would it make me so sick if it wasn't for the echoes in my head, the tucked away memories?) 

        I jumped up so fast he reacted like he thought I meant to push him off the cliff; he jumped up too and dashed off, but I was already out past the parking lot, crossing the street.

         I had walked half a kilometer before I could unclench my hands and quiet my throbbing heart; the ocean view long out of sight; even the sound of the tide rushing was overwhelmed by the echoes of those fat, sweaty, laughing, men.....

                    Raindrops keep fallin' on my head
                    But that doesn't mean my eyes-
                    will soon be turnin red
                    Cryin's not for me, cause
                    I'm never gonna stop the rain-
                    by complaining....

April 20, 2012

The Mary Mama (Warning: illegal drug reference below)
           I am sick of sounding like a bully.  It's not even that I like being mean-okay-well-I mean-I do run a tight ship! I'm a strict captain and when you step on board you best salute to your leader, wipe your feet, take off your shoes, and WHAT did I tell you about leaving them just inside the door like that-I mean, SERIOUSLY?!? 

BUT (Ms V has yet another endearing habit of loudly and emphatically saying "BUT", when she really means to say "that": "Mukaka said BUT she left you a note and some money on the kitchen table" and so forth. Now I can't appropriately use the word "but" without shouting it, mostly only in my head) if you float with me, you will get a happy, cozy, clean ship, filled with yummy food, a place for everything, and everything in its place.  So it is, as usual, a give and take.

            BUT my constant "the world is gonna fall apart, this is a sign of the apocalypse, how could you not do this that and the other EXACTLY to my specifications" is getting a little fucking obnoxious, even to me. And most assuredly to the little eight year old I often forget is an eight year old, not a robot (and in actuality a recently traumatized, previously mis-raised, though always loved, eight year old).

            The other day I walked into my therapist's office livid after a particularly trying morning with the Little One.  So my therapist made me role play some of what had happened; she played me, while I played my daughter. She then would go over the scene again suggesting a different way I might have responded.  Despite the fact that her reasonable, reassuring, sweet, healing approach had not even occurred to me, she insists that I have not done anything irreparable as far as over-scolding goes.........we then re-discussed whether or not I should be medicated (ha!).

            The fact of the matter is, I have had zero role-models for good parenting, especially for this age group.  That's very hard for me to say, as my mother is a very strong, loving, sacrificing, maternal figure who has always been adamantly explicit about loving her children to perfection (Freudian slip much?) However, loving your children does not equal parenting them well.  Love is a natural instinct (in most), Parenting is a practiced skill, for ALL.   The danger for me is that I am slipping back into the habits of parenting that I know, despite intellectually understanding that those habits were often maladaptive.  See? I'm all UP on this psychobabble shit, so I should really know better.

            And, in fact, I do.  BUT (okay, okay, I'll stop doing that) there is a cognitive dissonance that occurs in which I cannot relegate what I know  rhetorically about parenting, with what I experienced as a child. Since I still have respect and love for my parents, I resolve the dissonance by saying, "yes, but" and rationalizing how they raised us:  "Yes, I know she's only eight, but when I was eight I had to come home, order a cab, pick my brother from pre-school, and then watch over him and cook for him, etc, until evening......all I'm asking her to do is clear the freakin desk"; "Yes, but, in Black-America, there are all these celebrities who talk about how harsh their mother's were and how good it was for them and how they still love them, like Chris Rock's story in Everybody Hates Chris; I think there is something to be said about the coddling that European/White-American people do with their children versus then necessary (?) sternness indigenous peoples have with their kids-well, the sternness must be necessary since it is so common with us" Do you see what is happening here? The "yes, buts" continue and become more convoluted and mixed up with theory, culture, memories, and questions of self-worth (as is my M.O).

            You know what has been my deciding factor?  When my therapist acted out the alternative way I could have dealt with the situation, I felt more Loved. I did, as a grown up, as me, right there in that room.  Even though it was pretend and she was directing it to an imaginary eight year old, the metaphorical, remembered, eight year old in me, felt safe. That's how I knew, theories and the past be damned, I want to love my daughter just like I would want to have been loved.  Reassuringly, unconditionally, and SKILLFULLY.

            Of course, my therapist reminded me, it was very easy for her to do that, as it wasn't her child she was speaking to and therefore she had no emotional provocation to deal with.  Now that I understand how I want to be when it comes to noticing that something has been left awry in my perfectly pristine ship, the issue is simply to figure out how to chill the fuck out so I don't sound like a great big WAH-WAH-WAH bully when I point it out (not just to Ms V, but my mama as well).  Which brings us to the medication, yeah? But-ugh-filling my body with chemicals and dealing with side-effects untold, just to chill out, is beyond unappealing. What about a more......natural way? Yeah, you heard me.

            It has occurred to me that back in Ug, I toked/smoked/puffed/chiefed..... a LOT.  I could go months without the stuff, but when the timing was right, I was a pothead to beat all potheads.  And do you know the right time for toking? (No, not 420, let's behave here, huh) when you need to chill out.  I don't doubt that the recent intensification of my anxiety symptoms coincides with the fact that I have not had that option since moving to Tz.  I vaguely fondly remember, when I was still living with my mother in Uganda (before briefly tasting  proper adulthood, before being thrust right back into her womb here) I would have a sweet little session after work and by the time my mother came home, I would be happily, sedately deposited on the couch, and she would invariably say something like, "wow, it feels so peaceful in here", and I would chuckle in my mind because I couldn't manage to chuckle out loud.  Now does that sound like a potential maniacal tyrant to you? Me neither.  I was smiley, sweet, and peaceful.  I want to give my mama that peace again; I want to give my daughter a break from all the scolding; and.....I wanna get hiiiiigh Maan! (for humanitarian purposes, obviously).

            Just think of that infamously "practically perfect" caregiver (with a perfectly apt name) Mary Poppins
Mary be poppin SOMETHING, that's FO SHUA!! 

(Hey! Check out the photo credit link for a lovely comparison between Mary Poppins the book versus Mary in the movie; apparently in the former she WAS an uppity, perfectionist, authoritarian, prone to mood swings; it was Disney who got her high lightened her up for the screen. Huh!)

I think she had the right idea with her whole spoon full of sugar ditty, 'cept mine would go a little something like this:

            Toke on some Mary
            Makes the Mama-thing go easy,
            The Mama-thing go ea-sy,
            The Mama-thing go easy

            Just a toke on some Mary
            Makes the Mama-thing go easy,
            In the most de-light-ful way!

April 18, 2012

My "Happy Birthday" Was Very Happy!

            The big 3-0.  I made it through a lot better than I would've thought, to be honest.  Let's not go into all the reasons I should be besieged with torment that, despite my age, I have nothing in the way of functioning adulthood, to show for myself (even my existential angst is seeming a tad dated now-hmph!).  But let's NOT going into details, or I may in fact fall into a delayed pit of despair.  However, this little exchange between an old( in hag-hmph!) neighbor lady and I, that happened on my birthday, pretty much symbolically captures whatever torment I may be carrying:

            Me: Shikamoo. (respectful Swahili greeting towards elders)

            Nice Hag: Marahaba. ( appropriate response) Blahblahblah (more Swahili)

            Me: Uhmmmm......(that's all I got Lady!)

            Nice Hag: Hahaha. How have you been? How was your vacation?

            Me: It was very good. Are you coming or going?

            Nice Hag: Going. I just arrived last night, and now I'm going out of town again.

            Me: Oh, well safe journey then......

            Nice Hag: How is that your sister or...?

            Me: (thinking she is referring to Ms V) daughter.

            Nice Hag: YOU are that Lady's daughter?!?

            Me: Oh! Uhmmm, yeah.....

            Nice Hag: Oh my Goodness. But she looks SO young! What is she doing with herself? You must be the first born then yes?

            Me: Ha-ah-yes she looks very young. No, not the first.

            Nice Hag: Second?

            Me: Nooooo, I'm the third.

            Incredibly old, surely half-blind, doesn't know how to mind her own business Hag: Wow! She must take very good care of herself!......You know YOU should take care of yourself too.

            Me: Haha. Okay, thanks, safe journey then....(fucked up thing is, I totally saw this coming; I've had this exact conversation several times since moving back to Africa.)

            Other than that lovely reminder that, along with generally sucking at adulthood, apparently I fail to even look like a daughter, my birthday was Momentously Marvelous.  The first one with my daughter, you know.  Ms. V has the endearingly ironic habit (one of many) that instead of saying "Birthday", she says "Happy Birthday" as in, she does not recognize that the former is the noun referring to the anniversay of one's birth, and the latter is merely a suggestion.  So in lamenting not having got me the present she wanted because she'd wanted to get in Uganda where it would be a fifth the price of here, she said, "....but I forgot that it was going to be your Happy Birthday...." In lamenting that I didn't have a cake to cut (which I ended up getting to my surprise) and that it was a boring work Monday, she said, "Ohhhh sorry, you're Happy Birthday is just working, and you are not cutting a cake on your Happy Birthday!" And so forth.  It trips you out to see the "Happy" as a necessary part of the "Birthday"; I like it; I think I shall take up this habit for good.

             Speaking of habits, I'm currently off the sauce. In actuality these extra pounds I've put on are starting to weigh on me (ahahahahaha-whatever! I thought it was funny) I haven't been this big for years and years, since I originally lost a shitload of weight and totally transformed my body/lifestyle.  I'm thick; like high school thick. But as Old Lady Hagsville reminded me, this shit doesn't not hang so well on my tri-decade-been through the ringer-body.  So, though I would love to go all Rocky and shit, hit the gym and run my ass off (literally-hehe-see above) that's just not going to happen.  Firstly, there's too much pressure in trying to be fit again after you've been out of it for awhile. It's like, you can still remember how cool and svelte you felt (and how big your Ego was) but you're also very aware of the specific differences between your body now and then, and the amount of excruciating effort it will take to go back to then.  Secondly, uhmmmm, I don't remember the second part, I'm still distracted by the thought of all that effort (ugh).

              My only alternative, to at least kick start my weight loss, is to cut back on my caloric intake.  Now, back in my most recent old life, I was a swinging (as in hip not kinky) bachelorette living on my own, and as such had no time for eating much more than takeaway chicken, beer, and chocolate.  I would go to my mama's house cause the house girl made some mean greens, so all in all, it was a wonderfully balanced diet for both body and soul.  But in this life, I am a caretaker and cannot very well give my child beer for lunch (I am way to pretentiously pious for that) though I'm sure she'd go in for the chicken and chocolate.  So the booze has got to go on hiatus from my blood stream (however I have now just tripled my chocolate intake so I dunno how well this is working, though I have lost the beer bloat).

              And though alcohol is not the problem.....per se (What are you, a lie detector?? Pffft) it won't hurt to keep away until I can really sink my mental health roots back into fertile ground.  However, it surely won't last (the sobriety, not the good mental health) cause frankly, I'm way to humbly harebrained for that (Teetotalism, like Veganism, takes SO much dogmatic Ego to maintain IMHO).  And here are two articles that say I'm right.

               Okay, okay, those articles said no such thing, but definitely interesting reads re: a different perspective. And how cool is psychology for affirming even the worst behaviors as being understandable vis a vis "human nature".

               Speaking of which, I gotta go stuff a chocolate Easter egg into a shot glass for my mid-morning fix.


April 17, 2012

A Run For The Hills (2)

            You know that scene in disaster movies, when everyone is trapped in traffic trying to calmly save themselves, while being thoroughly perplexed by the fact that everyone else is doing the exact same thing, thus making all attempts futile?  Well, it turns out, that is EXACTLY what happens in real life as well.
           Had the Tsunami actually 
hit, we would have been like panicking, flailing, cannibalistic ducks, sitting in a barrel filled with petrol. 

            We'd a been fucked, and looked damn stupid on top.

             Gotta support the local press, but what I hate about the above link (and really all post-tsunami scare journalistic rhetoric) is the blahblahblah, "our government isn't doing enough to prepare for a safe evacuation."  WTF?? The above pictures are from disaster movies, but try googling "disaster movie traffic jam scene" like I first did, and you will be overwhelmed by the pictures of REAL LIFE TRAFFIC JAMS, on an ordinary day, taken in cities all over the world.  Dar-ahem-is a city.  And BY DEFINITION (especially in this day and age) a city is an overcrowded, condensed locale, usually daily inundated with a large mass of migrating persons from nearby towns and suburbs.  Exactly what is the government-ANY government- supposed to do, call Batman? And why are we so surprised that a set of emergency only highways did not pop out of the ground and form into evacuating bridges over our swarming selves to lead us into safety (where OF COURSE there would be jack-in-the-box like five star hotels ready to pop up and receive the masses with free complimentary drinks and extra towels)?

                 I did what everybody else did; I tried to get out and protect my baby; but if shit had gone down, I damn sure wouldn't have wasted what little breath I had trying to blame someone else for it (hence Natural Disaster).  Then again, I'm the protagonist in this fairytale so we all know I would have made it out alive and heroically saved all sorts of people along the way (bumping into my True Love who was is
 also a hero-like super hot b-.....but I digress).

                So-well-I mean-maybe I did indulge a TAD in some melodramatics when my mother initially called me with the news that we were on alert for a possible Tsunami as a result of the recent Earthquake off the coast of Indonesia, but nothing compares to my Little One's propensity for hysterics:  I once misplaced one of my favorite rings; upon mentioning this and starting to casually look for it, Ms V began hysterically crying out to the Lord: "Oh Jesus! Sweet Jesus help!! Help, where is the RING?? Where is it? Oh God, oh Jesus, you LOST your RING!!" and so forth.  To her (and the Lord's) credit, she found it some five minutes later.

               We spent about an hour flitting around the house, straining our eyes in the dying light trying to pack, "anything you feel is important to you" in the off chance that we would come home home.  The Little One did not go into hysterics exactly, but her voice did get really high, and soft, and fragile; her eyes, which are already as large as my Owl gizomo-thingy, managed to grow even larger, and she kept apologizing for the oddest things, "I'm sorry I startled you just now; I'm really, really sorry you were startled." and such.  I kept my Zen cool thing and, in the end, she was freakin AMAZING; she even reminded me to close all the windows (wait, when was the last time she was in a Tsunami???) 

             It wasn't until we emerged outside to grab a taxi, that I begun realizing the enormity of what was going on.  It was bright out, but with a consistent rain falling; it was about 6-ish so naturally people were trying to go home anyway.  Swarms of people chose to march down the road to get home on foot, while the rest of us sat in traffic with a barely constrained panic; some poor souls (many hugely pregnant) stood waiting for the public bus-like there was a chance in hell they be home before midnight if they even had the luck of catching one.  Much like my earlier greeting when my daughter arrived, we were all trying to be very adult about the whole thing, and secretly hating it.

             The epiphany of the anticlimactic great escape is finding yourself, after two hours in traffic, some 700 feet away from your house.  And to add insult to injury, while sitting in traffic, all our prized possessions safely stowed in the back of the ghetto van turned taxi we have heroically secured, we watched the rain stop and the streets lights and power come back on.  


               All the while, we'd been communicating with my mother who had (after much scolding mind you) dutifully turned around and was now waiting for us just outside of town to continue the trip with her.    I found myself thinking (.....hoping? I know, terrible) that this was just the calm before the storm and shit was about to get crazzzzy any minute now, but eventually even I had to beg the driver to turn around. Luckily Unfortunately, he didn't speak any English and was stoically determined to complete his drop-off.

              All in all, the hectic frenzy of the failed escape was the final deciding factor.  After all that panic, we needed a little R&R. So to the hills we went.
              Though her workshop ended Friday, we decided to stick around and go exploring.  My mother and I are kindred spirits in our LOVE for a NATURAL




           The Little One is a big sissy spoil-sport......but we tried to not let it get on our nerves too much.  She has a lot to learn.

              Most notably, on that note, her willful rejection of studying English is still in full effect! I decided, despite my upcoming birthday, the next week would have to begin Operation Boarding School Boot camp!! Spell DISCIPLINE!  

April 14, 2012

A Run For The Hills (1)

              Nothing like an unexpected adventure to do what a weekend holiday in paradise, followed by some much needed time a part, still could not accomplish: we, three, are finally a bonded, harmonious, peaceful family again (fuck March) Yaaay April!! And all it took was the threat of a tsunami (why didn't I think of that?!?).

              The Little One and my mother arrived a day later than expected (which I should have expected) on Wednesday afternoon.

             I will tell you a secret: part of my anxiety at being away from the Little One, is that a.) she wouldn't miss me b.) she would find she was happier visiting her other relatives that she used to live with when her mother first died, and so my mother would decide to let them take her back c.) she wouldn't miss me AND wouldn't be happy to see me.  

             They came in soaked from the days rain, my mama looked just as shy of me as I was of my daughter, as if she goes through the same anxiety over me (and a tiny part of my mind made a note of this).  The Little One would not look me in eye; she carried a big suitcase and concentrated on trying to bring it in, ignoring my attempts to help her.  My heart did a tailspin and I did all I could to not fall on my knees in anguish.  The art of adulthood: to be falling apart inside, and on the outside, you are exchanging small pleasantries:

    "hiiiii, look you're all wet" (oh my God, she hates me).

     "Here let me help you" (damn it just give me the suitcase, great the driver's watching, can they all see it??)

      "Hi mama. Hi Little One! I missed you! Ohh you're cold, huh? (WHY won't she look at me? what's happened? What's going on?? I've completely FUCKING failed-can't let it show, must not let it show, fuck, fuck, FUCK)

      "Would you guys like some tea?....I said would you like some tea Vannesa?? (Mama says ALWAYS act like nothing is wrong-I HATE being a grown-up!)

             Well, melodrama is in the mind of the beholder. After a cup of tea, a sweet snack, and some Mindful techniques of emotional observation (did I mention I have a therapist now? She's no Guru*, but she is a good dose of "just what I needed"-God Bless!) it occurred to both of us that, "Hey, I actually still love you; and wow! You TOTALLY love me to!" A much needed separation, followed by an equally integral reunion.

             It turned out that, despite some unsettling health concerns that had been the cause for the delay, my mother was only stopping in long enough to take a shower and grab new clothes before hitting the road for an out of town workshop.  There hadn't been any power since the night before and my mother left while the building manager was trying to rectify the problem.

             We sat down to a nice meal of homemade fish and chips (a little indulgence to welcome home my Love); It must have been four o'clock so this was late lunch, early dinner.  I considered maybe taking us to the movies, but the rain (though light) didn't seem to be letting up.  Then my mobile rang; it was my mother......

             "Soooooo, I've just gotten an update on my phone, there was an earthquake in Indonesia and Dar Es Salaam is on alert for a Tsunami."

              The funny thing about me: I need a therapist to navigate the overwhelming pressures of choosing a country to settle down in, getting a job, getting a boyfriend, etc. But give me an unexpected crisis and I'm ON IT, like WHAT! I become all Peaceful and Zen. Let's recap:

 I have no power, no computer, not even batteries in the radio; 
the fridge is semi-stocked (my mother just unloaded a shitload of avocados for me to do I dunno what with so no threat of scurvy); 
I can't swim; 
Everyone I would think to call in Dar will probably be at this out of town workshop-though I probably wouldn't call them anyway; 
my mother spent the night before in the hospital after a severe migraine attack and is now on the road on a four hour journey; 
how come everyone in other natural disaster crisi (crisi? really?-blame spell check on that shit) always seem to have boats?-

DISCLAIMER: Don't get me wrong. I am not in anyway dismissing the horrific, tragic, realities of natural disasters.  I am in no way trivializing the suffering that happens. I am sincerely relating my exact thoughts as I spoke to my mother about what could very well be a life-changing circumstance and looked around our house instinctively trying to spot what could be turned into a flotation device in a no avail.......


April 12, 2012

Your Mother Has Been Caught (3)

 [Update]  I really freaking love this memory. It still teaches me everyday, though it happened years ago.  Unfortunately, my computer recently crashed (hence my absence) taking away many of my posts and, most tragically, the pictures I have to post for the grand finale of this story.  So, even with prayer and Divine Intervention, it may be awhile for part 4. But for now you can click here for part 1 and here for part 2 if you want to get caught up on a simple tale of Magic. A Village Babies Fairytale. 

Once Upon a Time....(time, time, time)

          I have seen people light fires since I was a little girl, "How hard can it be?" I thought, "I'm pretty sure I caught all the pertinent details from the lighting of yesterdays fire out of the corner of my eye; I got this."  This is all despite the fact that I've seen "Cast Away" several times and should know better.  It isn't as easy as you'd think, I believe, was the motto of the moment. However, all I could recall from the movie, was Hanks' final triumph.

           This was my guiding image as I squatted down towards the logs, lighting match after match and failing miserably to do what I had assumed would happen naturally (Tom didn't even have matches!). I had began with some prep work.  The logs were actually still smouldering underneath from this mornings breakfast fire, but I did recall the need for dry grass, to......well, I wasn't sure for what, but I remembered it being a vital ingredient. Dry grass, check; matches, check.
Little woodland animals who will come and do all the work for me while I tralala for their benefit.....not so much. But evening was fast approaching, the troop would be home any minute, I would have to proceed without the animal minions.

            After several attempts at lighting the grass bundle, I realized it was best to hold the brush (ahem) on a downwards tilt so the flames reach upwards (yeah, I was thoroughly breastfed as a child).  Despite this significant discovery I could get no more than a minuscule brush flame going no matter how much I tried to tuck it into the logs and sticks.  Clearly there was a piece of this formula that I was overlooking.  The last light had seeped out of the twilight evening; I could barely make out the shape of the hut in the near distance.

            Suddenly the scampering of little feet filled the air behind me, and the children appeared out of nowhere to swarm around me.  The messenger service had sent me a rescue team.  At first they sat around me shy and giggling, simply watching, but the moment the surmised my objective as I continued to try and get the fire going, they jumped into action.  Their tiny little faces, the youngest must have been four at the most, bowed down, deep into the logs and began blowing, in unison: "Wheewwwww, wheeewwww".  Before I could finish my arrogantly naive thought, "silly little chil-" the flames responded in earnest and caught on, growing quickly and fiercely.  My initial exclamations and huzzahs turned into concerned scolding because they refused to abate their huffing and puffing and were now dangerously hovering over a growing, barely contained camp fire.  I tried to pull them away, only to have them giggle, shrug me off and continue their exhausting stunt.  There was nothing for me to do, but sit back and watch the process with apprehension and marvel in equal weight.

            One by one they finally bowed off the flames and sat triumphantly down on the logs by some unspoken signal.  I looked at the fire and saw that a few of the bigger branches had now caught that deep, hot coal look, whereas before, when I was giving it my best effort all I had ever seen were those light yellow, superficial flames.  And then I understood what I had been missing and why my fire would never have been successful.  These children had used team work and persistence to achieve this long lasting blaze; I had neither the common sense to ask for help nor the were withal to understand a flame does not equal a fire; I had rewarded myself too quickly, sought the end result too impatiently; my huffing and puffing was but a fraction of what was needed for the flames to take root in the logs.  I'd needed the children; they knew it; I didn't. And this realization filled me with awe.  I was nothing but a Visitor, age and privilege had no influence on that fact.

            So, I did what any Visitor would do in this situation: the ritual of thanks-giving.  I dashed off to the hut and returned with a large sized bar of Cadburys chocolate.  This is a bar of chocolate I can, and do, easily consume in a casual 20 minute sitting between classes, waiting for a subway, walking home from the get? Consuming this treat, for me, is a non-event.

        I looked around at the sincere, little faces with firelight dancing on their dark skin, and their large eyes warmed from within. I opened the package and slowly broke the chocolate down into small pieces, thinking this would be a pathetic gift indeed, as there was barely a mouthful for each. The Leader watched me with a quiet fierceness; the others murmured amongst each other, chatting about the fire flames and making a distinct effort to ignore the site and smell of chocolate, as if not to embarrass me into sharing what they assumed was just for me.

          They oohed and ahhed as I began handing each their share. I just assumed they would swallow down the quickly melting bits as fast as I handed them out, but as the last piece was parceled off, I was nonplussed to see each had waited until the others had.  The pieces had turned to liquid in their palms, but they still took patient, small licks with many murmurs of appreciation in between. This was a life-event, for me most of all.  Then it took another turn; my previous awe was nothing compared to the deep feeling of wonderment that hit me next.

         The Leader had not sampled her chocolate yet. Instead she had noted that I had not broken off a piece for myself.  That sweet, stern, powerful little girl scooped up half of the gooey mess in her palms and dutifully handed it to me.

          I, the Visitor, was so thoroughly naive, bumbling about with a contrived comprehension of local custom. I had finally realized that my privilege had only born ignorance and the absence of want, born from the surety of nothingness had given these village babies a wisdom I have only read of in scared texts.  Above all, I knew, I was in safe hands...

          It was after this moment, with our mouths filled with sweetness, our bodies warm, our hearts a bit of both, that the children began to tell me the reason behind their visit. It had never occurred to me that there might have been a purpose, besides Divine Angelic intervention.  They chittered and chattered in native tongue, like birds returning home at sunset.  I am terrible with languages; my mind seems only capable of retaining English, French, and Other, but for some reason my mother's tongue (ironically not my mother tongue which would be my father's language-ha!) has always hit a soft spot of familiarity in me.  I think I understand it through my heart, not my mind.  And of course, it is always, always the babies I understand and converse with best.

         But the speed with which they spoke and the content of their tale, only gave me a few phrases to catch upon that left me more confused than if I hadn't understood at all.  Translated, it went something like this:

      children:   .......Your mother's is not coming sorry for you.....poor you........
      me: No, she is coming. She will come.
      children: ..........?
      me: I don't know. I don't understand. I don't....I don't know.
      children: your mother is caught!.....She will not come back. (they point to the Leader).........?
      me: I don't understand. My mother is coming.
      children (to each other): She says she is not understanding.
      me: Yes!
      children: You are not understanding??
      me: Yes! I do not understand.
      children (to each other): But poor her, she is alone, her mother has gone.
      me: No, my mother is coming.
      children: You understood?! Oh! You understand some but you do not understand everything?
      me: Yes!
      children (to each other): Ohhh, she understands some but she doesn't understand everything.

             At this point the conversation came to a standstill, as there was no way either they or I could miraculously cross this chasm in communication.  To their credit, I have had many an awkward silence far more uncomfortable than this one with adults who had a perfect grasp of English.  They understood the issue, but it did not offend them (nor should it).  That, perhaps, is the very key to why communicating with children in a foreign land is ALWAYS more satisfying than communicating with adults: those cultural differences are never offensive to children; they rightly see them as superficial and therefore amusing, but innately insignificant.

             However, the babies soon grew weary by simple fact that it was getting late, and they had surely not had dinner yet.  They gathered the young ones up and without affectation slipped off into the night.  I stood and looked around.  "I, myself, could use some dinner", I thought.  It was, after all, getting rather late. They had after all only gone to the market.

             "Where were they?" I wondered, as the children's words echoed in my head, "Where IS my mother?".......


April 4, 2012

Is That The Planets Shifting, Then?

        Last night was my first night ALONE since moving to Dar.  The Little One accompanied my mother on a trip out of town; I had to stay behind for rehearsals for the play.  I thought I would be anxious about it, but for the first time in forever, I feel, for the first time in too long.  It's sad though, in her absence, my heart can only now feel the full expression of my love for my daughter.  

        They say time flies when you're having fun, I would argue the opposite and say time slips through your fingers when your struggling to hold on to your sanity.  When everything's falling apart, the clock seems to tick faster and faster, like sand through an hourglass. Joy actually freezes time, in my experience.  When I am so content with the moment that nothing else matters, no future, no past, no wants, no unfulfilled needs, in those moments time does not exist.

         March came and went like a roller coaster ride through anxiety and tension, with brief moments of holding it together.  There was too little joy in March, and the struggle to figure out what the fuck was going wrong sucked all the grains of time down until, suddenly, the month was over.  It is now April, my birthday month.

         I find myself here, now, as if finally coming out of a really bad hangover.  I am still amazed at the loss of time, still confused by how it happened, but feeling, at least, like I can breath.  The air is different, infused with a cleansing agent; the light is clearer, showing me things I did not see before. Is that the planets talking, then? Can this be explained with by a shift in the Cosmos, a change in the weather? Or is it just my Faith in these things that somehow survived the pressure of melancholy and the onslaught of worry so that with the shift in time and a new rising sun, like magic, the curse seems lifted? Is it so simple, then? Planets move and shift, time slips by, and suddenly even my trivial mortal circumstances have shed the weight of futility and regained the lightness of hope.

         My breath is slow and steady. And the small achievements that did occur now rise up into my consciousnesses having previously been suppressed and drowned in such heavy, damning, despair.  I have my health back, a good 20 lbs heavier unfortunately, but strong and vital and myself again.  

         My blood work confirmed no more anemia and all other organs are functioning (at least organically speaking) with full vitality.  While doing my check up, I managed to finally find a proficient dentist and go through the first of several stages of treatment to my damaged mouth. Having done it and survived, having found a doctor who actually understood how terrifying these procedures have become for me, and having had my mother go full on warrior by my side through the whole affair-all of this is still hard to believe, to internalize.  It has been this running commentary between my mother and I, "what are we going to do about your teeth??"; the frequent days of pulsing pain and the inability to chew properly have just become a part of my life. Now, just like that, it is all gone; I am healed.  

         A small, physical example symbolizing a much, much larger affair: The Stumble Out of the Path of Light and Peace. It always begins with a simple slip and fall, a wrong turn, a misplaced move; then the initial denial of trauma or danger, the attempt to ignore and the hope if you just keep moving all will be well; finally the awareness that you are in fact wounded, you are limping and scared that you have forever lost your way. And then one day, you are safe; you are healed; the process is over; those scary moments are gone. You will only ever understand only parts and pieces of how you were healed.  Some things you remember, others you will never know. Like did the planets quietly shift in your favor? Did the moon tilt to help you see a way you hadn't seen before?

         I shouldn't regret the loss of time, when so much of it was filled with hurt and worry; I am glad for the speed with which it seeped through me, though there are still residual aches.  I am not even looking forward yet.  I am here, now, on this day, and it feels safe.  Let the planets move me at their will, let the moments settle down and take on new shapes. I think I see my Path up ahead; it is there still, waiting for me.

        I will not look for the bliss and joy just yet, but I will not stop them from coming either. This is my silent day. I am alone (but full of love); I am MINDFUL; I am healing.  

        My breath is slow and steady.