Saturday, June 18, 2011

African Adventures

Hey everyone! My first post on the NYTimes blog is up:
(It covers a snippet of the past couple of days. )

The days are bustled, packed with one thing after another, while the nights are occupied with reading and writing. This is the first time I've written in this context (usually it's been in my own home on my own schedule) and I'm seeing what a difference deadlines make when it comes to writing. The more I'm here, the more I realize how much of a luxury even a vice like procrastination is.

There's also something priceless about traveling with people I haven't met before. Those unfamiliar dynamics have forced to unearth new portions of myself, ones that are far from the comfort zone I usually turn to when I get on a plane. I suppose we all seek our new locations and experiences for the chance to become refreshed.

We spent this afternoon traveling from Mauritania to Darkar. I feel like I'm in another world altogether because of how desolate everything is. There are vast, open stretches of sand and camels cross the street with more entitlement than vehicles. Men wear robes that graze the ground while women expose their hair parting at most.

I'm not sure how many of you have been abroad but visiting these countries reminds me of how much I have to be grateful for: air conditioning, hot water any time, hair dryers that don't blow out, Mexican food, and WiFi in most places, to name some.

But most of all, when I see these graceful, elegant women, I once again send a silent pinch of gratitude to the universe for giving me the liberty to express myself.

Thanks so much for encouraging my writing endeavors and giving me the chances to know yours.
Even though we haven't met, I feel blessed to be connected with all of you.

(Pictures from our journey today)

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

distance to get closer

Greetings from Casablanca!

Writing's been difficult lately. And I'm more frustrated about the frustration itself than the fact that I haven't been writing as much. Does that make any sense at all?

As I flew to Africa today
(more on that later because it's been a surreal and life changing day,), I was sure I'd come to the hotel and fall asleep. The trip was a way to escape my life, the things that occupy my mind, and focus on others.

But the first thing I noticed when we landed was the smell. I turned into my parents, whispering, "It's just like India" every chance I could.
It reeked of hard work and activity. Industrialization. A summer that was never dormant.

Suddenly, everything was new and had to be soaked in. I scribbled in my notebook about the details around me and slowly felt myself crawling out of a shell. Like a long lost friend, writing came back to me, wanting to be pursued.

Then I ate dinner with my incredible travel partners and favorite columnist. We discussed the themes that lay ahead of us, the stories we want to capture while we're here. The gravity of my dreams came into focus.

So as I sit in my hotel room, Arabic television droning in the background, I recognize that we often escape just to return back to our refreshed selves.

nights into mornings

Photo from cruise deck

As I've said before, I'm not a morning person. I cringe at the sound of my alarm, wake up at the last minute, and rush out the door with a granola bar in hand.
Nights are better (for me). Everyone's asleep. It feels intimate to just be with my words or a classic movie.

But on the last evening of the cruise, a couple of us decided to stay up to watch the night evolve into the morning.

The colors came slowly, each making its own appearance, using the sky as a canvas. Light pinks, purples, blues..
Like most people, I was seduced with the shades but more than that, I caught a vivid glimpse of what I'd been missing, avoiding. The hush of the world. One so deep that it revives you, makes you want to connect with that sense of serenity in you. I grasped a heightened sense of my insignificance while at the same time acknowledging the tangible place that I held in this world.

And all was well.

So, yes, I will always be a night person but there is something renewing about the morning.

"You should have seen that sunrise
With your own eyes
Brought me back
To life"
John Mayer

bachelorette fun

There are few things as wonderful as celebrating your friend's dream come true. This past week, I went on a cruise for a lovely bachelorette party. There were shirts that said "Setting Sail Before the Veil." There were cheers at every meal. There were games and giggles.

And I couldn't be happier for her.

Monday, June 6, 2011

at home (and twitter?!)

The best thing about blogging was finding people who have the same goals, fears, and views as I do. I never knew writers until I blogged and there's a kinship I feel with every single one.

So this past weekend left me rattled in a way I haven't been since I began blogging and took my year "off". I attended a Narrative Medicine conference. It involved waking up at 6 a.m. before and throughout the weekend, riding the muggy, deserted subway for an hour each way, and cursing myself for not buying those inserts for high heels...and I can't think of the last time I felt this at home.

All of the attendees worked in health care and had a love for literature. Perfect, right?!
We all met because of stories: to share them, exchange our own, create new ones, and learn how to extract them from others. There was one physician who survived cancer, another lady who conducts writing workshops for H.I.V. patients, another whose husband died of a brain tumor one year after they were married, and so many more...

Some quotes I recorded from the weekend:

"A great work of literature leaves us unsettled" Toni Morrison

"Creative people tend t
o tolerate uncertainty better" (from a study we read and discussed)

"Writing allows us to reflect and reflection prevents burnout because we can derive meaning from what we are doing all the time."

"The world wants us to fit into templated narratives and it's a w
riter's duty to defy that want."

Also, New York's been so good to me these past couple of weeks. I'm going to miss her :(

Brunch and Bridesmaids

Best street artist ever...every day, he perches himself under the arch in Washington Square Park

Mid afternoon Starbucks stop with my baby sister

Washington Square Park

Dessert after a stressful day

Samir whisked me away on a date on the first Friday night

Oh and I have to sign up for Twitter. Ah, bring on the distractions.

Are any of you on there? I'd like to follow you!

enthralling poem

Now I Become Myself

by May Sarton

Now I become myself. It's taken
Time, many years and places;
I have been dissolved and shaken,
Worn other people's faces,
Run madly, as if Time were there,
Terribly old, crying a warning,
"Hurry, you will be dead before--"
(What? Before you reach the morning?
Or the end of the poem is clear?
Or love safe in the walled city?)
Now to stand still, to be here,
Feel my own weight and density!
The black shadow on the paper
Is my hand; the shadow of a word
As thought shapes the shaper
Falls heavy on the page, is heard.
All fuses now, falls into place
From wish to action, word to silence,
My work, my love, my time, my face
Gathered into one intense
Gesture of growing like a plant.
As slowly as the ripening fruit
Fertile, detached, and always spent,
Falls but does not exhaust the root,
So all the poem is, can give,
Grows in me to become the song,
Made so and rooted by love.
Now there is time and Time is young.
O, in this single hour I live
All of myself and do not move.
I, the pursued, who madly ran,
Stand still, stand still, and stop the sun!

New York Love

It's that time of year...when lights on a string, chilling sangria, outdoor yoga, and sparkling conversation are everywhere


Frozen yogurt with too much chocolate piled on top
Bronzing powder
Fruit symmetrically arranged in markets
Sunglasses that are too large
Surprise date nights
Dance floors with a pulse that is felt under painful high heels
Water fountains
Street artists who make a stage wherever they go
Coca Cola poured over ice
Fresh poetry everywhere
The feel of cut grass between the toes
Dresses that float

I've missed you, Summer