Last night a guy follows me into a dark and abandoned street…

April 2014 — İstanbul, Turkey

 

Last night a guy follows me into a dark and completely abandoned street (right in front of my door) and tries to talk to me.

Says he wants to talk to me.

I have a sixth sense for perverts. This is no lost tourist asking for directions. And the innocent do not attempt harmless chitchat in the obscurity of darkness.

I whip around! I SNARL.
GO AWAY. I DON’T want to talk to you.

He keeps coming closer and tries to keep talking anyway.

Go AWAY. I DON’T WANT TO TALK TO YOU.
I growl at him with all the pent up aggression that has built up in me from having to deal with the endless perverted sicko dickheads, dozens by the hour.

He wavers but he opens his dirty little mouth again,
and this time I yell at him. I feel as though the hatred in my voice might just be able to push him down. Down onto his slimy ass.

He is defeated. He knows he has to go, but he makes a desperate jab for my hair, too cowardly to make a move for my face, and too dastardly to simply turn around and go. He slaps my hair into the air and BOLTS. It may seem an odd and pointless gesture, but we both knew exactly what that meant.

It was contempt. It was disrespect. A pathetic attempt at a display of dominance…. gone pitifully awry, betraying more than anything… *COWARDICE*. He couldn’t properly take advantage of me… so he contents himself with feebly flicking my hair to the side. A meek but direct challenge to my command that he stay AWAY from me!

He bolts. I ROAR!!!!!!

HEY!! HEY!!! HHHHEEEEEEEEEY!!!!!!!!

…with a growl that would have enthralled a heavy metal fan.

In my fury I scream at him more senseless threats, raging on in unbridled anger… in a full-throated scream.

But I do not chase after him very far. This is sadly all to familiar to me now. My fury is great.. but my passion burns swiftly. I am able to calm down.

. . .

Much, much worse is the disappointment… the crushing crushing disappointment I feel at the reaction of the people around me I’ve subsequently confided in. Much, much worse is the disgust. The disgust I feel might poison myself and all the poor fools around me. I relate my hot fury and confess that the wretched sense of indignation still lingers as I wish that I had had a way to hurt the offender. To grab him by the hair and cruelly plunge his weasel face into a boiling pot of his own putrid cowardice…

 

By one guy I’ve been told that I’m overreacting to the catcalls on the streets. Maybe I should be flattered. He said.

If disappointment could burn………

To another male friend I said I wanted to learn to defend myself.

He told me to get a longer skirt.

 

I am now sitting in front of my computer, seemingly calm.

I am NOT calm.

I AM NOT CALM.

originally written : Nisan 2014 / April 2014 / İstanbul, Turkey

Surf Lesson One

I listen for my cues as I propel forward, paddling left, right, left, right, scooping the cool seawater back as hard as I can, pulling my chest and shoulders up away from the bright yellow board to save from swaying it side to side, locking my eyes onto the white sandy shore ahead, blinking away the salt and the sting, my feet are propped up onto my toes, perched together near the tail of the surfboard, ready, ready, ready! to push up and slide into takeoff position. I am doing everything perfectly. I zealously match and perform the instructor’s every instruction, eager, as always, to excel! My brain runs in triple speed to make sure the entire body is operating in precision, operating to command.

“PUSH!”

Instantly I fold in my arms, planting my hands by my ribs, then pushing up against the board, I lift myself swiftly, but smoothly, keeping the board, and myself, steady on the water as we rush onward.

“UP!”

I tuck my legs under me, quick, but careful to place them just like I’d practiced, along the imaginary center line, feet pointing sideways, in a wide stance, more load on my left foot in front. Sensing my upper body tensing, I command it to relax as I ease up slowly, slowly up onto soft and bendy knees, shifting my weight so that I am leaning imperceptibly more forward than back, my right foot favoring its inside edge, my right knee leaning inward, I drop my shoulders down and forward to further loosen up my arms and torso, and to further lower my center of gravity, and… slowly… deliberately… purposefully…  I rise.

The board is tipping and bucking beneath my feet, but I am standing and I am traveling forward.

 

I’m surfing…!!!

 

* * *

 

surf layout 3
Busan, South Korea

le samedi 06 août 2016 / Busan, South Korea

 

 

Getting to know Bangla

Last Sunday, a Polyglots member from Bangladesh, Tawsif, introduced me to his language and its beautiful script, Bangla (and please don’t call it ‘Bengali’, he bid us!), scribbling down for me in my notebook some basic Bangla words, a small sampling of its ornate, curvilinear vowel and consonant signs, along with some notes on the history and contemporary culture of Bangladesh and Pakistan, the exact list of the countries comprising the Indian subcontinent, and even brief mention of Hindi and Urdu, of Sanskrit and Pali!

IMG_20160815_065405
some notes from our lesson

Bangla is a descendant of Sanskrit, spoken in Bangladesh and in many parts of India. According to Wikipedia, its abugida script is “the 6th most widely used writing system in the world.”

Bangladesh Green
‘Bangladesh’ written in the Bangla abugida

I personally find this system complex and difficult to learn, yet elegant, visually appealing, and structurally similar to the Myanmar abugida I tried to learn earlier this year.

At first glance, the two scripts do not resemble each other at all. Nor do the two spoken languages share a common history.

Yet the similarities between the two writing systems didn’t surprise me too much. I had previously learned that they are both ultimately derived from the Brahmi script, the ancient abugida that gave rise to innumerable writing systems used today and yesteryear all throughout Asia, including the many scripts of India, the now obscure Kulitan script of the northern Philippines, and even the former Tibetan and Mongolian scripts often said to have informed and inspired the Hangul alphabet of modern Korea!

* * *

Once Tawsif began to teach me some basic words and phrases, however, I could intuitively tell that, very much unlike the Myanmar language, which is of the Sino-Tibetan family, the Bangla language is indeed Indo-European, sharing some commonalities with even the Romance languages that we’ve all been learning about since high school.

Here are the basic words and phrases he taught me that day, romanized:

Bangla I

For me, the most obvious tells of kinship are that the word for ‘you’, “tumi’, starts with a [t]/[d] sound, and that the word for ‘no’ and ‘not’ starts with a [n] sound,“na”—pretty much like all the European languages that I’ve dabbled in so far:

tu, no/non/não : Spanish, Italian, French, Portuguese

du, nein/nicht : German

thou, no/not : English

ты, нет/не [tyi, nyet, ne] : Russian

ti, ne : Croatian

 

This all makes me very curious to learn how the names of the Bangla numbers might or might not parallel those in these other languages!! I’ve always been fascinated—delighted!—by the patterns I found emerging from the names of numbers all across the disparate languages of the vast Indo-European family, from the Romance, Germanic, Hellenic, even Slavic branches.

Would I find these same uncannily familiar patterns in this most distant and unfamiliar language?

Might the Bangla word for ‘one’ start with a vowel or glide sound, like ‘uno’, ‘ena (ένα)’ or ‘jedna’? Do the Bangla ‘two’ and ‘three’ also start with [t]/[d]/[ts] sounds, like ‘due’, ‘dva/два’, ‘zwei’, and like ‘trois’,tri/три, ‘drei’, those same tongue-to-teeth sounds we’ve seen from the 2nd person singular pronouns, “tumi”, “tu”, and “du”? If we’re lucky, the word “ten” should also start with those denti-alveolar consonants, as in ‘dieci’, ‘desyat (десять)’, ‘deka (δέκα)’ or ‘zehn’!

I intend to investigate soon!

Until then, I wanted to share with you my delight at these modest finds. They are precursory, possibly trivial, perhaps revelatory only to myself. But I relished getting to know the unfamiliar and far-flung Bangla of Bangladesh, and to gain a sense of kinship and connection to it is an extra, unanticipated treat. How exciting it is to ponder at the little secrets and riddles that richly speckle our cultures, our languages, hinting at the astonishing and immense interconnection of our shared human histories.

What about you? What unexpected resemblances between languages have you encountered? What patterns have you discovered in your language studies?

ধন্যবাদ

Dhonnobad Tawsif, for such an illuminating lesson!

Dubrovnik First Impressions

I fell in love with the beauty of Croatia within just 10 minutes
of leaving the teeny Dubrovnik airport
in a sour smelling shuttle bus.

Not the scent of upholstery mold nor the darkened grey windows
could mar the beauty of the Croatian countryside:
stone walls crumbling in grapevines,
lime trees rustling and laundry fluttering,
It was unlikely love at first dim sight under unflattering lighting.

And I have been scheming to return ever since.

 

***

I stumbled upon this market my first day exploring Old Town… and I was delighted!!!

rf day 1 market

I spent a long, long time ooogling at unfamiliar fruits and rustic-looking glass bottles of herbal ruby-red ointment and carob liquor.

The venders say something like… “proba, proba,” showing off sugar-coated orange peels, candied almonds, and dried figs… you use your elementary Spanish to guess they are saying “test, test” or “try, try” ..so you pop one exotic-looking treat in your mouth… or two…. the peels are incredibly sweet with a touch of sour, the nuts infallibly crunchy. The figs are MAGNIFICENT, —my favorite!— and available in all varieties: soft and juicy sun-dried, fresh and crisp, warm green, or deep purple!

The morning market is open every day, until around 1PM at Gundulić Square.

***

The entrance to one of the most heart-stopping, breathtaking moments from my entire time there…….

this moment took me by complete and utter surprise.

I had no idea – no one had told me that there was a hole in the wall to the outside… after hours and hours of walking enchanted and lost and alone in a maze of narrow stone streets and endless uneven steps… when I caught whispers of distant music on a sudden gust of wind, and followed my nose to the faint scent of kelp and sea salt… followed my nose to climb through the hole, pushing against the whipping wind…

I saw……….

rf buza

Buža Bar

***

Exploring within the walls, I’ve crossed this place a few times… and every time, it drew me in. It was somehow… intriguing… each time I saw it, whether by day or by night.

rf freshsheets ii

Perhaps it captures me so because it strikes me with such a strong presence of authenticity, a kind of snapshot glimpse into the lived-in Old Town — a kind of place that is surrounded beauty, stone, and sea, but also a kind of place where one sips coffee on a centuries-old back porch chatting with your lifelong neighbors as tourists walk by in awe and snap photos of your drying laundry…

 

 

originally written : September 12, 2013 / 12. rujan 2013 / Dubrovnik, Croatia

Kali Combative Sparring

We put on the sparring gear—all of it: brightly colored bulky coats covered up and down in little spongy blocks, black utility fasteners in the back, the clunky helmet contraptions, and slippery, smelly arm guards strapped to our forearms.

We look like Lego samurai, we look like pixelated, primary-color, video game characters from the 90s, we look like thug crayons that escaped from the crayon box and got jacked up on crayon steroids.

The arm guards are just two chunky slabs of stinky sweaty padding, Velcro-ed to each arm, covering and confining them from above the elbow down to my fingers, padding the vulnerable back of my hand, but leaving the sides lamentably exposed, and rendering my fist dull and slow to move. And the Darth Vader headgear…. Oi… that thing is a menace. None of us like to spar with that thing pressing down on the tops of our skulls and down on either shoulder, all but refusing to move with the head, obscuring not only our peripheral vision, but basically all our vision, its thick metal bars running across our eyes. And for me, the helmet is also just too big. It is so ill-fitting, I have to choose between putting my chin on the chin-rest, but pressing and folding my ears into spaces where ears were not designed to go; or putting my ears rightfully into the ear protectors earholes, but have the chin-rest… rest on my throat. In the end, I compromise—somehow—with my chin on the rest—good—, one ear tightly managed up against the ear pad, not in the earhole—not bad—, and finally, with my right ear folded forward onto itself—not good. I get two out of three into place, but the helmet keeps turning sideways to look to the left.

Still, I have to look ahead, and I have to look sharp. My opponent is surprisingly fast and extremely strong. Twice my size, and with many years of training over me, he is, at first, unwilling to hit such an easy target… but the guro is threatening him, inciting him, yelling at him, NOT to go easy on the girl. “You’re being a jerk! You go easy on her—how will she ever prepare to fight?!”

I have no room nor time to be timid. I have to swing first.

And I have to swing hard.

* * *

At the end of two long bouts of beating, of panting, of thrashing… he starts to grab at my sparring stick. The first time he snatches it, I’m so oblivious, I barely even register why my arm has stuck fast mid-swing. I flounder and flail about frantically, cluelessly, up against him, a pitiful fish flopping and flapping feverishly, uselessly, up against a wall of glass. He has my weapon pinned so perfectly down with his elbow so that I cannot move my arm nor get out of his range. He starts hacking away at my bare hands. I guess I shouldn’t have shucked off the sweaty, cumbersome arm guards after all….

The guro separates us, and starts us up yet again. “Handa… LABAN!

I still have no clue what to do. I just smash away, a blind hurricane motivated by fear and motivated by courage, until—again!—my weapon arm freezes suddenly in place! I cannot budge. Stuck. He whacks away again, beating at on my open flank again, striking at my bare knuckles… OWWW!! I ignore the sharp pain. I ignore the stick, its unrelenting assault. I focus on wrenching my arm out, trying to pull free from his iron grip…  almost..!! ..harder… 

…PULLLLL…!!!!!!

But then, as I finally pry myself away, he grabs my Lego armor and yanks it hard. I roll to the floor.

AH HAH! NOW I KNOW WHAT TO DO—NOW I HAVE IT! I must tackle and attack! My brain shows me what I must do! I must run into that punishing stick, I must dive upon my attacker, and not away! I must forget about the point system, I must grab his armor, I must kick, I must scramble! I will claw, I will wrestle, I will berserk! I must seize back my weapon and continue the fight, no matter how!! No matter the technique, I must attack! I know what to do! I am SO READY!!!!!

 

I sink back into my fight stance, cranking my fist tight around my weapon, fear and courage both gone. This time I am only eager, I am only IMPATIENT!

 

But… Guro does not start the match. It is game over.

“NO!!!!!!!!!! NO! I am SO NOT DONE!!!!”

Guro laughs. “You’re done!”

“NOOOOO!”

“Yes! You fell! It’s Game over.”

 

DAMMIT!

.

.

.

.

.

…………………………………next time . . .

 

injured hands after kali sparring
the aftermath
injured hand kali injury
doctor demands rest…

* * *

Tagalog glossary:

  • guro : teacher
  • handa : ready
  • laban : fight

le dimanche 31 juillet 2016 Gongju, South Korea

How I miss Paris today…..!

November 14, 2014

Exactly one year ago today, I arrived in Paris, insecure about my French, but so eager to try it out! I ran into a handsome stranger at the Charles de Gaulle Airport, and we navigated our way through the baffling République Metro station together with our luggage—nearly losing it all to a pair of scrawny, scrappy teenage thieves.

When we finally emerged from the underground, I got my first ever glimpse of Paris—the imposing Madeleine standing high, on that rainy, steely-grey morning.
We circled once around her, and then ordered cakes for breakfast at Ladurée.

And so started a seven month long, meandering voyage across seven countries. I walked three pairs of high heeled boots into a fine powdery polymer dust, ground in between the cobblestones. I broke two dance shoes and one red suitcase. I scribbled madly away aboard planes, buses, trains, a heaping mess of disorganized, barely decipherable addresses, maps, fleeting impressions, revelations, and declarations. My dreams, rants, ambitions. And along the way, I’ve created thousands of blurry, awful photos with poor composition—and even worse lighting.

Exactly one year ago today…

How I miss Paris today…. how I miss Paris today……!!!
Nothing I can do to console myself today…
So much the better. Don’t want distraction.
I’ll prefer, instead, to watch the memories waft and rise.. envelop me today.

I’ll just close my eyes.

I can see it all.

a PERFECT FIRST POST

My will is great.
But I am stuck.

I grapple every sentence. I trip every third word.

Every sentence fights for glory—to glow, to shine, resplendent—
Demanding my attention and devotion,
Demanding structure, thoughtful and balanced,
Demanding originality of content, and wit of expression.
Every sentence, demanding to be memorable, bold, and brave
—becoming in its brevity…
…yet captivating in its complexity of thought!

But after every round I tire more, and
…I am stuck…

with nothing to show for all the strife,
all these ass-cramping hours,
slogging by on latte after latte,
willing my hands to craft a… something…
a something!!

Stop the fumbling, deleting, retyping,
—the stalling, the stalling, the STALLING!!!—

and. build. a. something—!

Months, I have endeavored with the single, simple goal:
to write a blog.
Just a single, simple blog— But months pass and I have still

—no blog.

Something inside me is reluctant.
How it drags behind every word, every thought!
Its rigid claws rake deep trenches trailing behind me—with wretched persistence—
Evidence of a desperate cowardice!
Maddeningly unwilling to venture forth!!

I am stuck!

I’ve had it with this silliness. This Wretchedness.

My first post to this blog will be:

a Declaration to embrace
Imperfection, the
Incomplete, the
Not-Masterly, even the
Banal, Cliché, Incompetent, even the
Embarrassingly Redundant and Irrelevant! but…

at least things will be written—Built!—

and not stymied, stuck in perpetual rumination, which, however earnest,
renders sentences useless, and ambition is left
to rot in its own staunch stench of delusion—

delusions of conceit and self-importance
DELUSIONS of perfection!!

And FEAR— fear of mediocrity.

So here you go:

This is my first post.
This is my Declaration of Imperfection.

And it is Imperfect.

It is ABUNDANTLY,
Delightfully, Rebelliously, Characteristically,
Run-on-sentences-fully, & OverRUN-by-Adverbs-&-Adjectives-ly,

and COURAGEOUSLY

Imperfect.

. . . . . . . . . . . . perfect!