do not be afraid

 

It’s going to be okay… in the end.

No matter what happens, we can find a way to light
No matter how dark it gets, we can find a way
to learn from the past, to make it count.

In the end, it will have been an agent for progress…
because we first need the shit from the vast, middle abyss
to crawl out into plain view—festered, inflamed, Repugnant,
in order to diagnose, treat, and eradicate…

If we succeed, we might look back upon this time,
and see it as the turning point whence real change began, 
whence began reassessing, fixing, healing.

But if instead we burn in flames of red…
well… … todo tiene su final . . .    .

 

 

09 noviembre 2016, martes

Advertisements

My mother called me late at night

Late at night, my mother called me…..

I do not have a close relationship with her. I barely communicate with her.
I only speak with her perhaps three or four times a months over the phone…….
or in short, pithy emails.

My mom and I used to fight a lot when I was in Korea.
She is a strongly traditional, authoritarian Korean mother.
I am rebellious and head-strong.

I worked to make my own money ever since the 8th grade,
…in a country where 30-something-year-olds still live their parents…
to maintain my independence and justify my distance.

But now that I am studying in America,
it is my mother and my father who are paying for my education at USC.
I was only able to earn a half-tuition scholarship…
and my parents are constantly struggling to pay the rest for me…….

I am humbled, but frustrated because I am now dependent on my parents…
I am grateful, but scared because sometimes my funds run so low…
I am ashamed and sorry because I know I have become a huge burden on my whole family…
I am driven because I am determined to make millions and compensate my parents, to ease my mother.

But we are so distant. I cannot share with her my frustration, my gratitude, my ambitions.
And she is so worried. I cannot let her know my troubles, my fears, my unconventional life…..
.
.
.
.
.
Late at night, my mother called me.

She asked me why I am so busy all the time.
She asked me what I was doing right now; I mumble “I’m working.”
Working on what, she asks. She knows I’m on vacation from school.
“Uh. Just stuff.”
She starts fretting about paying for tuition, and if I am getting enough to eat,
if I am doing okay in school, if I can afford all the text books,
if I am safe in that country full of crazy people with guns…

I cannot tell her that I am teaching dance, and that is why I can’t answer her calls at night.
I cannot tell her that I am putting together a small company, and that is why I am busy.
I cannot tell her that I live close to Taco Bell and Wendy’s, and that is how I eat.
I cannot tell her that I ask people for rides, and that is how I am safe.
I cannot tell her that I dance everyday, and that is why I am tired.
I cannot tell her anything, because she will be so, so shocked…..

I cannot tell her that I cannot tell her anything, and that is why my emails are so short.

So I finally blurt out, when my mother called me so late at night, the only thing I could tell her…

“Just… Stop worrying. When I graduate, I will make a lot of money, and give you some.”

It is not the sweetest thing one might say to one’s mother…
I couldn’t even say “I’m sorry” or “thank you.”
But for me, it was the most emotional, most vulnerable, and most honest blurt that I have ever blurted to her.

She cried.

For the first time ever, I wasn’t able to hide that I was crying too.

 

 

originally written : 18 août 2009 / Los Angeles

I touched the tail fin of a dead dolphin

I touched the tail fin of a dead dolphin.

Glossy black, save for the eerie whitish structure showing in spots from underneath the leathery skin, scrubbed clean off its entire bloody snout, lower jaw, and in strange, serial scars all down along its side… all lined up and spaced out rather evenly… oddly reminding me of some white clouds I once saw lined up against a purple sky over the sea in Dubrovnik…

How did this being die? How did he end up here… on this cold night shore, a small surf town in unlikely Korea…? How did it come to be so scarred? Did it struggle against the sand and waves? Or did it pass onto death long before it passed onto land? What could have scraped away such immense, such cruel patches of his black leather skin… and why…?

I cannot help, when I crouch close to this departed sea mammal, peer into his face, eyes closed, lips slightly open, revealing smooth, white teeth, the still-red blood drying in the edges of each white wound, I cannot help but to think of a wild terror, of a searing pain, of a desperate battle for life….

Foaming white waves rush in all around us in the black night, and all around the black dolphin. I hope the waves will take him with them… back to home… back to the sea… back to the treacherous, perilous, worse, indifferent sea….

But he is not carried back home. His body lists slightly into the seawater as it rushes back out to the dark vastness, drawing back some of the surrounding sand… but the body lies there still.

I wonder for a moment if I should enlist my friend to help me gently push him into the tide, to send him back to where—I cannot help but to think—he had so desperately fought, and lost, to return to. In the end, however, I could not bring myself to be so bold as to dare make that heavy decision, to even propose that I make that grave, almost unearthly, decision, seems too brazen, even insolent.

Instead, we just walk quietly along the midnight beach, back to our hostel. She to get some ice cream, I to get back to my Macbook Air and my nightly writing.

Will the lost dolphin find its way back to its water home, and find a dolphin’s burial there? Or will the sea never take him back? Will the local experts take up its body for processing, whatever processing it may be that such forsaken bodies undergo?

We leave that decision to the sea. The body lies there still.

 

 le jeudi 15 septembre 2016 / Songjeong, Busan, South Korea

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