Il droghiere bulgaro

Questa è la storia di quella volta che ho visitato un mercato bulgaro a Vienna.

Era dopo una lezione di tedesco—o forse russo—non mi ricordo bene adesso. Era molto tempo fa, nel 2014. Ed era in mezzo alla neve e al freddo, perché era gennaio o febbraio.

Stavo leggendo le lettere cirilliche su una scatola di biscotti bulgari—molto lentamente.

Il droghiere, scioccato, mi chiede con stupore: “Sprechen Sie Bulgarisch?”

“Нет! Ne, ne. Ne govorim ‘Bulgarisch’.”

Cadde dalla mia bocca, disordinato e confuso. Una mescolanza di lingue, almeno tre.

Gli occhi del droghiere si spalancano, si fanno più grandi.

“Српски???!” Lui ride, disorientato.

Sono asiatica. Sicuramente non si aspettava che io parlassi in una lingua slava. Mi dice ancora un paio di cose in tedesco—ma io non capisco il tedesco.

“Извините. Oprostite, ne razumijem… deutsch. Žao mi je.”

Il droghiere si batte la fronte, ed esclama, “Ах, видим! Али говорите српски? Како jе то??”

“Ne govorim srpski, ali govorim malo hrvatski—malo, malo, MALO. Ja… hrvatska… u Dubrovnik… u Zagreb… dva… dva…”

Mi batto la mano—cercando di trovare la parole per ‘mesi’ in una delle nostre lingue comuni.

“Dana?” dice lui, “Tjedni?”

“Ne… ne…” Continuo ad agitare la mano.

“Mjeseci?!”

“Da! Da, dva myesyats!… Mesyats? Месяцы? Mjeseci?”

Sono confusa. Non sono sicura di come pronunciare questa parola.

Di nuovo, gli occhi di questo droghiere crescono, e crescono, diventano sempre più grandi.

…I ruski…?

 

Lentamente, e un po’ imbarazzato, cerco di spiegarli che stavo tornando da una lezione di russo…. e che sono confusa….

 

— CONTINUA —

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An attempt to back walkover

Everyday I find myself wresting and writhing in effort, bent over backwards in a bridge position on a prickly grass lawn, willing myself to focus my scrunching eyes upon the upside-down horizon, WILLING myself to consent to the crush in my lower back, the furnace in my forearms, the violence being done to my wrists. I am trying to do a back walkover. A back walkover is a rather basic move in gymnastics—but for me, it is nearly Mission Impossible. In order to succeed, I must move from this agonizing back bent bridge position… into an upright, standing position by kicking my legs up and over my head, holding myself up only by my two ruefully under-equipped arms…

…all whilst not falling onto my head….

Backbend
“…wresting and writhing in effort, bent over backwards in a bridge position on a prickly grass lawn, willing myself to focus my scrunching eyes upon the upside-down horizon…”

—I breathe out; I breathe in—then in an eruption I EXHALE!—Grunting like a karate master roars before slamming a fist of fury down upon a tower of bricks, I KICK OFF! I kick my right leg up, and with my left, I plow, as hard as I can, I plow down into the earth for lift off! I believe I can. I KNOW I CAN!

“YAAAHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!” My legs are suspended as if by magic straight up, just floating above me! I strain my neck back, further back, trying to tilt the weight enough to push my legs to continue their arc over my head, back down to the ground… the little muscles all down the front of my torso, yanking, pulling, heaving ho! ALMOSSSSST….! I’m so very close!

“BAAAAHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!” All strength flees my arms; with this third and final scream, they slump! Head-first I ram into the dirt! “OW!” My legs come plunging after my crumpled body, back down, back to where they’d started. I am sprawled, limbs everywhere, and bent, in slight shock—but I laugh.

I am so, so close to making it!

My young friend Sean kneels down, shrieking in delight. He proclaims that I should succeed in no time!—but he takes a moment to examine my head.

It’s fine. Do it AGAIN! He cheers!

Uh, yes…. Yes…! I shall try again!

 

 

05 July 2017 / Dauin, Negros Island, Philippines

call from the sea

sea in Weligama, Sri Lanka

On a one-month journey in Sri Lanka

I thought I was to explore an ancient nation….

 

It turns out

that I am here

to investigate, at last,

an inexplicable, lifelong pull

from the night sea that sang to me

in unknown memories, and in my earliest dreams,

calling me farther and farther onto its moonlit waters

with the wistful melody of a wooden pipe rising up in the zephyrs

to voyage forth into that world somewhere beyond the evening horizon…

 

 

where I belong.

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