Posts from the “Life” Category

A Trail of Thought

Posted on 10 May 2017

My thoughts go like this. I’m in a national park – a relatively remote one, at that – and one may think it’s untouched and pristine, but no, it’s not. There was a mine in this park. I scramble among the ruins, trying not to touch too much. The desert has worn out the mine by now: it’s just over a hundred years old and it looks the part. And I say desert. This used to be grassland, but ranchers’ cattle gobbled it up. It is still beautiful. So, okay, there was a mine in this not-pristine wilderness but what about before that? Before the treads of cattle and the settlers who brought them, Native Americans were here; you can see old symbols they…

Accidental Mindfulness

Posted on 13 April 2017

How many hours have slid by as I peered out of a window, strange lands passing along beside me? Of those times, how many have I disembarked from a train, bus, plane, shouldering my pack, unsure of where I was going next, where I would sleep? Enough to almost fully know that fluttering panic won’t help. Enough to often suppress the urge. Enough to observe what comes and go along with it, nearly sans distress. A shaky stillness came to me unconsciously, over time. This isn’t my natural state: it took plenty of those trains, buses, and planes to reach a place where—had you told me this before, I would have laughed at you, askance—I don’t think too hard and instead calmly move along.…

Glimpses of Slaughter and Silence

Posted on 20 November 2016

There was a wall before me. I ran my hands along it. I peered over it. I spent months perched on top, dangling my feet over the edge, observing. I scraped my elbows and palms, gathering glimpses at foreboding pasts and awful alternative presents, collecting calluses. The wall is cracking beneath my palms. Genocide seems far away. Even when standing on its grounds, an inexperienced mind, sans memories, isn’t elastic enough to fully accept this truth. When I was there, I tried, I really did. I looked at everyone my age and older: Which side were you on? What memories do you hold in your body? Around me, motortaxis zipped by. Rwanda truly felt safe to me. Reconciling pleasant Kigali with what I knew…

Don’t Let Go

Posted on 1 October 2016

Journey back to my erstwhile home, journey back over a decade. Emily jogs toward me grinning, my hand is outstretched. Her hand slaps mine, she moves on. As we run around, the darkness lowers upon us, the stadium lights flicker on. We regard each other, smirking in our minimal underarmour despite the cold, bumping and slapping into each other with camaraderie and a ferocity. Often, she would leap at me from behind, grabbing my shoulders in a tough hug, her smile never quite overflowing into a laugh. The sports roughhousing was comfortable, but life is not. She was killed slowly by forces I recognize but only weathered in small part. And her story is not mine to tell. Her story doesn’t lie interred, however,…

Truths

Posted on 3 May 2016

Death fluttered beside me. After heavily wading through waves, I climbed up onto the rocks. Routine walking was encumbered by annoyance. Smiles couldn’t penetrate me; no, I deflected them by turning away and retreating into my sullenness. The little, supposedly cheery banalities echoed around the cliffs like bullets. I backed into a cave and barricaded the entrance. Death cast its shadow. It was only right to sit within it. After her death, the days stretched out long and grey. I wanted to return to Ohio again and again and again. I had been there to see her, and I had been there to bury her. It felt wrong to be separated from this place. And from the people! We had held each other, reaching,…

For Truth of Yes and No

Posted on 23 January 2016

We enter our dark Seattle apartment after a day of flying across the world. We mildly half unpack, we look at the internet, we go to sleep. The next morning, I wake up. The next morning is a week away from the beginning of a cascade of horrible news. This morning is a week away from the memorial. This morning is five mornings away from flying much of the way across the country, for reasons I wish I could obliterate. The anxiety rustling in my chest, in my throat, on the series of planes to Mandalay was not the usual travel apprehension. It was the bristles of a real fear: what if it happens when I am here? When I am all the way…

Kto Znayet, Who Knows

Posted on 12 October 2015

I used to walk the streets of Saint Petersburg, propelling myself forward at a strident pace. Sometimes, passerby would stop me and ask me for directions. I told them I didn’t know where I was, where I was going. I’ve seen people travel to Russia with an image in their mind. A romantic image: a dark but gorgeous, majestic place, literary geniuses winding their way through the lamp lit streets, symphony notes hovering in the air, poetry in the wind. A harsh image: never ending Soviet apartment blocks, grey sky, grey streets, grey faces, a hush all around, a terror gripping you, reaching out from every pulled-aside curtain in the window. A chaotic image: mafia men roaming the streets, lawlessness abound, money exchanges on…

A Sharpening

Posted on 27 July 2015

“You seem more confident now. You don’t care about what others think.” Lingering words. One of my two beloved German professors earnestly leaned toward me in the crowded and noisy bar, a show likely happening in the background. Amid the clamor, my brain questioned whether my ears really heard what they so wanted to. But my ears were right. He was right. I had just studied abroad in two different countries, I had traveled through central Europe by myself, couchsurfing for the first time. I felt different: a little larger, a little sharper. Young, and navigating my way through my early college years with the constant self-questioning, “am I cool enough? Do I look good enough?” I know I’m an odd duck, but odd…

The Flood

Posted on 31 May 2015

Under a tree I sat, brow inevitably furrowed. My eyes felt red. I looked around at the greenery. It was not too cold, not too hot. Large flowers, and an avocado tree, were not far. I was in Kenya. But I was miserable, I seethed, I felt trapped in this place, in my skin. I picked at a piece of grass then threw it as far as I could. Sexual harassment had, long ago, gotten very old for me. I would say I was used to it—the waiting to cross the street while men leaned out of a truck and hollered, the walking home from class briskly and hearing whistles despite my headphones, the shielding my face as men laughed, sticking cell phones in…

The Gaps Between Us

Posted on 19 April 2015

There are some things, many things, I cannot wrap my mind around. I had found myself in western Uganda. Yes, I hadn’t exactly planned this, but my internship work sent me. The same day I was told it would be good to visit the forestry college in Masindi district, I was on a bus to the region bordering Lake Albert and the DRC. In the dark, I was shown into a room, and left for myself until the morning. What appeared to be a flying worm buzzed near the light and I shivered, trying as hard as possible not to be squeamish but, failing, retreated under the covers beneath the mosquito net. Morning came and I had no water with which to shower. By now,…