Building bridges

Because so much time has passed, it's always hard to write something new here. It's like when you see an old friend and desire nothing but to feel as if nothing has changed. In reality, you are a completely different person. You want to be able to explain the details that have made you who you are; to explain away the reasons why your friend might not recognize you. And the words won't come. Sometimes I have to remind myself that the words I put on paper are often more for me than anyone else. Scrawling the words down might give me peace and have deep significance to me in that moment, but other times, the significance comes years later when we can look back and see how certain events have shaped us. Years after coming home from my Peace Corps service, I still find myself in awe of the way my time in Senegal shaped me. Even stranger was picking up my old journal and reading the words I wrote as I left Senegal and found myself in London. The transition was significant. The words I wrote on 5.12.2010:
"...and so begins the great transition. A dramatic change of scenery, a drastic shift of temperature and flooding feelings of segregation. London is capturing my heart and also causing me to question where I fit. Everyone is dressed in the coolest clothes, talking on their iPhones with perfectly sculpted hair. I don't own shoes. My clothes are two years old. But I yearn to be like them. Where can I get those shoes? It's like the siren calling me to the rocky shores. Senegal seems so far away. I seemed to have left my confidence there as well. I never questioned my "fitting in" there. But here, every where I look, I question myself. Will they like me when I show up to their cocktail party looking like a dirty hippie wearing bright African colored prints and 500 CFA plastic sandals? The "perfect good bye" that I imagined while I was in Senegal went about as well as a first dress rehearsal could: filled with error and not resembling the director's original design. Imperfect, rushed. I suppose that's how it always ends up."
Being able to read these words all this time later brings indescribable clarity. The emotions felt in those moments become real again and I recognize myself. A bridge is built between the past and present and the walk I've made between the two points makes sense. Let this be a reminder to myself the value of these ramblings . Because without these moments scratched onto paper, I can't as easily built the bridges between the then and the now.


feeding the dragon

Remember when you were young and anything was possible? When holding two wooden spoons and banging on an old pot made you a rockstar? When a cardboard box became an intergalactic vessel? I do. I was reminded of it as I sat at my desk at work.

The day started slow. Today's assignment? Sit and read the Standard Operating Procedures handbook for our office. Riveting. You'd think the unexpected gift of a greasy bear-claw would have at least spiced things up a bit, but I'm still bored and now my stomach hurts.

As I stared at the computer screen, the cyber ink began to melt into a massive, meaningless black blob. Undecipherable. How could I complete my assigned task when the words wouldn't sit static? My eyes began wandering, searching for the relief of distraction. My hole punch. It's amazing the things you find interest in. It sat there silver and cold and yet seeing it sent a dusty memory to the front of my mind.

In the memory I was sitting on the floor at my mom's work. Papers were scattered around in front of me and I sat holding a silver hole punch in my hand. The memory played on the screens of my mind like a movie. Participating as the viewer, I watched myself sitting, making loud "CHOMP CHOMP" noises followed by grunts of happy satiation. I then realized exactly what my younger self was doing. The hole punch in his hand transformed into a small hungry dragon, its silver snout biting down relentlessly upon layers and layers of paper. Dragons eat paper? Who knew? As the sheets of paper became riddled with the circular bite marks of the dragon, the feeding slowed. The frenzy faded and the dragon stepped slowly away from the paper. My younger self began making pained noises. The kind you hear after everyone steps away from the table at Thanksgiving. The dragon then made one more giant moan, opened his mouth wide and began spewing forth perfectly circular paper bites all over the floor. The dragon stopped and seemed to be feeling a little better when all of a sudden he would be thrown into another fit of paper spew-age. This seemed to amuse little me because I started laughing out loud. After little me composed himself, he picked up the dragon and the feeding frenzy began anew.

The memory faded to black and I was back at my desk wearing a big grin. I looked over at my hole punch and picked it up. I was curious if it was hungry so I found some old paper in my recycle bin (it's San Francisco, my dragon needs to be green) and the modern day feeding frenzy commenced. Hole punch bites flew EVERYWHERE. All over my desk. If you had walked by at that moment you might have thought me Crazy, Mad Hatter status, but what was I to do? I needed to feed my dragon. When I was done, I swept up the mess, sat back down and got back to work.

The memory was a much needed visit to my old self. A nice little reminder to shake off the dust of complacency that so often settles on us when we get stuck in routine. I hope I remember to visit little-me a bit more often. I'll take his hand and we will reminisce. And then he'll remind me to feed my dragon.


New Beginnings

Remember back in college when you had a huge assignment due and you would psych yourself up to get it done? You would make a cup of coffee and set it, steaming, next to your computer. Then you would put your most comfortable clothes on and sit indian style in your desk chair. You would lift your hands to the keyboard and stare at the blinking cursor dance upon an infinitely white canvas. I bet that white canvas slowly stretched itself out, taking over your peripheral sight until it swallowed you whole. Daunting, I remember.

For some reason, I've been experiencing this each time I sit down to write an update. I never wanted writing to feel like a college assignment and so it was easy for me to avoid it. I wasn't receiving a grade anyway. But then I remembered that unlike college homework, I really do enjoy it when I have something to write about. Perhaps I've felt stuck in this rut with nothing really going on. Unemployed. New to the city. Unsettled. But the reality is, I've got a lot going on. Here is the breakdown:

I finally got a job! Though I haven't started working yet. I want to share more, but I need to wait a bit more.

Everyday I fall more and more in love with this city. She continues to surprise me with beautiful hidden treasures.

I have the best apartment with the BEST roommate. Finally feeling somewhat settled is a good thing.

I've rediscovered the bounty of the public library.

I'm slowly getting into biking and loving it. I think I know what my first "big" purchase is going to be once I start making dinero! (a bike. in case you didn't get that)

I have loved meeting new friends and going on lots of adventures.

Finding Senegal in San Francisco has been a blessing. It makes SF feel a little more Home-y. I recently met a Senegalese woman selling her wares on Market st. I spent a whole afternoon sitting with her speaking in Wolof and talking about Senegal. I needed that.

So while I've been feeling like nothing has been going on, the reality is that life is actively whirling around me. Stopping to write about it is not a chore, it's a privilege. I'm sorry I've been absent for so long. I'm sorry I haven't written about the things that I'm experiencing in this strange transition. or the beauty i find in it. I just hope this will be yet another beginning. I love you guys.


Beauty for your ears

I recently experienced a night that I will never forget. I finally saw one of my favorite musicians of all time play live. Jonsi came to Oakland and worked his wonder while my soul melted in sweet elation. His music is absolutely beautiful. Other-worldly. (For those of you who don't know, Jonsi is the lead singer of the Icelandic band Sigur Ros). While listening, my mind was transported back to Iceland, soaking up the majestic mountain landscapes covered in wild lupines. I was back on my mini road trip, in the car, driving through wild swirls of volcanic ash that danced in wide circles. Beautiful. Really.

While I could write in such detail about the emotion that his music invokes, I actually wanted to share with you something else experienced that night. I wanted to share the talents of his opening band. Their name was "Mountain Man" and I really enjoyed them. Check out this video clip of them. Stunning really.


a new journey

"you can't go home again..."
the title of Thomas Wolf's book that has sent my thoughts on roads so long, so unexpected they often get lost. And now, the title of this new blog. It seems a rather parasitic fascination for the idea of "home" has settled, unshakeable, on my heart. I imagine this is because I have had to redefine what home is so many times in the past few years.

As you probably already know, I recently moved back to the U.S. after having lived in Senegal, West Africa. Leaving home was surprisingly easy. You give hugs, tell people you love them and then put your foot forward. It's amazing how stepping into a plane, taking a seat and then a LONG nap finds you in a place so unfamiliar, so unlike anything you have ever known. Teleportation. While living in Senegal I consumed myself with making it my home. Learn the language. Understand the culture. Love the music. Know my neighbors. Don't get lost. Haggle like a pro in the market. Take the bus. Or the donkey cart. Eventually I wandered the streets in elation, feeling as if everything made sense and everything was in its right place. Home.

Of course I never forgot where I came from. My mind traveled there at least once a day. But I quickly began to realize that "home" was a frozen memory. As each day passed my memory of home and the reality of home became more and more incongruous. It's a bit unsettling when your memory of something doesn't match what it truly is. I even began to see time's slow change in me.

"It disturbed him vaguely, as one is always disturbed and shaken by the sudden realization of Time's changes in something that one has known all one's life."

It was at this point that truth settled heavily on my heart. I, truly, could never go home again. At least not the home that I had left. The truth hurt for awhile. The happy feelings one associates with homecoming were tossed broken across the floor.

"And he never had the sense of home so much as when he felt that he was going there. It was only when he got there that his homelessness began."
But then, what an exciting place to be. Homeless. On a road with no set course and no set destination. With a bag of incongruous memories, beautiful and dear all the same. I won't be forgotten. I won't forget you. Our paths will cross many times and we will shake our heads at how different we look. We'll laugh as we re-tell old stories, cry as we recount our losses. We will love each other as we are. There is nothing more beautiful.

So let us live our lives homeless and free. Ever changing. Ever learning. Ever loving.