Thursday, September 24, 2009


We tend to forget that happiness doesn't come as a result of getting something we don't have, but rather of recognizing and appreciating what we do have.

Frederick Keonig

After work, I get off the train in Ely near Tesco and I walk past a little patch of grass on my way towards Broad Street. Yesterday a little family of baby ducks and a mama duck were waddling from the patch of grass across the road stopping traffic. A few other commuters slowed their pace to watch and "Awwww"'ed. Today, a few little duckie families sat in the patch of grass pecking for food and having Thursday supper. Both instances made me smile and feel a bit warm and fuzzy inside, and not cause I stole a duckie...

What little things make you smile? And perhaps make mundane moments (like commuting) a little bit more enjoyable?

1. Talking to cashiers while I checkout at the grocery store and hopefully having a laugh.
2. The feeling of warm laundry, towels in particular, while folding laundry on a cold day.
3. Cleaning and finding things you totally forgot about... feels like Christmas or even an archaeological dig of your own life.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The 9-5!

“We are all faced with a series of great opportunities brilliantly disguised as impossible situations.”
Charles R. Swindoll

OK, actually my new job is the 9-5:30... and tomorrow is my first (half) day! I learned about this organization about 2 years ago when I was in trying to decide if I should apply for Peace Corps. Camfed has a small branch office (by small, about 5 people) in San Francisco and I wanted to have an opportunity with them but it was near impossible. I admired the work this group did but at the time I was in Walnut Creek and my best chance at getting my foot in the door was an internship... in Cambridge. How impossible did that seem at the time?!

A few years later, here I am... with an internship at Camfed! I had applied for a job when I first arrived here in Ely and never heard back. In February I tried again but for an internship. I hoped I would have a better likelihood for hire if it was as an intern. And they were excited about me! But I didn't have the proper paperwork--I was an illegal! But now, with a Residence Visa in hand and another dose of persistence, I applied again... to no avail. The internship I was applying for didn't want me. So I emailed Mari, the woman I interviewed with in February, and she was ecstatic! She knew most of my professional background and felt I might be just the one she was looking for to fill an unadvertised internship. Who knew! Persistence does work!

Although I am incredibly nervous about whether or not I can fulfill my duties and if I have the skills they want, I am also incredibly excited to work for them. We will see how tomorrow goes!

Two years and a move later... I kept my eyes on the prize, baby!

Friday, September 11, 2009


Time is passing. Yet, for the United States of America, there will be no forgetting September the 11th. We will remember every rescuer who died in honor. We will remember every family that lives in grief. We will remember the fire and ash, the last phone calls, the funerals of the children.
President George W. Bush, November 11, 2001

Eight years ago this morning, I was getting ready for work at a retail store downtown, waiting for my brother to wake up so he could drive me. It was the summer before I started college--I wasn't a happy camper. My job was menial and I sold overpriced "fashionable" clothes to little girls and their mothers with too much time on their hands. I was saving up to go to Davis, a school I never had any intention of going to. The morning was fairly typical, and I turned the TV on while waiting for Charles and CNN had a "Breaking News Story" playing. Airplanes had crashed into the Twin Towers...

Eight years has given me a lot of distance from that day... and a lot of perspective as well. Since that day we have occupied portions of Iraq, lost 4,343 men and women, and the Iraqi civilian casualty count is somewhere between 100,000 and 1,000,000. American forces have served in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iraq serving the American people...
I have spent the last eight years learning more about the world and what it means to be apart of it. I've learned more about what it means to be American: to have freedoms, to have democracy, to have the opportunities to shout back; to have a grocery store fight for our patronage, to have movie theatres liberate us of our mundane lives, to have a Starbucks on every corner. I was incredibly lucky to have been born American and incredibly privileged to have been born to my parents. For many reasons, I feel this way. But when I think about 9/11 I think about the children living in refugee camps in the Middle East sitting in UN tents wondering what life must be like for an American child who gets to go to school. I think about Iraqi children living in fear of the light in the middle of the night... and the American children who find solace because of their light in the middle of the night. It sounds selfish but it makes me realize how lucky I am to have been born in the US, or for that matter to a number of developed nations... I would have been lucky had I been born in France, UK, Canada. Any of those countries would have delivered to me similar freedoms as a child that I would not have had in Bangladesh, Syria, or Saudi Arabia. 9/11 reminds me how lucky I am...

I was incredibly lucky to have been born American and incredibly privileged to have been born to my parents. When I think of 9/11 I think of the terrified mother working in one of the Twin Towers and how lucky I am my mother still comes home to at the end of the day. I think of the sons and daughters who will never get to experience Prom, their first love, their first beer, their graduation because they died on a plane. Because men who had a different faith took power over their lives. I think of the widows who spent the next few years fighting and struggling to keep their lives together when all they want to do is quit. I could have been born to anyone and still have been lucky. But I could have been born into a different life as well, one that met tragedy. 9/11 reminds me how lucky I am...

This piece is not meant to be political or to be righteous. It doesn't even have to be about September 11, 2001. For so many reasons, I am lucky. For so many reasons, you are too. If you have the good luck to be able to read this blog, you are probably lucky for you could be in bedridden with a spinal condition or you could be living in poverty thinking "internet" is a myth you only hear about. We can complain about all the little inconveniences in our lives... but really we should all remember how lucky we are. Everyday reminds me how lucky I am.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Two Years

Love is just a word until someone comes along and gives it meaning.

It's been two years since we met and two years ago I thought to myself, he could be the one. If I could be so lucky, I'd marry him. And two years later, he is and I can only fathom will always be the one.

He makes me happy for a multitude of reasons but he makes me feel loved by accepting me. He makes me insane sometimes for all the reasons we shouldn't be together, but he makes me insanely in love for the mere fact none of those reasons matter. He makes me smile for all those silly quirks he has and he makes me feel complete because before I ever met him, I had some of those same quirks too...

There are a handful of points in my life that could have been different--a different choice in college, a different roommate senior year, a different bridesmaid instead of me.... and I never would have met him. But some people say "things happen for a reason" and those things eventually lead you to your fate. If fate exists and it led me to him, then I am grateful for fate. But if life is full of happy coincidences, sheer luck, and happenstance, that I am incredibly thankful for the road happenstance has led me to.
I'm not sure I care about how I got here... I'm just grateful that I am here with him.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Living in the Lap

Most of the luxuries and many of the so-called comforts of life, are not only not indispensable, but positive hindrances to the elevation of mankind.
Henry David Thoreau
Every luxury must be paid for, and everything is a luxury, starting with being in this world.
Cesare Pavese

So I posted an inquiry on my facebook and I loved the responses I got!

The question: How would you define luxury?
Kim: Something pink ;) Ok no but seriously... Yah no definitely something pink.
Tien: reading a book in bed without being bothered by anyone.
Jeremy: Anything that I can do, but is being done for my by pretty girls.
Crystal: Anything that makes me happy. As simple as a smile of honest gratitude.
Vivien: sometimes 7 dollar banana cream cheesecake from cheesecake factory..
Dan: Extravagant. Unneccessary for survival. But nice.
Tai: living beyond your means...and yes, it is not important for survival.
Bonnie: a pint of ice cream and a foot rub?
Sara: its the pleasuring of one's senses (i think)

This question came to me as Clint and I were strolling down the cobblestone alleyways of Bruges (speaking of luxury) and I can't even remember how the question came about but we started to wonder what luxury really means. Is luxury something that is the same, by definition, for everyone?

The googled definition of luxury is "something that is an indulgence rather than a necessity". Food is a necessity but is the convenience of having 3 grocery stores within 5 city blocks an indulgence or a necessity? Is it a necessity to have a stretch of American farmland dedicated to making corn to create low cost Little Debbies and CocaCola's? Or is that an American indulgence?

Does it have to be something extreme and extravagant like a German sportscar or a ridiculous house? Or in this day and age, can it be something simpler... cookie dough ice cream or cable television? Does it even have to be material--perhaps luxury is having a job? or a choice? Having a choice in the matter of something can be a huge luxury, can it not? If you ask a woman in Afghanistan would she say I'm living a luxurious life? Is luxury something that one doesn't need? We all need water but is clean water a luxury? Or is not having clean water considered flat-out poverty? Is luxury all relative? Or is it just any indulgence...

When I look around me during my travels and when I think back to my travels in the past, I've always felt very lucky. And whenever I return home, I feel like I'm returning to a bit of luxury. Think about your life right now... what luxuries do you enjoy each day just by the mere luck of your birth in the States? Is it luxurious to have a full pantry? Or is that a necessity for life to have food stored? Would the man sheltered by an overpass off Telegraph in Oakland agree?

At what point can we stop asking for more and realize how luxurious our lives might be to someone else?

Friday, September 4, 2009

A Thousand Words

They can't hurt you unless you let them. a picture's worth. Some people see a picture and they see a picture. Other people see the event during the moment that picture was taken. Still others go further to see the meaning of it, the emotions, the consequences. They see the world that is encapsulated in the photo and I tend to compare my world to theirs, either to get an understanding of their world or to maintain a gratitude for mine.

However, sometimes those stories and worlds we see can be overwhelming and at times heartbreaking. This afternoon, I was thumbing through a few magazines when a photography journal caught my eye. One of the headlines on the cover was something along the lines of "Photos that changed History". It was a collection of photos that had an affect on society, journalism, legislation, the world. Some of the photos that were included were "Piss Christ" (a photo of a crucifix submerged in urine, consequently government funding only went to art programs that didn't contain "blasphemous" or "sacrilegious" art after it won an award and angered conservative legislators). Or the photos of Abu Ghraib that showcased US soldiers torturing Iraqi prisoners leading to a global outrage. One photo that stuck with me was photographed by Kevin Carter during the Sudan famine in 1994.

The child is crawling towards a UN food camp while a vulture lurks, waiting for him to die. The photographer, who won a Pulitzer Prize for his photo, committed suicide from depression months after being awarded. The photo speaks volumes of the child's situation, his despair, and the world in which he lives. The result of this photo's unleash are just as haunting.
There is so much to be said about this photo and so much can be construed... should I feel selfish for all that I have? Or should I feel selfish for wanting more? Should I sacrifice more to make up for those who have nothing to sacrifice?
This photo does more than just make us grateful for our own situation in life... but I hope it teaches others empathy, and that the things we are grateful for are trivial matters. The photo is humbling to say the least. Why do people shelter themselves from images like this when it teaches us so much? Because we don't want to feel bad for others--Only for ourselves? Or does it hurt us knowing we can't--or won't--help those.... Does the discussion that ensues from a photo like this... help us? Or hurt us?