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Several years ago, I lived in Barcelona, Spain, and although I didn’t live there for very long, I can still remember being intensely lonely. There were several contributing factors: my host family was a single woman in her sixties, most of my classmates were high school students when I was in college, and so on. The only contact I had with “home,” my friends and family in the U.S., was during the one hour of Internet that I paid for almost every day at an Internet café a couple of blocks away from my piso. I would go in the evening so that I could catch my friends during their lunch breaks. When I left, it would be that perfect time in the evening when the sunlight turns what it touches into gold. Although I would be a little sad that my time to talk to friends was over, I still found beauty in the place where I was. One of my favourite things to see was the sunlight catch in the fountain at the end of the street. I looked forward to seeing it nearly every day.

Photo: A fountain in Nou Barris district, Barcelona, Spain.

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So, 2015…

Apparently, my resolution for 2014 was to get a cat by the end of the year. Considering that my current lease does not allow pets, that did not happen. I did get to be reunited with Jewely-Cat, albeit with mixed results. I’ve created a monster by playing with her (she wants to play ALL THE TIME), but otherwise, she doesn’t seem to like me that much–or at least, only on her terms.

In 2014 I went to four continents, four U.S. states, six countries, made ten international flights (including my first trans-Pacific flight), went to the Southern Hemisphere, finished and graduated with my PhD, moved internationally, moved domestically, and started my first teaching job. My rheumatoid arthritis has been flaring up for most of the year and I spent the last month of 2014 fighting off a very persistent sinus infection (two rounds of antibiotics later and I think it might be on the way out). In terms of daily life, 2014 was about survival. So, now it’s 2015.

I doubt I’ll be as well-travelled this year, but I would like to see some things happen. Such as:

  • Getting a full-time job (or rather, getting paid for working full-time);
  • Having an article (or two?) accepted for publication;
  • Improving my French;
  • Getting a cat;
  • Being more physically active.

The latter is probably the easiest of the four, even if it is dependent upon my RA and spoon levels. And, I really, really want a cat.

Also, a big thank you to Megan, Sarah, Kelly, and Felicity, whose generosity resulted in a food processor and a slow-cooker. I hope that cooking, and generally feeding myself regularly, will be better this year, too.

The Old House

Autumn, Part 4: The Old House

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Somewhere in rural South Carolina there is a house nestled on the side of a hill surrounded by trees, with an old barn still standing, and where blue jays flit in the trees and deer walk unafraid in its shadows. A house my great-great-grandfather built, where my great-grandparents had a farm, where my grandmother lived, and where I used to go in summer. It’s my mom’s house now and my parents are planting fruit trees and grape vines. I’ve told them to add rose bushes.

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I don’t really know how old the house is. We have family stories on this side of the family stretching back to the Civil War. According to genealogical records, an ancestor of mine who fought in the Revolutionary War lies buried in a nearby churchyard. My family emigrated to South Carolina in the eighteenth century and didn’t really leave until the twentieth with WWII. But our roots are here, the Old House is here, and it draws us back. I can travel the world, live in distant countries and walk on distant shores, but still one of my most favourite places on this earth is that front porch, looking out at the trees. I may never have lived in the Old House, but seeped into the bones of that old house are the memories of my family for generations. Just as I can stand in an ancient, crumbling castle on the other side of the sea and feel the history of that place, so too do I feel the history of the Old House — simpler, less grand, but mine. The Old House is home in a way few other places can be.

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#smithieswed

It might seem like I have only been teaching this semester, and while that has been most of what I do, it hasn’t been all that I have done this Autumn. I even have the pictures to prove it.

So, as we transition into Winter, let me finally post my pictures of Autumn.

Autumn, Part 1: #smithieswed

#smithieswed was the hashtag used for everything related to the Arellano-Fryer wedding. It was a play on #smithieslead — which I don’t know what was used for, but both Lola and Crystal went to Smith College, so I got the connection. When it came to be late-October, I went to Sudbury, Massachusetts for Lola and Crystal’s wedding. I arrived a couple of days early, which meant catching up with the brides, apple picking, and spending a lot of time with Lola’s extended family (if Lisa can be a Tia, can I be a cousin?). The wedding itself was at Longfellow’s Wayside Inn.

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I don’t have any pictures of the wedding itself, considering that I was a bridesmaid, and most of my pictures from the reception didn’t come out well because of the lighting (I’m looking forward to seeing the official photographer’s photos). But it was artful and beautiful, a wonderful blend of traditions — Mexican, New English, and even Jewish. I’d never been to a wedding with so much live music: a string quartet for the ceremony, a mariachi band to serenade the wedding party during photos, and a jazz band at the reception.

And in all honesty, even though Lola and Crystal might have been terrified, the Hora was the best spontaneous wedding moment ever.

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(These photos are taken from the #smithieswed Instagram feed. I was dancing in one of the circles, of course.)
As Lola put it: “I always wanted the Hora at my wedding but never thought I could. Then the Jewish side of my family revolted!”

Autumn, Part 2 will be posted tomorrow.

May 2014

photo-8Today is my birthday. I am twenty-nine (29) now, a prime number. I prefer prime numbers and prime numbers tend to be years of transition for me. For instance,  when I was twenty-three, I moved across an ocean to start my postgraduate degrees. Six years later with a PhD in hand, I’ve moved back across that ocean, wondering ‘What now? What next?’

I saw out the end of my twenty-eighth year by travelling to Asia and the Southern Hemisphere and I have celebrated my birthday with my dear friends, the Williamses, who I am so thankful to have in my life. We went to two museums today to see the space shuttle Endeavour and dinosaurs (among other things). Isaac was an enthusiastic guide.

My travels over the last month featured lots of time spent in airports and on planes; naturally, I read quite a few books. It became soon apparent that the three big books I brought with me would barely carry me through our sojourn in Thailand, let alone the rest of our journey, so I had to buy a couple along the way. Since I was in an Australian airport and then in New Zealand when I did so, I bought books by Australian and New Zealand authors respectively.

Books read in May:

  1. Dragon Slippers. Jessica Day George.
  2. Kraken. China Miéville.
  3. Flight Behavior. Barbara Kingsolver.
  4. The Golem and the Jinni. Helene Wecker.
  5. The Light Between Oceans. M. L. Stedman.
  6. The Whale Rider. Witi Ihimaera.

I would be hard pressed to choose a favourite book out of the books read this month, as I enjoyed all of them. They were all new books to me, and all but two were new authors to me as well. Now I am reading The Princess and the Goblin by George MacDonald, in a beautiful illustrated edition, which I must finish before I leave Los Angeles for San Antonio…

Time for healing

It’s the time for Lent already. Today is Ash Wednesday, and though I will try to catch a service while I swing through London today, I doubt I will start Lent in the traditional manner.

Apparently yesterday was “International Pancake Day” according to IHOP (International House of Pancakes), and I felt a mixture of emotions as a national chain capitalized on Shrove Tuesday, the day before Lent begins. The reason many people eat pancakes on the day before Ash Wednesday is because Lent is supposed to be a lean season. Thus, families needed to use up the extra lard and flour and eggs and that sort of thing before Lent began — and the easiest way to do that was to make pancakes. Loads of them. This is the same reasoning behind Mardi Gras — party now, because you won’t be able to party again until after Easter. Lent is a period of fasting, of spiritual discipline and reflection, a penitential season. Part of me is always bemused to find people celebrating Mardi Gras when they don’t recognize Lent. But then, people will take any excuse to party.

And yet, even I will not be observing Lent in the usual way. Those who know me know that it is far too easy for me to engage in self-flagellation, self-abnegation, regardless of the time of year. I have been prescribed rest and compassion for myself. I have had various people insist that I take the next few weeks, if not months, to be gentle with myself, to show myself kindness and grace. For me, this cannot be a time of fasting or self-denial. This needs to be a time of healing, of discovering the things that bring me comfort and embracing them.

So if I do not make it to an Ash Wednesday service, that is fine. I do not need to be reminded that I am dust; rather, I need reminding that out of the dust a seed is sprouting, growing, alive.

Sunset, sea

Yesterday afternoon, the clouds paused. It has been raining for days and days as gales have hit the UK. For days I’ve listened to the wind howl in the chimney, buffeting the house and lashing rain at the windows. Apart from sleeping, the weather itself has kept me indoors.

But it stopped raining. I hopped on my bike and cycled to West Sands in time to watch the sun set on the last day of the year.

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I can feel so cooped up in this house, in this ugly, residential area of town, where it’s just houses and houses and houses. It can be frustrating, sometimes, that I have to first get out of this part of town to go anywhere. But the sea, the sea. The roar of the waves, the reflection of light and shadow on the sand; the sea reminds me why I do love this town, most of the time.

Last year was so good, until the end. The beginning of 2014 sees me emotionally, mentally, spiritually, and physically worn out, exhausted, and weary — not exactly a fortuitous start. If I’m lucky, maybe 2014 will be the mirror of 2013: a poor start, with a good finish. Yes, let’s hope for that.

If I were one for New Year’s Resolutions, I’d first say that I want to stop crying every day (crying is exhausting and it give me headaches), but I already manage that as best as I can. Instead, perhaps I should make more of an effort to get out to the sea.