Friday, November 24, 2017

Of Souls and Bellies....in Bali

From the journal of a Singleton....A mere 447 days later! (you'll forgive me won't you chickadee)

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Dear Chickadees,

I am still on a 'travel plus food high' from my recent jaunt to Southeast Asia. Ofcourse I missed you terribly.

The Destination - Bali.
The Mandate - indulge in as much local food as humanly possible in one week.
The 'other' mandate - sink one's toes into the beautiful sandy beaches in Bali.

For weeks I'd been staring at a beautiful photo of a lush beach in Bali.The palm trees, that emerald hue of the ocean and the thought of sandals (aaaallllll the gorgeous sandals) made me wantonly weak and impatient. August couldn't come soon enough.

Embark we did but it was a long journey over the Pacific. Three days and two nights later we arrived (in retrospect I should have closely perused Kayak's offering of this very inexpensive itinerary which was too good to be true). Many, many planes and automobiles later we'd arrived and the same was true for the journey back home.

And it was a lovely holiday, indeed (a unanimously shared sentiment between us single gals).

Return we did with our souls refreshed and our bellies satisfied (you'll know what I mean, momentarily) accompanied by burgeoning suitcases filled with exotic teas, authentic Balinese cooking spices, one too many sarongs (I have yet to figure out how to wear these) and a few pairs of adorned and bejeweled sandals (don't give me that look sweet-pea; you already know of my love affair with footwear).

There were many firsts on this trip and I shall proceed to tell you about my two favourites - firstly, The Ocean Walk. In laymen's terms, imagine this (or for some of us, let's relive this) - You have friends who ski, surf, snow-board (you get the gist right, basically the athletic type) and some of these include scuba divers. These scuba diving friends of ours talk about their underwater excursions from time to time, all the lovely sea creatures they saw, that school of yellow fish they followed, the iridescent light that was aglow, that beautiful reef, rumors of buried antiquities and the expeditions to retrieve them  and how much longer they can now breathe underwater. Now imagine,you, the non-athletic friend to these athlete friends, trying to emulate their excitement, head-bobbing all the while like you can relate to the "swimming with fish that look like Nemo", trying to stretch that smile (until your jaw hurts) as they regale you with their emphatic tales (and all the while secretly telling yourself "I can't swim and outside of a glass aquarium at SeaWorld, I'll  never be close enough to touch God's magnificent underwater creation). Well chickadee that's me. And perhaps that's you too.

Until....I went Ocean-Walking. Now imagine, you're still the same friend who can't swim or scuba dive but this time you are strapped close to a diver (who does) and who'll take you all the way to the bottom of the ocean and land you gently on an old moss-ridden bridge where you can stand straight (hopefully finding your balance and holding the railings with one hand) and gaze in utter amazement at that school of yellow, blue and speckled fish coming your way. You can see the iridescent light from the mid-afternoon sun coquettishly making its way into the water, while those beautiful reeds are slowly dancing in perfect rhythm to the silent beat of a drum you cannot hear and those brilliant hues of blue and green are unlike any palette of paint you've ever seen.

I WAS UNDERWATER, CHICKADEE! I was enjoying front-row seats to my very own acquatic movie. I was inside that life-size version of an aquarium at SeaWorld. CAN YOU HEAR THE EXCITEMENT IN MY VOICE? For those ten minutes, the world was still. All was calm. We were detached from everything above us and out there as I stood in a mesmeric trance, a guest in their world. This beautiful ocean-world. My soul felt refreshed.

Ten minutes was all the time a novice like me could spend underwater sans-oxygen tank so the blissful, reverie was cut short. But the memory remains. The smile stayed while I alighted from the car and made my way back to the hotel room. This one will go with me for a very, long, time.

And I beseech you. If you can, my non-scuba diving friend, - Go.....Please.Go.Ocean.Walking.Soon.

The second-favourite highlight from the trip was gastronomic. Now imagine walking the local market in the morning, eye-locked with rows and rows of fresh produce, inhaling a stock of lemon-grass, that vivid red from sambal paste, feeling the skin of snake-fruit and the heady aroma from kaffir-lime leaves. That was me.

Shortly thereafter, we found ourselves in an aged, yet authentic Balinese kitchen. Rows and rows of wood panelling, spice jars filled with cumin and cloves, round (but heavy) mortar and pestles, and wide-brimmed woks. Our workspace was an old wooden table laden with fresh galangal, bright green beans, garlic, red chillies, long stalk of lemon grass, little jars of turmeric, aniseed and other glorious spices. Although it was a hot kitchen and the work was hard, it was the most blissful afternoon of chopping and grinding that I could recall in recent times. A mere three hours later, our table was graced with grilled fish skewers, a bowl of fried rice and noodles resonating in oil and herbs, beef in a rich brown sauce, tofu fritters (let me preface that by saying, the most amazing conjugation of tofu I have ever eaten in my life) and green beans laced with many a coconut shaving.

You know that a meal has the makings of greatness when all of its participants are unperturbed by their neighbours and are shamelessly slurping, twirling and spooning the various offerings from their plate.
Take a peek at the photograph to follow and you'll see what I mean. My belly was satisfied.



I have now returned to my life of chasing trains, mulling over the take-out menu and folding high-rise laundry. But every now and then I stop to linger and remind this singleton of her adventures in Bali. 

And then, she smiles.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Snow and I

Dear Lovelies,

It has been two years since we've had a little tête-à-tête. Oh my, how time has flown. Last time we sat here, I was a little blue and a little sunny. Blue because I had embarked into a land I knew almost nothing about. Snow and I were not friends and try as I may, she and I just couldn't connect. Y'all know how much I love the sun (and if you didn't, well now you know), so while the seas were high and the tide was raging in my personal life, my comfort came from the fact that Calgary has the most beautiful summers and that daylight would stick around till this simpleton took her tired self to bed.  And then she landed on my doorstep (Snow I mean), in May, and once in June. I had words with her; oh yes, I did.  Can you imagine a grown woman wagging her finger at a pile of white fluff and stomping her boots hoping it will hurt said white fluff. It was a sight!

In the winter she took particular satisfaction in seeing me walk a minute, fall flat the next, and later drag myself to the emergency room for a twisted ankle and three weeks of "keep your legs raised and apply a cold compress for the swelling" and "no, you cannot walk with that leg, please hobble".


That was 700 or so days ago. Today she and I are in a better place. We're not close yet but she knows I love the sun and I know she's the star of winter wonderland for six months out of the year (heck, my sister adores her). She also has a lot more fans than I do. I think it was that realization that finally caused me to suck it up and co-exist with her, in her lands.

I have finally come out of 'virtual hibernation' (I think). I know I wrote something about this the last time and we haven't had a conversation since. I will do better. I have so many things to tell you from the 700 or so days that I've been away. Luckily, there are many photographs to re-tell the stories (in place of my failing memory).

In short "I dined, I cooked, I entertained, I stood in awe, I wept, I leapt, I conquered, I fell, I loved, I lost, Snow came, She left, She reappeared again and I survived".

My fondest memories are here, below. See you soon, chickadee.


                      (Photo: Jenn Roach, One Two Three Photography)

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Braveheart

Do you remember how you felt when you watched William Wallace stir the troops to fight for their freedom. I recall his famous lines as he was pacing back and forth on horseback, in that green, green valley, face painted in blue, displaying bravado, speaking words, powerful last words to transform a bunch of ordinary, inexperienced men into an army of warriors. He was going to win...Scotland would be theirs.
I watched the movie when I was 18 but I'd never quite forgotten what I felt. For those 182 minutes I too was hopeful and brave.
Brave.

These least few months though, I've been re-learning the meaning of the word. A different version of 'unafraid'. Being brave entailed procuring forty or so cardboard boxes and making a conscious decision to part with things that won't fit my baggage allowance - that summer dress i bought last year, an old jewelry box, dessert plates, night lamps and hoards of coffee mugs I didn't even know I owned, along with that air purifier I didn't know how to work. Thirty or so of those boxes made their way down three flights of stairs for the last time. Bubble wrap and heavy duty tape were the new must-haves. My tribe flocked from near and far to make sure that this singleton's suitcases would be meticulously packed and her apartment, promptly  vacated.

 
I tussled with my heart and my baby sisters as I parted with things that I could ordinarily live without, but somehow in the light of this permanent departure I just had to take the icing spatula to newlands with me. My other wise rational self burst out into uncontrollable tears over worn out socks and faded scarfs, y'all. I was looking at old photographs and reminiscing bad hair days and dismal outfits. I wept over my "forever friends" both the ones I'd see in a few months and the ones I'd only be able to see in my minds eye.

In the end,  it all got done, six over-filled suitcases and a very timid heart made her way to the temporal home in cold, cold country. Goodbye Texas - I will miss you dearly my fellow Houstonians. I will miss the warm weather and the blue bonnets. I will fondly remember the strawberry festival and the rodeo. I will cherish warm Texas hospitality and hearty cowboy breakfasts. But most of all I will miss your friendship. Thank you for the memories.

They said "You're moving closer to family so there's nothing to worry about". "Come home", said Gigi. "Its time to move" my heart added. This was where I was meant to be. And yet, I struggled with a feeling of loss, immense loss. It  also didn't help that I've seen three snow-filled weeks out of four since I landed. While some people walk around in shorts and sandals, I am wearing fur lined boots and jackets to combat the freezing temperatures. Come on, Lord. Really? You can't do anything about this weather to make me feel like I belong here.

I left a secure job, sold my car and moved from Clear Lake where I knew three shortcuts to the nearest breakfast place.

Some days I feel like a coward. I'm taking long, deep breaths before an interview, waiting for public transportation and having to ask for directions to the nearest mall. Why am I so lost?
I'm home, sharing breakfast cereal with my people. The people I love spending time and food with. The benefits of this move afforded have impromptu girl time and family dinners. And yet, there are days where I'm silently mourning.   

I could call my girls at odd hours of the day and complain about  the big zit on my forehead, get an honest opinion on whether I looked fat in an outfit and lots of tender, loving care and home-made soup when experiencing a coughing war and near death sniffles.

Four weeks later, the feeling of loss has subsided. It subsided at the exact same moment I saw this picture .

(We'll have to trade stories about this pinata on another day).

Some days I have an emotional meltdown. I'm learning to take a humble stance, and lean more on my posse. The prayers are more frequent..especially on meltdown Mondays. Its alright if I have to wear fuzzy socks in May. I'm home with my family.

Today I feel brave. I may cry buckets tomorrow. But for now I have three teaspoons of confidence and..... this face mask from the far east.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

The Art of Being a Singleton

It all started when we were wee lasses, with our pink frocks and our tiny pig-tails.

It started when we were handed our first bedtime story book illustration of Cinderella, Snow White and Rapunzel.

It started the day my mother said that a dignified young lady is expected to maintain a soft but audible, decibel when speaking and keep her legs crossed with her fingers gently placed over her lap. Do not speak with your mouth full and comb your hair after a shower to undo the tangles.

Yet there were other lessons that I gleaned from women-folk in my tribe. I learnt that a woman can carry pain and joy at the same time, that we're really inclined to buy a car for its colour, and everytime we open our underwear drawer we subconsciously hear our mothers saying "Wear matching clean, underwear always in case you are rushed to the hospital from an accident". By the time I was 21, I could cook atleast one decent meal and be a good host. I could  manage money when times were tough, and do laundry the right way. I could make my living and contribute to society. I was prepared to take on the world.

However, of all the lessons that I learnt in life's classroom, one important one was missed.

Here's the chapter us young lasses, girls and soon to become women were not taught -  How to be Single? Or, as I like to call it The Art of being a Singleton.

You understand where I'm going with this chickadee. How could I know to be "one" when everything comes in pairs - socks, salt and pepper. Heck every egg in a cardboard crate has a pair. They never sells eggs by the odd numbers. The stockboy at the super-market would give me the "lady you trippin'" look if I ever asked for just one egg for my Saturday morning huevos rancheros (yes, I realize that I've used the word "egg" more times than an Eggland commercial). All our lives we are taught that two is a good number.      We even have a set of boobs.

How am I supposed to learn to cope in a world where people exchange woeful glances my way when I sit in a restaurant with a table for one. Why is it cheaper to book last-minute vacation packages for two people instead of one. And why of why do I have to throw away both my thigh high panty-hose even though only one has a mile long rip in it. I don't even have the option of buying a replacement hose for just the right leg (okay that last argument is a stretch but you get my gist, right?)

Why is one a lonely number?

In my community, ideally, a young twenty something year old woman is to find her mate and carefully plan the expansion of her brood by the time she embraces thirty. According to some women in my tribe, having all your kids by the age of 29 affords you the option of being more energetic (than someone who is older) when motherhood takes over your life. Who came up with that? Aren't tired mothers just tired mothers, no matter what their age.

I won't lie but there are days when I've wondered what its like to have someone waiting for me at home with a hot-meal, there are weddings and children's birthday parties I've dreaded going to because I'm either going to be chaperoning the loud rambunctious four-year olds or be stuck in an odd place at the end of the dinner with the really low chair where you can't cross your legs because of the awkward table leg. A lady once told me that a woman's life is incomplete unless she has experienced motherhood; "Her life has no meaning until then", she said. I was in a particularly vulnerable stage in my life that her words stung my heart. The tears welled up and the voice in my head said "This woman thinks that I am worthless". We're so scared of being alone that we'll pursue and date the wrong men, wear labels or emulate the women who seem to have it all, and constantly immerse ourselves in toxic thoughts. It is exhausting y'all. That alone has made me age twenty years and given me three more laugh lines I did not need.

Based on all the worldly education outside my classroom, I had no hopes of scoring the eye of a genteel man, much less any man if I preferred climbing trees or running barefoot like a wild gazelle in no particular direction.I have one of two options - let society scare me into couple-dom or stay unfazed and do life as a singleton.

Poppet, if you're reading this and you have gone through the online-dating buzz, met boys that your parents thought would be a good match for you, mourned the loss of a relationship by having a relationship with Ben and Jerry, held a friend's baby and wondered about the day you'll be someone's mama and solitarily nursed yourself through a flu and prayed that chicken-soup would miraculously be dropped off at your door-step, YOU ARE NOT ALONE. You hear me. (Now, take a deep breath) We are not alone. Here's a big, big hug because I know you need it now.

I am not going to sail into a diatribe about women's lib and how we're better off alone because in all honesty, I do believe that God created us to feel a sense of community and belonging. It took three decades into my to existence to figure out something about the journey as a lone ranger - having the single-hood chapter in a woman's life is one of great promise and discoveries. The first step - Accept that you are alone in this season of your life and it's okay to be single. We are not society's lepers or the bane of our mother's existence. We are taking the road less travelled, that few have braved to journey upon. You my dear, are a trail-blazer. Now, repeat that and believe that.

I think you're ready to hear about The Art of Being a Singleton, so here's what I've learned -
  • Being single is a season. Sometimes long, sometimes short. It's a good season though ( and believe me it's coveted by married women too). 
  • As a singleton, I have been able to put more time and effort into my friendships. I have a small but rich tapestry of relationships that feed well into my soul. The kind of friend-"ships" that won't toss and turn when the going gets tough. We've seen each other through job-losses, death of a parent, transitions from one country into another, birth of a child and new beginnings. This is a time for us to sow into those people especially into the ones we want to keep around us for a long, long time.
  • It has enabled me to build a trust in our Maker that comes from an increased dependency in His word and His provisions. I can tell you without a doubt that my prayer-life has increased exponentially. I may not have a beloved waiting for me at home, but I am the Lord's beloved. That's the truth for each one of us so don't listen to the lying words that try to tell you otherwise.
  • I have gained a few more ounces of bravery and worry less about venturing into life alone. There is no fear. 
  • I may not be a child's mother today but that doesn't stop me from watching over those that are not my own. We need to feel a burden for the next generation and resolve to become a tribe of women that shapes the young ones in our community. There are many kiddos and teens that feel unloved and are dealing with the day-to-day crud. Wouldn't it be great to love on them in this season when we can give them our undivided attention.
  • I have been cooking, hosting, baking, feeding and serving more. I am emotionally and physically challenged and stretched, I love it! When the focus is on people around me, there's less time to worry about being part of a couple. Its brought on more bear hugs, peals of laughter, gut-wrenching tears, slices of chocolate cake, honest conversations and dinner table fellowships. I am forced to feel, to connect, to open up
  • Spontaneity is a real word now. More plunging, less cautiousness.      
There it is, girlfriend. I'm no expert and make no claims into mastering the art of doing life in a singular tense with seven bullet points. I'm still discovering this journey but from a more honest place, today.
Remember that you're not walking alone....and if it gets hard let me know. I promise you a listening ear and a slice of chocolate cake.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Around my Thanksgiving table!

Dear Poppet,

How goes the planning for thanksgiving. I sure did miss you today. I thought about you when I looked at the state of my unkept house which was nowhere near ready for guests. I remembered how much you love my au gratin tray and how content you were with a spoonful of herby, creamy potatoes than a slice of turkey meat. 
                                               
Thanksgiving this year will be unlike any others from yesteryear. There won't be a turkey named Martha, or scores of ingredient lists to scribble and scratch over. We won't be standing in the produce line deliberating whether we could use apples instead of pears for that home-made pie. I won't silently curse when the store attendant comes back to tell me that they're all out of chicken broth. We also won't get into that usual argument about why I picked an apartment on the third floor, especially when I have twenty bags of groceries to carry up two flights of stairs (forty eight steps, to be exact).

Nope! That won't be us. This year will be about simplicity and spontaneity. It will be the year we fondly think about those that didn't make it around our table and over-feed the ones who did. We will swap turkey for chicken.

Whipped sweet potato pie for mashed sweet potatoes with a hint of cilantro and crumbly feta. The humble mushroom will become a star in the puff-pastry pinwheel accompanied with a side of homemade mango chutney. The store bought desserts will share a table with Cookie's Tarte Tatin. We won't discriminate there either.
 


We won't worry about perfection or colour coordinated flatware. We'll stop to kiss and make up after a silly argument and read (shout..) out instructions for the recipe whilst the blender runs in full steam. Lunch will further be stalled (because of a certain camera nazi) and picture after picture of our laden table will be taken until a famished someone finally grabs a plate to serve themselves because they can't wait to be fed anymore. Later, we'll lie prostrate on the carpet, clutching at over-filled bellies, mourning over our gluttonous ways. A scrabble board, baklava and tea will make their way into our thanksgiving tableau.

Someone will cheat, make-up words, challenge the owner of the made-up word and scores will finally be tabulated. One of us will shot 'Huzzah' and the other will knock over the tiles and board until the twenty six letters of the alphabet are strewn all over the place. We'll watch our favourite Christmas movie, load the dish-washer, huddle under blankets and sleep like babes with a content smile on our face.
All of the above have the makings of a wonderfully, unplanned, holiday..don't you think? It also poignantly bookmarks (perhaps the last) Thanksgiving in this singleton's home.

Hope you had a lovely day and a full plate.

Miss you tons!
Your Singleton.

(Dedicated to my girlfriend and sister, Gigi)

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Sweet Summer....where didst thou go?

Two Tuesday afternoons ago - I panicked.

I was standing in front of the community refrigerator at my workplace and wondering whether I should commit to the fruit melange (I had painstakingly cut and prepared for the week) or cheat and cozy up with a warm and fresh chocolate chip cookie from the cafeteria instead. Needless to say, the cookie won (and this is not when the panic attack occurred).

Just as I was smiling at how quickly that decision had been made (on to world peace, next), I overhear someone make a reference to the woes of prepping their kid's lunches when they go back to school in two weeks. (Still not panicking, yet) 

My head voice interjects - Kids are going back to school in two weeks?

Still in my head voice (only louder) - You mean, summer is coming to a close? 


Icy, cold lemonade and sandal days are coming to an end and I DID NOTHING?

(Yes its not your eyes. The font is getting larger for effect) And this is where the panicking commenced.

You see, I love Summer. I love the possibility of an impromptu picnic, reading under the shade of a beautiful tree, a well done-pedicure to go with the sandals, kababs and chicken tikka on the grill, copious amounts of mangoes and strawberries, lassi (yogurt drink) and the long stretch of daylight for walks or five minutes on the swing in the park.

Don't get me wrong, we've had our bad days. The 100 degree weather, followed by scathing sun-burns, many bottles of aloe and myths about the "healing power" of teabags, breaking down of the over-worked, air-conditioner, longer wait-times at the water-parks because kids are out of school and running out of my favourite, freshly churned ice cream at the shops because everyone decided to get that particular flavour. Despite the misgivings, Summer and I have always managed to kiss and make up.

So, the realization that I had wiled away my June, July and August hit me harder than a ton of day old scones. We didn't even exchange a proper "hello".

A list was promptly put together. A list, yes. It was definitely a vow-sort of thing and required some writing and some committing. All of the below had to be checked off by dusk, or till the last ray of daylight disappears on September 22 ( I have no idea why I picked that date).
  • Walk along the beach. A beach. Any beach.
  • Reading under the shade of the tree for a full hour (even if subject is attacked by a swarm of mosquitoes)
  • Grilling - Indian style
  • Outdoor concert or movie night
  • Give the pants a break and wear all of my summer dresses, for a week.
  • Home-made ice cream
  • Finish the book I'd picked up for light, summer reading.
  • Swinging (in the park) high, then higher.
Thankfully, hot sunny days don't just disappear where I live, so here goes.

Next time I see you, the list will be checked completely and Summer and I will be saying goodbye. "Summer...hey, wait up, I'm going with you."