Sunday, October 31, 2010

Happy Hallowe'en!

Happy Hallowe'en everyone!
Do you get trick-or-treaters?  Do you dress up?
It's also my father's birthday, but we're celebrating tomorrow so my sister can trick or treat and the like...
Anyways, hope that you're having a great day!

Friday, October 29, 2010

Weekend fast approaching

Hurray, it's Friday!  The Friday before Hallowe'en, no less! In our house, Hallowe'en is usually a big deal.  We dress up and festoon the bushes in old cobwebs and stuff old clothes full of pillows so that it looks like a headless man is sitting on the porch.  But this year we haven't even got our pumpkins yet!  I think it has something to do with my brother Caleb being in the middle of junior year midterms....
In the past, we've had very inventive and hard-to-classify costumes.  I think that I was once a Hungarian pixie, and when we were very little (before my sister was born), Caleb and I went as a cat (him) and an angel (me).  The cat had mouse ears.  It used to be that at the end of every summer, when we went camping, we would bike around Eagle Lake in Acadia National Park and then sit on a certain rock to discuss Hallowe'en costumes, and now I guess that doesn't happen anymore.  My sister Ursula plans to be a fishwife, I believe.  I might just find a dress that I don't wear very often and put that on...
Hallowe'en is also my father's birthday, but we generally don't celebrate on Hallowe'en due to Trick-or-Treating and the like... and since Caleb finishes his midterms today, he has the weekend and a couple days next week off.  We might go hiking up Mount Cardigan or something to celebrate my father's birthday...
I miss the days when I was so excited for Hallowe'en that I couldn't think of anything else for about two weeks.  Now I've almost forgotten it with the volunteer work that I'm doing and my Harvard Extension School class, which has been taking up a ton of my time with the two papers that are due on Tuesday.  Holidays go by too fast now...
What is your favorite holiday?  What are you doing this weekend?

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Book Review: The Bone People

            Okay, maybe this isn’t the best book to review because it is my favorite book in the world.  I used to hate it when people asked me what my favorite book was – there are so many to choose from and I love to read.  But on Parents Weekend my senior year, my mother and I went into a bookshop – she was going on a business trip soon and we were looking for books to read on the plane – and found the Bone People.  I usually read pretty fast, but this one took me about two weeks to read, mainly because I wanted to savor it, and since then it’s become my favorite book of all time.  For me, at least, this is the best book I have ever read.
            That said, it’s not for everyone.  It deals with some really tough issues in unusual ways.  It’s not exactly PC about things that people get very angry about.  But I think the story, and the writing, and even the polarizing parts are incredible.  Keri Hulme has this way with words that drowns you in her story, that makes you want to find that South Island beach with the tower.  When I was reading it, I never wanted it to end. 
            I’ve read it maybe three times since and every time I love it more and more.  On some level, I think it’s true that the first time you read something is the best time because after that you know the story and all the resolutions to the problems.  Nevertheless, I learn something new every single time I read this book.  Go and read it.  It doesn’t matter if you love it or hate it – it’s still beautiful.  


When we lived in Rwanda we saw very few cars aside from the hospital vans and our own ancient Land Rover.  Instead, everyone biked.  More interestingly, most of the locals used wooden bikes.  I’m not talking about a wooden frame with a metal chain and rubber tires.  I’m saying that the entire thing was wooden – polished, gleaming wood racing down the dirt road beside our car.  Crates of coffee were balanced on the back of the bikes, and these guys were racing down hills with practically no brakes and definitely no helmets.  It was terrifying to watch these people plummet into valleys, but the craftsmanship and just the fact that they were on wooden bikes was incredible. 
While we were living at the hospital, two other expats who had mountain bikes were living there, too.  They went out biking almost every afternoon after work, and at the end of their bike ride, the village kids would swarm around them.  One evening, they good-naturedly got off their bikes and helped some of the kids on.  I remember sitting in the hospital, watching them pushing these kids up the hill on their bikes, the kids screaming and waving their arms around.  Not as cool as wooden bikes, but mountain bikes are still pretty neat, right?

Wednesday, October 27, 2010


Greece.  Via Sacred Mountains

Maybe it’s just me, but there are certain songs that mean different things to me.  When I was twelve and we went to Greece for my uncle’s wedding, we drove around the country for two weeks first.  On that trip we had three CDs: The Best of Johnny Clegg & Savuka, The Best of Marvin Gaye, and Babylon by Bus by Bob Marley and the Wailers.  Whenever I hear music from those records it makes me think of our long drives through the countryside and orange orchards, of fruit that tasted so real it’s hard to believe and the wine-dark sea.  And then there are other songs.  For my chapel in November of my senior year, I played “Under African Skies” by Paul Simon and “I Guess This Must Be The Place (Naïve Melody)” by the Talking Heads because the songs were about Africa and home, the themes of my chapel.  I didn’t really know the Talking Heads song before my chapel, and now it’s one of my favorites. 
And then I have generalizations.  I listen to the Grateful Dead (specifically, Trucking and Casey Jones) and Peter Gabriel (Sledgehammer and Digging in the Dirt) on car trips.  Jason Mraz (Bella Luna, Sleeping to Dream, and Clockwatching) makes me sleepy.  Gotta Have You by the Weepies is the most Kerewin-y song I know – it always makes me think of the Bone People.  David Bowie will always be the Goblin King (my first love) for me, and As The World Falls Down is emblematic of Labyrinth. 
What kind of music do you listen to?  Do certain songs remind you of emotions or experiences?

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Reaching the Top

I've thought about posting some of my creative writing here, if that's okay.  So, here goes:

He's the kind of person who smiles when you talk about mountains, a painfully nostalgic smile that lets you know he's in the Smokies with you, helping each other up, climbing until only Carolina myrtle and rhododendron grow on the rocky cliffs.  He smiles when he's sad, he drinks tea, he is climbing in his head all the time.  I once watched him climbing, and he held his hands ready like a gymnast - the way a gymnast chalks her hands before climbing onto the uneven bars, the way a ballet dancer crushes her toes in resin before running onto the stage - he flexed his hands before finding a place to grab on and swung himself upward.  And after he clenched and unclenched his hands, after he pulled himself up the rock face, feet lightly touching the cliff where his hands were, bouncing upwards, he stopped being a performer.  When he was higher, when it was hand-over-hand, pulling himself closer to the sky, he stopped noticing that this was Sunday and that anything else was here.  When he was higher all he could see were the rocks above him and the sky; he was holding on like the Carolina myrtle, all alone.

"Do you want to come up?"  Sincere, confident, he extends his hand and you, self-conscious in your beginner status, flex your hands like he did - now you are crushing the resin into sand beneath your toe, now you are running onto stage to leap as never before - and find a place to start, your feet dancing awkwardly across the granite and lichen.  Smiling - not a sad smile anymore, a joyous this-is-what-I-want smile, he leans down and offers you his hand and you grab on.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Cholera Outbreak

via PIH
Now, after the devastating January earthquake, Haiti is facing another disaster.  An outbreak of cholera has been documented in Saint Marc in central Haiti.  Though there are no tent cities from the earthquake in Saint Marc, many fear that the disease will spread to Port-au-Prince and infect the thousands of homeless and impoverished living there.  Read Partners in Health’s article on the outbreak about how cholera is a disease of poverty… and do something to help.  

Friday, October 22, 2010


My family drinks a lot of tea.  Every morning I drink tea with breakfast.  Every evening when my brother comes home from school, he makes another pot of tea to drink while he does his homework.  When my friends come over, we drink tea.  My little sister occasionally has tea parties with her friends.  Every now and again on the weekends we have actual afternoon tea with scones in front of the kitchen fire. 
            I remember this song from my childhood:
            C-O-F-F-E-E, Coffee’s much stronger than tea
            Young folks should leave it alone
            For it makes them skin and bone
            Better by far to be
            Simply a drinker of tea
            Perhaps this was an influence.  Then again, it could just be the continual tea in the mornings that we’ve had since we were little.  I can tell the difference just by taste of tea that’s been brewed in a cup or brewed in a pot, tea that has milk put in first or milk put in after, tealeaves or tea bags.  It’s gotten to the point where I don’t feel awake unless I’ve had a cup of tea in the mornings…
            I’m not sure if it’s a Kiwi thing or just a British-Commonwealth thing or what, but tea has become the ultimate comfort in our house – or at least what we do whenever there’s a problem.  When I have a bad sailing race, I put the kettle on.  Frightful plane flight?  Tea is the solution.  I’m not even sure it’s the taste… maybe it’s the action of holding the cup, pouring tealeaves into the pot, and sitting by the fire…
            Do you drink tea or coffee or something else?

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Happy Anniversary, Mommy and Daddy!

My parents in Thailand...
In Africa...

Today is my parent’s twenty-first wedding anniversary.  Pretty cool, right?  They forgot about it for a while, so they didn’t go out to dinner or anything.  Instead we had apples with sage and pork roast… it was yummy. 
            My parents met in college, and got to know each other on a philosophy exchange trip to the University of Edinburgh in Scotland.  After that, they worked in refugee camps in Thailand, hiked in the Himalayas north of Srinagar, lived with their friends in houses in Vermont and in Boston, and wrote each other love letters from around the world.  A little while ago I found a letter my father wrote to my mother when she was living in Africa (it’s addressed to Nairobi, but I’m not sure if she was actually staying there or if that’s where her mail went) and he was living here in Cambridge.  It’s kind of amazing to see that they were still in love twenty or thirty years ago…
            Mommy and Daddy, your relationship is the one on which I base everything.  You are the two most in-love people I know, the most grounded relationship.  I love that you are still learning new things about each other after twenty-one years of marriage and three kids.  I know I can talk to you guys about anything and you’ll understand – I know that you can help me with anything.  You are both my rock and my open oceans… I love you guys.  

PS: I’m glad you had dinner with us

Boston Places: Tealuxe

One of my favorite places in the city is Tealuxe in Harvard Square.  Not only is it a great place to have a cup of tea before class (and conveniently located!) but it’s also a pretty great place for people watching.  Inside, it looks like Ollivander’s wand shop in Harry Potter and a library tower decided to have a child and infuse it with tea.  Most of their tea is excellent – I love their chai but their Lapsang Souchong (they only have one variety while they have about seven Earl Grey’s) doesn’t do it for me. 
But I love the copper counter at the front for when you’re by yourself or the little tables for when you’re with a friend.  I love that I can go in there by myself and not feel like the loser who, you know, went out by herself.  Because it’s just tea, and I’m way less self-conscious about being on my own when I’ve got a cup of Kashmiri Chai in front of me.  It’s not exactly super-cheap for a pot of tea, but it’s affordable, and it’s a nice place to take a friend or sit and study.  


I have not yet fallen out of love with hospitals.  Most people I know don’t like hospitals – they find them impersonal, and oftentimes they operate as a business rather than a center of healing.  I agree with this… to an extent.  Because to me, there’s something exciting about hospitals.  To me, they’re a place of hope, a place people go to get better.  Patients are surrounded by people who love them. 
            Every Thursday I go to clinic with a doctor friend of mine.  She’s an excellent doctor – a neurologist.  Every patient comes in scared or tired or just unhappy, and she does her best to assuage their fears and make them happier.  She tells them what’s wrong and how to fix it, what different types of medicine do.  She tells the truth, explains the procedures.  It’s pretty incredible to get to watch her in action. 
            In Africa, we lived at a hospital, and I think that was when I fell in love with them.  The hospital consisted of three or four long low buildings, and somehow they had planted a garden around them.  In the pediatrics ward, mothers lay with their malarial babies on hospital beds, making sure the flies didn’t land on them.  Someone had planted the little gravel yard at the front of the building with hanging orchids.  Sometimes, when I was hot or tired and the dust and sun of Africa were bothering my eyes, I would go and sit in the perfumed shade outside the pediatrics ward.  
            Maybe I love hospitals because they are this reminder of healing, reminders that people are strong and resilient and that they generally get better.  Maybe Africa spoiled me and now in my head every hospital has hanging orchids somewhere.  And maybe I just like sick people and medicine… hard to tell.  What do you love?

Wednesday, October 20, 2010


Oh, I wish.... via Refinery 29
I have unmanageable hair.  It falls to my waist, thick, curly, tangled hair that isn’t quite brown and isn’t quite red and isn’t quite blonde.  It puffs up when brushed, somehow gets oily and dry at the same time, and forms into dreadlocks if left unsupervised for half an hour.  Every so often I think about cutting it short, but it would just turn into a messy light-brown mop of ringlets.  I mean, I guess it makes a statement, right?
            When I was thirteen I had a boyfriend who said that his favorite thing about me was my hair.  The relationship didn’t last long.  

Africa (most likely the first of many)

I am going to be overarching and overly general in this post, so stay with me. 
When I was thirteen, my mother took me to South Africa with her.  I had just graduated from the eighth grade, and we stayed outside of Durban for two weeks while she did something with XDR TB and I played with HIV-positive children at the hospital.  While we were in South Africa I assisted on a C-section in a tiny hospital near the Mozambique border, sung traditional songs, and learned to pronounce the Zulu clicks.  We would drive for hours across the countryside to get to rural hospitals and clinics, places where I played clapping games with children who were waiting to be seen by their doctors.  On the way home, we stopped in Nairobi where my maternal grandparents were staying, and they took us to see the Masaai that they had befriended back when my mother was a girl.  Driving across the Rift Valley, playing games with kids in Pietermaritzburg, my Africa addiction took hold. 
Then when I was fifteen, the summer after sophomore year, my mother took us all to Rwanda to live for three months, and Africa struck again.  We lived in a corner of Southwestern Rwanda, where the sunsets were hazy against the hill and where children in bright blue school uniforms sang songs.  We watched the Euro Cup in a tiny bar with the entire village crammed in front of the television, cheering for whichever team got a point.  I went to support groups for HIV-positive children and saw girls my age pretending to nurse dolls.  I visited malnourished babies two hours away.  I worked in the hospital garden, where we had planted different types of plots as examples of sustainable agriculture.  
Africa holds onto you and doesn’t let go.  I wake up dreaming that I’m back in my concrete room on the hill and try to push aside a mosquito net that doesn’t exist.  I stop myself from saying “amokouru” to strangers on the street.  There’s something about it, something that makes you pull back again and again.  Go and visit, and you’ll see what I mean.  

October's Bright Blue Weather

What fall in New England looks like.  Michael Kors Campaign via mod-tv

I love Cambridge at this time of year.  All the Harvard parents have gone home and it’s back to locals and students, the T runs more regularly, and New England turns orange and red in a dazzling display of color.  We’re famous for our foliage, and for good reason: walking to class yesterday at around four meant that I walked down Franklin street while it was lit up with maple leaves.  Dragging my boots through the piles of color on the sidewalk, I had this overwhelming desire to jump into the leaves and roll around until my hair was covered in crumbs of leaf and the pile looked nothing like a pile anymore.  Fall is my favorite season in New England – for the purple mist at six o’clock in the morning, for the colorful leaves, for the achingly bright blue skies and for the chill in the air so that your fingers and nose are always freezing.  Also, it’s cold enough in the mornings now for my father to light a fire in the kitchen woodstove, so we all come downstairs and crowd around the woodstove drinking our tea in the mornings instead of missing each other on our ways out the door.  

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Gap Year Glory

This is not where I'm going.... yet
Unlike the rest of my friends (well, most of them), I’m waiting a year before heading off to college.  This is partially because I’m young for my grade, and partially because I want to see the world and get a chance to figure things out before I cross the country and leave my family behind for a dorm room and classes.  This also means I have more time on my hands – time to read some of this and watch some of this and spend time with my family before going away.  It’s also pretty cool to be out in the real world and away from the type-A world of college preparatory school.  Right now I’m taking a class at the Harvard Extension School, volunteering with this group and soon I’ll be working with these guys.   I’m pretty excited, but it’s also definitely weird to be out of school and all by myself for the first time ever.  Haere mai.  
(image via the Reed website)