Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Staying True to Roots - A Challenge?! Or a Given?!

Or “A rose by any other name…”

More from The Diaper Club’s Journals

One of the many reasons for which I love my faith is the many rituals, and traditions we have associated with it. Nothing is ever done randomly, nothing is ever an accident. Everything has a purpose, and a significance, and to me that makes the Orthodox tradition so rich. Whether you truly believe in these things, or not, it matters little to me. Just the rite of it all gives purpose to each service, and curiosity to what’s next.

One of the downsides to these rites, superstitions, and more-or-less layman’s believes associated with the church is that every church, every village, every county, every family has slightly different rituals and slightly different understandings of these “add-ons”…

And nothing is more confusing, I found, than trying to respect or align all these into a church that’s thousands of miles away from home…

I christened my nephew this weekend, and the service was held in a Romanian Orthodox church called “Inaltarea Domnului” or “The Ascension” in Montreal. I am not sure where the priest is from, originally, what part of Romania that is, but judging by his accent he’s not from the far North East where we’re from. That right there is a first sign that what he believes and what we believe will be different, in terms of ritual, not faith proper. Then, there will be the Canadian imposed “rules”, which surely have changed since the church has moved in North America, several years ago …

Before the Christening, I was completely confused: some of my sister’s friends, who have baptized their children in various Romanian churches here, in Canada, were advising me of certain rituals that I am supposed to attend to, as a Godmother; my own mother was advising me of others, and everyone was butting heads, as none of what we knew or thought we knew matched what everyone around us was telling us:

I was supposed to come to church not only with the baby, but a candle, and ribbon (the longer the ribbon, the longer my nephew’s life), but also a towel for Patrick, my nephew, a towel for the priest, an Orthodox icon to be blessed, or was it a cross according to some?, or a Bible, according to others?, wine, and flour (for wine and bread, Jesus’s blood and body), or was it wine and oil (for wine and myrrh) … soap for the priest …

Others were advising that we need also money, but no one agreed on the amount and who would be responsible for giving it and to whom? Is it the mother and dad that pay to have the child christened? Or the Godmother? Is it $150 or $250? Does the priest take it all, or are the altar boys and the choir entitled to some?

And so forth …

And so we called the priest and played dumb! And the list from the priest was as follows: candle, white or blue (he’s a boy) ribbon (“1 meter long”, the priest said – I guess the priest figured a 1 meter worth of life would be long enough – I brought him 1.5m just to make sure), soap, towel for priest, white towel or cotton sheet for baby, new clothes, olive oil (none of that vegetable, canola crap: after all, in Israel back when Jesus walked the earth there surely was none of that!!) , red sweet wine (when we take communion in my church we don’t fuss around with grape juice, thank you very much; Jesus said wine at the Last Supper, we have wine, by Goodness! And I guess it must be sweet so kids can enjoy it too), a cross on a chain, to be blessed, so the baby will have something to protect him for life, and $150 for the christening charge. As you can imagine: all the “gratuities” were not included.

I was responsible to buy and bring all of the above, except for the gratuities. Since we’re in the family, we split the responsibilities, and my sister and brother in law came up with those.

And we thought we were set! We had the list complete, the baby ready, fed, rested and well … and we headed to church. We never even thought of that the most important thing, um… the name of the baby, would be cause of controversy as well! We never thought twice that what his parents chose for months, what was in all his official papers, from hospital discharge papers to birth certificate and social security card, was going to be an issue!

As the Godmother, I held the baby throughout the service, and every page the priest turned with his reading, he would bow to me and ask: “Are you sure we’re staying JUST with the name ‘Patrick’??” – “Yes, Father!” was my answer. “Just ONE name?” – “Yes, Father!” – “And it is ‘Patrick’??” – he’d add in awe and somewhat disbelief like he didn’t like it … And my relentless “Yes, Father!” would follow.

As you can imagine “Patrick” is not a Romanian name. My sister picked a name that would be OK in Romanian but also would be perfectly easy and convenient for the part of the world where he’d be raised and go to school. They have a very odd and hard to spell and pronounce family name, so she thought a more Western (French and English) first name would be in order. Plus, Patrick is a strong, full of tradition and history, Catholic, Irish name and she loves and respects that culture as well, so it was perfect!

When the priest saw that he had no luck with me, he turned to the parents. He told them point blank that they must pick a “more Romanian name, something to be associated with a Saint, and something to remind Patrick of his true origins”. He assured them the ‘Romanian’ name would be for religious and baptismal purposes only, it will never go to his paperwork, and that will be a name given to him in front of God, it would be sort of a blessed, holy name.

My brother in law laughed, politely, and said: “His name is Patrick, Father!”. My sister’s the impressionable one, and whispered to her husband: “Honey, what about Stefan?” – which is “Stephen” in Romanian. My brother in law sent daggers out of his eyes and said to her : “Absolutely NOT!”. She tried further: “But it won’t be in papers”…. The priest waited with his back towards us, as I was holding the sleeping angel Patrick in between the feuding parents and the awaiting priest, while my brother in law turned to my sister for the last time: “NO!”. The priest turned, question in his eyes: “Well??” – I said: “ One name, Father. Patrick”. And the service went on.

And Patrick it will be. Mom was annoyed as well, as she reminded us that the Romanian Orthodox calendar mentions Saint Patrichie, which is the Romanian for “Patrick” of course, on May 19th, and that should be his guardian saint and “church” name. That was also the day Patrick was brought home for the first time from the NICU, so that is so fitting.

The following day, after the Sunday service, I took the new Christian to have his first communion and to be taken into the Altar (a privilege only boys have in my faith) by the priest. After the lengthy service (that Sunday we celebrated another feast, of St. Pantelimon, the Healer) the priest came to the podium and along with a long list of demands from the crowd he went into a 10 minute rant about how beautiful the story of St. Pantelimon is, and what an honor for those who have that name, and also how he doesn’t understand how immigrant parents in Canada are already forgetting their roots, and not naming children by Romanian saint names, like tradition orders. And how un-holy of us, immigrant parents, to encourage the children to forget their roots.

My brother in law, who is known for his sarcasm and ability to turn anything into a big joke, now calls his son Patrick-Stefan-Pantelimon, to make the priest, his mother and all the Archangels happy!

Of course, you can argue this in 1000 different ways! But I have a firm belief that we’re all God’s children. And as Patrick will come to God, in pure thought, prayer and with humility, things which only we as parents and family can teach and encourage, he will receive God’s blessing whether his name will be Patrick, or Jimmy, or Bottleneck! It doesn’t matter … I think …

And trust me, with two Romanian speaking parents, 40 Romanian speaking friends of the family and two Romanian families, it does not matter where he’ll live: as long as he has all of that around him, he will never forget he’s Romanian. I can make sure of that!

For God’s sake, this child will be raised on borsch and mamaliga, on sarmale and mici, while his pals at school will eat burgers and hotdogs – you REALLY think he won’t know where his roots are??? Doubtful!

God bless you, my love, and I know you’ll make that name proud!

Pictures here:

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The Only Cover I’ll Ever Be On

So, The Diaper Club Journals continue…

In less than 48 hours, I will see my new nephew. Finally. He’s been born almost 3 months ago , and since then I have been holding my heart in my hand, trying not to let it escape and fly on its own to Canada …

It’s amazing what a little bundle of life, scream-age and whims can make you do! Silly things, like talk to the computer screen in the night, and buy things you’ve never thought of buying, like 14 kinds of receiving blankets, because you’re not sure which one he’d like the best, or 30 onsies, because you’re not sure which one his momma’s gonna like, or 50 pairs of socks, because surely, he needs that many … and so forth…

And I don’t even know him yet! When I do get to hold him, and worse yet, when he’s going to talk to me and tell me what he likes, wishes, wants, it will probably be time for a second job to entertain his wish list . Anything for Patrick! That’s for sure … Just half kidding on the second job, though.

This weekend, we’ll both share another milestone: I’ll get to make him a Christian. I know that doesn’t mean much for the non-believers out there, but to me, whom I have been close to God all my life, and whom I owe everything I am today to Him it means that this is the biggest gift I get to ever give him! Or at least that I think I am ever able to give him!

No matter how many pairs of socks and how many gadgets he’ll get from me in a lifetime, no matter how many trips I’ll take him on, with his mom’s and dad’s approval, of course, no matter how many books I’ll read to him, or how many scratches and scrapes I’ll get to tend to, I could never, ever make him a better, more profound and everlasting gift than introducing him to God.

I am so excited, I am about to have a heart attack.

I have been a Godmother before, about 11 years ago (that shows my age), but I shared that duty with 3 other people. But this time, I am alone, in front of the priest, and God. And he’s my first nephew, and the first born in my family, and I feel like the whole weight of the world is resting on me. I just hope I am worthy of the job!

My favorite teacher emailed me the other day and she asked what I think am I going to feel when I’ll hold him, in church, naked, in front of God. My first nephew. The only son of my only sister?! I was paralyzed with emotion. It’s a daunting job, and like I said: I hope and pray I am up for it …

I love him already, that much I know. And I am proud and moved that I was given this “job”, and I was chosen to lead him this way. I will pray for him, till he’ll be able to pray himself; I will pray with him, when he’ll be able to pray on his own. And I hope he will pray for me, when I will be gone and not able to pray for myself. And in the meantime, I’ll try to show him life, and happiness, the only way I know how: in freedom, and with love. I will teach him honesty, and strength, and how he has everything in his own self, he just needs to be quiet enough to listen and find it out. And that is a promise and a commitment. I will teach him about life, and its beauty, and about God, and how graceful and giving He is, although sometimes, through hidden ways.

Of course, he’ll always have his parents. But I am proud to share the “job” with them.

Surely, they will give him not only the inherent gift of genetics, and day-to-day upbringing, and they are plenty gifted there, not only will they give him unlimited love, and care; but I am happy they chose me to give him some gifts of the soul, too. And some of the mind, too – I hope.

I am also honored to share the “cover” with them, in the birth and baptism announcement they put together … And I will wear that cover (can I say that??) proud. After all, it might be the only one I’ll ever be on.

I took my name out of this picture, but as you can imagine, it was under the “Godmother” portion. I am just not sure why it says “tell all”. I am not telling anyone anything. I will just be numb with emotion, and too much love and awe …

For more Patrick pics, click here:

And wish me luck ...

Monday, July 21, 2008

Office Anti-Perks, or The Disgruntled Bathroom Goer

Warning: this can be offensive to some

I have unique friends. They make me laugh. They make me cry. They never make me wonder why I am their friend. It's simple: they're unique. And I take that over boredom any day of the week.

Until recently, I thought only I and my good friend C., can enjoy crude, "bathroom humor", we call it . But as I have discovered, my other friend, A., is joining in as a new (to me) and keen observer of the daily routine in such a mundane place as our own office bathrooms.

Just like C. and me, A. is also a Landmark employee, and his observations on their bathroom situation in VA are poignant while hysterical.

With the hope that I can make some of you smile... I am posting his latest update about their office bathroom and his amusing, but also desperate plea for a change.

And my own add-on: after reading both C's and A's bathroom diaries, I must admit: I never knew boys were so complicated! I always figured they were just meant by God to forever pee against a tree... It so happens they can be so very picky about their "private rooms"...

Who whoudavthunkit??

Here he follows:

We have the most messed-up men’s room situation.

Way back, eons and eons ago, when they flew me out here to interview and see the place, the physical assets of the building turned me off right away. My fold office, before I moved to VA, had a “nice” feel about. It was a 100-year-old building too, but it had been updated nicely. We had nice cubes, nice public areas, nice workspaces, I had a nice office, the restrooms were spacious and modern and, well “nice”. In VA things were old, tired and worn out. R., my soon-to-be-boss at the time apologized about how sad things looked and indicated that a remodel was coming in a few months – in fact one of my first assignments, should I chose to accept it, would be to shop for and select the new furniture for the newsroom. He particularly apologized for the men’s room.

Yes, bathrooms are the places where we do our dirty business. They’re not vacation villas. That much I know (even though my dad’s sister once went into the wrong restroom at the mall and mistook the urinal for a special hand-washing sink...and the urinal cake for a bar of soap). But this facility was not only dirty but dangerous.

There were tiles missing from the ceiling so that you could peer upward many long and lonely feet. I’m sure that late at night the bats would escape through those gaping holes in the ceiling to nibble the hair on the men seated below (fortunately, being fur-challenged, I never had an incident...but I heard the stories!).

The room had the feeling that it had once been used for something else and that adding toilets and sinks was some sort of emergency measure...mandated by some far-away pagan deity. Everything was crammed in there. Six toilet stalls for example where only four should be placed. The frames around the doors were so broken and out of alignment that the doors either wouldn’t close or if they came close, they wouldn’t latch. One got very clever using sophisticated postures to keep the door closed whilst taking care of personal business (particularly difficult of the stresses of the day called for an afternoon quick-jerk).

The plumbing leaked, too. From minor drips to the occasional Niagara burst, we had it all. You could almost always count on the floor being slippery and wet...all the while hoping it was just good old H20 and not the offcast of vision-impaired senior men.

Soap? You want soap? We had no soap dispensers. Instead, cakes of bar soap. Six sinks, too. SIX! Cheek-by-jowl as they say. Too many, too close. But there only ever seemed to be a single bar of soap. And it was wet and soft and small. And who wants to use a bar of soap in a situation like that? No me, I’m here to tell ya! Talk about a cootie farm!

Of the six aforementioned toilet partitions, only three had functional toilet paper dispensers. So if you were a visitor and not well-versed in second-floor men’s room navigation, you could easily find yourself in a messy situation. Of those that remained, they were of some odd 1950s vintage...originally made of NASA-designed plastic. Over time the plastic had become brittle and cracked and broken...leaving razor-sharp edges poking out hither and yon. I don’t mind confessing that my thighs were more than once bloodied and scraped by those gnawing guards-of-the-roll.

Speaking of paper, if you wanted to dry your hands, you had better hope you were using the facilities shortly after what’s-her-bucket the cleaning lady had visited. Otherwise the tiny and precarious “shelf” that held a small supply of folded towels would be a vast wasteland and you’d be left to shake your hands in the air like a giddy Valley Girl or you’d do a quick wipe-down on your trousers.

One of the stalls, the first you encountered upon entering, was for the use of the handicapped. Wider, deeper and with hand-rails, it was intended to be helpful to those in a wheelchair. Only it wasn’t even the same width as a wheelchair! Once I saw a poor kid desperately try to get in there but it was clear the chair wasn’t going to fit. Upon my thusly observation he left the chair outside and hobbled in to take care of his business. Humiliation was added to his humiliation.

This restroom is in a public part of the building...near where advertising customers and visitors to the newsroom traverse. So members of the public were joyfully received by this horrendous facility. Many such visitors have bags, briefcases, papers – the accouterments of business. But where might they place such articles while needing both hands free? On the wet floor of course!

My final observation would be around the dozens (hundreds perhaps) of missing tiles on the floor. Big, gaping holes, revealing concrete, lint and traces of The Plague, littered the floor. Catch the toe of your shoe on such a precipice and you could be getting your next drink from the current plumbing leak.

Ancient history you say! Surely, A. whines about pre-2000 conditions! Certainly enlightened management has since corrected these ills!

Well, recently, even with the horrible budget situation, they announced that the facility would be totally remodeled and brought up to standard. The penis-toting population of our building rejoiced! Furthermore, the powers that be decided to solicit feedback from the employees about what should be done since it was to be a “total remodel”. Being a proactive and solution-minded individual, I submitted the following very helpful suggestions:

*) Five toilets instead of six...use the space evenly so each stall has plenty of room...and so the handicapped stall will accommodate a wheelchair.

*) Build a shelf system with some hooks so people have a place to put their “stuff” and jackets and the like.

*) Cut the number of sinks in half – there are too many and they’re too close.

*) Install liquid soap dispensers.

*) Install a couple of paper-towel dispensers.

*) Install a couple of trash cans (oh, I can’t believe I forgot to mention that the only trash receptacle before was a hole in the wall with a garbage bag in Dave Barry would say, I’M NOT MAKING THIS UP! The hole in the wall was so ragged that the trash bag was always ripped and torn, thus all kinds of incredibly nasty stuff leaked out into the wall cavity).

I learned from colleagues that my ideas were not unique.

So a little while back the room was closed. Off limits. Need to “go”? ”Go” to another floor. Men came. Men left. Noises were made. Dust was raised. Equipment came. Equipment went. Time went on. Days passed. Weeks passed. The room was locked up each night. Months passed.

Ta Da! Without ceremony the room was reopened.

Now what do we have? Well, remember those gaps in the floor where the tile was missing? They poured Plaster-O-Paris or something in those. Looks like a big old turd dried up in the gap. And after only a few weeks, that patch job is now breaking loose.

Remember the leaking plumbing? Well, it still drips and leaks. But everything has been replaced with battery-operated automatic flushers! And they like to “automatically flush” while you’ve got your ass parked on the seat...mid-deposit so to speak! For your convenience of course.

Oh, and they replaced the partitions!! But they put them in the exact same place on the same they’re a different color but still don’t work.

Oh, but I shouldn’t complain. Because every stall now has a toilet paper dispenser! Yea! Mounted about six inches off the ground so you have to bend over and reach below your line of site. And reach UPWARDS, into the mystery cavern inside the dark, smoky plastic device, to try and find the tail of paper (and Buddha help you if it’s a fresh roll and that tail is still glued down!). And of course after a few hours you’re successful in gaining possession of the tail and you yank with glee...only to have three tiny, single-ply squares of 180-grit sandpaper break off in your grip...not nearly the manly-sized wad any good American needs.

But we did get soap dispensers. Foam soap dispensers. They are battery-operated, too (I hope they included battery-replacement in their budget). And they eject the tiniest little “splurtz” of foam. It takes about eight such “splurtzes” to even think about cleaning anything (I’m one of three employees who washes his hands). But it’s on a timer so you have to stick your paw under the electronic eye, wait two seconds, remove paw, wait two seconds, and repeat.

And because our company cares about our health and the spread of Bird Flu, they turned off the cold water. Because as you know, washing with cold water doesn’t kill the bugs. So they welded the cold-water taps shut, BUT DIDN’T TELL ANYONE! So until you’re clued in, you bust a wrist trying to get cold water...for refreshing your face for example on a smeltzy day like today. And the hot is hot...autoclave hot! Cook the beans hot!

I guess that’s about it. We can still see the bats, still don’t have a place to put papers and jackets and those auto-flushers flush the night away, even when nobody’s home.

Boss: “A., where have you been, the meeting started 45 minutes ago!”

A.: “I was taking a piss.”

Boss: “Oh, sorry, I completely understand....”

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Debt Pictures: DC

A couple of weeks back, not quite, I have posted a piece about the Washington, DC trip, but I still owe the pictures to all.
Here's the link:

A Thought on Technology … Again

Dali once said : “Don't bother about being modern. Unfortunately it is the one thing that, whatever you do, you cannot avoid.

I believe the same thing about technology. We cannot escape it: from the way we fill up our tanks, to the way we dial numbers from a pay phone anymore, to the way we work the credit card machines at WalMart, we are surrounded by it, and we would not make it through the day, had we not a clue how to use it.

I realized we cannot escape technology any longer, when about a month ago, my 58 year old aunt was … texting me at 2 AM from Paris. I realized that if a 58 year old Romanian woman can learn how to … text of all things, and she is bright enough to get an international roaming phone to be able to use it anywhere in the world, we cannot help but being … well… techy!

But there is a difference with me between need and obsession. I have a cell phone, a cable connection, internet, a desktop and a laptop (and a work laptop, so I guess I AM a victim of computers there, if you wish). I have a dvd player, digital camera, and a video camera, and dad is getting a dvd recording video camera for his birthday. I have an MP3 player, with 100 songs tops, and plenty happy with it.

I don’t have and I am not planning to get any of these any time soon: a flat screen tv, a blackberry, a palm pilot (are those outdated? – not sure!!), any sort of video game device, including a WII, an IPod nor its millions hook-ups, digital cable, a digital picture frame.

I am contemplating to get, maybe, if I wake up on the left side of the bed one morning, MAYBE: a dvd recorder -vhs combo, a digital camera that’s more than 3.2 MegaPixel, which is what I have now.

And yet, although most people around me have all these gadgets – some of which I have not even mentioned – I don’t feel deprived. I also don’t feel deprived (annoyed is what I am) when the random guy wants to “text” me (I am still having trouble using that word as a verb – but then again, I am a broken record here) and I tell him I don’t text. Then they look at me like I ate their steak, meaning: “What planet am I from??”. A planet where we like to meet and chat over dinner and a glass of wine – that’s what planet.

I feel pretty accomplished, and pretty happy without all the other “stuff”. And let me tell you, I have been fortunate to dine with princes and paupers. I have been to births and funerals of people who make anywhere between millions of dollars a year and minus thousands of dollars a year. I have seen families in laughter and in sorrow, from all walks of life. And at the very end of the day, or life, all that matters is humanity!

We all cry, and laugh the same. The pain is similar to all in all walks of life. What unites us all has been sown millions of years ago in each and every one of us, and we inherit it the minute we take our first breath. We cannot escape it, and we’re not going to find it at Best Buy. That, I know. What we do need is to attend to that: to what’s permanent, and to what’s human, and to what makes us whole as a being. The rest are just accessories.

So, with that said, I will keep jumping in my 2001 Toyota in search of that humanity rather than search of the next gadget; my Toyota with crank-up windows, and no remote power locks, I will keep using just 50 peak minutes a month on my cell, which has no camera, nor “texting” capabilities, to call for emergencies, and I will listen to my music on cd’s in my car, without the XM radio nor the mp3 player hooked up anywhere.

Now, maybe, just maybe, I might get a 12 MegaPixel camera to accompany me in my wanderings … But just maybe. In the meantime, I’ll just look for the perfect light, like Ansel Adams used to do!

This is a shot of the Capitol on my recent trip to DC. I really like it: it’s … unsettled but such a presence, much like me, lately…

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Hectic American Journey Continues - and More

Rachael Ray was right: at the end of a crazy day, after way too many people step on your nerves, the best thing you can do to relieve stress is to give a healthy whack to a clove of garlic. Some people want to head for the shooting range after a stressful day at the office. I come home and crush garlic cloves with a healthy whack.
It always works! Stress is gone, at the end of a fresh pot of soup!

Not that everyone really pisses me off lately, not really, anyway, but things have been quite hectic, with a house guest (my aunt) and more trips that I can handle and plenty of get-together's to plan or attend as well, on top of my full time job and regular routine ... In a nutshell - a busy summer. No, I am not complaining. Just wish I had 36 hour days, that's all.

A couple of weeks back, we took a trip to our Nation's Capital, and that was fantastic! It was packed with fun, and walking (man, I missed walking), and new and interesting things ...

I was complaining to a friend just before that trip that I indeed don't have a "good best friend", as Forrest Gump says about Bubba .... But in DC I found out I do have one. It's called a map. Any map that's well done and detailed enough to show you the way; even the one way streets . I managed not to get lost in DC, nor in MD and that was a huge milestone for me. And I drove everywhere. No Metro, and no buses. Just driving. Or walking - which was such a blessing. I had no one to direct me but my map and my common sense. I am still contemplating a GPS, however. I am even thinking that might come before the camera I desperately want! We'll see ...

I have blogged about DC before, so I won't do it now. I will only say this: everyone seems to visit The Mall, when they're there, and all the War memorials , which are great, of course ... But then they all get tired (or lazy) and walk JUST right up the reflecting pond in front of The Capitol, snatch a picture of the Capitol in the background and turn away from the City, calling that a trip. My advice: skip The White House - there is not much there anyhow, but instead ... walk PAST The Capitol and make it JUST behind it, to The Library of Congress! It's not a book deposit. It's "an art museum - as one of my friends so eloquently put it. It's amazing! It's like all Europe's museums got dumped into ONE and you're just lost in wonderment, like Alice in Wonderland in the middle of it. It's beautiful, tastefully done and exquisite. Thousands of tons of every color of marble you can think of, and mosaics, and tiles, and murals and tapestries ... So worth walking the extra block!

Another piece of advice: check out the ad-hoc exhibits in the tents at The Mall. They are sometimes more interesting than the museums themselves. We visited a Buddhist temple, complete with murals, music, monks, and altars with offerings, and we had some great Bhutanese food there as well ...

Visiting America for the first time, my aunt wanted to see anything and everything that is, well, American - so we went to the Museum of the American Indian. She then made me realize how Native Americans, to me, the "true Americans", are perceived across the world, when she said that she never knew the "Natives wore clothes". She's "always seen them naked in movies" (mostly American movies, so ... that says something about our own movie culture and the way they represent our history, don't you think?!). But she found out how intricate and how versatile their clothes and weavings are. She was blown away at how creative they were with their port. And how "well dressed". The museum is very well done and in a way emotional - to me, who has a soft heart for their story, it was, for the second time.

The weekend after the DC trip, we celebrated July 4th with everyone else . It was a fun-filled weekend, but somewhat incomplete because we missed the fireworks. They say we still need the rain. I would say: too much of even a good thing is still too much: I've had enough and it better stop. I am sick of driving in it already, every weekend!!

But the rain could not put a damper on our weekend. We celebrated America's Day the right way: grilled food, and lots of friends, funnel cake and Ben and Jerry's Downtown - what more could we want??

To extend the celebration of American life, we'll see a bluegrass concert this week. And this weekend, we're driving up to the Blueridge Parkway, another American staple.

And so the beat goes on. And thus my aunt's journey to America is almost coming to an end.
I hope I have contributed just an iota to her memories, and her understanding of this culture that has been so generous to adopt me.

I have been glad and proud I could share my adopted land with my blood family. It's an honorable feeling and another dream come true. Being the link between two worlds is so daunting, and so uplifting, such a privilege to live.

I hope everyone had a Happy and Safe Fourth!

Pictures from trips to be posted later, so check back.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Why I Prefer Cats to Humans

I got maced! Yes, for the first time ever. No, I am not kidding and no, I was not in the wrong spot at the wrong time, doing the wrong thing, as you would expect. Or was I?!

I was in fact enjoying a beautiful evening with my aunt and a couple of friends on the patio of Cafe Europa when all of sudden and completely out of nowhere, this misty cloud came over all of us on the patio and choked us to tears! Before it happened, we didn't hear anything. Didn't see anything. It seemed to have come from the street, as the people most affected were sitting at the tables closest to it. But there was no smoke, no exhaustion running. It was just a mysterious "puff" that pretty much choked us.

We never really confirmed that it was pepper spray, as most of us looked like the laid back, non-aggressive types that would not mess with such dangerous things on a boring Sunday afternoon, but after a quick poll of the crowd and after gagging and choking, and the painful burning sensation of all our air passages, we agreed it could be nothing else.

I am not sure if you've ever experienced pepper spray, but it hurts! It stings like a poison! Your tongue gets all heavy and stings, your throat gets dry and also stings. Your eyes tear out of control, and the air you breathe is like burning fire going through your nostrils! It's horrible. You get light headed and you cannot breathe. The air becomes your worse enemy. I'll have to say: this stuff is effective when you want to incapacitate someone, but I would not spray it for fun.
It was also strange to see 20+ people gagging and choking and looking helplessly around for some answers. What needed to be a fun-filled evening and gathering turned fast in a desperate cry for help and gasping for air. It was eerie. Was this really happening?!

Now, that the pain is gone, and the dryness in my throat somewhat cured, I cannot help but wonder who in the world, would do such a thing and why in the world would they ?!? Is this town so boring that people need to come up with such cruel plans to entertain themselves?! Would it be better to move to a more happening town if you're THAT bored?! Is cruelty that rampant in our society? Why?! Whatever the reason, it was disappointing for the humankind, as far as I'm concerned.

I have lived here for close to 10 years, and Greensboro has always been a low key, friendly town. Downtown at midnight can be shady, but not at 8.30 PM on a summer night, the night before Fun Fourth kicks off and all people inundate it. No way. Definitely not at Cafe Europa, for sure!! It's a fine establishment, in Greensboro's Cultural Arts Center - a place that you would think is earthy enough and peace-loving enough to keep such gratuitously violent people at bay ...

I have no idea who or why this happened, but it surely screwed up a beautiful night ... And you know I always welcome new and strange experiences, but I'd have to say: pepper spray is one I would gladly pass!