Darkness in Paradise

I read something today about being in darkness. It struck me. “Fall in love with the moon”, it said.

There is beauty all around. Not only in the obvious breathtaking views and warm, easygoing island lifestyle. But also in the scariest of the snakes and spiders, in the depths of the lonely jungle, and in the spaces in cultural differences.

My 8 year old daughter Leila says to me that the Gods live in her heart, but that the demons do too. Underneath the Gods. So I tell her that they all need space, the angry, disgusted, jealous, and sad beings too, just as the joyful, kind, and pleasant ones do.


I can’t wait to attend what I can of Richard Freeman and Mary Taylor’s retreat at Samahita this March and April. Richard often tells us stories from Indian mythology. He tells the story of the churning of the oceans, of the gods (devas) and the demons (asuras).

The gods and the demons battle to get the amrita (nectar of immortality) out of the oceans of milk. They churn one of Shiva’s serpents, Vasuki, around Mount Mandara. Vishnu advices the devas to hold on to the tail side of the snake, the proud asuras choose the head.  The demons being at the head side of the serpent inhaled poisonous fumes that Vasuki the serpent breathed out and they were weakened.

The two sides pull back and forth around mount Mandara which collapses in the middle of the story due to the incredible strength used, and is quickly held up by an incarnation of Vishnu – Kurma (the great turtle).

The gods and the demons churn like they would butter. A number of things came out of this process, including haalahala a devastating poison, amrita the nectar of immortality, the goddess Lakshmi, Chandra the moon, Dhanvatari the physician of the Gods and so on.

The gods and the demons prayed to Shiva to save them from the poison – the haalahala. Shiva took it into his mouth and held it in his throat. He didn’t swallow it. It was so strong that his neck turned blue. Hence one of Shiva’s names is Neelakantha (blue throated one).

The gods and the demons faught over the the amrita (nectar of immortality). Vishnu in the form of Mohini the enchantress tricks the asuras to obtain it and distributes it to the devas.

The devas needed the asuras to obtain the amrita. The asuras needed the devas. There is constant churning going on in our inner lives. And it is needed to progress, to evolve.

With proper guidance and good choices, understanding, compassion and love can come out of this inner work.

There’s a larger than life size statue depicting this story in the Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok!


The Magical Unicorns: A Poem by Leila Rose Kassar

She sat on the bed and was rehearsing something. All of a sudden she recited this poem of hers. Leila is quite the dramatic one!

Proud mummy moment:

A poem by Leila Rose Kassar


The Magical Unicorns

High above the ground,
I sailed.
Helplessly. Helplessly.
Floating along in my abandoned boat.
Help! Help!
In the blink of an eye,
They appeared.

Elegantly flying across the sky.
But, what were they?
Gracefully spreading magic
Through the air.
As serene as a moonlit river,
Like rays in the water.
Their horns,
Colourful, magical, and glittery.

I didn’t know where I was going,
Yet, I didn’t care.


A Reason Not to Die

Lelia: Why your tattoo is still there after you shower?
Me: Because it’s a real one. It will never go away.
Leila: Even when you die?
Me: Yeah, even when…
Leila: But I don’t want to die. I want to see snow.
Me: Oh really, you want to see snow? You will probably be able to see snow one day.
Leila: I want to make snow with white paint on black paper.


Leila just waking up: Mama. In my dream I had up slippers (high heels). And they were lighting up every time I walk.

How time till I can have real up slippers?

Waaaa Waaaaa, I want up slippers.

Me: Well, don’t you complain about your neck hurting, and your legs hurting?

She nods.

Me: High heels would only make it worse. (We go through the high heels discussion many times a week.)

Rahul wakes up.

Leila: In Rahul’s dream he had a ball.

Rahul: No I didn’t have a ball.

Leila: Yes he had a ball.

Me: You mean in your dream Leila, Rahul had a ball?

Leila: In my dream I had up slippers and Rahul had a ball.

This morning –

Leila waking up: In my dream
I was eating a cake. And then I see’d teta (grandma in Arabic) maked a chocolate cake. With insects on it.

Me: Oh really, was it yummy?

Rahul: I like chocolate.

Leila: Nooo, it wasn’t yummy.

Related: Cinderella Shoe Trend: DSW, Louboutin Take on Princess Heels


“Can I have a up slippers and a dress like this little girl?”

A Doctor and a Dragon (part 2)

To explain where stories come from, we helped Leila and Rahul make their own mini-books. I transcribed their stories.

Natasha Visits Dr. Leila
by Leila

Doctor Leila goes for a walk.She goes to the nurse’s house.
The nurse goes to Dr. Leila’s house.
They do a blood test for Natasha.
They check Natasha’s heart. (L and R both demand I draw a heart on this page!)
They heard dook dook, dook dook, dook dook.
Then they checked her lungs.
Dr. Leila and the nurse sent Natasha home.
Natasha became better.



The Dragon and the Princess
by Rahul

Once upon a time there was a princess who was stuck in the dragons cave.
And one dragon said, “Who is here?
The dragons blow fire at her.
She called the prince. He faught the dragons with his sword.
The dragons threw fire on the prince as well.
The dragons left the cave.



by Rahul

Once upon a time there was a dragon and a princess.
The dragon blew fire on the prince and princess.
Then suddenly, the nice fairy appears and fights with the dragon.
And the dragon flew away.



Nemo the Shark
by Rahul

Nemo the shark bites everyone. But he is scared of the dragon.
One day Nemo met the dragon in his house! (R: Mama put an excamashun mark)
The dragon blew fire on Nemo. It hurt a lot. (R: draw a dragon here. Blowing fire. – I managed a dragon brontosaurus dog with whiskers blowing a sock.)






Translating Bullshit into Bullshit

Rahul and Leila chopping play dough vegetables.

Maher: Qu’est ce que tu cuisine Leila?

Leila: Uhhh, I’m cooking mothika.

Maher: Ah bon. C’est quoi “mothika”?

Leila: Papa, ummm, en francais c’est lita.

Wemember Me

First day back in Chengdu after a month.

Leila hesitates before descending a slope.

Leila: Mum. [Re] Member me, I fall down here?

Me: How the hell did you remember that? I remember Leila!  A few months ago, you fell down this steep slope.

Leila: I cry mummy.

Me: You’re bigger now. You can do it this time.


Maher buys bread at a bakery / café. We wait outside, with Rahul asleep in the stroller.

Leila: [Re] Member me, yesterday, I eat cake with you here. Inside.

Me: Oh yes now I remember! You and I came here one afternoon.  Many months ago.  We shared a piece of cake.  You chose it.  We sat there. (I point at the corner table.)

Leila: Big cushion, mama.

Me: Yes that’s right! We put a big cushion on the chair so you could reach the plate.

Leila: No Wrahul, No papa.

Me: That’s right, it was just the two of us. You and me together.  Rahul was at home with papa.  And before we left, you chose a cake for them.  And the ayi
(aunt – lady behind the counter), packed it in a box.


As we walk by our favorite Japanese restaurant.

Leila: Hey mum! Wemember me, Wrahul, you, papa, Imad, Pascaline, Liu Yan, Marwan go here to eat. We sit down. We eat a lot.

Me: Yes my love, we ate here many times. We sat together and ate lots of noodles, fish, and spinach.

Leila: Many times.


Leila looks at the weighing scale.

Leila: Wemember me, I baby, I lie down here. And Rahul also.

Maher: Oui, bien sur mon bebe, je me rapelle!

Leila: Wrahul cwy, Leila cwy.

Maher: Oui c’est vrai, quand vous etiez tout petits vous pleuriez quand on vous pesait.


At a fountain in our housing complex.

Leila: You wemember me, Leila and Wrahul sitting here, on the step. Wrahul stick. Leila eating.

Me: Yes I remember baby girl. You were sitting next to each other. Rahul was playing with a stick.