9 Years and Moving to the Beat

9 years ago today Maher and I got married. In Montreal. We were amidst close family and friends – a party we won’t forget.

Guajira – I Love U 2 Much

Dandia RaasThere was dancing – from barefoot in the rain with Yerba Buena at the jazz fest, the garba and dandiya raas non-stop night, to the gypsy band “Soleil Tzigane” who used to play Friday and Saturday’s at Cafe Sarajevo, what used to be my hangout while we long distanced. We were thrilled that the musicians accepted to do our reception.

Ederlezi – Goran Bregovic (First dance)

I can’t just grab a photo that represents the occasion from my phone’s camera roll or off FB, our wedding photos are stuffed into a steel box in Chengdu. Hard copy.

Together koh samui

4 moves, a few mistakes, a stroke, IVF, NICU time, Leila and Rahul, long distance all over again on, and we continue to sneak moments together, learn about each other, grow in our relationship, listen to each other more intently, accept each other more sincerely, continue to compromise, let go, and love more deeply.

At least that’s what we try to do anyway. And hope for more years together.


Waiting for Cafe Sarajevo to say Good bye.


It was when Maher and I lived in Lebanon that I started to attend yoga classes on a regular basis. It went from 1 session a week, to 3, then 5, and eventually up to 7 or 8.

I started at the Sivananda Centre, two doors down from my flat in Gemmayze. It was interesting, and gave my knees and ankles a break; it seemed to strengthen and balance out the damage that my other physical activities were causing. But the Sivananda didn’t manage to captivate my wandering, hyper-active mind and body.

A few months later, I heard about a 4 day Jivamukti workshop hosted at the Sivananda Centre. It was taught by a couple of teachers from New York. I managed to get into the last session. The room was packed. The yoga was HARD. Halfway through the two hours, my clothes were soaked in sweat. The teachers talked about alignment, the flow of breath and movement. We did related postures in sequences that reminded me of dance; and played with some of the wilder poses. I was challenged. And immediately hooked.

It turned out that the woman who organised the workshop was one of their students, and that she’d just moved back to Beirut from NY. So that’s how I met Dani Abisaab. One of my first teachers. It took me a few more months to get to one of her classes, but once I did, I stalked her around Beirut. She beamed me a smile every time I entered the room. I was welcome in her space. I focused on every word she said, and I paced my countless after-class questions so as not to annoy her! She was never phased. Always calm. Under control. I was sure she could hear my mad inner thoughts screaming and running around.

Much later, Dani started a Sunday evening class at the Sivananda Centre. Of course, I was there every weekend.

My Mondays were no longer as daunting as they’d been all my life.

That’s when on some days of the week, I took 2 classes a day. I kept up with some Sivananda, and even some Ashtanga Vinyasa with different teachers.

When I left Lebanon at the beginning of 2006, to join Maher who’d already moved to China a few months prior, I made a pit stop in Mysore. By then I’d already decided to focus on Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga.

Dani’s challenging, well-prepared, interesting and informative Vinyasa classes were a solid base both for that, and for my Teacher Training later that year.

After years of being out of touch, we’ve recently discovered each others blogs. Check out hers: Yogaholic. http://danielleabisaab.blog.com

While she is back in NY attending yet another Teacher Training, she’s kindly hosting one of my posts: “Jet-Lagged in Montreal”. http://danielleabisaab.blog.com/2012/01/18/jet-lagged-in-montreal-2/

Three Cheers for Family: A Guest Post by Maro Adjemian

As part of the series : A Monday Morning Guest Post in Multicultural Mothering

Maro: I speak English, French, Spanish (although it’s getting rusty), and not as much Italian as I should. I grew up in small towns not far from Ottawa, first on the Quebec side and then on the Ontario side, but my background and extended family reach from Armenia to Hawaii. My husband, Eric, was born in Montreal to Italian parents. He speaks English, French, Italian (although he denies it, since he doesn’t think his grandparents’ dialect counts), and a bit of Spanish.

We have a baby girl, Myriam, who was born in March 2011. She’s working on her consonants these days- baba, dada, ida, lida, nana… but I’m not sure which language, exactly. I’m not sure she knows, either.

Three Cheers for Family

Yesterday, Myriam and I went to visit her Nonno (grandfather in Italian).  He came to the door to let us in, and immediately bent down to see M in her stroller.

“Myriam! Come stai?”

She beamed and waved her arms in excitement.

He plucked her out of her stroller and peeled her snowsuit off of her, tossed her up in the air a few times while she shrieked with joy, and then handed her an orange to play with. She was delighted.  As an afterthought, he said, “Hi, Maro, how are you?”  M didn’t even look at me. She was engrossed in her orange.

My father-in-law retired this year, just in time to become an eager and available babysitter.  He took fine arts in University once upon a time, and used to do ceramics. He still has his potter’s wheel and equipment, and a couple of years ago he gave me pottery lessons at my request. Now, we go and visit once a week. M hangs out with her Nonno, and I work on my pottery. It’s a win-win-win arrangement. I’m not sure who enjoys their time together more: M or Nonno. And I treasure the couple of hours a week I have to spin a wheel and get lost in my thoughts without worrying about my baby. It’s nice to have an opportunity to zone out and completely lose track of time in the way artistic creation allows you to do.

I grew up 5000 kilometers away from all four of my grandparents, so I never had the sort of relationship with them that my daughter has with hers. We wrote letters to them, and spoke on the phone, and once a year they came and visited us or we went and visited them. I always felt close to my extended family. I never really thought about what a difference it would make if we lived close by.

I never really expected my kids to live close to their grandparents, either. As a child, I used to proudly tell people that on my father’s side of the family there had been one immigration per generation for the past four generations. People would ask me, “And will you continue the trend and be the fifth generation to emigrate somewhere?” and I would reply, “probably”.  I used to flip through my parents’ National Geographic collection and dream about all the places I could go.  When we were little, my brother and I played a game with our globe. We took turns spinning it as fast as we could, and then letting one finger drag on its surface as it turned. Wherever that finger landed when the globe stopped spinning is where we would live.  Often, of course, we ended up living in the Pacific Ocean. But many other possibilities also presented themselves.

A decade or so later I went to University and studied International Development, and then Geography. I assumed I would end up living somewhere in Africa or Latin America, at least for a few years. It’s funny how life happens to you. You take one step after another as they present themselves, and you often end up somewhere very different from where you expected to find yourself. I read somewhere once that life is like “stepping stones in the fog”. You only see one at a time, and you step forward not knowing where the trail of stepping stones will lead you in the end.

And so here I am, living in a Canadian city where I have spent most of the past twelve years, surrounded by extended family. Almost all of E’s family lives in Montreal, and in the past couple of years my parents and two sisters moved here. Myriam sees her entire extended family on a very regular basis and she’s only 8 months old. And I think it’s great. It’s convenient and wonderful to have excited and available family members around who can babysit when I need to do something or go somewhere baby-less. After Myriam was born they filled up our fridge with good food and helped clean our apartment. When we visit them, they play with her and give E and I a chance to eat dinner uninterrupted. The traditional family support system makes a lot of sense.

When I thought about being the fifth generation of immigration in my family, I thought mostly about the benefits of living in another part of the world. The richness of leaning different languages and getting to know other people and cultures, as many of you guest posters have talked about.  I didn’t think about the richness of living surrounded by family in a familiar place and culture. Right now I’m happy to be here, both for the extra help and support it gives us, and because of the relationship my little one can have with her doting extended family.

The Montreal Stories Continue…

Our one week trip to Montreal last September continues to inspire my blog posts. The most recent is a story, “Jet-Lagged in Montreal”, of our adventures in and around the city’s night spots.
It’s hosted at “Momma Be Thy Name”; my first ever Guest Post, and it features a drawing by Liu Yan! I hope you can drop by when you have the chance.


(Chinese internet police have still got WordPress. I continue to access my dashboard via a proxy server; hence the typed out link.)

A Walk down a Montreal Memory Lane

(I started this about a month ago, immediately after the walk; and worked on it again over the last few days.)

The sun rose a few hours after we arrived in Montreal. As everyone went back to sleep for the early morning, I got R, and L into their stroller and headed out for a walk.

We went up Redpath and took a right on Dr. Penfield. The silence was stunning. Not one of us made a sound for many long minutes. We listened to the wind blowing through the trees, and to the birds chirping.

When we got to the statue of the two goats head to head, in front of the Stewart Biological sciences building I broke the spell. L and R would have to hear a part of our story here, at McGill.

Maher and I met on a snowy winter day at the indoor running track in the gym. He was running and I was on crutches. A mutual friend introduced us. I was there to support Sarah and her team in their indoor soccer game. Maher loves to tell the next bit of the story. In his version, our mutual friend Assad and he invited Sarah and me to join them for dinner. We didn’t show.

L and R didn’t hear that part of the story. It was a little simpler. They now know that I spent many hours and months in the Biology building, behind the goats that attracted their attention.

We kept going along Dr. Penfield, past the law building, the reservoir, past the Shatner building (which might have a new name now?), the McLennan and Redpath library where we spent many days, even nights during the exam period. They were tired, but itching to get out and play. I was excited by how easy it is to find soft green spots to hang out it on. We stopped to play with the birds and squirrels on the grassy patch right in front of the Macdonald Engineering building. A had a sudden flash-back memory of children playing there. Now I realise why. It’s the fenced-off only park area on the lower campus. I needed to contain the two children because I was alone, and they were in a discovering mood. The spaces around us seemed expansive.

Back to the story… They learnt that Maher studied in the Engineering building across from our little park. It was also close to where we were playing that Maher broke into loud song one day, before defending his honour’s thesis. He told Sarah and me that singing Oum Kulsum was the only way he could control his nerves. I was a little self-conscious at first, but then his beautiful, strong voice mesmerized me. I forgot all the students and teachers walking by, hanging out, and looking at us. I think a number of them sent him smiles.

I remember waiting for him on the stairs right across from the park we were playing in, ready to celebrate after his last exam ever.

L and R chased squirrels and pigeons in the wet, grassy area. They were intrigued by two squirrels that weaved around each other as they scurried up a tree. When one of them came back down and approached us, R waved, “allo”. A passer-by wearing a black and white long-sleeve hooded, checkered shirt beamed a smile. “Hello,” he said, “and good morning!” I smile, wave back, and reply, “good morning.” I imagine he is returning home from one of the infamous after-hours club. By then the squirrel had run back up his tree.

It’s a stunning tree. The trunk split into three branches, two of them curve around each other and extend outwards; an easy tree to climb. I remember people sitting in it. We picked a few leaves from under the tree; the ones that L chose were from another. Maple leaves. She handed me one. When we all had one in each hand, we did our Dance of the Leaves. This time we added a new sequence to the usual twirling and leaf swishing. The song goes “Up, down, up, down, up, down and around.” It’s simple, and lots of fun. Raise both arms and leaves up as you sing UP. Bring the arms down as you sing DOWN, three times, and finally turn around as the leaves swish to AND AROUND. We loved it, and did it over and over in the grass.

By then, they were quite tired, their feet cold from the wet grass, and both ready for some milk. I took off their wet shoes and socks, handed them their milk, and we continued on our way.

We went out the Milton gates and walked by familiar apartments, ones that my cousin had lived in, other friends’, not far. We saw Lola Rosa, the vegetarian restaurant where one of Maher’s engineering professors hung out every day for lunch, at least every time we went. The rumour was that he was deeply in love with Lola, the sexy owner.

It was about 7 am now. People were still scarce on the Saturday morning Street. A man riding his young son on bicycle in a front bike-seat smiled at us. The two or three other people we walked by also noticed us out so early in the double stroller. Some smiled, some greeted us with a chirpy “Good morning.” It felt good to be there. We walked all the way to the Second Cup on Park and Milton.

It was my favorite 24 hour café to study at, daytime or overnight. I drank a few too many hot chocolates and ate a few too many carrot cakes there.

We crossed the street, over to the blue-walled Iraqi restaurant that always played classical music, and smelled of burnt oil. It attracted the late night chess players, and other “intellectuals.” It’s a breakfast café now.  Maher, Nanu, and a number of my friends and I ate a number of delicious shawarma’s and salads there; sometimes over our text books, but mostly reading the street press, procrastinating.

I contemplated continuing on Milton all the way to St. Laurent Street, but realized that L and R were too cold, and almost asleep. And the story I was telling them had turned into my nostalgic walk. I had already strayed quite a ways from our apartment. I sped up; walked down Park towards Sherbrooke. Oh, our Japanese restaurant that served the best fish soup I have ever eaten was still there, right next to the 25 hour Pakistani depanneur where Maher bought my birthday cupcake the first year we met. It was after our trip to Mont Tremblant. Nothing, nothing at all was open on Christmas day in Montreal.

An early bird dressed in a hooded sweatshirt walked into Chez Cora for his breakfast. It’s quite possible he too, had not slept all night.

The cold was worrying me. The wind on Sherbrooke was typically strong. R was asleep. His feet ice blocks.

A few blocks on I decided to avoid the wind by going through the student ghetto again, and across the campus, back the way we came.

I laid R and L on the mattress next to our bed. The household was slowly waking up. My parents and D2 would have to wait until the evening to play with L and R.

Days and dates re: the last post


Since TODAY is Sunday, yesterday must have been Saturday. I don’t know the date on most days. I obviously don’t have the days down either.

Before R and L were born I didn’t miss a birthday or anniversary. Yesterday Maher reminded me that it was the 7th of May, a date we arbitrarily picked to  represent the start of our relationship. I suddenly had sweet memories of spring in Montreal. I suppose he did too.

M suggested we hang out – just the two of us.