Zamsick

I’m posting at Multicultural Mothering today about finally going home. It’s been 9 years since I returned to Zambia. I can’t believe I can say that, and I know it’s mainly due to my complacency. Now that Leila and Rahul are in the picture, I’m motivated to get us all over there. Soon.

I’ve wanted to write about my feelings of nostalgia for a long time, but didn’t know how to tackle the subject. Heidi sent me an article 2 weeks ago, The New Globalist is Homesick, and suggested I share it at MM. I thought I’d be able to whip up a post that very day.

Here’s an excerpt from the article:

The idea that we can and should feel at home anyplace on the globe is based on a worldview that celebrates the solitary, mobile individual and envisions men and women as easily separated from family,from home and from the past. But this vision doesn’t square with our emotions, for our ties to home, although often underestimated, are strong and enduring.

Dear Dr. Seuss (part 2)

Dirt Feet

My hair is long,
From neglected times gone

My eyes are red,
Watering the African Violets
In my head

My heart is heavy,
Listening for sounds,
Memories not ready

My feet are bare,
Together a pair

How rare the sweet smell,
Of wet, black soil,
Caught between my toes

No longer without a care

Dear Dr. Seuss

Far From Home: A Guest Post by Kalley Hoke

(Welcome to the 5th in our series: A Monday Morning Guest Post in Multicultural Mothering. You can find Kalley’s cullinary adventures at http://www.ianandkalley.com/kalleycuisine/)

Kalley: I grew up on a cattle ranch near Steamboat Springs, Colorado. I couldn’t wait to leave my small home town after graduating from high school and attended university outside of Los Angeles. That transition was perhaps the biggest change I have experienced to date, and I loved every minute of it. After university I served in the US Peace Corps in Kyrgyzstan and Ukraine, meeting my husband in Kyrgyzstan where he was also a volunteer. We both lived in New Mexico on the Navajo nation, and then moved to China. We are currently living in Zurich, Switzerland. While neither of us is fluent in a language other than English, we have both studied a number of languages and hope our daughters will surpass our abilities.

————Far From Home ————–

I have a strong sense of home and it pervades my personality. My father recently moved out of the home he had lived in since he was 2. My mother had lived there her entire married life. My older sister has moved into that same home with her three young children and they will likely live there for the next 20 years. My childhood home was a 45 minute drive from any gas station, grocery store or friend’s house so my sisters and I learned well to find entertainment at home and would stay there for days on end. Thankfully, this home is a beautiful Colorado ranch with all the fresh air and open space a kid could want, but our dedication to this one place has built in me a strong desire for place based traditions and experiences – perhaps to a fault.

My husband and I have chosen to raise our family overseas – moving from place to place as wanted and needed – as international teachers, and this decision invades my thoughts on a weekly, if not daily, basis.

At least once I month I am angry. I am angry because I can’t find a suitable place for my perception of a birthday party. I am angry because our small apartment has a cramped concrete balcony where my 3-year old rides her new bike around in circles. I am angry because my daughters will not experience Friday night high school football games – growing from the young kids who play tag in the dark to the preteens who practice flirting to the teenagers who actually watch the game and cheer for their classmates.

About once every other month I feel guilty. The guilt comes from not being able to support my mom as she goes through a medical crisis (and from hoping that my older sister is strong enough to help our mom on her own). It comes from not seeing my niece grow from an 8-month old who can barely sit up to a walking, talking toddler, and from not meeting my nephew until he is 10 months old.

More often than angry or guilty, I feel sad. I am sad because my dad doesn’t have the chance to wiggle my infant’s kneecaps and fold her ears while marveling at the flexibility of little ones. I am sad because my daughter doesn’t always recognize pictures of her aunts. And I am sad because it feels more appropriate than angry or guilty.

And more frequently than any other negative emotion I am scared. I am scared that without the consistency of place I experienced growing up that my daughters will feel lost, and that, more realistically, they will wander the globe leaving me far from my grandchildren when that day comes.

Fortunately, for as many times as I have negative reactions to being far from home, I also have positive thoughts about the experiences we have. My daughters will know the absolute deliciousness of bitter lemon soda. My oldest calls churches “temples”, and knows to be quiet and respectful inside both. She can count to 10 in three languages. We make the most out of every new friendship and every old visitor. And our home is our family unit, able to feel joy whenever and wherever we are together.

Do others have fears similar to mine? Do you also find they are balanced with positive experiences? Where and what do you seek on the days when the scales tip toward negative?

Naturally Wild and Curly

I’ve been asked many silly questions about me and my children: How can they be twins if they are not dressed the same? Did you do the IVF so you could have two in one go? Are they identical? (One’s a boy and one’s a girl). And so on.

This one, about their appearance, “Do you curl their hair?” is on my mind today. Believe it or not, I’ve been asked it a number of times.

L and R hardly let me wash their hair; they cry red-eyed, scream, and even suffer through the process. I do it anyway. To comb their hair is another drama; I run after them stroking through one part, and when they are distracted, I get through a few more strands. After a few days of partial combing, R had tough tangles in his hair today. Almost dreadlocks.

There is no way L and R would sit around while I put curls in their hair. Not much chance I’d spend my time doing that to 2, almost 2-year-olds anyway.

If children learn a thing or two from watching what their parents do, I’m no example of neat, done-up hair. My parents still give me an “Are you planning to leave the house looking like that? You hair needs a comb run through it” look. I see my family once, maybe twice a year. It takes only a day or two after the reunion for these thoughts from back in the day to re-surface. But to no avail.

When we met in Calgary a couple of months ago, my brothers spent one whole hour convincing me that I needed to see a hairdresser. My latest (defensive, nerdy) response: “I’d rather blog when I have a spare moment. Can’t you leave me, and my hair alone?”

There might be some truth to their worries; I pay little attention to my hair. I’ve been to a hairdresser 4 times in the last 3 years. But hey, I was in bed-rest for much of my pregnancy, did the NICU time, and now I take care of the two babies, OK, toddlers. So HAH! That’s my excuse. The secret: the ratio would be about the same had it been any other period of my life.

Legend goes, Maher had big, curly hair, wore large knitted red, black, and yellow striped tops, while listening to reggae and sipping on his late-morning coffee. This was just before you met him, I am told repeatedly. The bit about his hair, I mean.

So, NO, I don’t curl their hair. We are happy with (my out of control and M’s lack of) their naturally wild and curly hair. I do appreciate the admiration for it though.

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.

Pancakes, Chocolate Milk, and an Award.

I got an award. The Versatile Blogger Award. The last time I was awarded anything I was 16. So man was I shocked, and ecstatic! And it’s for my blogging. I only started doing this a few months ago. I’m a novice. It’s encouraging to know that someone is reading this stuff though, and even liking it.

The blogger who awarded it to me, whose blog, The Valentine 4 you have to check out, is a good, spirited writer. I stumbled upon it from a comment she made at another blog I was reading. I was immediately hooked to her strong, sensitive, and honest, writing style. So I subscribed.

She has two children, runs a household, runs a home daycare, runs races as a triathlete, does yoga, reads, writes both thought-provoking and thoughtful posts…Wow!

So back to the award. I told M immediately. I smiled, and thought of cart-wheeling, jumping up and down, and running around the house. Maybe I should have, but that morning R and L were doing enough damage.

The chocolate milk that was accidentally knocked off the table turned into on-purpose spilling. I cleaned it up while discussing the Zambian elections with my parents on Skype. Every time they said anything L sang a loud song in my ears.

I was also chatting with a friend in NY. He still had a few more hours in the evening to go, while we had just woken up. I grew up hanging out with him, in Zambia. He hoped the democratic process would win. In other news, he told me that a mutual friend and his wife would have twins soon. I was even more excited. R tapped the keyboard. Strange boxes appeared on the screen.

The computer crashed.

I was clearly trying too hard. And the whining and crying that went on a lot of the night, was worse. It was getting to me.

What we all needed was Savasana.

I walked into the kitchen where M was making pancakes. “I can’t handle it today. I’m going crazy….” I said this to him, almost shaking.

Our ayi (nanny) walked into the apartment at the same time.

“What do you want to do?” he asked.

“My Pranayama.” I replied.

“Ask xiao He (ayi) to give them a bath. Do your Pranayama in the spare room. Close the door. I’ll take them out for a walk,” he replied.

I was proud of myself for talking to him right then. For asking for help. Grateful for his response.

As I was doing my breath-work practice, R burst into the room naked from his bath. I froze. I didn’t want to erupt, not again today. Not now.

He gave me a sweet, long hug.

I melted.

Maher walked in, asked Rahul if he wanted to make R, L, and N shaped pancakes with him. Rahul rushed out of the room.

—-

A few days on, a little more calm, probably just because I’m the only one up in the house at this hour, I’m showing off my award!

The “award rules” state: Thank and link the blogger who awarded it to you. State 7 random things about yourself. Award it to 15 newly discovered blogs you enjoy. And let them know.

Here are my 7 things:

1. I used to be a classical Indian Bharatanatyam dancer. I went to Chennai, India right after high school for a three-month stint at a renowned dance school. I Chose to go to uni in Canada instead of continuing seriously with dance.

2. I was at an all girls dorm for my first year in uni. I was scared shit-less because it was the first time I would have to “deal” with girls. I have two brothers, a male cousin I used to hang out with, and mainly guy friends. Despite listening to the other girls on my floor whining about their boyfriend issues, and to my screaming neighbour if anyone woke her up after she went to bed at 8pm, she and others became some of my closest friends.

3. The last time I went “home,” to Zambia, was over 8 years ago.

4. I started to drive when I was 15 My brothers were even younger. I stopped at 17, when I left Zambia. I’ve changed many wheels, and fixed other basic car stuff. Now I don’t can’t drive or do any car related things.

5. I’ve bungee jumped off a 110m high bridge in Livingstone, and jumped out of a plane. With a parachute! And an experienced teacher.

6. I saw a psychic in Calgary.

7. I was under 5 years old when the car my dad was driving in the middle of the night, at high-speed, on an unlit highway from Lusaka to Livingstone over-turned. I was in the back seat. A family friend was next to my dad. I don’t know if I had my seat belt on. None of us were hurt.

And now, finally to the best part. Here are the 15 bloggers who get The Versatility Award:

OnoLisa
Tuesday2
Hedvig’s Permaculture Adventures

Momma Be Thy Name

Seana Smith
Peaches and Curry

Balance Yoga Wellness
Pakistani Ashtangi

Culinary Adventures


The next two are young cousins of mine who trusted me enough to start blogs!

Anu Madrid
Catawampus Kid

The next four are twin mum blogs that I have only occasionally dipped into, either because I have very recently discovered them, have two toddlers running around all day and up often at night, or because of the internet censorship with certain blog carriers like blogspot here in China.

Goddess in Progress
Double the Fun

Life Not Finished
Little Grovers

Thanks for reading, taking the time to comment and discuss, even like posts on my blog.

If you’re on this list, pass on the love.

The Monkey Song

The Monkey Song from the Jungle Book is one of our favorites. The music is catchy, the dancing good fun, and the animation colourful.

R pretends to play the trumpet like the monkeys.

L watches intently, and loves the other two main songs as well, the Elephant march with Colonel Hathi, and “The Bare Necessities”, with Baloo the bear. Whenever Mowgli appears she calls him, “Leila.”

The first time I watched the Jungle Book, I was around 8 years old. It was in my aunt and uncle’s living room in Bombay. I had traveled on my own to spend a month with them. They often put the video on for me. I loved it. I didn’t see it again until a year ago.

Maher wonders if there was a subliminal relationship between his childhood infatuation with the big-eyed Indian girl at the end of movie, and him marrying me.

Through the monkey song, we discovered Louis Prima – a performer with a lot of character! If you have the chance, take a look at some of his other videos on YouTube.

Anyone know any stories about him?

Raksha bandan – bond of protection

When I lived in Zambia my family celebrated Raksha Bandan, a North Indian festival that honours the love between sisters’ and brothers’. It falls on a full moon in August every year.

My parents, aunts and uncles took a day off work, we a day off school. We dressed in traditional Indian clothes and jewelery, and gathered at one of the family homes.

My mum, aunts and I picked out beautiful rakhi’s weeks in advance. There is a range of choice, from simple threads to more extravagant ones with mirrors and gold fringes. A few years ago there was one that even played a popular Bollywood song. This year the fashionable rakhi’s have green, red, and shiny diamond-like stones on them. I usually chose the simplest threads and tied one around each of my brother’s and “cousin-brother’s” wrists. This gesture was to symbolise my love for them. In return my brothers’ had the duty of protecting me. From what I wasn’t always sure!

After I tied the rakhi, we hugged each other. I always whispered an awkward, “What are we doing guys? Do we need this string to symbolise our feelings?” I was the pain-in-the-ass, no fun girl who wasn’t into rituals, or Bollywood kitsch for that matter because it was over-done and the dances were corrupted versions of classical dances. So after the hugging, we fed each other sweets that my mum and aunts had prepared over the last week or two. My brothers’ then proudly offered me envelopes packed with notes.

Then it was my mum and aunts’ turn. They would tie rakhi’s around their “cousin-brother’s” wrist. He was the only one in Lusaka. They sent the others to India by mail, without fail.

My dad received his two rakhi’s in the mail, usually in good time. Since his sisters lived elsewhere it was my job to tie them. I got two envelopes from him as well.

Once it was all done, we’d have a big meal together, and spend the rest of the day together.

When I left Z at 16, I forgot all about it. One July, my mum called to remind me about it. She asked if I’d sent all the boys a rakhi.  I replied that I hadn’t so she quickly bought some on my behalf.

On the day, she called to say that my little brother refused to wear it since it was my mum’s choice, and not my initiative. I was taken-aback. I had no idea that this really meant anything to him, or to any of them.

I immediately apologised and ever since, I’ve made a special effort. I don’t always send them a rakhi in the mail, but I call or at least email.

This year, my mum only “reminded” me about it yesterday. There is no way I can get them rakhi’s in time. Phone calls will be in order, and a promise of more planning and organising for the years to come.

In my mum’s typically thoughtful and unimposing manner, she says “I’ve sent you a rakhi that L can tie around R’s wrist, if you guys want to do that of course.” I can’t wait to see the mini-rakhi!

My brothers, (cousins and brothers-in-law), are dearer to me than I can express. I do in fact feel safe, supported and strong when they are around. So why not have a special day that celebrates the bond between sisters and brothers?

—————————

Links I came across:

How to make a rakhi
Buy a rakhi on-line!