Thursday, June 30, 2011

Climbing Mt. Sinai, chapter 5



كاترين

While I've long been curious to see Mt. Sinai, both for its biblical significance and for the beauty described by friends of mine who made this trip many years ago, the mountain was not the driving force between making this journey.
During my very first week in Syria, I asked a woman who spoke both English and Arabic if there was a name that I should adopt in Arabic that was similar to my own name. Everywhere I've lived, I've tried to translate my name as I learn the language, and it seemed appropriate to do the same for my time in Arab lands. The woman said that there was no need, that "Kathryn" is actually a comm
on name in Arabic.

It turns out that her statement was not exactly true. I have yet to meet an Arab woman named Kathryn. But what I did learn, and come to appreciate more and more over the years, is that I am named after the patron saint of the monastery that lies at the foot of Mt. Sinai. St. Catherine's monastery (it's all spelled the same in Arabic, even if we have dozens of spellings of my name in English) is a spiritual destination for many Christians, particularly of the Eastern Orthodox tradition.

Ever since I learned this, I've had a heartfelt desire to see "my" monastery, feeling that there was some important personal connection to this place. Now that I've been there, I have decided that I'm mostly very grateful for the heritage I have in my namesake's story. During this trip, I finally learned a bit of history about this woman who was important enough to have one of the oldest and most venerated Christian monasteries in the world named after her.

The story of St. Catherine is mainly legend, and apparently the Roman Catholic church no longer includes her name day as a mandatory feast because there's not enough conclusive proof that she ever lived. But her story lives on and will inspire me.

She was born in Alexandria to an aristocratic family. Legend has it that she was very beautiful and very intelligent. I like her already. Her birth name was Dorothy, and she converted to Christianity in her teens. Catherine was her baptismal name, in Coptic I think, and it meant Stephanie in Greek. (This is an awesome coincidence since my mother's name is Stephanie.)

Shortly after her conversion, she was talking with the Empress and Catherine convinced her to convert to Christianity. The emperor was naturally furious and he apparently brought together 40 of the brightest intellectual minds in his kingdom to persuade Catherine back into paganism. Instead, Catherine persuaded all 40 of those men to become Christian.

Other events must have transpired, and finally the emperor decided he wanted to marry this intelligent and beautiful young woman who had charmed so many. (I love that this is the way a woman with my name is described.) So he presented her with an offer of marriage, saying that if she turned her back on her newfound faith, he would marry her. She refused, so the emperor condemned her to death using an instrument of torture, a water wheel. Miraculously, though, when she was on the water wheel, instead of her body being crushed and pulled, the wheel exploded. The flying bits of wood killed a few of the onlookers.

So the emperor had her beheaded.

Legend also has it that her remains were miraculously transported to Mt. Sinai where they still remain.

I am so thrilled to have such a fabulous heritage.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Climbing Mt. Sinai, chapter 4

Gender in the Sinai

After a few beautiful and spiritually uplifting posts about my time on Mt. Sinai, I need to interrupt with a standard Kati-gender-promotion commercial break.

I'm embarrassed to admit that I did not notice this until the very end of my trip. But the terrible truth did eventually hit me:

I only saw THREE women during my entire time in the Sinai.

(This is not counting tourists, most of whom were Russian, and a few conservatively dressed Arab Muslim women with their families. But even those were few.)

Two of the women I saw receptionists at the hotel in Sharm el Sheikh. This is a frighteningly small number, considering that the hotel had gobs and gobs of staff. Beach attendants, pool attendants, waiters and bartenders, shopkeepers, housekeeping, busboys in the restaurant, cooks and chefs, concierge staff, travel agency representatives, baristas... not a single lady among them.

Outside the hotel in Sharm was no better: taxi drivers, check-in at the airport, restaurant staff, storekeepers, street cleaners, you name it... all men.

When we caught the tour, naturally, our guide, driver and police escort were all men. (As an aside, I love how none of them actually climbed the mountain with us. What kind of a police escort sends us on our way up a mountain and says, 'have fun!'? Protection and monitoring of tourists is only ensured as long as no physical exertion is required. He was wearing a suit and dress shoes, too.)

The first thing that tipped me off to the decided lack of feminine influence was that the restroom attendants were all men. Usually, in most parts of the Arab world, cleaning the toilets, handing out TP, and claiming a coin from every tourist is one of the few areas where women can make a bit of profit off the tourism industry. Not on the Sinai. In the restrooms I used in the Sinai desert, I was handing my coins to men, which honestly is a bit awkward for a girl.

We climbed the mountain to the tune of dozens of bedouin men. Our tour guide handed us over to a fit young man who walked us up - very quickly, I might add. Dozens of groups of tourists warranted dozens of guides. In addition, there were coffee shops every 1-2 km along the trail, all managed by men, in some cases boys between the ages of 10 and manhood. On our way down, the bedouin presence was reinforced by boys hawking rocks along the trail (let's take another moment for an aside to consider the irony of buying rocks to carry while hiking - they were nice but not worth the weight).

Still no women.

Finally, after hiking up and hiking down, using the loo and eating breakfast, and an hour journaling and napping, we prepared to enter the monastery. From the monastery courtyard I saw a bedouin woman walking in the far-off distance, wearing a purple galabeya and with her head covered in a flowery scarf. The brightness of her outfit was a sight for sore eyes. The fact she was the first non-tourist woman I'd seen in such a long time was truly refreshing, even if it made the absence of women everywhere else that much more noticeable.

Then we entered the monastery. Even though it's named after a woman, this monastery boasts only 3 sisters, I think, in comparison with 20 monks. We didn't see any of those women either.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Climbing Mt. Sinai, chapter 3

**dear imperfect prose friends, this last week I went on a little pilgrimage to climb Mt. Sinai and visit St. Catharine's monastery and am writing a little about my experience each day. I chose this chapter to share with the group, but maybe you'd find another chapter more interesting - take your pick :)

"This is the most beautiful sunrise I've ever seen. And the sun hasn't even risen yet!"

So said my colleague as we sat next to a boulder in hopes that it would shield us from the worst of the wind, her bundled in a blanket, my other colleague alternating between blanket and walking around to keep warm, and me tucked deep into my hoodie.

Behind us, boulder. To our side, chatty Russians. All around us, an entire sky bursting into visual song.

Except for the bedouins hawking blanket rentals and the Russians discussing poses and clicking their cameras, the silence was piercing.

The day before, sitting on the beach in Sharm el Sheikh, I'd pulled out my Bible and opened to the book of Exodus, to get in the mood for this pilgrimage on which I was embarking. Here is just a snippet of what I read in chapter 19:
On the morning of the third day there was thunder and lightning, with a thick cloud over the mountain, and a very loud trumpet blast. Everyone in the camp trembled. Then Moses led the people out of the camp to meet with God, and they stood at the foot of the mountain. Mount Sinai was covered with smoke, because the LORD descended on it in fire. The smoke billowed up from it like smoke from a furnace, and the whole mountain trembled violently.

After reading that, I'd arrived at the hike truly half-scared that I would be struck dead the moment I set foot on the mountain! Instead, the proverbial mountaintop esoteric silence illustrated just how great an event it was on that day when God revealed himself, possibly in this very spot (of course, historians dispute which peak in the area is the true Mt. Sinai). This was not a place where thunder and lightning was ever likely to strike, and there was nothing flammable for miles that might produce smoke. No fire, no storms, and I was certainly glad that the mountain was not trembling violently as I sat up there!

A few chapters later in Exodus (chapter 24), the tale goes on to describe how the mountain's top was covered by a cloud while Moses met with God. Again, this stark, quiet desert setting had no hints of potential cloudage. This was a story in which God truly showed up in style.

The third and final chapter that I read on this Sinai pilgrimage was Exodus 32, the famed story of the golden calf, that scene in which Moses (Charlton Heston in
the Hollywood classic) breaks the stone tablets out of anger. My thoughts on this chapter warrant a blog all themselves, but suffice it to say here, that I can see how Moses sided with God in that story. Standing on that mountaintop, heaven feels about two inches away. I guess in Moses' case, he was in a cloud so he couldn't see the sky, but instead God was even closer yet! Meanwhile, looking straight down those hundreds of feet of cliffs, the camp of the people must have looked like another world entirely.

Being up there is being with God, and how could the sunrise from a place like that be anything less than the best?

Monday, June 27, 2011

Climbing Mt. Sinai, chapter 2


Moses the trekker and mountain climber

There are two ways to get to the top of Mt. Sinai, although I only knew about one of them when we arrived at the hill. One route is called the 'camel path' and is a 6 km trail with a constant upwards slant. At the end, are 760 roughly hewn rock steps to the top. The top of the mountain is so steep that I don't imagine there's any alternative to steps, other than good old fashioned rock climbing.


The other way up is steps and steps alone: 3700 or so. Apparently they leave from somewhere behind St. Katherine's monastery and head straight up.

So as I was climbing up the camel trail, and then the steps, I became more and more aware of the fact that Moses was apparently in his 40s when he went up the mountain to meet with God and collect the commandments. I'm thinking that a man in is 40s back then was probably equivalent, in terms of physical fitness, to a man in his 60s or more now. I'm also thinking that his sandals were not very good. Finally, I'm thinking that the steps and the camel trail date back no more than a millennium or two, not four, which means that he scaled that hulk of rock.

My respect for Moses during this trip grew a great deal.

Because I also recalled my visits to the lovely Mt. Nebo, where Moses apparently saw the Promised Land before dying.


According to scripture, there was an occasion on which Moses got full of himself and equated himself with God, and his punishment was that he would never set foot in the Promised Land. But God would let him see it at least, after the people finished their 40 years of wandering in the desert. They wandered for 40 years because the first time they came close, they sent some scouts to check it out who told them about how awesome it was and how strong the residents were, so they got scared. God told them they shouldn't be scared and to make sure they learned their lesson, he'd let a full generation pass by before they entered the land.

So, Moses led them through their 40 year desert trek and never got to set foot in the final destination. The distance from Mt. Sinai to Mt. Nebo is long, and very, very dry. Scorching hot desert. It wouldn't take anywhere remotely near 40 years, though, and I imagine the extra years were spent in places like Eastern Jordan and Saudi Arabia: places even hotter and dryer yet.

Moses was one resilient man. He climbed that mountain, multiple times, then led the world's greatest ever desert trekking expedition, during the ages roughly from 40 to 80. Then he climbed another, much much gentler mountain, to see the promise which would remain forever out of his reach, and die.

My admiration for Moses is exponentially greater after this Sinai trip.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Climbing Mt. Sinai, chapter 1

It was a true mountaintop experience. I am jetlagged after my first known all-nighter since undergrad, and I'm trying not to obsess about the fact it's not the cheapest weekend-away I've ever taken. But it was worth it. Oh, so worth it. Both for sociological reasons and for spiritual reasons, obviously in reverse order of importance.

So I will write a few blogs about it, mainly so I will remember this experience for years to come.

For today, I'm starting with a simple observation:

None of the tourbooks bothered to mention that I'd be climbing a mountain with 1000 Russians and a handful of other nationalities. I didn't know that the narrow, slightly-precarious path would be so crowded with tourists. I'd heard there were a lot of pilgrims who climb the mountain and so I expected some other die-hard religious types to be climbing with us. I just wasn't prepared for the [drinking] tourists, of whom there were many.

AND, our guide told me that before the revolution he was going up the mountain several times a week, leading groups. Now, he's averaging two climbs a week. So apparently it's usually much more crowded than what I just experienced.

So... if anyone comes across this blog because you are looking for information on climbing Mt. Sinai and visiting St. Katherine's monastery, please be forewarned of that which I wish I'd known: it's a tourist trap, and a crowded one at that.

Still worth it, but it'd be that much better if there were a crowds-free option.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Branding or Bling?

An interesting feature of donor-funded development projects is the necessity of making sure that everyone involved knows that they are participating in a donor-funded development project. The idea can't be organically blended into community activities; it needs to be a distinct event. This is one of the reasons why, when submitting a new proposal, we inevitably have a major panic attack when we realise right before submitting that we haven't come up with a name: that name will be the symbol of the project, the gem that holds everyone involved together, doing something together.

The name is soon used as a basis for a professionally-designed logo, and over the course of a 2-3 year project, calendars might be made, along with some engraved agendas, pens, maybe even some bags. All these bits of bling will have the project's logo and the logo of all the donors as decoration. This is called 'branding', and it is important because helps keep the project distinct from normal life, and it helps everyone know where the money came from. (It also helps if a donor actually has an attractive logo, as that will now become the back of a t-shirt or the border of a photo that beneficiaries might hang in their houses.)

So... this is the last week for a project in my office here. After three years of doing some great things, the final ceremony is about ticking off boxes: making sure everyone with any political or societal standing at all is thanked for their support of the project, honouring the participants, remembering the uniqueness of what was done and the singularity of the project participants, and handing out a bit more branded bling.

This last Thursday, I attended the closing ceremony (complete with up-and-coming band performing in a room whose acoustics were designed for speakers or occasional break-out sessions). As a participant in the closing ceremony, I was given: a pin with the project logo on it, coasters with the project logo on it, a pen that can double as a ruler, a USB flash drive, a CD with project stories on it, and a laptop bag with the donors' logos taped to it. When preparing for this ceremony, staff had at one point forgotten to include donor logos on the bling - instead they only put the project logo. But a blighted donor is a reluctant repeat donor so this needed to be rectified quickly. And so it was that the team printed up some little papers with the donors' logos and then taped them to the laptop cases using packing tape.

Further branding included a big banner for the project that was made for this closing ceremony. It's made of durable waterproof material. (Catch the irony here?) It also included the invitations themselves which were thoroughly and appropriately branded. It also included graduation caps and gowns for leading project participants - branded with the project logo. Apparently, as the evening drew to a close, one of the 'graduates' asked what she was supposed to do with this cap and gown? She was told it was a gift from the project and she repeated her question. I like this girl already.

I realise I'm using a frightfully sarcastic tone in this post. Sorry. In all fairness, the bling was quality and cute and I know many people will enjoy their coasters. The branding is fair - as long as community programming is done through big donors, we will have to credit those donors for their support; we give them publicity in exchange for cash. Give a little, take a little... there's no such thing as a 'free' project, we all know the drill.

And it all ended well for me, because as I was leaving a colleague regretted that she'd forgotten to get her laptop bag (with pen/ruler, USB, coasters, CD etc. therein), so I gave her mine.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

another little vignette of England

It was a rainy London afternoon, one of those moments in which I felt I was walking through a stereotype: drizzly rain, dreary skies, lots of people walking very quickly to their destinations.

I am not a Londoner and, as per my personal custom, felt no need to be carrying an umbrella. I dropped that baby off in some suitcase somewhere, deeming it unnecessary baggage weight when travelling. It didn't get much mileage in Sue Dan or Cairo. It is still somewhere in my life; I just don't know where - but I suspect I'll find it eventually.

All that being said, when I'd left the house that morning I'd noticed the clouds in the skies and remembered that I was in London. So I'd thrown a brilliant magenta-pink coloured canga into my purse - just in case.

And so it was that when, during my walk home, the consistent flow of the drizzle reached a point that I could no longer deny the rather obvious fact that it was raining, I pulled out the canga and draped it over my head and my handbag. It was easily as effective as any umbrella, right?

"Amazing weather!" Between the pitter patter of raindrops and the fact that my ears were wrapped in cloth, this is what I heard the man behind me saying, but I wasn't really sure that I'd heard him.

I turned my head and saw that he was indeed speaking to me. So as to affirm his statement about the weather, which I believed could only have been stated in irony, I nodded with a cringed nose.

"Wow, that look says it all!", he said with a slightly shocked chuckle.

I nodded.

"I try to compliment you on the amazing colour of your headscarf and you give me that look. I understand."

Oh. Of course a Londoner wouldn't be commenting on the weather - nothing unusual about that! He was commenting on the canga. And I'd totally shut him down. Oops. So I tried a friendly half-smile and a chuckle of my own.

"It's ok," he continued. "Have a good day!"

"You too," I replied weakly as he traipsed off into the entrance of the college right up in front.

p.s. Thank you so much to all of you who said such flattering things about my divine encounter last week with the woman visiting her husband in hospital. I think all the credit goes to her and her faith!

p.p.s. It seems there were many memorable people during my trip to England but I guess I was having too much fun to remember them. This is the only story I can recall to share here. Strange and sad how quickly people can enter and then leave our lives.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

a woman of faith

As we approached our destination, she and I got up from our seats at the same time and headed toward the train door to disembark: she looked at me with round innocent gray eyes, and commented, "Busy day today, eh?"

To which I replied, "Do you ride this train often?" (It was my first time on this particular route and I had figured the train was always crowded. I guess this made me part of the cause of the 'busy-ness'.)

"My husband is in hospital," she replied. "Has been, for eight days."

"Oh!" I replied, a bit taken aback by her cheery disposition. "What's he in for?"

"He has cancer."

Oh.

"On April 2X he had a kidney replacement."

"That's good, right?" I answered, trying to be conversant and figure out why she seemed so happy about the situation.

"Well, yes. He's had some complications, in and out of hospital, but overall, we're grateful."

"Where are you coming in from?"

"XX City. Visiting hours start at 2pm so every day I take the train to be here by then."

At this point the short pixie lady with the perfect bob-cut gray hair bid me a smiling good day. I started to take my leave of her, but she could tell I was lost so she guided me toward the exit. As we climbed the stairs she explained that every day she takes the train for 2 hours to come to the hospital, followed by a bus ride, and 2 hours home every night after visiting hours end. The trains are often late so she rarely gets home before 10:30 p.m. then starts again the next day. Rather than stay near the hospital, she prefers to be home because someone needs to keep things in order there. Plus, she is hopeful her husband will be released shortly.

Then she started telling me about her husband's surgery. "It's a new technique where they took his kidney out, removed the cancer, then put it back in. It's amazing what technology can do."

"How many kidneys does he have?" I asked.

"Only the one. The last one, they removed ten years ago. That was the beginning of the cancer." I promise you, she was chirping as she said this.

"Wow!" I don't think I would be chirping while telling this story. "So this has been going on for a long time. It must be tough."

"Well, yes. But faith has helped us through it," she said shyly and shortly. Then she quickly added, "Plus, we've been lucky. Good doctors, good technologies, all that."

The smile back on her face, she showed me that we'd arrived at the exit and bode me farewell again, then disappeared into the crowd.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Impressions of England

I landed last night, flying in from Cairo. My first thought upon leaving Heathrow airport was that the contrast between here and "the field" is a lot less on this trip than it has been when coming from places like Haiti, Timor or Kosovo. Cairo is a big city with paved roads and lots of cars. London has all those things, too.

But... a few images are sticking in my mind during my first 24 hours back:

1. This one isn't really an element of culture shock although it sort of is too, because I really don't think I would have ever seen it in Cairo. As I walked out of the arrivals hall into the orderly throng of drivers toting signs, parents waiting for children, and friends waiting for friends, I passed a man standing a little bit off from the centre of activity. Disheveled and carrying a supermarket bouquet of flowers, his nervous face full of anxiety and hope caught my eye. Because I was busy and a bit distracted, I didn't dwell on the sight, plus I didn't want to stare. But as I walked away I thought that probably the girl he was waiting for was lucky indeed - he was full of good intentions and that means a lot.

2. This morning I was walking into town and passed a little busy roundabout. I stood there and stared as I watched each car taking its turn, each driver knowing her or his moment to go. They were all using signaling but none of them made eye contact with any of the other drivers. Everyone just knew where to go and they got efficiently through that roundabout. THIS DOES NOT HAPPEN IN CAIRO. (In Cairo, there would probably be a major backup as everyone tried to go at once, or a bunch of near-accidents as people pulled into any tiniest space as quickly as possible: there is no such thing as 'waiting one's turn' there!)

3. Also as I was walking this morning, I caught myself twice swerving my steps to veer away from men on bikes. I was on the pavement (sidewalk) and they were on the road, so why was I veering? I realised that in Cairo, I've learned the hard way to suspect every man of trying to get me. If a man on a bike is riding towards me, even remotely close to me, he will probably reach out and try to grope, or at the very least, say something inappropriate. Obviously this is not a common occurrence in a little sleepy English town. (I am not saying it never happens, I guess it probably does. Just not all-the-time.) So I had to discipline myself to keep walking and not suspect the bikers of lewd motives.

And once I had taken all this in, I realised that the cool fresh air on my face had already dried out my tear ducts after a very difficult few days, and I set about enjoying the rest of my day.

p.s. Cairo has a lot of stuff going for it. I like Cairo, I do! But just for today I want to enjoy being here not there.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

a bit of shame-faced awareness raising

Have you seen the film Blood Diamond? I think it's a rather brilliant film, so when it came on TV a few weeks ago, I thought I might watch. After about 30 seconds, my eyes were filled with tears and I was burying my head in my pillow. Yes, it's a sad film, but not 30 second sob sad. Yes, it's a scary film, but not horror in 30 seconds scary.

I immediately understood what was going on with me. The story had taken on real-life. It wasn't just a heartbreaking tale of a faraway land, it was a metaphor for the lives of people I lived with, laughed with and cried with. The boy soldiers, check. The women fleeing horny men with guns, check. The family of refugees separated by war and doing everything to reunite, check. Sure, I'm none of those people, in fact most of my time is spent in rooms that have air-conditioning and Internet radio. I've only a few times met people who fit those descriptions.

But even so, I feel like it hits home. My colleagues have been there and have seen it, in some cases lived it. The people in a film like Blood Diamond have experienced things like the people I went to the Dar to serve. And nothing has improved for them. Nothing. Maybe they're worse-off, and on some days, the only thing for which I'm grateful is that I "escaped" with minimal emotional trauma.

Today I was catching up on news in Sue Dan and discovered that most of it is bad. I was sent four different accounts of fighting in a border town. Very bad. One of the accounts was an eyewitness account but I'm not sure if I'm supposed to share it publicly so I won't. The New York Times article is much dryer and easier to read, but the story is still ugly:
"On Sunday, members of the southern military raided a police station in the city of Kadugli, looting weapons, United Nations officials said. Clashes broke out Sunday evening between the northern and southern armies about 60 miles away, they said. On Monday evening, fighting broke out ... with 10 tanks ... stationed throughout the town..."

The other accounts add details about people fleeing their homes but having nowhere to hide, other people staying in their houses for days on end, the fact that the market is closed for all business but shooting, lack of food or water or fuel... hospital patients preferring to take their chances running through the countryside with no treatment than to sit as ducks in the hospital, an increasing death toll, new mothers giving birth without any water to drink.

It's bad, and it's not the first city in the area to break out: If you want more, you can google-news "Abyei". Brace yourself.

There's a novel which portrays wartime Sue Dan that is fabulously written and horridly graphic. One day I was sitting in a café in Kht reading a battle scene from the book and I was terrified to walk back to my guesthouse, realising that the perpetrators in the book might very well be the men passing me on the streets at that moment. I'm not done reading it - must take that kind of stuff in tiny gulps. The novel is called Acts of Faith by Philip Caputo. If you're emotionally at a point where you can allow your heart to break for a part of the world I'm guessing most of my readers have never been and will never visit, I definitely recommend it. It tells the story better than the news, and now it has made the news stories come alive for me with a sharp pang somewhere deep in my belly.

Here's a little tiny excerpt, just to give a taste of the battle... battles:
The destruction was worse than he'd feared. Through a thin canopy of smoke, bomb craters, pulverized buildings, and puddles of fire passed below... Ghastly was what it was. Franco and Lily dead, Manfred slightly injured but in severe shock. Michael couldn't estimate how many others had been killed or severely injured. He was going to collect the survivors and the walking wounded and lead them to the airstrip on foot... They were carrying a body on a stretcher, covered by a blanket and attended by an assembly of eager flies whose buzzing was audible from several yards away.

That war ended but it's now coming back. This country needs our prayers... I don't know that anything else will help!

Because your hearts are big, I am trusting that my Imperfect Prose friends will not only accept me being a bit emotional and all-over-the-place, but maybe a few of you will pray too.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Friends

I have been pondering friends the last few days.

Friends come in different shapes and sizes:
  • the ones I've known for years
  • the ones I've known for months
  • the ones I've known for days
  • people who I met the day I was born
  • people who I met the day they were born
  • people I met one day and immediately knew would become a friend
  • family members with whom I have a thing or two in common
  • those who I met through family, some of whom became family
  • colleagues who are lovely and friendly
  • especially those colleagues with whom I've gone through the fire and survived
  • roommates, housemates
  • and what to make of colleagues who I lived with and with whom I've been through the fire and survived?
  • there are my butlers who don't make very good friends at all
  • and then, of course, there are the hundreds upon hundreds of people who once were dear friends - maybe just for a few weeks, but still, they were - even so, now we've grown apart
  • many of those, and many others are the most friendy friends of all: facebook friends
Then, I realise that the names I would match to that list today are so dramatically different from the names I may have thought of two years ago, not to mention 10 years ago. People who I just KNEW would be lifelong friends when I met them turned out to be just facebook friends. Colleagues who were lovely and friendly but not more at the time, have turned out to be people I've known for years and consider dear. But mostly, I think of so, so, so many people who used to be something special in my world and still are, but are so far away.

Why do I either get a happy warm feeling in my tummy thinking about my lovely friends, or get a dull thud in my heart thinking about those who have grown far? Well...
  • Friends will listen to me
  • I will listen to them
  • We can laugh together, play together, explore together
  • I can learn from them and be put in my place by them.
  • Maybe I will have a little something to teach them
  • When I just need to think out loud, they will bear with me
  • We might not share the same experiences, but there's enough imagination to go around so that we can learn, and will do what we can to immerse ourselves in each other's world
  • Even if we lose touch for ages, we can always pick up again
  • I can cook for them, and they can show me something new. Maybe they will give me a lift.
  • If they have a house they let me crash, if I have a house I let them crash
  • When a friendship is growing, something is happening in the heart. When a friendship is shrinking... oh let's not talk about that. It's the fear of the friendship shrinking that sometimes keeps me from growing it in the first place. So silly, I know, but that's humans for you.
So... lately I've had a lot of colleagues become dear, but in return I've discovered that many other friendships have been shrinking. More work = less heart, sometimes. It's time to change that, and I want to go back to my friends. But will they be the same? Do I want them to be? After all, I know I'm not the same. But I am reminding myself to be open to all of the above, both lists, to put as much heart into people as I might ever want to get back from them.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

a weird dream

To any guys reading this blog... this might not be for you. You may find it a bit odd or even disturbing, but it was such a fabulously random dream that I wanted to record it here anyway. (And knowing human nature, I'm afraid I may have just sparked your curiosity... you just can't win, can you?)

So, this morning as I was getting ready for the day, I had a flashback and remembered my dream from last night, which actually only ended when I got myself up to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night.

In the dream I was in some community-living setting (this was indeed a lovely dream for a person living out of a hotel room for months on end) and in the compound, there was a beauty salon. I think there were actually two beauty salons rolled into one. One of the wings was super-duper posh and far more expensive than I could afford, for any of their services! The other was sketchy-cheap, and I knew this because they only offered cold-sugar hair removal, not hygienic hot waxing. I wasn't going for this either - in the past year I've been cajoled into sugar waxing twice and regretted it both times. Ouch.

And then, on the edge of the salon, I discovered that they had some products for sale, but because it was communal living, I didn't have to pay for the products. As I write this here I realise that that's completely incongruous: if I didn't have to pay for those I probably didn't have to pay for the expensive salon either. But then the dream wouldn't make any sense. Not that it does anyway.

One of the products on offer was a gel wax - basically the same product as the hot wax used by the good salons, but softer, gel-like, so I could use it without needing to heat it up. So I took the tube off the shelf and opened it up. I started smearing the gel all over my legs, which were in desperate need of some hair removal, that is, they were so hairy I might have known it was a dream! I smeared that stuff all over on one of my legs, then I realised that I didn't have any paper strips for removing the wax. And if you know anything about waxing, without the paper, nothing good can come of the experience.

So I started walking around the compound, with one trouser leg rolled up exposing a sticky icky leg. I passed my housemates, which included a lot of elderly homey women sitting on stoops and children running around, and explored all the shelves of our home for paper strips for removing wax. At this point the compound was full of shelves of beauty products, and I didn't have too much trouble finding the strips. So I pulled those down and started to lay them out on my waxy legs, then I realised they already had cold wax on them - they were waxing strips that came with the wax. That would only make things worse. So I kept looking, and I kept finding pre-waxed strips in different colours: pink, blue, yellow wax on white paper. Meanwhile my leg was getting more and more gooey and uncomfortable.

And then I got myself awake enough to realise that my leg was intact and perfectly dry.

So, does anyone want to psychoanalyse that one for me??