Tuesday, 23 July 2013

move move move it

Hey, reader. I've decided to stop posting on this blog and move to a new place.

So, come on over to FamousFeline.wordpress.com!

See you there!

Thursday, 8 November 2012

silk road (st. mary's college graduate reading)

So yeah. This is my second year at St. Mary's College and that means I'm graduating next June.

And so this happened.

Here's the story, obviously edited so it'd fit in the ten-minute time frame (and that ten minutes included my introduction by my friend Bethany Ruthnick).


Barcelona is raining. The early morning shower. Streetlights gleam through the mist and slivers of liquid. The stony pavements cold and wet. But Aïcha doesn’t know all that. All she knows is that it’s pitch black and she’s bleeding.

It was fun and games when the man shoved his tongue inside Aïcha’s mouth, tasting her, tracing her. It was fun and games when the man unclasped her bra strap and caressed the delicate skin of her breasts. But the fun and games ceased when his left hand landed on the damp spot between her legs and he discovered that her real name might be something less feminine than “Aïcha”. He paused.

The last thing Aïcha saw was the man’s fist slamming into her nose, after he had given her the look, the look one gives when one bites a juicy apple only to see that a fat, slithering worm has made its home there.

The last thing Aïcha heard was her own voice asking the man, “Porque?” Why? As he repeatedly pushed and beat her.

Her face and body pulsate with pain, then fear and panic grip her as grogginess slowly unclutches its grasp. Her question rings in her head. Like an alarm, it raises dormant memories. Memories of a childhood as an Afghan boy in Sangin named Mehrdad who kept being asked, “Chera?” Why? Why don’t you go play with the other boys, Mehrdad? They’re building a mud castle. Why do you always bring that rag doll, Mehrdad? Why do you speak so softly, Mehrdad? Why are you standing in the girl’s line, Mehrdad? Why why why. Chera chera chera.

Mehrdad was twelve when he saw his older sister, Karida, taken away for marriage. She was thirteen. They both cried when the women dressed Karida in a turquoise silk dress, heavy with shisha mirrors, swirled with indigo and cerulean and gold and fuchsia embroideries, and drew mehndi on her palms and fingers. But the women, especially their mother, only scoffed and said, “Stop crying. He is a good man from a rich family.” But neither Karida nor Mehrdad had ever met the man who lived in another village. Karida told Mehrdad, after the women had left, that their parents had traded her for mahr of clothes and jewelry and tobaccos and goats. They didn’t have the significant dowry to match the groom’s mahr. But Karida was the fairest virgin in their village. “You are lucky to be born a man,” Karida said to Mehrdad, but they both knew that he did not feel that way.

Then in the morning two days later, as the rooster crowed, his mother splashed cold water all over him and it erased all traces of tears from his face, he had cried when Karida appeared in his dream that night. His mother said, “It is against God’s will that a daughter does not listen to her mother. It is against God’s will that a wife does not listen to her husband.” And Mehrdad knew Karida was dead.

It is at this moment that Aïcha remembers the new God, the God of the people whose country she is in. She thought this God would be different, that this God would not condone cutting off hands and noses and making women walk steps behind the men, leaving them to their own discussions, leaving them illiterate and imprisoned. Aïcha tries to get up. She wants to pray. But how do you fold your hands in front of your chest when your wrists are bound behind your back? Her long nails dig into the membranes of her palms. She wobbles up, her ankles are also bound, but she kneels. Still, she’s afraid this new God will not be able to listen to her. After all, she’s only a stranger. She remembers how Mehrdad ran away, how he considered himself lucky that at the time, crossing had been easier, how he traveled half the Silk Road, sticking to deserts and mountains and coasts and plains with nothing but his body as means of trade. As currency.

Everything Mehrdad endured was for Aïcha. Every thrust, every grunt, every thank you and even every insult became a pretty penny. It took him six years to arrive in Barcelona seeking asylum, two more years to become a legal citizen of Spain, and four more years to become Aïcha. She was born on Mehrdad’s thirtieth birthday, the day he received his breast implants. The skin around her chest and ribcage and the alien weight felt tight and new, but it was more than natural for her. She wore the scars underneath her breasts proudly, like a soldier and his dog tag, a mother and her stretch marks, Jesus and his wounds.

She remembers the girl of about eight years old whom she sometimes sees on the train home in the early morning. The mother, who looks like she has crystal meth for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, just slumps herself down onto the seat and the girl has to wake her up before they reach their stop. Aïcha thinks crystal meth is even more murderous than the Taliban. Sometimes, when there were just the three of them in the car train, she would give the little girl bonbons. She would rub her palms together and clasp the warmth over the girl’s small, cold cheeks until they glowed pink. She learnt that the girl’s name was Natalia. Aïcha yearns to see her again.

But she still doesn’t know to which deity she should pray for her life tonight. She pushes her wrists apart against the straining bond. No luck. She doesn’t want to die. Not like this. She considers the names of the Gods, from Allah to Zeus, names that had escaped the lips of men who had their way with her. Too many Gods. She considers crying, she considers giving up, but as her chest is about to heave, she hears the sound of metal grating – a key is being inserted into a slot. Her whole body contracts.

A door creaks open. Aïcha knows she has to escape. She can almost see herself as some light seeps in. She’s kneeling on dusty cement floor, red bricks scattered, her red dress tattered. And the sounds of footsteps. Aïcha thinks of what she’s going to say to plead for her life. Then Aïcha swears, in swirls of dust the light and wind capture, Karida appears before her, her copper skin glows and her green eyes luminous and Aïcha remembers that dream of her, the dream that she never received again. Karida says, in the language of their childhood, “Ba halwa goftan dahan shirin namishawad.” The mouth can not taste sweet just by speaking sweetly. “Ba solha-goftan dunya aram namishawad.” The world will not find rest by just saying “Peace.”

“I can hear you,” a man says. It’s the voice of the man whom she’d met at the bar. The man who had asked her if her green eyes were real. The man who had listened to her Silk Road tale, not as an Afghan boy, but as an Afghan girl. The man who had brought her to his home and his fist to her face.

Aïcha’s breaths quiver, but she lifts her head and stretches her arms behind her and tries to pull in her lower body. And as her bound wrists reach under her, she slumps down to her side and slide her hands under her lower back, past her thighs, behind her knees, her calves, and finally over her naked toes, until her arms are now in front of her. Then, with her long nails, she cuts the duct tapes that bound her ankles, freeing them, and bites the bond around her wrists.

The man appears as Karida fades away.

“Who do you think you’re trying to trick?” He asks as he stands in front of Aïcha, hovering, garden scissors in his hand. “You want to be a woman, don’t you? A real woman? Allow me to help you. See if you enjoy it. Then I’m going to put you out of your misery.”

But Aïcha bites her tongue and waits, she waits until the man is near enough, and as he lunges toward her, Aïcha swings her foot upward with all her might, kicking the man between his legs. He yelps and curses and stabs her thigh with the garden scissors. Blood seeps out. She kicks him again on his stomach. The scissors fall. Aïcha grabs a brick and swings it to the back of his head. The yelps and the curses stop. And Aïcha runs, up, up, up, toward the light, to a brown wooden door that opens to rain and soft thunders, to wet muddy earth, to cold and slippery stony pavements, to streetlights that gleam. Aïcha runs, to life, to Karida, to God. And Aïcha swears, that when she sees Natalia on the train again, she will take her, she will be her mother, and she will not sell her, not even for the most exquisite, most expensive mahr in the world.


The story was inspired by the National Geographic's picture of the green-eyed Afghan girl.

Also, a note on what I wore. This was my first ever public reading, and it was so terrifying that I just decided to wear my war paint and armor. And so I wore a quarter of my dance costume and accessories. Plus, they fit in the "Silk Road" theme!

Also, my family obviously couldn't make it to the reading, so I invited my extended family.

Afghan Girl photo by National Geographic.

Other photos by Shelly Swanegan Hamalian.

Sunday, 2 September 2012

this is one of those days

Let me first start you off with this song. It's one of my Sugababes favorites.

I love it because it's the best Sugababes formation (Mutya-Keisha-Heidi), there's a bellydancer, a drag queen, and it talks about... you're right: accepting yourself, which stems from the idea of loving yourself.

I gained three kg (almost seven pounds) in the last vacation and people have been so kindly pointed out that it showed on my cheeks and tummy. I don't mind having a little fat ass, which I've been having lately, and I love it, but I don't need more on my tummy. I know have handlebars and back flab. BACK FLAB.

Maybe it has something to do with the engagement (my boyfriend proposed on August 17, right when Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono was making an Independence Day speech. More on that on a separate entry). Maybe I was happy returning home. Maybe I ate and ate and ate and my diet went down the drain. But one thing is certain: my stomach extended. And another one: I hate it.

If I were built with bigger bones, I wouldn't mind. If I were a woman with breasts, I wouldn't mind. But I am flat chest and so my belly is out there. Prominently.

So, on my birthday (I'm not going to say when or how old I am), my troupe director gave me a waist cincher, a corset. It makes me gasp, it makes my sleeping rather uncomfortable, it makes me take bathroom breaks after meals, but, it's a start. I've been wearing it intermittently, though. Three hours, four hours tops every day, far from the requirement of eight hours per day. Have I noticed anything different? Well, no. I mean, I've only been wearing it for about a week (here and there).

It is a start, and I kind of like it. I like how I'm forced to stand with my back straight and my stomach pulled in. I believe it is all muscle control. I'm engaging my core muscles whenever I'm wearing the corset, and engaging them is a form of exercise, so I'm exercising them while blogging this entry. Some even recommend wearing the corset while working out, but I find that inhibiting the moves.

And yes, I'm back to working out. I don't intend to look like Sylvester Stallone. Not even Madonna. But I can use a flatter stomach. And that's my goal. At least the corset I'm wearing is size Small.

Alex and I were talking about Cameron Diaz the other day. He told me that Cameron had just turned forty. It's so unfair, isn't it? But then again, she's worth millions of dollars, and most likely has her own personal trainer and can afford gym equipment and trips to health spas and skin clinics.

So what do we do?

Well, I'm starting to work my body with Jillian Michael's 30 Day Shred. This is the first day. I'm on Level 1. It's bearable, it's workable, and it's only thirty something minutes. Of course I put in more work out using resistance bands (they're so practical, more so than weights. The only problem is you can't really tell how heavy you're working on) and mixing it up with ATS® practices. Mostly to Slow Moves to decrease the heart rate and condition the muscles before cooling down.

One thing that I'm lacking is discipline. I just don't have it. This MFA program is really, really rigorous. Short stories, books, drafts to read and write critics about, then writing my own drafts for workshop submissions and the weekly shorties. These may not be rocket science or open heart surgery, but there are days when your brain just can't think of a word anymore and needs to go stupid, Patrick Star style. So, let's just see if I can have the discipline to complete Jillian Michaels' thirty day challenge. She recommends doing it five days per week.


Friday, 10 August 2012


For this one, Mr. Tenorio challenged us to write a shorty in three paragraphs. Here's the prompt: an aging professor is recently denied his tenure in a small university in a small town, and the professor is now sitting in a bar, thinking about it. The first paragraph must have at least five sentences and must cover a maximum of ten minutes of his life, the second paragraph must not have more than five sentences and must cover a minimum of five years of his life, and the last paragraph must show him hailing a taxi to go home.

The idea is to stretch time like in Raymond Carver's short "The Cathedral".


Tom Willis fingered the rim of his glass. It was his third milkshake. His first one was chocolate. “I need the happiness,” he said to the bartender, “And nothing else gives me bliss like a healthy serving of chocolate.” The second one was strawberry. “Because pink is such a lovely color. Like my bedroom,” he said to a man who sat beside him. The man moved two bar stools away after an awkward silence. And now it was vanilla. “Like most aspects of my life.” Tom ran his right middle finger around the mouth of the tall glass, tracing it. With his right thumb and index finger, he held the white bendy straw that jutted out of the snowy top of the milkshake. Tom slowly pulled it out, concentrating on the lush squishing sounds that the straw made as it slid out of the calorie fountain. He had asked for whole milk. He needed to binge, at least tonight. Some of the vanilla goodness stuck to the straw. Tom put the straw near his lips and licked it clean, the sweetness transferred to his tongue. He grasped the cold, hard, clear acrylic glass and put its mouth to his and began to swallow the icy content. He needed to binge. At least tonight.

After twenty years of teaching, nay, dedicating his life to that dismal Liberal Arts College, in that dismal, provincial town, Tom’s tenure was denied. As soon as he got to his apartment he had been renting on a monthly basis, he packed his bags and took the first plane to Reno where his parents were. As the plane made a descent to Reno-Tahoe International Airport, he felt himself waking up from a nightmare. No more close-minded students, no more pesky colleagues, and no more board of ungrateful school directors smelling of cheap colognes. He smiled as he remembered his exact words to the members of that board when he announced his resignation.

Tom looked at his third glass of milkshake. It was half empty. He was smiling now but it was a different kind of smile from the one on the plane. That one had been a smile of small victory. This one was a smile of great defeat. Tom lifted his head and he caught the eyes of the bartender. The bartender couldn’t be more than thirty. He had red hair that matched his neatly trimmed beard and eyes that had that proverbial sparkle. But he was only a bartender, Tom thought. A bartender wouldn’t know Moby Dick if he sat on one. But he was so full of life, unlike Tom, who, by now, was wasted and drowning in unforgivably high amount of calories. But Tom couldn’t care less. Let those years of working out be damned. He would stop dying his hair to hide the silvering lines. The bartender was still smiling at Tom, but Tom couldn’t read his smile. Was it an ironic smile? Tom couldn’t tell. In a week, after daily visits to the bar, after sitting on the same place every time, the bartender would strike a conversation with Tom and Tom would learn that his name was Jerry and they would laugh, and that would be Tom’s first real laugh in six years. In a month, Jerry and Tom would kiss, and Jerry would tell Tom how he had fallen in love with a sad-looking man who looked like Ernest Hemingway and had three milkshakes in a row and Tom would cry on Jerry’s chest and they would talk about The Old Man and the Sea. But for now, Tom only smiled back at the bartender, finished his milkshake, paid the tab, and walked out of the bar to hail a cab that would take him back to his parents’ home.


Monday, 6 August 2012

shopping for silver

Mom has a thing for bags... And brooches... Well, and flower seeds and gardening. She tried to resist my offer to buy her something from Bali, but then she said, "Well, if you INSIST, then a silver brooch," to which I replied, "But Mom, I bought you a silver brooch when I came to Bali two years ago and you never wore it!"

"Says who? I wear it often! The thing is, it the pin was bent, so I'm worried it'll break," she said.

So off we went to Ubud, where silver jewelry (the highest quality in Bali) abound. If you're looking for silver jewelry or silver artisans, Bali and Yogyakarta (central Java) are famous for silver. The designs and the craftsmanship are exquisite (this was the word I kept muttering when I saw the silver collections).

Our search began in several artisan shops in an area called Celuk. They sell exquisite jewelry from rings, brooches, hair pins, to earrings, and bracelets and bangles, and decorations made of silver and or gold. We went to one artisan shop and there was this exquisite (see, I keep repeating that word) brooch. The price tag was around USD 600. The seller saw that we were locals, so he gave us USD 300. When we were about to leave, he gave us USD 100.

We went to other artisan shops, including one called UC Silver. Their collections are beautiful, but too crazy contemporary. Too modern for my taste. I was looking for something more local, more traditional, more Indonesian, and definitely not that expensive (Ruby encrusted brooch for USD 1,200? Really? I guess they have to pay for the billboards, the shops, the personal assistants for shoppers (yes, kidding I am not), the display, the decor, and the renovation for the new parking lot).

Then we began our search to smaller silver boutiques in Ubud, and I found the perfect brooch for Mom. Strangely, it was at CV Utami, the store where I bought Mom her first silver brooch.

Isn't it just exquisite? I couldn't find a cat, so I chose a peacock. Hopefully it'll remind her of my tattoo and give her subliminal messages to allow me to get more ink.

Finally, we had lunch at Tutma, a cozy open-air restaurant in Ubud. I had Vegetarian Platter (seriously overpriced and not even tasty) and iced tea (which had an icky aftertaste), and Cinnamon Roll (this one is crazy good. It was big and warm, picture attached). 

Sunday, 5 August 2012

fabric frenzy

Whenever I'm in Bali, I always go to Jalan Sulawesi / Pasar Badung. It's an area that sells all kinds of imaginable fabrics: Batik, solid satin, charmeuse, taffeta, velvet, stretch velvet, organza, to Balinese golden ceremonial and traditional cloths.

I felt I needed more pantaloons, so my boyfriend drove me to Jalan Sulawesi. I've been looking for either charmeuse or stretch print velvet, but I found better ones.

As I was paying for the two Indian print fabrics (I had a hard time deciding which color, they were all so beautiful, but I only had a budget for two prints), my eyes brought me to another section and I found it: print taffeta. The fabric was soft and drapey, the motif was perfect, and the color... I tried my best to take photos, but I just couldn't capture the color.

When the fabric was cut and the roll was placed back to the section, I still couldn't take my eyes off of it. I guess it meant I really loved it. It's the top one in the picture on the left. It's ridiculously cheap: only about USD 4 per meter! The Indian prints are even half the price.

Friday, 3 August 2012

dining in bali

When I went to Bali last year, my boyfriend took me to a vegan restaurant called Deity of Miracle. We had a few lunches there, and most often than not, we were the only customers there. It was a big, big restaurant with two seating sections: the upper floor had tables and chairs while the garden offered several patios where diners can lounge.

Yesterday evening, we went there again. To my surprise, Deity of Miracle was still open for business. I helped myself to a plate of Sweet & Sour Mushroom (pure and epic deliciousness) and Bean & Tempe.

My tummy had never been happier.

So please, for the sake of this restaurant (that always seems to be empty), please eat here.