NBPM #19: My 100th blog post

FanTanSo, this is how it’s going down. It’s NaBloPoMo day 19 and my 100th post, and I’m going to write it in less than an hour. I’m already getting anxious and wondering how I’m going to pull it off. You see, I usually let my fingers hover over the keys for at least 30 minutes before the tapping begins. And that tapping usually involves the delete button being tapped repeatedly. Yes, that’s me, never quite certain how much I want to share, and never planning ahead. I’m sure most NaBloPoMo bloggers have a plan, or some kind of outline. Well, not me. When it comes to this blog, I just jump right in.  Whatever is on my mind is what you’ll find here.  Tonight, I’m quite certain that this will be a random ramble. You’ve been warned!

So, why do I write? Yes, I will write about that.  I like lists. Most of us like lists, so here I will share with you a list, a list of the reasons why I write.

  1. I have a monkey mind, and when I write my thoughts down, I stop swinging from thought to thought. It gives me some mental clarity.
  2. I have a sense of humour, but I rarely let it shine through in my spoken life.  Now that I am getting older, I’m trying to let my light side flow though my life, and writing is helping with this. I’m not the quiet, conservative girl, anymore.
  3. I like to share.  I’ve always liked to share. Whether it’s cookies, flowers, or my words, I’ve got enough to go around. Maybe my words will make someone think, or smile, or laugh, or feel a little less lonely.
  4. I think I’m good at it. Yes, I do.  And to be honest with you, I don’t think I am good at many things. Being able to write helps me boost my self-confidence.
  5. I like being alone. Writing is my solitude. It gives me time to recharge for the next social engagement.
  6. It helps me develop and articulate my ideas. Writing gives me the time I need to process my thoughts.
  7.  It’s my mirror, and I can take it wherever I go. It’s my camera, too, capturing snapshots of my life.

So, there you have it.  My 100th ramble on lotusgirl80!  Thank you for reading. (I hope it was time well-spent.)





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NBPM #18: Wordless Wednesday

Oh, Wordless Wednesday, you have arrived!  After a long day at work and an evening of cleaning, I am out of words. However, I’ll share with you (whoever you are) a little story about the photo below. Every morning, I catch the bus in front of a trendy, retro hair salon. The flowers in the window change weekly, and I usually Instagram them. They bring a bit of joy to my mornings, so I like to share them.  This morning, a young artist was painting a tree, and when I arrived home tonight there was a lovely, winter scene. It was too beautiful not to snap and share!

Happy Holidays

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NBPM #17: Arabic Lessons

As-salamu Alaykum  (Peace be upon you), NaBloPoMo day 17, and all my blog readers!  Thank you for taking this 30-day journey with me. Today was a bit monumental for me for several reasons: 1. A year ago today, I started working at my school. Although I’m no longer a teacher there, I’m the one behind the scenes making sure everything runs smoothly. 2. A year ago today, I was fighting off spontaneous tears throughout the day. (It was a wonderful first day at the school!)  I was heartbroken – part of me still is, but I’m moving on. 3. Today, I wrote my first Arabic conversation. I’m taking baby steps.

Learning another language is so humbling; it puts me in my students’ shoes, the ones they wear after they’ve just arrived in Canada.  I can relate to their pauses, their smiles, their blank stares, their nervous laughter, because I have been doing the same thing for the past 6 weeks. When they skip school, or are late for class, I don’t immediately jump to the conclusion that they are lazy students.  Learning another language can be exhausting and discouraging — sometimes, you need to take a break.  For many of my students, they’re also adjusting to a different culture and/or living on their own for the first time.  I get it; I understand their need to sleep in, speak their own language with friends, and just take some time ‘away’ from English. I took some time away from Arabic, as my class was cancelled last week, and the children at the Sunday Arabic school had a fieldtrip. However, I am back at it — making progress, slowly, but surely.

I have to be honest; I’m not the most diligent student. I don’t study much, but I do my homework and seek ways to practice my Arabic outside of class.  At school, I greet my students with MarHabaa, thank them with Shokran, and bid them farewell with Ma’a Salaama. On Saturdays, I volunteer with a woman from Saudi Arabia, and she checks my homework and helps me with pronunciation. Her brother is a speech therapist, so I think she has some special insight. On Sundays, I greet the children at the Arabic school, and during their break time, they help me with my writing. I know I’m making progress; last week, when I was volunteering, one of the senior residents gave me a chocolate wafer.  I think his family must have sent them from Vietnam. There was French, Vietnamese, and Arabic writing on the small wrapper. I could read the word halal (lawful or permissible). And my manager received a gift from Jordan recently – a small bottle filled with a colourful desert scene and his name in Arabic inside. I could read it, and I knew he had the wrong bottle on his desk!

I love these little language victories! My weekend assignment for myself is to organize all my worksheets, and make some flashcards.  My teacher’s homework for me is to write a conversation in Arabic script. With a little help from my friends, I will manage to get it done, inshallah.

Tonight, I will leave you with a picture of my conversation in class. It is a dialogue between two strangers, Zayeena and Sameer, one is from Libya and the other is from Syria. Zayeena has a sister named Samyra, and Sameer has a father named Jameel, and a mother named Jameela.





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NBPM #16: Mourning Monday

I wish it were Wordless Wednesday. I’ve run out of words tonight. I feel exhausted, emotionally and physically, and cannot explain why. Is it this rain that never seems to stop? Is it this news of terror and discrimination that never seems to cease? Is it hearing the words, “I don’t mean to be racist but….” from a colleague? Is it this sadness that overcomes me when I see all the ignorance, subtle and not-so subtle, in my world? Is it this awakening to my Lebanese roots, a yearning to know more? These questions are too much for me tonight. My heart aches for the lives taken and their families left behind;for the refugees trying to find their way and a safe place to stay; and for those who have lost their way and their respect for their fellow beings. As this viral Instagram post starts, “It is not Paris we should pray for. It is the world.”

Today, it is my Mourning Monday, and I will leave you with some hopeful sunsets.

Symphony Splash Sunset 2<a

Symphony Splash Sunset 1

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NBPM #15: Creating routines

I’ve reached the half-way point, NaBloPoMo day 15. Honestly, I wasn’t sure that I would make it this far, but here I am. Last night, I almost didn’t make it. I posted at 11:55pm, and then returned after midnight to edit my post. I’m taking this blogging thing quite seriously, you see. It feels good to get into the routine of writing everyday.  It feels good to get into another routine. I like routines – they ground me.

I’ve continued my routines in three different countries.  Although my routines have varied, they have most definitely been established.  Even when I travel, I like to create somewhat of a routine, and do things that I might do, if I lived there, like eating croissants, sipping on cappuccinos, and staying ‘home‘. I like the consistency of routine; I like having an element of predictability in my life. I like knowing that I have a plan, and that there are certain things that I do on certain days. Life is filled with uncertainties, and having elements that I can count on, brings me a sense of peace. And with routine, I am the engineer. I’m not leaving it up to chance. I’m the one creating my own habits and rituals; I’m creating my balance. However, at times, routine has crept into my life, and it wasn’t all my own engineering.

As a student in Salaya, routine crept into my life.  First, I started wearing a school uniform, then I offered a ‘wai’ twice a day after the national anthem, and  stood at attention in the movie theatre to show respect for His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej. I also started creating my own routines –   Monday to Friday aerobics to ’80s music, Friday lunch in the  market, Saturday morning in the campus pool, and Sunday temple outings and dinner with Thai friends. When I returned to Thailand to work, I created more routines.  Although I no longer wore my school uniform, I wore the appropriate colour for everyday of the week. (Mondays are yellow, Tuesdays are pink, Wednesdays are green, Thursdays are orange, Fridays are blue, Saturdays are purple, and Sundays are red.) During mourning periods, I blended in with the Thais and wore black, grey, and navy for three months. And I still did aerobics to ’80s music, but this time it was in Bangkok, and my Sundays were reserved for laundry and somtam. Near the end of my five years in Thailand, I was an office worker at the university where I was once a student, and I resumed my routine of Friday market lunches. When I tell people I lived in Thailand for six years, they assume I must miss the food and the people.  I do, but more than that, I miss the routine, which made it my home.

As a teacher in Uijeongbu, routine was something I created in my life over time.  I also chose to opt out of some ‘routines’. With odd working hours, 2:30pm to 9:30pm, I let myself fall into some laziness in the beginning, but I soon realized that I could do a lot in the morning hours. I reconnected with my love of running, and went for morning runs along the Jungnangcheon River, and took Korean lessons at my Canadian friend’s hagwon. After work, I would join friends at Kimbap Heaven for a late dinner, and then head home to bed. As time went on, I started volunteering one morning a week with North Korean refugees, and going on Seoul excursions, and out-of-town hiking trips on the weekends. I never fell into the after-work drinking and socializing with co-workers routine, because it didn’t mesh with the rest of my routine.

Back in Victoria, my routine is still evolving, but it’s not so different from my routines in my other countries. I am studying Arabic every Tuesday night, I go to the market and volunteer every Saturday, I do laundry every Sunday, and I’m trying to develop a daily exercise routine. Actually, routine seems more difficult to sustain in my home country.  I’m not sure why. For a long time, I think it was because I felt unsettled here, and didn’t have a stable job.  Now, I think it is because I’m still adjusting to a fulltime job, which isn’t always predictable, and a side job, that has it’s own set of demands.  Like I said, routine is grounding for me, and I know I need it to weather the changes, and become more settled in my life.  For me, writing is my new routine, and I hope to continue writing, even after NaBloPoMo ends.


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NBPM #14: Sage advice

“Aren’t you too young to be living on your own?” All I could do was chuckle and reply with a question of my own for the white-haired sister, “How old do you think I am?” She looked me up and down, and came to the conclusion that I was a teenager.  When I told her my real age, she smiled and said, “Oh my, you’re well-preserved!” In that moment, she had made my day. Then she continued to ask me the same questions, she’d asked the week before, and when the movie credits started rolling, she asked where she lived. I told her she was home, and she looked around at all the fancy wheels, some fancier then others, and nodded, smiling, “My brother is here, too.” I thought silently, “Oh yes, I know, and he always tells the volunteers they have erotic/exotic names.”

It’s funny, but the more time I spend with older people, the less worried I am about reaching their milestones.  I’ve volunteered with seniors since I was a teenager (a real one), and over the many years, I’ve learned so much.  And I am realizing more and more, that I don’t have to wait until I have white-hair and fancy wheels to incorporate their wisdom into my life. So, I’d like to share some sage advice that I’ve learned from the centennials (or near centennials) thus far.

  •  Be yourself, and don’t apologize for who you are. It takes too much valuable energy being someone else.
  • Ask for what you need. We all need help sometimes; don’t be afraid to ask for it.
  • Say No. If you’d rather stay home on a Saturday night than go to that party, that movie, that dinner date, then just say, “No.” And don’t feel guilty about it.
  • Take the time to listen. We all want to be heard. Listen to someone, even if you’ve heard their story before. Smile and nod (like you mean it), it shows that you’re there.
  • Ask questions, even if you think they’re silly. Questions help you understand the world, and show others that you want to know more.
  • Don’t stop reading. Read large font books or use a magnifier, if you’re eyes are failing you. You also have the option of listening to audiobooks. Keep your mind active and learn new things.
  • Say nice things. Notice the small things. Take note of your friend’s new haircut, or headscarf. Compliment your friends and family, and even strangers. Sometimes, nice words can make someone’s day.
  • Laugh at yourself. Don’t take life too seriously. If you’re locked out of your house, don’t fret, just crawl through the window. If you spill coffee on your favourite shirt, wipe it off, and laugh about your clumsiness. When you are nearing the 100 mark, you’ll have a lot more than spilt coffee on your shirt.
  • Establish a routine. A routine provides stability and comfort. It can promote calmness and greater awareness. It can also help us build our relationships. How so? Read more.

There you have it. That’s my sage advice, in a total random order (that’s my way and I’m not apologizing for it).  I’d like to write more on routine, but I’ll save that for another post.

Good night, NaBloPoMo day 14!


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NBPM #13: Friday for Paris

post cardsLast summer, I went to Paris for five days with a dear friend of mine. We stayed with a British/Spanish family in Malakoff, a suburban commune in the southwest of Paris. The couple had fallen in love in Paris many years ago, and had decided to make it their home. They welcomed us into their home, like we were their teenage children, and almost every morning and night, we would eat together.

In the morning, I’d have tea and toast with the Spanish academic, and we would talk about everything from politics to gender identity. During the day, my friend and I would be off doing what tourists do in Paris, visiting the Eiffel Tower, Musee D’Orsay, Arc de Triomph, the Seine River, Notre Dame de Paris, etc.  Then in the evening, we would return for a family dinner with their real teenage children.  Most nights, dinner was out on the patio, but one night, we lounged around eating fresh bread, foreign cheeses, and  fancy salads, watching Sofia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette starring Kirsten Dunst.  The next morning, we took the train to Versailles. Versailles was exquisite, but to be honest, my best morning was in Malakoff at the market. The market was a fusing of cultures, breads, olives, cheeses, fish, vegetables, fruits, and household goods. It reminded me of an Asian market, filled with the energy of the local vendors, and the haggling clientele.

I had a good five days in Paris, and as much as I enjoyed the museums and monuments, it was the food (bread and cheese) and the family in Malakoff, that left a lasting impression.

A house in Malakoff

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NBPM #12: Write on

I don’t really have time to think about you, day 12.  I’ve only got one hour left to publish you, so I am sorry that I cannot be more thoughtful.  If it makes you feel any better, I’ve been inspired to write tonight. I’ve been inspired by the writer’s life.  I’ve often thought about doing something crazy, like quitting my job and writing and reading all day long.  I’ve also thought about just immersing myself in another language, another culture. I’ve come close.

I’m an amateur, when it comes to writing.  I sit on the fence; I just dip my toes in. In Bangkok, I joined a women writers’ group, but only made it to two events, before being swept away by a fulltime job. I was also a little disheartened sharing my work with fellow writers. The first night, my writing piece was dissected and critiqued, and I went home wondering if my writing should just be confined to the walls of my journal.  How pathetic, I know.  Rejection is part of the writer’s journey.  Anyhow, this year when I joined ‘Writing your Memoir’ at UVic, I was met with thoughtful feedback that made me want to write on.  But again, a fulltime job seemed to envelop my life, making it difficult to make it to class, and find the time to write.

Blogging here is helping me get my writer’s groove back, and a new teacher in my life is getting me inspired.  She invited me to her book reading tonight, and I wasn’t so sure I wanted wade through puddles in the pouring rain, with no gum boots and a flimsy umbrella, but I am so glad I did. Initially, I wasn’t sure, when I arrived in the lavish hotel, looking like a drowned rat.  I looked around and saw so many people. Elegant dresses, funky boots, jeans and jackets, cozy sweaters and leggings, cat-eye glasses, wine glasses, beer bottles, tables of books, indistinct chatter, distinct laughter, subtle perfume, perfect smiles, rain pattering on the glass ceiling above me.  The introvert in me wanted to escape, but then the teacher/writer arrived. She was with her partner, a suave dresser, and her friend, a lovely silver-haired woman with a three-legged dog. They took me under their wing, and us ladies spent most of the night gently (and quietly) critiquing the readings (and writers), from the back of the room. For some reason, I felt right at home with these hip, older women.

When the writer in our midst finally took stage, we all stopped momentarily, and then burst into laughter, with the rest of the audience.  Her book, a memoir of sorts, in honour of her mother, was touching, but never the less comical. Actually, I haven’t read it, but the excerpt leads me to believe it will be this way. The book looks at an aging mother through a lens of compassion and humour. It’s on my book shelf now looking at me, just waiting to be read.

I believe writers have a magical life; they have so many different worlds. They write what they know, and what they hope to know. They create worlds with their words, and dig deeper into themselves, while at the same time urging others to look inward, or outward. They have a writer’s ‘hat’, like a secret spell, and it is theirs alone, it is their voice.  Their stories are part of them, but they’re not selfish, they share them. They are many things, and one part of them is a writer. Sometimes, I think I am a writer.

Rustic flowers

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NBPM #11: Friend breakup

Day 11. NaBloPoMo just keeps ticking on. Today, I had this blog post all planned out, but right now, I don’t even want to write. I’m upset, so upset that my cheeks are burning, and I’m hurt, so hurt that tears are falling from my eyes. Honestly, I don’t want to get into it here. And it’s not because I think my friend will read it, because I know ‘it’s not her thing’, but because I don’t want to rehash it. We were both at fault. We were dishonest with each other. Part of me feels like our friendship is over, but it is too soon to tell. Losing friends sucks, just like losing love, but sometimes it is meant to be.

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NBPM #10: Change of plans

change of planIt’s NaBloPoMo day 10, and I am going to tell you right away that this post is going to be short and sweet.  Do you ever have those days that are filled with little twists and turns? I say ‘little’ because the changes in your day aren’t major, but they’re definitely noticeable. Today was one of those days for me.

After turning off my alarm several times, and rushing around to get ready, I finally bit the bullet and fired off a text to my colleagues. “I’m running late….about 15 minutes late. Sorry. :( ” Anyhow, the extra 15 minutes gave me time to prepare lunch and put some eyeshadow and mascara on. It gave me time to walk to the bus stop, instead of running at full speed, like I usually do. What can I say?! I’m not a morning person.  Today, I gave myself permission to NOT be a morning person. I did stay an hour and a half late today, so I don’t feel guilty about those 15 minutes!

Allowing myself to go to work late was the first twist.  The second one came at work, when I felt like I could breathe, and that I was on top of my to-do list. It was an empowering feeling, one that I haven’t felt in a long time. Although I was busy with students and teachers, I felt like I was sailing smooth seas.  The day was going so smooth that at the end of the day I thought I’d give my boss a little scare. In my most serious and official voice, I told him that we should talk in private. I could tell he was apprehensive. My colleague had handed in her resignation two weeks ago. Anyhow, once behind closed doors, I presented him with a Thank you/Farewell card for that colleague, so that he could sign it before he left for his business trip. As he was writing away in the card, he let out a sigh of relief. I chuckled to myself. Sometimes, I have an odd sense of humour.

Another turn was in store, after I finally committed to taking the bus, on such a chilly night, to my Arabic class.  On the bus, I connected with a fellow student and we chatted on our way to class. We had never had an opportunity to talk before, and all I knew was that she was born in Saudi Arabia, left when she was a baby, grew up speaking Arabic with her parents, but soon English took over, and now she was rediscovering her mother tongue. On our way to class, I learned about her studies, her time spent abroad, and her interest in going to law school.When I found out that our class was cancelled due to reading break, I was disappointed, but happy that I had made the bus journey and a new connection.

After we parted ways,  I walked to the bus stop and mentally prepared myself for an early night. Then a voice in my head said, “Why don’t you go to a movie?”  So, that is what I did.  I went to see Mr. Holmes. It’s not the kind of movie I would usually watch, but then again, it wasn’t a usual day. In the end, I was glad I went, and I enjoyed every twist and turn in the story, right along with the beautiful scenery.

As I was riding home on the bus, I recounted the day, and all the unexpected twists and turns.  When I had woken up in the morning, I had had my day all planned out. None of it went according to plan. I never expected that I would go to work late, exchange numbers with a fellow student, not go to Arabic class, and instead  go to a movie. Sometimes, plans change and the day turns out to be a little more extraordinary than you expected!

P.S. I guess this isn’t as short and sweet as I thought it would be.  I’m just trying to stick with the theme ;-).

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