All posts tagged: Guatemala

Anchoring love in memories

When I was growing up, my mother insisted that “respect cannot be forced; it must, instead, be inspired.” She may as well have been speaking about love. My notion of love is grounded in place, anchored in memories of the self I was when the heart fluttered readily and of the life that made it come aflutter. I remember what I was wearing, I remember the documents I was editing when I was g-chatting inconspicuously in another tab. The slight nausea in anticipation of the moment when the distance would end, and he would parade through the airport doors. The need to remember how to be with one another again, in proximity and in the flesh, not protected by laptop screens thousands of miles apart. I remember what loving in Egypt felt like: dusty, furtive, tasting of ‘shai’ and ‘asir faroula’ and ‘sheesha toufach’, with the strong Arabic ‘ch’ at the end that I could never quite muster. It felt clumsy and young and shy and full of wondering and wandering. It was the love …

For all the tables we have danced on

“It is always important to dance.” This phrase recurs in my friend Jonathon’s book, as a life philosophy that merits reiteration. I had never thought of dancing as something that invites the adjective “important” until I moved to Guatemala, where Jonathon and my friendship was born. My Guatemala was steeped in importance and imperatives, in trauma and injustice. It was an outsized kind of importance, the kind that shows you the limits of your knowledge and highlights the boundaries of what you can do to understand mass atrocities and serve their survivors. At no point did I feel qualified for the tasks required of me in Guatemala; and even if in some universe, I were qualified to perform the tasks themselves, no part of me was prepared for the emotional weight, vicarious trauma, and ceaseless heartbreak. It seems curious, then, that Guatemala was where we danced. We danced with vigor and with no shame, with no reservation and with gusto—every single time, with gusto. We danced on beaches and atop volcanoes, in living rooms and on coffee …

My bubble

In red ink, my father marked a sentence in The Early Asimov, Volume I About a year ago, I climbed an active volcano. A week later, it erupted. What felt like two days after that, a hurricane hit that very spot. Calamity follows in my wake and coincidences like these that have prompted many a friend to suggest a bubble wrap bodysuit would be an appropriate birthday present for me. Lately, I have learned to revel in a different kind of bubble wrap. It is a bubble that forms at night, in the absence of conflict, fear or worry. It is a bubble of joy and it tastes like scrambled eggs. It usually starts with leggings. When I was living in the United States, websites instructed women that, in so many words, “leggings are not pants, please cover your rear end.” In my bubble, away from sartorially-trained eyes, leggings are pants enough. My bubble involves pages of Zadie Smith and Mary Oliver, read on the couch, in leggings, while waving away mosquitoes with the hand …

A decade ago, a year ago, yesterday: Food and memories

A decade ago I grew up in a house of celebrations. My mother, ever fond of decorating, was appalled when baby Roxanne was afraid of the Christmas tree. Five-year-old Roxanne learned to love how the house reflected the seasons. For Apokries, the Greek Halloween, streamers and costume hats would adorn the staircase. Greek Independence Day, Easter and the advent of spring arrive intertwined in my homeland, so my mother always took care to fill the house with bird’s nests and dyed eggs. Decor-induced injuries were not uncommon in that house. My uncle notoriously emerged from the bathroom massaging his bald head one Christmas: not even the bathroom was exempt from my mother’s love of celebrations and a part of the tree (yes, in the bathroom) collided with my uncle’s head while he was flushing. It was my father, however, who taught me the quintessential ritual of Greek Easters: roasting lamb on a spit. As a college student in America, I noticed that one did not happen to walk past butchers that had full lambs hanging …

Café “I do not know”

We’ve lived in bars and danced on tables hotels trains and ships that sail we swim with sharks and fly with aeroplanes out of here -Cat Power, Lived in Bars In Uganda, it was called Fugly’s. In Egypt, it was an alley in which no two wooden chairs looked the same. In Colombia, it involved flamenco by candlelight. Every country in which I have lived and worked, no matter the scale of conflict or natural disaster plaguing it, has always been home to that one place where aid workers, backpackers, wanderlusters and gray-haired ex-pats gather to share their nostalgia, pearls of wisdom, love or disdain of being on the road, and conspiracy theories. In Guatemala, it is called Café No Sé. Part of the print ad for No Sé lists – with pride – the following as its attributes: “uncomfortable seats, confused staff, wanted and unwanted pregnancies […], 4.5 dogs, other creatures, deviant behavior […], hearts to break, heartbreakers …” Nobody goes to Café No Sé for an uneventful, quiet night of reflection – not …