All posts tagged: Love

Field notes from Colombia: Nostalgia

This field notes dispatch was compiled, as most honest thoughts are, through excerpts of emails to loved ones. It was inevitable. Do not even pretend to be surprised. A few times a month, I publish a column at The Equals Record titled “Eternally Nostalgic” and this weekend I have lived up to its namesake. A recent New York Times article asked “What is nostalgia good for?” Starting from the premise that it used to be considered “a neurological disease of essentially demonic cause,” the article sought to debunk myths surrounding nostalgia and illuminate its positive sides. An unintended benefit of nostalgia is that it, apparently, raises your body temperature, making you feel warmer. In search of warmth, I write to you from Cartagena on the Caribbean coast of Colombia. I arrived in this country to find myself taken aback by the July chill of Bogotá and the coziness of outdoor space heaters. This weekend I fled to Cartagena, in search of fuller, humid air and warmth. If Cartagena were a color, it would be a …

Before Sunrise, Sunset, Midnight: Reclaiming memories

A caveat: None of this will make sense to you if you have no memories attached to the movies Before Sunrise and Before Sunset. If that is the case, skip this post, and run – don’t walk, run! – to your nearest video club (uhm, Netflix) to watch them before you return to this page. Before Sunset in Beirut, Lebanon I did not set foot on an airplane until I was 13 years old. I was not one of those traveling babies, looking all cute in their cosmopolitan strollers, being photographed in front of the Eiffel Tower. I discovered the beauty of the road as an early teenager – a perfect era for discovery, in many senses. My relatively stationary childhood did not adequately foreshadow the endless years of nomadism to come in my twenties. I remember only one childhood home with clarity, the site I call home in Greece to this day, and have only one faded memory of the apartment that preceded it, which involves my being a fat toddler who was afraid …

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 …

The responsibility to love

This post first appeared as Roxanne’s column on Wednesday, November 7th, on The Equals Project. Life had been reduced to a stack of flashcards in the past week. The green ones contained information on United Nations peacekeeping missions: mandates, areas of deployment, challenges. The blue ones referred to peacekeeping doctrine. The orange ones summarized relevant legal citations. At the top of the flashcard stack rested a question: “What is the legal status of the Responsibility to Protect?” Affectionately dubbed R2P, this refers to the responsibility to protect populations from genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity, and ethnic cleansing. The questions of whose responsibility this is, how to uphold it, and where it fits on the spectrum of legal duty or interpreted responsibility are complex and controversial. Last night, at his speech upon being pronounced the winner of the 2012 presidential election, Barack Obama articulated a different set of responsibilities, both on the part of leaders and of citizens. Among the many issues he touched upon, one stood out to me: his articulation of the responsibility …

Youthful exuberance

Beirut’s drummer started grinning the second he set foot on the stage of their Boston concert. He did not stop until the end. Neither did I. *** I remember eras by the music that permeated them. “And in a year, a year or so, this will slip into the sea” was the musical carpet to Cairo and novelty, to young love and friendships that grew in alleys. Beirut’s music was the soundtrack of arms sticking out of car windows in Lebanon and Syria, of cheekiness and youth, of an unbridled desire to breathe in the world in its entirety. “Good evening, Boston!”, said Zach Condon into the microphone. “That’s us!” I told Elijah in a fit of obviousness. This is our city in which he is performing, our home point to which he is referring. In the disorientation of transitions, I have forgotten that we are not transient here. We are budding Bostonians, just as we once were aspiring Cairenes. It feels like Beirut and our love provide the only consistent narrative threads between then …

For the tavern girls

  Haroula is in the left boot, Maria in the right. The other Maria and my cousin Eleni are nestled in  the carafe of wine. I wrapped Nantia into a sock and Nikoleta in the underwear. Elijah has affectionately dubbed them “the tavern girls.” When I think about their company, I can taste fried zucchini and calamari, melitzanosalata and tsipouro. The stuff of Greece. Because of them, I can feel grains of sand still etched into the lining of my shoe and skin peeling on my lower back. The tavern girls are woven into memories of home and love, sea and late-night sky. They are the memories of a Greece the news does not cover — of a Greece that exists in our hearts. On my last morning in Thessaloniki, Haroula and Nikoleta surprised me by showing up at my house. In my front yard they re-created the tavern: a carafe of wine, and seven glasses, each with our name on them. “So you can take us with you,” they offered. The past three years have shown …

Poem on the wall

The last thing in our Jerusalem apartment, and the last photo I took in Jerusalem: poem on the wall. I am on the moving walkway at Ben Gurion airport in a knit sweater, a leather jacket, and high heels. It is 37 degrees Celsius out and I am leaving little pieces of myself behind in Israel in the form of nostalgia-filled droplets of sweat. It is the oldest trick in the travel book: Everything that will weigh down a suitcase must be worn. If sentimentality had gotten the better of me, I would also be wearing the wooden desk that previously sat in the corner of our bedroom and the vanilla chai mix we had to leave behind. “You will not feel like we are truly leaving until the internet is gone,” Elijah joked. He was right. I took it upon myself to navigate the infamous Israeli bureaucracy to cancel our connection, in the hope that a potential negative experience on the eve of our departure would perhaps lighten the heavy heart boarding the plane. …

The poetry of silence

In a feature titled Poets I Didn’t Study in School, PeacexPeace sheds light on the unsung poetry of conflict. And in a confluence of literary minds this National Poetry Month, Akhila Kolisetty prompted a reflection on the poets of our lives. In a notebook with a yellow straw chair on the cover, I capture the stanzas that caused a small gasp when I first read them. They range from words out of a newspaper article, to half a line from Mary Oliver, to dozens of verses out of Elytis’ The Monogram. My childhood was a collage of setting out on the road to Ithaca and “να εύχεσαi να ‘ναι μακρύς ο δρόμος…“ and “nobody, not even the rain has such small hands.” Tucked onto a fridge in Washington D.C., I found Mary Oliver: “let the soft animal of your body love what it loves.“ In the remainders basement of the Harvard Bookstore, Neruda came into my life. And at an outdoor bookstore in the Plaza de Armas of Havana, I met Benedetti: “te quiero porque …

The end of missing someone

A story of then and now, of farewells and reunions: Then — a walk through Athens, the first almond blossoms, dashing subways, Melina Merkouri watching over us, Vespas in the sunshine, wine and seafood in the sun under the Parthenon. Four days ago “HAHAHAHAHAHA! Did you eat……. garlic?” I did, but I did not expect my brother to smell it on me the second I walked into his apartment. Garlic was a fundamental part of the last ode to Athens: a walk with Niki, wine, octopus and melitzanosalata with a generous portion of garlic for lunch in the shadow of the Acropolis. “Well, let me email Elijah and tell him to bring a nose clip to the airport!,” he joked. And proceeded to actually email him. I laughed and Moira the dog backed away from me. [My brother will still tell you it was because of the stench.] 71 days away from my love and on the day of the reunion I had melitzanosalata. There comes a point of solitude when it is simply you: …

The scent of memories

It was the day after Christmas and proof of my yellow fever vaccination was nowhere to be found. I have never been a scrapbooker, but trinkets have always traveled with me. Boarding passes, receipts from excellent meals, pieces of paper that speak to me and tell me I should hold on to them. I pulled out the blue envelope that contained the mementos of that year. The paper inside still smells like Guatemala. I found the first love note he wrote me. For “the girl out there with love in her eyes and flowers in her hair.” I found the luggage tags from the trip that brought me to Cairo on the day we met. I found a first draft of the curriculum I designed for the post-conflict reintegration of ex-combatants into peacetime communities (complete with spelling errors in Spanish and not a single accent in the right place). I found a farewell note Karen wrote me, complete with references to the musical Rent we were all listening to when we were frantically trying to …