Jan 4, 2018

“Language is the only homeland.”

It is the first day of 2018. I don't like New Year resolutions and this is not one. It is not a resolution, rather a reflection, a note of gratitude and appreciation.

After the federal election in 2015, when the liberal government came into power, although it was not my party of choice and not the one I voted for, I was happy. Happy that the conservatives were not elected. In fact so happy that I cried. I shared my joy on Facebook, "we got our country back" or something similar. I didn't think much about what I posted on Facebook, I didn't choose the words, it was an instant feeling coming out of my heart. I only thought about it when a friend asked me if I really saw Canada as my home. It was then that it struck me. Her question made me gasp. Did I really say that?  Did I say "my country"? I felt I betrayed my country of birth. I felt ashamed as if  I had betrayed my roots, my family, what has made me "me". It took me months of reflection and soul searching, months of thinking deep about one innocent sentence I had shared joyfully on Facebook. How and when did I feel that long lost sense of belonging to this country that made me call it home?

This December marked the 16th year of the day we arrived in Canada, had our first Tim Horton's coffee (which made us almost gag but that is a whole different story) and found out what cold really meant.

Finally feeling at home, feeling like I belong was the end of a long painful journey for me. It didn't happen overnight. I don't know exactly when it happened but I know my children had a major role in taming my wild wandering soul. Canada is their home and they are my home. I owe it to them to tell them the stories of their ancestors, their grandparents, the beautiful land that was once home, the home that has lost its soul to death eaters and the story of those who fought the death eaters to their last breath.

I am home. My heart is full as I write this. But how could I have got here without the amazing people I have met along this journey? The people who helped me fall in love with this country, this city enough to call it home? I owe it to them, to myself and to my boys to share their greatness.

So here is my goal for 2018. To tell the stories of everyday heroes, of ordinary people I have had the privilege of knowing, of the souls burning with untold stories, and of life and love!

“Maybe your country is only a place you make up in your own mind. Something you dream about and sing about. Maybe it's not a place on the map at all, but just a story full of people you meet and places you visit, full of books and films you've been to. I'm not afraid of being homesick and having no language to live in. I don't have to be like anyone else. I'm walking on the wall and nobody can stop me.” 
Hugo HamiltonThe Speckled People: A Memoir of a Half-Irish Childhood

Title: quote by Czesław Miłosz

Oct 7, 2012

letter to my son

For my son, for when he wants to ask and I am not there to answer.

I know when you become a parent, if you choose to become one, you will remember me more and more as you establish in your new role as a dad. You will see me in you. You might sometimes like it and some other times I know you will say "fuck! it's scary how I am acting like her". Do not feel bad for saying that. I have said that and I can reassure you most people have experienced that scary moment of -oh my god I am acting like her- moment.

I try to imagine what you may remember from me, to see the picture of me in your head years from now... you will remember a woman who was always rushing through life, who always told you "come one baby, fast! mommy is late for work." The woman who hugged you and kissed you when she tucked you in and told you stories of her birth country, who said gratitude to mother nature with you in bed every night and didnt miss a chance to tell you about other ways of life in other places on earth. You will remember a woman who was tired a lot, who was not there for your karate lessons, for your violin class, for your swimming. Or maybe not, maybe these pictures come from my feelings of guilt and utter sadness for not being there for and with you more. Maybe the picture is a woman who sings silly songs with you in the kitchen as she is cooking and trying to show you how to make homemade yogurt. Maybe you remember a loud woman who ran after you in the backyard pretending she is a tickle monster. Maybe you remember a woman who took you to community events trying to teach you about community and nature and caring and sharing and such.

 The picture might be a woman who dances with the Wiggles and fusses over the amount of sweets you have had in one day, who is over protective and always worried that something bad can happen to you because so many bad things have happened in her that she has a hard time trusting this world can be any other way.

The picture in your head can be the woman who took you to the farmers market every other Saturday while holding your hand tight and gave you a loonie to give to the busker who plays Bob Marley, or it can be the woman who ran after you to "kiss attack" you and you were always faster than her.

I dont know what the picture might be my love, I dont know. But there is one thing I want you to know. This picture is only a part of your mom. The part that you could see, feel and remember. Change what you dont like about it and dont be that. Cherish what you like about it and do it with your own children and in your own life. And do not ever doubt one thing. maybe the picture is not all what you wanted it to be be but this woman, a flawed human being just like any other human being, loves you more than anything in this world, she lives in the sweet smell of your body, in the laughter in your eyes and in the warmth of your hands when she holds them at night watching you in your sleep.
That this woman is thankful, very very thankful, blessed and happy to have you in her life and in her heart. 

Mar 31, 2012

I hate you global warming

There ought to be a name for an aching soul. I mean we have head ache and sore throat and body ache and sore muscle but can you imagine the look on one's face when one asks you "how are you?" and you say "I am well, just a little soul ache."

My soul aches these days. In all the years I have been in this country it is the first spring that weather is just like the weather we had in spring time in my home country. In the mornings I wake up and I feel I am in my old room, I close my eyes and I hear my mom, my dad, I hear my brothers, through the big french windows I see the trees in the garden and my heart is happy, happy, happy and at home. And then I wake up. The weather takes my soul away to old memories of home, my body is confused, my body wants to stay in bed with eyes closed and listen to the voice of my mom, my dad, my brothers. My body wants to fly with my soul. But I know very well that for what seems to be a long time now, I can't go back to revisit the memories, to smell the smells, to see my old room, my friends, the street, the markets, my dad's and brother's graves.
So my friends, if you see a woman driving as if she is drunk, be kind to her. She is not drunk. She has something that there is no medical term for it. Her soul aches.

Spring is also when he died. I look at his pictures. His young handsome smiley face. It has been three years. three year? Three years of not having heard him? Three years of not having talked to him? Three years of not having received a post card, a letter from him?

And I survived. Who would think I could?

I think it was after his death that I gave up. I gave up fighting to change the world. I gave up hoping for peace and justice. Now that I look back it was after his death that I realized life is not a fucking dress rehearsal and I need to love, love, love, and enjoy it with my loved ones. It was after he was gone that I learned there is no "fair and just" in the world.

I feel something big, as big as a walnut is sitting in my throat and is choking me.
I just hope next spring begins as cold and snowy as previous years. It is easier on the soul.

Jan 23, 2012

oh this thing... oh called soup

I have been sick with the flu for the past 4-5 days. It was the flu and now I think it is gone to my stomach. I am fine as long as I dont eat. Anyway, today I walked into my office to be greeted by 26 voice messages after being off sick for two days. I had the chills and the fever and my stomach was feeling funny. So my supervisor came to the rescue and kindly gave me a Tylenol. Well, I had to eat something before I could take the Tylenol and just like most days I had left my lunch bag on the kitchen floor in the crazy morning rush. I cant usually eat out even on a good day let alone a stomach bug-ish day so I walked to the big grocery store right by the agency to by myself a soup. I was calculating in my very tired head. I gave myself 20 minutes to buy it, prepare it and eat it. That's it. I couldn't afford to give it more time.

At the grocery store, I ask one of staff where the soups are. She shows me the aisle. I hesitate to ask her my next question but I do. Which one can I make fast at work? She looks at me as if I have just landed from Mars. well, I landed from Mars 10 years ago. I explain: I have never tried any of these before. How on earth did that happen? she asks in a surprised tone. "Yes, heehee, well I try to  to make soups at home" I say rather embarrassed. She says wow this is awesome and reassures me that I will like the taste of instant chicken noodle soup.
5 minutes later my chicken noodle soup is in the microwave. I read the instruction carefully: a cup of warm water, 1-2 minutes in the microwave and voila! your soup is ready! no chopping, grating, stirring, having to let it simmer for half hour, no over night soaking the beans in warm water so they cook easily the following day.
It is yellow with some green things floating in it, some noodles and tons of sodium. And here comes the confession: I was excited to try a ready made soup for the first time! So I am eating the yellow thing AKA chicken noodle soup feeling both excited for finally breaking this mental barrier against pre made soups and at the same time a little grossed out thinking about what I am sending down to my already weak stomach.
I tell my friend who is sitting across from me at the kitchen table about my first encounter with canned soup.
we had newly arrived in Canada and were exploring the grocery store. As I was walking the aisles, I saw tens and tens of colourful cans. I looked at them curiously to find out they were soups. At first I thought one buys them, adds things to them and makes one's own soup, thinking of them of the base for the soup but when I read the labels they clearly said pour the whole thing in a bowl, warm it up and eat it. I was horrified. I called my mom to share this bizarre North American phenomenon called canned soup with her. Hey mom they have canned soup here. yeah, its all cooked and ready you just need to warm it up. Of course my mom screamed on the phone (as I expected) DO NOT DARE EVER buy any of this garbage and she went on and on about how they are filled with additive and preservative and the thing they use to attach the lid to the can is cancerous and can cause this and that and that I will die a painful death at a young age if I give in to this lazy North American life style and do I want her to make me some soup and freeze it and have N who is flying back to Canada in a week bring the containers for me because home made frozen is at least better than canned. I had to reassure her for half hour on the phone that I was NOT going to buy those shameful soups and that I was not going to give in to North American life style and that I would continue to make home made soups all from scratch.
Ten years later I was eating/drinking the salty yellow watery thing so I can have my flu tablet and I was thinking with all that is going on in my birth country my mom probably couldnt care less if I told her hey mom I had a canned soup today! or maybe not? Moms are not predictable.

I came home and googled canned soup to find this. I should call my mom tomorrow! but I am not going to tell her that I have 3 more in my drawer: A spicy chicken soup, tomato soup and another chicken noodle!

Dec 1, 2011

Hope is the thing with feathers*

It comes fast. You feel your body getting tense. You feel ants crawling under your skin. Your chest feels heavy. You gasp for air. There is none. You are cold. Covered in sweat. You want to push down the very heavy rock from your chest. You cant. You want to cry. You cant. You gasp for air... you gasp for air... you hear the sounds... the music... you see the scenes... blood, butchered bodies, gunshots, your dad's hand that was hanging out of the ambulance back door, mothers who moan and scream to the sky and sob... never ending tears... tear gas, rapes, tortures... you gasp for air... for air... for air in total darkness. 

And after a couple of minutes that feels like a life time you can breathe. You throw up, you cry, hard and long. And it's gone. The flash back is gone. 

My friends and I are messaging each other. That we miss each other. That we wish we could get together for tea or a drink like normal friends do. I tell them I am hopeless. Nothing will change. Not in our life time. That we have no country left. No land. As we are messaging each other, I watch the clips from the protests. I see young lives fall on the streets, covered in their own blood, I see mothers crying over the tortured bodies of their children... and the weight is there, on my chest. I see blood, I see hope, I see torture wounds, I see graves, many of them. I see my mom sobbing for my brother... I see unfair, unjust in its extremes. And I gasp for air. I try to focus. Breathe in... breathe out. I say to myself "yes, you can. you can cry. Cry. Breathe... And this time I can. tears open the way of breathing. Oh how grateful I am to my tears.
People should live happy lives, grow old with their families and friends, and then die. I guess it's a no brainer for my Canadian friends.
For me and my family and friends... we dream of being able to have tea together.
one day.
some day.

* by Emily Dickinson

Sep 29, 2011

"Because I could not stop for death, he kindly stopped for me"

It was exactly 9:30 when my cell phone started to ring. Right in the middle of a meeting. A school meeting in which I was discussing the situation of two young children whose only family, their mom is dying. The children who go to school hungry with no or very little lunch and who need to get ready to say goodbye to their mom. All through the meeting my heart was filled with this enormous sense of sadness, emptiness... I tried to remember the old woman's words in the Family Group Conferencing Training that I attended a couple of days ago: this is our story, we have written it and we need to own it. I thought these two little folks have written a pretty tough story for themselves. I thought about my role. How on earth can I make it easier for them?

I dont pick up my phone in meetings unless it is from my son's school. It was an unknown caller. I turned my cell phone off, apologized to the people in the meeting, discussed who is going to do what and who is going to call who. When I opened the car door the phone rang again. An unknown caller was trying to get a hold of me. I picked up the phone. It was my friend from Iran. She told me she missed me. We haven't seen each other in 5 years. I miss you too, I told her. She told me she felt she needed to talk to me after the news about Nahal. Who? Nahal? What about Nahal I asked. She was surprised I hadn't heard. I told her I try to avoid the News from Iran. I need to protect my heart I said... She said Nahal committed suicide.

Nahal was Behnam's girl friend. Behnam was a human rights activist. He was imprisoned and after his release he committed suicide.Why? I bet you dont want to know what happens in Iran jails if you dont already know. She was not his wife, she was not the mother of his children, she was not his fiance. She had no status, no legal rights. No one recognized her pain. The law of the country has decided that a piece of paper gives identity to women. She was made silent by the stupidity of that culture. She wrote quietly in her blog of how she missed him, how she felt it was unjust, how she wanted to be with him, how painful it was to wake up to face the reality every day. And one day she decided she wanted to die. And she died.

I told my friend I had to go. I didnt. I just had nothing else to say. I told her I would call her back later.
I went to work. I smiled at everybody, talked to a couple of co workers, did some phone calls, did a couple of reports and drove home over lunch time. I hid under my blanket and cried. I looked at her picture and cried. I read her blog and cried. Lunch time was over. I washed my face. I put a light make up on and went to work. I did some more phone calls, did some more reports, looked at her picture, didnt cry because I was at work and then went to pick up my son.

How was your day mama? he asked me. It was good love, I told him. And let the his smile and smell wrap around me like a shelter from the reality.

Jul 22, 2011

my dying little baby boy

Baby boy I was finally about to go to bed when I saw you. You were lying on the ground, with cracked open skin, with flies sitting on your face and around your lips, with eyes half open and with your mother's hand on your little head.
Baby boy the reporter said you are three years old. Same age as my son. You know, I buy my son all organic food and fruit, wooden toys with chemical free colours and organic cotton clothing. Just before I saw you, I went to his room, I smelled him, kissed him and thought to myself that no matter how challenging it is to be an immigrant, I am very happy that I am here. In Canada. Where I know he is safe.
What was your mama thinking when she walked for a month to get you and your siblings to where you could have something to eat? How did she survive when she lost your three siblings to starvation? How tired were you little boy when you walked for a whole month on the dry desert? Your lips were dry. What did your mama tell you when one by one your bothers and sisters fell? Little boy I wish I could do more than donating some money or sitting here weeping.
The doctor said he didnt think you would survive till tomorrow but I will never forget your face nor will I forget your mama's hand on your head. A woman who lost all her four children in a month to starvation... starvation... starvation...