Monday, October 6, 2008

Hari Raya: the day of forgiving

Forget Christmas, and the morning of waking up excited for material gain, still drunk on eggnog from the night before. Okay, I take that back. The Townsends (sans extra h) have taken us in for years now and shown us the true spirit of Christianity: sharing their love and family with us less fortunate to have our own home base here in Seattle. I love them for that. And the cinnamon buns.

But what about my religion? Islam, the beautiful faith i grew up with that got a bad rep? Ramadan, the month of fasting came to me on a Magellan type day in London: I went exploring. Did i wake for Sahur and eat? No, of course not. My poor host, Caroline thought I would pass out. I spent the day dozing under a tree in Hyde park, before walking around for six hours. Where did I decide to go? Of course Harrod's, to see if the urban legend of a Krispy Kreme in their basement was true (it was). Also to Fortnum and Mason to pick up special jam for a brilliant, yet eccentric UW professor. Label reads: lovely with hot buttered toast. Dude anything tastes good with hot buttered toast. You have to put it on the direction label?

But I made it through, and broke fast and prayed at a grand masjid near an old friend Alex's house in Saint John's Wood. Back stateside, I celebrated actual Eid on Wednesday with all the lovely ladies of the University of Washington Muslim Student Association. My uncle was out of town and therefore in true family spirit, my aunt postponed Eid for his return.

So saturday night, I gathered the troupes to march through the gates of food heaven: a house in West Seattle where the wafts of food coming from the kitchen called to us like the melody of the piped piper. RENDANG!!!! WE ARE COMING!!!!

There are three essential F's to a Hari Raya gathering: family, food, and forgiveness.

Family was in abundance, even the adopted bestfriend type. If you lack in numbers, then invest in bestfriends like Steve, a.k.a Panda, who in his households accounts himself for THREE PEOPLE when figuring finances for food for the house. Always come to a muslim house with someone who can eat, to please the host.

Food, oh glorious food. My aunt wasn't ready when we arrived, and jetted off to the bathroom to shower. I took charge of the Lumpia, lovely spring rolls with meat, potatoes and yumminess. Eh hem, my folding technique is expert, I promise you, but I decided to make them all different shapes and sizes, and even fry them so they were in a multitude of color...white, slightly beige, tanned... and BROWN. This was my interpretation of our diverse demographic. I have a lovely bunch of
lum-pee-yahhhhhh...did la dee dee.. there they are all standing in a row....bump bump bump! fat ones, skinny ones, some as big as your head!

Food down, a cup of coffee to prevent comatose later...we come to the most important part of the night, the last F...forgiveness.

This more of an Indonesian/ Malaysian tradition than a global islamic one...though islam spread the world of tolerance and forgiveness. In our family, we get around in a circle and each member of the family, from youngest to oldest, asks for forgiveness from each other. Here is a photo of my little sister and I embracing and asking for forgiveness for all our wrong doings in the past year. At times like this when you sister cries with you, it is not the fights and the diagreements that you remember. You remember the times when she drove you around like ms.daisy, or when she bought you a new camera because your old one died, or single-handedly sorted out your graduation party because you were too stressed to even think about it. You remember the love and caring behind the tough words on the importance of choosing good friends, and the get better cards and balloons on the countless times you're sick in one year. Asking for forgiveness is also expressing your gratitude, knowing that everything your little sister does for you and herself comes from the heart. Nothing else. Then there is my twin sister who this past year flew half way across the world for me in my dire time of need, who cleaned up the mess I made after throwing my potted plant across the room in frustration at life. I am technically the eldest of three, but always feel like the youngest because it is my two big sisters who always are there to literally pick up the pieces...big as life. Riani, Estelle, you are my life. My everything. I love you both.

Selamat hari raya everyone.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Ode to friendship

The last week of classes are drawing to a close, and i have my first final on Saturday. Looking back at to what was probably the hardest few months of my life, I realize that I have been given the events in my life for a reason, as my good friend BJ wrote:

You are loved and honored for the beautiful person you are. I know things have not been easy and I know that there are choices that are made that will stick with you for a lifetime but honestly there are the tough choices we make that strengthen us and teach us who we want to be. When we ask the higher power for strength he will not give us the easy road.. he will give us the difficult road that shows us how to be strong. When we ask for peace, he does not give us tranquility, he gives us a battle in which we must find peace within us. When we ask for forgiveness, it's not because we've taken perfect steps in life, it's because we've wandered from the path and treaded on sacred ground. When we ask for love, he shows us hatred so that we may truly know what love is when we get it. We learn nothing from an easy life, those that face challenges and learn from them and the ones that are equipped to make the difficult choices in life. You lead a tremendous life and give so much to those around you. You are loved on this day as you were loved the last.

Thank you, to all of you who have been there with me through this journey. Thank you for showing me what love is, thank you for the honor of your friendship. To one: thank you for showing how me to love again. I bleed joyfully and willingly.

Take this video with you, give it time to load as it is chok full of life. The life you have brought to me.
I love you all,

Saturday, February 9, 2008

finding beauty

I realize that I can deal with the cold. As long as it is a brilliantly clear day with sunshine and clear skies, I don't mind. This was the reality of a few mondays ago. A good friend of mine Panda Bear (also less known as Steve) calls me to ask what my plans are for this beautiful day, which is a holiday none the less. Off to Agua verde for some lunch in a colored greenroom where we are sucking in sunlight like orchid plants. Halfway through lunch Capt. Roo (also less known as Andy) and Riani call to ask us to come on a ferry ride to Bainbridge island. Oh....p.s, it leaves at 3, and yes, it is 2:40. It's shovel time at this zoo, as a mad mouth stuffing of fish tacos and a race to the piers renders us defeated as the ferry pulls away. We didn't want to go on a stupid ferry ride anyway. to what we REALLY want to see...the olympic sculpture park.

We ventured to the SAM (seattle art museum) Olympic sculpture park, braving the sub-arctic temperatures. No worries, my undefeated zeal for life and art at the moment races me through the park like a kid hungrily eating cold watermelon after a hot day of playing soccer: I can't get enough. The beautiful puget sound is stained with the mountains in the back -ground, absolutely stunning. Panda refers to this photo as his favorite, not because of the photo but the sequence in his memory of me running down the beach, stopping to kick my shoes off, running more...climbing through the rocks to get to the place I stand. Mind you, it was almost cold enough to snow. If you look close enough, i got about a foot of air off the rock i jumped off. Sweet.

One of my favorite pieces at the park is called the wake. A beautiful piece by Richard Serra (2004, Overall installation: 14' x 125' x 46'). Coming up to view, the five strong steel structured looked like a relic school of battleships, or the tidal waves coming in.

The Sam says: "For Richard Serra, space is a substance as tangible as sculpture. He uses materials and scale to alter perception and to engage the body, encouraging consciousness of our relation to space. The towering, curved-steel forms of Wake were achieved with computer imaging and machines that manufacture ship hulls, including a demilitarized machine that once made French nuclear submarines. Wake is composed of five identical modules, each with two S-shaped sections positioned in inverted relation to one another—gently curving serpentines of convex and concave parts that suggest tidal waves or profiles of battleships. The surface of acid-washed, weatherproof steel reinforces this industrial effect. Wake's powerful silhouette belies a complex configuration of parts; the whole cannot be known at once, but can only be experienced with movement and in time."

It is the coolest piece you'll ever see, fun to play tag in, to run around and feel like you are a part of the piece, as you can see from the video of me acting like i'm five. When did it become not ladylike and grown up to run around and feel the earth around you, and to interact with the space that surrounds you? Here in America we worry about our stock options, about the direction of our economy (yes i am worried too), but we have failed to remember the grander things in life, like play. Like grass stains, like playing hide and seek with yourself. I lived in this moment.

The park opened last year as an extension of the 75th anniversary of the SAM and it's new collections. At least i think so. The Olympic Sculpture Park transforms a nine- acre industrial site into open and vibrant green space for art.
Pulling away from the park, i took this photo of the same piece i looked through when walking down the path. It is called cloud cover, a piece with tiny holes through it, where you could see the landscape of Seattle. From a distance you can see the sunset catch up on the piece that literally transcends across the highway. It is quite stunning to drive by.

As we made our way back up to the car, we hit this piece. It is a beautiful stunning tree, which looks normal here in midwinter, except for it is a piece of art, made out of steel. You can see the welding in the trunk, and the glimmer of sunlight hitting off of it.
This brings me to question, what is art? The first and broadest sense of art is the one that has remained closest to the older Latin meaning, which roughly translates to "skill" or "craft," and also from an indo-european meaning "arrangement" or "to arrange"(wikipedia).

Art to me, is anything beautiful that brings me unconditional happiness. Being a part of it, with it, makes me happy. Without having to promise dinner, without thinking am i good enough for it, without thinking. I just am happy. We can learn a thing or two about ourselves from art, like the fact art is in the word eARTh. Look around you. You can find happiness in everything around you, we just have to look and listen.

Friday, January 18, 2008

terms of endearment

I have been called many, many things in my life. I have e been called a wild orchid that yet has to be tamed. I have been coined sugarbowl by my grandmother after a little cute teapot twisted story that Natalie Hannaford introduced to me. Sky girl was my first screen name on the internet. My nickname in basketball was bigmama.

Recently I have achieved two new identities...both of which i had to have explained to me.
McCall, my lovely neighbour jokingly called me heffer. Which is best described in the picture to the left. Quite a lovely photo.

The other one is an angler fish, named to me by my darling twin sister. (Ria you know what this says about you, right?) A angler fish is an evil lurking fish that dwells in the deep lairs of the ocean, with a lure hanging infront of its mouth. (see photo to the right)

Do I take offence? Of course not, both animals here have such great character that make me laugh hysterically. But maybe a more important lesson could be learned here..

What is in a name? What does it signify about us? I remember my father once telling me that even if Riani and I were switched by birth, and I was given the name Riani, I would still be the same person. I would still be me. I would still be a heffer-fish.

What is important here about names is that we allow it to limit us. We are afraid of them (he would cannot be named in Harry Potter), we use them against each other (them, us), we even label each other as to hurt each other. Even names such as old, thin, fat, young, naive, these all limit us to realize what potential we can see in others. What does a name hold? As said by Juliet:

Tis but thy name that is my enemy;
Thou art thyself, though not a Montague.
What's Montague? it is nor hand, nor foot,
Nor arm, nor face, nor any other part
Belonging to a man. O, be some other name!
What's in a name? that which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet;
So Romeo would, were he not Romeo call'd,
Retain that dear perfection which he owes
Without that title. Romeo, doff thy name,
And for that name which is no part of thee
Take all myself.

So what is your name? What holds it true? what backbone have you given your name? What vault of gold do you have to verify the currency of your name? We all have names, but it should all be spelt in one way....L.O.V.E.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

The Alchemy of Life

There are times when God comes down and causes an apocalypse...ending widespread pain and brings such bright, amazing light that all you can do is let this light consume you. We hear about it in our Qu'Rans, Bibles and Torahs, as well as on the news and in popular movies.

Now I've been through, let's say a little soul searching era of my life, and I was at the darkest place I've ever been. So I thought to call on the powers of heavens for another apocalypse, help heal and end this pain. AND, none of this fluffy interpretation crap, I want hard scientific proof.

So God, being the kind loving fella He is, got me going on a little search for the truth.

Today was the first day of school, and i ran into a phd bioengineer friend, randomly...and we got talking about atoms. We got on the subject of electron shells, because i was looking at a molecule structure at his lab. He said that the white bubbles would probably be hydrogen binding to an atom because in the loss of an electron, hydrogen would bind to the atom.

I argued that there were already eight electrons in that last shell, so there shouldn't be a hydrogen....because atoms have a electron shells that were in a 2-8-8 formation...two electrons in the firstshell, and eight for each shell thereafter. (remembering this from middle school!) I looked it up tonight, and we were both wrong. it's highly complex.

The most amazing thing i realized in my readings was:

Most of the physical and chemical properties of atoms, and hence of all matter, are determined by the nature of the electron cloud enclosing the nucleus. The nucleus of an atom, with its positive electric charge, attracts negatively charged electrons. This attraction is largely responsible for holding the atom together.

if i read is attraction of the nucleus and the electrons that holds the atom together.
attraction: the process of drawing one body toward another.

you could argue that attraction is a byproduct of love of the highest form. Just as this force brings us together, somehow at 5am. I could be a negative electron whizzing around in space, and feeling your force, draws me in.I stabilize you. You in turn, make me whole, make me an important part of the fundamentals of our existence.

We can apply this theory to relationships. Either two people attract each other because they bring different elements to the bond, or there is something out of extra electron here...which causes a reaction to occur for that electron to go off into the world until it
meets the right nucleus that needs it to be balanced, to be neutral. The split causes a great amount of energy, but it the greater scheme of things, it balances things out.

There is negative everywhere. Without it there would be no positive. Without the both working together, there would be NO LIFE. Attraction holds us together.
Love. it is in its purest, smallest form.
Love is all we need by the beatles is ringing in my head right now.

it is this very force which holds the world together, the entire universe. without it, the universe would cease to exist. oh my god that is such a huge concept.

all i had to do was look inward, to the smallest part of me for the simplest answer,but this the answer to the most complex ideals. We are all one.

apocalypse means unlifting of the veil, of god coming down and showing us the heavens, to end all pain we know. To end suffering.

When i asked God for this, what i meant was for Him to...i dont know. Not this.
Instead, he showed me the heavens, and everything I could possibly be, and beyond.

Bring love into your lives, and to everyone you meet, because it is love that brings us together.

Love you all, Danielle

Sunday, January 6, 2008

the greenland problem

A friend of mine, who is an actor, shared with me a monologue that he is working on. It hit me like a ton of bricks, brought tears to my eyes. I feel as if i should share it with you.

It is from a play about two gay men. One owns a map shop. Map shops have an emotional connection with me, the last one i went to was in Maui. For these men though, their shop is just as painful, because they are living around the reality that all their friends are dying from aids.
have a read. The owner hasn't left the shop in months, and the other keeps leaving chairs all over the shop. These are the chairs of their friends that have died. He wants the shop owner to stop pretending that nothing is happening, and to be a part of the solution.

This is a monologue that the shopowner gives about a particular map we are all familiar with, the mercantor map.

Any talk of maps ultimately comes around to one very specific, lingering issue: The Greenland Problem.
Now, you may know this, but Greenland is actually about the size of Mexico. However, on the well known Mercator projection map -- the one hanging in front of your classrooms in grade school -- Greenland appears to be roughly the size of South America and twice the size of China. Clearly a world power to be reckoned with, if it were, you know, habitable.
The Mercator map also shows most of the earth's land mass to be in what we consider the "north," when, in fact, the "south" is more than double the size of the north. Scandinavia seems to dwarf India, though India is three times as large. And the old Soviet states appear to be twice the size of the entire African continent. In reality they are smaller. Smaller by, oh, about four million square miles.
A map maker takes a messy round world and puts it neat and flat on the wall in front of you. And to do this, a map maker must decide which distortions, which faulty perceptions he can live with -- to achieve a map which suits his purposes. He must commit to viewing it from only one angle.
The Mercator map, developed in Germany in 1569, was a great aid to navigators since, for the first time, all lines of longitude ran perpendicular to the equator -- or straight up to the top of the map -- rather than converging toward the poles. This meant that all the lines of longitude and latitude intersected at right angles -- and this meant that, for the FIRST TIME, a sailor could draw a straight line between two fixed points on the map and steer a constant course between them. The map had accounted for the curve of the earth -- the sailor did not have to.
To accomplish this, Mercator had to accept a distortion: the parallel lines of latitude would have to be spaced progressively further apart as they moved away from the equator. This, in turn, would progressively distort the sizes and shapes of land masses -- from zero distortion at the wquator, to absolute distortion at the poles... the Greenland Problem.
Mercator was a brilliant man. He freed the art of cartography from superstition, from the weight of medieval misconceptions. And his map revolutionized global navigation. He never intended it as a tool to teach the sizes and shapes of countries. He never intended to make Greenland a global behemoth.
But, nearly four hundred and fifty years after Mercator, we still think the earth looks like this. It doesn't. It never has. But we've come to accept the distortion as fact. We've learned to see the world from this angle.
I like this map. I sell this map. I don't wan people when they buy it that, like any good newspaper, it contains a few lies. And I've grown accustomed, when i feel the tug of a perplexed child on my sleeve, to turn and patiently say: "No, it's not really that big."
Maybe it's comforting to us because we, too, have our blind spots. We, too, have things on the periphery of our lives that we distort -- in order to best focus on the things in front of us. In order to best navigate through our days.
Sometimes, though, these things on the periphery, these things that we do not understand, these far away things grow to massive proportions -- threatening to dwarf our tiny, ordered, known world. And when they get big enough, we are forced to see them for what they are.
People I know are dying.
This is my Greenland Problem.
----Jody, Lonely Planet by Steven Dietz.

Friday, January 4, 2008

fish balls on a stick and other grocery list essentials

“Maybe we can snack on these!” BJ jokes, handing me a packet of chili-fried baby crabs. It is a college party snack joke waiting to happen. “Hey people, Abu over here brought the stuff camel, and for the ladies, BJ brought the crabs.” It is always such a circus to go to Uwajimaya, an Asian supermarket here in the international district of Seattle.

Now here is a place that combines the best of both worlds: crazy things only Asians would eat, and an American assortment, which in turn translate to a night of pure entertainment of products I would like to bring to some of my marketing classes. Tell me, dear professor, how do I market fish balls on a stick to the American consumer?

The sheer selection was mind boggling: the tea section was an entire aisle. There were at least 30 types of green tea, black tea, oolong, you name it. Fruit? Forget your apples and oranges, we got mangoes, manggis, rambutan, and the king of the fruit, the mighty durian. Even the bread has a selection with pandan (banana leaf), santan (coconut milk), and many others. There is a warzone in the middle of the store: rice bags piled up on either side, trenches of food large enough to feed an entire army. I can see a solider running back and forth in my mind screaming urgently: “rice cookers! We need more rice cookers!”

Food plays such a major part of our lives, nourishing our bodies (or not), comforting us when we’re sad, or even showing our economic status. For me, food is almost like a looking glass that reminds me of my roots and the complexities of being a third culture kid. My parents always told me to try everything just once. How else would a six year old kindly ask for chicken feet soup in Singapore? How do I know that the fish eye is the best part of fish head curry? Aquariums were awesome to go to, because my mom would tell me how to cook the fish that just swam by. Then there are the stories of the durian nights of drunkenness. When home in Medan with my family, we would have a durian party, usually on the tiles of the garage. My grandmother, 80-something with machete in hand would with one swoop hack the spiky fruit apart to reveal the treasures of a perfect seed: covered in the rich yellow meat of the durian that to me has the most amazing velvet texture to it. Durian has a bit of fermentation; you can get awfully giddy eating it. I, on the other hand, get DRUNK off of durian.

“How about these?” I walk back from memory lane and stare at what BJ has put in front of my eyes. Lactic Acid bars. I’m still confused. It looks like those tubes you put in the fridge and freeze. Who made the name for this thing? Lactic acid fruit bars? Seriously? I jotted down the email address on the back to email the company to ask them if they need a new marketing intern. The best one yet: Birds net and white fungus dessert soup with red beans. This is quite a lovely dish from Singapore, light and served cold to ward off the heat. I was doing a marketing project for a dessert shop with a bunch of Singaporean exchange students, and they couldn’t understand that this was not going to work here in Seattle. “Yes, waiter, the white fungus birds nest soup with red beans please. Vanilla ice cream is just sooo passé.”

You have got to love globalism, if anything to make it easier for people to exchange ideas, try new things, and be more open minded, and you can do without trekking through the outer parts of Mongolia. Just start small in your own local Asian grocery store. I learned a lot about myself today, where I’ve been, who’ve I become, and what new things I will try in the future. Remember, you are what you eat, which means eating just about anything shows you are open to an ever changing world. That, and you’ll be surprised how comforting shrimp crackers can be on a Friday night.