life

Trust That All You Did Not Receive, All You Need Will Come To You In Time.

Dear readers, I apologise for my absence. I’ve been busy. Mostly catching up with old friends, helping out here and there and working on articles, job applications, short-stories and poetry! Gosh, I get myself so busy. And you? What’s new? Won’t you write to me? I’m getting sick of my own writing!
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Look who it is!!! Come to visit their one and only beautiful daughter (Anita not me hehe). image-1
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Mediterranean Food Company. If you haven’t been you’re missing out. The pizza is GOOD here and also the Mediterranean groceries! Including a large variety of sweets and gherkins from Turkey and of course, everything your stomach desires from Italy: fresh and dry pasta, olives, cheese, tomato sauces, and much more. image-3
Mmm salted chocolate and pistachio torte.
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Walking in Victoria Park with my bestie.image-4
Why she is my bestie.
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Taking photos of Christchurch’s new Adventure Parkimage-6
More to come once I sort my shizz.

Updates

Figuring out that being an adult and living the “adult life” isn’t easy. Or rather, when we reach a certain age, we tend to begin complicating things. Life is simple. Why do I allow myself to become so attached to society’s expectations of me? In the short space of a little over a month that I’ve returned, I’ve tried to do everything including: returning/creating a normal/non-traveller lifestyle, finding my dream job and planning for my future. Okay, so our visitors and our planned family-holiday in the mix were out of my say but everything else, I have personally cultivated. Don’t get me wrong, productivity is great but in the thick Persian accent of my mother, “mo-de-ration iz im-portant.” Life is percious and life is fleeting but like my brother-in-law once said, life is actually really long, too (if we’re lucky). Which means, I don’t have to find my dream job before a certain age. I don’t have to justify my life decisions. And making memories with my family and friends, looking after my well-being  and enjoying the day to day is what comes first. Currently trying to calm the frick down and do what makes my heart sing. Some of which include, baking delicious muffins, writing for Savvy Tokyo (new article HERE), and pursuing my “book a week” challenge.
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image-12 free range eggs
4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp runny honey
1 tbsp sugar-free Barker’s apricot jam
1 cup almond flour
1 cup self rising flour
1 tsp cinnamon
1/3 cup unsweetened yoghurt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
Handful of raw walnuts, chopped small
Some dark chocolate, chopped small
4-5 small apricots, chopped small

Mix everything together, pour slightly thick mixture into a greased muffin tray and bake at 160 degrees until fork comes out clean (about 25 min)image-1
Book two, week two!

My Problem With America

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I have been doubting my worth a lot lately. It could be a prolem with my own self-esteem. Or, as I’ve began to think, a nasty bi-product of my surroundings. There is this ancient Japanese expression which goes: “an apprentice near a temple will recite the scriptures without tuition.” Which, as I’m sure you gathered, basically means, we are greatly affected by our environments.

America is so darn materialistic to me.

This attitude, this strong emphasis on “success”, achieved solely through 1. an esteemed tertiary education, 2. the “right” career, and 3. moneymoneymoney is so upsetting. It makes me miss Japan greatly. For even though the Japanese are perhaps the number one work-oriented society, when it comes to “success” there is room for everybody.

I once watched this great documentary called “Jiro Dreams of Sushi” on one of the world’s greatest sushi chefs. This is what Jiro says in the movie:

“Once you decide on your occupation, you must immerse yourself in your work. You have to fall in love with your work. Never complain about your job. You must dedicate your life to mastering your skill. That’s the secret of success and is the key to being regarded honorably.”

As far as I’m aware, Jiro didn’t study at Harvard. Nor was he a lawyer or an accountant – not that there’s anything wrong with studying at Harvard, or being a lawyer or an accountant. Just that Jiro reached his success through different routes than the restricted three mentioned.

Because of this idea, ALL jobs in Japan, from government officials to persons whose only role is to shred unwanted paper are respected. All work is given great value and all work is praised. Where you studied in order to land your current position, what connotations your job title possesses in this day and age, and how much moolah you make, are not the only measurements of your success.

Which is why I’m suggesting we re-think these conservative pathways I keep encountering in the West. Instead of a renowned University name or a “prestigious” (according to whom?) job title and the amount of cash in ones bank, what about pondering how our careers and/or actions affect others, in what spirit do we conduct ourselves and for what purpose? What are our true intentions?

Which is better? A Harvard graduate with the sole motive of shallow wealth and hungry power? Or a “poor” painter, potter, cleaner, or waitress (the list goes on…) working in the spirit of service? In the spirit of love. In the spirit of creativity. In the spirit of justice.

‘Abdu’l-Baha, beautifully describes this concept when he says: “[A]ll effort and exertion put forth by man from the fullness of his heart is worship, if it is prompted by the highest motives and the will to do service to humanity.”

So. I am successful because I love my work. Because it often positively affects others. And because I put my entire heart and soul in it. And that’s it. That’s all it should ever be. Because that’s all that has ever mattered.

 

Independently Perfection Cannot Be Achieved

Friends, Nashville is so nice. Apparently it’s Autumn but it has been (and still is) hotter than a NZ summer! The people are so nice as well. And there’s diversity and of course, music! I am one very lucky girl. Every new day is beautiful and I am constantly showered by much love and affection. Maybe I won’t leave? Though I’m not sure how much luck an Iranian-born has in the whole green card business! Anyways, I love you all so much, and I miss you all so much and I think of you all, all of the time.

When I take my neighbourhood walks, both alone and with Soroosh’s mom, and I see the bright and colourful maple leaves I’m transported back to Japan. Back to my dear friends and to my sweet students. The mornings I have muesli for breakfast, I call to mind Jose, Bea, Hector and Sara, remembering the very sweet yet very frustrating (because Sara so keenly insisted on helping) times I made their family stove-top granola. Also of you Maria! (I wonder if you’re reading.) When I take photographs of nature, I think of Lavanya and I think of Laura and my mother and my auntie Pouneh and my heart expands. Coffee takes me back to sunny Antibes with Patricia (Anita’s mom). Cute babies to “my boyfriend” and his sweet mother in Osaka. And laughter, kindness and compassion to Akiko, Oz and Lifa. Also hummus. Of course hummus reminds me of them. Minako, I think of you as well. Your love for cheese and your dislike of chocolate (which I will never understand). I think of these people and I feel so deeply grateful to them. For it is these very connections that have made me into the woman I am today.

In her incredible book, Perscription For Living (which I totes recommend), Ruhiyyih Rabbani adequately describes this concept. She says:

“We as individuals are not isolated phenomena. All our lives are based on relationships with other individuals; independently perfection cannot be achieved. As we are a gregarious species by nature – like bees and ants and animals that run in herds – it is not possible for each one of us to develop his own character as an isolated unit…

…the progress of the individuals comprised in any gregarious species is derived by interaction, co-operation, competition, stimulation and the benefit of example. Consequently a large part of our road to personal perfection lies through the lives of those with whom we come in contact. The way we treat them, the way we react to them, affects our own character and helps to shape it for better or worse.”
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Joy Gives Us Wings

O SON OF MAN! Should prosperity befall thee, rejoice not, and should abasement come upon thee, grieve not, for both shall pass away and be no more. (The Hidden Words of Bahá’u’lláh)

My dear mamma often uses the analogy, “life is like a ferris wheel,”. (Though sometimes she mistakes and says, “circle.”) Her reasoning basically, is that there will always be ups and downs. You can’t always be happy (at the top) nor will you always remain unhappy (on bottom). Of course, like all advice we don’t want to hear, I’d often let this ‘circle business’ slide in through one ear and out the other. Today however, i firmly believe it. Because when I look back on my life, it is exactly this. A crazy wild ferris wheels of joy and sorrow and joy and sorrow and joy again. Currently (though I realise, temporarily) I am enjoying the most joyous and serene view of Autumnal Nashville.Processed with VSCO with c3 preset
Factory at Franklin: an old factory turned shopping complex. Processed with VSCO with c3 preset
Acai bowl lunch from Franklin Juice Co.Processed with VSCO with c3 presetProcessed with VSCO with c3 preset
Okay, so THIS is Halloween! NZ has much catching up to do!
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These pumpkin markets seem to be around every corner!
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Remember my giant watermelon pic? Same same!Processed with VSCO with c3 presetIn this world we are influenced by two sentiments, Joy and Pain.

Joy gives us wings! In times of joy our strength is more vital, our intellect keener, and our understanding less clouded. We seem better able to cope with the world and to find our sphere of usefulness. But when sadness visits us we become weak, our strength leaves us, our comprehension is dim and our intelligence veiled. The actualities of life seem to elude our grasp, the eyes of our spirits fail to discover the sacred mysteries, and we become even as dead beings.

There is no human being untouched by these two influences; but all the sorrow and the grief that exist come from the world of matter—the spiritual world bestows only the joy!
If we suffer it is the outcome of material things, and all the trials and troubles come from this world of illusion.

For instance, a merchant may lose his trade and depression ensues. A workman is dismissed and starvation stares him in the face. A farmer has a bad harvest, anxiety fills his mind. A man builds a house which is burnt to the ground and he is straightway homeless, ruined, and in despair.

All these examples are to show you that the trials which beset our every step, all our sorrow, pain, shame and grief, are born in the world of matter; whereas the spiritual Kingdom never causes sadness. A man living with his thoughts in this Kingdom knows perpetual joy. The ills all flesh is heir to do not pass him by, but they only touch the surface of his life, the depths are calm and serene. (‘Abdu’l-Bahá)

As Ye Have Faith So Shall Your Powers And Blessings Be.

I was on the train from Zurich to Geneva when I had the epiphany. To pass time, I had decided to look at my phone’s pictures from end to beginning. A mere 10 images in and dun dun dun epiphany:

“As ye have faith so shall your powers and blessings be. This is the balance – this is the balance – this is the balance.” -ʿAbdul-Baha

Could the answer be any clearer for me? To find this balance I’d been wanting, I needed to have faith. For with faith in the game, I no longer need to know everything. And even if I thought I did (know everything), I probably wouldn’t really. For who am I kidding? No one actually knows exactly. So I will have faith. Faith in life unfolding just as it’s meant to be. Faith in the universe’s plans for me. And faith in my immense strength and ever-expansive abilities. And with that faith, I will have my balance.
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So What Was Galicia Really Like?

During my short time In Galicia, I posted a lot of photos and vague descriptions but I didn’t really give you the low down. So. Here’s a list:

Loud 
Galician people speak very loudly. Or maybe, they are just loud in comparison to the Japanese. More often, I’d mistake a casual conversation for heated arguing. Actually, during my first three days, I developed a horrible migraine. At first, I put it down to jet lag or a change in environment but then I realised the real culprit. My ears were buzzing. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that the Galician are hooligans. Rather, that they speak with much heart and emotion and sometimes our hearts are yellers.
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Meaty
Of course due to their location, the Galician people consume a lot of seafood. But they also consume A LOT of meat. Chorizo, cured ham, steak, you name it. Luckily for me, the exception were Jose’s family. Everyday we ate fresh and organic fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts and seeds.
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Tortilla and empanada mad
I guess these are the two most popular dishes here. A Spanish tortilla (not to be confused with the Mexican wrap) is like a potato omelette. It’s oily, carby and delicious. Empanadas are a pie pastry like dish usually filled with tuna, red pepper and onion but there are many variations. Anyways, these dishes are honestly everywhere. And people are always eating them.
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Tomato overload
There’s a lot of tomatoes here. That’s basically it. And apparently, a lot gets wasted every year because if it was all put out into the market, the prices would drop to mere cents and the government wouldn’t be making any money off of them. So sad. What is this world we live in? (I know this is not confined to Spain and that food is a business everywhere).
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Long days
I think I already mentioned this. Apparently this is very Spanish. Breakfast around 9. Lunch around 3/4 and dinner around 10. Can you believe it? No wonder I’ve been having migraines. One day, Jose called to book a table at a local restaurant for 9pm and was warned to leave by 11pm as that’s when another couple had booked it! Is that insane or insane?
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Food rules all
Obvious by now. Before coming here, Jose had warned me that the Galicians live and breathe food. I hadn’t really understood this until now. You know the old adage; you eat to live not live to eat? Well here it’s the other way around. Perhaps the previous point on long days has something to do with this but also because the Spanish are such fantastic cooks! And, they have great produce: olive oil, seafood, tomatoes, legumes, to name a few. So food rules all.
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Unpredictable
Mainly in two ways. One, with weather. Much like NZ, weather here is always changing. Four seasons in one day type of thing. Two, with plans. Again, at the opposite end of the spectrum to the Japanese, the Galician people hardly ever plan anything. This is because plans are always changing. You may aim to do one thing and end up doing the complete opposite. For instance, one day we planned to sightsee a historical town nearby but ended up going to a friends’ place after lunch and spending the entire evening swimming in her pool, listening to Galician bagpipes and eating peaches.
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1 2 3 ziiiiip.
I played this “game” with the children. Unfortunately it didn’t work. Anyways, following up from the previous point, Galicians never give a direct answer.

How long does it take from here to…? Not far. 
Where does she live? Near.
Are we going to …. today? If you want?
Shall we go for a short walk while the empanada cooks? Shall we? 

These answers are often accompanied with a shrug. You don’t believe how much this annoyed me. In Japan, there is a direct answer for everything. When I mentioned my frustration to Jose, he burst out laughing. You know Anisa, he said: “in Galicia we have a saying that if you meet a Galician in the middle of a staircase and ask them if they’re going up or down they’ll say: do you want me to come up with you?”
image2Sugar overload
I don’t like writing this. I don’t want to be too judgemental. And maybe this is a problem everywhere but kids here consume A LOT of sugar and other junk foods. Actually, there are entire stores dedicated to Junk food. Seriously, all they sell are ice-cream, chocolate, candy, cookies and Cheetos. I am surprised the kids don’t have black teeth like my Japanese pre-school students. One day we went out for tapas and a huge bowl of candy was placed in the middle of the children’s table. Some of them ate more than 10! I couldn’t believe it. I hope I will be better able to control my future children’s sugar intake. Also Cheetos. Cheetos are everywhere! Even inside 1 year olds! :O
image[1]The good life.
Last but not least, Galician really know how to live. Everyone seems to be on holiday here. They are always eating tapas, relaxing on their boats, drinking at local cafes and talking with their family, neighbours, friends.
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Goodbye rivers, goodbye springs
Goodbye, rivers, goodbye, springs,
Goodbye, trickling streams;
Goodbye, all I see before me:
Who knows when we’ll meet again?

Oh my home, my homeland,
Soil where I was raised,
Little garden that I cherish,
Fig trees I grew from seed.

Meadows, rivers, woodlands,
Pine groves bent by wind,
All the chirping little songbirds,
Home I cherish without end.

Mill nestled between the chestnuts,
Nights lit brightly by the moon,
Tremor of the little bells,
My parish chapel’s tune.

Blackberries from the wild vines
I picked to give my love,
Narrow trails between the corn-rows,
Goodbye, forever goodbye!
Goodbye, glory! Goodbye, gladness!

I leave the house where I was born,
Leave my village so familiar
For a world I’ve never seen.
I’m leaving friends for strangers,
Leaving prairies for the sea,
Leaving all that I love dearly…

Oh, if I didn’t have to leave!…
(part of a poem by Rosalia de Castero)

The Wheels Of The Bus Go Round And Round

The time has come to move on. I will miss Galicia a whole lot. Jose, Bea, Hector and Sara have been a joy to be around. They have treated me “like a daughter” (as 4 year old Sara once said) and have given me all the love and more. I will never forget this experience. Don’t forget me and a thousand times thank you.
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Do It. Throw Yourselves.

Dear ones,
I am experiencing a transition. My life is changing. So. I am excited and of course, scared. As some of you may know, I had planned to go to India but after being unable to get the correct visa, I’ve had to amend my plans. There’s also something else – something which I can’t tell you about (just yet). It’s overwhelming but good (I think). For the time being, please bear with me. Or is it bare? I don’t know.

So. As always, I have taken solace in literature. C. JoyBell C comforts me with this:

“The only way that we can live, is if we grow. The only way that we can grow is if we change. The only way that we can change is if we learn. The only way we can learn is if we are exposed. And the only way that we can become exposed is if we throw ourselves out into the open. Do it. Throw yourself.”

I am throwing myself. I am taking a leap of faith and letting life happen.

Travelling is amazing but it is getting harder. I have a few plans. Next, I will visit my auntie (whom I have never met but talked to several times over the internet and who seems like the most incredible woman) and her family in Geneva (Switzerland). From there, I might visit my friend Anita(a beautiful Italian girl who I worked in NZ at Cafe Valentino with)’s mother at their holiday home in Antibes (France), and hopefully, Laura (my WordPress friend who visited me in Mimasaka) in Brussels (Belgium).

I am struggling to live in the moment. I must practice mindfulness. I keep thinking of the future. What will I be doing after my travels are over? Will I settle down in NZ or some other place? What will I do for work? Can I make it as a real writer? So many unanswered questions. Sarah Dessen comes to help: “It was amazing how you could get so far from where you’d planned, and yet find it was exactly were you needed to be.”

I will be patient. I will be positive. I will be joyous. I will expect good and I will throw myself.

Lastly, my blog has turned two. So I want to say thank you. From the bottom of my heart, from the mountains of rural Japan and the rivers in Galicia. Merci (farsi not french), gracias, thank you and arigato for flying with me. For being a listening ear, an understanding heart and the best travel companion a solo girl could wish for.

At each step I have longed to share my life with you. This I hope I have achieved and will continue to achieve, in the truest way possible. And, I hope that at the same time, I have given and will continue to give, some sunshine too.
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I Went For A Walk Without My Camera

When Isaac gave me advice on starting a blog, alongside posting everyday, taking good pictures and making people care was the warning never to go cameraless. Today, I committed the sin.

Only 20 feet from my apartment, I saw the full-grown rice fields and took my first mental picture. In my head, I juxtaposed the long yellow strands with the tiny green shoots cheekily poking out from the murky water only two months prior. Next, I watched as a small yellow butterfly circled around a group of pink carnations and I imagined it keeping still, just long enough for my invisible camera to capture.

And though I’ve never taken an actual panoramic, I spun around slowly, then a little faster downloading the green mountains, the traditional roofed houses and the many black power-lines playing house to the village’s entire bird population. I took it all in and I saved it, for myself, on the desktop of my heart, in a private folder.

A few more steps and surprise, surprise, I was greeted by my friend. He was waiting for me outside of his house. “You late,” he said. I laughed thinking, it’s a Saturday!  “Come come.” He took me to his garden. I watched as his 78 year old hands trembled cutting the vine of a perfectly round watermelon. “This this, number one,” he said. “Camera?” he asked. “Nai, not today,” I answered.

After calling his wife to join us in the garden, he washed the watermelon, scrubbing it with a brown sponge between his tanned and wrinkled fingers. I took a quick snap of this. Staring at the frozen moment I wished to hold hands with him. He reminded me of my own grandfather and the countless times we’d sat together where I played with his smooth fingers whilst he kissed my forehead.

Now the three of us stood around an old bench, beautiful amber wood, just screaming to be photographed as a sharp dangerous-looking square blade attached to a tiny wooden handle pierced through the green melon. Ah, don’t cut yourself I thought as I inwardly videoed the “big moment”. Red. It was so red. And fresh! So fresh that the skin cracked open by itself, begging to be eaten.

I was given the first slice. He and his wife watched in anticipation. Delicious? Delicious, I proclaimed. It was. It  was the sweetest I’d ever tasted.