Category: Inside My Mind


I have had a whirlwind of a last couple of months. Interviews, a new job, getting sued for medical bills I never denied payment for, and a car crash that left my car like so:

The hassle with the insurance companies and finding a new car and needing to pay a difference on the totaled vehicle and paying a citation that followed this horrific and traumatic event in my life was almost enough to make me wish I hadn’t survived. However, the day it happened, I started writing a poem (sort of) and later realized I was just getting frustrated with a system designed to make you give up and decide that life is no longer worth it. If my near death experience taught me anything, it is that there is very little in life that really matters. Everything else is just meaningless fluff.

I am so very grateful to my true friends – the ones who were there for me and stepped up to the plate to help out both me and my family. Being down to one vehicle with a very long commute to work in two opposite directions is zero fun. Thank you guys for being awesome. Thank you for helping me long enough for me to remember how not to be miserable again and to simply be grateful for all my blessings.

Without further ado, here is what I really came to say today:

If you asked me yesterday what I’d be doing today, I would not have said anything along the lines or what actually did happen. This is not how I planned for my Valentine’s day to go. 

Today, I almost died.
Today, I almost killed others with no intent.
Today, I realized in a moment of clarity, while spinning uncontrollably under an 18 wheeler that almost crushed me and being shot back across a miralculously empty for a few seconds high-speed four-lane highway to safety in the median, that I didn’t have any regrets while leaving this world.
Today, by all logic and probability, I should be dead.
Today, I feel so empowered to be alive, to be here still, to be a living voice in the drone of many voices.
Today, I am grateful to be able to write these words, to drink a hot chocolate, to enjoy my family and their love, to learn who my true friends are, and take joy from the antics of my cats.
Today, I am pleasantly surprised to know I have found people, who after a week of knowing me, would drive into danger to save me. And that a person I met once cared enough to send me a few words of comfort in my time of need.
Today, I know I’ve changed into someone I can hardly recognize and so much of the anguish I held inside has disappeared with the wreckage of my cursed car.
Today, my spirit is still restless and all is not well with my soul but I know I am not afraid of death or what comes after. Returning to God’s embrace does not bring this sinful soul a trace of terror, only a yearning to be in His presence.
Today, I know what Really matters to me in the chaos and corruption and suffering and negativity that has been ruling my social feed and fueling my passion for justice and equality.
Today, my heart confirmed that Love really is the cliched answer to so many hatreds but it is not a solution easily achieved. I still cannot bring myself to forgive those that have truly wronged my soul.
Today, I know I was saved by the will of God and in His Mercy He saved me; maybe someday I will be worthy of His miracle.
Today, I know that all things taken into account, GOOD still exists in the world, people can be wonderful, and God still cares.
Today, I am reborn.

I normally do not write political pieces out of fear that some Homeland security agent will decide I’m a threat to the country and make me disappear somewhere no one will ever find me again. In light of the current climate, however, I feel compelled to write about my experience of being an American Muslim female of Pakistani descent in a society that has branded everyone like me as a terrorist.

As an American, I am sad to say I am living through the kind of historic times I never thought I would have to live through. I have always been so proud of my country – the one that polices and guides the whole world, the one that has become the face of democracy, equality and freedom. I have always been so very secure in the knowledge that no matter what the rest of the world was like, I could always rely on my country to be the light in the dark, the world’s knight in shining armor, the army that stands between good and evil.

My pride and faith in this country have been shattered. My belief that America stood for ALL Americans is gone. My belief that the government is here to protect, serve and create order is gone. My hope that the children of tomorrow would grow up as free as possible of racial and religious prejudice has totally evaporated. This is definitely due to the fact that so many acts of terrorism have happened all around the world and have been performed by Islamic terrorists. But it is also because Western countries supplied that hate and the weapons to those terrorists in the first place.

Has anyone ever noticed how there is always more money for building weapons and walls and starting wars but never enough funding for medical care and educating the masses so that they actually understand the world better and can rise up against crooked politicians?

I have been on a roll with trying new things in the past few months. I have also touched base with the things I once loved to do and hadn’t done since my teens or childhood. But now, I am thinking of doing things that aren’t always shiny rainbows and happy unicorns. I am considering joining peaceful protests on the streets – the kind of thing I have never done. I am thinking about writing to my local representatives, senators, governor – all because I am enraged and terrified by the actions of the worst president the United States has ever known. I don’t care if you don’t share my opinion. This is going to continue to be my opinion as long as this man remains president of a country that wholeheartedly finds him absolutely repulsive in every way possible.

I am so very tired of people telling me it is going to be okay. I am tired of people telling me I don’t need to be afraid. I am tired of ‘alternative facts’ and men deciding what women can do with their bodies. I am tired of being profiled and degraded for my religion and the color of my skin. I am tired of being vilified by people who have never even known someone like me. I am tired of people who have never left their small town and seen anything beyond a few hundred miles of our country trying to control the millions of very different lives everyone across the world leads on the basis of their limited experience and willful ignorance.

I am tired of being treated  like a third class citizen because I wasn’t born with the ‘right’ skin color and the ‘right’ religion.

I am especially tired of being told to go back where I came from. How about all of you go back to Europe or Russia, too?

I am tired of domestic terrorism not being labelled as such – unless of course a Muslim person was involved.

A brand new mosque and a brand new, unopened Islamic center were burned down near me recently. To the ground. They took hundreds of thousand of dollars to build and years to make. But they were callously destroyed. Imagine if that happened to a church or synagogue – the world would be in an uproar about it. But mosques? No one cares. It’s not terrorism or a hate crime at all.

The western media doesn’t care about the ethnic cleansing of Burmese Muslims. Or the masses being wiped out in Arabic countries. Or the hundred of instances of terrorism committed against people in Muslim countries like Pakistan and Turkey by those same terrorists. No one in the Western world lifts a single finger against any of it. Nor do they acknowledge that their wars and greed for oil have incited much of these repercussions they now face or that Most of the people killed by terrorist attacks have been Muslims.

Do people think that Muslims just woke up one day and decided to be terrorists? Does no one ever wonder WHY they decided to kill themselves to incite terror and fear in others? Some of them are probably brainwashed and believe they are doing it in the way of God – they aren’t. Islam forbids this kind of evil. Most of them do these things either for the safety of their loved ones or out of hate for the people that never accepted them, always turned them away, looked down on them and treated them as lesser being because they were ‘savages’ – even though the western nations were the ones that invaded and made colonies everywhere. subjecting people to their whims and culminating in a massive slave trade as well as laying down the foundations for terrorist organizations, the effects of which we all continue to suffer from today.

Did slavery exist before all this? Most certainly. But was it so widely accepted and was it done on such a major scale? I don’t believe so. People still think they are so much better than others based on their skin tone. Why this is so, I don’t understand. We are all flesh and blood. We are all human beings who experience the same emotions and needs. Why anyone thinks they are superior to anyone else because of their skin tone is beyond me. Why anyone thinks their religion is superior to anyone else’s is beyond me too.

I still remember the Crusades and the Holocaust. Did the rest of the world forget?

Conquest and subjection of the losing populace are a repetition in human history that will never end. However, we no longer live in an age where you can make mountains of skulls and burn grand libraries to the ground and not have people rise up against you.

To those who think your race is what makes you superior, to those that think your faith is better than everyone else’s, to those that think your way of life is better than the rest of the world’s – NEWS FLASH: IT IS NOT. YOU ARE NO BETTER THAN ANYONE ELSE. YOU ARE JUST AS SIGNIFICANT AND INSIGNICANT AS A BLADE OF GRASS IN A GIANT MEADOW.

To those that want to turn America in to the present day Nazi Germany, good luck. You will not win this war.

Forgive me for the rant, but I felt I would explode if I didn’t put my thoughts into words. In conclusion, the poem I wrote below explains my feelings most clearly:

American born
American raised
Proud not to be
Anti-any-race

Muslims banned
Mosques hazed
On what constitution
Is this based?

America – land of the free
Home of the brave
Why has fear
Become your face?

Good old days of
War, injustice, inequality
Will never return
For the crazed

This is democracy
This is freedom of speech
This is my country
Where my loyalty is based

I will not be silenced
I will not be controlled
I will rise above
The hatred in your soul

 

 

 

 

 

So far, we went to Rome, Assisi, Orvieto, Spello, Florence and Venice together. I suppose it’s now time to introduce to you Padua, Verona and Milano before concluding with Lake Como.

The largest piazza in Italy, Prato della Valle, is surprisingly located in Padua. Just a little ways from the piazza is the Basilica di Sant’Antonio di Padova which is just lovely and also houses a museum of its own.

After that early morning stroll, we ventured onwards and found ourselves in romantic Verona, home to the famous balcony of Juliet and her statue as well as the Arena and several very expensive designer stores all lined on one street. the people of Verona were the most fashion conscious Italians I met outside of Milan.

After a brief time in Verona, we continued to Milano and it’s incredibly different and modern buildings that are a direct result of Milan being bombed during World War II. However, the most recognizable and renowned location in Milan, il Duomo, did not disappoint with its centuries old majesty. The Galleria adjacent to Il Duomo was quite simply one of the most complete collection of exclusive and extremely pricey designers under one figurative roof. Even famous car companies had shops at the Galleria. Behind the Galleria was the famous Opera House and housed in the Galleria is the one artwork I did not get to see – Leonardo’s Last Supper. I wasn’t aware that the tickets had to be bought far in advance and hence did not book myself one. Hopefully, some day I can return to see that historic painting as well.

That regret aside, Milan did not disappoint in its extravagant offerings. It quite reminded me of NYC, just a little less insanely busy. My favorite thing, however, were the roasted nuts being sold by snack carts all over Milan – they were absolutely delicious!

Our activities for the night came to an end after dark and most people returned to the hotel. I returned later that evening to explore the Duomo and visit with a friend. It was perfect.

The next day it rained from morning till night and into my last day in Italy. Unfortunately, it was that day that we had Lake Como on our schedule. I imagine it must be even more amazing during summer, or when it is not raining as it was the entire time we were in the area.

We traveled by bus to the city of Menaggio. From there, we took a boat across Lake Como to Bellagio. We didn’t go to Como itself which was a shame – a friend informed me there was a cheese and chocolate festival at Como that day. However, just exploring Bellagio itself turned out to be great fun for me and though it was raining I still got some beautiful pictures of a place straight out of a fairy tale.

We returned to Milan after those stunning vistas to enjoy another excellent dinner and say our goodbyes. I left Italy the next day. It became an extremely fulfilling and uplifting memory for me.

The beauty of this world and the human mind’s capability to imagine and adapt is endless. Everywhere we went, we encountered warm-hearted, kind and helpful people. I didn’t have a single negative experience with any Italian person. My tour group afforded me a few new good friends and allowed me to meet some kindred spirits.

Italy itself gave me a sense of endlessness. The civilizations repeatedly upended, the many stories associated with every cobblestone, the many different belief systems that came and went, and the astounding art that people created surrounded by the natural beauty of creation – it was a package that is still making me smile with a joyous soul.

There is nothing quite like getting more than you bargained for, especially if it is a pleasant surprise. Italy was much, much more than I had imagined and I didn’t even see all of it. Pisa and Naples were sorely missed. However, everywhere I went, I saw one thing every Italian had in common – a pride in their people and in their heritage, as well as very, very big hearts. I’m sure others have experienced different but I am simply sharing what I experienced.

If I were to live away from the States, Italy is where I would want to create a new home. If you can go, please do visit Italy. It is worth every penny.

For staying with me until the end of my journey, grazie! And because this journey has come to its end, Ciao!

May 2017 bring you many pleasant surprises!

Edit: This post was (somehow) deleted from my blog and the latter half has been re-written. The content of the post remains the same.

This has been a trying year for so many across the world. We each, in our own ways, have struggle to thrive and survive. Many in places that are war-ridden or inhabitable due to famine and disease are literally doing their best to just keep breathing. They are the Holocaust survivors of today.

Personally, I’ve taken several setbacks in my professional and personal life as well. However, on a day like today, I simply wish to give thanks for the amazing people in my life and the wondrous experiences I managed to have this year. Thank you my friends, my family, and my awesome coworkers for making this year not only worth being thankful for but an unforgettable string of memories.

This year, I did something I have wanted to do as long as I can remember – I traveled. I know I already posted about Seattle and NYC – one trip reconnected me to long lost family and the other to the person I have become. The third trip, which I’m about to share with y’all now, opened my eyes and began to show me a path to becoming the person I want to become.

Travelling shows you sides of yourself you never knew existed. It may reveal that you have a cool head under duress (you get lost and then find your way back), it may reveal that you hate change (I really missed my regular breakfast), and most importantly, it will reveal to you how other people live, how they experience the world, and how we are all so different and yet the same. The last is a theme that seems more and more emphasized the more I travel.

This time around, I want to share you with the wonder that is Italy. I don’t really need to elaborate on the amazing history and art that is absolutely everywhere there but I can’t help but be utterly fascinated and awed by the beauty and philosophical depth that pervades the every day life of the Italian people.

I chose to go on a bus tour with a tour group and never regretted that decision. Throughout this tour I saw the wonder that is Rome (more on that later), went to small hill towns like Padua, Orvieto, Spello and Assisi, saw Verona and its iconic Juliet’s balcony, fell in love with beautiful Florence and it’s street artists, experienced the unique city of Venice (more on that later too) and finished off the tour in Milan with its almost jarringly modern vibe.

Upon arrival in Rome, I was directly submerged into the Italian cultural love of food and wine (though I don’t drink) and the showmanship every Italian is evidently a master of. The food, needless to say, was excellent. Pasta, salad, bread, meat, cappucino and wine are the staples of Italian cuisine as I experienced it. There were several dishes I would have loved to have but they contained pork (which I also don’t eat) and so my tasted buds were left satisfied but greedy for more.

Rome was easily the cheapest place in Italy that I had the pleasure of visiting. It also had more to share with the world than basically any city I have ever visited before. Despite spending all day walking around its streets or going from location to location on our excellent tour bus, we barely managed to see the highlights. As an art and history buff, I know I could easily spend several weeks in Rome and still not see it all.

Traveler’s tip: Find little cafes off the main streets for all meals – the food is excellent, the quantity is usually more than an average person would eat and it is MUCH cheaper than a sit-down restaurant. Also, there are little fountains in the walls so if you carry a water bottle with you, there is clean water for you to drink all over the city. Mineral water costs more in Italy than wine or coffee. In addition, if going anytime other than the height of summer, wear layers. It gets cold in the morning and after sunset but is hot in the afternoon. Good walking boots or sneakers are a must. Don’t wear anything you couldn’t last in all day. Those cobblestones hurt.

I had the pleasure of visiting the Vatican amidst my trip to Rome and just that itself was a treat unlike any other. The art is overwhelming and the atmosphere is unique. Tour groups from all over the world can be found in this tiny little country – and it is a country of its own. You just don’t need a passport or visa to go in thanks to agreements between the Vatican and the Italian government. Keep in mind though – unless you have a reservation, you will be in line for several hours waiting to gain entry. It is, after all, a site for holy pilgrimages and home to the Pope. If you follow the Christian tradition, there is plenty for you to see and many places to pray. You can even purchase blessed rosaries at the many shops in Saint Peter’s square. The piece de grace, of course, is the Sistine Chapel. However, there is no photography allowed there so I have no pictures of my visit to that wonder, just these few pictures leading me to the chapel itself:

Which brings us to the wonder that is Saint Peter’s Basilica. My words, and these pictures, cannot describe the majesty of the Basilica. Every stone and every column, the domed ceiling, the floors, the altars and the art – all of it is beyond breathtaking with good reason. Michelangelo, one of the most renowned, prolific and brilliant artists of all time had a big hand in its design and construction. The history behind the building and design of the Basilica is quite interesting. I’ll leave you to satisfy your curiosity with this wiki article. Though my pictures definitely do no do it justice, here are a few of my memories:

The Square itself is no less impressive than the insides of the gargantuan Basilica:

After this amazing but all-too-brief trip to the Vatican, we were rushed off to another of Rome’s signature delights: The Colosseum! With our tour group, we were able to actually walk around on the same ground the gladiators of old would have fought their battles and look down into the pits where hungry animals were kept in terrible conditions in order to make them blood-thirsty in beast vs gladiator battles. I must note, however, that most gladiators were mercenaries and volunteers who were very much akin to modern day professional sportsmen. They were paid generously for their services in most cases. Though the overwhelming percentage of gladiators were willing participants, there were undoubtedly slaves also sent into battle.

Also located next to the Colosseum is a stone arch that has not only withstood the test of time, it is a testament to the passage of human history and the extreme changes that have come about in the world since the fall of the Roman empire. The Arch of Constantine is a triumphal arch that was built in 312 and is the last remaining triumphal arch of the Roman empire. The steps leading to the arch half stone walkways that were laid back in the early days of the Roman Empire and are now part of the cultural heritage of the Roman people.

Beyond that Arch is where the Forum once stood in all its marbled glory. Today, only the marble-stripped foundations have been left behind. The history itself, however, is embedded into every brick in the area.

After the Colosseum and a short lunch break, we again ventured out into Rome and saw even more of its delights.

Walking through the streets of Rome was like a dream come true. We first visited the Spanish Steps which were so crowded with visitors that none of us dared to actually venture onto the steps for fear of being lost forever. Leading to the Steps are buildings housing the most expensive name brands in the world as well as the Spanish embassy in Rome.

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Once we had visited the cultural center that is the Spanish steps (many locals also gather there regularly), we moved onto the most enchanting place of all, the Trevi Fountain, followed by the Senate, the President’s house, the Pantheon and the Navarro Fountain (also absolutely fantastic). I was just disappointed that the Pantheon had no trace of the Gods and Goddesses of old (it is now a Church) but it had the most amazing anti-rain system with a whole in the roof designed to let nothing but a slight mist into the building itself. The Romans were just brilliant architects, not to mention mind-blowing artists.

The Trevi Fountain might have been my favorite but Navarro Square holds second place with the Fountain of Four Rivers. These are places you have to see in person to truly understand their brilliance. Every sculpture, every building seemed so alive. There were so many stories told with every piece of marble and every brick. It was absolutely amazing.

That magical day will be a treasured memory for me forever. Rome is a city that I could easily spend another week or so in and still not see everything. Needless to say, I will be returning some day.

My adventure in Italy continued with Orvieto, a quaint and beautiful town, the next morning. There, we saw the cathedral that took my heart away. It is a fantastic study in architecture and art, built in both the Renaissance and Gothic fashion. The town itself was a typical Umbrian hill town with fantastic art casually thrown about here and there and in little alleyways. We also had an experience in genuine Italian pastries and hot chocolate while in Orvieto. Here are some visual recollections of my time there:

That afternoon, we continued onto Assisi, home of Saint Claire’s church and Saint Frances Basilica. Everything about this visit was grand, gorgeous and majestic.

Many pilgrims make their way to this unique town with an old Roman town center and one of the most visited Basilicas in the world, as well as the beauty that just blows your mind away.

We stayed in the town of Assisi that night but we first ventured out to beautiful Spello that evening for a meal I will never forget. If you ever have a chance, please do visit Ristorante Locanda del Postiglione – it will change your life forever.

That dinner was the end to a long and wonderful day experiencing the smaller towns of Italy and Umbrian cooking.

The adventure continues in Italian Adventures: Part II. Please do return and accompany me on the rest of my journey through Italy!

 

 

 

 

Hey y’all, I know I said my next post would involve a boot, but I’m postponing that for later. I have something I just have to say here right now, today.

Have you ever Known you are loved, cherished and thought of often only to also feel like you’re never good enough and people simply tolerate you because they are kind? I’ve been feeling that way a lot lately. I’m frankly jealous of the people I see together with their friends and just genuinely close to each other with no walls up between them. I miss feeling that way. I miss exchanging a single glance with someone and having them understand everything that just went through my head. 

I miss feeling like I had my own person.

It isn’t that my friends don’t support me or appreciate me. It isn’t that they don’t care about me. It isn’t even that they don’t make time for me. But I simply never feel like I belong or like I’m wanted. This isn’t their fault. I know it’s somehow me being messed up inside causing this view. but somehow I can’t help it.

Something inside feels so broken lately. I think it’s because I feel less than worthy of anyone’s attention. I feel like I am a burden or a bore or both to the ones I love and want to be around. This feeling is slowly crushing all the joy I have built up in my heart this year.

I really hope that all of you out there feel cherished and loved and know you are amazing in so many ways. God bless.

I know this post has been a long time coming and I apologize. I have just been really involved in personal issues and life in general. The recent election is something I’m not going to discuss in this post – I’m incredibly drained from the political and human drama of the moments. Instead, I’m going take this opportunity to talk about my recent trip to the Big Apple.

A couple of posts ago, I mentioned I went to Seattle and saw some amazing things in Washington and Vancouver, BC. I learned a lot from that trip and was delighted to reconnect with family I hadn’t seen in almost two decades. That trip wasn’t just about going away from Houston, it was about reconnecting to my roots – I spent several summers in Seattle as a child. However, this post is about my time in NYC and growing as a person through my experiences there (be prepared for a lot of pictures)!

A few weeks after returning home from Seattle, I visited New York City for the first time in my life. I was a little nervous before I left – I would be on my own in a strange and fantastic city and had no one there to help me out. However, the very thing I was afraid of turned out to be one of the best things about my trip. I absolutely loved exploring, getting lost in, and finding hidden treasures from losing my way in NYC. I rode the subway, the ferry and the bus. I once lost my way and ended up in Harlem at midnight. That resulted in me walking through Brooklyn streets at 2 am on my way back to my Air BnB and almost using my taser on someone that was approaching me threateningly. Hence, while there were moments of anxiety and frustration, there was so much More excitement and energy!

When you hear that New Yorkers are always on the go, you should believe it. People are always on their way to somewhere to do something. It doesn’t matter where you go, people are intent on accomplishing a goal, even if it is to spend an idyllic day in Central Park. That energy infected me too. In just three and a half days, I managed to visit the Empire State Building, Lady Liberty, New York Stock Exchange, Wall Street, the 9/11 Memorial, 5th Avenue, Times Square, Central Park, the MET, the MOMA, Brooklyn Bridge, Rockefeller Center, SoHo, Little Italy, Chinatown, and Grand Central Station. Each place was unique, exciting and thought-provoking. Some of the more iconic locations literally made me tear up with happiness.

One of the best things about NYC was the ease of access to everything one might need. It was great to be able to buy Halal food literally everywhere I went. It was really great being able to get basically anywhere with public transport at all hours of the day and night. I could buy anything I hadn’t brought with me at the countless little stores lining every street. And having street vendors made it easy to get nice things for a low price. In short, NYC surprised me by being so easy to navigate and being so convenient for someone a lone traveler in a strange environment. In retrospect, going there became a huge source of both confidence and self assurance for me. And it gave me the courage to go somewhere else shortly after, which I’ll be talking about in my next post (hint, it looks like a boot!).

Now to review all the amazing places I was lucky enough to visit:

I ended up at Wall Street by accident (took the wrong train) and had a surprisingly good time wandering around there on a holiday (it was Labor day). From there I walked to the majestic and awe-inspiring 9/11 Memorial grounds. I must also admit that I fell in love with the mall/train station adjacent to the Memorial. Being at the Memorial was a really surreal feeling for me, especially given the day I went there. The building itself is amazing enough but the names written on the walls surrounding what looks like a waterfall seen from above made me really grateful for the life I’ve been given. Here are some pictures I took to commemorate my visit there:

 

Following my time there, I decided to go to the Empire State Building. On the way, I got lost a couple of times and wandered through 5th Avenue as well as Korea town, but it was totally worth it. The mass of humanity in NYC is almost overwhelming, but at the same time it’s really wonderful to be around people from so many different places and no one gives your race or gender a second thought. In any case, I did reach the Empire State Building and enjoyed a fascinating view of New York City from up high. It looked more amazing the darker it got and I just have to share the view with all of you!

From there, I went where literally every tourist ever has gone before – Times Square! It was everything I’d ever seen on TV and more. The energy was unbelievable, there were countless street vendors and performers, and I doubt a single true New Yorker was in sight. Even so, it was a dream come true to be there and just enjoy the sights! I absolutely loved Broadway though I didn’t catch a show (I just don’t enjoy theater, I know blasphemy but what can I do?). It was a great way to wrap up my first day in NYC.

I started off the next day with going somewhere I had always dreamed of visiting – the Metropolitan Museum of Art. As an art and history buff, I absolutely loved the MET. If I had the time, I could go there every day all day for a week and still not see everything. Thus far, it is the most awe inspiring museum I have had the pleasure of visiting. There was too much I loved there but I’ll just share a few things that really stood out for me.

I know those are a lot of pictures, but I promise you that that these are only a small percent of the things on display at the MET. For anyone who loves art or history, this is a must see!

After spending the whole day at the MET, I decided to walk the Brooklyn Bridge and fell completely in love with it. The MET and the Brooklyn Bridge are easily my favorite places in NYC as of now. Walking across the Bridge was both amazing and unreal – it felt like I was in a different world for a little while. It’s one of the few things I would like to do again if I ever go back to NYC. Here are some views from the bridge.

Following that amazing experience, I went onto Rockefeller Center. It was a lesson in grandeur and tastefulness. I had an amazing time going to the top and seeing NYC from on high once more.

My adventure on the way back was quite interesting. I had an almost hour long conversation about spiritualism with a hotel employee on my way out of Rockefeller center, followed by an interesting shopping trip for a hoodie which resulted in a stranger offering to take me to dinner and drive me back to my Air BnB. Such an interesting evening.

I started out my next day in NYC by going on a free walking tour of Central Park – or rather a corner of it. The day started out extremely windy and cloudy so I was afraid it would be a disaster but it cleared up right on time for the tour. In fact, it got extremely warm during my time there. Following the tour, I took a brief walk around Central Park on my own and can safely say I completely loved it there, as is obvious from the following shots I took while there.

I didn’t stay as long as I would have liked as I had another significant trademark of the Big Apple left to see – Lady Liberty! I ended up riding the Staten Island Ferry to Staten Island and back in order to see Lady Liberty. I didn’t go to Liberty Island (it was closed) but I did get to see her! No good pictures of that adventure, sadly, but here is at least one of her and one of the NYC skyline as seen from my angle at the time (I love the NYC skyline, if that isn’t obvious yet lol).

Following my trip to see Lady Liberty, I had a disappointing and frustrating time walking around SoHo (I’m sure this is because I’m a clueless newb) and stopped by Little Italy to have some truly excellent pasta and also strolled through Chinatown – it didn’t feel like I was in the States anymore at that point with the shop owners yelling out their wares, everything written in Chinese and the kind of crowds you see on TV when they show you a shot of Hong Kong.

I concluded my day with a trip to see a place I have dreamed of seeing since I first saw Home Alone as a child – Grand Central Station! I’m not even going to  lie – I happy cried right before I took that selfie down there. It was just fantastic – the energy was unbelievable and it took my breath away. Totally a dream come true for me!

I was due to leave the next afternoon and head back home so I spent my morning at the Museum of Modern Art. I absolutely had to see the Starry Night that was on display at the MoMA at the time. In doing so, I also saw a very emotional series of stories told my illegal immigrants who left home to find refuge or a better life and ended up in different places in Europe and their lives after the fact. I also saw a series of documentary shorts about Napalm and the horror it rendered on so many people. It shook me deeply. However, many of the exhibitions there did not allow photography so I’ll just share what I was able to photograph.

They had a fairly cool sculpture garden that I took full advantage of after I had achieved my goal of seeing Van Gogh’s most amazing painting (IMO). This concluded my exploration of NYC but not the lessons I learned there.

On my way back to my Air BnB to pick up my luggage and head home, I fell hard on the concrete and scratched myself up. My Uber driver showed up shortly after so I couldn’t even clean up the blood properly. We then ran into some serious traffic followed by construction and road closures. I almost didn’t make it to my flight – or that would have been the case had the flight not been over booked and so full that they requested several passengers to check in their carry on luggage.

On the flight back, I sat next to an elderly couple from Pakistan whose daughter lives in Houston. We ended up talking the whole flight back and I had an amazing time learning all about them and their family. They even gave me some great advice – never stop learning and never give up! Find opportunity where people see only adversity. Life will inevitably be difficult and seriously traumatic events will occur. But that is never the end, unless you let it be. Hope springs eternal and as long as there is hope, there is a chance for success. They gave me so much love it caught me off guard. It was a truly singular experience and gave me so much hope for humanity.

Travel has taught me so much – independence (more than usual), ingenuity, the ability to adapt to unexpected situations, and patience. I’ve grown stronger from all of it.

My message today is simple – travel like your life depends on it. Save and travel, no matter what. You’ll have strange and uncomfortable experiences that will help you grow. You will have awe-inspiring, unforgettable experiences that will lift you up. And you will make fleeting but unforgettable connections with strangers that may become a great inspiration for you and may determine how you live the rest of your life.

More than anything, trust your instincts and never stop growing and learning. You will become stronger every time you learn more and see more. So, travel. And travel some more. I certainly plan to!

I know this has been a long post but I hope you enjoyed it and will look forward to the next one! Until next time, ciao!

 

 

 

A strong woman, they say
Forged in the fires of pain
Feeling the salt and blood of rivers
Flowing down the cracks in her skin
Through the warmth that keeps
Her living, slowly becoming her veins

A strong woman, they call her
As she picks herself up again and again
You, and you, and you, and you –
You who were supposed to be
Her brother, her lover, her protector, friend
Turned into the very vultures that
Attacked her even as she writhed in pain

A strong woman, they labeled me
This tired, brittle bag of bones
With each day, it becomes harder
Each trial making me more alone
I did all I imagined possible
But it was never enough to ensure
That I would never have to be strong enough
To weather all, steady as stone

A strong woman, I’m told
Is one like me, racing through
Typhoons, tidal waves, earthquakes
Even the deep dark of a black hole
As if nothing is of consequence
Like no matter how many meteorites strike me
I will simply go on, perfectly whole

A strong woman, I may have become
But with every step, every fall
My soul shattered into jagged glass
My feet slippery from bleeding with
Cuts made each time I broke
And break I did, losing another piece of me
Every time I had to forge myself anew

This strong, independent woman
Was wrung through every pain the world
Could imagine, first taking her innocence
Then her dignity, clipping her wings
To cage her when she would have flown
Slowly corrupting even her smile
Until all that remained was a shell

This strong woman became a hollow husk
A puppet on a string manipulated
By you, her protectors in name
But in truth, you were her jailers
The ones forever claiming you knew
What she could and could not do

This woman, before she was strong
Was in apathetic darkness years long
Eventually, she realized she would die
If she remained caged, unable to fly
So she broke free of her shackles
Finally roaring with rage
Daring the world to challenge
Her right to live, never again enslaved

This strong woman, she made
So many choices, both right and wrong
But she learned her own mind
She learned to stand strong
Believing she could shape her own life
Whether or not she ever came to belong

This strong woman slowly changed
From a girl into a woman older than her age
Along the way, she lost many people
She broke her heart, she failed her dreams
Some people abandoned her, some used her
But with every scar, she learned to go on

This strong woman, she survived
The rush of agony each time
Life taught, terrorized, traumatized
Each time, the dark rose to take over
She learned a new depth of light inside
Growing stronger with every passing night

This strong woman, who knew love once
Came to know betrayal
Came to know abandonment
Learned she could always fail
With every instance she chose perseverance
Her desire to Live grew stronger, she prevailed

A strong woman can never be weak
Even as you choke the life blood from her
No tear will fall from her eyes
No sign of pain will show through her mask
She will only scream silently, praying for help
She never gets an answer that
She didn’t have to create for herself

A strong woman should never be lonely
That is the mantra she repeats to herself
Every time she sees someone happy, whole
She wonders who her happiness stole
She became so strong that the weak majority
Became afraid and intimidated
Now she walks alone because
No one of equal strength walks nearby

A strong woman they call me
As if it was so easy to become me
As if I didn’t have to struggle down
Every path I chose for myself
As if every scar didn’t tell another
Festering, heartbreaking story
As if, somehow, this title I have earned
Were just a casual note in a Symphony

This strong woman, every time she starts anew
Digging out a new path, carving a new trail
Becomes a little stronger with each drop of pain
Becomes harder with every scorching flame
The pressure of hardship and expectations
Slowly turning her into a diamond untamed

Let me start, once again, by the wonder invoked in me by an art exhibit as pictured below:

Kusama Exhibit MFAH

A room of floating lights, a platform surrounded by water, and only a minute and a half to enjoy the wonder of being suspended amongst the stars. A minute and a half that completely captured the kind of Universe I want to live in. A minute and a half of complete joy in the wonder of the human imagination.

The amazing world Kusama created is further expressed in the other half of her exhibit as pictured below:

Kusama Exhibit MFAH

I loved the mirrored room with giant lava lamp-likeness, the kind of place I imagine exists in Alice’s wonderland world.

However, God continues to take my breath away with the beauty He created in this world for us to discover and revel in. I had the pleasure of visiting the Seattle area recently and what struck me most was the majesty and absolute glory of the natural beauty in the area. Hiking up Mount Rainier, I was awarded with these breathtaking views:

The beauty I saw there dwarves anything I have seen created by the hand of man. However, I was further blessed to have seen the extraordinary art on display at the Chihuly Gardens in Seattle Center. I believe each piece speaks for itself.

The Gardens also afforded an incredible view of the Space Needle which I went up and thoroughly enjoyed.

What I discovered most of all is that ultimately the more we see, the more we grow. It’s important to leave the norm behind and experience the extraordinary and the overwhelmingly majestic in order to keep flourishing.

To all of you bound by the chains of expectations and daily pestilence, I advise you to act wisely and plan for days that allow you to experience the beauty that can be life. I know it can be really difficult to work in to your busy and financially draining life. However, what is life without adventure? In that vein, happy future travels mi amigos! Until next time, I bid you adieu.

In the land of Dreams, it seems that you have once again become the source of all my glee. Everything I remember about you that was good rolled together in one scene, like when you and I once seemed to fit together so well. In the dreams, we make each other laugh and feel joy in once another, even though time has moved forward and you have not. Even in these dreams, you never chase me or reach out to me first. In fact, you just smile and laigh happily because I complain to you that you don’t but somehow, I still don’t let you go and we are happy…somehow. When I wake up, I feel fluffy like I’m on a cloud and everything is good in life. And then, I remember you as you really are. I remember you the way you were at the end and I feel as though I betray myself every time I dream of you. I feel as though the only way I’m at peace is if I’m at peace with you but that will never happen again, not in the waking dream that I call life. Will you never let me feel peace again?

You were only a dream, one that lasted until it burst in the bubble we had created around us, carefully not allowing reality to intrude upon us. Had you stayed true and never burst that bubble with the heartless cruelty only you know how to inflict upon my soul, I would have stayed true to that dream, to my love of you. Yet you couldn’t even manage that. You couldn’t stay by me. Or rather you wouldn’t. I wasn’t good enough or you weren’t. It was the perfect catch 22 between two incredibly different and highly imperfect people. There was no end but The End.

Why doesn’t my dream self remember the soul shattering pain you caused when you betrayed everything she stood for and had fought so hard for? Why doesn’t she recall how callously you abandoned me once you had no more use for me? Or how your family and you never once turned back to even speak to me after that? Why doesn’t she remember the anguish you caused her, her family, and her friends? How does she forget how easily you threw away a relationship that could overcome anything, anything but the betrayal of your heart, or how it makes her wonder if you were ever true at all?

Come to me in my dreams no more. Abandon me in that land, too, as you once did before. Even my dreams warned me against you, but like the fool that I was, I paid no heed. I have paid for that willful ignorance in full.

I wish no more to remember you or anything of you. I wish no more to find you once again, to have you beg and apologize and do anything to get me back. I wish no more to walk with you in life, I could never trust the fear of your own failures that seems to guide your every action. I wish, most of all, to make you disappear from the parts of me that feel happy at the thought of you. I hate that the you in my dreams makes me so utterly overjoyed and at peace. That the only time I wake feeling so peaceful is after a happy dream of you. I hate you. You hurt me more than I knew was possible.

Reality sometimes seems cruel, but not so in this instance. Reality is a necessary reminder that dreams only last so long. Eventually, they disappear into nothingness if they are not treasured and nurtured with care by everyone involved. Even a small crack in the bubble can lead to the deterioration of all hopes and dreams in the bubble. All that is left behind is devastation and, for the survivors, the inevitability of the passage of time. All the strong have left to them is the absolute determination to go on and never give up.

I am not the strongest or bravest or smartest. But I am, and always have been, a survivor. Being a survivor has left me with no other choice but to grow, to become braver, smarter, stronger, more. I am not who I was just a few months ago and I will never be her again. I am glad I am who I am in this moment. I will not succumb to the empty bliss of ignorance. The past is full of lessons both learned and not. The future is full of experiences I cannot even imagine today. The present is my only concern because this is where I build everything I am going to be and verify all that I am today. That is enough.

Hi y’all. Sorry for no updates recently. Quite honestly, I was struggling with a few things and wasn’t sure how to proceed. Personally, once I allow things to simmer on low heat in the melting pot that is my brain, I normally get the answer I’m looking for. My answer this time around is to talk about all the things that stood out to me on my recent adventures around Houston.

First of all, let me be perfectly clear. I am completely and unapologetically a foodie. If you are expecting a healthy food experience, please be warned. I enjoy food too much to limit myself to what is good for me. I am always in the search for my next tastebud adventure and recently I found a place that is just to my taste. I won’t go all Yelp review on you guys but I can tell y’all that this was one of the most satisfying food experiences I have had in this incredibly multicultural environment that provides us all with a huge variety of culinary experiences.

The name is Snowflake Cafe and Bakery. Unassuming but cute, as is the place itself pictured below.

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A comfortable, colorful, warm interior greets you as you enter and look around. The menu is hand written in chalk. The wall art is both unique and precious. There is an upstairs area with a pool table and a darts board. The staff are ready to help and provide any information you may need. In short, it is the perfect haven for a person like myself.

The food, however was the real star of the show. We had a variety of crepes, coffees and a sandwich. They even offer high tea, not something common to Houston. The crepes were delicious, the sandwich scrumptious and the coffee was well worth my while. Having my friend there to share the experience was the best part. And the service was superb. We stayed past closing time and they never even said a word. Absolutely adored this place and will be returning some time soon!

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Hazelnut Latte with a HEART SHAPED SPOON! Too cute!

 

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Our delicious crepes!

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My perfect sandwich and delicious latte!

My next adventure was just as flavored but wasn’t an accomplice for my taste buds. This is a recollection of a unique nature. I had the privilege of attending a musical performance that attempted to combine classical Indian music with Western classical music. The performance was in the James Turrell Skyspace at the Rice University campus. The building itself lent a singular ambience to the performance. What made it even more extraordinary was the lighting that accompanied the “In Observance of Dusk – Evening Triptych” doctoral recital of Shane Monds. I was one of the lucky last two to be allowed into the, at this point, standing space only performance and it was totally worth the hour long wait in line.

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This line was a lot longer. There were about 200 people inside and another hundred or so in line, as well as a few dozen who decided to take advantage of the grass fields outside.

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View of the Skyspace

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Musicians playing the eclectic chords as the lighting enhances the music, also allowing for a peek of the sky.

The experience was quite memorable. I lost myself in the music over and over. Though there were crossover parts I didn’t really love, there were moments where I could imagine a classical Indian dancer dancing to the music. It was definitely a great night. I can only imagine where the soon-to-be Doctor Monds will take us next!

What made both of these experiences even better was the fact that I had the company of my wonderful friends with me on both occasions. My best friend accompanied me to the cafe and my sister took me with her to the concert. Love them both!

All in all, I feel blessed to have these people in my life and the opportunity to explore such a hot pot of culture. H-town represent!