Third Culture living, Travel

That last day

Today is the last day that I let her insecurity speak into my life. Today is the last day that I let their prejudice of a colored woman speak into my life. Today is the last day I let my doubts speak into my life.

I celebrated saying goodbye to a bully today and also grieved allowing myself to be shaken by someone who knew nothing of my extraordinary story. I have been hit with so many unkind individuals and their mean-spirited words lately, that there are days I can’t find my superpowers. I have had to repeat my superpowers aloud more often than ever this year. They are my resilience through an abusive marriage, the courage to ask for help at age 11 at a boarding school away from my tribe, passionately created my coaching practice when they fired me, to always dream brighter lives for all who are my community and to take any barrier as a learning opportunity to better conquer the next day.

Make today your day to dream even bigger, speak even louder your beautiful story and create an action plan for your next step that lifts everyone around you as well.

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Third Culture living, Travel

Home

As I beamed back at all the smiling faces, left my office for the holidays with a little extra hop in my steps and gazed up at the twinkling Christmas lights everywhere; I was transported back to my favorite memories during this time of the year.

I can remember it so vividly, the ever so gentle chill in the air and everyone in sweaters and scarves. The big paper star that Dada would put up on the terrace of the house with a single bulb in it but it shined so bright! Dadi would make namkeen, while Dada hummed along baking his delightful pink icing cake and golden brown doughnuts. On the other side of the village Nana was reading his Bible, while Nani prepared her flavorful chicken roast and rotis for the family. Before we knew it, it was Christmas Eve and I could see the flashlights getting brighter, I could hear the dholak and harmonizing voices in the distance getting louder by the minute as they rejoiced in singing of the coming of our Liberator. My grandparents house would be the last stop in the village. All the carolers would have chai and snacks before we all made our way to the church.

In our Mennonite church, all the  women sat on the left , the men on the right while we all sang in unity all the Hindi Christmas hymns and carols. Then the kids performed Jesus’s birth story and I couldn’t wait to play the role of the angel who led the wise-men to the emancipator baby boy. It was the one night, adults and kids stayed past their bedtime, celebrating our truth and each other. After a couple hours at the church everyone in the village went to their houses for a short sleep, only to wake up to a joyous Christmas morning. My sister and I couldn’t wait to put on our new dresses and see all of our cousins, Mamus and Mamis beautiful outfits at church. Christmas morning and afternoon was spent in more celebration and then a communal lunch right after. I could barely pay attention to all the teachings by the pastor, preoccupied by the aromas of tomato chutney, jeera rice and chicken curry that filled the church. This memory when I was surrounded by my family, and friends feels like “home”.

Then there is the memory of a tropical Christmas Eve when my parents, sister and I devoured ginger chicken with coconut milk covered mango sticky rice for dessert.  And of-course we took an extra order of ginger chicken back to the house for Pepsi to enjoy. The warm breeze with smells of fried beetles and mangosteen, while the sounds of car and motorcycle horns felt like “home” as well.

I am a Woman of Color living (working) among a majority of Caucasians and  I hear this question at every turn, “Where are you from?” I take a deep breath, while fighting the frustration of why can’t they see that I belong here and now. Uncontrollably my mind races, my heart sinks and my soul longs to answer: Where, Who, What and How can I, a third culture individual find, create and define my home? And yours; Is it a place, person, state of mind, or just a temporary feeling? “I believe my story and yours is so much more than where we were born.”

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Las tres hermanas

One chilly autumn night, the three of us sat around reflecting under these little indoor twinkling lights. As we admired a quiet street outside covered in leaves while sipping a giant milkshake with three straws, Priya asked Athena and I about five significant events in our lives. She described it as any experience that has changed the course of our lives permanently. When I started to think back, I was reminded of being truly grateful for an abundance of experiences that have forever impacted my perspective but even more  blessed for family and friends from all over the world that have allowed me to share in their inimitable events and took part in mine.

An experience that  stretched my whole being and formed an undeniable place in my soul; when I screamed at the top of my lungs as the three of us felt a 15 ft sudden drop speeding up and down those massive sand hills. The driver laughed hysterically at my unpleasant surprise of what I thought a sand buggy ride would be in the  Peruvian desert. Apparently it was time to face my fear of heights, right outside the little oasis town of Huacachina aka home for a chilling gang of street dogs. In those frightening moments of several unexpected drops; I had to surrender to my fear , shout it out, let go of any control and put my trust in the driver. And I promise gently consistent fearlessness will trickle in.

Another time during the trip we had to completely give up control and practice our fearlessness was that stomach churning bus ride up to Machu Picchu. A magnificent ancient civilization, sits comfortably among the clouds looking down at millions of explorers wandering from one exquisite place to another in search of their ultimate treasure. I, an explorer found a part of my treasure that day as I stood on that peak and felt those Peruvian clouds in my hands. My heart roared strong words and my mind repeated them undoubtedly, that “no dream is  bigger than you”.

And with this epiphany, came rushing in overwhelming restlessness of seeking, understanding and doing everything I can to live out all my dreams. My mind was working overtime planning every step leading into 5-10 years of my future,when it suddenly came to a halt. The exotic creatures, colors, sounds, smells and the continuous sweating in the densely green and fully alive amazonian jungle demanded my undivided attention. And as I swayed in the hammock and dimmed the lantern until it was completely dark in our cabana, stillness washed over me.  During the nights while the monkey grunts, snake hisses and macaw squawks filled the rain forest, it was in these quiet hours that I found peace, a reminder to slow down and felt the courage to be present now.expo-athenabday-peru-900

Photo by a Condor travel guide.

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The Blues

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Photo by Anshu

I fight the days when an abundance of love around me, does not seem to stop me from thinking about the wrongs that were done to me. All the hurt that I had labelled as the past came, rushing to the surface and threatened to consume my present and created fear for my future. Even though I had forgiven it, them and myself, healing is a continuum that demands a lifetime.
Darkness slowly creeps in by blaming others and then an exhausting battle begins as I try and push it out of mind, wishing to push it out of my life but at last it settles comfortably within my control as I blame myself, convinced that I might have deserved it or I could have chosen a different path. The scars that only I can see and feel weigh heavily.

My whole being turns to prayer and is soon reminded of our Creator’s eternal grace and unconditional acceptance, as I hear a sparrow sing of joy outside my window, in tune with my heart beating of hope and my soul with no hesitation starts to sway in resilience. The darkness fades, as I can now feel the rays of sun on my face and deeply breathe in a new day. I train myself time and time again to surrender to all my dark and light experiences, to cherish them equally and to grow stronger roots for tomorrow. I am reminded of all that I have been given and all that I have conquered to keep moving towards fulfilling my mighty purpose.
“Give me your heart, let your eyes find happiness in my ways.” Proverbs 23:26

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Modern Reserves

“Step out of that part of the city where you see more of your culture, your own color of people, because its safe and familiar and create a world celebrating and learning the unfamiliar.” Anshu

As I stare and smile at the beaming silver light from the perfectly shaped moon. I look at all the houses that receive equal view of this mysterious round thing. Everything from my window seems so still and quiet in the dark of night. Everyone craving their rest from the day they experienced and survived.
As I reflect in this quiet hour, I can vividly see a shooting star and the same perfectly scarred moon as I lay in my mosquito protected bed. While Dada hums and Dadi starts her snoring in our veranda. We are surrounded by giant trees and their leaves that move like monsters to the gentle breeze. I whisper a quick prayer for all of our protection and thank God for blessing me with such fearless, loving and kind people around me.
Soon I am brought back to my room in Calgary, Canada with Pepsi (our dog) barking downstairs. I remember when he was just six months old; my mom and my sister fell instantly in love with him on a street in Phnom Penh, Cambodia in the year 2000 . We chose to invest in him and he brings healing to our family everyday. So invest in each other beyond borders. Comfort is overrated, instead contentment within; anywhere, anytime and with anyone is worth achieving.
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Photo by Anshu Stephen

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Sunny Day

As I walked towards the big window and slowly drew the curtains, a thousand rays of sun came flooding in. I closed my eyes to soak in the warmth and the clarity of all the nostalgic memories rushing in. I needed a moment to just think and give these very precious memories my undivided attention. I stepped out of the walls of my beautiful and comfortable house as I walked towards the untrimmed grass with splashes of hopeful yellow; I forced myself to sit and be still. I allowed my heart to feel the pain of loosing people, places and many things familiar, my nose to smell the mesmerizing scent of grandma’s garden of roses, gardenias, marigold and lilies,mixed in with sweet mangoes, my eyes to vividly picture the clothes hanging on the ropes to dry underneath the tormenting heat from the sun, my arms to feel the embrace of all who ill never meet on this earth and others who are so far away and finally urged my mouth to whisper “I miss you so much; I wish you were here with me, everyday”.

I  missed you during my adult baptism; but it was due to your  unwavering faith that I chose to give my heart and life first, to God. I would have appreciated your wise and comforting words when I experienced my first heartbreak and loss; but I rose resilient from witnessing your lives of consistent perseverance. I wish you could have heard the applause after I sang my heart out; but I could almost hear you singing the beautiful harmony to my melody. I wish you could have shared the experience of floating in a tiny canoe on the restless Amazon river being balanced by the eight of us; but I did see you right beside me every time a bright orange butterfly paid a visit to the canoe or led the way in the jungle accompanied by  magnificent turquoise winged  butterflies with outlines of the darkest black. Lastly I felt your warmth today in the gentle breeze whispering your promise of unconditional love and kindness, that I will try to share with the world around me with a smile.

 

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Sing in Rome

As I hum along to this tune by John Mayer, it takes me back to my hostel in Rome. A mixed dorm room themed North America with twelve bunk beds and a tiny washroom. I chose the bottom bunk bed close to the door, to be my refuge for three nights in the city of timeless fountains.

My two fellow travelers and I dragged our feet with our ever growing backpacks (felt like) from the metro station only a ten minute walk to the hostel, hidden behind the main street. Somewhat of a beaten down door led into the lobby with a nice clean kitchen, my belly roared at this sight. Quickly checking in and dropping off our back packs we rushed out to find a grocery store to buy some bread, cheese, wine and tea. Our staple for meals of no splurges but treat ourselves to a delicious 2 Euro wine in the evenings at the same time.

Our three days were filled with magnificent historical architecture in every corner of Rome, righteously intricate art in The Vatican, delicate fountains overflowing with wishes of people from near and far and every meal starting and ending with scoops of delectable gelato.

In my memories stands out the last night in Rome, when I sang a song close to my heart while my new friends sat around the kitchen area and sipped wine that we were all sharing. Everything and everyone in that room listened in silence smiling  and soaking in this place, people, time and experience unique to this moment never to be repeated again. As I breathed out my last melodious lyric; appreciative claps and encouraging words filled my heart. And to desperately extend this fleeting moment, we all decided to roam this brightly moon lit city till  early hours of the morning high on laughter, gelato and temporary contentment that will disappear the next morning as we board that train and then the feeling will rush back as soon as we arrive at our next place of exploration.

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