(Subjective) Truths (Sort of) Universally Acknowledged

A Tale of Love and Friendship…and Victorian Literature

Post the Thirty-Fourth: Wherein I Talk About Thesising

May10

Hi everyone! So, before I get to the topic at hand, I just wanted to thank my lovely, beautiful, sweet housemates for the amazing spread they made for senior brunch today! There was so much love and so much food…

Such bounty!

Such bounty!

And of course, as if that weren't enough...

And of course, as if that weren’t enough…

The lighting wasn’t really great for these photos, but there was an angel food cake, topped with strawberries and homemade whipped cream, a chocolate souffle, scrambled eggs, turkey bacon, pancakes (we each got a personalized pancake! Mine, of course, was a book.), fruit salad, banana muffins, homemade cinnamon rolls…I really hope I’m not forgetting anything! It’s 6:30 pm right now, and I am still so incredibly full!

After such a feast, I’m sure you can imagine that today was mostly a day of idleness and dissipation. But to be honest, I think we’ve all earned it! I know I needed a day like today, after months of school work and thesising. Which brings me to my topic for today!

The Honors Thesis in the English department may seem like a fearsome and mystical beast, but really, it’s not all that bad! Sometime during your junior year, you have to take a course called the Honors Seminar. The English Department usually offers two each semester, one that deals with pre-1800s literature, and one that deals with either 19th or 20th century literature. I took “Engendering Genre in the Romantic Period in England,” and really enjoyed it. I’m working on a page where I will talk about this class and other favorites at length, so stay tuned!

The point of the Seminar is to prepare you for writing an extended work like the Honors Thesis. My final paper was about 20 pages, which seems like a lot, but Professor Chase guided us through the entire process, from the paper proposal to the annotated bibliography (basically a normal bibliography, but with 150-200 words about why you’ve chosen those specific texts for your paper). Maybe your Seminar will give you an idea for your thesis, or maybe it won’t. Either way, you have the entire summer between junior and senior year to mull the question over (although it does help to have read your primary text(s) before your senior year starts). Fall semester senior year, you continue reading criticism/theory that will prepare you for writing your paper, meeting occasionally with your thesis adviser to talk about ideas for the paper and to keep you on track. You probably won’t do a ton of writing fall semester, aside from your proposal and your annotated bibliography. Spring semester is spent actually writing, which in my opinion, is the harder part. It was really hard for me to see how my project would come together, but I did it in the end!

I don’t know how many of my readers are considering writing a thesis, let alone a thesis in the English department, but I thought I would end by talking about some of the tips I picked up along the way.

1) Is this really for you? It’s important to remember that the Honors thesis is completely voluntary and just because you take the Seminar, or choose a topic, or tell your friends that you’re going to do it, doesn’t mean you have to do it. I’m not going to lie: thesising is stressful. I strategically planned my senior year so that I would only be taking two classes this semester besides my thesis, but I know that’s not an option for everyone. If, at the start of the spring semester of your senior year, you simply don’t feel up to it, you can easily switch your thesis to an independent study, or drop it entirely. I have to say, I have heard that it’s hard to do either of those things, however, so I would think very carefully about whether you really want to spend a significant amount of your time senior year reading and writing.

2) Choose something that interests you. Speaking of reading and writing, I, like many of my fellow thesisers, had many moments where I simply didn’t want to work on my thesis. On a Saturday morning, the last thing you want to do is read Judith Butler’s The Psychic Life of Power. But what got me through those slumps and kept me on task was remembering how important my thesis topic was to me. I decided to write about the effect of race and gender on a character’s ability to create his/her own identity in Rudyard Kipling’s novel Kim. This topic combined a lot of my interests: race, feminism, colonialism and Victorian literature. Don’t feel pressured to choose a topic just because it seems prestigious or scholarly. For some people, writing about Shakespeare’s use of pathetic fallacy might be fascinating. I personally think it would be a bore, and if you do too, you shouldn’t write about it. The great thing about the Honors thesis is that the sky is really the limit: I have friends who have written about pop culture figures, about allegory in The Faerie Queene. The best work is going to come from writing about a topic that engages you emotionally and intellectually.

3) Balance. As you probably know by now, I am a big fan of leading a balanced life. And I could not have gotten through the thesis without holding to that belief. There will be times when you’re feeling the pressure, and you have no choice but to stay up late or to lock yourself in your room for the weekend. But remember to replenish yourself afterwards. Read a book for pleasure. Go for a run. Talk to a friend. Remember that while your thesis might seem like the center of your world, you’re only going to be working on it for about eight months. So make sure they’re eight wonderful months, and enjoy yourself!

 

 

by posted under Books, Classes | 2 Comments »    

Post the Thirty-Third: Wherein I Have Lots of Feels

May9

There are ants EVERYWHERE in my room! I noticed them around my honey jar first, which made me shriek with rage. So I put my honey jar in my food bin under my bed but GUESS WHAT?! The little pests crawled into my food bin! And now one is making its leisurely way down my desk lamp. Little does it know that I’m going to buy ant traps tomorrow, and then it shall meet its DOOM!

I suppose it shouldn’t come as a surprise. After all, today is the warmest day of the semester thus far. I think I should be happier about that…this past winter has been the most brutal one out of the four I have experienced while in college. I should be happy about the warm weather, the end of classes, and the opportunity to frolic with friends. And I am. Sort of.

I’m trying to live in the m0ment, to forget about the fact that in two weeks, all my stuff will be moved out from the House of Babes and I will be starting a new job in New Jersey. Which is all very exciting. But it is also very sad. I’ve definitely had some hard times in college, but I’ve also had some incredibly happy times, and if I were to use one word to describe my time here, it would be “contentment.” I spent so much of my high school years wondering whether I would ever find my place in the world, whether I could really make it as a writer, as a musician, as a person. I think I can now, thanks to the wonderful friends I’ve made here. I feel completely prepared and utterly terrified of the future at the same time. I feel less sad and worried when I’m with friends, but then I also feel that I need time to myself, to process everything that’s happening around me. I’m really looking forward to my new job, but I’m uncertain about what my life will look like outside the academic setting. Will I have more free time to read and write? Will I have less free time? Will I like my roommates, or will I want to get my own place as soon as I can afford it? I am grateful that at least I have a secure job and an incredibly supportive family at the end of the line. But I’m very good at brooding and worrying.

In fact, I’ve spent so much time brooding and worrying, that I’ve completely neglected my lovely readers! Unacceptable, I say. Also, the easiest way for me to feel better when I’m down is to focus my time and energy on other people. So, I propose to make all these missed blog posts up to you during the next few weeks! I don’t have any finals anyways (yes, you read that right! I’m not trying to make you jealous, promise. I’m just saying it like it is.)

Please don’t think I’m trying lure you into trusting me again. You have every reason to be resentful. But I have excellent excuses! Here is what I’ve been doing for the past three months:

  • I finished my thesis!
  • I wrote over 100 pages for my creative writing class
  • I finally read a short story in Arabic
  • I became a better feminist
  • I realized how damaging patriarchy is, and vow to do everything in my power to smash it
  • I realized that I don’t really know where I stand politically, and I realized that that is OK
  • I participated in an incredibly heated divestment campaign that was both emotionally draining and exhilarating at the same time
  • I performed in front of people without my knees buckling underneath me
  • I saw a show that featured complete nudity and lots of sex, drugs and dub-step

And this is just a sample of my last semester! So, here’s my plan: I will post once a day, every day, until after graduation (which is on the 23rd). I will cover all of the above topics in some form or another, as well as posts about other things I’ve discovered along the way. If there’s anything you want to read about, please post in the comments and let me know! In the meantime, have a picture of a springtime kitten.

D'aww. Photo credit: http://cathyunruh.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/kitty-hammock.jpg

D’aww. Photo credit: http://cathyunruh.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/kitty-hammock.jpg

Post the Thirty-Second: Wherein I Drink Ambrosia With the Gods

February19

Hi everyone! How are you? I hope everyone had a relaxing February break…or as relaxing as a two day break at the beginning of prelim season can possibly be, haha. But I shouldn’t complain: I had a lovely long weekend with the miniscule knight and parental units, watching TV, breaking my diet left and right, and generally just being a lazy bum! And now I’m ready to get my head back in the game.

I know that I’ve set a precedence for not apologizing for my absence from the blogasphere, but I do kind of want to explain myself. I never really make specific New Year’s resolutions; instead, I pick a word that represents a principle or value that I feel I’ve been neglecting, and then I try to live by it to the best of my ability. This year’s word is “presence.” This is my last semester of undergrad, and while I’m really, REALLY excited to be starting my job in August, I know there’s going to be a learning curve, which, considering my over-achiever personality, will probably cause a lot of stress and anxiety on my part. In order to make the most out of this year, and just my life in general, I am going to try and be more present, in my schoolwork/work-work and in my relationships. Of course, it’s only February, and presence is not something that comes naturally to me…so while I’ve been present in my activism and in my family and friend circle, I’ve been noticeably absent from this blog. So, in the name of presence, I will do my best to remedy this situation!

My blogpost today is about a place that is very near and dear to my heart. It is not only home to some of the best soups and sandwiches on campus, but it has also served as my social hub, as a meet-up place for those very dear friends who don’t happen to live ten feet away from me. Behold, lovely readers, the Temple of Zeus!

That's my friend at the cash register, by the way! Photo credit: http://www.news.cornell.edu/stories/2012/05/temple-zeus-dishes-out-atmosphere

That’s my friend at the cash register, by the way! Photo credit: http://www.news.cornell.edu/stories/2012/05/temple-zeus-dishes-out-atmosphere

I have been grabbing lunch from Zeus since my freshman year. I knew I should have been trying to spend my BRBs, which my parents had so kindly paid for before I even got to campus…but I had reasons, people! Very good reasons!

Temple of Zeus is in the basement of Goldwin Smith Hall, which is where most of my classes are held, so it’s super convenient to be able to trot downstairs and grab lunch, especially in the winter. The decor may not be the best, but it has all sorts of cozy nooks for times when I’m planning to eat alone. When I am flying solo, I can sit next to the plaque commemorating the spot where poet Archie Ammons used to like to sit .Of course, I barely ever get to play lone wolf, considering how many people I run into in Zeus on a daily basis. Just today, I crashed my friends’ poetry workshop while I ate my curried sweet pea soup and large tossed salad. I really appreciate how Zeus has allowed me to keep in touch with friends who live at the very end of Collegetown; I don’t always want to make the trek from North Campus, but we can always meet in between for some delicious food!

Which brings me to the next point. The reason I decided to dole out the cash at Zeus when I was still on a meal plan was not only because the prices are crazy reasonable, but also because the food is so very good. Zeus serves the best soups on campus, hands down. My favorite is the Thai carrot, but I love all of them to bits. (Also, I didn’t know that all the recipes were online until I started doing research for this article! Guess what I’m going to feed Cornflower and myself this upcoming week??!!) To be fair, more visited lunch places like Cascadelli and Trillium are fine, but you don’t get the same quality. At Zeus, I know I’m eating relatively healthily, although those pesky scones from Ithaca bakery seem to always find their way into my grain-free, refined-sugar-free diet. Ooops!

It might seem strange to you to wax sentimental about a basement cafe, but Temple of Zeus was also the first place I ate when I was visiting the campus with my mom as a prospective student. I had just come from a meeting with my dean, and a million things were swirling around in my head. I was torn between Cornell and some other small liberal arts schools, and I didn’t really know what to do. The homey atmosphere and the tuna fish sandwich (with a pickle! I love pickles!) calmed me down and convinced me that I could possibly make my way here at this frighteningly large school. So yes, I am going to miss Temple of Zeus dearly when I graduate. But in the meantime, I’mma going to make an appointment this Friday with me, myself, and some Thai carrot soup!

 

 

 

 

 

Post the Thirty-First: Wherein My Blog-a-thon is Over!

December25

Merry Christmas. everyone! I hope that those of you who do celebrate had a wonderful time with friends and/or family, and that those of you who don’t celebrate had a wonderful December 25th. I had a very lovely day: I was able to get some thesis reading in, and I made delicious soup and salad and an ah-maaaaazing grain-free chocolate-raspberry loaf! It shall be my breakfast tomorrow, mmmmmm…

Today also marks the end of my blog-a-thon. It’s been tons of fun and also, quite frankly, a little bit exhausting. It’s funny: when I don’t have to write every day, I have ideas pouring out of my ears, but as soon as I have to produce material every day, I spend a good twenty minutes in front of my computer going, “Oh boy. Now how do I entertain the crowds?”

But it has been extremely rewarding to write every day, even if it’s been about something seemingly fluffy and silly, like my post yesterday. I get so caught up in school work during the semester that I forget how much I enjoy writing and how much I have to say! It definitely has made me want to get back to my novel. I don’t know how I’ll make time for that, along with SJP planning and thesis-writing, but I think it’s important enough that I will try to write at least a couple of pages before I head back to Cornell.

And that’s not to say that I won’t be updating here! I probably won’t do it as frequently as I have for the past ten days, but I will be working on new material–not just posts, but new pages too! If you have any suggestions as to what you’d like to see more of on this blog, please do post in the comments!

I think that’s around about it from me for now. We’re getting our new oven and stove installed tomorrow, yaaay! But that also means that we have to be up by 7 am tomorrow. It’s been a while since I’ve done that. I hope I still have it in me! Wish me luck, ahaha :P

Well, a merry Christmas to you all!

by posted under Randomness | 5 Comments »    

Things I Like: Sense and Sensibility (2008)

December24

Hi everyone! I hope you’re having a wonderful Christmas eve, and if you don’t celebrate Christmas, I hope you’re having a wonderful December 24th!

I for one had a lovely December 24th. I got my hair cut (my ends are no longer dry and crunchy, yaaaay!), watched the first episode of the seventh season of Doctor Who, finished re-reading Kim, found a recipe for grain-free chocolate chip cookies (AAAAAH, I CAN’T WAIT TO MAKE THEM AND EAT HALF THE DOUGH IN THE PROCESS!!!!) and had delicious tacos for dinner.

And then my mom, my sister and I watched the 2008 version of Sense and Sensibility, and all was right with the world.

How do I explain my love for Sense and Sensibility? Well, it is a Jane Austen novel, after all, and I have loved Jane Austen since I was a wee one of thirteen. My parents were fed up with my incessant re-re-re-re-reading of Harry Potter, and decided it was time for me to grow up a bit, so they handed me Pride and Prejudice and I went on my merry way! Pride and Prejudice is my number one, of course, but Sense and Sensibility is pretty awesome too.

For those of you who don’t know, Sense and Sensibility is about three sisters: practical and level-headed Elinor Dashwood, sentimental and romantic Marianne Dashwood, and rough-and-tumble Margaret Dashwood. The three girls’ fate takes a turn for the worst when their father dies and is forced to leave his entire estate to their horrible stepbrother John and his even more horrible wife Fanny. John and Fanny considerately move into Norland, the family home where the Dashwoods have happily lived for many years, as soon as they possibly can. But though they are thoroughly unpleasant and awful, when Fanny’s sweet and unassuming younger brother, Edward, comes to say, Elinor slowly but surely falls in love with him. Unfortunately, the Dashwoods move to Barton Cottage, where Marianne meets John Willoughby, who seems to be the man of her dreams. But is he really who he says he is? (Answer: nope!) Will Edward ever come visit them at the cottage? (Answer: yes, but it leaves Elinor with no clear answers as to his feelings for her. sadly.) And most importantly, will Fanny stop being such an insufferable buttwipe? (Answer: if only!)

By now, you’re probably wondering why on earth I love this book to bits. After all, the plot and the questions it poses are rather…hum-drum. So here are my reasons, in a delicious little list, just for you!

1) The characters: Out of all of Jane Austen’s characters, I relate the most to Elinor. She feels deeply and is very passionate and artistic, but is compelled to hide her feelings, as she is essentially the head of the family after their father dies. I’m not the head of the family, but as the oldest child and as someone who is generally pretty responsible, I do often have to put on a brave face for the sake of others. Her feelings for Edward are no less powerful and sincere for her downplaying them, however, and she is capable of incredible compassion and kindness towards those she loves. Her love for her impulsive younger sister, despite their differences, is something I can relate to as well. My sister is not as melancholy-prone as Marianne, thank the Lord, but she does have the endearing, if somewhat embarrassing, habit of being unable to hide her feelings. So basically, my sister and I are Marianne and Elinor Dashwood. As we sat through the movie tonight, I could totally imagine us saying some of the things our respective characters said!

2) The looooooove: I feel like I should be all “Oh my God, isn’t it awful how the working class is completely invisible in Jane Austen’s novels and how work is synonymous with slavery and how these men and women never do anything for themselves and blah blah blah,” but you know what? Even revolutionaries need a little love. And Jane knows how to warm the cockles of your heart. Even though I am a romantic, I get a little bit jaded when I watch sappy movies (please don’t hate me, but I really don’t like The Notebook). Everyone’s experience with love is different; maybe for some people, love really does mean being a bird if the other person is a bird (what does that mean, anyways??!), but my experience with love has been a little more down to earth. You’re happy when in that person’s company and you might cry a little if it doesn’t work out, but whatever the end result, love makes you a better person. Sense and Sensibility captures that quiet intensity of love so beautifully and reminds us that what we think we want isn’t always what’s best for us.

3) The costumes: I know they’re not everyone’s thing, but I love Regency-style clothing! (Not so much for the men…I would think their calves would get cold in those silly stockings.) The dresses are so understated and elegant, and all the actresses in this particular version pulled them off wonderfully. I know that sometimes the Empire-waist can look a bit wonky, but I honestly think that has more to do with the costume designers than with the actual style. This version does a good job of maintaining that waistline without, ahem, getting in the way of anyone’s bustline. The houses filmed in are also beautiful and, as far as I can tell (I am far from expert!) really reflect the period.

Well, I hope you enjoyed this little installment! If you like Jane Austen, this is a fun film to watch; although the dialogue isn’t stellar by any means, the actors make the best of it. Also, Dan Stevens. How can you say no to Dan Stevens?!

Photo credit: http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-w1w8bR7Od7Q/TY9xNnSdWfI/AAAAAAAAAnE/dSDynpi9LJM/s1600/ss-1.jpg

Post the Thirtieth: Wherein Poetry and Politics Mingle, And I Die Of Excitement (A Retrospective)

December23

Hi everyone. You probably know me well enough to know that the lack of an exclamation point means that something is wrong. Nothing is seriously wrong…it’s just one of those days. You know, those days when the weather is crappy and you feel tired even though you slept and you don’t accomplish anything you planned to accomplish and feel very grumpy about it? Yeah, it’s been one of those days. It’s not the end of the world, but in order to tick off at least one of the things I wanted to get done, I thought I would write a post for all you lovely readers! And since today hasn’t been that exciting, I thought I would do another time-travel post where I talk about things that happened to me during the semester. And as I have done on many other posts, I will mention that I talk about my politics and personal beliefs. So if they offend you, I apologize, but you have been warned!

So. As someone who is invested in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, I came to know about Remi Kanazi fairly early on. Remi is a poet and Palestine activist who’s probably best known for his poem “Normalize This!”. His book Poetic Injustice: Writings on Resistance and Palestine is brilliant, and I have a signed copy, which makes me ridiculously happy every time I see it! He’s been featured on Al-Jazeera English, BBC Radio and other news stations, and he’s also a member of USACBI (the US Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel).

“That’s super interesting, but what does this have to do with you, Lubabah?” you might say. And I would say, “Well, I noticed in September that Remi would be doing a mini-tour on the East Coast, so I reached out to his manager to see if he’d be interested in coming to Cornell, and long story short, he came and did a performance and it was amazing!!”

So before I get into why the performance was so amazing, I have to mention the fact that the audience was incredible. I love SJP and all the work we do, but it is sometimes disheartening to see the same thirty or so people at every single event we put on. I mean, I know we’re not the most popular group on campus ever, but come on guys! We have over one hundred people on our listserv! Y U NO COME TO EVENTS, HUH? Just kidding :P But in all seriousness, it was wonderful to see so many enthusiastic and wonderful people there. It’s nice when all that publicity and e-mail writing and nagging your friends until they want to kick you in the face pays off.

But the best part was, of course, the performance itself! First of all, Palestine work is not really funny. We all have a good time together and we all enjoy each other’s company, but we don’t usually collapse in giggles while we’re trying to figure out how to stop the building of new Israeli settlements. Remi is funny, and it felt so good to laugh at this sort of event, which usually either makes me super mad or incredibly sad. He’s never disrespectful of the struggles the Palestinian people have endured (he is Palestinian himself, after all), but injecting a little bit of humor into his performance livened up what would have otherwise been an overpowering performance.

Which brings me to the second point: the poetry itself. If you watched the video above, you know what I’m talking about, but Remi’s poetry leaves you just a little bit breathless. It’s like being inundated with passionate truth, and it can take a bit to get used to. The thing is, Remi doesn’t just talk about Palestine or about being a Palestine activist on a hostile campus: his work takes on American imperialism, oppression along racial lines, bigotry and a whole host of other issues that are uncomfortable to talk about, but are absolutely necessary to give voice to. And how better to discuss uncomfortable topics than wrapping them up in the lines of a poem?

I had a creative writing teacher once who told me that in her opinion, political writing was the weakest form of writing. I respectfully but vehemently disagree. To be born into this world is to be born politicized. Whether it’s climate change, the use of drones in foreign countries or mass incarceration, we have no choice but to have an opinion and to fight for what we think is right. And before you say, “Oh, but I don’t like politics and I really don’t know enough to have an opinion”…well, unfortunately, complicity and silence are taken as agreement and support for lots of actions that you probably never even realized you signed up for.

I’m sorry if this sounds preachy; I definitely don’t mean to be. The point I’m trying to make is that art and politics are very closely intertwined because the personal and the political are irrevocably linked. Some of the best novels and poems out there–The Great Gatsby, Beloved–are deeply political, even if their messages aren’t overt or in your face. Art has always had and will continue to have an important and revered place in any freedom struggle. To some people that might be obvious, but I try to remind myself of art’s power every day, as a writer and as an activist.

OK. I am so very sleepy. I will write more tomorrow! Good night one and all :P

Poetic Injustice: Writings on Resistance and Palestine – See more at: http://www.poeticinjustice.net/aboutremi.aspx#.UrjE-vumYWk
Remi Kanazi is a poet, writer, and activist based in New York City. He is the author of Poetic Injustice: Writings on Resistance and Palestine (RoR Publishing, 2011) and the editor of Poets For Palestine (Al Jisser Group, 2008).His political commentary has been featured by news outlets throughout the world, including Al Jazeera English, GRITtv with Laura Flanders, and BBC Radio. He recently appeared in the Palestine Festival of Literature as well as Poetry International. He is a recurring writer in residence and advisory board member for the Palestine Writing Workshop and he is on the organizing committee of USACBI (the US Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel).

He has taught poetry workshops from Oklahoma to the West Bank, given talks from New York City to London, and has performed at hundreds of venues, from New Orleans to Amman. – See more at: http://www.poeticinjustice.net/aboutremi.aspx#.UrjE-vumYWk

Remi Kanazi is a poet, writer, and activist based in New York City. He is the author of Poetic Injustice: Writings on Resistance and Palestine (RoR Publishing, 2011) and the editor of Poets For Palestine(Al Jisser Group, 2008).His political commentary has been featured by news outlets throughout the world, including Al Jazeera English, GRITtv with Laura Flanders, and BBC Radio. He recently appeared in the Palestine Festival of Literature as well as Poetry International. He is a recurring writer in residence and advisory board member for the Palestine Writing Workshop and he is on the organizing committee of USACBI (the US Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel).

He has taught poetry workshops from Oklahoma to the West Bank, given talks from New York City to London, and has performed at hundreds of venues, from New Orleans to Amman. – See more at: http://www.poeticinjustice.net/aboutremi.aspx#.UrjE-vumYWk

Remi Kanazi is a poet, writer, and activist based in New York City. He is the author of Poetic Injustice: Writings on Resistance and Palestine (RoR Publishing, 2011) and the editor of Poets For Palestine(Al Jisser Group, 2008).His political commentary has been featured by news outlets throughout the world, including Al Jazeera English, GRITtv with Laura Flanders, and BBC Radio. He recently appeared in the Palestine Festival of Literature as well as Poetry International. He is a recurring writer in residence and advisory board member for the Palestine Writing Workshop and he is on the organizing committee of USACBI (the US Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel).

He has taught poetry workshops from Oklahoma to the West Bank, given talks from New York City to London, and has performed at hundreds of venues, from New Orleans to Amman. – See more at: http://www.poeticinjustice.net/aboutremi.aspx#.UrjE-vumYWk

Things I Like: Meditation/Yoga

December22

Hello on this quiet Sunday afternoon! I hope everyone’s enjoying their holidays so far. Specifically, I hope everyone is resting up after a long, stressful semester, and enjoying the time they have to themselves and with friends and family.

Have you ever been in a situation where you’re so busy and overwhelmed, you don’t even have time to process how you’re doing or what

Photo credit: http://www.learningmeditation.com/RotationImages/RESTORE_000014185704Resized.jpg

you’re feeling? Someone might ask you how you’re doing, but it’s so much easier to reply, politely but mechanically, “Oh, I’m good, how are you?” I have definitely found myself in a position where, if I just stopped, sat still and breathed deeply for ten minutes, I would realize that my body was crying out for sleep and nourishing food, my mind wanted a break, and my self was sick and tired of being locked in Olin basement for six hours a day, every day, with minimal human contact and no time for people I cared about and who care for me. And most of all, I need to turn to some guided meditation and yoga.

Now, before I continue, I want to recognize that yoga and meditation aren’t for everyone. Some people find it boring, some people find it increases their anxiety, and some people find it to be “hippie nonsense.” (You know who you are!) But as an anxious person and as someone who is not always as in tune with her body as she would like to think, I find it not only immensely helpful, but also necessary for my mental and physical well-being.

Since we are all on vacation, my mom, my sister and I decided to make the trip to Ithaca to take a class at Fine Spirit Studio, a yoga studio that, while strangely situated in an old factory, is spacious and quiet. The class we usually take is called Yin and Restorative Yoga. This type of yoga is much more about extended stretching and holding poses and relaxing the muscles and the mind rather than sweating and working it a la hot yoga. Every session begins with fifteen minutes of guided meditation followed by various poses and then (my favorite part!) a restorative session that’s meant to further relax your body and mind. (I will openly admit that I have nearly fallen asleep during these sessions before. Because I am secretly a cross between an old lady and a bear.)

My enjoyment of these classes partially stems from the fact that our instructor is an old family friend, and so I feel super comfortable around her, even when I’m tumbling around on my yoga mat trying to get my bolster to sit up straight. (That actually happened today, as I am eminently graceful, like a swan. Ahaha.) But while people go on and on about the benefits of meditation and yoga, they rarely talk about good it feels when you do it right. I have never inhabited my body that deeply before, to the point where you can feel the rise and fall of my every breath, every little breeze across my face, every small sensation. It’s so freeing and wonderful to be so present. It’s strange: you would think going inward like that would cause you to retreat from the world, but I always feel so much more connected to everything and everyone during meditation. I don’t know how that works, but I quite like it.

Like I said, I know this sort of practice is not for everyone, but even if you’re vaguely interested, I would highly recommend attending at least one class! Fine Spirit Studios is a bit far from campus, but if you have a Cornell Fitness Center membership, you can easily attend a yoga class for no extra charge! Just check the schedule ahead of time to see what’s available on what day.

I hope this was somewhat interesting and helpful! Do you enjoy yoga? Hate it? Want to try it out? Let me know what you think in the comments!

Post the Twenty-Ninth: Wherein I Go To A Concert (A Retrospective)

December21

Hi everyone! Wow, I am so proud of myself; like I said I would, I have written every single day this week! Yaaaaaay me! I hope you’re having as much fun reading these as I am writing them…this blog is probably one of the best jobs I could have gotten during my time at Cornell, considering my interests.

Photo credit: http://www.roseensemble.org/sites/default/files/images/shows/Rose%20Ensemble%202011_formalindoor.jpg

Anyways, I hope you don’t think that my October and November were horribly dull, since I’ve barely written about them. On the contrary: they were amazingly exciting and also really busy, hence the dearth of posts! But now that I’m on vacation, I have more time to write and reflect on my experiences, so I’d like to talk about some of the things I did during those two months, albeit retrospectively.

On October 18th, Cornell was lucky enough to host the Rose Ensemble. The Rose Ensemble is a group of singers based in St. Paul, Minnesota. They specialize in spiritual music throughout the ages from all different faiths, and collaborate with researchers to bring lesser-known music to the public.

The particular performance I saw was entitled “Land of Three Faiths,” and had a mixture of vocal and instrumental music from the Hispano-Islamic Middle Ages (which is just a fancy term for Spain under the Islamic empire in the tenth and eleventh centuries). I had never really heard music from this time period before, and was very intrigued. Besides, as a member of Cornell Chorale, I got a special discount on my ticket! So how could I not go, right?

I am so glad I did attend, because it was a beautiful concert. Of course, I am convinced that any concert in Sage Chapel is beautiful, if only because of the amazing acoustics and the beautiful stained-glass windows. I love singing in there during the Chorale concerts, and it was a pleasure to hear the Rose Ensemble there!

Isn’t it like a fairytale? Photo credit: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/d/d1/Sage_Chapel,_HDR.jpg.

I feel rather strange writing about this without my program with me, but I will try to do my best. The vocals were stunning: I have never heard a group blend so beautifully. Every section sounded like one large voice, especially the altos! (Not that I’m biased or anything…being an alto and all…) The material was also excellent: the instruments were beautiful and sounded like an incredible mixture between Spanish guitar and Middle Eastern music. But even though everyone blended together beautifully, every solo was distinctive: some had a light, silvery quality to their voice, and others had richer voices that resounded all the way back to the choir loft. My favorite song was a piece about a woman reflecting on her younger years and the prince who wanted to marry her. She refused him, but, she thinks to herself, perhaps this time she would have accepted his offer and ridden off into the sunset with him. (I don’t know about that…I would think it would depend on how well you knew this prince. And how long the horse ride was, because horses are painful to ride for more than a couple of hours!)

But the best part about the performance? The seamless, organic continuity between the Arab-Andalusian dances, the Sephardic Jewish laments and Christian psalms. I have always been interested in Al-Andalus: Arab culture flourished, Jews, Christians and Muslims lived side by side, and there was relative harmony and peace between three peoples who seem to be at each others’ throats more often than not throughout the rest of history. I could clearly see that all three groups influenced each others’ musical traditions and borrowed from each other to create music that is hauntingly beautiful and uplifting.

So if you ever get a chance, go and see the Rose Ensemble! You won’t be disappointed.

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Things I Like: Cooking

December20

Hi! How is everyone? I hope that for most of you, finals are over and you are home/with friends/somewhere exciting and wonderful with people you care about and not a care in the world :D As for myself, the first day of vacation was very nice: I spent most of it writing for my thesis (I now have ELEVEN pages, yaaaaay meeee!!) and I will probably do the same tomorrow. Then I’m going to give myself a break and read some theory/background that will help me flesh out my ideas, and then I will write some more. Rinse, wash and repeat.

Besides that, I did an experiment today! Not like a science experiment where things explode (although I admit, I do like that kind of experiment too :P), but a cooking experiment. I recently discovered this delicious honey-sweetened lemon curd  from The Nourishing Gourmet and have made it twice now. We don’t have any lemons in the house at the present, so I thought I would try making the same recipe with clemintines. Clementine curd, yaaaaay!

Everything was going splendidly until I decided, in my infinite wisdom, that the mixture could get just a teeny bit thicker before I took it off the heat…and then disaster struck.

My expectations for the curd:

Photo credit: http://www.thenourishinggourmet.com/2011/12/meyer-lemon-curd-honey-sweetened.html/meyer-lemon-curd

The painful, sad reality:

Photo credit: http://memoriesonthejourney.files.wordpress.com/2011/02/kr-scrambled-eggs.jpg

My “curd” was more like “orange-flavored scrambled eggs with lots of butter.” I panicked, and somehow thought that vigorous stirring would remedy the situation, but it just made the scrambled egg texture more apparent. And I was planning to whip it with evaporated milk and make refined-sugar free ice cream with it too! So I scooped a bunch of it into a small bowl and ate it, all the while gloomily staring at my computer.

But don’t worry about me…this is not my first cooking fail, so I got over it quite quickly! I have been interested in cooking since I realized the food was delicious and wonderful and the best way to have a steady source of it would be to learn how to make it for myself. Just kidding!! But seriously, I do think I love eating more than I love cooking. I have been cooking for myself ever since I moved into the House of Babes a year and a half ago, and I have never looked back at a dining hall since. (Unless someone else is paying, in which case I will graciously accompany them and very ungraciously stuff my face at the all-you-can-eat buffets!)

I love creating things, as you’ve probably noticed: music, stories, controversy. But I’ve always been afraid of performing, am painfully shy about my writing, and don’t really enjoy the confrontation that goes hand in hand with controversy. A warm, home-cooked meal, however, is something I take joy and pride in making and that I hate eating on my own. Chances are, if I like you, I have fed you something I made myself, whether it be cookies, cake or lemon curd.

I have recently embarked on a quest to eat more healthily, which has only fueled my cooking fervor. This means cutting out my two favorite food groups: refined sugar and refined grain. Now, I feel like I should put a disclaimer here: I realize there are many different opinions on how a person can eat healthily. For most people, what I’m attempting to do is a little bit crazy. A lot of people have suggested that I try just limiting my intake of simple carbs rather than stopping altogether. To these people, I would say: have you ever seen me eat a cookie?! That’s right: you haven’t. I can never ever eat just one cookie or just one piece of pie: once the sugar-and-white-flour monster has opened its seductively beautiful eyes and woken up to greet the world, IT WILL NOT BE STOPPED.

I’d be lying if I said eating a low-carb, low-sugar diet comes naturally to me. I love bread and pastries (I did live in France for three years after all!), and as a second-generation Bangladeshi, I am quite partial to my rice. Some days, particularly around the holidays, are super rough. I see people eating raw sugar cookie dough and stuffing their faces with stuffing (ahaha, pun!) and I’m sitting there picking around the marshmallows on the sweet potatoes and wondering what I’m doing to myself.

But I have never been one to back down from a challenge. And the thing is, I feel loads better: I have slept through the night every single night this semester (and that never used to happen before), I’m losing weight, I have so much more energy, my mood is much more stable…my body tells me that I’ve made the right decision.

But the best part? ALL THE NEW RECIPES I’VE BEEN TRYING!!!

Seriously, there are so many grain-free, refined-sugar-free options! (Another disclaimer: while I have been avoiding white and brown sugars, I am allowed to eat raw honey. I know that honey is another form of sugar, but honey has all sorts of anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties that sugar doesn’t, and some studies have shown that honey helps in blood sugar control when compared to other sweeteners.) I’ve gotten quite good at making baked goods out of coconut flour, and The Coconut Mama has this AMAAAAZING COCONUT BUTTER FUDGE RECIPE that Cornflower has pronounced “fudge-gasmic!” I don’t see my new diet as an impediment to enjoying food but rather as a catalyst for new cooking adventures…that sometimes lead to sad (but delicious!) orange-flavored scrambled eggs.

I will close with some other delicious websites. Happy Friday evening!

Lauren from Empowered Sustenance has a similar diet to mine, so I can always trust her for delicious and healthy recipes! I particularly like the lemon mousse, which incidentally involves the lemon curd I linked earlier in this post!

Chocolate-Covered Katie ‘s recipes aren’t always grain free, but she does have some grain free options, and a lot of her recipes are sweetened with honey, dates, or even just plain old fruit! Her raw chocolate fudge cake is surprisingly light and chocolatey…although I did eat, like, four large chunks of it once, and then felt super sick. Oops?

And of course, there’s always Buzzfeed!! I admit that I haven’t tried any of these yet, but I’ve been lusting after the pumpkin scones for AGES. Perhaps that is my project for tomorrow? You will have to wait to find out!

Post the Twenty-Eighth: Wherein I Come Home

December19

Hi everyone! This one will have to be short, as I have a thesis deadline tomorrow that I am soooo not ready for, eeeeeeek! But I have all day tomorrow to work on it, so I will have something to show for my efforts. I hope.

Anyways, I made the long, arduous journey back home today! I suppose it wasn’t that long and arduous, since I only live an hour away…but still! It took forever to get all my stuff into the car, and since Cornell is kindly redoing my floors over winter break, I had to basically clear out of my room. It looks pretty sad-sack right now, and I couldn’t bear to take a picture, because it reminded me how I’m moving out and onwards so very soon…but once it’s decorated again, I shall take a picture and write a post about it!

I was just on the phone with my dad, and I asked him what to write about, and he suggested I write about how I’m not going to Bangladesh this winter. As you all probably know, my parents emigrated from Bangladesh in the ’80s, and so I still have family there. We try to go back as often as we can, but this year was going to be particularly special, as my cousin is getting married!!!

I’m not going to lie: I have lots of mixed feelings about going to Bangladesh and being there for an extended period of time. On the most basic level, my mobility is so much more limited there than it is when I’m on campus or even when I’m at home. There’s no way I could navigate the traffic there, public transportation isn’t exactly safe for a single woman in such a large city, and even I could walk anywhere from my aunt’s place, I’d get lost in a second. Not to mention the fact that I stand out like a sore thumb: I may look like everyone else, but I walk, talk and dress very differently. The language barrier is another thing that’s so frustrating: I’m nowhere near fluent in Bengali, although I understand it pretty well. But as someone who loves language and is normally good at expressing herself, being reduced to the vocabulary of a precocious two-year-old is pretty dreadful. But most of all, facing the poverty that most Bangladeshis live in is heart-breaking and incredibly guilt-inducing. Children run between cars and beg for money, old men with cataracts plead with you, and no matter how much you give them, it doesn’t do enough. I don’t know what the solution is–I’m wary of NGOs that, however well-intentioned, claim that their mission is to “fix” the problems of third-world countries. I don’t think throwing money at the problem will change anything. But I can’t just stand by and watch either, can I? I wasn’t born there, but I still feel as if I have some sort of duty, some sort of obligation.

But I was willing to put my personal feelings aside for my cousin. And then the Bangladeshi election season began, and the situation, especially in the capital, Dhaka, became more and more violent, and finally, my parents decided it wouldn’t be safe to take my sister and me. So my dad is going alone. He’ll be there for ten days, so he won’t be back until the new year.

I don’t really know what to make of all these changes. On the one hand, I completely understand where my parents are coming from: because of the protests and riots on the street, people aren’t going out, which means that if we had gone, it would have been even harder than usual to get around. But on the other hand, I was excited about being there during such a time of strife. I guess my ambivalent feelings about Bangladesh are partly rooted in the fact that I have a hard time understanding what it is the Bangladeshis are fighting for. Both my grandfathers were part of the Bengali language movement in the ’50s, a political movement that allowed Bengalis living in what was then East Pakistan to reclaim their language and their culture. My parents were barely in elementary school when Bangladesh seceded from Pakistan in a bloody civil war. And as much as I believe in self-determination and radical political change, every time I go there, I can’t help but wonder: is this why people fought and died? So that their children would have to eke out a living in the factories and pay exorbitant bribes to government officials just to get by?

So I guess that while I was looking forward to celebrating my cousin’s wedding, I was also hoping for another chance to try and understand why my grandmother counted down the days until she could return when she came to visit us, why I can’t just simply throw up my hands and completely disregard this part of my heritage. And as much as I’m grateful for a quiet staycation with my mom and sister, I can’t help but feel disappointed.

I know that at the end of the day, everything happens for the best. There must be a reason why the Powers that Be decided we weren’t going to be there this time around. So I’m going to make the most of the situation and hope and pray that my dad returns home safe and sound.

Sorry if this post seems rather gloomy, but those are my thoughts for now. Sleep well, and look for another post tomorrow!

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