Tuesday, November 16, 2010

dance fever

I used to dance a lot.  I used to teach b-girl basics.  I lost interest in pretty dance and became intrigued with uncomfortable movements.  I moved to Nicaragua.  Now I'm in Spain, where I've been watching amazing videos by yak films and their Oakland-based dance form, Turfin.  The dance is beautiful, strong and graceful, and the film-making is refreshingly artistic and non-commercial.

 They made me want to dance again.

I wanted to show the funny conglomeration of the different movement languages that combine in my moving body:  b-girl, hip hop, modern, and my own special brand of deliberate awkwardness.  Having technical problems related to the music I laid over the movement, so here's a low-fi version just to give you a giggle:


video

Outside the US you can still see a better-quality version from YouTube (I hope):

Reflections on a Sacred Killing / Eid al Adha

An introduction 
Eid – celebration, or festival (in Arabic)
Eid al-Adha / Solemn fesitval of Abraham/Ibrahim
In this case, the celebration of God allowing Abraham to keep his son for another day.

I remember this story from Hebrew Sunday School and
in my childish way
the Sunday School version made me angry

“ya know what?  You seem to like your son a fair bit.
I don’t really need him.  I just wanted to
Test your faith, see how
Far you would go for me.

Kinda like gang initiation rituals, except I’m
God so
It’s kosher.
To prove I’m not such a bad guy to follow for all eternity,  I’ll
Let you keep Isaac (Ismael) around
And to show your devotion,
Give me a sheep
Instead.
I’m hungry.
 --------------------------------

Interlude 
for the first time I am posting words and images from the same event.  I took a lot of photos of the entire process, including the severed heads and the butchering process.  It's real life, a lot more real than buying meat in the supermarket.  It was done respectfully in this case.  I left the graphic images out of the blog in deference to those who may squirm, but I myself have spend a lot of time with them.  


The main part
This sheep is lying here in the grass,
in the sunshine 
at the foot of the mountain
Breathing
I can see his sides rise and fall
He seems calm
With three of his legs tied together so he
Can’t run away
Resigned, I can still see his
Nostrils flare

since the accident I have been
preoccupied
with the quickness of death, the
fineness of the line between
waiting at the bus stop to go to work and being
gone

here today I am given the opportunity to be
with death
in the moment it happens, but this time as
an observer
but this time
a planned death, a sacred death, a ritual killing
some of the others are unnerved, uncomfortable and
can't watch

I think of the Thich Nhat Hanh meditation on one's own death and I 
breathe
slowly
with the sheep
prayers

I can feel how different this is
the men are saying prayers
the slaughter is quick and humane
the animal is calm, there is no panic, no struggle

I am calm with the animal

Although he was immediately unconscious
when they slit his throat
the breath is still leaving the body
the blood is draining out, creating
steam and then the muscles
contract and the
now untied legs
move as though still alive
when they remove the intestines I can see they are also
still contracting
it takes 24 hours for life to leave the meat,
the men say.

this is not television, where I've seen countless
human animals 'killed'
this is how death happens in real life, after a
sacred slaughter

this is not my car accident
this was planned, this has been repeated for
thousands of years, since
Abraham
this is a celebration, not a tragedy
I can sit with this body and be calm
this is so different

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Sleep! Revisited!

Last night I relived the sheer joy of falling into bed,
exhausted, and
falling asleep almost
immediately, with just a few
glorious minutes of nestling into the covers
under my brand-spanking-new handmade
Palmer Fishman bedspread
  (yes, it's WAY COOL and you MUST HAVE ONE of your
      very own)

I slept all night!
Well, no, not really.
But when I woke up at 4:30am my
   legs weren't twitching, which in itself is
     wonderful.
The Neurontin (gapapentina in Spain) made me
  run into the wall and
  stagger down the stairs to the bathroom but
   walking like a drunk is an improvement over my
   previous situation

[on a side note, I like the Spanish drug warning labels much better.  There's only
one, and it's a picture of a car with a warning triangle around it.  Gets right to the point]

[This post is in direct response to a concerned reader's comment that my blog is mostly sad and negative. I wanted to make sure I include my triumphs as well, no matter how small]

diplomatic? and other unintended consequences of US foreign policy

Diplomatic - and other consequences of US foreign policy

         You're special,
   the staff at the US Consulate told me 
        Every other American 
        Ever involved in a similar accident or case 
  (ie, that involved someone else dying)
        has been sent to 'preventative prison' until the case is resolved,
   which can take days, weeks or months
        (by preventative they mean preventing you from fleeing Nicaraguan justice)

I was the first (in their experience) to be given 
      unsupervised house arrest after only 
           2 days in the local jail.  
They didn't officially know how it happened, but 
they thought my whole case was 
        marked by the 
        humility and genuine sadness I and my family expressed. 

I laughed.
But surely everyone is humble and sad
  in this situation 
(of having accidentally ended the life of one of the people they 
      supposedly came to serve)?'
 All the expats I know here work in NGOs, aid agencies, or as missionaries

No, actually not.  
Other Americans have been perceived as arrogant and demanding 
of special treatment.  The Nicaraguan police, courts, and 
press don’t like that. 
Right after the accident happened the media assumed 
you would be the same, and there were  media reports of a 
frivolous, reckless gringa who cared nothing for Nicaraguans.   




                                          The reports changed tone after my first day in court, when I was so distraught and horrified that I kept a 
sheet over my head, sobbing and banging my head against the table. 


How else could I feel, trapped in a nightmare-turned-reality in which my car had somehow ended the lives of two women, gruesomely, who were just waiting to catch the bus to work?
 I can’t imagine anyone else feeling any less torn apart.  
                   But apparently such is the reputation and stereotype of Americans here
 that people assumed I was and would be 
unrepentant, uncaring, and refusing to take any responsibility for the situation. 

I wanted to throw up when the Consul General said the Embasssy wanted to learn from my case to help them deal with the next one.  
Next one, he said, 
accepting these accidents as just another
 inconvenience of living in Nicaragua.
speed bumps in Spain