Breathing in the Basement

Flowers on the table.  And two envelopes.  The first was a list of memories, from my dad, and the second was a story, from my mom.  Neither she nor I had been very comfortable on the day in question, but she remembers it— vividly— and I do not. My birthday. Friends in the Middle East … Continue reading Breathing in the Basement

The Kiss of Release

She approached me in the middle of the bus.  “One of the girls is crying,” she said.  “She got a call on Miss Mae’s phone, and now she’s really upset…” I looked forward, where Mae– one of our local teachers with Young Leaders– was leaning over a slump-shouldered fifteen-year-old girl.  Teena.  Her family was the one … Continue reading The Kiss of Release

Ten Thousand Times Ten Thousand

Their voices traveled through the air and across the sand.  The cliff where these teenaged Young Leaders stood was facing another, larger mountain, which threw back the sound.  The students were surprised; it was the first time, for some of them, that their voices had echoed. For many of them, it was also their first trip to this famous … Continue reading Ten Thousand Times Ten Thousand

Drunken Drivers, Engagements, & Other Misunderstandings

He honked the horn of the bus.  I ignored him, and opened the trunk of my car. He smirked, gestured, and beeped a second time. I hoped he wasn’t trying to get my attention.  For women in this part of the world, it’s not unusual to receive some level of rudeness from random guys; but this bus … Continue reading Drunken Drivers, Engagements, & Other Misunderstandings

He Sees

Soundlessly, she sat beside us, crying as her sister Sammi told her tale.  “A European couple offered me a job nannying their children,” she said.  “But then they decided that they want someone else, someone who does not wear a headscarf.” Sammi spoke in a matter-of-fact voice, like the entire affair was of no consequence.  However, we all … Continue reading He Sees

The Blind Date

Let me tell you about my accidental blind date.   With Mohammad. I had been in the country for about six weeks.  A friend from our community center, Khudrah, invited me and my housemate to visit the ladies in her home.  My housemate warned me that Khudrah had been inquiring about my marital status that day, mentioning a cousin … Continue reading The Blind Date

Losing My Voice

“I lost my voice,” she said.  “But I can still listen.” Neither of us knew how to keep the conversation one-sided.  So despite intentions to give her voice a break, our Skype chat soon reverted to the usual back-and-forth.  My dear friend Jenn updated me about a few of the people we both love in New York, and new opportunities … Continue reading Losing My Voice

In the Silence

Just awkward— the silence.  I searched for more words, looked at the ceiling and floor. The assignment: find a partner whom you do not know well, from among fellow students in Ingrid Davis’ Leadership Coaching course.  Ask one good question.  Then listen— without making any statement, or asking a follow up question— for five minutes. … Continue reading In the Silence

The Letter

A letter from my grandfather.  The thin sheets have survived six moves in eight years. When I lived in Southeast Asia, he sent them to me, along with a recipe for homemade bread. I remember squinting at his scratchy cursive.  It took a long time to understand. I served Grandpa’s bread on a floor mat, to some neighbors … Continue reading The Letter

Beyond All Expectation

Skip school.  Don’t help with housework.  Return anger with a higher degree of rage.  Use coarse language.  Objectify.  Disrespect public property. Expectations for local teenage boys, in many peoples’ minds, do not rise much higher than this. And those who challenge expectations face consequences.  So when fifty teenagers piled into the community center, for the first day of our Young Leaders’ … Continue reading Beyond All Expectation