I'm in the process of transitioning this blog to another project highlighting ethically sourced, sustainable clothing. Stay tuned!
Growing up my family traveled often. With relatives in nearly every corner of the United States, vacation meant Christmas in Boston or Easter in Florida, beach trips to Northern Michigan or visits to the Chicago suburbs. Travel was a means of being together - with our immediate family and with cousins, grandparents, aunts and uncles. Our crazy schedules of little league games and swim practices, business trips and PTA meetings were put on pause. For these trips, these moments, we occupied the same space. As the plane took off, we would clasp hands. A prayer for a safe flight, a moment to acknowledge how thankful we were. The plane would steady, reach cruising altitude and we would let go. We'd return to our books or puzzles, then later iPods and e-readers, but still we were together.
Now our reasons for travel aren't quite so simple. And we find ourselves across states, countries, even continents. Just this morning when I woke up in Sweden, my brother was in Mexico, my dad in New Zealand and my mom in the Netherlands en route to Tanzania. Needless to say, it's harder to have that time together. It's nearly impossible to find ourselves in the same city, let alone on the same flight. And yet, I can always count on an email or a text: "Safe travels! Text when you land." It may not be a squeeze of a hand mid-take off, but it's something. A prayer for a safe flight, a moment to acknowledge how thankful we are. And that is everything.
On Friday I will travel from Sweden to Tanzania to volunteer with a local organization that empowers children through education. On my journey there, I will fly through Istanbul, Turkey. Yesterday at Istanbul's Ataturk Airport three suicide bombers took the lives of 36 individuals and injured an estimated 140 more. This is the most recent terrorist attack that has caused undue pain, suffering and fear in our world - the latest tragedy among far too many.
I won’t pretend to be well-versed in the complexities of international relations and the conditions that facilitate terrorist groups. I will not be so naive to think that widespread disillusionment, fear and subsequent hatred can be unseated easily. I will readily admit that I am no expert on these things. But here is what I do know.
I know that curiosity towards different people and different cultures is a step towards tolerance. It is tough to hate a person when he has told you about who or what he loves. It is difficult to judge a person when you have seen how he lives.
I know that education and opportunity for young people is a crucial piece in this very complex puzzle. Students who have hope for the future become people who work towards a better one.
I know that people are inherently kind. I see this in my 10 year-old students. I’ve seen this in my travels abroad. I experienced this in Boston following the Marathon bombings. And I know this from countless stories of everyday heroes.
When I walk through Ataturk Airport Friday afternoon, I will say a prayer for those who have lost their lives, a prayer for their loved ones. I will pray for a world that is more curious and kind, a world that pursues knowledge and understanding. And then I will do something - however small - to work towards just that.
On Friday morning we celebrated the end of the school year with a final assembly: student performances, awards, words of thanks, shared fika and hugs. So many hugs. Parents and students asked me again and again, “Will you be staying here next year?” I smiled and nodded. Of course.
On Friday afternoon I turned down a teaching position in Stockholm. It would have been a sideways step professionally, but I was drawn to the big city. But I couldn’t say yes. I couldn’t leave my students who hours earlier had given me flowers and hugged me tight. I couldn’t accept a job I felt pretty tepid about. I couldn’t listen to the allure of the city as loud as it had called my name. Do I question my decision? Of course. Do I mourn the loss of that path? Of course. But I am staying here for now. It feels right.
When I accepted this position last spring I signed a short term contract, an agreement through December. And then December came and went. And so did another term. And still I am here. There have been times when I have so wished to bolt, wished to give in to homesickness or grass-is-greener thinking. But I haven’t yet. Staying here feels right.
I spend Sunday mornings at a yin yoga class which is equal parts meditation, deep stretching, and me snoring in the back row. But when I can manage to stay awake, I tune into the instructor’s wisdoms. A few weeks ago she said something that has stuck with me. Hitta posen. Stanna där. Andas. Find the pose. Stay there. Breathe. I think that’s where I’m at now. I’ve found the place. And I’m staying there. When it feels right, there will be another place, another pose to work through. But until then, I’m breathing.
Warmer (and longer!) days are in sight and March is the month to reclaim winter’s ravages. So hang up the scarves and dust off your sunnies because - dare I say it - Spring is almost here! Here's what I’m mad for this month!
1. 7- Day KonMari Inspired Challenge - Tackle spring cleaning in stages with this easy guide. And if you're like me, you probably should add an extra day for cleaning out email inboxes and desktop space.
2. Liljevalchs Spring Salon/ Vårsalongen - An annual juried exhibition of local artists put on by one of my favorite museums in Stockholm. This year’s exhibition is being show in Norrmalm through April 10th.
3. James Bay at the Annex - This guy comes to Sweden; I proceed to cry happy tears.
4. Nuxe Creme Fraîche de Beauté - The best moisturizing cream for those transitional months where skin can go nuts. Bonus - the smell will make you feel like a fine French woman qui promène par la Seine. Just make sure to add an SPF!
5. Lost in Translation - Fill the void left by the cancellation of Welcome to Sweden with this improv show highlighting the expat experience.
Semlor - Today is Semla Day! Run - don’t walk - to your nearest Scandinavian bakery and try one of these Fat Tuesday buns.
Modern Love, the Podcast - This New York Times/WBUR collab that will have you asking why no one thought of this sooner. You will cry. Maybe in public. Or not. But I did.
Halsey - She’s everywhere these days, including in your city/state/country. Get tickets before…well, before you can’t.
Locobase Repair - Only the best thing for dry, winter skin. I use it on my hands and lips religiously. Aquaphor, you’ve been dethroned.
…and for when you want to say I love you with succulents. (Insert innuendo here.)