Category Archives: nostaglia

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Serendipity

People often ask me questions about the life I’m living, and I get it. I’m definitely not following a conventional path in life or career and some of the choices I make tend to leave others scratching their heads a bit. I often hear, “I wish I could do what you do, but…” or “I could never do what you do”… and a lot of the times, I feel the same but the other way around. There have been other times in my life where I was more focused on following a different path, but I’ve changed (quite a few times) over the years and I don’t regret the long and winding path that’s led me to the person I am today. Nor do I think that the changes will stop any time soon! I think I’ve finally accepted and embraced that.

I’ve always been the kind of person who needs to have a few things happening at once. While I definitely do pour myself into things (school, jobs, marathons and travel are all examples) I am always thinking of the larger picture, or sometimes dreaming up a different picture altogether. I used to have more anxiety around “where is this all going?” but these days, I’ve learned to channel that energy into opening up new paths and being flexible about where they take me.

Washington, DC, for example…

A few months ago, some of my family on my mother’s side were making plans for a celebration of my grandfather’s 90th birthday. I rarely see this side of my family (having grown up an ocean and half a continent away) and it was a chance to visit with my last living grandparent and just about all of my relatives, including my mom and brother. My aunt and uncle generously offered to help me with the plane ticket if I could get myself there…

At first, I turned it down. I’m happy living in Turkey, but I won’t lie – even with the lower cost of living, it’s difficult for me to make ends meet since I can’t legally work there. I don’t exactly have funds for a trans-continental trip lying around at my disposal these days especially after India and Portugal earlier in the year. I also have had bouts with depression and recurrent pain over the years that left me soul searching in the Himalayas and culminated with having surgery in Mumbai before leaving India, further draining my bank account. I do freelance writing and admin or communications work for clients in various time zones (Hawaii, Seattle, Turkey) but I thought perhaps I could take the opportunity to do some work on the ground in the US to help fund the trip to see my family and hopefully get me through another winter in Turkey.

If you follow me on Facebook or Instagram, you may have seen that my word for 2016 is SERENDIPITY. (More on this tradition here.) What a serendipitous year it’s been! At the beginning of the year I never dreamed I’d get to visit Portugal or India, but living where I do now and keeping an eye on inexpensive airfares made it possible to cross both off my bucket list. And now I was standing at a crossroads and leaving it up to the world wide web of wonders to see if I could make a trip to the US feasible… I put out a request to my network to see if I could find a job (and a couch to crash on) for a few months and got replies from all over the country! It truly amazes me how things work out when you are open to embracing serendipity.

Fast forward to Labor Day weekend and I was able to spend time visiting with my family in Indiana. We celebrated Grandpa’s 90th and my Uncle Kev’s 60th, ate Skyline Chili, read bedtime stories to the littles and watched old family movies from my mom’s childhood in the barn. I got to meet spouses and kids that have been added to the family tree and spent time with cousins I haven’t seen since a family reunion 16 years ago. I am so thankful to my family for bringing me over for those priceless moments together. I’m looking forward to seeing them again in a few weeks for Thanksgiving. =)

After Indiana, I spent a weekend in Chicago staying with Kim (yes, Kim on a Whim has now settled happily in the Windy City – Go Cubs!) Our friend Edwin flew in for the weekend and we made the most of the short time we had together with all the basics… Eating our way through Chicago with deep dish pizza, italian beef sandwiches, and house-party BBQ. I got to have things I’ve dearly missed in Turkey like poke (even though they spell it wrong) and pho. We explored the city on foot and just about every form of public transport including my favorite – water taxi! And when it was time to move on I booked an overnight train to begin the next chapter in my serendipitous year, DC…

I’d only been to DC once, in the 7th Grade on a school trip to the East Coast. A classmate of mine (who also happened to be on that trip!) now lives in DC and serves as Executive Director for a nonprofit called BEST Kids, Inc. BEST Kids needed support around their annual gala taking place in October and strategy to support their year-round fundraising efforts to continue to provide caring and consistent mentors for youth in DC’s foster care system. It was a perfect fit for me and I’m so grateful to Krislyn for the opportunity to help this organization (and also the space on her couch!) that allowed me to stay in DC for the past two months. It’s been so great to be able to combine work and play, to enjoy the beautiful fall weather here in the nation’s capital and to get to see sides of the city that I wouldn’t have if I had come as a tourist.

My time in DC is winding down, and soon I’ll be heading back to Indiana for Thanksgiving, then back to Turkey at the end of the month. I’m definitely missing my house, boyfriend, cat and being able to sleep in my own bed! Not to mention Turkish food and the beautiful (and soon to be snowy) landscape of Cappadocia.

This year has definitely been one of SERENDIPITY – happy coincidences that have led me to friends, family and new experiences all over the world. Soon it will be time to start thinking about my word for next year, but for now I’m just basking in the moments that have made this year one of continuous surprises and reminded me of the joy of living in the present moment.

Comfort food: Grandma’s Corn Chowder

Yesterday was my grandmother’s birthday. She passed away in 2008 while I was a few weeks into what would be a six month trip around the Pacific. She had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s years before, and her health had been deteriorating, so before I left home, I’d said my goodbyes and made peace with the likelihood that it might be the last time I’d see her. I got the news while checking my email at an internet cafe and I broke down in tears, even though I knew it was coming. A few days later in a small village outside of Bangkok, a Thai friend helped me to set up a Buddhist ceremony to honor my grandmother’s spirit.

Five years later, here on a rainy November morning, I find myself thinking back to grandma’s kitchen table. I can imagine the steam rising up from a bowl of her corn chowder. I always loved the thin broth, sweet corn and salty bacon pieces. I can remember her making the soup, and later when she was no longer the one doing the cooking, my dad following the same recipe. It’s nothing fancy, but that steaming bowl can really hit the spot.

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These days I try to avoid cooking from a can as much as possible. I get most of my meals through farmers market veggies and I keep a pretty small pantry. Whereas there are two 24 hour grocery stores within walking distance from my home today, my grandmother grew up in the plantation era and I know she needed to stock up to feed the family. Hence, our pantry was always full of the canned ingredients to make comforting bowls of chowder to warm you up in the rainy Makawao weather. She didn’t shop at a farmers market but we always had avocados from the trees she tended outside, and jellies made from the fruits around the yard – strawberry guava, surinam cherry, lilikoi, poha berry. I wish I’d learned to make them when she was still around to teach me, but I had no interest then.

Today, I make a special trip down the canned foods aisle to make my grandma’s corn chowder, not her own recipe, but one of the many she hand-copied onto index cards weathered with age and use. I scanned them all after she passed, and I’m thankful to be able to turn to them today. Grandma thought this one was “Good” (capital G) and so do I.

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