Corona & Contemplation

I don’t think I’m the only person doing some serious contemplating during this strange time of illness, panic, isolation. Everything appears so uncertain, unknown. And, of course, with so many now stuck quarantining at home–days once jammed-packed now jerked to a halt–there’s a sudden excess of time to think.

I’m not sure about anybody else, but my brain is not always a safe place for me to wander alone.

Yet, I find myself facing a sudden shock of revelation–in this time of upset, I am not as “upset” as I’d expect. Despite everything, I’ve mostly felt at peace. And it’s because of the strangest thing: old heartaches.

To explain: Those who follow my blog will know that I married into the Foreign Service. The lifestyle offered by my husband’s job has afforded us many wonderful adventures–amazing things I never imagined I’d do: Cuddle baby tigers. Climb castles made of ice. Sleep in the heart of the rainforest. I wouldn’t trade it…. I don’t think.

And the uncertainty on that point comes from this: the Foreign Service life has also caused me a lot of pain.

Continue reading “Corona & Contemplation”

Holi Phagwa 2018: Revenge of the Colors

It’s hard to believe it, but the husband and I are already 17 months into our two-year tour in Suriname. That’s a fair chunk of time, but for all we’ve experienced here, one activity still stands out as the clear winner: Holi Phagwa.

As I wrote in my first post on Phagwa, this festival is an important Hindu holiday marking the defeat of evil and the triumph of light. Celebrations are held annually in the Palm Garden park, with musical groups playing, food and beer for purchase, and a tiny train for the wee ones to ride.

My favorite part, however, is the excuse the holiday presents for chunking things (i.e., brilliantly-hued powder) at colleagues, family, and friends. I mean, as adults, how many of these chances do we get (at least without being carted off by the Five-0)? Continue reading “Holi Phagwa 2018: Revenge of the Colors”

Art, Auctions, & Wine: Oh My!

On this blog, I’ve mentioned a time or two that I paint. But it’s purely for my own enjoyment (and the occasional gift-giving to family and friends). I make no claim to being a professional artist. Let’s be honest: trying to make it in the arts can be a heartbreaking business. Attempting to carve out a writing career is artistic excitement enough for me.

So I imagine how honored I felt when one of my dear friends in the Embassy community invited me to participate as an artist in the gala she was throwing to raise funds for one of Suriname’s international schools and a cause it supports: a local home for underprivileged children. Internally, I balked a little at being labelled one of “seven of local artists” (I’m not an artist! I just happen to have a few tubes of paint lying around my house!). But the idea of getting to showcase a few pieces was pretty exhilarating stuff. Continue reading “Art, Auctions, & Wine: Oh My!”

Ripples Beneath the Surface

So I know it’s appeared quiet around my part of the blog-o-sphere of late. But there’s a flurry of activity under the surface. I’ve been busy firing off submissions (and clasping my hands in supplication before the deities of writing!), contemplating possible future revisions, resuming work on my next novel project after a year’s absence, and most intently, painting up a tempest. (Not literally!) A dear friend kindly invited me to participate in an upcoming art event, so I’ve been busy applying paint to paper so I have something other than prints to show.thumb_Red Paints_1024

In honor of Suriname’s having some 750 species of birds officially recorded (with some others lurking unknown among the rainforest boughs, I’m sure!), I’ve been working on a Birds of Suriname series. Yesterday saw the completion of my Jacana (see feature photo above), a tribute to a species whose cartoonishly large feet enable it to walk on lily pads.Next up: laying hold of my cadmium red, alizarin crimson, and gold ochre paints to begin work on my Scarlet Ibis…

Spring 2017 Update: And here’s the late arrival: A scarlet ibis balanced upon a bit of driftwood.

Birds of Suriname: Scarlet Ibis

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Holi Phagwa 2017: Hilarity & Hues

Being in the Foreign Service has meant living in and traveling to lots of unique spots. I’ve had the immense privilege of enjoying many adventures. Among these, some stand out as particularly cool: visiting an ice festival near China’s border with Siberia, holding a baby tiger, and tromping around the Great Wall definitely make top tier

Last Monday saw a new addition to that list: celebrating Holi Phagwa, Suriname-style. It might not have been quite so adventurous or once-in-a-life-timey as scaling ancient Chinese fortifications, but it was just so fun. Because what adult doesn’t enjoy an excuse to fling colored powder on friends and strangers alike, sans repercussions? Continue reading “Holi Phagwa 2017: Hilarity & Hues”

Cocoa & Craftsmanship

I may have mentioned this before, but my writer-self tends to make me a bit of a homebody. Left to my own devices, I burrow anti-socially into whatever authorial project I’m currently engaged with, avoiding distraction (i.e. people) at all costs. Upon taking a quiz to determine which of the six types of writers I am, I scored as 100% weird recluse (with only a 33% dash of Ray of Sunshine to cut the Yikes!). That kind of says it all, I think.

But these last few years, I’ve made an effort to try to prioritize people, experiences, and adventure, as well as my writing. So I’m always grateful when friends who are cooler than I am come up with un-pass-up-able activity ideas.

A few weeks ago, this meant a visit to Tan Bun Skrati, a chocolate-making operation run by Rutger (Dutch) and Ellen (Dutch-Surinamese), a husband-and-wife duo. Built upon traditional cacao-processing techniques bequeathed to Ellen via her Surinamese mother and grandmother, Tan Bun Skrati offers workshops as well as various cacao-oid products (teas, chocolate bars, wine, vinegar, etc.). This operation is run out of their home, a quaint dwelling set behind high flowering shrubs and heavily-leaved trees–so well hidden, we passed it twice before realizing where it was. Continue reading “Cocoa & Craftsmanship”

Breakin’ in 2017, Suriname-Style

Happy 2017!

As those following this blog may have deduced, I’m not exactly a party animal. I like the occasional night out, dinner with friends, etc. But a lot of my free time is spent doing quiet, pajamas-are-appropriate-attire kinds of pursuits: reading, writing, painting.

But if anybody knows how to party, it’s the Surinamese. At no time is this more evident than around the New Year. Tradition here has it that the lighting of firecrackers (particularly long–and I do mean loooong–strings of crackers called pagara) will scare off evil spirits. Practicing this tactic at the turn of the year allows for the new calendar to begin on a zen-like note.

For us, this has meant a week of our neighbors firing off firecrackers at all hours of the night and day, in literal rain and shine alike. Ex-pats’ dogs, unused to the auditory barrage, are losing their minds. The percussion of these blasts is forceful enough to set off security alarms. And there’s always this thought: was that more fireworks? Or a gunshot? Continue reading “Breakin’ in 2017, Suriname-Style”