Category Archives: poems

an update from home

The taste of dill takes me straight back to Central Asia. Is that why I’m writing this? They use it heavily in their cuisine, but then, so do the Russians so perhaps it’s their influence.

I’m cooking beef bone soup today. It feels so good to cook in the winter, especially veggies and soups. It’s finally warmed up (44°F) but it’s gray. Just staring at the beautiful deep greens, oranges, reds, and purples toasts me up and puts me in a bit of a trance. The earth, all frozen outside, vibrates in my hands. Yum. I like winter. Especially the light.

After cleaning all the refuse, I stared at the remaining beets and decided to roast them up, since I’m in the kitchen anyway. How lovely to pretend I have time for all this.

And I sort of do. I refuse to do anymore schoolwork today and I’m not in at work until four. There’s plenty I could be doing and this is what I’ve chosen. The beef bone stock will last me probably the rest of winter so it’s time well spent. I can do some yoga before the beets are finished.

Speaking of, this is a brilliant article on food. What should be obvious, but isn’t.

This is the update? This is the update. You want to know where I’ve been? Not out of the country since the last Central Asian trek in ’04. I’ve lived in the same building for 3½ years, the same neighborhood for almost five. Can you believe? I can. It’s nice.

I’ve traveled a bit in the States, but otherwise work, school, and yoga keep me tied to the city. Order of import: yoga, school, and work. Yoga is great fun. I do it every day, I teach it almost everyday. I’ll not wax poetic about it because I’m creating a yoga site for a class, for my students, and for the fun. I didn’t intend to fall in love with yoga, much less teach it, but, well, love is seldom about intent.

School is interesting enough. I was doing a program in south asian studies, but back-burnered that this semester for a health and behavioral studies/health education MA. Both obviously pertain to yoga, but the latter is more applicable to my life. “The ideal to the real,” said the Venerated Coconut. The programs are dramatically different. I like them both. And I still learn best by grabbing some books, taking off, and talking to people along the way.

Coming back to the classroom gave me a great respect for all I learned out there, fiddling about. I am really lucky for all that, hard as it was at times. And I’m lucky to be back here in the city, where I can travel the globe, meet its people, eat their food, and be home at the end of the day. What will I do with the degree/s when finished? I don’t know. I’ve got some ideas. As always, something will come.

Many thanks for checking in on me. It’s quite sweet.

Love,
A

Sit, be still, and listen,
because you’re drunk
and we’re at
the edge of the roof.
—Rumi

…..

2006 remembered

EAST COKER
a selection from number 2/iii of “Four Quartets”

T.S. Eliot

I said to my soul, be still, and wait without hope
For hope would be hope for the wrong thing; wait without love,
For love would be love of the wrong thing; there is yet faith
But the faith and the love and the hope are all in the waiting.
Wait without thought, for you are not ready for thought:
So the darkness shall be the light, and the stillness the dancing.
Whisper of running streams, and winter lightning.
The wild thyme unseen and the wild strawberry,
The laughter in the garden, echoed ecstasy
Not lost, but requiring, pointing to the agony
Of death and birth.

You say I am repeating
Something I have said before. I shall say it again.
Shall I say it again?

In order to arrive there,
To arrive where you are, to get from where you are not,
You must go by a way wherein there is no ecstasy.
In order to arrive at what you do not know
You must go by a way which is the way of ignorance.
In order to possess what you do not possess
You must go by the way of dispossession.
In order to arrive at what you are not
You must go through the way in which you are not.
And what you do not know is the only thing you know
And what you own is what you do not own
And where you are is where you are not.

how i ended up a tour guide in central asia and iran: an honest explanation

Your lynx-eyes, Asia,
spy on my discontent;
they lure into the light
my buried self,
something the silence spawned,
no more to be endured
than the noonday heat of Termez.
It is as if into my consciousness
all of pre-memory
Like molten lava pours,
As if I were drinking my own tears
From the cupped palms of a stranger’s hands.

Anna Akhmatova
Tashkent

I was twenty-seven and a photographer. I’d just finished shooting a guide book (below) which required over one hundred and fifty shoots in only six weeks.

Exhausted, I made deadline, packed up my Queens apartment, and took off for Tashkent to start work as a tour guide in Central Asia.

Unhappy with freelance work in New York, I wanted to build my travel photography portfolio, and what better way to do that than all-expense paid travel as a guide? There are better ways.

How an American woman lands a job in Uzbekistan with an Australian travel firm is quite simple. I’d worked in Lithuania and traveled extensively in the European ex-Soviet Union; I’d also traveled and photographed a good deal in India and Pakistan. These regions are perfect preparation for Central Asia.

Nothing, however, could have prepared me for the tourists, not even my inconsistent Australian boyfriend, Mario.

Mario got me the job, of course. We know that in our world a person does not get a job on merit alone. Mario worked as a guide and recommended me to his boss. He would meet my flight in Tashkent, and show me around. Luckily, we would not work much together, but might see each other every few months. He was to train me, and then take off for a tour into Pakistan. At that time on the plane, I wasn’t sure how I felt about that—or about him for that matter. I knew on a very deep, quiet level that I was still unwilling to heed, that our relationship had ended a year earlier, not long after it began. On a very loud and demanding level, I knew that I was tired of freelancing and the super-trendy city life I never went in for, which was too much a part of my photo assignments. Clearly, I wanted this Uzbekistan job. And so, after months apart, when Mario suggested we get back together, I shut down the quiet little voice and agreed.

It does sound obnoxious, but I wasn’t consciously so mercenary; I did want to love him and make the relationship work.

[This was written in retrospect in 2004, but is posted here in chronological order of events.]

next: shakhimardan

previous: how i ended up a tour guide in central asia and iran: an honest explanation