I feel like something is missing. I'm out to find it, documenting life along the way.

08 September 2014

New Museum: Here and Elsewhere

A while back I read an essay on what it means to be an Iranian Artist. I wish I could remember who wrote it because it would tie in perfectly with this exhibit. In the article, the artist wrote about what it means to come from a place like Iran and try to be an artist. Mainly, that the Iranian Artist, must bear the burden of Representing Iran to the rest of the world. In America and Europe, a painter may be labeled a "French Painter" for instance, but while you take that into account to understand the school of art they may have studied, and the influences they may have had, most of the time you look at their work as expressions of their emotions and talent. If I were to show you art by an "Iranian Painter" not only would you look to see the Iranian influence in their work, but part of you would take the artists feelings and emotions as an example of what it means to be Iranian, and how Iranians must feel and paint. This is what the article said, and this is what most art exhibits on Middle Eastern Art seem to do, they seem to somehow forget the difference of opinion and individual personalities, the cultural backgrounds, experiences, emotions, and generally the Everything, that changes from artist to artist.

This is what "Here and Elsewhere" did not do. Sure, it was a curated exhibit on art from the Arab World, and sure, a lot of the artists dealt with the theme of what their identity means to them, and the political events in their particular cities. But the Museum presented the viewer with so many different artistic styles, so many different political viewpoints, emotions, and cultural backgrounds that the viewer was forced to stop and look at each separate piece as just that: separate. Not only that, but these artists were beyond description. They got right to the point and made themselves heard. I lived in Beirut for 9 months and it took me that entire time to begin to understand the frustration many Lebanese felt during periods of unrest, and yet Mazen Kerbaj put all of that emotional turmoil onto forty sheets of paper and didn't need any more than that. Rokni Haerizadeh exhibited some works from his series "Fictionville" and the resulting commentary on the spectacle of protest and violence took me about an hour to look at. In the end, I spent two hours on the first floor, two more on the second floor, and didn't even make it to the third floor before I realized that there was so much there, I had to come back later.

I could go on, but instead I'm just going to share some images that I took, both on my phone and with my Camera, of various works. If you are in New York City soon I beg you to go, if you aren't, take a moment to look at the exhibit online and check out some of the artists. Do it if only to understand that the region I am leaving for is so immensely vast, and full of culture, and individual people, who are so often much more complicated than how they are presented to us from halfway around the world.

Enjoy the images,
If I remember the article I'll post it here in an edit later.

Marwan Rechmaoui Spectre (The Yacoubian Building, Beirut)

Rokni Haerizadeh, Fictionville

Wafa Hourani, Qalandia and Shuruq Harb The Keeper

Mazen Kerbaj, Beyrouth, Juillet-Aout 2006


05 August 2014

Final Medical Clearance and Full Timeline

So the email I have been waiting for and honestly most nervous about finally arrived. I have been Medically Cleared! 
(For those other PC applicants I'll include a rough timeline at the bottom of this post since I took up the habit of neurotically checking PCV blogs myself) Which means that inshahallah I will be leaving for Jordan in mid-October. 
It's strange, although Final Medical Clearance is generally considered the Final Gauntlet of Peace Corps applications, I still haven't fully grasped the fact that I am leaving NYC at the end of August. Luckily, my subconscious has started to understand, even if my immediate self can't, and I've been finding myself compelled on my free days to be exploring the city as much as possible.
Last weekend I went to the Guggenheim and the Whitney, last Monday I went to the Met and yesterday I went to the New York Public Library and the MoMA. I'll post some images from the MoMA and NYPL this afternoon. I know I'm suddenly overloading on NYC now that I'm leaving, but I'm also pretty proud of how much I took advantage of the city while living here, I only regret not getting to see another opera before I go...
Anyway, that's all for now. As promised here's my timeline up to Final Clearance (projected departures included):

February 10 2013- application submitted
April ? 2013- interview
April 17 2013- nomination
May 18 2013- medical and legal submitted
July 2013- request for additional medical information
September 2013- request for personal statement on medical history
February 25 2014- medical and legal pre-clearance 
May 8 2014- contact from placement requesting updated resume/statements
May 13 2014- contact from placement about regional preference
May 20 2014- invitation (immediately accepted)
July 18 2014-final medical documents submitted
July 24 2014- additional documentation and statement requested (and promptly submitted same day)
August 4 2014- final medical clearance
Mid September 2014- contact from PC about staging city and departure
Mid October 2014- departure!

28 July 2014

A Day At The Met


Terrible Peril

Bark has always struck me as having the same sharp quality as the jagged cliffs and dark spirals of castles belonging to evil sorcerers who torment questing knights. Or perhaps the punctured and weathered scales of the ancient dragons who hide in the caves off these dangerous ravines...
You get the picture.


21 July 2014

Traces and Footprints

So Much Love (divine), 

Moroccan Food

It just so happened that my time at home coincided with the Advanced Studies Program's Arabic Class lunch, so we offered them our home and help! Here are some photos of the delicious food Nada made, including Moroccan Meatballs and Vegetable "fingers", one of the students mother's made Kibbeh.
An added bonus was hearing the students talk about class, and getting to be nostalgic. I was lucky enough to be an intern the first year ASP offered Arabic, and it was, I daresay, life-changing.

Much Love, 

18 July 2014

Big Adventures

Alright guys, we're nearing go time. So I'm picking up my blog where I left it, here's a meditation on patience and difficult spots I wrote this morning. 

            I decided to apply to the Peace Corps within the first minutes of a recruiting event. The recruiter started talking about her own experience and a feeling of fear crept over me. I couldn’t explain it, but that feeling made me certain of my decision. In my head, I was already stepping off the plane into a new place. Of course I spent the next month turning the decision over and over in my head, weighing all the factors, considering each outcome. You have to. The Peace Corps Application process is intensive. An applicant has to prove that they are equipped with skills that prepare them for all sorts of challenges. Suffice it to say that by the time I left my recruiting interview in April 2013, my decision to become a PCV was solid.
            A year and a couple months later, the long waiting game has only solidified that decision.  So here I sit now, only a couple months from the approximate departure date to Jordan, almost completely done with medical, and already my mind is in the Middle East. I am meeting new people, I am working on new projects, I am planning outfits. I am far far away in dreamland.
            And life goes on around me. The Peace Corps isn’t the only decision I’ve made in the past year. For the last year I have been trying to pick a new camera. I am extremely picky, and keeping PC in mind, I wanted to make sure that anything I buy also fit certain travel criteria. I asked everyone, I researched online for weeks, I had my parents ask anyone they knew, and finally, last week, my new camera arrived in the mail.
            I charged the battery, put in an SD card, and set out into the woods. Within half an hour I wanted to smash the camera into a rock. I had done my research on this camera. I knew that it was the right camera for me. I had seen images my friends had taken with it. I had read the manual about four times before taking it outside. Yet I couldn’t take one good picture. It was a completely new user interface, buttons made no sense to me, and no matter how I tried, I couldn’t get it to do a single thing I wanted.
            I stormed home, crashed upstairs, and lay down in bed completely frustrated. Half an hour later I picked up the camera again, and exhaling, set about exploring every tiny feature I could find. I held the camera up to the manual, played dumb, and trusted that patience would work. Three days later, I can get some interesting photos. I still have to work on it, but at least I can take a picture of a leaf and focus on the leaf. And people were right, it is the right camera for me, it offers everything I was looking for, just in a way I wasn’t familiar with.
            I know it seems silly, that such a tiny thing really struck home. But for some reason, it stuck with me. I’ve been using the same camera for years now, why was I expecting to pick up a new camera and intuitively get it?
Probably because it was a camera intended for the Peace Corps, the situation got me thinking about the future, and the moment I actually leave. I’ve been living in the same city for years now, and I’m about to go to a completely new place. I’ve been so far ahead in my mind that I almost forgot the most important thing: this is going to be really hard. The funny thing is, this is a lesson I’ve learned over and over again. It just won’t stick. When I moved to a boarding school dorm (yes, down the road from my parents house) I cried for a couple days, in France at age 16, I cried for a week, in Beirut I spent a day in bed. Hell, I just got a new camera and was almost ready to smash it in 30 minutes.
            But the lesson isn’t that I’m easily frustrated. It’s the next part that I have to remember. That something inside of me always takes a breath, sucks it up, and makes an effort. Boarding school was fantastic, France is a second home to me, and Beirut was the city where I discovered who I was and what I wanted. Adjusting takes time, and in order to get something out of an experience, you need to put something in. In many ways I’m grateful for the small reminder. The tug out of dreamland put things into perspective. In two months, I don’t leave for vacation; I leave for “the hardest job I’ll ever love.” This is going to be terrifying, but that doesn’t mean that it’s not exactly what I’ve been looking for, and that I won’t ever enjoy it. It just means that I need to keep reminding myself that there will be difficulty, and that I have the capacity to overcome this. And putting this all onto paper, I realize that it’s something I’ve known all along. That fear I felt at the very beginning was the acknowledgement of difficulty yet to come. And the certainty that accompanied my decision way back then came from knowing that I’ve done this before, and I want to do it again. Like Peter Pan said "To live will be an awfully big adventure".

22 June 2014


I was just playing around with my camera really, but I got a huge sunburn taking these so I figured I'd take the time to edit them. Turns out I'm happier with them than most flower photos.
They're still just pictures of flowers, but I enjoyed them.
I thought you might too.

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