Iterance

It rained today. Not a lot of rain; just enough to inconvenience a person carrying a folder full of endangered papers, who didn’t have an umbrella. Just enough to make you question if it’s weird to wear gloves in the rain; if it’s better to just take them off. Won’t we be cold anyway?

It rained today for the first time since the ice melted away, and as I crossed the path between the skeleton of a winter-ravaged park and the rolling wheels of the street, the scent of rain on dust hit me; the sort of smell you didn’t realize you missed until you smell it again. Until it stings your eyes. Until you can taste the incoming spring.

We sat in that café again today, and I asked myself again what I would leave behind. My grandmother told me a story some months ago, about a man who died in a foreign country not knowing his purpose. You can die without knowing what you have contributed; that’s for later generations to know, not you.

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Forestation

20160627_113035 (2)Vilnius was built in a forest, and trees hug its walls as it rises in their midst, red roofs painting a stretch of autumn foliage in the midst of the deep green. Forest ripples and stretches out on the horizon, rising slightly over the city level, as if nature is refusing to be outdone by man-made structures.

The buildings don’t seem to mind.

Lithuanians carry themselves like the inhabitants of a friendly wood; after all, they tell me, nothing in Lithuania is poisonous – except for maybe one snake, and even that won’t kill you. They emerge from the block-like cement buildings they live in, the last remnants of an old regime, and seem to rise like plants in the sun. On the walk from home to the bus stop, time is taken to taste leaves from the trees, to touch petals, to smell flowers.

It is strange to me that someone thought to enclose these forest peoples in concrete boxes. I wonder that in summer they inhabit the indoors at all.

There’s a spring of water behind my home, in a dip in the woods, so pure that you can drink straight from it. The banks are lined with wild strawberries and blueberries. Between the foliage I glimpse the bent backs of people harvesting wild mushrooms and other things – this plant tastes like garlic, this one is good for salads, this one helps with scarring. Sometimes, people wander barefoot; no plant dares to sting your feet in Lithuania.

People seem to blend into the forest, like new flowers taking root where they were meant to stand all along.

I take a taxi one night, at three in the morning. The streets are bare, the only movement the intermittent switch of a traffic light from green to yellow to red. On the corner, a grassy hill surrounded by a semi-circle of trees, cut-and-paste into the city. In the center of it, a large hare as large as my own torso, ears gleaming in the moonlight. He stands still at the very top of the hill, as if he knows I’m watching, as if he’s standing there for me; long enough to let me feel the piercing stab of nostalgia for something I will never know: for the depths of the forest at midnight, for a life of nothing but rain and sunshine, light and darkness. Then he hops back into the trees and out of sight.

I find that roots are starting to grow beneath me.

They say summer is a bright three-month oasis in dreary white winter. I imagine it now, blurry white replacing the greens and blues, but even in my dreams, the same quietness remains. A forest is a forest, be it warm or cold. Vilnius is a forest – sometimes a forest made of bricks and cement and wood and business, but a forest nonetheless.

For a tourist, weary of overcrowded postcard-perfect scenery, Vilnius is like finally seeing — it is not a theme park of an ideal; it is the ideal incarnate in reality. Though it is the capital of a country, it lacks the wolfish hunger, the gaping hugeness of a capital. There is no rush, no clamor, no shocking sounds or smells. I emerge from the woods and the trees turn to buildings, the sound of swaying leaves into the hum of trolleybuses, the chirping of forest creatures into the voices of people – but it gives me the impression that if I had my eyes closed, I would not notice the change at all.

Just past midnight in August, I wrap a blanket around my shoulders and walk out into the chill air. The trees are quiet, not even whispering, as if they’re being considerate of sleeping people. Overhead, a mass of clouds advances over the stars, lit up in reddish-grey by the city lights.

I reach the neighborhood basketball court, a black rectangle between walls of communist architecture, the lights of apartment windows like little LEDs flashing on and off in a smoothly functioning machine. The trees around the court shiver, their branches reaching to hide the lights. In a moment, the buildings will be dark, like hollow logs full of sleeping forest creatures.

I lie down in the open air, my back to the asphalt, tucking myself in with my blanket like a child going to bed. The wall of clouds shifts, like the earth is reaching out towards the galaxy. Summer happening in space.

I see the first shooting star of the night. My body is rooted to the ground, and when I close my eyes, I hear only the forest around me.


Chapter 5 of The Tisroc and the King has been posted. The 2016 Narnia Fic Exchange has begun, so expect more Narnian fics next month. Fall also means that I’ll be starting regular Marius updates. Thanks for reading!

to return

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The air of what once was is tingling. It shimmers through the fistfuls of iron clasped in the bus, the calls of the youth in their soccer teams, in the eyes of a distant lion.

I appear, now, as a traveller. On my first night, the street was like open arms. She displayed to me her lights like a mother’s ornaments — even through the window’s glass I knew the feel, I knew the scent.

There is some memory of our ancestors, still blurring in the hidden corners of our veins. If science states that at one time a girl with a different face from mine roamed this land — or one much like it — then I am inclined to believe it. Sometimes, when I visit quiet places, places where the air runs soft, hugging the edges of the stones like it is afraid to let go… I think I watch her walk before me. I think I find her footsteps in the sand, a mark that some things never change, a mark that this is less an introduction than it is reunion.

When I sit among the dusty paths and the wind whips around me, I think I can glimpse trails of those who are now gone. I feel as if, if only I could harness it, this feeling might let me gaze into the foundations of the earth. Perhaps it is in lands like this, where stories stretch out beyond Man, that our ancestors remain: in the shifting leaves, in the quiet moments between conversations, in the dust particles that float in the wind.

The cities are different. The people too — we have shed all recognition of each other, but sometimes children keep it. Sometimes, inside their eyes, I find my own.

Sometimes, the mountains stare back.

Why does it not feel like I’m a foreigner
but rather
that I have, at last, returned
and found within my home
a thousand years of change to mourn?


 

The Malfoy Case is at Chapter 26, now!

I finally posted my first work for the Mad Max fandom: Erosion (which is inspired by the erosion pillars in the picture above).

Between Two Years

Well, 2015 is over, and so much has happened! I haven’t had time to post anything before now, but I’m currently in Tanzania, so I’m starting 2016 in a completely new continent.
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Highlights of this year have been:

  1. My service in Haifa and Akko. Though it began in June 2014, this year has certainly been the most challenging segment of my service in the Holy Land, but also the most fruitful year of my life. I’ve made some unbelievably amazing friends, and I know what I want to do with my life from now on.
  2. Publishing ‘Rules of The Altar’, my first story ever published in a magazine! Knowing that I can achieve that has encouraged me immensely, and confirmed my aspirations to be a published author.
  3. Participating in the QLFC. We made it to the semi-finals and then lost (by 1 point!), but the friends I’ve made and the wonderful plot ideas I’ve been able to explore thanks to the challenge have changed the way in which I view fanfiction, and helped me discover my own strengths and weaknesses in writing. I now have fifteen new stories in my portfolios on AO3 and fanfiction.net, and the knowledge that writing a story every two weeks is well within my abilities.
  4. Getting healthy. My brain is now in perfect working order, and it’s amazing to know that I can be comfortable and happy in my own skin at last. I’ve learned not to be ashamed of what I’ve been through, and learned how I can help those going through similar experiences.
  5. Travelling. I’ve been to Poland, Ethiopia and Tanzania. I never imagined I would go to any of those places at this point in my life, but somehow I was able to!
  6. New fandoms. Ok, maybe slightly less meaningful than the other points, but Mad Max: Fury Road, The Force Awakens, Sense8 and Jessica Jones have given me new faith in what can be done with movies and shows.
  7. This blog. Hey, I didn’t forget about it again, did I?

What to expect in 2016!

  1. Me, travelling even more! And more unpredictably, maybe! I’m going back to Paraguay at some point and then going to either the USA or some unknown location. We’ll see.
  2. A conclusion to The Malfoy Case! It’s been going on for almost two years now, and I’m hoping to conclude it by its anniversary.
  3. The beginning of Mariusmy crime fanfic novel set during the Blitz, which follows Marius Black’s life as a Squib and a criminal mastermind in Muggle London.
  4. More of The Tisroc and the King. I’m hoping to finish it this year but I’d rather not make any promises!
  5. More opinion pieces both here on my blog and on other sites.
  6. Perhaps some new original short stories? Definitely new blog posts about my experiences here in Africa. We’ll see!

 

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What are you planning for 2016? Is there anything you would like to see more of on this blog or in my writing?

From Fiction… to College Essays

College applications are nothing like fiction writing.

I don’t know if it’s because I’ve never really written much non-fiction, or because I’m just not used to explicitly talking about my own life in text, but I find it really really hard to write essays for college.

I’ve learned that articles titled ‘TEN MISTAKES TO NEVER MAKE IN YOUR COLLEGE APPLICATION’ say exactly the same thing articles titled ‘TEN THINGS TO MAKE YOUR APPLICATION AMAZING’ say. Also, both articles will agree that at the end of the day you can do whatever you want and it’s no guarantee that you will or will not get in.

It would be amazing if all universities could agree and just use the same application. It would make things much simpler, and I wouldn’t have to have ten lists of reminders hovering on my screen so I remember what I put on each application, to make sure I’m giving them a holistic view of the person that I am.

My manager, overhearing my distress as I repeatedly crashed my face against the keyboard, offered me a useful piece of advice: Pretend you’re writing about a character instead of yourself.

It’s actually proven somewhat useful. The only issue now is getting back into The Early Fanfiction Days When Everything Was In First Person Because Every Main Character Was A Mary Sue. And now I have to deal with the Am I a Mary Sue? question, which is a really weird question to be asking about oneself.

I’ve made a list of fun stories that I might be able to incorporate into my essay, because of course my intention is mainly to entertain. I’ve compiled stories about That Time I Went Into A Nightclub Carrying A Cake, That Time I Saw Poseidon, and That Time My Dad Powered A Movie Via His Car During A Blackout—all great stories. I have no idea how I’m going to make them into profound essays that speak about the sort of person that I am, but at least I’m entertaining myself while thinking about them.

And finally, I do think this whole process would be a lot easier if I wasn’t suddenly battling an onslaught of Mad Max: Fury Road Feels. I read a (frankly embarrassingly fluffy) AU where Furiosa owns a Flowershop

Yeah.

Don’t worry, I’m not about to write adorably cheesy AUs about Max and Furiosa.

Yet. I think.

Non-fiction really shouldn’t be this hard.


 

Okay, that fanfic is actually really really good if you’re into Furiosa as a Flower Shop Owner.

If you’re a fellow victim of the College Application Process (or if you’re also battling a Mad Max: Fury Road addiction), let me know. Let’s suffer together.

I’m slow with posting new stories at the moment, as the QLFC is on break before the finals and I’m taking advantage of this time to get my future plans in order. But I’ve written a lot of cool stuff in the past month! You should check it out!

(the transitory twin)

20150330_182731He’s a modern man, and he takes a seat outside while his family goes in without him. I’ve already been inside lots of times, he tells me. I nod and smile.

And when he asks me what my plans are — what’s a girl my age doing so far away from home? — I tell him about my college plans, and he leans back in his seat with this slow smile on his face (I should have seen this coming).

Engineering is too hard for a woman, he tells me, and the gleaming teeth of his smile are meant to be helpful, I know, fatherly (I want to spit in his face and shake him, tell him You Are Part Of The Problem, tell him about the countless girls I’ve met in life who aspire to nothing because of men like him. I don’t). So I raise an eyebrow and say excuse me and his explanation isn’t an excuse because his ignorance is tangible and I grit my teeth — this is my job and I can’t be insulting (and I feel violently sick, suddenly, because I’m unable to defend myself — I know too little; he’s an electrical engineer, I’m a student out of high school).

(How dare he turn his education into a weapon.)

He leaves.

I’m a nineteen year old girl, and I stand in the sun for hours after (his words are searing in my brain — the first out of many, I predict. I’ve heard what they say to women like me; women who dare aspire to more) trying to stay hydrated, checking my watch. Summer is asphyxiating.

They are a small Muslim family, Arabs from the village nearby. The mother nods amiably when I tell her the rules and proceeds to break them immediately — her daughters laugh (I want to smile. I don’t). I take a swig of water and watch the people file out, tourists with casual eyes, no longer easily impressed, people who reply to a hello with a hard stare that lasts just one second too long.

The women approach me soon after, just before they leave. The mother is laughing, and the eldest daughter asks me my name. I tell her — she laughs. She has large shining eyes and a smile that transforms her entire face; her hijab is tight around her head, her body shrouded — in my short-sleeved shirt, I burn and blister in the heat. She laughs. Her name rhymes with mine.

The mother asks me what my plans are — what’s a girl my age doing so far away from home? — and I tell them about my college plans. The mother smiles and turns expectant to her eldest daughter; her smile widens even more. I’m going to study civil engineering, she tells me.

(Over her shoulder, I glimpse a couple posing for their wedding photographs. The bride is my age, if not younger — the groom must be approaching fifty. Her smile is exquisitely painted violent red, like a painting more real than the canvas. Their eyes never meet.)

I look at the girl and smile. She takes a picture of us together, our arms around each other. We’re the same height, and she smiles with her eyes as well as her lips as they leave; her younger sister shouting my name as if we’ve been childhood friends.

(I forget her name soon after. I don’t forget her smile.)

(She was nineteen years old, too.)


The Malfoy Case has been updated, and new works have been added to the list!

What do you eat?

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Carrot and plum khoresh

So, what do you eat at home? they ask. They always eat the same things – I know a family that has a meal assigned to every day (Saturdays is pasta). And I guess they get confused because both of my names come from Iran, but my mother is pure Ecuadorian blood and my father was born in Holland. And growing up in Paraguay had lots of people asking me if I would rather live in the United States like I did when I was a baby, but mostly they like to ask what do you eat at home?

And well, you see, we like to eat good food – some days we go have Japanese and we always order the same thing; and Papa cooks Iranian food because his Mama was American but learned to cook Khoresh in Iran, too, and Mama teaches her own hands to make empanadas the way Paraguayans make it, and it’s actually quite good – and in school I learned to make chipa, but I googled the recipe for a perfect guacamole and taught myself how to make spaetzle by hand. And some days, when I come from school, Mama made bistec and tells me the story about sopa de pata de gallo, and we ask our brazilian friends to make feijoada when they come over.

Last year, on my birthday, my friends made wicked burritos and I swear it might have been the best meal God ever gave me, so – you know – we eat a lot of things – and though I may not quite share the blood with the ones thar invented all these dishes, there is happiness somewhere inside the recipes, and happiness in universal.

So what do we eat at home? The same thing you eat, the same thing they eat – we eat the food that makes us happy no matter what their culture or geography.

Written as a challenge for myself, since I never really write things like this. And food makes me happy.