Un-stream-lined

Food, Travel, Design and the occassional wordiness

Once an ‘International Student’ February 7, 2017


I met my husband for the first time during International Student orientation at grad school. Then we went for ice cream. We dated, we traveled, we loved, we fought, we married, we have 4 beautiful children- 3 of them are fur-kids, adopted, pets- if you insist, whose American families had disowned them.
You see, like dozens of our closest friends, we were once international students. Scratch that. Between him and me, we’ve been international students 3X, over 10 cumulative years and hold 4 advanced graduate degrees from a pretty fancypants institute we hold (super) close to our hearts. And today, established in pretty awesome jobs in pretty awesome cities, we’ll tell you #imalreadyhome
Utterly grateful, that we both had the money and brains to go to school anywhere. But fate brought us here and #gladweshowedup. We are so grateful that this school and this country we now call home, has enriched our lives beyond measure and blessed us with communities that are now ours to love and build on. This community today is an international global milieu that is so much like the cosmopolitan hometown I once grew up in. So vaguely familiar, yet so utterly different. Hygge* & hujug**, lonely and chilling, rewarding and freeing is the concept of home- a word, only travelers know how to articulate. The feeling that #imalreadyhome is like the feeling of your own couch but sometimes, it is also a feeling of occasionally having to defend yourselves to well-meaning strangers.

I have many immigrant friends, many of whom moved for work, for marriages, for families (or away from families) among a variety of reasons…But I tell you, some of us are different; we are not better or special by any means, but we have all gone through a common set of things that tied us all with one common thread.
This handful of us packed our bags as kids, fresh out of high school or college, some quitting our first jobs going back to school to sit in semicircular large halls. We left everything that was familiar and comfortable, left the comforts and smells of home, left our mothers and our friends, our learnings and earnings, our lives as we knew them, to come here and recreate something we had no clue about, some of us even more than others.
No matter which university we came to, or dissertation we defended, or specialization we graduated with, or department we aced, or airlines we flew in or which country we came from we all pushed our boundaries, competed with our own selves, we created our own lives, we were international students and over decades and generations, we shared a quiet exhilarating experience. We managed to reach out and today… #imalreadyhome

I’m among friends, I’m in my community of peers, doing what I love, creating beautiful things, making change, making ripples in my mid-morning cups of coffee (that you proudly import from all over the world, some of it from my native land) with logic and dissent. I am fighting in my own little ways to pay those cocoa and coffee farmers fair wage and I’m also striving so your dairy co-op in rural Vermont gets their fair share of profits too. And I can do that because I care, because #imalreadyhome

(If you let it) My science makes food tasty, my design makes you happy, my stories make you think. We all have our roles carved out. Some days we will nod and some days we will wave, because that’s what neighbors do. Some days, we will cherish and some days, we will cope. And I will be here if you need me and also if you don’t, because #imalreadyhome Will you also pick up a sign and walk a mile, to defend logic and science and the rights of others less fortunate than you? Will you stand up for my rights and those of our planet? Will you repurpose more and recycle right?

I will always try to want less and waste less, so our Earth stays greener longer for your children and mine; I will always walk more and drive less so our kids can breathe better. I will always try to gift handmade. I will always want less and waste less and ask everyone to do the same, no matter which country we live in, because this Earth is our home and #wearealreadyhome

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This is written in acknowledgement of the tremendous amount of privilege I have and also in gratitude to my school and international student community at schools everywhere who make the transition from home to new homes easier. From there on, what we do with our lives, is often up to us. In the recent episodes, it is very easy to get angry and point fingers at everyone and forget the kindness we have received; which in my case has been profound and many times more than any negativity or prejudice, which I have also received. Let it never be said that prejudice doesn’t exist and didn’t exist. It always has and so does all the other ‘good stuff’.
#imalreadyhome is used purposely as a solidarity statement with other immigrants in line with http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/immigrants-respond-to-trump-by-declaring-imalreadyhome-on-twitter_us_588b6f7fe4b0303c07533a65 as a response to recent immigration ban and growing normalization of xenophobic attitudes. Xenophobia towards international students bother me the most, because when I see them I see a vulnerable 21 year old me (and so many more like me) with nothing but packed schedules, too overwhelmed to even feel homesick. So much apprehension, so many mistakes, so much good and so many accomplishments lay ahead of you, dear young international student…If you’re one of those 17, 18, 21, 25 year olds traveling alone to study in a new country, just know, you’re not alone.

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*Hygge (pronounced hue-gah) is a Danish word that is a feeling or mood that comes taking genuine pleasure in making ordinary, every day moments more meaningful, beautiful or special.

** Hujug (hu-Joog) is a Bangla word meaning craze, or impulse usually fueled by passion for something fun

 

 

TRAVEL: When Broadway was a Prairie January 1, 2017

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kolika C @ 11:13 pm

(Written on our cross country train trip May 24 2012)
From where I was sitting, he looked 75. Maybe not a train enthusiast, he surely was a believer in traveling long distance by train. Throughout the years he had traveled along almost all the routes Amtrak and some of canada rail as well. From his stories, it seemed that he had quite a few children, all my parents’ age and grand kids and he had traveled with and encouraged them all to noting travel but travel to far away lands.
This fascinated me, because he was from Lake George area in NY and in my experience living in western NY, he represented a demography that didn’t believe in moving or seeing counties other than their own. This was what one of my WNY coworkers called the hunting-fishing-NASCAR watching-Obama bashing-FOX news watching people who believed that China and Mexico was taking away their precious livelihoods.
“originally from the city” he said ” when Broadway was a prairie”. He had driven far and wide when he was a truck driver. Showed me a stackable train car and a new house being constructed in the horizon. In short, everything that technology had changed and thus robbed his community of employment.
When Broadway was a prairie, he said that driving into Rochester, the sky was laden with smoke from all the factories and people had jobs. Now the air is clean and there are no jobs. Apolitically and decidedly unbiased, I felt bad for him. Is it other people’s greed or his age, that makes all progress seem backward?
Conversations turned toward his recent Alaska trip and to his God-Mother who many years ago (When Broadway was a prairie) taught him to travel, took him to Lancaster, PA and introduced him to Amish cheese and rye bread. And all was well again. As long as we have parents and God parents to cart us around and as long as grand-parents like him are willing to pass on to their grand kids the travel bug, communities will grow, thrive and frankly go places – despite white collar greed, clean air, Mexican labor and Chinese manufacturing… Oh and of course everything technology.

 

Imaginary friend December 10, 2016

Filed under: Mouth full of potatoes — Kolika C @ 10:25 pm

You are not a memory, you are an everyday ongoing thought. You’re the imaginary friend, my grownup mind conjured from ashes of disappointing reality. You’re the voice that laughs at my jokes. I can physically feel your smile too, telling me ‘lonely in a crowd’ might not be such a terrible thing after all. I can’t wait to tell you all or some of the things I want to tell you about today, about now, while I am in the company of others.
On days where I’m perpetually rolling my eyes, which really is most days, yours meet mine at the back of my head for a wink and a nod.
You see, you’re my imaginary friend. You might live in the bodies of real humans and in IM profiles of my contacts occasionally but you flit around often and much. You’re unpredictable when you’re in someone’s body but when free you let loose and are so much nicer.
You’re not ideal by any means, nor do you always know the right thing to say or do at all times. But there’s comfort in imagining a conversation gone awry too. Because God knows I fuck up even in my wildest dreams.
You’re part nostalgia, part hope. You’re part wonder, part disgusting, exact sameness.
Sometimes you’re just silence. Sometimes you’re quiet. Sometimes you’re rehashed real words from people around me, regurgitated.
Sometimes you’re exactly what I hyped you up to be, sometimes you’re way beyond what I ever thought you could be (what 33 year old has imaginary friends after all?) And sometimes you’re just dead disappointing. You’re my imaginary friend and I’m thankful for your company.

 

Travel: London Day 2  November 24, 2016

Filed under: art,travel — Kolika C @ 9:12 pm
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Our second day in London with toddler, grandma and mama started with a hearty breakfast and a stroll to London Bridge.
Following that we walked down through the alleys of Borough market to Pickfords Wharf to the remains of Winchester castle and then onwards to Shakespeare Globe. We would have loved to be a groundling today but the Little Matchgirl is playing all week and that just makes me incredibly sad. Also grounding-ing with a toddler would be tough who by now was napping hard. We got him his first intro to Shakespeare today. And with that comes a little foray into 400 year old British/ world/ human history for a boy who’s not yet 3 (Amused). Go ahead judge me.

 

 

Next we tottered to the little Christmas market set up at South Bank (almost next door) in front of Tate Modern. Here’s Grandma enjoying some churros with hot chocolate.

See the featured pic- I love the juxtaposition of this where the clean curves of Millennium Bridge stem from Tate Modern and lead to St. Paul’s Cathedral across the Thames, with a little Christmas charm and glitter in between.

Helpful stranger gives J a life as he chooses ornaments to take home to Boston

 

After spending 2-3 hours browsing genuine high quality handmade items and sampling market food and fish and chips, we walked back to the hotel only to realize we’d left something back.

So back I went, picked it up and realized that toddler was now snacking and napping with grandma in the hotel, meaning I had some serious art browsing time and I was inside Tate Modern. It’s fate people. Within seconds I was at the fourth floor, internally weeping in front of a Guerrilla Girls exhibit. img_1699-2

6PM and Cinderella’s magic would be wearing off soon and Tate would be closing so I left the other floors for another day and walked back to the hotel, rather fulfilled and genuinely happy with myself. 

It’s rare that you get the joys of traveling solo, traveling with kids, traveling with your mom and seeing your friends all on the same trip. 

London, the more I see you, I feel like you’re that tertiary contact I’ve heard so much about but never got the chance to meet, that contact all my closer friends eyerolled and had a snide remark to say about but everyone forgot to mention how similar we actually are and how well we would gel together. It’s nice getting to know you. Let’s see how the next few days go.

 

Travel: Manhattan: Foodie’s Family Weekend August 18, 2016

Filed under: travel — Kolika C @ 6:43 pm

Although I have never lived in New York City, so many things about the city feels like a familiar beacon. Sure I get the frazzles, thinking about finding parking and navigating the “interweb” of the metro or stepping over something disgusting; but… Maybe it’s the pace, the crowd, the nasty smell that reminds me of growing up in a bustling dirty metro. Or the ethnic food calls from every corner and the anonymity of a ‘real city’ tugs the gut and heart strings respectively. Or maybe because I’ve just been there way more times than I care to admit. The touristy things are checked off, the familiarity-bred-contempt is on its downward trajectory by now, no agendas to push, except a list of food things that are special to this crazy city alone.

This was my first trip back with Josh. And when I think why I’ve held back for all this time, I think it’s because the perceived ghastliness, the public opinion of Big Bad had somehow seeped into my maternal psyche. I mean I took him to Madrid, Dubai and Calcutta. So why not New York?

We made a few changes this time around. We drove. All the way. We parked where we could and wanted, we took it slow. I napped. (Gasp)

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Nothing says city pride and urban love like public art. 

We still made lists to try out all those buzzfeed/ Conde Nast/ Travel magazine/ Pinterest-popular food innovations that were supposedly taking the city by storm. We didn’t worry about penny pinching, realizing you never really save much doing that. We stayed in the city, not in Long Island, not in Jersey City, not even in Queens. We got an Airbnb listing we liked on the Upper East Side and set up camp there. We spent a lot of time at Central Park and in open spaces. We were also ready to sit in crammed traffic and did a fair amount of that without cribbing. We went prepared to walk and to lie down on the grass, we went open-minded to live on pizza and ice cream and prepared enough to know which ones we wanted and what the backup options were. We went prepared to try Brooklyn again another time and focus only on the fun stuff IN the area we were staying in.

img_8790Who taught us to be this smart? Boston did. Yup I admit. Living in Chicago taught us many things, but living in Massholeland taught me 1) to expect and deal with nasty people and be ok if you’re the only nice person in the room 2) focus on not crossing the bridge (I’m talking about you Cambridge!) 3) to expect and deal with traffic and parking, smell and noise and the nuisance of urban chaos that we live and love.

So here are some snippets from our recent New York trip

-Eggloo @ china town for Hongkong style waffles stuffed with icecream and pokey sticks

-NY style bagels from H&M’s Upper East Side location

-Delish coffee and chocolate donuts from tiny Joe Coffee (Lexington Ave UES)

-Amazing awesome pizza and finger licking tiramisu from San Matteo Pizzeria e Cucina (writing this is making me so hungry!!)

img_8835-More amazing pizza from Margherita NYC

– drippy waffles from some cart in Central Park that everyone talks about but the name is escaping me right now

Crazy litchi deal from Chinatown 😉 you didn’t see that coming did you? We were stuck in traffic after picking up pizza at Little Italy on our way back, what was I supposed to do? Pass on litchi? No thanks. I got down. They let me “haggle” with them in English while they laughed at me in Chinese (?) but I got my delicious fruits for my 4 hour road trip back home.img_8839

Overall this trip was such a fun fulfilling trip. I wish we did more full family trips like this, more often… And I don’t believe I said that in writing. Anyway I genuinely wish Josh would remember snippets of happy memories from this trip and we would get to repeat many more like this.

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Just for fun: here’s a picture of my mom waiting with 2 eggloo sundaes in 2 hands while we wait for our ride (the guys) to circle back and pick us up since there was no parking availableimage11

 

Losing mind August 9, 2016

Filed under: Mouth full of potatoes — Kolika C @ 11:44 am

When things start to slip from your mind at 32, it is so far from pleasant that self deprecating humor just peed in its pants and left the building whimpering. Add that to the life of someone who used to pride on her wordsmithing and ability to thread words through logic and humor through profound tongue in cheek ‘gotcha’-s. And you got a big blank gaping losing game of Hangman.
Here it is. I can’t talk. I can no longer write.
Just like one day, I couldn’t sing. I can no long talk now.

So one day, what if the counting is gone too? And then the colors? The sharp angles dipped in gritty muddy waters?
Words are forming but not quite right. The memories are forming but to someone else. You know the feeling and you are saying a million things beating around the bush but you can’t really get to that really juicy red bright right berry sitting right there, but not quite, slightly out of your reach, slightly out of focus, within your intention but not quite.
What would you do? Where would you go? What do you want? Who do you love? What would you have done?
The push and pull and the deep deep prod.

 

Paper balls: Self-love + the Buy Nothing community December 15, 2015

Filed under: art,home and garden,Mouth full of potatoes,Upcycle & Repurpose — Kolika C @ 9:59 pm

No one had offered and I sure as hell was not going to ask, expect or depend on someone’s mood and flicker of sympathy. I could wallow (and I did) or I could act. I always act. Yes, I was a little lonely but no one was going to stop me from having the time of my life nor deter me from celebrating Josh.
So I made a list, designed the invitation and bammed out a huge baby shower to myself. I also cooked for over 30 people, laid out the table, handmade the decorations, planned and arranged the favors, entertained guests (including my husband’s work friends and boss) and baked, glazed and decorated my first ever pregnant belly cake, complete with a fondant foot mark.

In between, I gave in a little bit to my hormones and spazzed out. Sorry if any of you had to witness that. (If any body feels the need to shame me for that, just please measure up to the level of productivity and stress first)

I did that all at 36 weeks of my first pregnancy. Josh might have been born to a then-staying-at-home mom. But he was also born to an itching-to-get-things-done mom, go-getter (and if I can’t get it, I will make it) Mom.
But this story is not about the accomplishment or pride that swells my chest to match my once-pregnant belly, this post is about those handmade decorations and the blessings it carried through the community.
After the shower in November 2013, the decorations continued to grace our spare room, although the hall ones had come down. By the time we brought Josh home from the hospital, I had made more and hung them all over the nursery and the spare room which was now going to be his play zone.
He grew up watching those fragile balls of color. We played peekaboo with these “sunflowers”, ruffled the petals for the colicky 5 week old, swayed and danced right in that corner to get him to sleep… Apologies if most of our pics seem to be of the same ones.

Meanwhile, Buy Nothing happened.
In a few more months, was Josh’s Annoprashon. By June 2014 , I made more decorations- this time beyond the red, orange and yellow….in white and gold and silver to match the traditional Bengali and Indian attire and menu.

The earth spun faster than we could handle and soon it was Josh’s first birthday and we were having his little party in the same pompom room with the repurposed decorations. By now, Josh was calling them “papams”.

 

 

 

The next summer, after weeks of stress, we were selling our home and the decorations were lucky to be picked up by our neighbor, for her wedding in August of 2015. Here’s what she had to say:
“Our wedding was a second marriage for both of us and while we wanted to celebrate with friends and family, we wanted to keep it simple and inexpensive. We had a tiny budget for decorations so when I saw that one of my neighbors was offering out her hanging flower decorations I knew they’d be perfect. And unlike party decorations that people buy, use, and then toss, these decorations got to party! After they festively decorated the VFW hall we rented for our party, I passed them along to another neighbor who was hosting a birthday party for her one year old child. Where they went from there I do not know but I can imagine that they are now waiting to add some festivity to another party somewhere nearby!”
Quite the social butterlies, the paper balls were next picked up by another neighbor for her son’s first birthday.
After that wonderful party (complete with a candy bar!), they traveled out of state to Maine with a girl who did (what seemed to me like) a Buy-nothing themed wedding! Of that I have no picture, nor story.

These simple paper decorations signify a very personal time of grit for me, they symbolize self-love, the need to do things well no matter how small, to pull projects to completion even when no one is checking- the same things that motivate me to success in work, family and volunteering. Add to that optimizing resource utilization, staying rooted/ connected and building/ growing/ living with the community.
Don’t you see now how symbolic these traveling paper balls have been and how instrumental they have been in sharing cheer through the community?

Reduce, Reuse, Buy Nothing and most importantly Love yourself. It works.

 

 
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