Tuesday, October 15, 2013

A Genocidal Maniac & Pigtails.

Just a short note. A day late, but still worth sharing. Every Columbus Day I cringe, because I don't think he was such a great guy. He kind of sucked, big time. There are so many other people that we could celebrate with a national holiday, people that didn't lead a genocide. My general feelings about this can be summed up here, courtesy of my favorite Internet comic strip, The Oatmeal.

Anyway, not much time to write, but this not so special holiday always gives me a little smirk and it goes back to second grade. Yet again, another moment for which I have my mother to thank.

Mom was always good at teaching me the stories from outside the history books of grade school, and she made sure to teach me about Columbus and his genocidal rampage at a very early age. So, rewind back to second grade. I was seven years old, and had no problem expressing my own ideas, even if they didn't fall in line with my teacher or my schoolbook.

Bunny rabbit teeth, pigtails, and complete disgust
for Columbus. Yours truly in second grade. 
A one-page exam was placed on my desk. One of the first questions was, "Who was Christopher Columbus?". My waxy Crayola response was: A Genocidal Maniac.

Now, I don't know if any other child in my class knew that. I know my teacher didn't tell me that, but thanks to my mom, "Genocidal Maniac" is what I wrote. Good job, Mom!!!

The answer was marked wrong, and my teacher called my mom to complain. It was not the first or last time that something like this happened, but my parents were proud.

Some have asked me, "When did you become an activist?" Looking back, I can't remember when I wasn't an activist. I don't remember times when I didn't speak up, but those are more fun stories for another time.

Big Love,

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

The Jew of Kathmandu

"And at the end of the day, I'll take you to see the Jew", he announced at 8am in the morning as we drank our chai on the dusty street. I just smiled and nodded like I knew what he was talking about. I had no clue, and I was nervous. "The Jew?!?", I thought. "Does Kathmandu have an honorary Jew? I just don't get it".

Sudeep--along with his wife Sunita--was my host when I first lived in Kathmandu. He was a small Nepalese man with legs built like pencils. He always had the brightest half moon smile and loved wearing turtlenecks and polyester pants that were so stiff and unmoved by the wind. It was the second day of my life in Kathmandu. He wanted to show me the sites--including the Jew--and he was so proud.

He took me everywhere, and I found the city of Kathmandu to be quite exotic with its strikingly contrasting Buddhist and Hindu architectures and robed monks and shamans everywhere. Chattering monkeys jumped around the rooftops. Traffic signs were more like suggestions instead of rules. People burned candles and incense and sang Sanskrit prayers at the temples in the morning. Strangers warmly and whole-heartedly greeted me all day as we walked the streets.

The city's distinctive smells ranged from intoxicating to ghastly. I enjoyed the whiffs of incense, flowers and fresh curry that permeated the city until they mingled with and dispersed into blasts of unmitigated exhaust fumes and the stench of open sewers.

It was a fabulous tour, but the Jew of Kathmandu gnawed at my consciousness all day. What on Earth did he mean?!? Finally, Sudeep brought the Jew to light.

"And finally" he said with a twinkle in his eyes, "the best for the last. Now I take you to the Jew!" I was scared and confused. I knew there was some language barrier that I just couldn't climb over. The taxi stopped. I hesitantly stepped out, squinted my gaze, and finally realized what the hell he was talking about. The Jew! It was there in front of me. Amazing! But it wasn't a Jew. It was a Zoo! AHAHAHAHA!!!! Sudeep's final act was to take me to the zoo!!! This is what our day was leading up to. What a relief to know that all he wanted to do was show me tigers, monkeys and deer inside cages. This is how I learned that the Nepalese can't pronounce the letter Z. It usually comes out as a J. Oh that Joo. What a moment that was. Cultural confusion is so entertaining sometimes.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

My Family's Bloody Irish Hand.

First Grade on Saint Patricks Day. All the kids were drawing pictures of shamrocks, pots of gold, and leprechauns--everyone except me.

We all got to present our drawings in front of class. I stood up to show my work of art. It was a Crayola masterpiece. There was a landscape of green Irish hills, a pristine beach, and a bloody severed hand lying in the sand. There were two cartoon clouds. One said "We made it!". The other said, "Go Ireland!!!". That was one of the proudest moments of my childhood. Now hold on. Hear me out. I wasn't sick and twisted. I was just sharing my family's history.

I stood up and told my classmates the story of my ancestor O'Neil, one of the first kings of Ireland. O'Neil had to compete in a boat race to win the kingship. The deal was that whoever touched the shore first would be crowned king. The boats were so neck and neck that he wasn't sure if he would make it. I guess O'Neil was creative, determined and partially bat shit crazy so he reached for his sword, cut off his hand and threw it to the shore. He was probably called stubby for quite some time, but guess what?!? He touched the shore first and became king! Who's gonna mess with him or argue with that? Jeesh. And with my own crazy determination, it's no wonder I'm related to this guy.

The kids in my first grade class all thought that was an awesome story. Lots of ooo's and ahhh's came from my very attentive 6 year-old audience, but my teacher was not impressed at all.

Later that day my mom got a phone call from her. She called her in to "talk" about my picture. My mother went in and my teacher said, "Your daughter drew this in class today," with a disturbed tone and a frown. My mother looked at it and said, "Oh! I'm so proud!!!". We were probably looked at like we were the Adams Family, but my mother had every right to be proud. Mom told me the story of O'Neil many times. She was never sure how much I absorbed it, but that picture proved that I embraced our family story with every cell, even though I was only six years old. I think it's still one of her proudest moments as a mother. :-)

Here's the family crest with the bloody red hand. Happy Saint Patricks Day.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

DC Stories-The Journey Continues.

I don't have much to say right now, so I'm digging in my archives. I had to repost this one. An oldie, but goodie from 2007:

My kiss from Michael Franti at the Iraq Veterans Against the War benefit at Bus Boys & Poets in Washington 

Ok-another update from one very beaten up and worn down activist. Let me tell you about my journey to a peace march in DC, and you'll understand the exhaustion.

Several weeks ago I went to Washington D.C. I didn't know that I had to go until 2 days before my flight. A major peace march was scheduled for the 4th year of the war and I wanted to document it with my trusty camera (see slide show here). Also, the CODEPINK peace activists were at it again in the streets and halls of Congress, having challenges matching their bold protest actions with their internet-media skills. I was called in at the last minute to go there and train them on internet outreach basics: dealing with digital photos and film, spreading press releases in the right places on the net etc.

During my flight there, I connected in Pittsburgh but lost my flight to DC because of a violent snow storm. The peace march was the next day so I decided to hitchhike; whether it's rain, snow, sleet or hail, not much will stop me from arriving on time to my destination.

I immediately hitched a ride with a man who I deemed ok. He asked me what I do and I said, with a slight intuition that he was a Republican, "I'm a peace activist". He said with a smirk, "Well doesn't that make us the odd couple!" I asked him what he did and it turned out that he was a gun shop owner and sells military supplies to the government. You're all cringing right now. I know, but it was actually a great ride.

a pic I took during the peace march. notice how the sign in the background looks kind of like a natural thought bubble--as if Cheyney is trying to tell Bush what's going on.

We talked about our own beliefs and I pointed out that, even though he is a Republican and I am not, what he wants isn't different from what I want: a warm place to sleep, food, and some good lovin'. He also said that he wants more localized government and this, in his mind, was a Republican belief. I bursted his bubble gently, letting him know that I too, among many people, dream of a localized government that comes from the grassroots or tribal nature and that I think community action is where it's at and where I've seen the most social progress made.

He was only supposed to drive me to Harrisburg, but I guess our conversation left a warm and fuzzy impression on him because he drove me two extra hours to Baltimore so I could catch a direct train to DC. As I left him for the Baltimore-DC train, I passed a bunch of soldiers on the sidewalk, all coming back from the Middle East. This journey to the peace march couldn't have been more dream-like and symbolic. At this point, I felt like I was the star of my own movie (hmmm...)because it was so surreal.

I warily fell to my seat on the train and a very zen-like California surfer elder sat next to me. His name was Jeff (and no, his last name was not Lebowski). He offered me a macaroon and we began to talk. We exchanged little tidbits of info and realized that we were very connected; he was friends with the co-founders of CODEPINK, the peace organization where I currently work.

Midge Potts, CODEPINK activist in front of Congress during my trip. photo provided by yours truely

Jeff was trying to get to LA that night so he could go on a surfing holiday, but the east coast snow stopped him on his sunshine daydream journey and sent him back to his home in cold and snowy DC. We were both redirected by weather that day, and had the fate of sharing the rocking ride of the train together.

We arrived at Union Station in DC and Jeff stayed with me so I didn't have to wait for my ride by myself. He asked me to tell him stories of my travels, so I told him tales of Asia, shamans, and my Indiana Jones-like adventures. He told me about his travels through the Middle East, his recent journey to Kumba Mela (a gathering of thousands of saddhus)and how he was looking to start a media organization for Iranian youth.

My colleague finally arrived to see me and my new zen'd out surfer elder friend at the station, and suggested that we go to see an amazing spoken word/hip hop/funk musician named Michael Franti. My 24 hours of travel and lack of sleep was not enough to stop me from seeing one of my favorite performers in this world so I decided to go along.

CODEPINK ladies singing peace in the streets

On my way there, I told everyone in the car that I was going to kiss Michael Franti. No one believed me, which is understandable because it's easy for people to forget how much I turn my daydreams into reality.

We got to the club just as an auction for the Iraq Veterans Against the War started. Signed CD's and t-shirts by Michael was all there was to buy, but I had an idea...
I approached the auctioneer and asked him if he would auction off a kiss from Michael. He asked and Michael agreed. I then entered the auction and won the highest bid at 130 dollars. The money went directly to the Iraq Veterans organization and Micheal Franti's lips went straight to mine as I stood on the stage of the club with the crowd loudly cheering. I could almost call it prostitution, but it was for a good cause and, even though it was just a kiss, it was tax-deductible (I can't wait to report this one to the IRS next year). This made my 24 hours of air travel, hitchhiking, and train riding all worth it. Yes, this all happened in one day, on my way to a peace march, starting with snow and ending with a kiss.

You can check out more of my pictures here-
Reverend Billy and the Stop Shopping Choir Exorcise the War Demons Of Congress-Slide Show

Reverend Billy, activist/evangelist, exorcises the war demons out of Nancy Pelosi's Office.

You can also check some of my pics atMarch 17th, 4 Years of War-Slide Show Some of these photos will go into a Harvard Press publication about women's activism around the world. First book publisher for me!!!

This is a clip from when we raided the Congressional cafeteria and sang the Dont Buy Bush's War Gospel as it is. Peace-a-lujah!

Friday, March 01, 2013

Bye Bye Burka

I'm loving life. It's been some time since I've lived in the chaos of Asia, and the longer I'm in the states, the more I appreciate what I have here. Let's talk about fashion.

I LOVE dressing up. I love fashionable short skirts, cute jeans, high heels, you name it. I even wear makeup. I know. Those who have known me for a while are laughing right now. Yes, I've finally girl'd out. I get to be pretty and I even wear sparkles.

You might not think that it's a big deal. Lots of western women girl out all the time, but it's a big deal to me.

During my 20s, I had to dress to hide. In Nepal, I lived with village tribes. The villagers were very welcoming, but they still treated me like a zoo animal. I got stared down all the time, and it became exhausting. How many white 21 year olds live alone in a Nepalese village while speaking fluent Nepali? I can understand their confusion, but I used fashion to minimize the constant rubber necking and googly eyes from onlookers. Pretty much, I got a tan, acted like a villager (which wasn't hard because it was a very organic and primal environment) and wore village clothing. See example below:

Yours truly, in a Himalayan mountain hamlet.

My efforts to be a chameleon paid off though. One time, in the village, a group of Israeli tourists looked straight at me. One of them said, "Does anyone speak English here?!?! They're all locals!!! We won't find what we need." I didn't say a word and they looked right past me. Never approached me. I would have spoken to them in English, but they were loud and rude, so I just watched and laughed inside. They thought I was a local!!! HAHAHA!

Then there was Afghanistan...

I had to dress like a local as much as possible, because I didn't want to get kidnapped while walking the city streets. I wasn't perfect at looking like an Afghan woman, but I will proudly say that an Afghan soldier once asked me if I was from Pakistan. Again, I think it was because of my tan, my energy, and my somewhat regional clothing.

Humor made the culture diving easier. My friend Jeremy and I used to make jokes about the fashion all the time when we were in Kabul. He would say, "I just saw your wrists. Put those things away, you whore!" It was hilarious for us.

On the streets of Kabul. Nothing sexier than trying to dress like a sack of potatoes. Hot.

Can you imagine? Dressing to hide for so many years? What a weird concept. It didn't really phase me. It was just a small price to pay to explore a wondrous world, full of miracles and craziness. I have no regrets, but now! Let me tell you, I've broken out of my burka mentality to rock fitted dresses and hot fashion whenever possible. Oh the things one can appreciate. I'm sure the women who came before me in my own country understand what I'm talking about. Remember women, we had a fashion revolution here not too long ago.

Ah, that's better. I could have been stoned to death for this in Kabul. 

And this fashion statement would have been a straight up death wish. This was in LA, not Kabul :-)

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Burgers & Mysticism

I was at a diner yesterday morning, and it hit me. Manifesting what you want--whether it's a relationship, job or anything in life--is like ordering a hamburger. Yes, I'm using greasy diner food to illustrate mystic wisdom. :-) Be clear with the waitress if you don't like onions on your burger, and make sure she knows that you want the special sauce. If you forget the finer details, you won't get what you want. It's that simple, and please don't complain when the burger comes with onions and no sauce. That's the way you ordered it, and remember this the next time you order a burger so you can get it right.

Manifesting is also like a diner, because you know the food will come. Do you get stressed out, and wonder if the food will come? No! You know the drill and expect it to arrive. You have a knowingness. This is what it's like when you successfully manifest your desire. You just know that what you want will arrive, and then it does. Please remember that attachments, stress and ego usually get in the way. So if you get cranky with your waitress, she might drag out the delivery time of said burger, or secretly place who knows what inside of it. Kindness and patience are key.

So ask for that career change, relationship or dream vacation as if you're ordering a burger. Don't stress, and know that it's coming.

That is all. Over and out.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

So You Want A Sign?

Happy New Year and happy new paradigm! Do you feel the shifts in consciousness? I sure do. It's breathtaking how easy it is to manifest and create these days.

So I'm back! Sorry, last year I got really quiet in the blog world, but with good reason. I'm getting deeper and deeper into my journey as a film producer.  I expect things to get busier this year, so I don't think I'll blog as much as I did in previous years. I will do my best to keep posting updates on all the miracles, which are definitely hard to keep track of these days. :-)

I'm in Los Angeles, feeling like a mere guppy, swimming in and around Hollywood. It's strange. Most days I get to swim with the dolphins: amazing producers and directors with pure hearts, brains and golden intentions. And then there are the other days, the ones that thankfully don't happen too much. Oh yeah, I run into the sharks: egomaniacs, extreme narcissists and people who will do most anything to turn a buck. Those are the days when I want to run away screaming. Those are the days when I miss living in Afghanistan--in a war zone--because the people there were so humble and real.

Several weeks ago, I woke up in one of those funks. I thought, "I'm really here? Why am I doing this? Can't I just run off and work for the UN again?", but then I reminded myself that life in those war-torn places became familiar. It sounds crazy, but war zones became my comfort zones, and somehow, by the grace of the goddess, I conquered all the challenges I met there. Going back would be the easy way out. I can't do that right now.

My ego was trying to fool me. It said, "Who are you to think that you can be a film producer?!?. That's not your path." My heart said, "Girl, quiet down. Meditate and pray." So I did. I sat in full lotus and lit some luscious spiced incense that brought a piece of Asia back to my nose. I said, "Universe, please show me a sign, a big fat sign that this path is right for me. Thank you."

The day continued. My dear friend Bjorn took me out for lunch with his friend Vic. Vic likes to raise tons of money to build schools and orphanages in Tibet and Nepal. This type of philanthropy is also a passion of mine. For many years, I sent Nepalese village kids to school on my own dime.

Vic and I had much to discuss. We're both versed in Buddhist practices and history. We love Kathmandu, and getting lost on treks in the majestic Himalayan heights. Two hours whirled by like two minutes. It was unspoken, but Vic and I knew we were from the same tribe.

During our conversations of adventures, philanthropy and peace, a voice kept popping up from within. It said, "Ask about Lama Wangdu. Ask about Lama Wangdu!!" louder and louder. By the end of our conversations, I finally listened to the message and said to Vic, "Do you know Lama Wangdu? He's my Buddhist teacher in Nepal." His face broke into a thousand-watt smile and said, "Of course! I studied in his monastery in Boudhanath (in Kathmandu)!!!" Then Vic reached inside his shirt and pulled out a necklace that held a small silver Tibetan medicine locket. Lama Wandgu gave it to Vic, but he didn't have to tell me--Lama Wangdu gave me the same necklace years before.

"So you want a sign" says the Universe. "Here's your sign, kid." My meditation request was answered that day. And yes, you bet I'm on my path. I know it, but the reminders are nice sometimes.

Pictured Below: He's the man. My Tibetan Buddhist teacher, Lama Wandgu.