Homesick But Making Progress

When you are planning to leave your home to”see the world” and have all those experiences you believed you’ve dreamed of, but couldn’t achieve because of age, inexperience, budget, and various excuses, you are not really thinking about what you are leaving behind for an entire year.


Suddenly after all the excitement settles in, your routine bores you to death, and you need a friend, you realize you are in a city of 7 million people and you are a part of the very tiny small percentage of foreigners who looks like a giant, is too dark, speaks strangely, and acts in a ridiculously different way… The whole sky opens up, you fall down on your knees with arms wide open and scream, “What am I doing here!!??”


In China people take pictures of you wherever you go, but they don’t pursue your friendship, they only want to post on social media that they’ve seen a Laowai (foreigner).


Goofing around with Hussam and Darcie

I developed a good friendship with two foreigners though, but one of them had to leave because his visa expired. Now, with my only close friend, our schedules rarely match and finding time to spend with each other sometimes becomes as painful as not having my friends from Charlotte nearby. Speaking of schedules, she will be flying to her vacation for 6 weeks soon, while I’ll have to work because my break comes much later and shorter. I’m going to have a long hiatus to… meditate perhaps?


Oh my dog! How much I have cried for my faithful companion. It seemed so unreal to say goodbye that rainy morning in NY when God found him the most fabulous family in the world. But as fabulous as they are my heart broke in small pieces when I kissed Boomer’s little face for the last time. I lied down depressed for weeks, and I still cry when I see him in pictures. He looks… sad, disconcerted… Or it’s because I see him with mother’s eyes and wish I had telepathic powers to let him know how much I still love him. Not having him with me torments me at times.


At least during the first month I was trying to find a place of worship. I had read that people don’t talk about religion in China so I tried to be cautious; until I saw a post on WeChat. One of the Chinese teachers posted something about Jesus. It was in Mandarin, but the picture accompanying text was pretty clear. I looked for her during lunch. She said she attended services in Mandarin, but told me other teachers went to an international church. That was such great news!! I met with one of the teachers at the mall close to us on a Sunday, we rode the bus for a while, then the train for another long while. It took us about two hours to get there. Wow… In Charlotte it was so easy to jump in the car and drive to the morning service. It usually took me 10-15 minutes. How much do I appreciate to be able to worship in a communist country though. I had heard terrible stories, but so far we  have been able to have fellowship in peace here. Amen!

The Art Circle Starts to Open Up


Cavon Ahangarzadeh -ISN Head of School

In Charlotte, NC life was accelerated. One event after another, poetry readings, commissioned poems, fashion shows , every week there was so much to do, visit, perform, party, celebrate with friends, awesome friends everywhere… In China I came to a full stop. Zero. Nada. Nichts! Nevertheless, I started small, showing part of my heritage first, dancing cumbia during a festival at school. Then donated my books In the Prism of Your Soul and The Fragrance of Water to the International School library.

After about 2 months I created my own event. I had to! Like a fish has to swim! People came to my apartment to listen to my poetry and one of the attendees delighted us with Navajo chants! I felt so alive! At the same time the Mint Museum of Charlotte asked me to send them a video reading one of my poems to celebrate Candle Day! I’m so thankful with Rubie Britt Height and Claudia Soria for making me feel I’m still part of the artsy life back home.

Shortly after my event I was introduced to a Kenyan art teacher, we have to meet yet again to plan a collaboration, and I found a lovely couple which performs at the Shangri-La Hotel weekly. I was reading about them on Ningbo Focus Magazine where I learned Diane is Colombian (Yay!!!) and Vladimir is from Bulgaria. I contacted her immediately and we have been corresponding since. I’ve even asked her if they would let me share some of my poetry during one of their performances… Let’s see what happens 😉

I’ll be back home soon, changed by this experience, maybe wiser, but definitely much more thankful and appreciative. I promise never again take anything for granted. I love my friends and family more than ever now that I don’t have immediate access to them. Distance puts everything into perspective…

The thing I’ve learned about watching artists is that they’re willing to indulge following what’s interesting without knowing where is going to lead. They trust that is going to lead somewhere and even if in that day or that week or that month it doesn’t get interesting they have this, ‘It’s going to get me somewhere interesting’ ~Vicky Taylor, Anthropologist


Where Is Your Other Half?

People Are Always Trying to Pair You Up

It amazes me how people are always trying to pair you up with another human being. We are born alone, unique, except for the 2% of twins, .08% of triplets, and other multiple births; but even if people are born a twin or a triplet they sustain themselves and are responsible for their own growth, education, health, etc.

Bern on the trainSpeaking of our own individualities and commonalities we have the right to be friends with people of the opposite sex as much as we have friends of our own gender. I particularly prefer the friendship of males over the one of females. Nothing personal, I simply find their insight, emotional, and physical strength more appealing. They are gentle but firm, and they are better at solving conflict. Ladies, if you are still reading this, you know it’s true. Sometimes our girlfriends bring a lot of unnecessary drama for things that could have been resolved with a couple of words and a glass of wine (or a word and a couple of glasses of wine? â˜ș).

Where Is Your Other Half?

I have been seeing a guy, a friend-guy, a new male friend and he has already been called “husband”, “boyfriend”, and  “new guy” by friends and acquaintances! One day I came to the gym by myself, which I used to do anyway before I met Dwight (not his real name) and my instructor greeted me by asking, “Where is your other half?” I responded immediately, “I don’t have another half, I am complete!”

And even if I got married I would still be complete, my own self. I know that it is difficult for many single women to navigate the waves of the daily life alone, you wonder when “your other half” will come to complete your half self, you cry behind a bag of popcorn while watching a romantic comedy, or you secretly resent your girlfriends when they meet someone and things seem to be going really well for them. But your life can be full too! Every day is a new challenge, a new light, a new creation, a new poem, a new performance, a new class, a new song, a new idea for a blog…

Also someone asked me if Dwight made me happy. I hesitated because the answer is yes! Dwight makes me happy, but poetry, Zumba, and yoga make me happy too! There’s no reason to give another person the attribute or the responsibility of making you happy or sad.

a glass of wineThe One Will Come When You Are Not Looking For Him

At church we were studying the book Love, Sex, and Relationships, by Chip Ingram, and the one thing that I learned is that the one will come when you are not looking for him, when you feel absolutely comfortable and content with your circumstances, when you are not hoping for someone to come to rescue you, when you are glad to wake up even though your life is not perfect and you kind of hate your job (not me! â˜ș). But you have learned to live with the person who matters most in all this, you really know her, you look at her face in the mirror, you are proud of the shape of her body, her wrinkles, and her few gray hairs (when she still can pluck them â˜ș ). When she finds that little dress that makes her feel amazing, she goes to that fancy restaurant and the hostess asks if it is just one, she answers proudly, it’s not just one, it’s me.

Love Attracts Love And Misery Loves Company

If you love yourself greatly you will pour out that love into others and into what you do. Discover your passion and love it! Do you like poetry? Read and write like a lunatic! Do you like dancing? Dance like no one is watching! I just remembered Dwight, this guy has a very particular singing voice. Have you watched the winners of American Idol? Think of Dwight as the complete opposite. But he sings, in solitude, he loves to listen to music, he talks about it, and he uses it to calm me down before my performances â˜ș

On the other hand, I have stopped (or partially stopped) talking to friends who criticize everything I do or wear. And they think they are “helping.” To give you a real life example, once I was talking to a girlfriend about plastic surgeries, so I jokingly asked her if she thought I needed one. What came out of her mouth was, Yeah, you have small breasts, if you could it would be good to get them done, maybe a couple sizes bigger, your smile is too wide, there is a cosmetic surgery to stick the upper lip to the upper gum; by the way, your jaw is kind of narrow, you need to get a cosmetic dental treatment to open space; oh, and you would need lipo for that little tummy (at this point I’m looking at her puzzled), or maybe you won’t need a lipo, just coolsculpting (she says the last part with a big smile to make me feel better)!

Warrior 2 Kurma firstUse Your Imagination

Be creative! You don’t have to become a great artist, just add some color to your life, to your wardrobe, do something nice for yourself, salute the world with a smile even if they decide to give you their back. And try something new to keep your mind engaged!

Talk to God. He is the best listener guy-friend you can have. He will remind you of how precious you are You are altogether beautiful, my love; there is no flaw in you (Song of Solomon 4:7). Hmm… I’m blushing â˜ș

Life is beautiful, and it’s not a clichĂ©, it’s the truth! Look at all the possibilities without paying too much attention to your past (though this might come in handy), to your age (it’s never too late), or your circumstances (when there’s a will there’s a way.)

Trust in God and His promises and trust that He has given you everything you need to be happy and complete. Everything else and everybody else (including the one) will come to complement you (not complete you) in the most perfect way.

Think positive! You are love! ♄



ONE PERSON CAN AND MUST ORIGINATE CHANGE, but that person needs to be in a strategic place.

I work at one of the toughest schools in NC. This is my sixth year as an ESL teacher (5 of them crying 1-5 times a week). I felt powerless in front of the bad manners and hatred students projected against me, and their low performance not because the scholars weren’t smart enough, but because they didn’t care or lacked the motivation. I started creating mental strategies for them not to get under my skin, but inevitably I usually ended up crying on my way home, overexercising, and screaming at the top of my lungs in Zumba class when there was a move that emulated a punch or a kick. That was my strategy. Survival.

Administrators kept adding to the emotional load. When I was hired we had a good principal; then we had one that… oh well, he simply wasn’t a people person (which is somehow important when you are working with… you guessed it, people). I felt trapped between rudeness and a bunch of deadlines.

Now, if you are a pet lover you know there are a great deal of things we learn from our pets. Compassion, being the most important one. But what I have noticed is that our own behavior sometimes resemble the one of our furry ones. We look puzzled, like them, when someone gets mad at us when we are caught in a “bad” behavior. Like when Boomer, my dog, pees on the carpet and I yell at him pointing out at his mess. He looks at me puzzled and concerned, kind of trying to figure out why I am so mad and waiting for me to stop my little “tantrum.” Likewise we might be mean not knowing we are hurting someone’s feelings. We might make fun of a friend’s “ugly” dress while getting high fives from others; but when our friend confronts us with tears on her cheeks we look at her puzzled thinking, “What I said was really that bad?” And when they finish their speech we hug and console each other because now we both have learned something. We are seeing beyond our own persona.

Going back to my students… They talk too much, they use profanity way too much, they also fight, and bully others. And when they are caught and confronted by my angry expression, they look puzzled, like Boomer, as if nobody had taught them respect and obedience. They inflict pain to others unknowingly, and the sad thing is they leave their number ones and twos all over the place.

I am a Christian woman and forgiveness should be my priority. However, I hadn’t been able to forgive the scholars for their behavior and the “suffering” they inflicted upon me unknowingly (Luke 23:34 They do not know what they are doing). Through the years I have been able to observe that if we receive hate and abuse, what comes out is hate and abuse, which is the same as saying “Hurt people hurt people.” I was an abused child, therefore I was a handful for my teachers, but I couldn’t find the connection before. It is only now that God has opened my eyes. Fortunately, there is a cure against this cancer, and you don’t have to spend a single penny on it. It’s called “love”. Quoting my yoga instructor, “Where there is love there is no fear, where there is no fear there is no anger” (1 John 4:18 There is no fear in love because fear has to do with punishment). The good news is if you are one of those stray dogs who hurt people you can learn new skills or behaviors to find inside peace which will reflect in the outside. I am talking to teachers and students specially.

I don’t have any power. I lost it. I lost the power to punish and walk away during hard situations. I lost the power to hurt and feel hurt. I think of everything God has done for me. How he has stopped my tears on the palm of His hand uncountable times. My dog’s face gives me encouragement as well. I don’t yell at him anymore. If he pees on the carpet it is surely my fault. If my students curse, fight, or bully, I don’t lash back at them and walk away. In my mind I caress them behind their ears, which softens my expression, and they come back to push their head under my hand.

Dr. Timisha Barnes-Jones

Dr. Timisha Barnes-Jones

A new school year has come and I am in the same place physically, but thank God, not emotionally. We have a new Principal, Dr. Barnes-Jones. I feel overwhelmed with all the meetings and information received; however I can say with a big grin on my face that I have hope. We are being trained to change through the No-Nonsense Nurturing Approach. We have a new set of rules that create a CONSISTENT, STRUCTURE, PREDICTABLE environment, and yeah, school already feels different â˜ș

I come from Bogota, Colombia, and it took one man, one crazy man with a vision to make us believe we could be better. The city and its inhabitants had the potential and the responsibility to be better. Like everything, it takes a leader to move a multitude. For us cachacos (the way they call people from Bogota), it was that crazy Major Antanas Mockus. It sounds funny now but he and Enrique Peñalosa, his sidekick, actually taught us to put the trash in the trash cans, to pick up our dogs mess, to obey the street signs, to be careful with our belongings, to stop jaywalking, to RESPECT our city and the people we shared it with.


It is said that happiness comes within. That is partially true. The environment (work, friends, co-workers) play an important part on your wellness. I used to feel miserable at work and be a whole different persona at home. I didn’t even wear make up and wore my less attractive clothes to come to school because “they didn’t deserve” to see my beautiful side. Now we have a new leader. Dr. Barnes-Jones is strong but soft, she likes to sing, she has shared her story with us, and through her I have been able to see myself. Beautiful. Confident. Strong. Determined. Committed. I found a purpose where I felt helplessness. God is my Shepperd, I will not fear.

Keep the faith. Every morning is only the beginning.

Yours honestly, truly, and lovingly,

Kurma Murrain ♄



When I was a child, I was kissed by Muhammad Ali. In 1977 or 78 my mother was invited to a reception for the boxer at the Hilton Hotel in Bogotá, Colombia. He spotted me in the crowd, sat me on his lap, and kissed me as if I was his own daughter. My mother told me, “Kurmita, you’re going to be great because you’ve been kissed by one of the greatest.”

Living with my mother was like Christmas. There was always a surprise under the tree. I never called her “mother”, but I called her by her nickname, Mapy. And later on, just by her first name, Luz (which means light in Spanish). Just like that, she would lighten up every space by her presence, and her laugh filled everything like dew drops over red roses. luz flower dress

I wasn’t her daughter but her friend, so in this unconventional life of hers, her playful character, always seeking for new experiences, and love, I learned to follow my dreams and find joy in everything, following her name as well, Luz, which manifested in me in every way. So when I was 16, this “free spirit” left with a Spanish man to follow her dreams, and I stayed to live mine

I studied hard, worked hard, and fought for the opportunity to come here. To find my life and destiny in the United States. I was chosen, packed my life in two bags, and was born again! I came through an exchange program, and during my last year I met a gorgeous, loving, compassionate, generous man, who became my husband after a few months of courtship. The most beautiful future was awaiting, but… two years later at 2 in the morning, I was driving and crying trying to hold myself up. My marriage had turned from love to… ABUSE. My husband had kicked me out of our home. I was trying to think what to do, where to go, where I was going to sleep! I was devastated; yet I had to focus on the next step
 Where was the light? Luz!? As tears ran down my face, I started to pray, “Dios mĂ­o, please, don’t leave me.”

With less than $200 in my pocket and all my belongings in my car I started the hardest journey I ever imagined. My car became my home. I asked friends to stay in their couch a day here, another there, maybe a week here and another there. Still homeless, I was hired to teach math at a high school, and ESL (English as a Second Language) at a community college in the evenings.

God was good to me. He kept His promises of making me prosper and not harm me (Jeremiah 29:11). With my first salary I rented a room in a house; then moved to a single bedroom apartment where I still live, and write, and dance, and call light to my every piece of being.

The desire of writing reawakened, and I have been called to do several poetry readings. My poems have been published in the Latino newspapers (with two books released last year) and people have started recognizing me in the streets as “the poet.”

muhammad ali- kurma photos combined

Muhammad Ali photo by Benyupp on Flickr Kurma Murrain photo by Glenn DeRosa

I’m in a peaceful place where light surrounds me as the words of my Luz pound in my heart, “Kurmita, you’re going to be great because you’ve been kissed by one of the greatest.”

-In memory of Luz Amalfi Castillo Gamboa (Colombia 1950 – Spain 2012) ♄

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I attend Central Church of God in Charlotte, NC. A couple of weeks ago Pastor Loran Livingston spoke about Romans 13 and his sermon kept lingering in my mind. I bought the CD and have been listening to it in my car almost every day. Among the topics covered by him was thankfulness. And miraculously he ended the sermon with Psalm 121, the chapter God spoke to me the day of my salvation!

I lift up my eyes to the mountains— where does my help come from?2 My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.3 He will not let your foot slip— he who watches over you will not slumber;4 indeed, he who watches over Israel    will neither slumber nor sleep.5 The Lord watches over you— the Lord is your shade at your right hand;6 the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night.7 The Lord will keep you from all harm— he will watch over your life;
8 the Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore. (NIV)

ESL Classes

My children ♄

I teach high school ESL (English as a Second Language) to teenagers from Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Puerto Rico, and Vietnam. Some of them are refugees; some others came with the sea of children from Central America whose parents sent to escape violence. Another group is here because their parents came looking to better their lives and their children’s. God spoke to me again by putting in my heart to talk about thankfulness with my students. Among many other things, my students are thankful for:

New words, music, one more day of life, family, friends, my dog, my sister, coming to this country, being able to go to school, technology, God, the shoes, my teacher…

They also wrote, “Some people don’t have food to eat, but thank to God and my parents I have enough food.” “I’m thankful that I can come to school to study because I want to be better tomorrow and never go back.” “I’m thankful because all these things [girlfriend, Kurt Cobain, my friends, my parents
] make my life happy and I feel complete.”

This “simple” task however presented itself difficult for some of them who couldn’t think about anything to be thankful for. I wonder if they really have nothing to appreciate or if their lives have been so hard they are still in survival mode.

In any case, life has its ways to interconnect us. We are part of this ginormous web in which if one suffers all of us feel affected. I didn’t come to the United States as a refugee
 I was unaware of the meaning of that word until I was an adult. I just suffered in silence for if I asked for help I was afraid of punishment or rejection.


My best friend says that Boomer is now a vegetarian. LOL â˜ș

It is all in the past now. I grew up strong and somewhat wise. Like these minds I teach every day I am thankful for God, who makes all things possible. The food, my clothes, Zumba classes, friends… oh boy, what would I do without my friends, my spiritual parents (I even called them Mom and Dad â˜ș ), my apartment, my car, my job, my students, my dog…

People are beautiful, even with all their nuances. God created us with a heart to love and be loved. Looking at my students’ papers I remember my dreams about America and how America came to our lives to feed us with hope… which always could be found behind that line in the horizon.


By Kurma Murrain

America touched everything with her white stars and red stripes

My childhood woke up to the music with unrecognizable words that spiced the heart to make us forget our stomachs were empty

America, with her golden roads and running hot water

Yellow flowers turning to salute God, magic houses where each person had their own room and a bed with linens

America, with her missionaries talking about a man who died to save the world

How could somebody die to save us?

How could somebody die and save

America, her fire was the one that killed Pablo* and stopped the car-bombs taking with him the constant panic, the interrupted dreams

America, her embrace came at night and left in the morning leaving a sweet smell of roses in the air

America, with her coca-cola to quench the thirst, paper-mateÂź pens to write in our new notebooks, only if we had a neat handwriting

America and her Levi’s that were hand-me-downs from my brother

Because nothing was new for this little girl, except her old hope, and a heart of ice cream, gummy bears, and pain.

*Pablo Escobar; famous leader of the Colombian drug cartel during the 80's and 90's.