Reflections About My Best Friend

In Colombia (my home country) the treatment of pets is very different than in the United States. Dogs and cats usually stay outside. We certainly don’t snuggle with them at night and we rarely recognize them as members of the family. We do love them, and spoil them at times, but we have it clear we are from different species, therefore we live separately. They are companions, soft to the touch, we take care of them, but their place is outside, in the backyard, or out in the farm, depending on where you’re located.

Boomer1

Then I moved to the United States where people share their dwelling space with their pets using terms of endearment and worrying about their illnesses as if they were… people! I found it a little funny and weird that  people referred to their animals as “my baby”, “my lil man”, “my son”…

Then, I hit a bump in the road. A series of jarring circumstances ended up with me renting a room in a house whose owner was a divorced woman who lived with a dog, and a cat. And she LOVED them as family, which I couldn’t understand. A few weeks into living with her she called me one morning excitedly, “I have the perfect dog for you!” Was I asking for a dog? Did I ever show any desire to complicate my world even more by bringing a dog into my life with all the responsibilities it carried? “What? I don’t have time for a dog!” I responded unhesitatingly. “Oh… he is super cute, you’re going to love him!” She continued as if my answer had been, “Yes, when am I going to meet him?” And somehow her wording switched my thinking.boomer15

She brought home a little mutt. “Boomer” was his name according to his birth certificate where it also said he was a chihuahua. Apart from his size I couldn’t see the chihuahua in him. I didn’t like him at first. He was overweight (he had spent his past few years tied to a pole being fed with bread), some of his teeth were green, his breath was… well, terrible, and he was extremely needy. I had been emotionally exhausted for a while, therefore there was nothing in my heart to offer him. So, I looked at him and said, “Hey, I’m gonna take care of you, but I will never love you.”

He wanted to climb to my bed and I pushed him out every time. And less than 24 hours in the house he started getting into huge fights with my landlady’s cat where both of them ended up hurt; he wasn’t potty trained as my friend had assured, and I was angry that I had to clean up his mess every single day. Not a great start for Boomer and I.

Then my father had a stroke and I flew to Colombia thinking this was going to be the last time I was going to see him. It was a stressful emotional time as my father went through surgery and I spent days with him in the hospital and then at my uncle’s house. My father was okay when I flew back to the States, but this experience had left me much more exhausted than I already was.boomer23

When I returned home, I tossed my luggage to the side, I looked down and there it was, little Boomer’s face staring at me, wagging his tail just a bit as if being careful not to upset me. His big eyes so bright, his little body directing all its energy towards me. Only he and I in that bedroom. I couldn’t take it anymore. I hugged him as I cried and told him, “I love you” for the first time. Boomer had torn down my walls. Now we both were vulnerable.

We began jogging together so we both lost some weight, I got his teeth cleaned and though he had three extractions he could start chewing his food better. His fur changed from a dull color to a shiny black. I missed him when I was at work, and if I was a little late he was already howling claiming my presence.

We moved out of that house when I started to earn a full time salary, but we kind of had to move because the fights between Boomer and the cat made the landlady and I fight, too!

boomer11I taught Boomer to roll over, I potty trained him. He had a bed, but I never denied him space in my bed whenever he wanted to jump in. After a hard day, he was there; after an exciting day, he was there; when I was sick, he was there with his little face on my chest… And when my mother passed away unexpectedly he cried with me as he lifted up his little legs to give me a hug. He howled as if something in him had died too.

I never wanted to leave him, now that he had become “my lil man”, “my baby”… But I wanted to travel. I wished for the opportunity to live somewhere else if only for a year. I always thought I would take him with me. Unfortunately, the opportunity opened at a school in China, and there are strong regulations for pets to come here. Also the flight would have been traumatic for my baby, spending almost 30 hours in a kennel in the cold cargo, and being in quarantine at the airport without me being able to see him. That would have been too much for both of us.

For the grace of God, a family in New York volunteered to take care of him and I am humbled and thankful to know they love him as much as I do. However, there is no one day without me thinking about him and all the time, events, jokes, visits, trips, and adventures we shared together.boomer-in-the-park

I also wonder if it is too selfish of me to want him back even though he is being so well cared for by this family of five.

I’m still “stationed” in China for half a year more. Whatever happens, I thank God for the extraordinary gift of Boomer. I have learned a lot about myself because of him. Always in my heart and thoughts ❤

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.

Loneliness

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!!??”

Friends

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).

wp-1479047316454.jpg

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?

Boomer

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.

Church

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

wp-1477386653926.jpg

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