LET THERE BE LUZ

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 mío, 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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What It Takes To Try Something “New” And What Happened To Yoga For Beginners?

Edwin

Lunch with Edwin Gil at Luna Living Kitchen

I had been following my friend Edwin Gil during his 365 days of yoga challenge. Witnessing his amazing body transformation I couldn’t help but think I should take action on my doctor’s (and my shrink’s, and my chiropractor’s, and my massage therapist’s, and my late mother’s) advice on start practicing yoga to slow down my racing thoughts since to be able to relax at night and stay asleep was becoming a tall order without some pharmaceutical help. My doctor also recommended it to manage my weight  (because of my family’s medical history it would be better for me to lose a few pounds to be on the safe side about diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, etc.) I asked my friend about his yoga challenge  and he kindly invited me to a “not so hard” yoga class called Hot Vinyasa. I explained that I hadn’t practiced yoga in more than a decade, but he was confident I could handle this class. So I went. Kyle Conti, the instructor, smiled as he introduced himself and advised me to follow the woman in front of me if I missed his cues. I started sweating almost from the moment I stepped in. It was basically a sauna but you are on a mat and with your clothes on! Oh no!! I forgot to bring a bottle of water! 😦

Class started with planks, Downward Facing Dogs, Downward Dogs on one leg, Warrior 1, Warior 2, Peaceful Warrior, Half Moon. In the meantime Kyle was asking us to breath deeply and slowly. Ouch! I couldn’t stop shaking! “Inhale, downward facing dog, exhale lift up right leg…” Ouch! I couldn’t think I could make it to the end, specially when he indicated to rest in a half split. How can all these people “rest” in such uncomfortable position? Ouch! Ouch! Ouch! I must confess I was about to exit almost every time Kyle spoke. I was feeling like one of those big turtles from my childhood in Buenaventura, Colombia. Grandma Nina used to catch them and after killing them, she would hang them for days for them to drip most of their fat. I was dripping sweat, fat, maybe blood, and I was feeling slippery all over. Kyle’s voice pulled me out of my little puddle of embarrassment. “You are the boss of your mat. You control whatever happens on your mat.” Yeah! I’m the boss! I’m here for a reason, and I’m going to make it! I took a towel, wiped off the sweat from my body and the mat and went back in the saddle, plus, Kyle’s playlist was pretty cool. I went into a trance with Purity Rain, Jessy Lanza, Kyle’s directions somewhere in my yellow submarine (you’d get this if you’re from my generation or the previous one ☺), and if I felt tired I just went to a child pose for half a minute.

Time ceased to exist. Suddenly Kyle was giving us cold towels to put on our faces and as I was lying on my back, refreshed by this cold item and its lavender fragrance I gave thanks to God for carrying me through to the end. Everything was sore that night and even worsened in the morning; however the pain made me realize that despite of all the exercise I do, there are muscles I am not working hard enough, or not at all; so I went back the next day. This time I met with Rowena. Her playlist was pretty cool, too! Beck, Matisyahu, Shanghai Restoration Project. Even though I was very sore from the previous Hot Vinyasa session, I was able to go through the asanas in a smoother way. Warrior 1, Warrior 2, Warrior Me! ☺ Still sore I dared to go to my Zumba class that evening and I realized how energized my morning class had left me. Irina, our Zumba instructor makes us (the front row) to do push ups if we forget the steps because the rest of the class is following us. I think I messed up about 5 times, but my arms were already feeling so strong I actually enjoyed the experience.

Dancer

The dancer asana with instructor Jaimis.

My third day of  yoga was another Hot Vinyasa hour for which I came 100% prepared. Cold water, big towel for my mat, and small towel for my face. This time I could even made an inverse plank! I was ecstatic at how the body works. Three days only. Three days and my legs flex farther, my arms elongate higher, my wrists held me on planks and downward dogs lengthier.

I wonder what else I will be able to do and in how long. One more time I confirm that you only have to change your state of mind and your body will follow. I’ll keep you posted!

Namaste XOXO ♥

A DROP OF THANKFULNESS, PLEASE

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?My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.He will not let your foot slip— he who watches over you will not slumber;indeed, he who watches over Israel    will neither slumber nor sleep.The Lord watches over you— the Lord is your shade at your right hand;the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night.The Lord will keep you from all harm— he will watch over your life;
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.

Boomer

My best friend says that Boomer is now a vegetarian. LOL ☺

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 ☺ ), 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.

AMERICA SEEN BY A GIRL

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… me?

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-mate® 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.

 

 

Are your dreams actually YOUR dreams? Part III

I had been chosen by an international program, at the same time I had found the man of my dreams (the universe was finally working on my favor on that one!), but the fake sense of happiness and completeness almost became my worst enemy.

I was heading for the home stretch. But this wasn’t exactly the easiest part. We had about 4 months to get hired by an American school. In other words, the schools would receive our resumes, including our videos, and they would interview us by phone. Then it was a matter of if they liked us or not.

Some American schools contacted my friends. They told me how stressful their interviews went. If they lost signal, they simply missed the question. The most nerve-racking moments were when the communication started to break; that made them look as if they didn’t understand English. Then they received e-mails that weren’t too encouraging, “Thank you for your time but…”, “Your resume is outstanding but…”, “We are looking for someone more experienced…”

However, there were also positive outcomes which my friends celebrated making big announcements. “I’m going to a school in SC!” “I’ll be moving to Utah!” “I’m going to work in NC!” I was happy for them, though I was crumbling inside for no school had contacted me… On the other hand, Salvatore made me so intoxicated that at times I consigned all my goals and efforts to oblivion.

My infatuation clouded my mind. I had forgotten to check my e-mails for several days. One day I rushed to an internet café and found several e-mails from the VIF. They had tried to reach me for about a week. One school in Charlotte, NC wanted me to join their staff. There was no need for a phone interview for they had loved my resume, especially my video. “You have to be in Charlotte in two weeks.”

My heart sank. All I had worked for had finally materialized, but I was in love!

That night I communicated Salvatore that the VIF was going to fly me to Charlotte pretty soon. His reaction confused me. He laughed. He congratulated me. In the end he told me that his best friends (Andrew and Cara Kay) lived there! That’s why he felt excited! We went out for drinks. During our conversation he paused to suggest to email them. Maybe they could put me up for a few days. Somehow I was catapulted from my love fantasy to my reality.

Andrew and Cara 1

Andrew and Cara Kay in their residence in NY.

When I contacted Andrew and Cara, I only wanted to stay somewhere for a couple of weeks while I adjusted to my new life (school, transportation, housing…) What I didn’t know was that this couple were the instrument for me to hear God’s voice. Literally! I, feeling that I was so free and “evolved” when I actually knew nothing. Longing for the boyfriend that I left in Bogotá while being showered by unconditional love and care at the Kays’ home. It was through them that I started to comprehend what real love really looks like. I had been believing that the million times I had felt infatuated was because I was experiencing love… Nothing farther from the truth. Andrew and Cara offered me their home without knowing who I was, they sang to me, showed genuine interest about my story, drove me to school and back for about 2 months, gave me much needed driving lessons ☺, came with me when it was time to purchase a vehicle, helped me moved when I found a place, and stayed in touch with me throughout the years, even though they now live in NY.

My salvation came on a Sunday morning the summer of 2004, During a service they invited me to attend I started to cry, and for reasons unknown to me Cara was crying too, we hugged, then Andrew hugged us both. I’m pretty sure there was a halo of light around us. At the end of the service Cara took me to a small room inside the church to pray the Salvation Prayer. I never believed what other friends who were saved had told me, that salvation was like night and day, until I experienced it myself.

The same day Andrew and Cara took me to a Christian bookstore to buy the Bible and 2 other books. That night, in the comfort of my bed, God asked me to put my socks on (I can’t sleep if my feet are cold), but I responded my feet didn’t feel so bad. I heard Him again, and even though I knew I wasn’t crazy I started to laugh at the whole scene. I got out of bed and looking at the ceiling I said, “Ok, ok, I’m going to put my socks on.” Then I heard, “You haven’t opened my books.” What?? It was past 10 pm and I had to work early the next day! “Open your Bible.” I was shaking my head, thinking maybe I had gone nuts. I started to unwrap the Bible, looked up again and asked, “Now what?” He told me “Go to Psalm 121.” Oh no, this was going too far. I took it as a challenge since I “knew” the book of Psalms could not possibly have so many chapters. I was going to show Him that all this was a joke and I would go to bed at once. But I found it. I lift up my eyes to the mountains / where does my help come from? / my help comes from the Lord / Maker of heaven and earth. Before the last word of this verses my eyes were burning, and my tears started to wet the page.

He will not let your foot slip / he who watches over you will not slumber;  indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. The Lord watches over you / the Lord is your shade at your right hand;  the sun will not harm you by day,
nor the moon by night.  The Lord will keep you from all harm / he will watch over your life; the Lord will watch over your coming and going / both now and forevermore.

The Creator of all creation gave me a Psalm the day of my rebirth. It was all part of His plan. God – Bogotá – Salvatore – the VIF – Andrew and Cara – God. This was always His dream. Praise and glory to Him! ♥

Are your dreams actually YOUR dreams? Part II

The wish of living in the United States occupied my thoughts, day and night.This was my position. Either I applied for a driver’s license and waited for two years to be able to be considered as a VIF (Visiting International Faculty) candidate, or I forgot about my plans and conform to a life of regret for not trying.

I called the VIF again to tell them about my intention to obtain a driver’s license. I also asked them to keep me updated about their seminars, program requirements, and American schools.

NY 2004-2005

New York Dec 2004 – Jan 2005

In the meantime I took driving lessons, obtained my driver’s license, which I notified of to the VIF immediately, and continued working at an elementary school, an English institute and a couple of universities. When the 2-year period came near I filled out my application hoping that this long wait would bring the expected results. Once I filled out my application I promised myself not to allow any distractions, which in Kurma’s terms simply meant that I wasn’t going to date or get attached to anybody. I was determined to succeed.

Well, you know what they say, “When you make plans, God laughs.”

The process demanded time, preparation, tests, interviews, seminars, the making of a video… I was exhausted from working my various jobs, trying to stay fit, and focusing on the selection.

They finally announced the group of teachers who were going to travel that year. I was ecstatic! I had made it!

Still in jubilee mode, a Colombian friend who at the time was living in Italy emailed me about her Italian friend. Salvatore was an actor/model who had just arrived in Bogotá and needed somebody to show him around. Trying not to be rude, I responded that I was too busy with work, and especially with the VIF. She insisted, I caved in, not without clarifying that I would only dedicate him a couple of hours, that was it.

I called him and we agree on meeting 45 minutes later at a shopping center near home. Little did I know that we would become inseparable almost instantly. By the following week he had practically moved in with me, though he still had some belongings at his previous dwelling. It was like the movies. Love at first sight. Incredible chemistry. Burning passion. He sang. He cooked. We danced.

Dating Salvatore made me reconsider my dreams. I would have traded everything for true love…