God Works In Mysterious Ways…

Church was pretty interesting as the pastor described how he witnessed his grandfather’s 50th anniversary as pastor in a ceremony that took place at some building on the outskirts of town. Now, as he’d become a pastor himself, his wife found a box of pictures as she was going through their annual spring cleaning. He decided to take a look before throwing them away to realize… that the building where his grandfather used to preach was the same building where he was standing right now, twenty-three years later! I thought that was amazing, completely oblivious that God had told me that story to prepare me for what was about to happen to me.

I had gone to a routine car inspection maybe 12 years ago. I was attended to by a man who handed me his business card. I looked at it and exclaimed, “That’s my father’s second last name! Maybe we’re related!” This last name is very popular though, so this might have been just a coincidence. We promised to stay in touch, but you know how that goes. In the meantime, he told his mother, who lives in Colombia, that he had met me.

Now in 2018, I am at the first Peruvian Festival ever done in this city. I’m strolling around when somebody calls out my name! When I turn, I see an old woman who speaks to me in Spanish. She tells me about my father, my uncle, all my aunts and cousins. She remembers taking care of me when I was little, she tells me who’s sick, who died, who moved, who’s had surgeries. She talks about my grandparents, their close relatives…

0722181609a650615323.jpg“We are family?” I hug her excitedly. “But, how did you recognize me?”

I lift up my eyes. There is a man behind her that she introduces as her son. “Don’t you remember me?” he asks, flabbergasted. I can’t find a place in my memory for him. He tells me I had visited his business years ago to get my car inspected. I was astonished. There are no coincidences. This woman, whose name is Elisa, her son, and I were put in the right place at the right time. So, I was related to this man after all?

Elisa continues talking, saying she has always asked her son about me. However, if she took care of me when I was little, why didn’t I remember her? Why didn’t I have any evidence of her existence in my life? No pictures, no mention of her name, nothing! She seems to know everyone I knew when I was growing up, but where was she when my mind started creating permanent memories?

She continues talking and I am fascinated. I tell her “we” have family in NY, Washington DC, Atlanta, and that I have met all of them. “What is your last name?” I ask. “Lozano.”

-Oh, that is your father’s last name then. Your mother’s name is Murrain?

-No.

-Who are your grandparents? Sam and Ana? How are we related?

-Well, it’s not like that. What happens is…

-Are we cousins?

She is quiet and I start to become anxious.

-How are we related?

I insist.

-You’re not going to believe it.screenshot_2018-07-24-21-22-37431033108.png

My friends approach and I introduce her, her son, and his wife as family. A singer is singing in the background. Suddenly the first notes of a cumbia song to which Eloisa and I scream at the same time.

-This is my song!

-¡Esta es mi canción!

She starts dancing, and with gracious cadence she stands in front of the singer. I go behind her, and everyone else at this huge place follows. That is amazing!! Her son is recording video and my friends and I are delighted. Then the singer sings another favorite and our conversation is temporarily suspended. At the end of her performance the singer speaks to the audience, but looking at Elisa, says, “You have to give me the secret of that energy!” And she asks everybody to clap for Elisa.

There is much more conversation going on with Elisa’s son and daughter in law. Then someone recognizes me from a newspaper article so I talk to this person, too. When I finally settle I look back at Elisa.

-If your last name is Lozano, who is Murrain in your family?

She stares at me as if she is trying to make me read her mind because words are too hard to be uttered.

-Ay, Dios mío, are you my mother?

She laughs nervously and looks at her son.

She clears her throat, “What happens is… I dated your father 50 years ago.”

I crack up without really thinking about what she has just said. You know, it’s hard to imagine my father dating before I was even a thought. But you could see it in her eyes. For a brief moment Elisa is 20 again… When I stop laughing there are so many questions I want to ask her. I suggest we meet after I return from my vacation overseas; but she’s going back to her hometown in 3 days. I give her ALL my contact information and she says she will stay in touch… But you know how that goes.

 

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My Journey as a Black Latina (And What That Represents in the New America)

I left Colombia in search of internal peace. In a way I was fleeing from the violence around me, but especially the violence nobody called by name, racism. American TV depicted black actors in charge of their lives, respected by the community, and even holding important jobs and raising beautiful educated children. Contrary to what our national TV showed. The few black actors were relegated to roles of servitude, always submissive without being able to look at their masters in the eye. America represented the dream, the equality, respect, safety, and a dignified life.

Nuevolution Pic

NUEVOlution exhibit at the Levine Museum of the New South

 

At the beginning of my journey I felt safe and respected, and I definitely made a better living for myself as a teacher even being able to help my family financially. However, things changed, my salary doesn’t allow me the liberties I had a little more than a decade ago, and I started to notice more and more that people wanted to define me by my race.

I am a black Latina, which seems to trouble many Americans, from the youngest, unschooled, and oblivious, to the eldest, wise, and knowledgeable. To give you an example, the first time I faced a classroom full of African American students (thinking that I fitted in perfectly), the first questions that came out of their lips were, “What are you?” “Are you black?” Perceiving my complexion as dark as many of theirs I thought of these inquiries as some kind of American humor I didn’t understand; but they were serious, even though they could see me, the questioning didn’t stop, and their conclusion fell over me like a heavy book thrown to the table by a college student after he’s received an overflow of information: I wasn’t black because I came from a Latin American country. (?)

To my amazement, when I applied for the green card, they marked race: white. The explanation, “You come from South America, therefore you are Latina, the boxes say ‘Latino/White, or ‘Black/African American’, and you are not American.” It may sound funny but after a long discussion in which I argued that I couldn’t  go back to my country and tell my parents that I was white, the officer conceded, and I went back to being black. Unfortunately, it happened again years later when I applied for the citizenship. In this case, my lawyer was the one who interceded and told the government official, “My client would like to be referred as black.” Then she corrected that information in my citizenship documents.

But what does that imply now in the mist of the country’s turmoil even though many Americans don’t think of me as black? If I don’t open my mouth nobody would know I am from South America, but if I do, would a police officer think I’m not black  and spare my life because they’re only targeting African Americans?

In order to protect my life I have stopped listening to loud music in the car, and I check constantly that the lights of my vehicle are working correctly, and if I’m having car trouble I try to make sure by all means to get to the nearest gas station, as opposed to waiting for a tow truck. The bare thought of having to interact with a police officer terrifies me.

In Colombia my brother and I were laughed at, mocked, and bullied because of our darkness, but in the United States, the land of opportunity, our color might mean the reason for us to lose our lives, especially my brother because of his gender.

It is like the KKK all over again. They are only finding more sophisticated ways to exterminate us. The Black Holocaust, I call it. It is the year 2016, after centuries of slavery, lynchings, and Civil Rights, and we still have to prove that we are equal, that we are human beings too! Why the necessity to create a movement called #blacklivesmatter, to make other people aware that if they cut us we bleed, and if they shoot us we die? Of course blacks lives matter! As fetuses lives matter! As ALL lives matter!

This is not the America I came to. We had a black president, a black president, being the president of the most powerful nation in the world means he is one of the most powerful people in the world! Because of him the American dream was elevated to a whole new level, not only certain things are possible for a black child, everything is possible for a black child! But, the dream only belongs to one? Only one extraordinary black individual reaches the summit, while the rest of us are left in the valley to die? We are in a Venn diagram where our aspirations and our reality overlap.

Hands to the Heavens, no man, no weapon
Formed against, yes glory is destined
Every day women and men become legends
Sins that go against our skin become blessings… (John Legend)

A few months ago I was commissioned by the Gannt Center for African American studies to write a poem for their BIG Jazzy Holiday Gala. It seems appropriate to share it during the present circumstances. The Spanish words negrito and negrita mean little nigger. Negros translates niggers.

Black. Innocent. Girl

By Kurma Murrain

I heard the woman’s words of love and fear telepathically

I felt her fear… so strong I had invisible seizures before birth

I still have them. Invisible.

I used to be called names about what I already knew I was

By pointing out the obvious they made me want to shed my skin

Like a snake… to bite them as hard as their remarks did

Sometimes I pretended I was a boy because my afro never hung down to my shoulders

That was better than being black, woman, and poor…

At least for a while I wouldn’t be those three but only two

My brother and I. Nameless. The “negrito” and “negrita” at school

The “negrito” and “negrita” in the basketball court

And the “negros [insert swearword]…” when we committed the innocent crime of being

Skin. Family. Neighbors. City. Identity…?

In my country they measure your value like they do with diamonds

Your worthiness depends on the clarity of your complexion

They convinced me that darkness meant dirt, theft, deceit, ineptitude…

All the same my books pulled me to an opposed path

I hung like a fruit in Alex Hailey’s family tree

Crying and twitching with every lashing on Kizzy’s bare back

I marched next to Reverend King in his fight for Civil Rights

Denied my last name like Malcom X

Sewed with my mother the “Sister’s Choice” quilt and with every stitch

We covered our mutual hurt and the friendship we put off until it was almost too late

I wandered in Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s Hundred Years of Solitude

And became my own woman by penning down In the Prism of Your Soul

God planted me in a house pot and I grew as a bougainvillea on the fence-line of Gaia

People and politicians continue with their remarks loud as the bombs in Paris

Although I am unable to find refuge in the muffled sounds of my mother’s womb

My late Maya and I know exactly Why the Caged Bird Sings

I didn’t lose my voice, I saved it to exhale this fire into your reveries.

 

 

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…