Visual: Tik-tiki!

Sunday, June 24, 2012

A picture of those terrible lizards that runs around the walls of our house.

Edgar Allan Poe on Truth

Saturday, June 23, 2012

"Thus there is such a thing as being too profound. Truth is not always in a well. 
In fact, as regards the more important knowledge, I do believe that she is invariably superficial. The depth lies in the valleys where we seek her, and not upon the moutaintops where she is found." - Edgar Allan Poe (via his character Dupin) in "Murders in the Rue Morgue"

Friday Fiction: A Few Sentences

Friday, June 22, 2012

 This Friday Fiction is (mercifully) short, as to test out the power of a few sentences - enjoy!

She watched the bubbles escape from her nose and break for the surface, making tiny rainbows with the light from the sun. It would be so easy, she thought, to just keep pushing downward and let all the air release from her lungs until she became some half-living thing. She would drift from bank to bank unhurried, making her way slowly downstream towards the fishermens' nets.

But she resurfaced.

Reserving the Right to Change Your Mind

Thursday, June 21, 2012

During the course of writing this blog, I have made many a life change. I started writing in high school as a badly-formatted public journal and then (gradually) went on to see it as a more formal way to publish my own content without the burden of a publishing contract. It's part the zinester in me and part personal encounters with the publishing industry. At a tender middle school age, I attempted to publish my first novel (pitching to real live agents, you see), but for the obvious reasons that was a flop.

In some ways, the blog has watched my personal growth in a very tangible way and stands as living proof of my thoughts at various stages. Most important to me, however, it has acted as a true showcase of how often I really do change my mind.

Research Wrap-Up: Asian American Psychology Project

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

I am pleased to announce that I have completed my project for the Active Mind Emerging Scholars program - check out my blogging over at the Active Minds website and the research zine that I made for this fellowship! You can read about my initial work, my process, and my full findings over at their blog.

It was a great opportunity to research something that I've become increasingly more interested in throughout this year; Asian American women and their relationship to therapy and psychology is mostly confined to classes such as Cultural Psychology. But the ways in which culture and intersections of identity relate to how people approach services (in my research, college campus mental health services) cannot be confined. They affect the day to day decisions we make about our own health based on many factors not just related to race or gender, but to expectations and personal experiences as well. As my research paper asserts, much of the work goes into making counseling and other services more accessible through recognizing that different pressures exist for these groups and finding ways to address them that better the infrastructure of the resources as a whole.

Anyway, it's been a fascinating and fantastic ride that has now come to a close, and I invite you to check out the proceedings!

This... Is... Capitalism!: Some Orientalist Views of Bangladesh

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Orientalism: a term used by Edward Said to describe the ways in which the West (US, Europe, etc.) characterizes the East (now also called the global South) as backward/subordinate in order to position itself as modern/ideal. Alternatively, the term can refer to an academic group that focused on the so-called "golden age" of certain Eastern cultures, thus rendering their current states as a fall from that age. Both of these definitions will be in play in the following piece.

I like to use examples when I explore challenging academic concepts - and if Orientalism is the term that I want to find examples for, I've come to the right place. Being in Bangladesh has given me many a ripe experience about how this concept, partnered with global capitalism, has affected society here.

I come myself with a Western view. I look at the markets, the poverty, the social norms with a viewpoint of "Yes, this is what the East is/has/does in comparison with the West." It takes a bit of time to shift my position and unlearn some of those constructs: the West has created my perception in order to point a finger and say "See? We're different than them!" and prop up/take pride in its own amenities. Allow me to explain.

My Misperceptions of Villages and Cities

Monday, June 18, 2012

 Last week, I returned from a rural village in Bangladesh to its capitol city of Dhaka. Left with my research and some photographs as the only "proof" of our stay, the view looks rosy: a bucolic local existence that city people harken back to. But there's a lot left to be desired. Too much has changed to make it the place that people remember leaving with trepidation as they sought their fortunes. I admit, I'm not the usual migrant - my view is certainly altered by the privileges I enjoy in the United States. But I also had some loyalties to the village and a general enjoyment of my stay there. I now believe, however, that my enjoyment masked a lot of the problems that would otherwise have called for critique. My misperceptions led me into a similar trap of nostalgia about what many people call their true home. Time to blast open that rural bliss.

Saturday Fiction: The Other Villagers

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Ok, so it's technically a little late to be called Friday Fiction, but if you'll forgive me a few hours, here's the start of my next writing project:

Happiness Is...

Thursday, June 14, 2012

- A room with pen and paper

- A good meal shared with family and friends (my current favorite is pullao with goat curry and potatoes; I can eat it all. day. long.)

- Cuddling up and talking for hours with someone you care about

- Watching your niece grow up to be taller than you!

- A clear lightning storm against a dark sky

- Listening to your friends make music, watching them make art, and cheering them on

- A book and some free time

- A busy schedule of appointments that you'll actually enjoy

Join me today and make a list of all the little things that make you happy/that you're grateful for; it can be as abstract or as concrete as you like! Often when we struggle, we don't think about the positives that surround us every day. When you're really down, it's hard to see how the light that is all around us. But it is there, and we all have something to be grateful for. Take a few moments today and explore them.

In the mood for lists? Here are some more!

Declaration of Intent to NaNo

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

All the notebooks I'm going to fill this summer!

Fellow writers (and readers), I've decided to join your ranks starting this week!

Although I've missed the boat for the official Camp National Novel Writing Month, I've decided that I'm going to make the effort to write 100,000 words over the next two months (or, at latest, by the time I return to school). Crazy, you say? Ah, but perhaps it's so crazy it just might work!

In between my interviewing adventures and exploring the city of Dhaka, my unstructured time has been given over to reading and writing in this all too creatively stimulating environment - so I thought, why not make a project out of it? Dreaming big (at least with writing) has never actually steered me wrong. Today is the starting line.

If you're curious to see what my novel may be like, check out my fiction.

Research Update: A Village Near the River

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

These past four days, I have been conducting my very first interviews on Bangladeshi perceptions of madness and mental health - I jumped in feet first with some of (what I consider) my most challenging interviews with people in Bahadurpur, a rural village in Kushtia, Bangladesh. These villagers spoke no English and often had troubles understanding the questions we had set up, even through the translator. Background noises of screaming babies and goats abounded and there was even a brief rainstorm (as it is the beginning of monsoon season) that interrupted one of our interviews with persistent rainfall on a tin roof.

Aside from the interviews themselves, the location was hot and the power often went out, making even the available fans shut off. Bugs, lizards, frogs, you-name-it got into our sleeping quarters (and onto my toothbrush, ick!). But we made it out alive - despite a very real scare that we would be hit by a bus on the drive back to Dhaka - and with some very good material to be translated.

Also, in spite of my complaints above and the other zillion small challenges of being in the village, rural life can also be astonishingly beautiful. When not working on research, I got to watch some of the clearest lightning storms of my life and see the bright stars at night, walk through groves of all types of fruit-bearing trees and play with docile goats (who act a lot like cats, believe it or not). I'll describe all this in more florid language to come in my Friday fiction (ooh, spoilers!), but all in all, the trip was a tiring, mildly stressful, but ultimately rewarding excursion.

Learn more about my research.

Visual: English in Bengali

Sunday, June 10, 2012

This sign says 'Friends Builders Limited' - in English, but with Bengali letters

A Quote from Richard Hugo on Small Things

Saturday, June 9, 2012

“Think small. If you have a big mind, that will show itself. If you can't think small, try philosophy or social criticism.”
― Richard Hugo, The Triggering Town: Lectures and Essays on Poetry and Writing

Friday Fiction: Hand (A Bird in the...)

Friday, June 8, 2012

Going with a trend on Twitter, I'm going to start posting some of my fiction work on - you guessed it - Fridays. Here's the first installment of a short story that I'm working on:

When the moment was right, Sera snatched the paper crane right out of Sister's hand.

Indifferent to the gasp and then wail of surprise that followed, she ran fast, the green colored paper shining in the glow of full sunlight, as she heard the clomp clomp of little shoes - Sister and Sister's friend - beating down the grass behind her. Faster! She sprinted, weaving away into the small copse of trees at the edge of their backyard, where the old post marked the start of unsafe territory. A broad grey cloud covered the sun. She could no longer hear the footsteps, but she continued running, looking down at her crumpled prize and then around at the gnarled trees that looked like goblin men.

Travel for Writers: 5 Ways

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Yet another list today, but this one a little more on the how-to side; having recently done a bit of travel, I feel it is mandatory to put up a post on the best ways to travel for a writer, from hyperlocal (really really hyperlocal) to global, travel can be just what you need to recharge your creative energy. Rather than continuing to sound like an infomercial, I present you with five ways to travel and their best practices:

Build with your ideas.

List: House Sounds of Dhaka

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

I was speaking with a friend living in Oregon about how Bangladesh is right now, and she asked about whether it was quieter here - heavens no! So here's a list of common sounds that I have been hearing in our home in Dhaka:

1. Prayer call at five times during the day (someone recites a Quranic passage over a loudspeaker at 3 different mosques in our local area alone)

2. Crows, crows, crows (cawing mainly in the morning - there are two that we've been particularly fascinated with who seem to be buddies)

3. Constant fans whirring (keeping us semi-cool)

4. Food-sellers yelling their wares from the street

5. Occasional street noise of rickshaw bicycle bells and car horns

6. Other apartment dwellers (since the apartments are so close together - we get screeching babies and the smell of whatever anyone is cooking)

7. A dog howling to the same tune as the morning prayer call; cats fighting in the night

8. Tik-tikis (house geckos) occasionally making their hallmark ticking sound

9. Cooking

Brown Female Chronicles: The Social Observance of Purdah

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Purdah: A social practice throughout South Asia that involves separating men from women; it was used historically as a way to keep men and women in their respective social roles and currently is used to varying degrees in contemporary social life.

I learned more about purdah in a class this semester. Western perspectives of purdah are conflicted - some take the view that purdah is a cultural practice that persists because it is woven into the fabric of South Asian society and others view it as wholly oppressive and something to be expunged with feminism. Indian feminists (yes, they did and do exist) are just as conflicted: what does it mean to uproot a common practice like this? To what extent does it need to be changed or eradicated?

The Shortest Path Home

Monday, June 4, 2012

Whenever we have the chance, my father and I dive into philosophical discussion. After dinner, before going to sleep, upon waking up (at the absurdly early time of 5:30am, mind you, because my body is still in time shift). We've been talking a lot about the abstract concept of home.

I've talked about 'home' writ large before - in relation to Asian Americans as a whole and my own South Asian identity. But being in Dhaka makes me want to revisit it yet again.

A Quote on Suffering and Change by Socrates

Saturday, June 2, 2012

"If you don't get what you want, you suffer; if you get what you don't want, you suffer; even when you get exactly what you want, you still suffer because you can't hold on to it forever. Your mind is your predicament. It wants to be free of change, free of pain, free of the obligations of life and death. But change is law and no amount of pretending will alter the reality." - Socrates

Bringing In the Rain: My Arrival in Dhaka

Friday, June 1, 2012

Last week, we landed in Dhaka, Bangladesh, an independent country to the east of India where my family originates from. It was a full 24 hours in transit - passing from Seattle to Chicago, Chicago to Abu Dhabi (UAE), and finally to Dhaka, which I must admit leaves you feeling a bit like you've stepped out of a time capsule. It is also, however, a very effective way to mark the transition from everyday life to summer. It is especially rejuvenating to be in a place that is semi-familiar, but also wholly different from my everyday experience in the United States. But, rather than talk about it from the outside, I'd like to instead share what I first wrote when I arrived here, a little personal essay about bringing in the rain: