Drinks & German Charades

Hello all,

Today, I wanted to write about a little phenomenon I’ve encountered. I’m not sure if I’m entirely abnormal, but I find that, having grown up multilingual, I no longer entirely trust myself to switch from language to language accurately. They all seem to blend together, and I constantly want to substitute one language with another in the same sentence. Even when I reach a certain level of comfort, I second guess myself. During my last trip to Austria, I discovered a bit of a solution.

You see, I just need a few drinks and then my German comes out just fine. In moments of uncertainty, I don’t have a problem asking for help if there’s a word I can’t remember or simply don’t know. The not knowing is always inevitable. I mean, when you’re learning a language, who the hell covers things like “Help! The fuse blew in the basement”?

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 Sans drinks, I have a crippling fear of speaking to people like a cave woman, and by this I mean using improper grammar or inadvertently offending someone. The fully sober me will get ready to concoct a sentence, and then the voice in my head yells “THAT’S NOT GRAMMATICALLY CORRECT! Everyone in this country thinks you’re an idiot!” So I’m forced to limit my speech to disjointed sentences or one word answers. “Yes. The food is delicious. No, I’m not at all cold.” It’s quite telling that the one phrase I find myself repeating over and over in a variety of languages is “No, really, I’m full.” This can probably be attributed to the fact that I come from a group of  universally stocky people, who I’m sure secretly harbor the thought that I’m a strange human twig who’s slowly and deliberately starving themselves into nothing. No matter how much food I shovel in, they insist I need to eat more. On my European side of the family this philosophy unfortunately (or fortunately) also applies to alcohol. I can’t honestly think of another family where “You have to finish the whole bottle!” Is an acceptable thing to say to one person…on a Tuesday evening. There’s also half a cake you’re going to have to put away if you want to make it out alive. Try not to fall down on your way out to the car. Given that there are no  streetlights and a lot of ditches you can fall into, this makes this normal task about 800 times trickier. 

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One evening, after describing what an avocado was to my grandmother for a short period of time, I finally figured out that the German word for avocado was “avocado,” but with a German accent. I’m considering the 10 minutes of my life that I spent performing some sort of weird German charades a total waste. I wrangled all of my vocabulary together to attempt to relay the message: “No, it’s not a fruit, it the other thing… It’s soft, and green, and has a big seed thing in the middle. They put it in sushi!!” (Because sushi is a great reference point for people who have lived in the Austrian countryside their whole lives and still slaughter pigs in their yard.) This was all followed by me making the shape of an avocado repeatedly in the air, like it was going to help. Granted when you’re have two beers and fours glasses of wine in you, it seems really effective. 

Despite having spoken it for the better part of my life, I still find that German is not an easy language. But, sometimes, things are a lot simpler than they seem. A bit of liquid courage can help and not being afraid to fail is always a good start. 

EVA♥

Adventures in Güssing

Hello all!

As many of you know (or might have guessed from my last post), I visited my family in Austria just a few weeks ago. My last trip was in spring of 2013, and was a bit of a whirlwind involving a van full of friends and a trek across the country. Comparatively, this most recent trip was quite a bit more laid-back, with the largest thing on the agenda being my grandmother’s 80th birthday at one of the many the local Buschenshanks, or wine taverns. The party lasted until 1am, complete with a ton of food, dancing, and live music courtesy of my great uncle Franz and his friend Rudy.

 My family’s hometown is what one might refer to as rural. It’s not out of the ordinary for people to have livestock on their property, and unpaved roads are somewhat commonplace. Cellphone service can be quite spotty, as it’s so close to the Hungarian border that you could easily stumble across it without realizing. Güssing, a relatively small town of approximately 250 households, is honestly quite hard to find on a map. But, like most of Europe, it boasts a rich history, as is evident by the ruins of the 13th century castle that overlook the town. For me, it’s always been a place to unplug and indulge in some nostalgia. I ate my favorite foods and read half a dozen books in my grandmother’s kitchen. I know that change is guaranteed each visit, as my trips have gotten so few and far between as I’ve gotten older.

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Yes, they wore lederhosen. It’s almost a requirement when playing that much polka music.

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I try to appreciate Güssing for what it is. It’s especially quiet and charming during the winter months, when you can find Christmas markets in just about every town in the neighboring region. While we may have high-speed internet here in the Bay Area, they have warm mugs of Glühwein and roasted chestnuts on every corner, which is a fair trade-off, in my humble opinion. It’s very much a place to reset, indulge a bit, and contemplate life(or in my case, attempt to revive some very rusty German…more on this later). It may not be the most glamorous or exotic of vacations, but it’s special nonetheless.

EVA♥

It’s Just a Hat…

Hello everyone, 

Today, I wanted to share a bit of a personal story. Since last Tuesday, I feel like an awful lot of people have had a lot of things to say. My Facebook feed has been completely taken over by political statements, jokes, and links to opinion pieces. I didn’t want to write another one. I’ve had a very strong reaction to everything that’s been going on, and while I know I live a very privileged and safe life here in California, I couldn’t necessarily pin-point what exactly I was feeling and why. 

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It’s just a hat. 
Over the last 48 hours, the little voice in my head says that on repeat. It’s just a hat, it’s nothing to worry about. It’s an accessory, it shouldn’t matter so much, but it does…

 For those of you who don’t know me away from my little corner of the internet, there’s a bit of craziness in my family. And by craziness, I mean, we’re 100+ Afghan immigrants strong, with the exception of a few people (myself and my European-born mother included). Some fairly awful circumstances forced them out of their homeland, and now here they are, some 35 years later, calling California home.
 
When I was younger, no one knew where to find Afghanistan on a map. I would, quite literally, have to point it out to them. This quickly changed, and the world I found myself living in post 9/11 seemed decidedly divided. I stopped conversationally telling people where my family was from— I never knew what their reaction was going to be. As a teenager, my parents protected me from peoples’ more horrendous opinions of who we were. I went from my peers smiling and peering curiously at my naan sandwiches, to absorbing the awkward silences that followed the statement that I was, in fact, Middle Eastern.
 
 Last week, as I was dropping my parents off at the airport for a very well-timed vacation, I couldn’t ignore my anxiety. Irrationally, I worried that my father, a Muslim immigrant with an Arabic first name that no one could pronounce, and my mother, a resident alien since the 80’s, might not be able to get back home. I even joked about this with my coworkers in an attempt to mask a deep-seated fear. As they say, some things are only humorous because they point out evident truths: “It’s funny because it’s true!” I laughed because it was better than crying over something that felt like a very real possibility. I still couldn’t forget my father’s hushed tones on the phone late Tuesday night: “We are citizens. This is our home. He can’t legally keep us out.” Like so many people, I’m worried for my family, for those who didn’t speak English very well, dressed differently, and didn’t assimilate like they were “supposed” to. 
 
As I drove up to SFO’s international terminal, my parents and I debriefed their travel plans. I wanted to know when they had arrived safely, and asked them silly things like why their luggage was so heavy. My dad is always unabashedly himself, to a fault. He never hesitates to crack jokes, even in tense moments or situations. With all his stories and personality, my friends recently remarked that he reminded them of the Dos Equis “Most Interesting Man in the World.” Those who know my dad know his unwavering character and quirks. There are few things you’ll find him without. He’s always up to date on current events. He always has some sort of hard candy in his pockets, and he always wears his hat, a decidedly Afghan pakol— inside, outside, rain or shine. When my dad got out of the car on Wednesday, he was missing his hat. I didn’t think very much of it, at first, and he reassured me that he had packed it away safely in his carry on luggage. He suddenly looked smaller, not like himself. I tried to think not much of it when I spotted the book in his hands, written in Dari, on the history of Afghanistan in the 19th century. I also tried not to think too much of it when I took it from him, and packed that away too, like it was a matter of convenience, like I wasn’t nervous that people would see it. It was just a hat, it’s just a book. Just like a hijab is just a square of fabric. Something that’s, in actuality, just a square of fabric can’t be entirely responsible for starting a worldwide backlash against immigrants.

Today, I couldn’t help thinking of my dad without being deeply sad. He’s come thousands of miles, avoided several wars, and relocated his entire family. To this day, he still helps Afghan immigrants get settled in the United States. The people who are worried about their economy, about unknown “outsiders” coming in and threatening their sense of well-being don’t know people like my dad or my mom. Just as we don’t know them. That’s the fundamental disparity here. I certainly try to. I try to think about a place where people are so frightened of losing their jobs or not being able to provide for their families as the main motivation to look the other way when someone in power actively abuses women, minorities, and people in the LGBTQ community. The sad thing here is that so many people have come to this country to escape similar economic climates and discrimination going on in their own countries. We all fundamentally want the same things in life. 

But now, all I can focus on is my dad’s favorite hat, and the day he felt it might be unwise to wear it. It’s just a hat, but to me it represented a fact that I’ve known all along: that it’s no longer acceptable to unapologetically be who you are. Ironically enough, I had recently been working on a post on about not apologizing for yourself (“I Ain’t Sorry”), and now, all I want to do is apologize for people. I want to apologize to everyone who’s felt marginalized or hurt by the changes in the country over the last few weeks, regardless of your personal politics. I want to apologize for the grief some people have been experiencing. I want to apologize to those people who have experienced enough fear that it shapes who they are and how they interact with others. I’m sorry, everyone. To me, it might not be just a hat, but I’m hoping that one day that’s all it will be.
EVA♥

Redneck Jokes & a Fancy Hat

Hello everybody!

A while back I tweeted that my blog should be renamed “Watch Me WatchTooMuchRealityTV/DrinkTooMuchCoffee/Shop.” Not too much has changed. Despite my constantly running off to new adventures, from a thematic perspective, I’m a creature of habit. Ironic? Perhaps a little.

Which is why when my father’s most recent birthday rolled around, I had to take my family along for a return trip to Bar Agricole in San Francisco’s Soma neighborhood. I must say, it’s quite odd to wander around your old Saturday night stomping grounds in the daylight, on a Sunday. While it was quite a bit more of a low-key experience than my first visit, the food was still amazing.

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We started with this pan-friend bread and puréed beet concoction that was delicious, and an odd mix of Middle Eastern and Easter European flavors. We also had the lamb special to share, which was obviously fantastic, since I didn’t even bother to stop to photograph it.

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We ordered a few desserts to share, and they kindly brought us a plate of celebratory cookies as well! As you can tell, my father likes to close his eyes in every picture I take of him.

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The dessert at the far left was a rosemary panna cotta with meyer lemon topping, and the ice cream to the right was a house made orange sherbet alongside avocado-tequila ice cream. Sounds strange, yes? But I firmly believe it’s impossible to make avocado not delicious.

My father’s a funny guy, and very much two sides of a coin, in terms of personality. Growing-up, he was full of the typical dad jokes and watched cartoons every Saturday morning. There was also the occasional telenovela, whenever he thinks no one is looking (he doesn’t speak any Spanish, mind you). On the other hand, he’s a wealth of information who collects non-fiction books, mostly on historical or current events, constantly watches or listens to the news. He enjoys wearing his pakol hat everywhere (the kind of Afghan hat that was described as “a tea cozy” in the movie Amélie) and is mildly obsessed with the squirrels that constantly uproot all the flowers he and my mother plant.  Despite having come to the U.S. for political asylum in the late 70s, he has a deep-rooted fondness for redneck jokes that I will never understand. Knowing all these things, my mother gave him both a squirrel-themed and redneck-themed card that made him laugh so much he started coughing at the dinner table. He’s a funny guy, my dad. We’re fundamentally very different people, which doesn’t make things easy, but at the end of the day we have a lot to learn from each other. I can teach my father about his iPhone, and he can tell me all about any historical event known to man. I kid you not. Trouble is, I don’t even know that much about the iPhone.

Luckily, we both can tell pretty good stories.

EVA♥

Where did November Go?!

Hello everyone!

I’m sure many of you, like me, are wondering just where the heck the last month went. Well, it may have come and gone in a blink, but I sure did enjoy the last few days of November.

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This is what I was in charge of this Thanksgiving. Yes, I did an excellent job.

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It wouldn’t be the holidays without Jeb, the tri-pod dog with the amazing spirit.

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Awesome people photos c/o Kira Smith & Perry, the man in black.

My dear friend Maren and I. She has my back. We have plans to grow old together and annoy each other endlessly after our husbands are gone. There are twin rocking chairs on the porch waiting for us in our old age together.

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In case you missed last year’s Thanksgiving post, my girlfriends and I have a longstanding tradition of celebrating our very own Thanksgiving together. It’s been going on five years now, and keeps getting better. We make a mean turkey, using Oprah’s favorite recipe, and all the fixins.’ Friends Reggie & Jas also joined us this year, and brought along a fantastic holiday cocktail consisting of egg nog, Kahlua, and Jim Beam. This of course means that I did get to try egg nog for the first time ever in my life. It’s like liquid Christmas pudding, really.

We have an annual tradition of taking fabulous photos in front of our dining table, only to later put on pajamas/sweatpants and finally eating our meal. We also like to take some time and go around the table sharing the things we’re thankful for this year. I’m fairly sure that every year I say that I’m so thankful to be able to spend time with the family I’ve chosen for myself. They’re very important people to me, after all. I’m also thankful that my friend Xela (pictured above in the royal blue dress) came through a very serious, recent surgery just fine. She’s a very inspiring human being. In fact, all my girlfriends inspire me. Maren, my college roommate for years, is studying to be a nurse, and is definitely the kind person I would want by my side in any emergency. I’m friggin’ thankful that so many strong women are my friends, and that I get to spend holidays with them.

I hope you all also had a wonderful Thanksgiving. Happy Holidays!

EVA♥