Saturday, April 18, 2009

the eve of my last weekend here in this place

The drunk kids, the catholicsThey’re all about the sameThey’re waiting for somethingHoping to be savedWell I have been happy the past couple daysJust thinking of the women who’ve taken your placeAnd every night I think I certaintly won't ever sleep sober or aloneAnd then suddenly it occurs to meI've slept alone before youAnd so I pour myself the stiffest drink my stomach can standAnd convince myself to lay back down againI’m gonna lay back down, I’m gonna lay back down againThe drunk kids, the catholicsThey're all about the sameThey’re waiting for somethingHoping to be savedThe drunk kids, the catholicsThey're all about the sameThey’re waiting for somethingHoping to be savedThe drunk kids, the catholicsThey're all about the sameThey’re waiting for somethingHoping to be savedThey crawl from the oceansTo paint in the cavesBut I’m working all weekendI need to get paidThey crawl from the oceansTo paint in the cavesBut I’m working all weekendI need to get paidThey crawl from the oceansTo paint in the cavesBut I’m working all weekendI need to get paidThey crawl from the oceansTo paint in the cavesBut I’m working all weekendI need to get paid

why are we always waiting for someone to save us? why do we turn to wine and cigars to save us? i'm no longer sorry and i think that YOU need to stop censoring yourself and fully embrace everything that you are and desire (like a good friend once taught me). as you can guess i'm not the catholic.
play guitar if you want. sing if you want. fuck kids who say that you can't sing that song because it's not popular. crawl in a bathtub that's empty with a best friend and even let yourself to be beside someone that you care about.
if you want, of course.
my friends, this is truly the most exciting time to be ALIVE!!! if you think it's not than your eyes haven't been opened wide enough. we have the privilege to understand that we are the ones to change our stars and set things right. i feel a paradigm shift. do you?

Monday, April 13, 2009

waking life.

"Creation seems to come out of imperfection. It seems to come out of a striving and a frustration, and I think this is where language came from. I mean, it came from our desire to transcend our isolation and have some sort of connection with one another. And it had to be easy when it was just simple survival; like, 'water' or 'sabre-tooth tiger right behind you'-- we came up with a sound for that. But what I think is really interesting is how we use the same symbols to communicate the abstract, intangible things that we're experiencing. Like, what is frustration? Or what is anger, or love? When I say 'love', the sound comes out of my mouth and hits the other person's ear, travels through this byzantine conduit in their brain, through their memories of love--or lack of love--and they register what I am saying and they say yes, they understand. But how do I know they understand? Because words are inert. They're just symbols. They're dead. And so much of our experience is intangible. So much of what we perceive can not be expressed; it's unspeakable. And yet, when we communicate with one another, and we feel that we have connected and we think we're understood, I think we have a feeling of almost spiritual communion. And I think that feeling might be transceived, but I think it's what we live for."

Sunday, April 12, 2009

A Day for Solidarity: Sitara Achakzai

Today's entry is dedicated to Sitara Achakzai .

Sitara was gunned down by the Taliban today when she got out of her car.
The large newspapers use the term "gunned down" and as soon as I read that phrase I was frozen by it's brutality
She wasn't just "shot" or "killed" she was "GUNNED DOWN."

Achakzai returned to Afghanistan from Germany to fight for women's equality in the country, promote empowerment and encourage women to get jobs and demand parity with the men of the country. The Taliban of course being the Sunni Islamic Fundamentalists that they are, do not permit such nontraditional civil disobedience. Yes, defending fundamental human rights is seen as disobedient and even a large threat. Once people are empowered how the fuck are they going to be controlled?

<----- Women in Kabul voting for the first time in 2004. (Wikipedia)

I don't want to turn Sitara into a mere example of the work that still needs to be done with gender equality but how can people just disassociate themselves from what is going on here. Sure sure, a lot of people hate on me for being a feminist but it's not about just fighting for women's rights, it's about human rights.

Taking a look at Afghani women, western society (thanks to Time magazine's cover especially) thinks that women are mainly oppressed because they have to wear the Burqa or Hijab. Has anyone ever thought that maybe some women choose to wear it for their own religious reasons? Given, being stripped from the choice to wear it or not is oppressive but there is a lot more going on here.

Take a look at education opportunities, employment and salary differentials, domestic and even public abuse, rape and sexual harassment, access to food, water, health care. All are examples have woman subordinate to men when we examine gender in Afghanistan. (*Please note that this happens in many areas especially around the Middle East, Africa, South East Asia, South America and even keep watch in your own community.)

Sitara Achakzai was an example of a woman standing up to brutality and oppression by organizing coalitions with other woman and human rights groups. In the end she ends up being gunned down by the Taliban's Qari Yousef Ahmedi who openly takes responsibility for the murder. She becomes one of his accomplishments.

Then we have the most disturbing trend in Afghanistan right now: self-immolation. For those of you who don't know, self-immolation is when someone commits suicide by lighting themselves on fire. We all saw the famous pictures or video clips of Buddhist monks performing self-immolation to protest the Vietnam War but Afghan woman are doing this daily. They don't do it publicly to make a demonstration, they do it privately to end their own suffering. This is a huge embarrassment for their family's therefore, the way they die often gets covered up.

A while back (I believe it was International Women's Day) I read an essay from the Globe and Mail and the women were talking about self-immolation as a way to relieve themselves from the abuse and suffering that they endure in Afghanistan. One young survivor was asked what she had to say to other Afghan women and she said to use a gun because it is more successful.

Mass numbers of woman are pouring gasoline on themselves and lighting themselves on fire in an attempt to ESCAPE pain. So yes, while things have improved for women since the Taliban was ousted from power in 2001, they are nowhere near creating a safe environment where all citizens have the basic right to security. Rape reports are up since 2001 and that also contributes to the increase in suicide.

Women are also being burned alive in the Middle East by their husbands.

"Scores of women have killed themselves by self-immolation to escape abuse, forced marriages or other oppressive customs. As a widow, Bibi would have been on the bottom rung of traditional Afghan society — undesirable for marriage and unemployable because of her gender," said Heidi Vogt of the Globe and Mail. The woman, Bibi, that she refers to had recently walked into her house, poured gasoline on herself and set herself on fire because she saw no other alternative. NO OTHER ALTERNATIVE?!

Something needs to be done.

There has to be a way for woman to reach out for support and connect with others to realize that they aren't alone fighting their battles. Grassroots organizations, such as RAWA, have helped express discontentment and stress the need for reform but still, powers like the UN need to get behind them to support their causes or even their right to organize.

Who am I though? Here I sit, a privileged Canadian trying to understand another culture from the third floor of my university's library. I get sad and then pissed off learning about human rights violations but the worst feeling is that of helplessness.

Reform needs to take place to empower woman and children so they are no longer victims but autonomous agents of their own lives. I'm certainly not saying that the western model is the "right" model for it is just as fucked as any government, but when democracy works, things become a little less fucked and human rights more widely enjoyed.

This is also why I find it so hard to tell NATO troops to just pull right out of Afghanistan and let the country run itself. If the Taliban takes control once again, human rights will keep slipping farther backward. I don't support war or brutality at all; however, there needs to be some mediation and assistance given to grassroots organizations who are trying to build a more equal, sustainable future for their country. That may mean intervention from foreign powers. I guess we will see what happens when Obama moves Iraqi troops over there too...

Today I will remember Sitara Achakzai and encourage all women and men to show solidarity for everyone fighting for gender equality in this most unequal world.

Please check out

This picture Zarmeena an Afghan women who was publicly executed by Taliban in Ghazi sports stadium in Kabul on 17 Nov. 1999. (Photo: RAWA) ------------------->

20 20 20 4 HOURS AGO...

When I start to lose footing in the world I know it's time to visit my friends.
These friends are unlike the friends that you may have at school or on your soccer team. These friends have strange names. First names like Led, Explosions, My, Clash, Ramones, Sex?
These friends sometimes will scream at you until you feel something, cause you to take another drink because you know that they're at that level too or sometimes they just scoop you up and hold you like everyone wants to be held.
That's why I keep coming back to them.
Friends with last names like Used, Sunday, Against, T, Spill, Kids, Bowie....these friends read like a timeline.
These friends are the sponges that mop up my memories and preserve them until they're sqeeeeeezed and the vivid moments awaken my senses. (Just to be mopped up again as the song fades.)
I'm sober btw.
I'll admit, I wasn't earlier.
I haven't been truly sober in a long time.
That's a whole other story.
or is it?

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Bus Etiquette: Jeffrey and the Drunken Miles

On a Greyhound destined for Lafayette, Indiana, I sit cross-legged on the three-seater at the back of the bus. I figure I can withstand the toilet stench for extended legroom, a rare commodity. My best friend, Jenelle Molyneux, is sitting in front of me occasionally nodding off. The summer sun blinks over the golden fields as my milky pen loops across my journal’s card-paper. A man clamours out of the bathroom.
Standing a slim 5’10” with a wide grin, he pauses and beams down at me. “Hey, you’re a writer? I’m a writer too. Well, not really, but I like writing down my thoughts, yah know? And reading too.” I smile, bemused by his openness. I’ve been travelling for seven hours without talking to anyone. And I like to talk.
“Just a little journaling, nothing too serious,” I reply, looking back down. He braces himself against the seat in front of me as the bus barrels down the interstate.
“My name is Jeffrey, and I like people who can express themselves,” he smiles extending his arm. I’m immediately intrigued. I wonder if he is an artist; he’s certainly strange enough.
I introduce myself and shake his knobby, rough hand, surely not the delicate fingers of a painter or pianist. The deep lines on his face and his sandpaper palms show this man works hard.
His glassy eyes reflect contentment.
Jeffrey asks to sit beside me. I hesitate. However, considering I have all this room and everyone in the back half of the bus heard him ask, I feel obliged. His slanted smile and Quagmire chuckle make me nervous, but nonetheless I move over. Like any decent gentleman, he asks if he can drink his paper-bagged beer beside me. “Be my guest,” I reply. I’ve seen far worse on the bus over the past two weeks. I add an ellipsis to where I was writing in my journal and close the cover.
Having already travelled from Kamloops, B.C. via Greyhound, I had gained experience perfecting my small talk skills to the point that within 10 minutes I could find commonalities with perfect strangers. It took Jeffrey about five minutes to figure out we were both from the west coast. He said my “aura” gave it away.
Hailing from Alaska, Jeffrey knows B.C., and nearly hugs me when he learns I have also been to the Adams River. He’s heading to Cincinnati for work where he holds a senior position with a drilling company. Jeffrey chose to take the bus from Chicago because, “drinking and driving is too dangerous these days.”
I nod in agreement, “It certainly is.” At least he’s responsible, right?
Yes, the man that Jenelle, assumed to be “homeless,” due to his worn khaki shorts and oversized tee-shirt was, in fact, successful. He even offers me a business card which I kindly decline. I don’t want to encourage him.
“Taking the bus is all about the experience, yah know?” said Jeffrey, about 45 minutes into our conversation. He leans in so close I can smell his lunch of Camels and Budweiser.
Jeffrey then gets up and staggers to his seat at the front of the bus to fetch another beer. I feel slightly relieved because he was getting too close to me. Jenelle turns around laughing, pulling out the iPod headphones she was using to avoid entering our conversation. Just as I’m about to get mad at her for not helping amuse Jeffrey, we hear him returning down the aisle. He compliments anyone who looks at him, giggling all the way back to my seat.
“People are always sweating the small shit, you know?” says Jeffrey plopping down beside me. Apparently the bus driver told him to “tone it down.” I agree with him, privately amused because I made a similar remark in my high school yearbook.
“West coast, man, that’s what people are missing over here. They need to realize that there are more beautiful things going on and they have to enjoy the ride sometimes.” I knew exactly what he meant. Hell, I wouldn’t have strapped on a backpack and bought a 30 day Greyhound ticket to tour music festivals if I didn’t intend to enjoy the ride.
Suddenly he tucks down dangerously close to my lap, and cracks open another beer. He hovers over his drink with the guilty mischief of child who sticks Play-Doh in their mouth just to spite their parents. “I can tell you’re a free spirit, Kayla,” he said taking a swig. I laugh nervously. Two guys across the aisle look over in amusement.
“Thanks Jeffrey,” I respond.
“No, no, really, you are. You get it. Life, you get it. You must be thirty years younger than me, you probably don’t even know Led Zeppelin, but this conversation is like listening to [Jimmy] Page playing. Everything becomes clear.”
“Page is one of my idols. I guess I know what you mean.”
Mouth-gaped he just looks at me, then out the tinted window, then at me again. His shaggy hair reminds me of Russell Hammond from Almost Famous who sets out to find “real people wanting to have a real time.” Sure, Russell was on acid when he made his Led Zeppelin reference, but Jeffrey wasn’t exactly sober either.
We speed past a billboard that says, “Your mom chose your life. Pro-Life.” I shake my head at the backwardness of the American Midwest.
He continues to get drunker and consequently more honest about his loneliness and pursuit of happiness. We take a nostalgic trip back to Alaska and his adolescence of camping and fishing in British Columbia. I answer every question about my interests and experiences truthfully; after all, I’ll never see him again. Perhaps, that’s the appeal of bus ride “friendships.” You can be whoever you want to be, including yourself.
Over two hours later we finally arrive in Lafayette and Jeffrey gets off the bus to have a smoke before continuing to Cincinnati. He tries to help me with my bags, but with Jenelle’s cousin and uncle (whom I had yet to meet) standing nearby, I was too embarrassed to admit I knew him. I avoid eye contact to subside my guilt. I knew a lot about him and he knew a great deal about me.
Jeffrey ignores my social cue to leave me alone and comes up close to me. I cringe thinking he’s going in for a hug, but instead he whispers in my ear, “Life is short honey, remember you can’t sleep with a journal.” For a long time, I was offended by that statement but maybe he makes a point.
The bus engine roars alive, signally the end of the smoke break. Jeffrey stands near the door and I see him take one last drag of his cigarette. We make eye contact. He winks. People start piling back on so he flings his butt onto the asphalt, stomps on it, then bounds back onto his humming playground.
Sometimes the best way to feel a part of something is to go for a bus ride and see who you’ll meet.