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letter #8: nothing here is subtle: the adventures of ola y chau

Dear Ola,

I still cannot write. But i wanted to share. I am trying to sit with my emotions but that remains a challenge. I know it is an exercise in itself and maybe some contemplation of the regular and the mundane will help. The repeating.

September 9th

I do not know how long i will sit on this balcony for. A few more months, a year? I do not know. The sun just announced her departure, its light made gentle broken through the clouds, new dark and large clouds that hint at rain that will never fall. And I smiled for her, for the pleasure it was sharing with me, for the warmth and promise. For a moment, I was present. Here. I struggled against getting up and getting busy with whatever and pushed myself to sit here for a moment longer and be. And for a few minutes, maybe as long as ten, I succeeded. My relationship to this balcony describes my departure from my hometown, my immigration. Like many others around me, yesterday now and tomorrow, I have left. It is almost a decade that marks this leaving. What does leaving look like when one is physically in the place one has left? What does it mean? I would love to sit with that and play with it but all I am is unfocused. Passing time. Taking on jobs. Answering the question “are you back?” with anxiety and a silly vagueness. My balcony. Is this my balcony? Let me tell you about the balcony. It is west facing so it receives the afternoon sun and the evening winds. It overlooks a failing restaurant with a terribly annoying water pump and large screen displaying a desperate attempt at bringing in business. It also overlooks the Abdali project an overwhelmingly huge project that remains mostly empty, in the distance are the twin towers of the 6th circle, all these towers tell the story of an arrogance with no pride, a mess of a city more poor and less tolerant. After many months, I decided the plants could not wait any longer, I could not make up my mind about imagining the future and maybe I do not even want to but, plants must come. I count 7 pots: a couple of succulents, a bougainvillea, a blue jasmine, lemon verbena, and a foreign oleander. I am growing to love them, and to love my balcony for them. I answered my own “what do i do with them when i travel, go away?” with “I will give the plants a new home, my mom’s perhaps.”

The plants are growing, and I see new flowers blue jasmines and cute pink oleander buds and fresh bougainvillea and I am made happy. I am not sure where I will but now I am here.

A different day all together, a new week


It is now a quarter to seven in the morning. During the months of the summer, I am often woken up somewhere between 6:45 and 7 with the strong sun through the window. I can feel it in my eyes so I move to the edge of the bed hiding but it still finds my legs.

I am early this morning because I have a flight to catch and I want my time with my coffee and book.

I am reading and the sun is almost out, all light and a breeze ventures into the room and brings with it a soft pleasure climbs up my legs and arrives at my nose with a whiff of cigarette smoke and I think this is what Amman smells like.

And I am immediately transported to remembering what San Francisco smelled like and I think of the rotting wood and musty smells of the old house. They talk of creeping mold there, with the humidity and wet, something I never bothered with growing up in a dry environment.

I called the gas company one late night in San Francisco after my sleep was ruptured with an overwhelming smell of a gas leak. That was when I learned what skunk smells like.

Amman is also jasmine and colonia. And hysterical doses of perfume. And falafel.

Nothing here is subtle.



هذه المدوّنة هي جزء من المراسلات بين علا وديالا توثّق مغامرات أولى إي تشاو

This blog post is part of the correspondence between Ola and Diala documenting The Adventure of Ola y Chau

For more information | للمزيد من المعلومات

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