My friend Sanwaree came over and snapped some pictures of our family last Sunday afternoon and we are obsessed! She did such a great job capturing little snippets of our life and especially Nouri’s personality. Having this chronicle of an afternoon is such a gift.
Athletes train for years, waking up early, maintaining strict diets and painstaking physical regimes for the possibility of a moment of glory. Physicians, lawyers, artists all spend countless hours on their crafts for that moment where they save a life, break a big case or create a piece of work that will touch people for hundreds of years to come.
Marriage is something like all of that too. There is work, refining, learning and adjusting. But there are moments that are so profound and so incredible, that is makes all of the difficulties easily worth it. There are the great moments together, moving to a new country, traveling the world, reaching milestones or welcoming a new life. And there are the greater moments, talking about insecurities and fears in the dark at night, having breakfast we made together in the garden, picking out groceries, singing together in the car, talking about our past and our future. There is an easy feeling. Like sitting besides a creek in the middle of nowhere and a light breeze is in the air. And that moment is, for a little while, all that exists. The years have taught me that love can be as calm and still as that feeling and it is a lesson I am grateful for.
Happy anniversary, saathi. Let’s take a walk down memory lane.
The Financial Times recently published a piece on how fiction has ruined love and I wanted to take a moment to write about why I think the article is utter crap.
The author uses selective bias to highlight films and books that talk about just one stage of love and if you were to look at just those examples and not be a free-thinking person, then I guess literature could ‘ruin’ love for you. I think the quote that people would not have fallen in love had they not heard of such a thing is ridiculous. Love is such a primal thing, from the love a parent has for a child to the first flickering of love we feel as children and adolescents. And although our culture and environment helps to shape our conception of love, I would need to a read a stronger argument that it is art that primarily shapes how we love before subscribing to it.
One stage of love is certainly domesticity but to say that stage must lack passion, excitement, deep bonding and much more is ridiculous. If that were the case, wouldn’t everyone just be running around having affairs or just be terribly miserable? Certainly, both of those scenarios exist, but to think that must be the norm is terribly pessimistic.
The author uses Emma Bovary as an example of someone who has high expectations of love, and then feels burdened and disappointed by the mundaness of domestic life. But the things he describes are all really great things. To be able to cook with your spouse and eat delicious meals together. To talk about your day and reflect on the life you are building together, to experience the miracle of bringing children into the world and then see them grow up. These things can all evoke passion, excitement and deep bonding.
I don’t buy that romance does not exist inherently in modern domestic life. It is dangerous to buy into this line of thinking because then we settle for unhappiness in our lives. Maybe I am delusional but I am incredibly happy in my domestic life. I’m not saying this from a point of defensiveness or of bragging but because I’m sick of hearing the counter culture lie that as we get married or have families that life becomes this oppressive burden without hope or adventure.
To the extent that capitalism is at odds with romanticism, that is a result of our personal choices. There are many studies that show that people who make $75,000 an year reach a peak of happiness that comes from money and beyond that more money does not equate to more happiness. I think most of us can easily find jobs that we make that much money for a reasonable work/life balance. Getting 5-7 hours with your family every evening is plenty of time to enjoy leisurely meals, go on walks, have meaningful conversations and form a deep bond. Or even to sit by waterfalls, if that is your thing.
This presumption that to participate in a capitalist society means being destined to a fate of worrying about petty work issues and work dramas is offensive to our autonomy. We get to decide what careers we pursue, what jobs we take, the types of people we work with and so forth. To say we are destined to misery through our jobs is ridiculous. Sure, if you want to be the CEO of X company or big shot lawyer/doctor/businessmen, etc., you probably will have to make a lot of sacrifices and deal with a lot of crap. But the hope would be that if you value that thing so much, then you value it more than the things you are sacrificing for it. If you don’t value it more than meaningful social relationships, family life or free time, then you should probably pursue another life course. To the extent that you don’t pursue another life course, it is not because of what you read in a book, or what your community expects of you but because of a shortcoming in yourself that you have to own up to. You can’t have it both ways. You can’t say that you are destined to this life of misery when you are making all the choices that lead you down that road. I feel the great defect of people in my generation is that they are not willing to own up to the choices they make and the consequences they lead to. If you are too cowardly or too lazy to live the life and create the life you want, then you have to take accountability for your own unhappiness or dissatisfaction.
The author notes that when the relationship really begins, the film or novel ends. That is because he is just giving examples of films and novels that depict one stage of love or relationships. That beginning, lust filled stage, which I think is a wonderful stage and I hope everyone gets to experience it. But to want that indefinitely seems so immature and one dimensional. Don’t you want to evolve in a relationship so it is not all discovering but also knowing? Knowing a person’s history, likes and dislikes? Knowing that you have carved a path together?
The author talks about children being missing from stories and then goes on to describe having children as something that puts couples under “unbearable strain”. Although that is a whole different post, I take great offense to this narrative that having children is a great burden that makes people miserable. Certainly, I know many miserable parents, but many of them have no one to blame but themselves for this misery. Whether it was not stopping to have an honest discussion with themselves or their partners about whether they really wanted to take on the great responsibility of being parents or once having children, if they are raising them with awareness and intention.
The example in Before Sunrise is something many of us who have traveled have experienced. You meet someone briefly and the connection can be intense and meaningful and sometimes even goes back to your regular life. It is a wonderful thing and I have many lifelong friends from such interactions. At the same time, you couldn’t and wouldn’t want to live your life at that heightened level of connection all the time. Like with nature, with human interactions, we need an ebb an flow.
Ultimately, love and life are two precious things and to the extent that we want to point the finger of blame on them being ruined, we can only point it ourselves. We are the architects of our happiness… or unhappiness. To say otherwise is disingenuous and self-destructive.
Most of our time in Colombia was spent with our tour group. It was our first time doing a vacation like this and overall, I think I would do it again. A tour group will indefinitely have a variety of personalities who all bring their own level of entertainment to the experience.
I’ve been meaning to write a great post about all our adventures and my feelings throughout the trip but if I keep waiting to do that, this post will never go up so instead, here is a photo dump with commentary thrown in.
As you may be able to guess, the next two pictures are from the Gold Museum. Although I found this museum generally boring, there were some really beautiful displays.
There was a Turkish guy in our group who was just going for it with the different street food. It was inspiring to see him wanting to try everything. His thought was, “When else are you going to get the chance to try this particular thing? Go for it!” We were wise to follow his lead.
Make your own candy waffles (no idea on the real name) on the side of the road.
The Botero Museum- I liked this a lot more than the Gold Museum. Beautiful architecture and some very fun pieces.
No trip is complete without some good reading. I found the Martian a bit technical but still good. Career Evil was so gruesome! Definitely my least favorite in this detective series.
Bogota by night. We were a few blocks from a really swanky area. It was fun walking around but these shops were wayy out of our price range. We found a great little Food Truck lot and then… we went and watched Star Wars! We were exhausted after a long day and nothing sounded better than sitting back and watching a movie. Since I’m not a big Star Wars fanatic, I just watched the movie for basic entertainment value and it delivered on that front.
The next day we had a very early morning as we made our way to Cartagena. We stayed at the Hotel Caribe where some Obama staffers also notoriously stayed. Despite its sordid history, the hotel was beautiful.
We had lunch in this charming Middle Eastern restaurant (with very subpar food).
Fort in the old city.
When I saw all the trinkets while we were there, I thought they were a bit gaudy and didn’t end up getting any. Now that I’m looking at the pictures, I really wish I had!
And how did I pass up these kicks?!
There were beautiful lights all over the city.
We kept seeing lots of local people eating this dish and finally found a courtyard where there were endless tables selling it. We pulled a chair up to a plastic table and ate as some people danced in the middle of the courtyard.
A breakfast guest.
An early morning canoe trip through the mangroves.
Followed by fresh coconut water.
And some fresh coconut meat.
Our guide asked us if we wanted to have lunch on the beach. Fresh lobsters and crabs from the sea? Um, yes!
The feast was worth the wait.
Even the food courts had stunning views.
Got to spend some quality time on the beach. We lounged, avoided getting massages and read until it started to get chilly in the evening. Then we took a walk and welcomed the sunset.
We finished our stay with a cab back to the old city to have dinner in a courtyard across a beautiful church. We watched a couple get married, musicians playing instruments and children running around. The sunset and the romantic dinner were such a perfect cap to our quick but wonderful stay in Colombia.
How was your New Year’s Eve? I went over to a neighbor’s house for a fun party and it was awesome to have a two minute commute walking home when it was all said and done. If this weekend was any indication of things to come, it is going to be an awesome year! On Friday, we went to a birthday party for our dear friends’ daughters and later we met up with my cousins who were in town from New Jersey and Michigan. It was such great day of spending time with great people and watching Nouri have fun discovering new houses and people. Saturday we had a family day filled with pancake breakfast, shopping and hanging out at and on Sunday we had some more friends over. It was a perfect weekend full of people we care about. Hoping there is much more of that in 2016!
Now, back to Colombia! I wanted to share some pictures and will do that over a few posts.
Our trip was just five days and was in and out. It’s hard to know what we would do in the future, but five days is too short for a good holiday! But the idea of being away from Nouri longer than that is also hard to swallow. Maybe the best compromise is to take a nanny (er, Khala) with you on vacation? Then you can do the things that aren’t as kid friendly but still get to cuddle them at night?
When I was looking at our pictures, a few broad categories jumped out to me- one of them being COLOR. There were so many beautiful pictures of the vibrant buildings that were all over Bogota and Cartagena, the two cities that we visited.
A walk through Bogota quickly reveals the rich graffiti culture in the city. Artists have actually relocated to Bogota from all over the world to share their craft on the building walls. Police do not fine or remove the artist’s work and the artists have a code among each other not to paint over someone else’s work. The result is stunning political, comedic and historic pieces throughout the city.
Cartagena’s caribbean vibe is very different from Bogota but it too pops with color and architectural treasures. The Colonial era old town is full of narrow streets and beautiful structures with integrate balconies and doors in beautifully preserved or restored buildings.
Here are some pictures of the buildings in the two cities. Can you tell which city you are looking at?