What’s past is past

What’s past is past

I look upon the Past and I am humbled. Whether by how far I progressed or how little I changed, it strikes me as a monument of hard laborious effort to which I can only bow in solemn respect. Yet, it wasn’t that great, nor was I that happy in it.

Despite every temptation, I can not linger or revel in it. I am a person of Now. The product of consistent and diligent sowing of my person. The present is much more satisfying, fulfilling; a testament to the past and a promise for the future. It is not without its complications but living fully, freely in the moment is a wholesome experience, integrative. Like my life had a meaning, my struggles valid and aspirations not vain.

I just wanted to tell everyone out there about that experience and hopefully, you can find peace in your life, too and live in the moment. I hope you can listen to the sound of music and hear not the instruments and vocals but the peace of your own heart and the gratification in your existence. Contentment is an underrated joy of living. Just being able to exist and be thankful for that. Not feeling overwhelmed, pressured or pushed around by anyone or anything. Not expecting an iota of yourself or another. Simply being.

Indeed we are human, and nothing about us is simple. We are so complex. Yet, perhaps, it is peace and harmony that are so furtively sought after that attempt at simplifying, or at least streamlining one’s existence. By doing so, we recognize our own complexity and our capability for piecing together a simpler actuality.

Advertisements

Heart, broken

You may think the title says it all. You’d be mistaken. The title barely sets the stage for it all.

It may be tough, it may be hard. But you must keep going, you must live on. That is the mantra I’m reciting to myself as I tread down this path and up that hill. There is light at the end of the tunnel. But there is no tunnel, and it’s not dark.

The point I’m trying to get across is that it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter what you think you feel, what you do feel, at this point. The whole reason you are feeling this way is because you need to get going. Basically, you are shaping this crisis for yourself in order for you to find your strength, courage and inner-magnificence. You will find your identity, the thing that makes you unique and stand out. But you must go through this first. I didn’t make this up, you did.

Obviously, my words are to myself. Also, they are for anyone who is required to persevere through any distress and calamity. Yet, there’s always hope. There’s an old adage saying there’s no heaven without hell. I don’t agree with it, but I appreciate the wisdom within it. There’s a duality in the universe. Nothing is perfect. As humans, we need the forces of integration and disintegration so that we can shed our old skin and re-invent ourselves, re-outfit our souls with stronger and more magnificent exterior.

I hope in this day, in this hour, you find the strength and valor needed to overcome whatever befalls your path.

In solidarity,

A. H.

Travel – Alaska – Day 0

I’m kicking off this new category, travel, by blogging my trip to Alaska. Buckle up and enjoy the ride.

First, I bit the bullet and decided to take the red-eye flight. In retrospect, I hadn’t given much consideration to the difficulty of sleeping, as I’m usually sleepy on flights anyways, despite never seeming to profit from it -on account of how uncomfortable it is-. What I considered, however, was the fact that it is much less expensive than other, more humane flights.

On the flip side, I booked the flight with an 8-hour layover at Seattle. The reason? Two, actually. The first is that as an explorer, as a traveller, I crave to visit new places; it’s the whole point of the trip. The second, is that I have a friend in Seattle whom I hadn’t met in under two years.

Landing in Seattle was fine (I’ll tell about my landings later). I didn’t get to meet my friend who was “busy working at crazy Amazon environment”, pffft. I did get to see this place:

IMG_0023

This is the original starbucks. The first of its brethren. Oh and the coffee tastes exactly the same, and just as bland as the place looks 😉

It’s nestled in an historic district called “Pike Place Market”. An area which is, as you may have guessed, full of cozy little shops all huddled against one another. From the fishermen selling their raw catch to the random store displaying its little animal figures made from ‘volcanic ash’, I found a little gem of my own.

IMG_0022

I haven’t been really captured before by that which is called chowder. It just never won my heart, until yesterday. The chowder house I visited, wasn’t the most obscure. Sure enough they were voted the best in 2015 (isn’t everybody?). The fame rarely matches the dough. In my experiences everyone overrates their goods (or other’s, in their raving reviews), I was satisfied it wasn’t the case with those folks.

My seafood chowder was gratifying and heart-warming, though perhaps they took the literal too far as it was served scalding hot. It felt as money well-spent (side-note: It’s never how much, and always was it worth it or not, was the value reciprocated or not).

This capped my Seattle excursion as I rushed back to the airport to await my long-sought-after flight to Fairbanks, Alaska.

Remember when I told you I’d say something about landings? Here’s the deal, landing in Fairbanks was also smooth and so was the connection flight to Charlotte. Suspiciously smooth with barely noticeable bounce and never a bumpy ride down the runway. I thought they must have installed new equipment to help the pilots or something. Hmmm.

Anyhow, now at Fairbanks, I was greeted by a smiling cab driver, Norton, who offered to take me on a trip to see the Northern Lights (I’ll tell about how people are later 😉 promise).

Usually, I’m skeptical about what people offer me at such occasions as they’re usually over-priced and as a traveller, you’re yet unacquainted with the local environment to make a sound decision. Furthermore, the idea of spending 4 hours in the bosom of the night with a complete stranger, locked in his car by the menacing cold outside, maybe somewhat unsettling at first.

However, I followed my instinct about this man, and took him up on his offer, as right-of-the-bat I knew it was good value and he had an air of “you can trust me”-ish about him. When I had first gotten into his cab, he inquired about my hometown and followed my answer with a greeting in the Arabic tongue. It warmed my heart for some reason, here I was at world’s end and there’s this stranger who greets me in Arabic. Nothing seemed more welcoming!

We agreed to have him call me the night after and setup a meeting to hunt for the Aurora. With that, my too-long of a day ended and I check in peacefully at my destination and slept without a thought on my too-tired mind.

Alaska – Day 2

Today I woke up to my host’s breakfast. She baked this dish of turkey sausage, eggs, different kinds of pepper all topped with cheese. It was a delightful meal and a healthy start to a new day.

Having seen the aurora the night before, or whatever you call the faint display I got, I am convinced my trip is not in vain. Henceforth I’m ready to turn my attention to the second part of the journey: Enjoying ALASKA.

I left the bear’s den after a homely send off from Sandra. I set on the way from North Pole to a Chena Hotsprings Road. Eager as ever and ready for more, I was starting my own impromptu adventure, just now. This is where the fun begins.

It all started with a dog sled ride. At first I thought I’d conduct the ride, after receiving instruction from the operator. Turns out, it’s actually just that, “a ride”. I rode-in like a parcel, dragged by a team of athletic dogs, Alaskan Husky breed. Furthermore, the dogs aren’t purely bred, they’re a mix; so much for that Hollywood beauty. Real-life is more “real”. Nonetheless, my drivers weren’t short on beauty, just different; and even more so on athleticism. To me it felt like myself and the other gentleman riding are not much of a load for those champions.

IMG_0076

After my brisk introduction to the scenery, I was promptly escorted to my five-star lodging for 2 nights, the yurt! I was so excited and moved by the fact that I’ll get to live off heat from burning wood, I wasn’t sure if I wasn’t on fire, myself. Being a city-boy for my whole life, I was sick and tired of the dainty, yet vulgar ways of the Urban jungle. Nature is far more in harmony than those dense collection of matchboxes, we call cities.

IMG_0134

In a few hours I settled down and made myself at home. It’s odd how the yurt felt ‘welcoming’ me with open, embracing arms. Perhaps it’s the rounded nature of it? At any rate, it was time for another nightly adventure. Food was of concern. Determined to make my stay as authentic as possible, I went out hunting for Alaskan crab 🙂

You see, I had the wits to ask a local tour guide on the subject the night before. The information I got was gold. I found the little nook called “Turtle Club”, about 30 minutes from where I was. Using GPS I grew bold in exploration, and driving didn’t seem an issue. I did spend a quaint amount of cold, Green paper notes to obtain what I sought after. And wasn’t it delectable?!

IMG_0101

I was finally ready to call it a night, adjust to my new environment and take in the change in scenery. The walls of a room had changed to the curvature of hardy plastic. The silence of a house had changed to the occasional howl of a pack of Huskies. If you hadn’t gathered this by now, my yurt lies right next to where the dog sled ride occurred.

Goodnight. Let’s see what the morning has to offer. With that I slept the night after living through yet another day in this unplanned journey.

IMG_0097

Alaska – Day 1

So I get up in the morning, and looking through my hotel room’s window I behold mountains on the horizon, white tops basking in the glory of the rising sun. A more promising morning could not exist. After breakfast and gathering my belongings, I descended to the lobby to officially start my Arctic Adventure. I had booked a truck, and now I was going to pick it up.

As  I waited for my cab to arrive, the receptionist was such a nice person and she was more than happy to share her stories with me. You see, everyone here has a story, and most of the time they’re pretty darn interesting to listen to. This girl, Ruby, embarked on a 60-day mountaineering trip, carrying a 60-lbs backpack, when she was 14.

Quickly however, I hopped on my cab and nervously awaited to meet my truck. Renting it has been part of my plan to immerse myself in the adventure. I was more than concerned about the road conditions and the fact that I hadn’t driven a vehicle as large before. My tension wasn’t soothed when the cab driver told me she slides on the road all the time and that I needed to deal with it. Surely enough, she slid as she took a left turn.

A short while later, I finally met my companion for the next few days. Wasn’t she large! I felt regret sheathed in bewilderment grappling with my mind as I wondered how on Earth I shall drive this thing.

IMG_0044.JPG

It didn’t take long, however, for us to fall in love. You see, as I was combating my rising panic, I noticed a teen right next to me, getting into a truck quite similar to mine. He couldn’t have been older than twenty. I saw him hop on, with a disinterested expression and take-off like it was no big deal. For some reason, that worked wonders on me. I sparked my engine to life and took the first baby steps towards my destination, a little town called North Pole (lol!). That’s right, where Santa lives.

 

IMG_0033

No half an hour later, I arrived at the bear den. On my way to the neighborhood, I was greeted with what I assumed was the dog of one of the residents in the area. The thing took no heed of how monstrous my ride was, and barked and circled it as if he was dragooning me away from his territory.

At the bear den, I met Sandra, my host. If by now you’re wondering why is it called that, you need but look at the following photos. It is one of the nicest places I’ve stayed in (and it smells great, like raspberries). Turns out, Sandra likes bears (go figure!) and if you’re concerned about that bear skin on the wall, it’s real, but it wasn’t a trophy kill. She hunts (technically, she used to, now she doesn’t) for food. Now whether that makes it better or not, is up to you.

 

After settling in and gathering my strength, I devised to get lunch/dinner. My thoughts were towards something ‘different’. And different it was. For someone who went to Mexico not too long ago, it was interesting to get acquainted with tamales here rather than there. I went to a place called “Outlaw Tamales” owned by a most lovely lady. She told me later her story (remember what I said about everyone having a story).

IMG_0040

IMG_0048

Her only son had asked her to prepare his favorite tamales for him and when she did, he queried why she doesn’t sell them to people. “No one wants my tamales”, she said. He then simply, and intelligently, asked to put for her an ad on craigslist. “No more than 30 minutes later”, she tells me, “and the phone was ringing”. And her business was born. She started selling from her Wagon, and “apparently,”, she says, “I was breaking a dozen or so state health laws by selling food from my personal vehicle”, that’s how the name “Outlaw Tamales” was earned 😀

At this point, I was getting closer to recovering my strength and called my friend from the night before, Norton, to inquire about the trip to see the Northern Lights. You see, they are not visible, from within city limits, unless the solar activity was high. Otherwise, one has to find a proper, elevated spot far from light pollution. We agreed to meet, and within a few hours, I was in his SUV and ready to be taken to Cleary Summit to hunt for the Aurora.

IMG_0043

As evident from the photo, the sky was murky. Not the best viewing conditions, especially for a week characterized by little solar activity.

It wasn’t long after we stopped that we saw the first hints of the lights. Though, even in its full splendor, it was still a timid display that night. To make matters worse, my iPhone camera proved to be completely inadequate to capture the introverted glow of the unripe ribbons extending overhead. It was a show, no less, and a better way to cap the night couldn’t be asked for.

IMG_0054IMG_0052IMG_0053

The Little Things

I remembered a little saying of mine. I uttered it a few years ago in the presence of a handful of mere strangers, while elaborating on life.

As it happened, ’twas at a scientific conference in Rome, Italy. I was an excited undergrad at that point, April of 2011, brimming with confidence and pride for being at the same venue as all those well-published and highly-successful academics. When the acceptance letter popped in my inbox along with the invitation to present the results of my brief research, I was over the moon.

The strangers, after being introduced, didn’t seem as intimidating in the least. In fact one of them hailed from the same place I did. After an ice-melting exchange I told them about how it came to be, my presence in theirs, and what I thought of it.

I said “it’s the little things, the little acts of kindness that cause great changes”- my exact wording might have been different but it’s close to the mark.

It started with a dream. I always dreamed of being out of the country; To see the world, as any smart lad. It formed a thought: wouldn’t it be wonderful to visit an English University! Thought materialized into action as I asked one of my professors who is English, Dr. Mark, if he knows of a way for me to carry research at Loughborough University, UK. As it played out, he in turn inquired with the head of the Electrical Engineering department there, and before I knew it, there was one professor interested.

I arduously labored for two summers there, mind-labor that is. In the latter visit, my intent was, as with the first, to simply work doggedly, learn much and enjoy my time. However, one day as I was presenting daily progress on my work, he dropped this notion that I must hurry in case I wanted to “publish in the most prestigious conference in Europe”. It left me dumbstruck. This man believed that I can advance what I’m working on to anything which bears this notion of being the most prestigious in Europe! Europe!!

It was outrageous and I heeded it no further, of course. Yet, as the final day quickly arrived and I presented my fresh, final results of the research, we both saw something there. Some material of actual, empirical science, a basis for an actual conclusion. It was not hollow, not make-do; it had substance and structure. A few weeks later, I got the acceptance on my proposal to publish.

This all transpired through a little act of kindness by Dr. Mark, who contacted on my behalf his acquaintance in the Leicestershire university. He, I believe, changed my life for the better.

The idea seemed to resonate with the crowd, as I got to hear stories of similar occurrences; how people came close to quitting only to be pushed on by a caring friend or spouse in the midst of accomplishing great deeds. Lo and behold, in retrospect they find their lives altered for the better. So the believe and I concur, of course.

The lesson is this, be gentle and generous, with those little acts of kindness of yours. You may unknowingly be planting seeds of colorful, fragrant blossoms.

ps. I am still, gratefully in touch with both Dr. Mark and the person whom I worked with, Dr. Chin. If I should ever become a millionaire, I would like to bestow upon them a handsome sum of wealth.

Faust

“In thy Naught I hope to find the All” – Faust to Mephistopheles

This is such a powerful quote that sums up the difference between the two. Faust, after his enlightenment, is steadfast in seeking the highest existence, only where Mephistopheles can’t fathom. The devil tries to dissuade him from his path, tossing the catchword “Naught”. That’s when the turning point occurs and Faust utters that quote, signifying the rift between them as Faust grew in wisdom and experience.