Archive for February, 2011

Good Morning Hong Kong And A Great Movie Recommendation

After a long flight in perpetual darkness I have landed. Still in the shadow of a 20 hour night, I am in Hong Kong. The sun is just starting to peer through the haze and over the mountains surrounding the airport.

Disembarking the plane this morning I was welcomed to the ubiquitous familiarity of an international airport with the slight tinge of the local flavor. In today’s case it is the magnificent smell of ginger, garlic, and soy sauce, and it made me want to hunt down an early, early morning snack. The unfamiliar script changes to a recognizable alphabet. And then there are those distinctly unique moments you realize you are assuredly in a new country – this morning it was the prayer room next to the baby changing and rest rooms with the same universal sign for what I guess is a prayer room.

I am well on the way of my adventures and wanted to say a fast hello before I catch my flight to Thailand. Also between naps I saw a great movie that I wanted to share during this Oscar season.

It is the French animated film The Illusionist and it is well worth a run to see it before Oscar Sunday. It’s a simple, stunning, and charming film for anyone who believes in magic, or once did. It particularly made me think of Jason and anyone who loves The Triplets of Belleville. It will warm your heart, lift your spirits, and in my case made me completely forget about the unknown time or space I was in.

Love in passing as I run to my flight,

Ra

The Illusionist

26

02 2011

Packing Life Into Boxes With Chocolate:

“At each stage of learning we must give up something, even if it is a way of life that we have always known.”

-Ginevee Australian Aboriginal

I write this as I sit in an empty apartment that just hours ago housed my stuff, my life, and well, me. Now it is an empty canvas waiting for the next life to inhabit its walls and fill its corners and windows with breath.

Packing went smoothly, smoother than I expected it to; it felt good to diligently organize and carefully pack my belongings. It didn’t feel as final as I thought it might but it felt like a departure from something and a freeing of something else. I could feel the sails of my soul unfurl with each box I packed. The day of moving was very much something else; it felt jarring to cram all of my belongings into a small room with a cement floor and metal walls. It felt strange to see the room fill and fill and almost expand with the boxes and furniture. I don’t think I ever imagined how much stuff I was carrying around with me, and in the big picture I am not a stuff person. My unit looks as though one more box would make it explode, like the button that needs undoing after a Thanksgiving meal. It felt final locking everything away, it felt like there was no turning back. I was and am doing this!

I hesitate to repeat the cliché, “I never imagined my life could fit in there” because if I have come to realize anything these past few weeks, it is that my life is not in a storage unit. My stuff may be pushing at the seams of a storage locker, overflowing and bulging at the corners but my life is very much with me. My stuff is just that—stuff, it reflects who I am as a person. It is comforting to feel surrounded by its familiarity and fondness, it eases my life with its dependability, but it in no way is it my life. My life doesn’t even fit into the two bags I have packed to carry with me along the road. My life can fit in the smallest of compartments and the easiest to carry – myself.

It was sad to part with my stuff, does that sound schmaltzy or weak? Well it was. It was sad to see the stuff that embodied the life I have lived for the past ten years in an impersonal room with padlocks. It was sad to return to my apartment that seemed to be empty and aching for the previous days of recognition. But on the other side of that doorway, a doorway I have never walked through is life that is full and waiting. A life that like the wind wants to fill the sails in my soul, but for too long has been kept at a safe arms distance.

Between the tasks of moving my life to a room that is smaller than my bathroom once was, I have also had marvelous and memorable moments with my closest friends. I had a brunch amidst my boxes, I went to dinner with friends at my favorite neighborhood restaurants – Zoma, Les Ambassades Boulangerie, and a new favorite Red Rooster Harlem. I took walks through Central Park frosted in a perfect white powder snow, I marveled at Saint John the Devine. I felt the very fullness my life has been and an appreciation for that fullness beyond what previously could be imagined.

And as I packed each day I ate a chocolate. Not just chocolate but a fine chocolate that my sister sent me from her home in Portland. It goes back to when we packed my mother’s house a bit too early for comfort or distance but with a task at hand. It was the holidays and my godmother had sent a two-pound box of See’s candy; we hardly thought we could finish the entire box when it arrived. But each afternoon as we met to sort and get rid of what only three months earlier had been our mother’s life, or what surrounded her in her life, we ate a small chocolate. We would finish a shelf of books or a closet and turn to each other with impish grins to cover the obvious pain in our eyes and say, “have we earned a chocolate break?” and the answer was always YES. We surprisingly ate our way through two pounds of chocolate in the weeks that passed. It gave us the smallest bit of comfort and contentment in the otherwise unthinkably hard surroundings. Just before I started to pack my own house a package arrived from my sister with a box of chocolates and a note that said “Something to get you through the packing.” And it did get me through.

I am excited to be in California for a short stop over as I continue west until it becomes east again. I feel like the RAvolution has snapped into reality in the matter of a day and I am so happy and enthusiastic to greet it, but for one night I am sad to part with a way of life that I have known for so long.

Love,

Ra

Photo Credit: Photo 4 by Jessica

17

02 2011

Soup for the Soul

This recipe is actually from an e-mail I sent to my mother in the fall of 2007, but it is one of my favorite soup recipes that I come back to again and again. The subject line for the e-mail I sent my mom so many years ago was the title of this post, and though I intended to call this something different, I found the subject line far more fitting.

I have just returned from a tireless week of work in Las Vegas, far less exciting than it sounds, and far more exhausting than could be imagined. I came home to face the task of packing up my life for the RAvolution. My body is weary from too much work, and my soul is frightened by the impending task and emotions that lie ahead in the next week and a half. This soup solved both of these dilemmas – it nourished my body with its hearty flavors of ginger, sweet potato, and cabbage; it nurtured my soul with its warmth and its essence of a wonderful past trip to Bali.

I found this recipe in the Moosewood Simple Suppers cookbook shortly after returning from a trip to Bali in early 2007; the recipe is inspired by the Indonesian Gado Gado Sauce that we fell in love with while traveling.

Bali is a place that lies beyond description but this bowl of soup brings me back to the small warungs where we ate daily. The flavors are complex and yet somehow perfectly complementary, they mirror the many experiences in Bali that combine and balance what in other places contradict. If I have ever visited a place that felt like I slipped from reality into a movie set, Bali would be that place. From the small altars that clutter the sidewalks and everywhere your eye catches, to the smell of Durian mixing with incense and flowers, nothing was familiar to any place I had ever been before. From the funeral taking place beside the road that we were somehow invited to, to the Kecak and Barang dances performed, everything felt like a staged movie put on for our benefit; but it was real, and I am transported back to this unbelievable place with each bite of the complex and comforting soup.

You don’t have to travel to Bali to feed your soul (although it really can’t hurt if you have the chance), but I do encourage you to try this soup and from the richness of the peanut butter and sweet potato, to the hint of spice from ginger, it is difficult to not feel just the slightest bit warmer.

As you feed your taste buds, I have added some delights for your eyes to feast on as well. All of the pictures from Bali are courtesy of Gina and Jessica, my dear friends and travel companions on this adventure.

Indonesian Sweet Potato & Cabbage Soup

1Tbs Grated & Peeled Ginger Root

2 Garlic Cloves, minced or pressed

1/2 Tsp Cayenne (or less)

1 Tbs Oil (any kind)

1.5 Onions chopped

1/2 tsp salt

2.5 Cups Cabbage (in 1/2 inch chunks, I used green)

2.5 Cups Diced Sweet Potatoes (about 1 pound)

4 Cups Vegetable Broth

1/2 Cup Smooth Peanut Butter

1 Cup Chopped Tomato

1 Tbs soy sauce

mung bean sprout (optional)

chopped cilantro, scallions, mint, and or Thai basil (optional)

In soup pot on medium heat, cook the ginger garlic and cayenne in the oil for a min. before adding the onions and salt. Cook, stirring often, until onions are soft, about 5 min.

Stir in the cabbage & sweet potatoes. Add about 3.5 cups of the broth. Cover and increase the heat to bring to a boil. Then reduce the heat and simmer for 15 min.

While soup is cooking, in a bowl whisk together the peanut butter and remaining 1/2 cup of broth until smooth then mix in soy sauce. Add the peanut butter mixture to the soup with the tomatoes. Simmer until all the vegetables are tender about another 5 -10 min.

Serve each bowl topped with bean sprouts and cilantro, scallions, mint, and/or basil.

That’s it and it’s like heaven and Bali in bowl.

Love,

Ra

07

02 2011