Friday, June 25, 2010

So Chaya

In the midst of dozens of photo albums in my Multiply inbox is interspersed a series of blog posts from my recently Vancouver-based cousin Chaya (pronounced Key-a), who is currently spending her summer in Uganda. Yes, Uganda. Chaya is part of a UBC (University of British Columbia) program that sent her and a couple of other students to Africa to live amongst the locals, learn their culture, and conduct research. She is sharing a home with a village pastor and his family, and on days when she gets Internet access at the public library, she posts journal entries recounting her experiences in Uganda. Some are happy, some are heart-breaking, and they all reveal as much about the writer as the world she's discovering.

I first found out about Chaya's intentions to join this program when she emailed me asking for help to collect funding for her trip to Uganda.
I was impressed with the program, but more importantly I knew it was very much her thing, so without hesitation I made an online donation myself. When I spread the word among our cousins and aunts, a couple of them remarked, "That's so Chaya!" And it certainly is.

There are some people described as "old souls", people who are wise beyond their years, or act maturely for their age. Chaya is an old soul, but she's also more than that.
She maintains a purity, an innocence about her-- no jaded angst, no "emo" tendencies as too often seen in her contemporaries. For someone so young, she exudes an aura of someone at peace with herself, and everything around her. It's this extraordinary quality, this grace of character, that sets her apart from all the twentysomethings I've ever known. And it's this serenity that shows the kind of beautiful soul she has, the kind of beautiful soul she is.

My Multiply inbox alone is telling: while the rest of my contacts are posting photos from vacations abroad and barkada outings, Chaya is posting heartfelt and thought-provoking blog entries about religious intolerance, violence against children, race perception, and poverty in Africa. Reading them, I am struck by my cousin's capacity for empathy, her generosity of spirit, her passion for life, her basic human goodness, and her awesome reservoir of love. She is able to find poetry in the prosaic, meaning in the mundane, and the blessed in the most basic things.

I have a grand total of 35 cousins on both sides of my family, and while I'm close to only a handful, I reserve a special affection and admiration for Chaya in particular. There's just something about her that draws me to her, a warmth and a genuineness that's easy to open up to. I suppose it's hard NOT to be drawn to someone who radiates such positivity. For several years now, Chaya's been based abroad (Singapore, then Canada), so I get to see little of her. Right now as I'm writing this, I'm missing her infectious, crazily loud laugh, and everything else that's "so Chaya". And though I know she doesn't want to rush her time in Uganda, I look forward to when my remarkable cousin comes home.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Snapping out of it

I am aghast realizing that it's been exactly a month since my last blog post. I'm not sure, but this very well may be the longest dry spell my blog has gone through.

I offer no excuses. There was certainly no dearth of material: I could have reviewed one of several movies I saw in the past month (Shrek 4, Prince of Persia, Sex and the City 2, The A Team, and most recently, Karate Kid). I could have written about being at SMX last June 8 to see and listen to Al Gore deliver "An Inconvenient Truth". I could have gone on a ranting rampage about the Boston Celtics losing the NBA championship to the Los Angeles Lakers, or the US drawing with England in their World Cup match, or those now-notorious instruments of international irritation, the vuvuzelas. I could have rhapsodized about the day of shopping and stuffing-ourselves-silly I spent with my siblings (sans the 'rents) in Hong Kong last June 12 (Independence Day indeed!). I could have given an update on my progress and ongoing love affair with hatha yoga, the current (and just concluded) season of Glee, and a certain individual with a proclivity for the color gray.

Granted, I was insanely busy at work the past month. Some of our managers went on leave, forcing me to shoulder their workloads while they were away. At one point I was doing the work of 3 people for a couple of days, and the stress got to an almost unbearable level. But whereas before I would find catharsis in blogging, I now find my solace elsewhere, which is both good and bad, I suppose-- good that I have healthier alternatives to destress, bad that I am not exercising my writing muscles beyond churning out work emails and business letters.

Worse, my blog hasn't been the only thing I've been ignoring of late. I haven't finished a single book all year, and we're already midway through 2010. Reading and writing are things I enjoy dearly, yet I now seem to be unable to accommodate them. I'd like to think it's because my priorities have shifted (damn, I AM growing old), but I'd also like to think that I can still find some time to indulge in
my once favorite pastimes. Perhaps I simply need to realign all the stuff I've got going on in my life to make room for them.

In the meantime, I do know what I shall be blogging about next, and I'm determined to publish it within the week, in spite of a pretty full work and social calendar. For the nth time, I am exhorted by that passage from The Little Prince that goes, "It is the time you have wasted for your rose that makes your rose so important." And I am determined to keep tending the roses that are my books and my blog, no matter how busy I get.