Saturday, April 21, 2012

To Human is to Connect

In my last post I was in beautiful Vietnam. Over a month has passed since I've been back home and only recently have I felt like I've readjusted to my regular life. The trip was only 2 weeks long, but the experience of the journey and the impression it has made on me is probably stamped upon me forever. I did so much in those two weeks that I feel like I was there much longer (and I have about 5 Facebook albums filled with pictures to prove it, and I STILL haven't uploaded all of them!).
seriously, that's too many damn pictures
From Saigon to Hanoi, and so much in between I built homes, danced with local dancers in a jungle around a roaring bonfire, spent a weekend in one of the most beautiful cities I have ever seen in my life, a city so full of lights and floating lanterns that I had to convince myself that I was truly awake and not dreaming during my time there. I swam in the South China Sea, so warm, blue and calming. I took a 15 hour train ride from Central Vietnam to the capital, Hanoi, where I was able to take in Vietnam's coastline, mountains, rice paddies, villages, cities and temples. I kayaked through jutting rock formations rising up from the depths of the ocean in Halong Bay, a smattering of over 3,000 islands in the Gulf of Tonkin. I spent time the last leg of my trip in Hanoi, which was as cold as Oakland, where I met up with friends of friends who showed me around town and had the opportunity to take photos in an orphanage for developmentally disabled children, many living with the effects of Agent Orange. It was great, beautiful, overwhelming, it was all of that.

Oh Vietnam, you are SO beautiful
Yet I was happy to come home, I missed my bed, I missed my cat, I missed knowing my way around a place. I missed my friends and my life. Getting back to my life was like trying to jump onto a treadmill already on full speed. Is it possible to feel like you've lived a few lifetimes in a few weeks? Because that's seriously how I have been feeling since I left for Vietnam! Back in the Bay Area, I practiced then performed for this year's Yoni Ki Baat, the South Asian Version of the Vagina Monologues, where we performed the show three times in one weekend.  I am continuing my training at the New Leaders Council, where I am working on an important fundraising event we are hosting to support next year's class (the fundraising event is on May 9, by the way, and you can buy tickets here...see I'm doing my job!). And now I have filed my papers to run as a delegate for my congressional district for the 2012 Democratic National Convention (to vote for me, you need to be part of the 13th Congressional District in CA i.e. Oakland, Berkeley, Alameda, Emeryville, Part of San Leandro, voting is on April 29, between 2-3pm at SEIU UHW HQ - Oakland 560 Thomas L Berkley Way Oakland, CA 94612). I don't usually hear of Bangladeshi Muslim girls running for stuff, so I thought I'd quit complaining about how women don't get politically involved and actually do something. Even if it is small, it's a start. A start to what? I really have no idea, but hopefully good, meaningful things.

Is this considered voter intimidation? Is it working?
 Coz I really want you to vote for me
So was this post an outline of my life? Maybe, I think there was supposed to be a deeper meaning in this. There is actually and it's this: since I have returned I have changed. I feel it, it is subtle but it is there with me in every thought. It is this feeling, this deeper understanding of connection. That is what I learned in Vietnam. I was able to build homes with people without speaking the same language. We gesticulated, laughed and shared, all without having a common tongue, or even a common culture. What we did have in common is that we were human, and we had a shared build that house. And we did it and we became friends, even if we couldn't say it.

So that colors everything I do.  I have always believed that human beings are more similar than different, but this experience has only expanded and informed that belief. And it is coloring every action and thought I have had since coming back. I felt this connection when I was at a Tibetan prayer vigil to pay respects to the victims of the tragic Oikos University shooting in Oakland.  Everyone was chanting, with monks leading the chant. Tears were flowing and people were praying in unison. It was a Buddhist ceremony, where everyone prayed to the departed's soul, since it is believed that if someone departs the world in violence their soul gets lost. It was in essence, a soul-calling or soul retrieval ceremony. In this ceremony, one I had never experienced, I still felt connected in this human element of grief, of understanding loss and tragedy, beyond religion, or language or physical appearance.

Tibetan prayer vigil for the Oikos University tragedy
I feel as if something shifted and deepened deep inside. The world can be an ugly place and people can do ugly things. I can still be jaded, angry and even depressed at times at the state of affairs around me, yet I never deny that I am a part of it all. The good and the bad. Regardless, I feel this stronger bond to my humanity and the humanity of others. So travel and see people, try to learn about people and relate to them. Because as much as we see skin color, borders, socioeconomic statuses, race, religion and all of those divisions, above all of that we are human, and that is a truth that cannot be denied.

aaand that is my truthiness for the day...