Monday, December 31, 2007

Good-bye to a good year

Since turning in my paper for my stats class (last thing to do until January 22nd! Hurray!), I've been partying like it is 2007. Which it still is. And I've been enjoying these last days of the year with the family. Coming home, i found these two kids on my doorstep, fresh off the plane from Salt Lake City.

Jarom was determined to document every moment.

Since these were my first family visitors to new York, i felt obliged to introduce them to Max. max Brenner, the bald man who makes chocolates.

We had a good time, shopping for THE BABY and the PREGNANT LADY. Can you see the baby bump?

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Merry Christmas!

Eating lots of food, petting Liina's belly to feel the baby kicking, avoiding Vilja because she has TB, eating more, watching movies, reading books, sitting at the airport, looking at Jane's Chinese model shots, hearing about Meri's "ailments", talking to little Elder Hynynen in Texas... And of course celebrating the birth of the Savior. What a wonderful season of peace! Christmas is wonderful. Toronto is fun.

p.s. There are too many doctors in our house. Will write more when I have time to think (too many books to read and girlie conversations to have)

Monday, December 17, 2007

Finals: When bad ideas seem so good.

Melinda and I had a complete texting conversation the other night about getting it on with Financial Management. It was ridiculous. It was hilarious.

The library has become soul sucking and so some of us studied in the Puck building last week. for a break, we did a photo scavenger hunt of professor's offices. Photos to come shortly.

You know what is the best thing to do after a long week of studying your feeble little brain out? Celebrating Elly's birthday with karaoke. I fully intended to go home to work on my stats paper, but peer pressure won out and I went to Japas with a few other stoic wagnerites who were playing hooky from studying. It was the right decision. Karaoke always seems like such a bad idea, but baby, how can it be wrong when it feels so right when you are doing it? Seriously, nothing like singing your little heart out to some Celine Dion. Happy birthday Elly! You totally channeled Celine!

you know, I thought grad school was such a good idea. And now I realize that I am just a masochist. There is a secret part of me that gets a thrill from saying, yeah, I was at the library until 11 last night. Nope, can't do fun things, too busy studying. What am I doing now? Oh... yeah, also really easy to get distracted. But come on, 12 hours of studying is enough. And really, I plan on doing at least a few stats practice problems to help me fall asleep.

Wish me luck on finals. Hopefully I survive. And if I don't, Emily can have my Mexican blanket to keep her company until 1 am every night.

Friday, December 14, 2007

the library won....

when Ira Glass-boy called again last night. We were possibly going to meet up but instead I opted to study some microeconomics. it was a good move. I'm getting nervous to see him again. What if he doesn't tell amazing stories? I'll be so disappointed. But, even if he isn't just like Ira Glass, it is impressive that he has called when he said he would. I'm sure that is what the real one would do (if he weren't married).

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Ira Glass look-alike boy called last night...

just so you know. He left a message and I called him back and left him a message, so no *actual* conversation took place. But he still called.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Religion and Politics

Judging form the comments of late, I see no one is reading my blog. Which means this is as good a time as any to bring up something controversial on my mind. Religion and Politics. And this has, of course, been on my mind since the Romney speech on faith last week. If you missed it, you can go here.

I have never claimed to be a Romney supporter, and I don't plan to suddenly start fawning over him. But, I was for the most past impressed with this speech. As a Mormon, I have waivered between wishing Romney wasn't running so people wouldn't be constantly brining up his religion and indignation that simply because Romney is a Mormon people might not vote for him and gratitude that this has opened the door to a somewhat greater understanding of the Latter-day Saint faith.

A few comments on what he said:
"Let me assure you that no authorities of my church, or of any other church for that matter, will ever exert influence on presidential decisions. Their authority is theirs, within the province of church affairs, and it ends where the affairs of the nation begin." I know that there are people out there who are concerned that because Romney is a Mormon and we believe in latter-day prohpets, that he will be directed by the prophet. I know that President Hinckley, the current prophet, loves liberty, and has an incredibly strong devotion to a seperation of religion and politics. It would be stepping beyond his authority as president of the church and a prophet of God to tell the presidnet what to do. He has not done so with prior presidents, and he would not abuse a president's personal beliefs to gain power. That would only damage the image of the church. The church leaders encourage us to fulfil our civic responsibilities and vote and be responsible citizens, but they will not tell us how to vote (although, there have been certain moral issues that they have very strongly encouraged members to look at and vote on). Besides, I've heard that President Hinckley is a Democrat.

"There are some for whom these commitments are not enough. They would prefer it if I would simply distance myself from my religion, say that it is more a tradition than my personal conviction, or disavow one or another of its precepts. That I will not do. I believe in my Mormon faith and I endeavor to live by it. My faith is the faith of my fathers – I will be true to them and to my beliefs." A paragraph earlier he said that if elected as president, his highest covenant to God would be that oath of office. I don't know if I could do that, but hey, I'm not even a citizen so that will never be an issue. In any case, I am glad that he mentioned his religion and his commitment to it, and that he would not be swayed from it. I am sure it would be so easy to disavow it and hard to defend it-- unless he really had a testimony of the truthfulness of it.

"It is important to recognize that while differences in theology exist between the churches in America, we share a common creed of moral convictions. And where the affairs of our nation are concerned, it's usually a sound rule to focus on the latter – on the great moral principles that urge us all on a common course. Whether it was the cause of abolition, or civil rights, or the right to life itself, no movement of conscience can succeed in America that cannot speak to the convictions of religious people." I like that he focused on moral principles, rather than theological doctrine, bringing people together to bring about positive change. I really think that, at least for me, that is what religion is-- it has brought to me a greater awareness of my fellow humans and the desire for everyone to be treated equal, and my own potential to do something about it. However, while this speech focuses so much on the postive, unifying aspect of religion, I think that he glossed over the many times when religion has been used as a justification for those exact social ills mentioned in the speech. Religion and God, or the practices of people, have not been moral. There is truth and beuty in religion and it is meant to bring us heaven-ward. But all too often, instead of raising people up to become like Christ, people raise themselves up above others. People used the excuse, and still do, that God makes some people better than otheres because of race, ethnicity, religion, sexuality, social class. It is used as a justification for hate and terror and close-mindedness. No wonder when a candidate declares him/herself as a person of faith, people of intelligence and a knowledge of history shudder. I wish it weren't like that. But unfortunately, it is.

"In such a world, we can be deeply thankful that we live in a land where reason and religion are friends and allies in the cause of liberty, joined against the evils and dangers of the day. And you can be certain of this: Any believer in religious freedom, any person who has knelt in prayer to the Almighty, has a friend and ally in me. And so it is for hundreds of millions of our countrymen: we do not insist on a single strain of religion – rather, we welcome our nation's symphony of faith." Again, the unity. I like that he places the burden of the responsibility on the people, the voters, to look at themselves and see their own prejudices against a particular religion. I hope that it does make people realize, hey now, maybe I should look a little bit deeper at the person (and could we say that maybe this could also open the eyese of peopel to look past their prejudices against the gener or race of a particual candidate as well?). But, this is also my major sticking point with this speech-- what about those who don't believe? I know his audience was evangelical Christians in Texas, but this goes to the whole country-- I read this in the New York Times. There are so many people of faith in this country, more than we sometimes think, but ther are also people who don't believe in a God or organized religion. For whom the term "prayer" is something unfamiliar but meditation to center their lives and simply a desire to do no harm leads them to live lives of great contribution and kindness towards others and the earth.

These were jsut a few of the things that I was thinking about when I read the speech. My opinion isn't worth a hill of beans amongst all of the political pundits on the left and right and middle who are analyzing every inch of it. But, though Romney might not be the frontrunner in my book, I am deeply interested in how he conducts himself in his campaign and how it will go and why. Personally, when I think about religion and politics, in the same sphere, I find that they are nearly impossible for me to seperate. Religion plays such a role in who I am. On this foundation I am building the person that I will become. This underscores the work that I do every day. I think that is how it is for so many people. It isn't something seperate inside of us to be turned on on Sunday, nor is it a flag to be waved constantly. It is simply something that motivates me to do well on my exams coming up next week, soemthing that lets me see my potential in a career, and helps me to see the small role that I play on this life to simply lead a good life and to do good.

Whatever the case, let's remember that while Romney is a Mormon, so is Harry Reid. And those two think very, very differently. And with that, I should probably get motivated to go finish my MPSO reading.

Prospect Park

prospect, noun. anticipation; expectation; looking forward. A view, esp. of scenery.

Every time I talk about living in Brooklyn, I rave about Prospect Park. It is my sanctuary from the city, the place that brings peace like only green space can. So now that it has turned gray, I'm posting some fall pictures of the park.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Ira Glass Look-Alike

So, i was at a Hanukkah party last night, enjoying latkes and learning what the signs on the dreidle mean. And then I saw him, across the room. Did my eyes deceive me? Perhaps a little, but I didn't care. A young, skinny, Jewish guy with glasses and s nice blazer, who looked just like Ira Glass. Take 20 years. Can I just say dreamy? If you read my blog regularly, i don't need to remind you of my obsession. Using all of my feminine charms, I managed to enter into a conversation with the said fellow, and we talked about how he was a rock star in a movie once, which is way better than being a rock star in real life because you don't have to have talent or work hard but can instead jump right into attitude and funky clothing and self-absorption. Upon discovering that we both live in Brooklyn, he boldly suggested that we go out sometime, and requested my number. How could I resist? Now, how to get him to tell stories about life in America softly into my ear...

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

A letter from my missionary sister vilja.

Note: to those of you who don't know, I have a little sister who is serving a mission for the Church of Jesus christ of Latter-day Saints in Estonia. She has been there for a while. And she is a little bit crazy.

"I have decided that I am slowly but surely turning more and more into a cat. I always loved the sunshine and sleeping (neither of which I get very much ofhere in Eesti), I love to eat fish (not allowed in the Baltics), I like to have people pet my hair (DEFINITELY not allowed) and I even had to get rabies shots. I thought that was a prety good list, but I have a new addition that pretty much takes the cake: fleas. Yeah, somehow I got fleas in my bed and woke up one day with over 40 bites EVERYWHERE. I doused my bed and bedclothes with permetherein, so I haven't gotten any new bites, but these things last a week at least and they itch like CRAZY. I have tried every single type of cream and medication and home remedy available (note: All vinegar does is make you smell suspiciously like a salad.), and NOTHING works. My companions got so sick of being on scratch patrol to keep me from taking off all of my skin that I have simply resorted to wearing mittens all the time. I study in mittens, I sweep the apartment in mittens, and I even have to sleep in mittens. I kind of feel like one of those dogs with the gigantic collar to keep them from biting themselves, only I have some opposeable thumbs, which is a plus.

Itchiness aside, missionary life is fantastic. I love talking to people. I love teaching peole. I love testifying of the Savior. I love the Spirit. The most painful, heartwrenching second of missionary life is worth wearing mittens for the rest of my life. The gospel has the power to work miracles. I love that. I have seen that happen. I just don't even know what to say. I love everything about it. So I guess that's all I have to say for today. Have a lovely week!"

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

It's good to know where some of my issues come from

I am just too darn perfect. Check out this article on perfectionism and depression in the New York Times.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

An externality of Genocide

I'm in an economics class. I think about externalities, it is just the way things are right now. But for those of you who haven't taken an economics class recently, an externality is an unintended byproduct of whatever is produced or consumed that is not accounted for by the market (my definition). As you know (at least I hope you know this about me), I am against genocide. killing people in large numbers (and, I would just like to add here, small numbers as well) = bad. I'm glad we have that cleared up. And because I think it is so bad, i went to a lecture last night at the NY Public Library (= beautiful) to hear Nicholas Kristof (= amazing and passionate) speak about the genocide in Darfur. He is a New York Times Columnist who has traveled to the Sudan eight times int he last four years, and considering that it is a country closed to journalists, that is pretty impressive (he likes to legally enter with dignitaries and "accidentally" get left behind. Kind of like in the "Left Behind" books. Or not really at all). Anyway, I went with a group of Wangerites interested in International stuff, and found the lecture incredibly. Sad, of course, but I was really impressed with the passion and motivation that Kristof has to speak out about Darfur and offer solutions-- such as putting pressure on our government to put pressure on the Sudanese government and on the Chinese government. I know, I know, what good has government done lately, but I still am a believer that we can use our power for good. If you want to learn more about Darfur and what you can do, go here.

So, the purpose of the evening was to attend a lecture on genocide with Nicholas Kristof and learn about the genocide and be motivated to do something about it. The externality of the evening came when I ended up meeting an incredibly person passionate about the cause and talking to him for hours about genocide. Genocide isn't really a topic that brings people together and that people want to talk about (I know, i've tried), and here I was, sitting in Chipotle eating a burrito and chatting about genocidal regimes, and having a lovely time. Now, I'm not saying that meeting Ben in any way, shape, or form makes genocide remotely acceptable, or even less bad. Just that sometimes, good things come from really bad things. Kristof talked about that too. So I'll take that marginal social benefit of meeting a really amazing person, having a good conversation and going ice skating at Bryant Park (hey, we discovered other common interests aside from genocide-- like we are both Finnish! crazy!). Take that you Sudanese government, I'm sure this was a completely unintended consequence of your horrible, murderous policies.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

This Thanksgiving is Dedicated to SOUND

I was listening to radiolab as I was on my way to Toronto yesterday for Thanksgiving, and they were talking about sound. Someone on the show said "Sound is kind of like touching long distance" and that really resonated with me.

A short lesson: We hear when vibrations of frequencies between 15 hertz to about 20,000 hertz reach the inner ear. These vibrations are caught by the ear and reach the eardrum and the vibrations of the eardrum send the sound waves further into the brain. The vibrations pass through a chain of bones in the middle ear to three small fluid filled canals. Embedded between the canals is a spiral shaped organ of Corti. The sensory cells in the organ have thousands of hairlike projections that receive sound vibrations from the middle ear and send them on to the brain via the auditory nerve. In the brain they are recognized and interpreted as specific sounds.

So, in a sense, the vibrations that create sound do travel from one location to touch us deep in our ears. The first sense that a baby develops, while still in the womb, is the sense of hearing. It hears the heartbeat of the mother, the movement of the embryonic fluid, the sounds from outside the thin walls of the womb. A baby, when it is born, recognizes and reacts to harsh, and loud, and soft and soothing sounds.

So I am grateful for Sound.

I am grateful for the silence on a dark night with snow falling, and the only audible sounds the crunching of your feet and your own breathing.

I am grateful for the beautiful sounds created by music. I went to see the Swell Season on Monday night at the Beacon Theater with Melinda, Elly, and Jessica. It was one of those experiences where listening to amazing music just made the world so much better. The combinations of notes and words, beats and melodies, the guitar, piano, violin, cello and second guitar, and voices, especially the voices, joined together to fill the concert hall with passion and beauty. I can't very well describe a sound or a feeling with words. Just listen to your favorite song and soak it in with your eyes closed. That is what it was like. I am constantly amazed by how much better life can seem when good music is added. When I first came to check out NYU, I was completely overwhelmed by the city and stressed about making the right choice on grad school. I was walking down the street, listening to the cacophony of sounds, and then put on my ipod. The music flooded my ears, and my brain calmed down, my breathing relaxed. Focus returned. My thirteenth year was spent listening to a lot of Radiohead, laying on my bed with my pillow covering my head. I think maybe that saved me from sinking even more into my teenage angst, because someone knew what I felt, or someone could express what I felt with words and music perfectly. One of my happiest moments was sitting in at Club Passim with some friends, listening to this amazing folk singer. My heart just about burst with joy. So, I am grateful for music.

I am grateful for the sounds we use to communicate-- talking. Babies begin early on to whine when thy need something or gurgle happily. People use words to communicate ideas, situations, concerns, anything and everything. An intense conversation can linger for weeks. A misunderstanding can be cleared by talking about it and listening to what the other person has to say. Friends reconnect after months with stories of their lives. Grand ideas are hatched in coffee shops. Recently, I was in a short-lived long distance relationship, and during this, I really began to appreciate the utility of the telephone to connect with someone, to attempt to maintain a relationship over thousands of miles over a slight piece of plastic and electric currents. But sound is touching long distance. We weren't there to touch, but the act of talking and connecting on the phone nearly every day built the intimacy to some degree. While I failed at that experiment, I grew to be more grateful for this device that I take for granted every day and the beauty that it brings to my life by allowing me to converse with people I care about and continue building those relationships. I am grateful for conversations.

I am grateful for stories. I am grateful for podcasts. I can see how the radio initially became such a widely popular medium. I know that we live in the golden age of television, but I am a simple girl and love the radio. I love the intimacy of listening to a story on something-- it feels like it was meant just for me, although I know thousands of people are also listening. Maybe it is because it seems so lo-tech-- it is just talking after all, often times just one or two people having a conversation about some world issue or discussing a particular theme. With my ipod I can be anywhere and listening to the BYU speech, or This American Life story, or commentary on Radio West. In my mind, as I listen I am allowed to expand on it and make it my own. I am grateful for radio and people who allow me to interview them so I can put stories out there too.

I am grateful for the sound of little kids asking me to play with them. Especially little Esry today, who convinced me to play barbies with her.

I am grateful to hear the words I love you and to say them.

I am grateful for the sound of cars passing by and Melinda telling me to watch out because otherwise I would have been flattened numerous times.

I am grateful for the sound of the clock ticking at my grandmothers house.

I am grateful for the sound of water and the sound of wind in trees.

I am grateful for the sound of people talking, and people singing, and people just being people.

I am grateful for the sounds of birds, and bees, and dogs and cats and animals everywhere.

I am grateful for stories read out loud. This is one of my favorite things in the world, and it stems from my mom gathering all of us together on Sunday afternoons and reading to us for hours.

I am grateful, I am grateful... I am grateful to hear everything around me. What if I were to lose that sense? I don't know what I would do. But for now, i won't think about it, and instead, I will just go to bed tonight, listening to the sounds of the sleeping house-- people breathing softly, the cat padding around the house, the hum of appliances and clicks of the heater. Tomorrow I will wake up to the sounds of my family moving about, getting ready for school and work and life for another day. I will talk with people and listen to music and my sense of hearing will be so happy.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

The Tadpole

My sister Liina is having a baby, which means I am going to have a NIECE come April 14th. Hooray!

Sunday, November 18, 2007

My boyfriend is on the radio

I spend more time listening to podcasts on my ipod than I do talking to friends (especially boys) on the phone. I think it is time for me to come clean about my relationship with a special someone-- Ira Glass. He is pretty much the perfect boyfriend. He always has something interesting to say and really asks some compelling questions. I love the way that he tells stories and can really drive the point home. He is smart, and sexy in a nerdy kind of way, and I kind of have a thing for older men. So sometimes he doesn't really listen to me, but that is okay because I have ten years of archives of This American Life that I can listen to and always find an answer to whatever issue/problem I want to discuss. For example, just the other night we had a great conversation about talking to kids, and how to have "the talk" with them. I think he'll make such a good baby-daddy someday. I know what you might be saying, but Suvi, you don't ever get to see him. True, and that is tough on the relationship, but with the kind of communication that we have, our love will just keep growing stronger and stronger while we are kept apart. And give him time to get rid of his wife before anything happens with us. Because I know that as soon as he meets me, it'll be on.

Miss Haiti 1975, then and now

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Second from the right, you will find Gerthie David, Miss Haitie 1975, and first runner up for Miss Universe (who happened to be a Finn that year). Why am I pointing her out to you? Oh, because I sat next to her at a Relief Society thing. She now lives in an apartment in Astoria and is Mormon. We talked about her Swedish boyfriend back in the day. Awesome.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

No Impact Man makes an impact

For the last few months I have been reading the blog of Colin Beavan, better knows as No Impact Man. Here is a guy who decided to go off of everything pretty much to live a year of having no impact on the environment. Crazy? Yes. Crazy enough to believe that global warming is happening and that he can do something about it. And that is the kind of crazy that I love.

You can read all about what he is doing and why on his blog, but just to give you an idea, he is a writer and decided to try, along with his wife and child, to have no impact on the environment (equation to do that is: reduced negative impact + increased positive impact = no net impact). This was implemented in 7 stages: 1) No trash; 2) No carbon producing transportation; 3) Only local, seasonal food; 4)No buying anything new; 5) No fossil fueled electricity (they use a solar panel for what they need); 6) Sustainable water use; 7) Positive impact. Colin has been blogging about this experience and is writing a book about it as well. As I mentioned I've been reading his blog, and have been just so impressed by him. Lots of people try crazy schemes and want to get famous and claim to care about the world, and I have to say, I was a bit suspicious. I had my reservations that he was really doing this, that he could really be so positive and nice about giving up drinking bottled water and toilet paper and television. Meeting him, however, I came to see that he really is just a genuinely positive person who believes in what he is doing (and not in an overbearing way either). My favorite part was hearing him talk about the impact on his family-- they threw out the tv, and now they just spend more time together, enjoying each other and being an active part of the community and relating to people. He has an adorable daughter named Isabelle (you can read about how they entertain her on the blog) and they go out riding on the bicycle, to "see what is happening". Not only are they saving their environment, but they are saving the idea of community. I love it!

Some recommendations that he made to us as college kids about becoming less impactful ourselves was to take individual action by recycling, reusing and reducing, educating our friends and family, joining forces with local environmental groups, and getting involved with political action groups on the local and national levels. How can you save the world? by saving the people.

I had a few thoughts while listening to this lecture. 1) I am totally amazed by the commitment and scope of the No Impact Man project. It is completely crazy, and it is completely awesome that his wife is in on this too. Where can I find someone who could be that crazy and passionate about something that I could share my life with? 2) Again, the commitment and scope of the project is kind of daunting. But luckily I'm not expected to live like that. i just need to be more aware of what I consume and to do my little part. I was talking to some friends before I left Salt Lake City, determined to be more environmentally conscious and to decrease my carbon footprint. People were skeptical, but here in New York City it is amazingly easy to to. I ride public transportation everywhere or go by foot (I'm still too afraid to ride a bike). Most of our cleaning supplies are environmentally friendly. I reuse plastic grocery bags for trash or as sandwich bags (thus eliminating packed lunch waste). I try to remember to bring along a tote bag to the grocery store with me. I joined the Park Slope Coop, which is a community store which sells only organic and local goods (for the most part) at a fraction of the cost of the other stores (so I feel good and save money!). Or I shop at the farmers market. Those are just some of the things that I am trying to do, and I know that I could do a lot more. Poco a poco. 3) It feels good to be changing my lifestyle in small ways right now to be just a little bit kinder to the environment. I live by this beautiful park in Brooklyn and so I still get to spend a little bit of time in nature, and I am constantly amazed at the beauty of this world that God has given us. We have been given stewardship to take care of the earth, but the way that we are living isn't really demonstrating any sort of concern for the future. Something like 25% of the kids in the Bronx have asthma from all of the trucks going by-- what sort of life and earth are we providing for the future? This isn't a crazy environmentalist issue, but a fact that we need to accept and accept our responsibility to live better. It doesn't require huge sacrifices like never driving a car again of going on a trip, but rather cutting down on the massive waste that we produce and switching our lightbulbs.

So, cheers to you No Impact Man Colin Beavan, for leaving a most positive impact.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

The Thursday Night Dinner Crew

One of my favorite things of late is getting together for dinner with some of my friends from school on Thursday nights. We started off with girls watching Grey's Anatomy and dinner. But Grey's started to suck and we decided to invite boys and play games instead. I know it may not sound all that exciting, considering all of the other things that I could be doing in New York, but there is really somethings so cozy and homey about it. One of the things that I miss most about Salt Lake is getting together with friends for Sunday potlucks or Friendsgiving, so finding people that I enjoy hanging out with is incredibly satisfying. And, I'm discovering that I really like cooking and feeding people (so come over for dinner anytime!). I made this yummy split pea soup for dinner, and Melinda provided some delicious salad with roasted asparagus and mushrooms and all sorts of good stuff. My camera is finally working again, so let me introduce the gang.

Melinda and Mario

Aditi and Neil

Andrew and Chris

Sunday, November 4, 2007


Once upon a time, on a dark and stormy night, there was a big creaky apartment building and a girl was there all alone. Suddenly, the door knob started to turn and the door flew open, and there was no one there! She screamed "AHHHHHHH!"

Wait a second, sorry, wrong ghost story (although that one promises to be much more of a nail biter than the one I'm going to tell). My ghosts are old feelings that come to haunt. Ones that are dead, but the phantom pangs come back like little ghosts of relationships past. For instance, the other night I was at the David Bazan concert and he sang a particular song that I love. But as he played it, this incredibly intense emotional memory arose of a moment when I realized how much I loved a particular ex-boyfriend. That boyfriend is married and the feelings that I have for him are gone, but the phantom pang was as intense as it had been when I first realized those feelings. As with any ghost, this one shook me, and I felt its brush long after the haunting moment passed. Those feelings had been real, and this was the ghost reminding me of them-- but what kind of ghost was this? The friendly ghost of a loved and lost pet, coming to remind me of good times now passed and a sense of nostalgia? Or was it an apparition of death appearing as a warning that such feelings would not again be experienced, at least not easily? I wonder.

More often than not, these ghosts haunt us with the insecurities and pain of their doomed final moments. They sneak up on us as we attempt new relationships and whisper into our ears their ghostly words. They cause a chill to penetrate an otherwise happy moment, they cause in impending sense of dread to fill our hearts that should be filled with joy. These ghosts, once they arise and decide to haunt us, are incredibly difficult to vanquish.

I don't want to live in a ghost story, but I seem to have picked up the wrong book.

Friday, November 2, 2007

lately, in new york

Life here in New York is good. I'm not trying to make you jealous on purpose, but it just is pretty fabulous. Unfortunately, my camera decided to delete all of the pictures, so there is no proof of the fabulousness going on here, but I will try to use my words. Maybe I will make a list. Bullet points, because it can't really be numbers.
  • Halloween Parade. Sure, I wasn't in a costume and I had to stand on my tippy toes to see, but the fact that there is an entire parade (a mile long!) in the village dedicated to the fine art of Halloween celebration will make some of my family members green with envy. The costumes were extreme, and the best part about the parade were definitely the things tall enough for me to see, namely, these puppets on huge sticks waving around eerily like ghosts. That, and and entire troupe of zombies doing a choreographed dance to Thriller all along the parade route.
  • Fall. The weather is crisp and clear, cold, but not to the point where the nose freezes. The leaves are changing and I keep collecting brightly colored leaves and bringing them in to admire them.
  • The farmers market. I hope it is still open tomorrow, since it is now November. I hope so, because I need some Butternut Squash for soup.
  • Dinner at Aditi's house with Melinda, Mario, Kathleen, Kate and Chris. You get a little bit of food and alcohol into people, take away the Wagner talk, and put a wii in front of people, and man, you start learning all sorts of things that you didn't know about them before. We decided to give up Grey's Anatomy and invite boys to our fun girls night Thursday dinner because grey's started to suck and the boys were feeling left out.
  • The man practicing tap dancing under a bridge in the park yesterday.
  • The orthodox Jewish guys playing soccer in the park last week.
  • Hearing Paul Farmer and Jeff Sachs speak this week and get inspired about ending poverty in the world. Wow. Seriously, those are some inspirational people who are doing good things in the world. I also went to a symposium at the law school on Law and Policy on the Sub-Saharan African Child and of course, I was giddy and loved learning and thinking about all of this development stuff again. More on that later, because I'm formulating some ideas.
  • David Bazan, of Pedro the Lion. I was so sad when they broke up. And I was so happy to go hear him play on monday night. And so glad that Melinda was game for going (ahem, elly) because it was such a good show (wow, and he sang this amazing version of Halleluja that is going onto his new album). So good. And seriously need to start going to more shows.
  • Parents in town. So glad to see them, and so excited to show them around and welcome them into my new home. It is funny, I finally feel like an adult, a real one, because I got to entertain my parents and didn't feel like a college kid.
  • Wagner. School is great, and the Wagner community is special. I had no idea grad school was like this.
That isn't even all, but all that I will mention for the time being. Love this place. And since I don't have any new pictures to post about all of this stuff, I'll post one from a little while ago, with a view of the city and a dude that I like and wish would come visit again.

High time for pie time

Ladies and gentlemen, I would like to announce that I, Suvi Hynynen, won third place in the pie contest at the Park Slope ward last weekend. yes, folks, I am a winner. And it wasn't just third out of three, everyone wins. No siree, it was out of 23 pies and mind you, I've never made a pie before really and I was competing against proficiesnt, skilled, homemakers. And I came in third. Pretty much the best thing that has happened to me to date.

The pie? A Chocolate and Pumpkin Cream Cheese Pie. Unfortunately, my camera ate the pictures of it, since it looked so tasty.

here is the recipe for all of you to try for yourselves. Enjoy!

Preheat oven to 350 degrees


½ box graham cracker crumbs

1/4 Cup sugar

6 Tablespoons butter, melted

Mix together and press into a large pie plate


1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

1/2 cup heavy cream

Put chocolate chips in a bowl. Heat cream in small saucepan until scalded (just before starts to boil). Pour hot cream over chips and stir until chips are melted and mixture is smooth. Pour into graham cracker crust.

Pumpkin Cream Cheese Filling

½ can sweetened condensed milk

1 ½ packages (12 oz. total) cream cheese, softened

½ Cup sour cream

1 Cup canned pumpkin

2 ½ teaspoon pumpkin pie spice

1 teaspoon vanilla

Mix together until smooth. Pour on top of ganache in graham cracker crust.

Praline Topping

1 Cup sugar

1 Tablespoon butter

1 Cup pecan halves

Heat all in a saucepan until butter and sugar are melted and pecans are sticky. Spread on top of pumpkin pie. Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes. Cool to room temperature and then refrigerate for several hours before serving. Serves 8-10.

Friday, October 26, 2007

rainy friday.

You know what I love about grad school? that today is a rainy Friday and I have cramps, and I can spend the entire day at home, eating peanut m&ms and making pies and watching tv on the internet.


Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Chocolates by the Bald Man (and other things to do after a midterm)

It has been five years since I have taken exams, and these last two weeks have found me absolutely up to my ears in notes and book, with a grim determination to do well on these, my first set of graduate school exams. This was especially challenging considering the fact that I don't consider myself a quantitative person for the simple fact that I have never done well with numbers and my exams were financial management, statistics, and microeconomics. But you know something? I like my classes, and while I am so, so relieved that exams are over, I didn't mind studying and making sure that my mind really wrapped around the concepts. And i don't think that I did too poorly. But, we shall see. Since this is my blog, i will gloat for just a moment and say that I so far have an A in my Financial Management class (and yes, that does include the midterm). This really thrills me because I was so worried and I studied so hard, and I have this happy feeling inside like yes! I get it!

So, now with midterms over, I of course had to take some time to let my brain rest. So, after MPSO this afternoon (which, I really should have skipped with Melinda and Elly, I was so not present) I went with Melinda, Elly, Aditi, Jessica and Chris to Max Brennan Chocolates by the Bald Man. For you friends who are planning on visiting, this is one place you jot down in your notes as one place you want me to take you. It is a chocolate shop! And before you start thinking to yourself, yeah yeah, i've been to the Lindt store, let me mention that it is a chocolate restaurant. The entire menu consists of chocolate stuffs, like this amazing, thick Italian hot chocolate and fondue plate, like I had today, as well as a variety of drinks, sweets, and even some savory items to help balance it all out (all involving chocolate of course). My favorite item on the menu that i will one day have to experience was a huge syringe filled with chocolate. This is something I think for serious chocoholics and not something to be taken lightly. My doctor sisters would love this (hmm, Christmas presents?). While the food and atmosphere were amazing, the best part was just sitting there with my classmates, outside of the library and not talking about classes. We learned all about Aditi's wedding in India! I go to school with some seriously cool kids.

And, it being a rainy afternoon and my brain being turned off, I of course had to go to a matinee. Elly and I went to see the Darjeeling Limited, with Owen Wilson, Adrian Brody, and Jason Swartsman. 1) one of the best movies by Wes Anderson (and he makes some good ones). Seriously, it was meloncholy and funny and quirky in a way that painted this beautiful picture (with beautiful scenery) of the relationship between brothers. Loved it. I recommend it (although, let me edit it for friends who are sensitive to sexual content-- skip the short before the film, other than that is it clean). 2) Kind of in love with Adrian Brody. Something about him works so well in this movie. 3) So just so happens that at this theater we went to today they had the premiere for "Before the devil knows you're dead." And we just happened to run into Marisa Tomei, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and Ethan Hawke! Well, okay, Ethan hawke passed by us without our noticing him, oddly enough. But, now i can say I had my first celebrity sighting. And that is pretty rad.

After this little break, i'm feeling pretty refreshed, but I sure am glad that I don't have classes again until next tuesday. Grad school is pretty awesome.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

War with Iran

Recently, President Bush made a statement to the effect that if Iran pursued nuclear weapons build-up, it would lead to World War III. No, I don't want Iran to have nuclear weapons. But I have to wonder, how on earth did we go from the end of the Cold War to America fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq, and gearing to go to war with Iran as well. Recent comments by President Bush and Dick Cheney speak to the need to make sure that Iran doesn't get nuclear power, adn to ensure that, we may have to go in and do something about that.

This scares me. The other morning, I sat with my roommate Emily and we talked about potential war with Iran and the likelihood of World War III, and it suddenly became incredibly real to me. The current administration went into Afghanistan to get al Queda. Instead of finishing the work there and helping to establish peace, resources were taken to fight an illegal war in Iraq-- and yes, I firmly believe it to be illegal, and I am angry that the administration lied and continues to lie about the Iraq war. For the record, when the US went into Iraq, I was actually supportive because I thought that we went in to help end the human rights abuses. Not to send the world into a spiral of terror and hate and cause complete chaos in Iraq and the death of thousands of US soldiers and hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians and to line the pockets of certain politicians. I thought that there was a plan. The fact that where we are now is the outcome and that the President can't admit that mistakes were made really upsets me, and it should upset all of us. Especially when we now are hearing rhetoric of going into Iran, for our security. Excuse me? This administration has plunged us into a new nuclear age. It has shunned diplomacy, and has shrouded its actions in lies and secrecy. It has thumbed its nose at all international cooperation, pulled out of treaties (such as the Koyoto Protocol and the nuclear arms proliferation treaty), created havens for actual terrorists, and caused a huge schism in the political life of the U.S. It has drained U.S. resources from things that would make the world a better place like education and public radio and civil service work to buy more tanks, to pay private defense firms like Blackwater, to run secret torture centers in other countries. And now they want to go get us into more debt, create more animosity towards the U.S., and potentially cause World War III with devasting effects for the next generation or two.

No. I am not going to allow this to happen. I don't know how yet, but so many people that I talk to agree with this sentiment, and we all seem at a loss of what to do. But we HAVE to do SOMETHING. It is our responsibility. I was reading an article today about the protest at the Pentagon forty years ago, protesting the Vietnam war and the effect that had on Robert McNamara, and I wish that we could do that. But I look at the anti-war protests and I see how they've lost their voice, even to those who agree with their message. I don't know what I can do personally, except talk about it, speak out at every opportunity, and get my citizenship so that I can at least make my voice heard by voting for someone who would be a better world leader.

How can we bring peace? Seriously friends, any ideas? We can't just sit back and watch another war start.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

policy. Yes, policy. At least I think so.

So, here at Wagner, I have to decide on a specialization for my MPA. I have four great options-- Policy, Financial, Management and International. I came to school thinking I would do management. And then I thought Policy. And then I decided no, I should do management. And then I went to some international lecture and realized that is where my heart lies. And then I decided that was too broad, so I thought I should do International Finance. And then maybe just plain finance-- all organizations need someone good with money and I do like that class. And then I decided I shouldn;t do international, but i should do managment. and then I went to my management class and it was so boring it made me want to cry. and then I thought that I'll just stick with International, but that was swayed when i started thinking that I've already done a lot with international and i should really do policy. Policy is useful all around. And then I went to another lecture on peace building and thought I should do international. And then I sat myself down at the computer and told myself that I have to decide on a specialization TODAY or I may be in school for 10 more years.

So I picked Policy. And you know what? I am really excited for it. I think I will be learning a lot of things that I don't know and learning how to apply those to things I do know. I like the idea of analyzing things and coming up with policies that work. And I have a have more electives than I would with International. So there you have it. masters of Public Administration with a specialization in Policy. Now I just have to pass these midterms....

one final note. I am having a moment of missing friends. I love my life here but I jsut got really lonely for all of you folks out there that I don't see very often at all. loves to you.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Stephen Colbert on race: “While skin and race are often synonymous, skin cleansing is good, race cleansing is bad.”

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

study break!

I spend most of my time studying. Yes, here i live in a fabulous city, and my nose is usually in the books. It is amazing how much time can be spent reading things, and doing homework, and in study groups and lectures and more study groups and more
homework and sleeping and buying furniture and more study groups and happy hours at the local bar to make some new friends to form study groups with. These next two weeks are going to be spent even more inundated with numbers and words because I have exams coming up. Yikes!

But that is all beside the point of this post, because what I want to write about is my study break this last weekend! Hurrah! I had a friend in town and so I studied really really hard last week so I could play this weekend. What a treat to finally explore my neighborhood and simply relax and soak up Brooklyn and the warm weather and the delightful company of my friend.

My neighborhood has a lot of Chassidic Jews, and for the Sukkoh holiday they were all over the place asking people if they were Jewish. I really wanted to say yes so i would get invited over for dinner in the little palm hut they eat in for the week, but alas, I had to settle for a good long conversation with this guy instead.

I have a fountain close to my house. It is a statue of humans versus mer-people and I think that the merpeople are winning.

I went to the MoMA and got to soak in some of the most famous works out there. You may share with me in looking at the pictures.

I'm not all that impressed with starry night, but maybe that is just because too many people have it as a poster and I want to feel too cool for it. If i'm totally honest, then I'll confess that there is something about it. I just expected it to be a lot bigger.

Damian hanging out outside of the MoMA, which he finally got to go to after many mishaps.

Here is my roommate and friend Emily. We went to this totally adorable little French cafe for dinner the other night. It was so cute! And it is just down the street from me. I love this neighborhood!

okay, now back to the books.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Fight for Kisses

just watch it. Babies are hilarious.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Gone missing

I've lost my pants. Seriously, in all of the moving about, somewhere along the line I've misplaced like 5 pairs of pants, my favorite ones, along with my favorite belt, some sweet silver heels, and various other miscellaneous items. While it feels great to unpack finally and have a permanent place (stay tuned for an introduction to my neighborhood), I am also realizing how many things have gone missing and how many new things like furniture I need to buy. I have a lot of settling in to do.

These things that have gone missing serve as an analogy for my spiritual life. As I watched the General Relief Society broadcast last night (alone, on my computer because I was waiting for my bed to be delivered), many times I was moved to tears. i found myself incredibly overwhelmed by the spirit, and overwhelmed with how much I have missed church. I think that it especially struck me when President Monson mentioned Sister Faust and the rest of president Fausts family, and I had to go read through the news section of to discover that President Faust died in August. This absolutely devastated me. I really love President Faust. His talks never fail yo touch me.. He had this really incredibly way of talking about trials, and finding peace through them. He had such a peaceful demeanour and manner about him. In fact, the last fireside i went to in Utah was at the Tabernacle and President Faust spoke there. I remember the spirit testifying yet again that yes, this was one of his prophets, and that the words he spoke would bring peace. I miss President Faust, and while I am sad that he is gone, I am even more sad that I didn't know that he had died.

I missed a lot of Sundays in church while traveling. Just as I survived living out of a back pack, I've survived spiritually by reading my scriptures and praying and attending as a visitor in other wards. But, just like with the missing pants, I miss being settled spiritually. I've missed having a ward to attend, and visiting and home teachers. I've missed going to the temple. I've missed taking the sacrament every week and knowing people at church, and having my Sabbath days be devoted to growing the spiritual things. While I am not in bad shape spiritually, I crave to be settled and find that balance in my life again. Now, more than ever, i also feel that it is so important to stay strong and active in the church because there are so many opportunities to not do so.

I attended MY ward, the Park Slope ward for the first time today. It felt like home. And it certainly helped that some old friends of mine from college, Chris and Brooke Romney are in that ward! I'm taking it as a sign that this is where I need to be. Ah, the church is true.

The golden wedding.

This is my friend Meghan. She got married on September 22nd. The wedding was a total fairy tale wedding and so much fun!

And I had an amazing time dressing in a beautiful gown, have my hair and make-up done, and ride in a limo. I look kinda hot, if I do say so myself.

At the age of 16, meghan and i would have never thought that life would turn out this way. It is funny and amazing and mind boggling to see friends grow up. We always thought that I would be the first one married, being the good mormon kid and all. We scoffed at traditions and pictured ourselves eloping or walking down the aisle to Radiohead, and never, ever living in suburbia. And now, I am one of the last of my high school friends to settle down, and Meghan is talking about buying a house with her husband (husband!) Rob. it is funny and amazing and mind boggling. But mostly amazing to see her find the love of her life, the person who makes her be the most and best Meghan, and her to complete him in ways (such as sending him to a video game convention) that no one thought possible. I'll toast my virgin shirley temple to them.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Jackie popped!

Jackie, pregnant for the third time, just popped this morning! She had her third baby girl this morning at about 6 am in her bathtub. And yes, it was on purpose, cuz a midwife was there to help her along. I hear she and the baby are doing beautifully. I am so excited! She is one of my best friends, and my twin-- we have the same birthday and had oh so many adventures together growing up! It is strange to think of her with a family of three little girls now, while I haven't even found one for myself! Luckily, she would let me borrow hers if they were closer (and I have big plans for galavanting around the world with baby Suvi because that is what you do with namesakes).

here are her previous two daughters, Arella and Suvi.

I need to go to Florida to visit them sometime really soon. Aren't they adorable?

Monday, September 24, 2007

To all those who have been homeless...

... doesn't it feel great to finally have a place to call home? Boo-YAH, yes it does!!

I've been a homeless wanderer for two months. I've slept at the homes of friends, in the homes of family, in the homes of strangers, in the beds of friends, on couches, on floors, in airports, on airplanes, on planes, on buses, and even some hostels. Some nights I haven't slept. Most uncomfortable place to sleep was definitely the plastic benches at the airport overnight with people walking by. Most comfortable was Michele's friend's gilded apartment in a king sized bed.

You want to know the best part about this? Up until about September 1st this was intentional, but then I was supposed to have a place to live. I moved to a city that I know essentially nothing about with all of my belongings, and not much idea of what would happen to me. I could've ended up sleeping in the subway, but not once was I really concerned that would actually happen. I am completely amazed by the incredible kindness of friends and strangers who have let me into their home or held onto my stuff. I feel incredibly blessed and so, so grateful that this experience has been so positive, especially when it could've sucked so much.

I just want to give a public shout out to the great people of New York City who have helped me out (and a few who were connectors): Di and Mim for letting me stay before traveling; Mike for making sue I had a place to stay when I came back to New York; Mike's friend Megan who let me stay right after i came home from Poland and cat-sit; the Ward's back in Medfield; the Kelly's on Martha's Vineyard; Meri in Salt lake and for keeping all of my stuff as i've wandered around; Helen for letting me sleep on her bed, on her floor, and keeping all my stuff in her corner for an indeterminable amount of time, and her roommates for understanding; Christian for introducing me to Trevor; Trevor, Shelly, and baby Maddie for letting me stay at their house without knowing me when baby Maddie came early; Michele for contacting her friend Gayle; Gayle, Tony, and baby Max for letting me stay in their gilded palace apartment while they went on vacation to show off the baby; and last, but definitely not least, my new roommate Emily for finding us a beautiful place and making sure that I was always taken care of somewhere while our move-in date kept changing.

I now have a home. I have no furniture or anywhere to put things, but you know what? I don't have to repack my suitcases. I can have all of my stuff in one place. I can buy things. I can have my mail forwarded to me and buy groceries and get to know my neighborhood.

I have a place for friends to stay when they are visiting or maybe even homeless.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Oh Rats!

I saw the biggest, ugliest, most vermany rat int eh world yesterday. I was walking down the street last night and it darted out from under some trash bags. And the, another one! I swear, they were eying my toes, uncovered in my flip-flops, wanting to sink their sharp little ratty fangs into my big juicy toes. Those beady eyes and those fat wormy tails. I stood there for a full minute I think, wondering HOW i would possibly get by, and envisioning the two of them plotting to take me down. I would walk by and the first one would come from the front towards my toes while the second one would sneak up behind and dig those teeth into my achilles tendon. I would crumble to the ground and within moments be covered by swarms of writhing rat bodies, chewing me up alive.

Luckily, i made it past alive. but just barely.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

The year of doing whatever I want to.

This is me at the age of 27.

My birthday was yesterday, and as it goes for me on birthdays, i spent a little bit of time reflecting on this past year. Last year, I stole Frances' idea and made it "The Year of Suvi". While there certainly moments when I was pretty convinced that this was most definately NOT my year, I have to say, when I think about it, this was the year that I did exactly what I wanted to do. A recap:

I spent birthday 26 in Moab for a work trip. Amazingly beautiful place in a canyon on the Colorado. Little did I know that a year later I would end up here

This year included the following:
- Having a great job
- Quitting my great job
- A very broken heart
- Rebounding from the broken heart and finally getting over it
- Feeling like a useless piece of paper and trying to fill it
- Applying to grad school
- Getting into grad school
- Learning to ski
- Watching loads of free, socially concious films all over salt lake
- Reaching a point where I don't want to kiss that many people ever again
- Spending lots of time in the mountains
- Spending lots of time in the temple
- Making my first audio doc and starting a number of others
- Traveling to: San Diego, Fresno, Toronto, New York, Washington D.C., Seattle, Finland, Estonia, and Poland
- Moving to New York City and starting the MPA program at NYU
- Being homeless for two months
- Putting lots of things into boxes and throwing things away
- Flying an airplane
- Discovering amazing new friends and reconnecting with amazing old friends
- Getting lost
- Learning about fine chocolates
- Going to a refugee camp
- Learning about Chechnya
- Visiting a concentration camp
- Buying a camera and taking lots of pictures

Now, this isn't a comprehensive list at all, but I think that it nicely sums up my life this last year. It was one of those years where at the end, i can look back and say, well, that was the year of me because I really became more of who i want to be and experienced so many things that make life really amazing. Yes, even the heart break.

On to more exciting things like Magnolia's cupcakes:

Yum! Come visit me an you will experience these and the banana pudding which is to die for. Just ask Damian, who happened to be in town this weekend.

And finally, since it is the week of September 11th, for my walking tour this week I went with helen, luis and Thomas to Battery Park and the WTC site.

That is one large American flag.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Now just one New York minute

... I think that means a minute packed with more things than a minute anywhere else.

I was sitting at the Puck building today

which happens to be the headquarters for Wagner (my school), and I was talking with a new found friend and fellow student, a nice boy names Chris who is from Texas and happened to grow up in my mission. We were talking about our house hunting adventures (I am still homeless, although through the kindness of strangers I have a bed to sleep in. Chris found a one room place with no kitchen, which he shares with his best friend. Between the two of them, they have one air mattress, two pillows, and a blanket. And they don't share the bed), and the conversation turned to living in new York in general. This city is full of energy. Everything is in constant motion, and by coming here, you can't help but get caught into the momentum. I think it would be difficult to be complacent here. Maybe it is because all the people I know are doing things. And maybe it is because it would be difficult to move to New York unless you were a doer. And maybe I see New York this way because I am in a program where everyone has amazing experiences and everyone knows that they can do something to change the world.

I want to be a doer. Although this first week has exhausted me, I also feel energized. There are so many things I want to see and do and learn, right now. There aren't enough hours in the day for it all. Graduate school is such a unique time to do many of the things that the working life doesn't allow. Why didn't i get on this boat a long time ago? No, really, i feel like this is the perfect time and the perfect place for me. I feel like traveling helped to clear the slate-- that time away helped me to heal and to let go and to refocus on the things that I truly love and want in life. And now I feel ready for this energy, this grand New York minute.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

finance is HOT!

I am a grad student! I started school again today, totally intimidated by my statistics class and finance for nonprofits. I felt like a kid going into the sixth grade, wondering if the 8th graders would steal my lunch money or if I could survive without recess. And I came to discover... i really LIKE my classes!

Shocking, i know. For those of you who know me, you know i am more of a "soft" science person-- sociology, political science, that kind of stuff. I've never really had a close, intimate relationship with numbers. But, statistics winked at me this morning and finance pulled some pretty slick moves. I think i may be falling for him. It is amazing how interesting it all is to me, now that it is all applicable.

I can't wait to put together a budget! Okay, now back to reading three more chapters for my first microeconomics class....

Sunday, September 2, 2007

New York, New York (imagine a Broadway show, because that is what this is)

I know, all of my recent blogs have been about Chechens. Well, I'm sorry, now I am back and I have nothing more to say about the refugee center. I'll try to make some Chechen friends here so I have more to write about. Just skip this blog entry and read the ones about the Chechens.

Picture this: Dark stage, stage left lit by a single bare light bulb, revealing a girl (approximately 26, but looks like she could be turning 27 in about 9 days) lying on her stomach on a creaky bed. The room, obviously not hers, is cluttered with shelves and books, and a packed suitcase sits on the floor. The window behind her rattles as you hear the sound of a train passing by. People shouting outside on the street. Girl rummages through her bag and finally finds a leather bound journal and stubby pencil (much more romantic and 1940s than an apple laptop). She gazes wistfully at the ceiling. Cue soft music. Girl begins to sing a song (which will most definately involve twirling around the bedpost and pushing away from the window after hiding for a moment under the curtain. And a few leaps across the stage, along with random neighbors barging in with no questions asked to contribute to the singing and dancing. The words are really cheesy, but catchy, and all about the woe of being homeless and not sure of where financial aid has been sent and unsure about her future in graduate school and imagining a future of failure). Song concludes, random strangers leave, and the girl sinks into bed as the first rays of morning light stream in the window. close scene.

That is a pretty good picture of my life in New York. I'm pretty sure it will look like a Broadway musical.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Beautiful Women

I met some Chechen women that I simply adore. They are beautiful in many, many ways. And since I wrote a blog entry about Chechen men, the women deserve one as well.

This is a woman whose name I can never quite remember. She is one of the women we talked to who was kidnapped. From the very first day that I met her, I was just struck first by how beautiful she is, and what a great presence she has. She has this beautiful smile and this way of communicating that while I feel shy not speaking any Russian, being around her makes me comfortable and wanting to speak. She has these two beautiful little girls, one of who has adopted me as her favorite teacher (which I don’t mind in the least). This woman studied at the University and her husband was a lawyer in Chechnya until they had to leave because of the war.

Luisa is one of the girls in the class. She is 25 years old, and she is from Grozny. How many times did I hear that in class along with “hello. How are you? I am very well, thank you. How are you? What is your name? Where are you from?” When the wedding was held for the 12 year old, we wondered how Luisa felt, being 25 and single in the culture that seemed to promote marriage from a very young age. As we talked with her, however, we realized that she felt no pressure to be married. While it would be nice, she was a big city girl, and had big plans to travel to places where she would need to ask for directions in English and find an Internet café.

This is Liza. She is 23 years old, and in love with a married man in Ingushetia. Her family, while living in Ingushetia, was also touched by the war and had to leave, and had actually only been at the center for a week before we arrived. She is absolutely beautiful, and is so quick to laugh about her mistakes, and mischievously say “Sorry, I don’t have a watch” to get out of answering a question about the time. We went swimming together in the dirty, dirty river twice. I wore a bathing suit, and she wore a dress. She didn’t mind me being so scantily clad, and wished she had one as well. We splashed about in the river, avoiding the currant and laughing at out breathe holding contest. She told me about studying Chemistry and wanting to work in pharmacology. I told her about domestic violence and being worried about starting school again. We talked about love and heartaches, and I realized that we weren’t so different at all. Even in war, all of those same things continue.

Albina is a quite, serious girl. She looks sad a lot of the time, and I think that it is because she is 12 and has a boyfriend who lives in Chechnya. Ah, the drama of it all. She loves to pose, and always wanted to be a model. She it really beautiful, and I wondered as I watched her dance, which of these young 19-25 year old men had their eye on this beautiful 12-year-old for a wife? We watched a Hindi film with her and her sisters, all of who are totally beautiful, and we tried to copy the movements of the film stars. We giggled a lot.

Marha, Madina, Jaha, Hava. Four sisters, ages nine to 15, who would sometimes mix up the Norwegian numbers with English. But other than that, they are such bright girls! They all came to classes, and would cling to us and talk in English. And they were my favorite models, each one hamming it up for the camera at every opportunity. Such sassy little misses, who reminded me of Little Women, living with their beautiful mother with a missing father. Tea with them was always a fun time, especially because then we would end up Chechen dancing.

Unka is a 9 year old and a perfect hostess. She is from Dagestan, and we aren’t exactly sure what their story is and not sure that they will get refugee status to stay in Poland. She is such a smart girl though, and one of those kids that there is no stopping. She will do anything, and can do anything. Sometimes she would take advantage of that, but we couldn’t stay mad at her for long, since she was just so good at things, and loved us to pieces.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Chechens are fun

Here is a slideshow of some of my favorite pictures from the Smoszewo workcamp. Some were taken by the kids with the cameras, some were taken by me, some were from the people in my group. These people are beautiful!!

On Love

I earlier wrote about the wedding of the 12 year old to a 21 year old. I’ve thought about it a lot, and in our group we have discussed it extensively, concerned. The legal ramifications of underage marriage are great, as are the psychological implications on this girl. We came to find out that the social workers haven’t talked to the father of the groom about the legal problems surrounding the wedding, but there is tension in the air and murmurings of concern among the Chechens. This is an odd situation to be sure. Bu they say it is True Love. As volunteers we discussed what should be done, if we should, or could do or say anything. Since we were in a privileged position as outsiders, we decided that we should express some of these concerns to the father of the groom, who had previously offered his life as an open book to us. And then some answers came that make this whole situation slightly more understandable. There are so many issues that you just can’t see right off the bat.

The bride and groom are in love. But they are both refugees, and their lives are in constant upheaval, with their legal status in limbo. The mother of the bride is returning to Chechnya, the groom and his family finally together here in Poland. In another three years when they legally could be married, who knows where they may be, or if it would even be a possibility. And so, they were married, and the girl moved in with the family of the groom. He actually lives in another room with his brothers, and so they won’t be living in the same place. And he is forbidden from touching her until she is 15 and they can have the real wedding. Also not very old, but better. But still, it just doesn’t seem right. What a life.

A continuation on love. This week, the whole case of the 12-year-old getting married exploded. It turns out that the young couple is sleeping together, so out goes the “waiting until 15” excuse (what would they say to I can’t even date until 16?). Also, everyone in the Center thinks that the whole situation is rather suspicious and not at all normal. In fact, the groom’s father refused to attend the wedding because he disagreed with it (so much for paternal respect). On Friday, the police arrived at the center and the press was tipped off about the case. Ania and Daniel were asked to write a report, to be used in court, about everything that happened, which puts them into a tight spot. For one, we were attending the wedding—are we accomplices to the crime? And what if they have to testify against this family? But despite the awkwardness, I am really glad that the police are involved because now something will be done to protect the girl, at least I hope so. The family is threatening, with all of their seven sons, that the police will take the girl over their dead bodies. WE suspect that they may escape to another country with her and where they don’t know the situation. We also found out that under Islamic law, a girl isn’t permitted to get married until she is 15, so her documents were forged so that the mullah could marry them. Saturday in the newspaper there was an article about the case, and while this one pointed out that this is an isolated incident, I worry that people will think that all Chechens are pedophiles and practice underage marriages. What a mess and I really wish that we weren’t involved. I wish I spoke Russian so I could’ve said something… but what, I don’t know.

War is romantic

10 August 2007
Chechen men fascinate me. And no, not just because I’ve mentioned a few times how good-looking they are. Chechen men, especially the ones here at the refugee center, are so interesting because they come from such a patriarchal society, and their lives are now such a contrast. Chechen men, Muslim men, men from clans and the wild caucus region—they are the ones to protect their homes and families, provide for them, and have sons to pass the land on to. With the war with the Russians, the men are losing their land, and ability to support their families, and even worse, they are losing their sons to the Russian army or tot he rebels, and then to death. Most of the families have fled Chechnya and become refugees to protect their sons and help them to survive. But here, the men don’t have jobs, and thus can’t really support their families and are in a country where they don’t understand the culture and customs. They are stripped of their pride—women social workers must instruct them on the simplest things. These men at the wedding who were acting totally inappropriate… while of course I don’t have to accept their actions, as I thought about it more, it just made me really sad and I started to understand a little bit more of what may be going on with them. They are trying to feel out the limits of their western lifestyle—what is okay, what can they do—and how life will work and how to adjust to it. Like teenagers testing the limits, they know that some things are not good, but try this western culture anyway, this drinking and dancing with close with women.

Maybe that is why they romanticize the war in Chechnya. It is a fight for everything—for their land, to defend their families, to be men, and to die, if they must, for their country. Maybe that is why I romanticize the men of Chechnya—they are very much men (I have this thing for masculinity) and they are adventurous and have experienced something so different than I have. They are so tough, and so vulnerable.

There is man who lives at the center. I wanted to post his picture, but because he is being sought after by the Russian military, I thought maybe it would be wiser not to, and I will call him the Fighter, because he looks like a Chechen rebel with a beard and that is what we were originally told. He is 20-years-old. During the first Chechen war, his father was a fighter, and so this time around, the Russian soldiers captured him and interrogated him on the whereabouts of his father. After not receiving any information from him, they told him they would give him three months to give them $15,000 and 10 machine guns or take him into custody again. So he had to flee from Chechnya and come to Poland. After he left, his brother was taken and interrogated about the whereabouts of his father and him. Before they broke him, the Fighter’s brother blew himself up with a grenade, taking Russian guards with him as well. The Fighter will live in Poland for a few years, be married and have children, and then return to Chechnya to fight, and to gladly die. Twenty years old.

Learning about the Chechens

8 August 2007
Note: Do not try teaching anything the morning after a wedding. The kids are high on candy and stayed up until the wee hours of the morning dancing. There was complete pandemonium among the children. So we went to visit with the social workers first. Fascinating stuff and I will try to compile it.

There are about 170 people, and the center has been open for about a year and three months. In all of that time, only about 5 families out of 40 have received Refugee status. While at the center, there is no cultural immersion, but in the last 3 years the social workers have had some extra training on cultural differences and they are the ones whoa re the first permanent Polish contact for the refugees. The most common cultural problems are:
∑ Lots of stress from PTSD and living in the center
∑ Relationships between men and women is different from what they are used to—the social workers are women and the men are not accustomed to having women in higher positions than the men
∑ Their attitude towards time is very lax
∑ Many times they don’t care about laws and legal implications and believe that final decisions can be changed or bought
∑ At the center, many people get married easily and fight and beat up on each other
∑ Family violence is normal
∑ Authority is respected in older people—not through education or experience
∑ Clan relationships are strong, and it is important to know who is related to whom

Domestic violence
Is there any education on DV and how do Chechens react to dv?
It is difficult because of the Muslim relations—women are completely dependent on the man, and intervention is breaking power and authority and power and honor of the man, and the woman will not go to the police to ask for the violence to stop. If the police do get involved, the woman will not request for the violence to stop for good, just here and now. Talking to the husband individually is very tricky because he can get mad that his wife told the social workers about family problems. There are very rare cases where a woman will want to leave, and in those cases the social workers will prepare a way for her to leave and go to a shelter. The concept is that a woman will lose her honor if she leaves because she won’t have a husband, father, or brother to take care of her.

Can a woman decide whom to marry? There are two ways: A father will arrange the marriage of his children with another father, or it will be a love marriage, where the children fall in love but the fathers still make the contract. Divorce is very simple for me because they can simply say, “I divorce you” three times. Polygamy is practiced because with war, many men are dying and one man will marry many women (widows) to support the women and help the nation survive.

Why are there so many single men in the camp? First of all, many of the men might be married, but their wife might be somewhere else. Secondly, there are many young men because at the age of 16, the Russian military will recruit the boys, or the Chechen fighters will kidnap them at night to become fighters. For parents, their main responsibility is to keep their sons safe and so they come here to keep them alive and from having to fight.

(This part really struck me. All of these boys, Ramzan, Mohammed… these young guys that we talk to and are practicing their flirting skills with us are ones those people. I don’t know, this part makes my heart hurt.)

Asked about the wedding and the newly weds—They will probably not be living together, but she will join her husband’s family. But in this case, there is the question of if they are legally married or not. First of all, they need written permission from her parents, and also Poland does not legally permit people under the age of 18 to be married. The social workers are very worried about the psychological impact this young marriage will have on the girl.

The social workers don’t know in advance if any new people are coming to the center, and each family will only get one room. There are no free time activities arranged, mostly because Smoszewo is so far away that NGOs don’t really come here to organize anything. If someone dies while at the center, the family can have him buried in the Muslim cemetery in Warsaw (government pays) or they can send the body back to Chechnya. Most people will send it back to Chechnya because it is good for the body to be buried in the home country.

(This reminded me of Suljeman Tulovich, who killed those people at Trolley Square—his family took his body back to Bosnia, and I wondered a little bit about why, since he had killed so many people. But that is what must be done.)

Since it rained, classes were a little bit late and we ended up with complete pandemonium and chaos with the children. But, we did manage to play ring around the rosy with them and fall down many, many times. Duck duck goose, or cat cat wolf was also really fun.

The women’s English class was fun as usual, and the girls are so eager to learn. They are really good at learning English and pick up on things really quickly. I wish I were as quick at learning Russian as they are, but of course, I am not in classes either. We taught them how to tell time, to be, to have, and the family. I really like these girls so, so much.

After class, we had a special invitation to go to dinner at Hadijas’s house. She wasn’t cooking for us of course, but her mother was, and it was so good! It was potato dumplings (kind of like gnocchi) and chicken. It was strange, the women didn’t eat with us, and I guess when people have guests, the women aren’t allowed to be at the same table as men. But they did join us after dinner, and we had a really great conversation with the women about life in Chechnya for about 2-3 hours. Wow, I wish I could remember everything that we talked about! I love those women, and they are so beautiful and open talking with us. They were also concerned with the marriage of the 12 year old, and they said that it really wasn’t a traditional wedding. They told us about their own weddings, and they were both kidnapped! I guess that is tradition in Chechnya, to kidnap the bride. Of course, she could then refuse and the guy who kidnaps her will have to pay her family a fine because he took something that doesn’t belong to him. One was kidnapped by a friend, and the other by a guy whose name she didn’t even know. But, after considering it, they both decided to accept the marriage offers. I suppose that takes out all the pains of dating, if that is what you are into. They told us also about life in Chechnya—that it was a beautiful country and a bit about their families. But now, almost everyone has lost family members to the Chechen war. The husband of one of the women lost 12 members of his family. And the war won’t end anytime soon either—there are too many natural resources, such as oil in Chechnya and the Russians soldiers are making a living taking advantage of everything and everyone there. They would like to return, but they have moved here for their children,

I can’t remember much more…