Philadelphia, how I love thee!

I’ve been to Philly three or four times, and until recently, I’d always kept it in the “friend zone.” Now, it’s official: I am in LOVE with that city. The way to my heart is mostly through my stomach.  

Clean, green, and bustling, but not crowded, Philadelphia is a finicky citygirl’s dream. Mostly, though, I loved the food–so many all-vegan places to explore! From fancy fare and and chic cocktails (Charlie Was a Sinner) to divey and delicious (Blackbird Pizzeria), this city is something of a vegan foodie destination. 

HipCityVegan was a bit pricey for a small takeout joint with no public toilet (?!), but I enjoyed my sandwich despite having to pee at the nail salon next door. Fries were so-so.  

Grindcore Coffee is full of vegan treats and rather dangerous for a dieter. They get extra points for being doggie friendly, and for their blueberry coffee cake. And their horchata. And their oatmeal cookie sandwich.  

Another cafe and juice bar on the healthier, more expensive side is PS and Co. Organic and gluten free everything. My pad Thai dish was scrumptious, but could’ve been twice as big. I had an avocado key lime macadamia custard cup (YUM) to cap my hunger. 

Capogiro, a gelato joint with a few locations in the city, while not vegan, has a whole row of sorbet, which is vegan. A scoop of it fortified my under-the-weather boyfriend, who was exhausted by my enthusiastic city crawling. Sadly, I was too full of other food to buy any–I could only sample a couple of varieties, and I’m still dreaming about that teaspoon of mojito flavored sorbet. 

Long distance relationships are challenging. Luckily, the drive from DC to Philadelphia is a short one. Philly, I love you. 

Forever yours,

Lara 

   Rittenhouse Square

 Cool looking building
 Buskers putting their hearts into it  

This photo is awkward, but I liked my outfit     Complimentary champagne at the Nail Bar

Secret garden-esque restaurant (no vegan options here.)

 Gloriously gay neighborhood
  

Raison d’être 

We adopted an eight-week old chi-poo! Meet Licorice:

Chihuahua x Poodle = Chipoo

He’s darling! And my favorite new accessory. I plan to take him everywhere! Here we are shopping at Macy’s:

 

only the finest doggie dishes for my baby

Licorice is learning new things, like how to practice yoga:

Yoga + Dog = Doga

I love being a mom! So hard, but so worth it. My life has new meaning now that I’ve brought a life into this world. 💗💗💗 

***Update: Just learned today that Licorice’s foster mom made a mistake about his age. I called her to find out his exact birthday. January 25. (Sun sign: Aquarius.) He is actually three months old. Still so tiny!***

Que coincidência!

Sometime last month, I received a call to perform at an event in Silver Spring. When I met with the organizer beforehand to discuss details, we hit it off and chatted for a bit about this and that. She was throwing a party in celebration of her mother’s birthday. 

After filling her last name in the contract, I had a hunch, so I asked my client to tell me her mother’s first name. Alison!

Her mother had been my Portuguese professor at Howard University several years ago! At the party, the guest of honor, my former teacher, was doubly surprised. She hadn’t even known a belly dancer was coming at all!

What a lovely coincidence. 

#Interpreterlyfe

I have been interpreting professionally for the better part of a year now. I work mostly in hospitals, servicing Turkish and Spanish-speaking patients in mental health units, before and after surgery, and during occupational and physical therapy appointments. I’ve also worked in a group home for troubled children, a juvenile detention facility (read: I spent the entire day in prison), in schools, and my fair share of social work visits. Recently, I worked a three week assignment in a research hospital, where people from all over the world come for the study and treatment of rare and very serious diseases.

This research hospital is definitely the most intense working environment I’ve experienced. The security to enter the place is at least as bad as the airport. In order to reach the assignment on time, I’ve got to arrive half an hour early, then have my car and my body searched from hood to trunk as though I were a suspected drug trafficker/possible suicide bomber. I can choose to avoid the car search if I park on the distant visitors’ lot, but there’s no getting around the metal detector and X-ray machine, plus, that adds a half-mile sprint to the social work desk where I report to start work. For someone going into the place every day for three weeks, you’d think they’d issue a temporary employee badge. Alas, they do not.

What really makes this type of interpreting challenging, though, is the severity of the diseases, the gravity of the consent forms, the uncertainty of whether the patient will benefit from the treatment, the complexity of the medical terminology, and the sheer volume of doctors, nurses, specialists, technicians, and other personnel with whom the patient must meet. The job of the interpreter is to render what is said into the target language, not to feel, but in the midst of so many emotions–hope, fear, fatigue, irritation, joy, disappointment, despair–it’s difficult not absorb some of the emotional stress. It’s exhausting, and on busy days, the chance for even a 20 minute break from interpreting to eat lunch is unlikely.

There are aspects of interpreting that I enjoy immensely–variety, for one. Every day is different, and there are things to be learned in every new environment. And the work itself is enjoyable. A former professor of mine used to describe interpretation as mental gymnastics, and it truly is! Flipping from one language to another and back again is challenging–it keeps your language skills sharp and your vocabulary ever-increasing. Families, doctors, nurses and technicians really appreciate the interpreter. Pediatric patients give hugs.

Working as a contractor for an agency, however, I do not feel as though I am fairly compensated. The agency doesn’t seem to much value its interpreters. And when I think about how I am exploited, I feel angry.

Return of the Dead

I titled this blog in honor of Halloween approaching and due the fact that it’s been ages since I’ve written anything.  It isn’t that noteworthy events haven’t taken place, it’s just that I’ve been rather distracted. I vow to write more often.  I vow to do a lot of things, actually.

A short summary to bring us up to speed:

I went to Turkey on the fifth of September.  I’d left so abruptly last April, I felt I simply must go back and put things in order.  Besides, I had some nice costumes there.  I stayed about 10 days in Istanbul and of course, it wasn’t quite enough time.  I saw many of my friends, but not all of them.  I got a chance to see my Turkish little sister, and to hear Raquy, my lovely friend, next door neighbor (and a kind-of-a big-deal musician–I think she’s in Lebanon participating in a TV show at the moment), perform in Taksim, and the musicians all invited me up to dance as they played for me, so that was fun.  All in all, the trip was more sentimental than functional.

I returned to DC and spent three weeks here, partly performing, partly interpreting, but mostly wasting time–I wasn’t even practicing yoga everyday(!), and before I knew it, it was the Thursday before our Hong Kong trip.  That day, I served as the Spanish interpreter for a a 16 year old inmate at the Youth Detention Center from seven am to seven pm, and the very next day, I flew to the Far East with my mother and sister to attend my brother’s wedding.

Party of the decade.

{A Chunky Onion Production}

Hong Kong was wonderful.  I stayed about 10 days.  It would have been even better had I not been so broke from the recent Istanbul trip (and the underemployment.)  The wedding was amazing, and was so nice to be together with my family.  Unfortunately, since we’ve left, a few members of said family have become quite miffed with me.  :'(

It’s been four days since I got back from Hong Kong, and there’s been a harrowing turn of events including, but not limited to, having to change my return flight to the US, losing my phone forever in a taxi, my Istanbul apartment being burglarized, and other unfortunate occurrences, some of which, in eery retrospect, seem almost to have been foreshadowed during the weeks leading up to this storm of misfortune by things I’d heard, seen, or offhandedly said.  Despite this nightmarish string of setbacks, or perhaps because of them, I have finally found a bit of motivation to get my affairs in order.

Operation work hard and focus is underway.

Al Rakesa. . . The Belly Dancer

So I’m in this Egyptian television program. . .

 

Detours eventually return to the original path

If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a dozen times.  Life in Turkey is a roller coaster of events, emotions, and experiences.  In February, I’d decided to trade in this roller coaster of dance and life highs and lows for training and travel in the US.  I bought my ticket, planning to fly in the third week of April.

It was shortly after this decision that I was contacted to participate in a belly dance competition/reality television show in Cairo, Egypt, called Al Raqessa.  As my involvement in the show was slated to finish toward the end of March, resulting in a happy detour in my varied and unpredictable life, it would not conflict with my plans of departure from Turkey in April.

However, a week before my scheduled trip to Egypt came a phone call from a captain I’d worked with a few times.  I was wanted to perform on a Bosphorus boat tour. . .  nightly. . .  for a year.  Although I was on my way to Cairo for a couple weeks, then to the US for an extended period, I agreed to do it, knowing that Burası Türkiye–This is Turkey–and things could change at any moment.  I explained to them that I’d be away filming a television show for 10-20 days, found them a suitable replacement, and performed several times during the week leading up to my departure.  I was pleased with the venue, and I enjoyed performing there, so much in fact, that I began to reconsider leaving Turkey.  Perhaps I’d stay until the end of the year, then find someone to take my place . . .  Perhaps I’d stay until next spring.  Perhaps. . .  I felt quite content, appreciated, and well-compensated performing on the yacht, and when I left for Cairo, I was told to hurry back.

My time in Cairo was amazing and bizarre, frustrating and exciting.  It deserves a blog entry of its own.  I laughed, I cried, I learned, I may have thrown a temper tantrum. . .  I met wonderful new friends and was reunited with old ones.  I learned that all Egyptian food tastes better with tahini.  I was in Cairo for 18 days.

Obligatory jumping in the desert in front of a pyramid photo

Obligatory jumping in the desert in front of a pyramid photo

I returned to Istanbul and immediately resumed performing on the yacht.  Soon after, there was a misunderstanding with one of the less likeable members of the management team.  I still don’t understand exactly what transpired . . .  They were dissatisfied with one of my subs?  I was gone closer to 20 days than 10?  It’s still unclear, but what I know for sure is that I will not be working with them now or ever again.

So, luckily, I hadn’t yet altered my flight arrangements from Turkey.  I’m taking this as a sign from the Universe to continue the path I was on before Cairo–a combination of training–Rocket yoga, belly dance master classes, aerial dance lessons, aerial yoga teacher training, performing, FAMILY and FRIENDS, and of course a bit of exploring within the US.  Purple mountain majesties and all that.

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