Yoga, Drinks, and Bellydance

Saturday, I had a bellydance gig in a beautiful home in Manassas. It was a huge, multigenerational, perfectly decorated, around-the-world-themed bridal shower for a cute lesbian couple. I performed downstairs, in Morocco, but I also enjoyed a cheeky taste  of the sangria just outside of Paris, where I waited in hiding for my cue to enter.  

Performing at the party was a joy. Perfect audience and environment and the client left me a juicy tip in the envelope with the balance. So classy!  

Following that, I met a friend at an anniversary party at Malmaison in Georgetown by the water for Grip the Mat. I’d never heard of the organization, but I figured I’d enjoy a party with a supposedly good DJ (he was good) and complimentary Sweet Green. Coming from my gig, I beat my friend there by about 1/2 an hour, so while I waited, I ate my tiny cup of free Spicy Sabzi salad looked up Grip the Mat online. 

Apparently, it’s a company in NY, DC, and Orlando that hosts yoga + social events. They combine yoga class with music, with brunch, with a yacht ride, with an open bar! While I love yoga, and appreciate an open bar, I’m not sure the two go together. I would have to try it to find out. 

Detox with yoga and “re-tox” with a few cocktails? Share a toast with new friends in celebration of having completed the day’s yoga practice? What do you think? Is Grip the Mat on to something here? Would you pay $50 to experience one of their events and decide for yourself? How about $250? Have you ever attended a GTM event?

The Grip the Mat anniversary party was cute. There wasn’t any yoga, just a laid back, happy hour-like vibe, with people dancing, drinking, chatting. I personally lost count of how many of those little Spicy Sabzi salad cups (kale, quinoa, carrots, roasted tofu…) I ate. After the first three, I had to start sending people up to the sample table because I was ashamed to have eaten so many. 

 My friend Crystal is in the black dress with the lace detail. The other two girls are her stylish friends: Amie, in the floral brocade, and Dominique, in the gold sequins. And me? I just have on the knit romper that I threw into my gig bag before my show. I may have been underdressed, but my shoes were to die for. 

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. . .

 

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