She Wore a Veil

This is a piece I wrote a while ago, in my Freshman year at University for a creative writing class. I recently read an article that talked about how there are not enough positive images of veiled women in Western society, so I decided this was worth publishing. This in honour of one of the most inspiring and beautiful women I know, and in honour of the strength veiled women show every day in the face of so much racism. The name in this piece is fictitious and has been altered in order to protect the privacy of those involved.

Her veil spoke for her before she ever said a word. In my prejudiced mind it told me she was conservative, religious, naïve and timid. I had always prided myself in having an open mind, in not judging books by their cover, in paying no heed to things as superficial as race and religion. I always told myself that the international lifestyle I had been brought up in had taught me better. Yet here I found myself in an international school, in a classroom where around 40% of the students were either Muslim or devout in their own religion, and I found myself judging them, before we even had one conversation. I had never realized the strength of the influence Western culture had on me until I left the Americas.

Suddenly the world I had known and everything I had unwittingly taken as gospel was was not the same. As if I had fallen into a Lewis Carrol novel, where right was wrong, up was down and my mind had to rearrange itself in order to understand this new world I was in. This was not a case of adapting to life in a developing country; this was a case of adapting to an entirely new set of ideals, priorities, beliefs and lifestyles. And Malika, the girl with the veil, opened my eyes to it all.

I would be lying if I had said that Malika and I instantly became friends. It took me almost a year to even have a proper conversation with her, which only actually happened thanks to a mutual friend. I still remember when I first heard her point out that she thought Johnny Depp was attractive, or “hot” in her own words. My first thought was that she should not be saying, or even thinking those things. Somewhere in the back of my mind I imagined it was against her religion to do so. A few minutes later I realized the absurdity of that thought and it was only then that the true scope of my prejudice occurred to me. If I had to guess, I would say that this was precisely the moment when I began to look at Malika, and everyone else I had met thus far in Tanzania, as a girl like any other. This was the moment I began to understand that her veil did not silence her mouth, or her thoughts, that it didn’t make her any different from me. Not in any significant way at least. It was like putting on a brand new pair of glasses after you first learn you need them, when you realize the world you’ve been looking at has so much mroe beautiful detail that you’ve been missing all along.

I recall a school field trip where she was one of my roommates. She would wake up every morning to pray, just before sunrise. I would watch her with my eyes only half open, entranced by the repetition of movements and phrases and the concentration and devotion with which they were performed. I asked her about her religion, her personal beliefs, her family’s views and her culture, and each time I was met with an honest and uninhibited response. She would never speak as if this was the only solution, the only way of thinking; she would simply state her belief without any imposition, you were free to disagree. She told me why she prayed, and why she fasted during Ramadan. She explained her views on dating, and how she would never marry someone who was not Muslim, simply for the lack of connection she felt she would have. She would tell me all this unabashedly, understanding and feeding my every curiosity.

Of course Malika was not the only close Muslim friend I had in Tanzania. She was not even my only deeply religious friend, of which I encountered more in that high school than I had ever before. I quickly discovered different sects of the Muslim religion, and the differences between them. There was even a significant difference between the personal beliefs of those within the same sect, just as there are between those of the Catholic sect of Christianity, or any other sect of any other religion.

To me she remained the symbol of a broken barrier; a shattered prejudice. Her veil taught me that no matter how open minded I imagined myself to be, there would always be a few preconceptions left to tear down. She showed me that a veil can give women just as much strength and independence as its absence. That veiled and muslim women are not passive. That they are not victims. And perhaps most importantly; that they want the same things as the rest of us; freedom, respect, and understanding.

Why I Write

Ever since I was little languages came easy to me, as they do, of course with most children. By the time I learned to talk I had picked up Mandarin from my nanny, Dutch & English from the other adults and children, and Portuguese from my mother. Being the child that I was, I would regularly pick out the easiest words to pronounce in each language and mash them together into a sentence that could not be understood by anyone other than myself and my brother.

Over the years I’ve forgotten all of my Mandarin and Dutch, but my interest in languages persisted. After I had some trouble in school my teacher suggested that I start a journal. I took to it like a bee to honey and filled an entire notebook in barely a month. Mind you, one line of my writing took up most of the page at the time, but I never stopped craving notebooks since. I could spend hours in a stationary shop, drooling over all the different notebooks, wanting to take all of them home and fill each of their pages with my still horrid handwriting. In fact to this day, when I need to express my feelings to someone I would much rather write it in a letter than I would confront them face to face.

Catharsis means different things to different people. Some people prefer to paint, others scream into a pillow, others exercise. I write. I let every word I feel flow onto a page and release it from the eternal chaos in my mind. I write because it clears my mind. I write because I’m happy, or sad, or angry. I write because in many ways it’s the purest way that I can be myself, express myself, and open myself to the world around me. I write for me, in the hope that you’ll find yourself somewhere between the lines.

Never Stop Dreaming

For a long time I was terrified of starting this blog. To expose my work to hundreds of strangers, to put words, comments, thoughts and ideas out there that I could not take back. I hadn’t seen this cartoon until now, but it definitely gave me comfort to carry on posting, writing and creating. We can’t let our fears keep us from dreaming.

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Autumn Laziness

I have been so ridiculously lethargic lately! I can’t even justify it. I honestly have no idea what’s going on, but ever since I got sick I’ve been having trouble finding m rhythm again and getting back to work. Worst yet – I actually have stuff to do!

How cute is this?! I LOVE bulldogs

How cute is this?! I LOVE bulldogs

I worked on a couple film projects in June and September, and now they’re both in post-production, which means I don’t have heaps of work to do, but I do have to attend a few meetings and do some liaising, promoting and organizing here and there. I can’t even bring myself to do that. Just been dragging my feet to every meeting. I’m worried my body has gotten too used to one full year of unemployment, but most likely I’ve just been overworking myself and this shiver-inducing weather is not helping.

It also doesn’t help that I have been trying (and failing) to quit coffee. I don’t necessarily think it’s bad for you or anything, but I like to detox from it every once it a while to prevent withdrawal headaches and tolerance. Probably not the best time to be doing this… which is why I have been giving up every day and saying “I’ll try again tomorrow.” At least there’s always tomorrow…

Mindfulness

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Just spent the last four days with the in-laws for Canadian Thanksgiving. I know I already published the mandatory, cliche “I am thankful” post, but the time I spent away from the city gave me a little bit of time to reflect.

Ever since I moved to Canada I’ve felt like I was in some sort of purgatory. Waiting at a stop sign for life to catch up to me. Mindlessly going about daily chores and self-improvement tasks just to get myself through the day. Up until now it’s all kept me pretty sane, given me something to focus on, goals to pursue. Over the last week, however, between getting sick and travelling to the countryside, my mind had some time to catch up to my body’s own mechanical movements.

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Rest!

Last week, I was bed ridden for about two days, barely able to get out of bed from the pain in my abdomen, going to the bathroom constantly and feeling like my torso had turned itself into a greenhouse. At first I thought I had come down with a case of the stomach flu, or maybe food poisoning.

Turns out my combination of swimming on Monday, Kettlebell on Tuesday, a Cycle & Sculpt on Wednesday and a lentil curry that same day, did not do my body any favours. All I really had was a mixture of over exertion at the gym and… well… lentil curry (need I say more?). Trust me, indigestion feels a WHOLE LOT worse when your abs are also recovering from weightlifting.

article-2320442-19A66162000005DC-960_634x359Here is where I have to stress, once again, the importance of rest. And also where I kick myself for not listening to my own advice. Remember when I wrote about how important it is to take time to rest and relax? This is exactly why.

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Thanksgiving

Have you ever had one of those moments where you feel so much love for all the beauty in the world that your heart feels like it’s trying to hug itself? Where all the weight around your chest crushes it and tightens it, but instead of pain you simply feel too much joy. You wish you could show all your friends and family just how much you love them because you feel so blessed and lucky.

I try to feel like that at least once a day. Happiness is a choice, and no matter how hard or sad you life is, there is always a silver lining, and somehow you are always in the right place at the right time. Even if that also involves being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Life is screaming out advice to you, you just have to learn to listen.

This might also sound cheesy, but it’s just something I’ve learned over time, looking back at past moments that make me cringe. And I was having one of those heart crushing moments.

I just finished a short film project with the most amazing group of people. It was unpaid, and it was just a small low budget thing, but it felt so good to work on, and everyone around the project was so positive and professional. I suppose that’s quite fitting with Canadian Thanksgiving coming up. I may still be starting out, and unsure if I will ever be able to make money doing what I love, but I have been immensely fortunate with the people I have in my life, what they’ve taught me, and the opportunities they’ve given me, and I will always be grateful for that.

Barsa Night

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So last night was date night with the man thing and we had a delicious time at the new Barsa Taberna in one of my favourite Toronto neighbourhoods, St. Lawrence Market. The beef tartar (pictured above) was to die for, and the chorizo tasting platter reminded me so much of the wonderful barbecues my uncle makes back in Brasilia. The restaurant itself is lovely, with wonderful stone walls that transport you into a real underground European taberna; a little alcove that’s been dug into an antique building. The space apparently used to be part of the Market’s cellars and has been wonderfully converted into this quaint little restaurant. I fell in love with the bar stool and have now made it my mission to disIMG_1148cover where I can find some for my own house.

They had run out of the Pascual Larietta Rioja that I was really looking forward to sampling with my meal, you can never blame restaurants for these things in Toronto. When everyone has to buy liquor from the same supplier, shortages become pretty habitual. I will still never understand the liquor laws in this province. In any case, they did have a wonderful Matto Nero D’Avola whose pungent hint of chocolate wound up pairing perfectly with the richness in the Beef Tartare and BC Trout Salad.

Unfortunately I apparently enjoyed the wine far too much as I passed out on the couch later on, still in my dress, with a pair of uggs snuggly hugging my feet and legs. And now I get to enjoy a lovely, lazy day of writing as the rain pours outside. Still convincing myself that I should go to the gym for Pilates later on… we shall see if the rain cooperates. Hope you all had an equally lovely, if not better Thursday night.

Update: The gym was closed for Yom Kippur, so at least I can say I tried. I have also just discovered that, instead of passing out cutely on the couch as I had previously imagined, I had my panties around my ankles tangled up in my Uggs. When my lovely partner tried to carefully take them off so I wouldn’t trip on them, I shoved him off and fell in an act of instant karma. I remember none of this and will deny it for the rest of my days. I guess we all can’t have an elegant end to our evenings…

The Truth?

dictionary-series-philosophy-truthAs a species we have always been obsessed with the truth. The concept dominates film & television with shows about human polygraphs and truth serums have always been popular, and let’s not even get started on the Matrix’s infamous blue and red pills. Moreover people are always talking about how biased the media is, and how they never really report “the whole truth” of a story, or how politicians are never honest and neither are corporations. Some of us search for it in horoscopes, numerology, and even blood types. One of the earlier articles I posted in this very blog referred to the subject, and how I felt I had been lied to by “society”.

Lately I’ve been wondering more and more about what the truth really is. Continue reading

Perspective

I read a beautiful poem on Ookoscope’s blog“He Was, He was Not”. I felt I knew a lot of people who could relate to it. Having just finished a conversation with a friend about feminism, my mind immediately focused on the poem’s gender perspective. As a woman I used to have very narrow views about gender equality, but one of the great things about having a guy as your best friend is that it keeps things in balance.

The poem itself is about a man who deceives a woman into sleeping with him, although I am in no way doing the words justice, please read it for yourself. In any case I felt like a lot of the emotions evoked in the piece could apply to both women and men. In fact, somehow I know about just as many men who have been deceived and betrayed by women, as I do the other way around. Best of all, the blog writer himself (Ooko) is a man, yet he wrote from a woman’s point of view.

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