We're off to see the wedding!

Din 149: "There is a treasure trove of talk."

I just love India. From the slight change in scent after disembarking from the plane to the Magic Masala chips and cashew cookies I enjoyed after collecting my luggage, the country is a treat. If the rest of the world is a snack for the senses, India is a banquet.

Having come through customs, I found Ruby Chachu and filled him in on my time in London (though he already reads my blog religiously). Today's drive from New Delhi to Ludhiana was only a record-breaking five hours! We arrived in Dadiji's arms after a smooth and relaxed ride.

Once home, I chatted with Dadi before performing some "blog maintenance." (Click here to read all about our trip to London in one place!) I then lay down to rest awhile. I must have been a bit more tired than I realized, as I ended up sleeping from 10:30AM to 5:30PM. Namaste, jet lag! In the evening, I arose and had some "lunch."

Then, Ruby Chachu and I went out on a special errand. Tomorrow is the wedding of my cousin Nippi -- what a wonderful way to start my time here in India! We drove up to Mal Road and purchased a pair of Punjabi jutti to match the shalwar kameez ("suit") I plan to wear tomorrow. Am I excited or what?

In the evening, I read Sonnet 149 before the three of us over here talked with Mama and Priya on Skype. I now creep closer and closer to taking a bath, though I am terrified because it is so very cold here. Wish me luck!

Day 148: "Get in the queue like everybody else!"

The show last night was absolutely breathtaking -- quite literally, as our fellow audience members shot us frequent sidelong glances for our sighs of pain at the characters' tough choices and our squeals of joy at the actors' great voices. Laura was especially bowled over by the unbelievable effects made possible by the Queen's Theatre's revolving stage, and, as straightforward as it seems, I just can't get over the power of the vocal talent we got to hear.

Back at the Cobrigoe Hotel, we continued to marvel over the two shows we had seen as we packed our things for today.

This morning, Laura and I dragged ourselves out of bed impressively early (for us!) and checked out at the crack of eight, having been sorely overcharged for our "conplimentary" breakfast.

We lugged my luggage (cognate accusative!) to Pimlico station and waited sleepily until our absurdly overstuffed train to the airport arrived. When sitting space eventually became available, we both nodded off, but luckily arose in time to disembark at Heathrow.

Once I had checked in, we of course chose eating as the appropriate activity to commemorate my departure. After enjoying one last coffee and tiramisu together while discussing all the "usual," it was time for farewells. Thanks for a splendid time, Laurita, and see mediocre you in April! (Be thankful that you know where to go if you get hurt in London.)

I now sit aboard my flight, having been yelled at by only one airport official, and just completed my reading of Sonnet 148.

Tell the world I'm coming home!

Day 147, Part II: "I came to London to sit next to you."

After lunch, Laura and I traipsed through the stained glass, oil painting, and jewellery collections at the V&A (practicing speaking Spanish in a Spanish accent and English in a French accent) until we were utterly spent. 

We then headed into Kensington and consumed some scrumptious Nutella crepes. From there, we ventured to Piccadilly Circus, where we've been wandering about for the past few hours. This last hour or so was spent looking for a restaurant that would have food for Laura's means (she needs to eat more veggies!) and wifi for me. After walking up and down the street several times, we finally spied a restaurant we had passed several times but not noticed, Caffe Concerto. Laura now sits polishing off our lasagne and Caesar salad (so authentically British) as I write this post.

We're off soon to the Queen's Theatre, where we will be watching Les Miserables tonight. Obviously, we're stoked!

It's time for me to sign off, readers! I don't know when I'll have internet next as I'll be in transit for the next few days. Ta ta for now!

Day 147, Part I: Woke up in London yesterday.

Song of the day: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SpSiQRoTQU4&feature=youtube_gdata_player


I'm able to snatch some wifi right now, so I thought I'd update you all.

Any day that starts with cake is a good day. After breakfast, Laura and I hopped back aboard our tour bus. On our way to South Kensington, we read Sonnet 147 together before exploding into Ingrid Michaelson harmonies.

Upon arriving at the V&A (Victoria and Albert Museum), we quickly made the executive decision that we could spend the entire day here. Naturally, we gravitated toward the Medieval & Renaissance displays, and I regaled Laura with my scant knowledge of classical mythology as we both bewailed our lack of Biblical expertise. We must have spent an hour obsessing over one of Leonardo Da Vinci's notebooks alone, lamenting the lack of such genius in a single individual of our society today.

 After strolling through the sculpture gallery while listening to my favorite heart-wrenching rendition of "Danny Boy," we now find ourselves eating -- again. As we enjoyed an orange for dessert, I recited Wendy Cope's "The Orange" for my sister. The ever-competitive Miss Kambourian retaliated by chanting the first 36 digits of pi. As you may be able to infer, we are quite sleep-deprived. But there is art to be explored, so I'm signing off now -- cheerio!

Day 146: "Did you swallow a thesaurus?"

I'll admit that after the excitement of a conference call with my varlets and subsequent text messages with family (both fictive and sanguinary), it was a bit difficult to fall asleep on the plane. Coupled with the promise of chicken curry quickly identified by my talented Indian nose, rest was nearly impossible. But when I recovered from jubilation over my exit row seat to notice that the entire row behind me was empty, I enjoyed an improved quality of comfort. Three seats are better than one!

I read Sonnet 146 over breakfast on the plane before my arrival in London, where I was greeted by the sight of the always mediocre Laura K. holding a sign reading "Miss Gilbourian." My sister and I enjoyed a second breakfast katching up at Krispy Kreme before taking the tube from Heathrow to Pimlico, where we checked into our hotel and powdered our noses before hitting town!

We embarked upon a traditional double decker bus tour of the city (the Brasiliero ticketmaster said I look like I'm Brazilian!), during which a delirious Laurita babbled in French while I keenly absorbed a plethora of facts about London's history.

After the two-hour tour, we selected Spicy World (more Indian food, of course) for dinner (the Bangladeshi waiter said I look like I'm European!). Filled with chicken tikka and giggles, we gave our patronage to the Apollo Victoria Theater, watching their performance of Wicked.

Neither of us had seen the show before, and both were apprehensive at the start about whether our experience was "European" enough, but given that we spent half the show gaping at one another in astonishment at both plot and talent, we consider it a night well spent. I have never felt so many shivers run down my spine in a 2.5-hour period. Just wow.

After the show, we prowled about Victoria Station searching for available wifi networks which would allow me to publish this post, but were unable to locate one. Please allow me to apologize for the paucity of internet availability here! At night, we spent a few hours discussing our deepest secrets (i.e. middle school) before attempting to sleep.

This morning, we sit at Patisserie Valerie enjoying cappuccinos and cake for breakfast. We have a busy day planned, but I'll try to find a net cafe and check in with you all tonight!

Day 145: "I've never missed you because you've never left before!"

I started this morning by checking in online for my flight tonight (harder than it looks) and scanning some Baby Ratna photos for Mama's Facebook, before doing some research on grants for Gyaan Ghar.

After a nice relaxing bath, I ran some errands with Mama and then we went to the mall to get me some sneakers for my trip.

Back home, inspired by today's lovely shorts weather and my yet-to-be-inaugurated shoes, I went for a very brisk jog (sprint) outside. I then bolted indoors to do some quick ab exercises before commencing last-minute packing agenda items. With that almost done, I leapt into the shower, out of the shower, and into some sorrily sloppy sweats before we raced to Flint Hill for tonight's Band and Guitar concert. (I read Sonnet 145 in the car.)

Never have I ever enjoyed a band performance this much!! (Certainly including the time when I was a band member myself.) Under the direction of the awesome Mr. Cosby, the upper school band collaborated with the middle school advanced band to blow the audience away with Herby Hancock's "Chameleon," featuring a number of upper school legends like Patrick Sanguineti, Aaron Frederick, and Lucas Wolff.

We darted out of the auditorium before the last number, and I write from the car en route to the airport, ready for teary farewells before a long (6.25-hour) nap!

Day 144: "You speak in essays."

The weather wasn't the only gray thing about today -- it was my last day at Flint Hill! After reading Sonnet 144 in the car, I arrived at school this morning to news from Jake Shor that some of my pieces had been fired! It was awesome and super gratifying to be able to see a few of my finished products.

Leaving the kiln, I sauntered into Mr. Chang's room, where I had the pleasure of reading/proofing his Curriculum Vitae, Teaching Philosophy, and Personal Statement for an application he is compiling. Now that was what I call good reading!

After bidding Mama Maddox bye-bye, I embarked on a quest to find Ms. Cardone. I made a slight (okay, major) detour to Mr. Lamont's office, to receive his blessing before my upcoming trip to India. Following his warm words, I interrupted Ms. Kotey's class to wish her farewell and pick her brains about some plans I have.

Before I knew it, it was time for lunch with two of my brothers! We had a super conversation (i.e. I talked and they listened) about sonnets and sewage treatment, two of my favorite things. LITERATURE AND ENVIRO NERD = ME.

Post prandium, it was back to the studio! For the past few weeks, Ms. Okoth (middle school art teacher) and I have been coordinating a cross-campus Empty Bowls collaboration between students of Flint Hill's two campuses.

Today, it was go time! Jordan and I had to crank out the slab and supplies for 25 middle school students to make one bowl each -- but just to be safe, we made double. I never knew Ceramics could make one sweat! As the clock struck 2:30, I said one last goodbye all my babies (including a very tearful Bradley) before the Clay Club boarded a bus to the middle school.

We arrived before the young ones did, giving us plenty of time to set up tables with construction stations for each of them.

As the middle school students filed in, Jordan and I gave them a demo, before letting them loose and strolling around the room helping where we could.

After the students had added texture to their clay and laid it into the molds, they moved to the decorating station, where the young artists could adorn pre-bisqued bowls with underglaze patterns of their choice.

I was truly impressed with the artistic talent exhibited by the kids (children are so in touch with that part of themselves), as well as the support shown from Clay Club members! I was blown away by the number of high school students who just hopped on the bus to come help, and worked so well with the kids. In my view, our project was wildly wonderful!

With cleanup almost completed, Priya and I pranced onto the bus for my last ride with Dee Dee until April. Blog readers, please remind me to write letters to my incredible bus driver from my travels, since she has no computer or internet.

Back home, I put the finishing touches on my packing, a process which was expedited by my new and ingenious laundry system. With sneakers and shalwar kameezes packed, I'm now pretty much ready to go!

It's time for my penultimate workout in America and perhaps some continuation of Don before retiring for the night.


Day 143: That's where you'll find me.

After reading Sonnet 143 and eating a banana this morning, I went with Papa to watch Priya's volleyball tournament. It was really fun, she played really well, and I gained a new appreciation for team sports, the closest to which I have experienced is Certamen. :)

In between her matches, we got lunch from Wendy's. I don't know why food was really important to me today, but my spicy chicken sandwich and frosty float were absolutely scrumptious. Papa and I also picked up lunch for Mama and took it to her at the open house she was hosting.

When we learned that Priya would be at the gym until 8:00 this evening, we dropped by to take her a snack as well, and I quizzed her a bit for the History test she has tomorrow (iPhone studying is the best!).

Back home, I had just started packing when I received a surprise visit from my sister Iman! She had dropped by to say "bye" one more time, and give me a really thoughtful farewell present. My favorite part was the note she wrote me, and the word "HUG" on the box of chocolates (Iman gives really good hugs!).

Totally touched and full of Mama's garden vegetable soup, I did a few loads of laundry before continuing to pack for my upcoming sojourn in India. I then worked out, and now prepare to watch a movie with the fam. I hope I'm ready for my last day at Flint Hill!


Song of the day: http://youtu.be/Ysicu3_zXbw

Day 142: We better find each other.

I read Sonnet 142 today after my weekly phone call to Woojin. I then spent most of the morning figuring out my travel plans for next week. Let's just say I'm excited.

For lunch, Papa took Priya and me to Cosi (Bombay chicken salad for the win), where Mama later joined us. I also got to introduce Priya to the delectable s'mores there, which, as one may imagine, elicited a lot of hugs from my little monster!

After our meal, Priya and I browsed the Town Center as Mama shopped, and we ran into our Uncle Ramon -- what a fun surprise! We arrived home in time to enjoy a beautiful snowy sunset.

In the evening, I found two lovely sweaters for my upcoming trip before commencing a VDV (Varlet-Dictatrix-Varlet) meeting with Patrick and Nizar. When we had finally selected a place to eat (Luciano), we talked about Nizar's past, Patrick's present, and my future.

I have hair in this photo, so it obviously wasn't taken today.

After dessert had been eaten, awkward idioms had been used, and plenty of literary devices had been identified in our conversation, it was time to say, "see you Monday!" (my last day at FHS).

Now that I've earned Priya's fashion approval for my shopping, I will help Mama scan some old photos before perhaps packing and certainly sleeping.

Day 141: "You lose the beauty when you say you have it."

Today felt like it was comprised of more hours than usual. Despite my eternal splitting headache, I enjoyed an eventful and truly enjoyable day.

I read my morning sonnet before getting to work planning a sliptrail "workshop" for Ms. Cardone's advisory. With my lesson for them prepared, I proceeded to my appointment with Mr. Chang to review the Latin exam I took on Day 106. My translations were not bad overall, so we could spend time discussing the nuances of verbiage in Catullan and Horatian poetry (how I miss Latin class!) -- but my multiple choice has not improved much since high school. Eheu!

During Long Advisory, I got to conduct the aforementioned workshop. It was awesome to have new people working on decorating the bowls, and the Cardone advisory is an artsy bunch! I think the activity went very well.

When they left, Ms. Cardone taught me to apply a layer of clear glaze over my underglaze designs. Clearly, this went very well.

Apron-donning is among my many Ceramics-related downfalls.

After lunch with my dear Varlets, it was time for an all-school gathering in honor of Founder's Day. Mama Maddox asked me to perform with the choir, which I did, before Mrs. Mrykalo, Mr. Holloway, and Ms. Hulke were recognized for their outstanding service to the school. Congratulations, teachers!

Too impatient to wait for a bus to return us to our campus after the ceremony, Brother Zane and I decided to walk back up. On the way, Zane filled me in on his life story. Mad respect for this guy.

I rushed inside, back to the studio, to welcome another much-awaited group helping with Empty Bowls -- writers and editors of the Literary Magazine! It was great to have all this new energy in our workspace, and humbling to hear their appreciation of the bowls I have been constructing over these past few weeks.

When they left and we had cleaned up, it was off to Certamen practice for me! After playing some questions against the Upper Level students, I took the Level II team to another room and read questions for them. I particularly liked the set of questions I happened upon today, as they allowed for lots of fun grammatical and etymological tidbits. Euge!

Words like requiesco are now called INCEPTION verbs.

Soon after I arrived home, my beautiful sister Iman picked me up for our evening family reunion! She and I met Zane at Tysons, where we enjoyed a leisurely (read: three-hour) dinner at Coastal Flats. By the time we had completed our respective salads and suffered eight rounds of refills (Coke for me, Diet Coke for Iman, classy club soda for Zane), I felt like I had been on a twelve-day retreat with these guys.

The evening had many highlights, but Zane's and my favorite would have to be when we spent minutes and minutes of our waiter's time squabbling over whose cell phone would take the best quality photograph of us (mind you, we all have the same kind of phone), only to find later in the night that Iman had been carrying her mother's semi-professional camera around in her purse the whole time. Too funny.

We learned so much about one another tonight and just had such great discussion (I was definitely not this smart at their age) that leaving for India is going to be hard for me now because I am going to miss them so much! I love my sibs.

Cold snow falls all around us here in Northern Virginia, and yet I feel nothing but warmth. Blessings to you all.

Day 140: Eso es un SOS.

To be succinct, today was AWESOME.


But because I am not Ernest Hemingway, and am actually rather garrulous, let me walk you through it.

When I woke up today, I said to Priya, "My body feels like I benched 100 pounds last night, then fell into a hole filled with ice and slept the night there." My physical and mental energy levels could only improve.

I read Sonnet 140 on the bus before becoming audience to a private vocal performance by a crazy talented 12-year-old singer. I know Laila will be famous one day, and I can't imagine being that confident at her age.

At school, I was greeted by Trent Saiget, who was just admitted to his top choice school. The University of San Diego is so lucky!

In the morning, I attended choir, where we had a substitute teacher. I got to talking to her after class, and when I mentioned that I am not quite sure what academic path I plan to pursue, she made a strong case for the statement "you never know where you'll end up." Ms. Huff was a music major in college, but contracted acute bronchitis in Russia early in her career, and now can hardly sing a few notes. "Grandma Ginny," however, also happened to be a huge American History buff, and now works as a substitute teacher as she publishes amazing books which praise the unsung heroes of the American Revolution and Civil War. She also travels around the country as the leader of a national initiative to plant historical trees from the original thirteen colonies along George Washington Parkway, and is developing her own website, which I encourage you all to explore: http://www.grandmaginny.com/. WOW.

During break, I stomped around school with Jenny rallying troops to help me decorate some of the bowls that I have been making. Thank you so much to Ryan, Doug, Bryce, Christina, and Jenny for their beautiful contributions (and Nizar for the photos he took) -- Ms. Cardone and I were very impressed!

Photo credit: Varlet Zahed

I then "socialized" with Jess and Angelica before my super special lunch date! I finally got to catch up with Ms. "Rachel" Kernodle, the world's cutest math teacher and one of the most multifaceted people I know. Though one could say math "dominated" our conversation, Ms. Kernodle has the coolest view of the subject of all time -- we discussed mathematics in terms of philosophy, music . . . even literature. Rachel is of the opinion that "given a little bit of time, [she] could convert [me] into someone who finds the same amount of beauty in math that [I] do in everything else" -- and I don't doubt this for a second. If only I had gotten to take a class with her!

This beauty can be found in Ms. Kernodle's classroom.

After lunch, I returned to the studio, where I decorated a bowl of my own, using the "slip trail" technique with underglaze.

Soon, I received a surprise guest -- my brother Zane! He decorated a bowl while I did another one, and we discussed the freedom and therapeutic value of Ceramics. He fully gets why I'm so into this, and it looks like he'll be enrolling soon!

After an abridged Clay Club meeting, I got to have coffee with Tierney Manning! (Today must have been my day to catch up with amazingly strong and beautiful female figures in my life.) As Tierney leaves town tomorrow night and I leave the country next week, we just managed to catch one another before our departures! And I'm so glad we did. I had the opportunity to debrief on my Gap Year and hear the approval and support of my big sis, as she shared happenings of her Tierney Year while I gaped in admiration of her character and heart.

Glowing and refreshed, I boarded the bus home, where Priya grew slightly tired of my interrupting her iPod-listening to gab about my day. She got over it, though, when she got to visit one of her best friends on the way home.

Marley is pretty excited to see Priya, and vice versa.

Back at my dwelling, I immediately boarded the treadmill, where I ran rather quickly while listening to songs that were rather slow. I sign off ready to explore the math "homework" Ms. Kernodle "assigned" me today.

Thank you again to everyone who made today so spectacular.


Songs of the day: http://youtu.be/2IFF9yu5i3k and http://youtu.be/k8mtXwtapX4

Day 139: To another island, in another life.

"Aren't you supposed to be somewhere else?"

These words greet her as she enters her alma mater. Possible responses:

Aren't we all?

No, I'm just where I want to be.

Actual response: "I'm leaving for India soon!"

The English hallway now. A girl cries in her rush to beat the bell. "It's the anniversary of my mom's death tomorrow." "Are you sure you want to go to class? I'll be in the studio all day. Come find me. Do you want me to wait outside?" What does one say.

Today's bowls are to become papyri. As she smooths out her slab, she recycles the cup of her second caffeinated beverage of the day.

She fills the first bowl with these words:

On me dit que nos vies ne valent pas grand chose.
Elles passent en un instant comme fanent les roses.
On me dit que le temps qui glisse est un salaud que de nos chagrins il s'en fait des manteaux pourtant quelqu'un m'a dit que tu m'aimais encore,
C'est quelqu'un qui m'a dit que tu m'aimais encore.
Serais ce possible alors?

Then, Symphonic Choir. The conductor: "I'll be at a funeral tomorrow. It's to be an all-day affair."

The second and third bowls read:

When I have fears that I may cease to be
Before my pen has glean'd my teeming brain,
Before high-piled books, in charactery,
Hold like rich garners the full ripen'd grain;
When I behold, upon the night's starr'd face,
Huge cloudy symbols of a high romance,
And think that I may never live to trace
Their shadows, with the magic hand of chance;
And when I feel, fair creature of an hour,
That I shall never look upon thee more,
Never have relish in the faery power
Of unreflecting love;--then on the shore
Of the wide world I stand alone, and think
Till love and fame to nothingness do sink.  

"Would you like something to drink?" "I've already had--tea would be nice, thank you."

The fourth:

To sing, to laugh, to dream,
To walk in my own way, and be alone,
Free, with an eye to see things as they are,
A voice that means manhood ~ to cock my hat
Where I choose ~ At a word, at a Yes, a No,
To fight ~ or write. To travel any road
Under the sun, under the stars, nor doubt
If fame or fortune lie beyond the bourne ~
Never to make a line I have not heard
In my own heart; yet, with all modesty
To say: My soul, be satisfied with flowers,
With fruit, with weeds even; but gather them
In the one garden you may call your own.
So, when I win some triumph, by some chance,
Render no share to Caesar ~ in a word,
I am too proud to be a parasite,
And if my nature wants the germ that grows
Towering to heaven like the mountain pine,
Or, like the oak, sheltering multitudes ~
I stand, not high it may be ~
But, I stand alone! 

"Do you find yourself to be pretty happy?" Fervent nods.

And the fifth:

When they taught me that what mattered most
was not the strict iambic line goose-stepping
over the page but the variations
in that line and the tension produced
on the ear by the surprise of difference,
I understood yet didn't understand
exactly, until just now, years later
in spring, with the trees already lacy
and camellias blowsy with middle age,
I looked out and saw what a cold front had done
to the garden, sweeping in like common language,
unexpected in the sensuous
extravagance of a Maryland spring.
There was a dark edge around each flower
as if it had been outlined in ink
instead of frost, and the tension I felt
between the expected and actual
was like that time I came to you, ready
to say goodbye for good, for you had been
a cold front yourself lately, and as I walked in
you laughed and lifted me up in your arms
as if I too were lacy with spring
instead of middle aged like the camellias,
and I thought: so this is Poetry! 

As she makes an obligatory trip to the cafeteria (who needs food when you have art?), her best friend calls. "We are the future, you know that, Ratna?"

After lunch, she gets to watch Aeneas prepare to leave Dido all over again before she teaches a child to love her mother tongue. "The fieri changes its stem into fiere so it can look just like all its friends in the imperfect subjunctive. That way, they won't pick on him."

The end of the school day. Now on to the middle school, encouraging little idle hands to make big empty bowls. "My dog almost died a few weeks ago. I haven't slept well since December," sighs the teacher. "It's that time of year."

Bus home. The driver: "How far is it to India? I was on a plane for an hour once. I don't think I'll ever do it again."
Her eyes swelling, her pores yelling, she is home. To sleep, perchance to dream -- of clay, of civil war, of somewhere else.

Day 138: I won't grade your heart.

After reading Sonnet 138 this morning, I set out to begin my usual task -- making bowls. Today's goal was to make 12 smooth bowls on which members of the Literary Magazine will be able to write their poetry as a collaboration with the Clay Club this week. As I started rolling slab and molding it into dishes, words started popping into my head that eventually turned into a short article about my experience at Flint Hill. You can click here to read the piece I ended up writing, and I also hope to have it published in the next issue of the school's newspaper.

Ms. Cardone's second class of the day was just starting Ceramics III, and thus engaging in their "rite of passage" adventure -- throwing 3 pots each on the wheel . . . blindfolded. I was Julia's assistant as she blindfolded her students and helped them transition from one pot to the next. Other than that, they were to receive no help.

I found this activity, and the students' observations on't, fascinating. You'd be surprised to see how nicely their work came out -- they reported that the other senses kicked in when sight was not available as an option.

1. Setting
2. Trimming
During first lunch, I caught up with Angelica, Jess, and Jenny. During second lunch, I started to tell Zane my life story in seven minutes. Then, it was back to Ceramics. I established an assembly line approach to handbuilding today, first setting the slab into all the bowls and then trimming them all down, rather than setting and trimming each bowl one at a time.

After school, my brothers Zane and Nizar visited me in the studio! Having admired (jeered at) my work, they listened to the end of my life story before heading to their respective academic engagements. It is worth noting that they both happened to be wearing red.

When I'd cleaned up all 23 of the bowls I ended up making, I spent some time with Patrick and then left school. After a mind workout on the bus and a body workout at home, Mama and I went to her office to drop off her "vision board" and some new furniture there.

Now back at my abode, I'm ready for some steamy soup and sweet sleep.