Thursday, January 12, 2017

challenging, disappointing, wonderful and to-be-thankful-for 2016

NOTE: This is a very personal post, more than most. And it might seem really boring to most of you. Plus it's got way too many photos. But it's an exercise I like to do, to help me put things into perspective. Feel completely free to skip it altogether!

Well, this was not an easy post to write. First of all, there was all the media tendency to call 2016 the worst year in a long time. And sure, there was no shortage of things to complain about though, as some sites tried to counter-argue, there were good things to 2016. 

Also, I try not to focus too much on the negative when I write in my blog. This has to do with appreciating what good there is in my life, and not obsessing on the bad. But where do you draw the line between simply ignoring the bad as opposed to obsessing over it?

So, after some – conflicting – thought, I've decided to sort of follow my tradition of leaving most of the bad aside, while still acknowledging it. 

The bad (no, the worst!)

It pains me to say that 2016 showed me some very ugly sides of my country. A corrupt, racist, inept, uncaring side that affects everybody bar some living in pretty privilege bubbles – and let me tell you, I have deleted a whole really long paragraph on how much emotional and financial stress we went through because of corruption and ineptitude. I also deleted a really long rant about how shameful and unfair it is that the majority of the population has to deal with that too. And I also got rid of another section on how we felt hopeless at times. We have gone through rough times before, of course. Once each in Beirut, Beijing and Toronto. Mexico City was no exception, it seems. Such is life.

The amazing


But now, let's go on to the good stuff! Even just a very superficial recount of the other aspects of my year looks... well, so good! Starting with travel! I mean, I began 2016 in amazing Juchitán, in Oaxaca, where we experienced one incredibly rich and fascinating side of Mexico. And we spent some magical and relaxed days wandering around the city of Guanajuato. And, well, I mean, we spent our 16th (yes! 16th!!!) anniversary in Peru! That was just one of our most amazing trips ever. And, incredibly, thanks to the discovery of some unused air miles, we even finally got to go together to Buenos Aires! With a stopover in Panama! I'd have to be out of my mind to complain.

Work AND travel!?

But that was just pleasure travel with my habib! Workwise, travel was pure madness! Good madness, though. LOL. I have never had to travel so much, in such a short period, for work. And this will enter as one very special memory in my professional life, for sure. I visited Lilongwe, in Malawi. And Amsterdam, as a stopover. And New York, where I felt honoured to be working at the UN. And Seoul, with which now I already feel kind of familiar due to all my work visits, and where I can never have enough noodles and coffee. And Panama (yes, I visited twice!). And I made it back to Beijing as well! I loved being back home in China, I really did. And Nairobi! One extraordinary experience that even included a small safari. See? Absolute, fantastic, good madness. Accompanied by a break-neck work pace. But oh so worth it.


And since I'm talking about work, December 2016 saw the conclusion of two years of hard work. For the first time I could finally say I was a real practitioner in my field. I learned tons, and my efforts earned me the recognition of my peers – no small feat and no small honour considering how clueless and useless I felt when I began my new career path. Definitely a highlight of 2016.

Mexico City

I also kept enjoying my city, with the invaluable assistance of the habibi, of course. I cannot list all the exhibitions, events, films and whatever we loved. But I can certainly point some extraordinary highlights, like an exhibition by Witkin. Like attending Mexico City's Jewish Film Festival and getting shocked by a holocaust documentary as well as moved by another one on intersex people. Like my habib presenting his Languid Bodies Butoh performance and moving many in the audience to tears. Like seeing Rodin's Gates of Hell (which also triggered memories from Japan, many years ago). Like attending the Pride March and hearing Alejandra Guzmán live. Like going to a beautiful exhibition by Annie Leibovitz in a semi-abandoned former palace. Like an exhibition by Roger Ballen that in turn made me a fan of Die Antwoord. Like seeing my habibi perform Butoh by the city's main square (the Zócalo) and then have a photo of his performance land in an artbook, and also seeing him explore new paths with a group during a performance called Photohealing. 

And that is about seeing my city, but we also kept tasting it! We can't get enough of its Korean, Russian, Japanese, Taiwanese, Chinese, vegan and Swedish food (ok, true, Korean ranks way way high above the others! LOL). And I also began eating oysters, delicious oysters! And we began making our own kefir. And now we've added cholent and even Karaite kybynlar (an Ukrainian Jewish pastry) to our repertoire of home-made dishes! 

Friends, and family, and love...

We also enjoyed the visit of two dear friends we met in Lebanon, ages ago! As is usually the case, we were really happy to show them our city, and also to see it through their eyes! And there as another friend from Montreal that also visited, and who actually showed me the one Sikh temple of the city! And I attended a service there with him! And we also took part in friends' and family celebrations, which are always precious since we never know how long we're staying in any one place. And, of course, how could I fail to mention the habibi, who has spent 16 years by my side, who keeps amazing me through his art, and who proves himself as loyal and caring and loving every step of the way. 

the Miracle of the Oil

Personally, there were some really dark moments for us this year. Re-read that paragraph on "the worst" of 2016, and don't let its length fool you. Dark means dark means dark. But during Hanukkah the habibi shared a reflection with me, regarding the year we had. He said that, at some point, it might have looked like the oil would only last for a single night, and that darkness lay ahead. And then, it lasted a second night. And then a third one. All the way until the eighth and last night. And by that last night we were fine. And life was good.

After looking at all the great things this year brought us, I can say that, indeed, despite whatever hard times we went through, this was a good year. Our – very atheist – candles shone bright, happy and strong in the end. Yes!

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