PRESSED FLOWER ISSUE I MIGRATION AUTUMN 2020
ARTISTIC DIRECTOR LILY DUNBAR EDITOR NICOLE PEREIRA EDITOR ASHENDRI WICKREMASINGHE
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FROM the CREATORS A fresh flower—burnt orange, resembling the setting sun, falls off its rooted stem. Gently picking this beautiful bloom up and mindfully handling the soft petals, you carry it home. Taking out the old, tattered novel whose insides now adorn flowers drying in various stages, you carefully choose an appropriate page and lay that burnt orange flower face down. Then, you wait. With the same intention and delicacy of pressing flowers, this journal is a collection of narratives in various forms created to preserve beauty. We built a community of individuals interconnected by invisible roots whose every word, illustration, and image within this journal is a reflection of nature and movement. The inaugural issue revolves around the idea of Migration. We asked our contributors what it means to leave a home, a person, a feeling; and what it means to not leave at all. What came back to us were these powerful portrayals of movement— We created this journal to organically collect, preserve, and share the nature and beauty of stories through words and visuals. You can revisit them at any time, whether to unearth hidden memories or observe changes in interpretation, it’s yours to keep. Best,
Lily, Ash and Nicole 3
CONTENTS 08 A SEED RESOWN, 8,1662 MILES AWAY
THE IMMIGRANT HEALTH PARADOX AND THE AMERICAN DREAM
ARALIYAS, NIL MANELS & MAGNOLIAS
WHITE JASMINE & SAKURA
COMING TO AN AMERICAN DREAM
THEN AND NOW; BEFORE AND AFTER
MOVING AT A STANDSTILL
ROSES & PEONIES
expression of the Migration is an ety for dignity, saf n tio human aspira part of is It . ure fut and a better y , part of our ver the social fabric . ily fam an make-up as a hum -Ban Ki-moon
“I paint flo wers so they will not die.”
-Frida Khal o
FOUR HOURS FROM HOME, EVERYTHING WAS DIFFERENT
ROOTS I’VE OUTGROWN RACHEL STERZAI
PEONIES & VIOLETS
CALIFORNIA POPPIES & DAME’S ROCKETS
FLAVORS OF HOME
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MARY KEITH SUNFLOWERS
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A Seed Resown, 8,660 Miles Away SHAKUNTALA FERNANDOPULLE I have written and rewritten, backspaced and control Z-ed this piece for about a month now. I was getting nowhere. Why? My high school English teacher told me that the best way to write was to sit down, drink a cup of tea, and “word vomit.” She told me that it all started with a cloud map (though I suspect she meant a metaphorical one in my head). So I put it down on paper. Like, I actually wrote on paper, with a pen, in 2020. I drew a lopsided cloud and filled it with the words “leaving home.” Now we wait, I thought. I waited. I expected that soon the prose would flood out of me like a wordy river—or at least a punctuated stream. Nothing. Not even a “once upon a time.” What dam of my construction held the watery words back? Was my inability to string together these words about how I felt due to a lack of honesty within myself ? Or was it because I had never sat down to think about what it was like for me to uproot my life and replant it thousands of miles away in Toronto? Did I even know how I felt? I thought about that. I let the idea of this mighty, imposing dam that held my words back and left my thoughts buried deep ruminate slowly in my head. I picked it apart, peeked under it, sifted through it, unfolded
and refolded it. Still nothing. About a week ago now, I visited my mom’s best friend in university. My uncle made fish curry for dinner, we had Ceylon tea for tea, and every now and then I heard bits and pieces of Sinhala. Then it hit me. The dam broke. I overflowed. The water nourished the soil, unearthing words, and allowing sentences to sprout out from it. I had never “left home.” To me, home was in all these little moments. In all the food we ate, and in every cup of tea I had since I came to Canada. To claim, as I did a few paragraphs ago, that I “uprooted” my life is wrong. It paints a picture of unfinished business — of sudden, unplanned, and chaotic movement. That was not true at all. My mother gently eased me out of the warm Sri Lankan soil, untangling me from the roots that had secured me my whole life. The house I had grown up in, the same house my father had grown up in before me; my friends, who I had known since I was eight, the friends who I had giggled about first crushes with, the ones I had gossiped about first boyfriends with, the same ones I had cried to through first break ups with (there is some overlap here—friends who became boyfriends, a boyfriend who is now one of my best friends, friends who shared the same boyfriends); my aunties and uncles who had
shown up for every birthday, every christmas meal, and, unfortunately, even at the party my parents threw me when I “attained womanhood,” though I try to block that memory entirely out of my mind. She then carefully bundled me up with items necessary for my survival in new, terribly colder, soil. Buying me suitcases, thermal underwear, winter jackets, and shampoo that would soothe my hair in the Canadian climate. She personally couriered me over the ocean, squeezing my hand when we took off, the same way she had since I was little. Then, she prepped the soil in Canada, nursing it and filling it with all the nutrients I would need to thrive: a Social Insurance Number, a bank account, health insurance. Finally, she gently soothed me into the soil, watching me closely as I began to anchor my roots into the earth, always prepared to intervene. We’ve yelled at each over the phone about my truly atrocious fiscal literacy, financial responsibility, and, most frequently, my failure to answer the phone (she has even attempted to get through to me by Instagram messaging my college friends). But the soil was not entirely foreign to me. Yes, it was thousands of miles away and yes, the milk did come in bags, and yet, in some moments it smelt like, and even felt like home. I was home whenever I poured myself a cup of Ceylon tea, bought at the Korean grocery store on Bloor where the ladies at the cashier had taped up posters of various K-POP boy bands, and gradually, the scent of tea estates from back home wafted through my dorm, their leaves borne of the same soil as me. I was home when my mom’s best friend brought me Chocolate Biscuit Pudding (a Sri Lankan speciality). The lofty layers of Marie biscuits sandwiched between gooey slabs of chocolate icing, the sugary treat that I had grown up gorging on at the “kid’s table” with
my cousins at family functions. I was home when the Sri Lankan boy who lived down the hall from me brought me a tin of Milo powder and I dissolved it in piping hot milk (yes, from a bag). I watched the flavours of my old home mix with my new one. I was home when I decided to boil milk on the stove to prepare a special cup of extra luxuriant tea. I poked at the rising froth, entreating it not to overflow. The very opposite of what my family had done at Sinhala and Tamil New Year when we would hold our breath around the hearth, waiting for the inevitable, for that moment when the milk would erupt over the rim of the clay pot—a symbol of prosperity. I could smell Kavum and Kokis, and heard the Koha bird’s canorous call. I brought pieces of my old home with me and found glimpses of it in my new home. The overheard bits of Sinhala exchanged between old aunties at the mall in Mississauga. The smell of spices that wafted out of the orange Nike Box into my dorm: a festival of cinnamon, turmeric, saffron packed up by my mom in the event of a curry craving. The shimmering saree that was tucked neatly into the left-hand corner of my closet. “Just in case,” my mother had said.
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Coming to an American Dream HINALI SHAH As a young boy of only 24, S had a lot of responsibilities. As a son left behind and married off, he was responsible for himself and his wife, who would soon be expecting their first child. At 24, he was a young ruffian, known by all in his neighborhood as the guy who had the right answers and the right connections. His friends came to him for advice, money, and jobs. He somehow seemed to know it all. This might be because he had the charm that made him seem rich, which he was not, but no one questioned that. An added oomph to his persona was the fact that his parents were in the US, and in 1999, that was a big deal, especially in a small town in India where everyone knew each other. So when his ma passed away in a land that he did not know, he had to make a decision. His reputation and ego were at stake. But more than that, his love and his responsibility as the son of the family were guiding his actions. After his parents left, S was all over the town. With a knack for business, he initiated proposals and helped his friends in opening their shops for a little of their profit. He was a hit as far as he was concerned, and he loved the attention. But all of that had to come to a halt when ma died. The burden of being a son and a man would take over him and he would have to leaveâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;leave his wife and kid, his sister, and his country to bury his mother with his old pa by her side.
For him, he had to be at the funeral, no matter what. He had to see his ma before she turned into ashes and so he left without a plan. Leaving was not as difficult, especially since it was spontaneous, but deciding to stay there was. His migration to the US was filled with many hurdles. He had gotten a temporary visa on an emergency basis and so his decision to stay was not legal, but that did not matter at that time. The dreams he saw when he landed on that unknown place were promising enough to embark on this journey that he had just thought of minutes ago. The big clean roads and the illusion of order when he got out of the airport made S think he could make it,and he probably predicted that right. After maâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s funeral, which was held in a small dark room in an even smaller town of Bethesda, Maryland, S was doubting his decisions. Missing his wife and the heat of his old country, he was broken. He did not know what to do. There was support from his extended family that were in the US, but that did not transcribe in the care he needed to rebuild his life from scratch. The grief that he felt throughout this time of his maâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s passing and of moving on was
hard to manage. There was no familiarity with anything and anyone. The language was distant, and the landscape even more so. His pa was drenched in his own sorrow. His companion for 30 years of his life was gone. His movements were slower, and living was more difficult. S could not ask for more help from him at this point, and so he did what came to him as work to get some stability. He took on everything that came his way, from working at motels as a cleaner to being a health aid for the elderly. It was just him and his pa. They toiled through 16 hour days, 7 days a week for years until they had some money saved up. Those years were hard. Even the memories of them do not do justice to the struggle that S and his pa endured. The constant lookout for cops when on the road, the navigating of hurtful comments from his uncle and his family, the burnout of surviving and knowing that his first kid was born in his old country but he could not be with him. It was hard. And he cried almost every night, but he still
Ben Allen via Unsplash
woke up each day to repeat this cycle. Whenever he called his wife, which was rare since the phone cards were expensive and sound was barely transmitted properly, he would pretend that his life, and soon to be their life, was on its way to being better. What he actually felt, he could not share. He wondered if his ma and pa had initially endured the same when they were here alone. Had they also lied to S and F about how they felt so they would not worry about them? This seemed like a general rule for new immigrants in this country, all the stories he had heard seemed to share the same basis of hiding feelings and embracing the struggle, no matter what the consequences are. So in the midst of surviving and grieving, he looked towards the only idea that seemed manageable at the moment, his version of the American Dream.
Anonymous DEVAL MISTRY
As a migrant (student) the aspiration of making a name keeps us thriving through the hustle in this glowing spectacular â&#x20AC;&#x153;Big Appleâ&#x20AC;? but some rare moments give the sour taste of truth and reality.
The Immigrant Health Paradox and the American Dream COURTNEY FANG
Rob Curran via Unsplash
For the last 4 months, I felt as though the world had stopped. Across the globe flights were grounded, supply chains halted, doors shuttered. In New York City, the glitz of lights and buzz of traffic all silenced as New Yorkers huddled in their tiny apartments, but we all felt it was worth it. Early on it appeared as though not just the United States but the entire world would unite against a common enemy. I thought the science was undeniable. I thought that averting death and valuing human life above all was irrevocably irrefutable. I thought there was an understanding that prioritizing health would lead us back to freedom, that
we were all part of a whole and sacrifices had to be made. Apparently, I was wrong. The â&#x20AC;&#x153;Land of the Freeâ&#x20AC;? spends the largest amount per capita on healthcare (~$10,400 USD), but when you compare us to other high-income countries, our health outcomes are worse. Throughout the pandemic, the US has consistently proven unable to contain the spread of COVID-19 and has stayed among the ranks of low-income countries in cases and deaths per million. The pandemic has highlighted the fractured nature of the United States as a policymaking body, but specifically the faults in
its health infrastructure. In the middle of a pandemic, over 5 million Americans have lost health insurance due to job lay-offs. This only adds to the millions who were uninsured pre-COVID. The COVID reality is particularly detrimental to BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Colour) communities, who, even in non-pandemic times are disproportionately uninsured, exploited for cheap “essential” labour, and suffer from worse health outcomes. A far cry from the “American Dream” of a better life. In 2017, the United States of America was home to the largest number of international migrants (50 million) (UN International Immigration Report). Some for asylum, some for change, and some in pursuit of the elusive “American Dream.” This statistic is surprising given that the current administration shows time and again that it is actively against proimmigrant policies including, but not limited to the “Muslim ban,” detention centers at the US-Mexico border, and barring foreign students from online-only education during the pandemic. The worst part is that these policies also echo the racist and antiimmigrant sentiments that have repeatedly discounted the immigrant struggle and have undermined the contributions of immigrants throughout our country’s history. The US sells the idea of the “American Dream”—of unbridled freedom and greater opportunity—then greets incomers with an undeniable unwelcome. Immigrants face the stress of assimilation without community support in a country with systems built to exclude them, yet still manage to create new lives in the hopes that the next generation will reap the benefits. The irony in all this is the existence of the Immigrant Health Paradox which insinuates that recent immigrants tend to have health outcomes that “paradoxically” are comparable to or often better than
those of their US born or more established immigrant counterparts, despite lower average socioeconomic status, settling in culturally unfamiliar places, and often hostile or xenophobic environments. One could extrapolate then, that the longer an individual is in the United States, the worseoff they’ll be. Now in the time of COVID-19, the preexisting fault lines are exposed. Health facilities are overwhelmed. BIPOC and immigrants are disproportionately suffering from COVID and make up the majority of “essential workers” and those who do not have the luxury of working from home. Here, I explicitly reference the sanitation workers, grocery store clerks, mail carriers, factory workers, truck drivers—people that are expected to keep the world turning while risking their lives each day for those who have the means to stay inside. The US has used the pandemic as an excuse to rescind work and student visas, and has failed to protect the Asian-American population from overt racism. Just as the burden of the disease appeared to be decreasing, capitalism and entitlement made the message clear: The United States values the productivity of immigrant and low-income workers over human lives. While the US grants several unmatched rights and privileges to its citizens, this country is not built to support those in pursuit of a better life—it was built to support those who already have it. Knowing what you know now, if your health is the cost of your freedom, is the American Dream still worth it? Asclepi as Milkwee d Milkweed s Americas are native to . They produce the flowers that ap star- sh pe tall wo ody stem ar in clusters aped s. attracti on ve to bu Milkweeds ar e other in tterflies sects. , be es, and The genu from th e s name co Asclepiu Greek god of medicine mes s, beca , use of medicina the plan l proper t’s ties. Milkweed s dignity, symbolize re membranc and free e, dom.
Then and Now; Before and After NICOLE PEREIRA
In the photo, Nana and Papa are sitting on the front porch. They’re going to Uncle Trevine’s dinner party, attendance is mandatory. The voice on the phone had said, “Come, come, everything is happening at 7,” but it’s already 7:30 when Shehara snaps the picture. Nobody would arrive until 9 anyway and dinner won’t be served before 11 until the children have already fallen asleep wherever they find room (on the floor, under the table). Time is relative on the island. Nana looks the same to me, then and now—hair parted in the middle, sari perfectly pleated, her smile firm and beautiful. Papa, in a suit and tie, is
just as tall and handsome as I remember him being. The photo is kept on the stereo, next to the landline and I look at it while flipping through the Yellow Pages waiting for Saranie to call. It’s framed in postcard-sized pink plastic with purple hearts dotted all over. The writing over their heads says “Together…Forever.” The space between the words used to scare me. The dots seemed like a hesitation, a separation, a departure when I was counting on Nana and Papa, this house, this life being for certain, no question.
__ I don’t know what people mean when they refer to life back home as “small.” “What a small and simple life!” they say from their New York office buildings. How could our lives be small when they are crowded with people; bursting, spilling over with parties and laughter, and arrack? “Small” is the last word I’d use to describe my uncle renting a bus to take us all down south, stopping once so the boys could go number one on the roadside, and twice to let an elephant cross the road.
up next to me. Outside, the B63 shuttles down the street and swooshes to a stop every seven minutes. If I’m just waking up, it sometimes sounds like water, like waves on the beach, and I’m holding a papaya juice and David is screaming at me to Get in the ocean! It’s warm! Sometimes it merges into the rush of traffic on the way to ballet class, cars careening down tiny streets.
Sometimes the chatter from Carmelo’s at happy hour or my neighbor throwing her One time we were swimming in the ocean lover’s shit out the window swirls into the in Unawatuna and a tourist asked me if haggling of the man selling sweet bread on a this is how we always lived—celebrating life dewy island morning. and death the same way, taking naps in the afternoon, dropping in for a cup of tea without Sometimes, with no warning, I’m there. I calling. I didn’t understand why she asked that. close my eyes and I am there. Like time and Isn’t that how we all lived? distance doesn’t exist. Like death doesn’t exist. Like longing isn’t necessary. I am ten __ and twenty-four all at once. In Brooklyn, the sun is streaming through the I remember the house, the house with the windows and through my eyelids. Cat is curled garden wrapped round and round. The maha gedara, ancestral home. Windows everywhere. If you stand in the front and look through the big open window, you can see right through—past the TV room with the settee that never stays in place, past mom villea in blue track bottoms leaning against the Bougain a ville wall with the phone to her ear, past the big Bougain kitchen table with the polythene covering to keep the tablecloth clean, past the h ut So to native illea is sandalwood chest filled with silk saris (teal, see as Bougainv n ca What we are America. lowers” turquoize, fuschia), past the pink bathroom “f ry l pape called colourfu leaves e modified with the wooden tulips by the sink, and into ar ly s al er actu al flow ed The actu surround bracts. the backyard under the full, heavy mango and are . e, ts it d wh ant brac tiny an and vibr tree where Nangi and Kumar are pulling a e large r garden la pu by thes po a illea is and softening fruit from the branches and slicing ty Bougainv au s be e to it plant du it open. y. it rsatil ve
passion, mbolize ience. They sy fe-exper , and li ss ne li live
If you look outside from one window, you’d see shoe flowers bursting open, yellow and orange. From another, bougainvilleas dangle
over their pots in cartoon pinks. In the living room, the ceiling fan is SWISH SWISH SWISHing and, there, on the itchy carpet is me, then and now, arched across a maroon floor pillow reading Archie Comics. And there is Nana telling me not to drag my dirty feet across her cushions. And there is Papa, winking at me from his rattan chair, back straight, legs crossed, wearing a striped polo and a sarong. Nirmala is making haal masso in the kitchen and I can smell the fish browning in a thaachchiya bubbling with oil. At the dining table, the fan is working even harder to keep the room cool in the afternoon heat. Papers are flying wildly in their places, trying to escape their folders. Nana places a blue glass paperweight on the pile and takes a seat. The house is a portal. Or the garden is. Or it’s me, picking up an opaque paperweight
in a thrift store and being back again—it’s 2004 and I’m running after my cousins in the garden. When I left the island, I thought there was a division, an interruption, like the rip in the hem of my Sunday dress that Nirmala fixed every week. I used to think of my life as a Before and After; Before America, After America. But I was wrong. Those lives, those moments are so big that they exist always and everywhere, then and now, before and after. Time, remember, is relative here. After all this moving forward, and moving on, and moving towards I’m realizing that all I’ve been doing is moving through. There is no “migration.” It turns out, there is no deep divide, no big separation. There is only a “…”—a continuation, a Together... Forever.
Moving at a Standstill CHAYANGI KANNANGARA Migration is, in its key concept, an act of moving away— be it for better opportunities or to greener pastures. For someone who has never moved away from her tiny island paradise for the last 24 years and was in the same school for 13 and a half years, some would say I was a bit too comfortable. Not that I had the most peaceful life, but it was comfortable. I never really fit into one set of friends; I always felt like I belonged wherever or whoever I was with. I thought I could, hypothetically, do well with change because I had not experienced real change before.
came the romance part. I was not actively looking for love, but I was more than curious to experience a “proper relationship,” i.e., simply to experience having a boyfriend. I had started talking to a mutual friend of a close friend of mine, a boy who seemed nice enough at the onset. After about a month of talking, he confessed he liked me and he asked me out. I thought, Okay he makes me smile and I enjoy talking to him, so I must like him. So, I said yes. I had a boyfriend. This moment of migration was turning out to be splendid! Or so I thought.
In January of 2013, I changed schools. It was a new start, something different to look forward to. After being in an All Girls’ Convent School, moving to an international school was a major change. It was not the fact that it was a co-ed school or the curriculum that bothered me, but it was the culture change. Naïvely, I thought, Sure, it may be slightly different but essentially most of them would be Sri Lankans. I would have to adapt but it could not be that bad.
Come September 2013, I was in a new classroom with different classmates, but I had a consolation. One of my best friends decided to change schools and luckily, we were in the same class. Proudly I told her, “I made a set of friends, they are amazing people. They’re going to love you and it’s going to be a blast!” How terribly mistaken I was.
My sweet 16-year-old self was excited by the prospect of making new friends, meeting new people, and maybe even a cute boy. Out of a class of 20 students, I made friends with 18 of them. I got along well, I thought, YES! I have found my clique, the support system to help make this new change a pleasant one. So, friends were sorted. Next
Everything in life is a rat-race. Schools are probably where it’s the worst. The struggle of constantly being under parental pressure to do better and to be at the top of the class while navigating turbulent waters of teenage emotions is a situation we are all too familiar with. But this new school offered a heightened rat-race of its own and I was finishing last all the time. The new set of friends I made changed into
strangers while I failed to realize how much we drifted apart. The people I had known inside-out a few months ago had seemingly shed a skin; the same faces but different personalities. My boyfriend and I broke up. He was not the boy I thought he was. My self-esteem dropped. I refused to go to school. I lied to my best friend when she asked me why I was missing school. I just said I was not too well. My father was diagnosed with cancer and my mother was under a lot of stress; dealing with my father’s sudden illness, my reluctance to go to school, and her job. I felt guilty adding to her plate, pretending to be sick to avoid school, so I started going to school consistently but I was not the same as before; I had changed. I rarely spoke to my friends from my previous school. I refused to let them see what I perceived as an unpleasant person. Mentally, I was a mess. I didn’t want to burden anyone but at the same time, I wanted someone to hear my silent screams. Finally, in the last 9 months of my school life, I had another change; this time for the better. I was standing alone at the gate, waiting to be picked up at the end of another tiresome school day, when a random girl and her friend came up to me and started talking to me as if I were their friend. I held my figurative horses, thinking this could be a one-time thing. Eventually, it became a sort of a ritual, they would always find me at the end of the school day while the three of us were waiting to be picked up. They introduced me to their friends and conversely, I introduced them to my best friend—and the rest was history. A friendship blossomed, and still to this day, it stands. I finally graduated from one obstacle course, but I had another one about to start. It was yet another unfamiliar place and when I joined, I did not know anyone from my batch. I
thought this experience would be something similar to how it was at the international school with the added rigidity of the military. But joining the university, felt like coming home. After two and a half years of hiding behind a mask, I started to become myself again. The extremely extroverted, constantly laughing Chayangi was back again. Sure, there were ups and downs, unbearable heartaches that I thought I would never be able to overcome, but they all melted into nothingness. They were obstacles I could overcome, because I was finally happy in my skin. I was finally able to be myself again, unapologetically. But where does migration come into this? Moving into, i.e. transferring to a new school for higher education is also a form of migration, with hopes for better opportunities and a network of people. But that transfer wasn’t a pleasant experience for me. I was trying too hard to hold onto my friends, when in reality, I had outgrown them or maybe they had outgrown me. I was trying to change myself to fit into the culture of aloofness and mere surface friendships, hoping it would one day become true friendships with depth. I learnt that trying to be a part of someone else’s world may end up leaving you more drained than before and you may end up losing yourself in the process. Moving away from a particular mindset may be hard, but it’s not impossible. There is at least one person in the world who will stand in your corner, to help you overcome the unpleasantness and who will love you all the more for your imperfections.
Four Hours from Home, Everything was Different ABDUL OKANLAWON I was 9 years old when I started boarding school. I went to Olashore International School – a desolate campus set in the serene countryside of Iloko-Ijesha, Nigeria. Named after the late founder and traditional ruler, Oba Oladele Olashore, Olashore was a staple choice for affluent Nigerian parents. The private co-educational boarding secondary school boasted children of politicians, governors, and senators alike. I wasn’t exactly sure why my parents (mostly my dad) chose to send me four hours away from home for school, an expensive school at that.
homes. So, I was technically upper-middleclass if we get really specific. I came to this conclusion after one school term at Olashore. Students, myself included, would often brag about aspects of their homes to appear more affluent. Olashore wasn’t cheap. Just as its student portfolio was extraordinary, so were its fees. You pay to indoctrinate your child into a highly academic institution obsessed with routine and orderliness. Take a regular weekday for instance:
5:30 AM – Lights on. An assigned ‘ToD’ (Teacher on Duty) walks around the dorms to I came from a middle-class family. My dad, verbally wake students up. now retired, was a regional director for Nigerian Breweries. His job often required 6:30–7:30 AM – Morning prep. Prep was a him to move around states. I lived in Lagos mandatory study time scheduled on every day with my mom and sister. With my dad’s of the week except Saturdays. Sundays only workload, we only got to see him once every had night prep. 2 to 3 months, even less frequently when I started boarding school. He would either 7–8 AM – Breakfast. Olashore was a highly visit Lagos or we would go to whichever state religious school. Before and after each meal, he was working in. I’ve visited Abia, Abuja, we were required to say a given prayer. It was Ibadan, Plateau, Kaduna, Makurdi, and Ondo. a Christian prayer, but Muslim My mom was an engineer. She worked for the Lagos government which didn’t pay a lot. I didn’t have a pool, but my dad had a driver and more than one car. We also had a maid, but that was typical of most Nigerian
students had no exception. Religion was black and white for us. You are either a Christian or a Muslim. Everything outside of that was considered a sin or lesser religion.
8:15 AM–2:30 PM – Classes. On Mondays, we had a morning assembly at the school hall to which every student and teacher was required to attend. If it was the end of a testing period, the top ten students from each year with the highest-grade average would be announced for recognition. The students were individually called on stage to shake the hands of the principal and/or vice-principal, and receive a snack or drink. Typically, plantain chips or a Capri Sun. 4–4:45 PM – Siesta. You are required to sleep. Either that or be subject to punishment by the ToD. 8–9:30 PM – Night prep—A test of perseverance. Dozing off during prep could have you slapped by a senior student or teacher. With no access to caffeine, dousing my face with water kept me up. 10PM – Lights out. With no 24/7 electricity in the country, the school had backup generators that only ran up until lights-out. In my hostel, there was a teacher that walked around during a blackout, to find (and physically beat) students that were out past lights out. You’d know it was him when you hear someone loudly using a chewing stick in the middle of the night. Our daily routines became part and parcel of school life until it became second nature. I’m 22 and still can’t get out of the habit of planning everything down to the last minute. Sundays were reserved for religious services. Olashore only acknowledged Christianity, more specifically: Catholicism and Anglicanism. The Catholics held service at the school hall and the Muslims in an empty classroom. Over the years, we, the Muslims, upgraded to a larger empty classroom in the school library. On Fridays, we held our weekly
congregational prayer, Jumaat, in a room within the library but inaccessible through the main entrance. It was easy to find once you spot the group of Muslim students and teachers gathered around the entrance performing ablution – washing specific parts of your body with the intent of purification and dedication to your prayer. In my year, there were only four of us (Muslims), two of whom became prominent characters in my high school experience. One became a close friend and roommate; the other helped me discover my sexuality, and, naturally, was my first sexual partner. Within the orderly school system existed another system: a social hierarchy amongst students. Each year you were above a student, the more power you had over them. It’s automatic, almost unspoken,the way of things. Year 12 students held the most power. It was obvious. Students wore school-approved uniforms based on their year. The common denominator for the school uniform was the white (fully) buttoned shirt. Everyone had to wear one. Boys wore theirs tucked into grey shorts, if they were in Year 7–9, or trousers if they were in Year 10–12. Girls wore theirs under a grey pinafore if they were in Year 7–9, or skirt if they were in Year 10–12. Even the hostels were organised according to year. With all the very visible differences in uniforms and housing for students, you really had no excuse for not 1. realising who was senior to you, 2. knowing which student to obey over another, and 3. knowing which hostels you had power to freely enter. This, of course, played a vital role in bullying dynamics. Students would seek out “school parents” or “children” to form alliances. The concept was simple. A school parent looked after
their school child(ren). Typically, they provided physical protection from bullying or harassment. Some also provided snacks (referred to as contraband, since outside food was not allowed on campus), academic assistance , and the chance to interact with other seniors. Being a school child to a popular senior was a flex. Naturally, I aimed to get as many school parents as I could. If you were like me, you didn’t have to do much. At 9, I was barely five feet tall. My mother was big on appearance and bought me new school accessories during our annual trips to London and New York when visiting relatives. I had name brand items that only a handful of senior boys owned—my personal favourite being white Marks & Spencer shirts as my uniform. I owned the exact pair of Vans sneakers in a smaller size as a Year 10 student who was notable for his perfectly-fitting, tailored uniforms. He jokingly asked me to throw mine in a nearby gutter. Girls in his year, specifically his girlfriend, found it cute and
sought out to adopt me. Instinctively, I did what I needed to survive and live a fairly luxurious school life. By the start of Year 8, I had 10 school parents. This helped me climb the social ladder and with that came popularity among seniors, making it a lot easier to network my way into better and more viable school parents. I also had older cousins that attended Olashore while I did. Three cousins. All boys. Their dad, my dad’s older brother. Then it hit me: this was a competition. My extended family is large. My dad’s older brother, a former air force commander, was the first in the family to send his children to a school as prestigious as Olashore. My dad needed to accept the challenge by doing the next best thing: sending his 9-year-old son to boarding school, too.
Alstroemeria Peruvian Lily
America, this Native to South has long stems tropical beauty e, trumpet-shaped bearing attractiv e range of flowers in a wid of wer is composed colours. The flo t three sepals tha three petals and our and texture, are similar in col earance of a giving it an app . six-petaled flower resents wealth, Alstroemeria rep e, friendship, prosperity, fortun and devotion.
Muhammad Taha-Ibrahim via Unsplash
Flavors of Home NATALIE KANG
In Bangkok, you can’t cross a street without passing carts full of delicious, succulent and colourful tropical fruits. From my favourite buttery, soft yellow mangoes and rich purple mangosteens to the vibrantly pink dragon fruit and rambutan—these were the flavours I grew up with. After my move across the ocean, I realized how quickly my definition of “normal” became another person’s definition of “foreign.” In a new environment, not only do you become hyperaware of the blatant change in language or currency, but you also acknowledge the smallest aspects of your previous life and self that you hadn’t noticed in detail before. When I first moved to Montreal, I felt like I was living in somebody else’s skin. A new skin that was dry and rough to the touch, thirsty for the South East Asian humidity it was accustomed to. My hair felt different too. It was pin straight and thin in the winter,as if it forgot about its natural heavy waves in the heat. According to the 2016 census, more than one in five Canadians are foreign-born. Each new wave of migration weaves into Canada’s ethnocultural fabric which has been shaped over time by immigrants for generations. In this multicultural society, I’m always curious to hear stories from people who also had a previous life before crossing seas and borders to be here. I often wonder what decisions and sacrifices led them to immigrate, where their loved ones live and what home means to them. And while I think of those buttery, soft yellow Thai mangoes, I can’t help but ask, what do you taste when you think of home?
Plumeria flowers have deep symbolic roots in many cultures. They primarily symbolize beauty, charm, and grace. Additionally, they symbolize new beginnings, birth, creation, immortality, shelter, and protection. Ancient Indians believed that Frangipani represents the infinite life of
our soul. The flower is traditionally gifted to someone who has endured many challenges.
Homebody MARY KEITH
Homebody, but everywhere else. She wants to be stationary, and can’t find it within herself. Away at school, or visiting with friends, she thinks of family. A place to cement. But in her mid twenties, She wonders, “Am I ready to plant roots?” Wishing to be years younger. Friends have jobs, lives. Most dating, but she packs her life in bags. Always sort of migrating. Newport to Montreal. Summers never spent home. She left at fifteen, dedicated to roam. Mama calls her nomad, the family’s vagabond. But, she’s done with packing. Giving a home precedent. Homebody, no longer everywhere else. She’s settled down in New York, resting her travels on a shelf.
Helianthus Sunflower Helianthus , better kn own as Sunflower, are native to North America wi th a few sp ecies from South Amer ica. Sunflow ers have big, daisylike flowers in bright colors ofte n with a co ntrasting dark centre , and larg e, bristly, dark green leav es. These sun-loving plants are recognized worldwide for their beauty, as well as ag ricultural im portance. The genus name is de rived from Greek word the s “helios” (“ sun”) and “anthos” (“ flower”), in reference to the flowe r’s tenden cy to turn towards th e sun. Helianthus meanings ca n vary across cult ures, but most common it means fa ly ithfulness , worship, adoration, and loyalt y. http://atozfl owers.com/flo
Leyy via Unsplash
Roots I’ve Outgrown RACHEL STERZAI
When I was little I never thought I’d move away from home. I’d probably live here— wherever here was— forever; put down some solid roots, as many like to say.
I felt like I knew the town and all the streets by the time I was a teenager and, as an adult, I can drive down almost any road and still absentmindedly find my way home.
“You should think about looking for a property, for down the line. The market is probably good right now. You could live in Toronto.” My dad fires off with ideas for my future living accommodations as we ritually watch the evening news. I furrow my brows and close my eyes because I could never imagine myself being back there.
It’s strange to think that I can feel so uncomfortable in a place that should provide me with so much comfort—a place I know so well. I feel that I don’t belong to the life I have here anymore. Though I’d yearned for so-called deeper ties, I’m starting to feel more like a houseplant whose roots are straining against the sides of the pot, begging for fresh soil to spread out the crumpled and concealed parts of myself. There’s just not enough space in this pot yet I feel so, so small here.
The first eight years of my life in the busy city are mostly irrelevant to me. I’d grown accustomed to the suburban, not-so-smalltown life in Oakville quickly, even as a child.
It’s taken about three years but I can finally navigate the highways up north to my favourite little town without any directions and, to my surprise, I can do it alone if I need to. The green and blue horizon continues to draw me in, running deep and wide and seemingly infinite. In those moments, when I’m alone, I’m unbothered by the lack of conversation or company. The three long hours fly by with ease because I know it’ll be worth it once I get where I’m going. I know how happy I’ll be because I can feel that
this is the place my roots are meant to be; unbound by the endless pavement of the city and buildings packed with people. Here, surrounded by the quiet that still makes me uneasy and the dark that still frightens me, I find myself content and comfortably uncomfortable with the unknown, sitting on the porch at night and looking up at the countless stars with you. I’d like to be home.
For Listening: Bloom by Paper Kites
Paeonia is famo us for exquisit its e and of ten frag flowers, rant which bl oo m in la spring te and earl y summer.I for prop f cared erly, Pe on ies can over 10 live fo 0 years! r Peony is after Pa named eon, a ph ysician studied wh o under As clepius, god of the Gree medicine k and heal ing. Peony sy mbolizes prosperi fortune, ty, good and weal th. It mean ho can also nour an d compas sion.
Mirroring Movement ASHENDRI WICKREMASINGHE
I am smooth and reflective, My feelings emanate from what stands before me. I would rather be in a museum, reflecting permanent and fleeting beauty, yet I dream of being loved for what’s shared through me. I worry that I may shatter; accidentally or intentionally. I want others to come to me and find a source of comfort because the best thing I’ve done is bring a smile to a face, and the worst thing I’ve done is made someone cry. I wish I can speak about all the beauty I see, but my purpose is to reflect—to show. What am I?
I lean into the mirror, closer and closer, till my right eyeball hovers over the smooth and reflective glass. I see a miniature version of myself looking back at me, with familiar bewilderment that I can see my whole body through this small, vacant space. A loose grin melts into a silly face—a tongue sticking out, and finally, quiet giggles. I teeter-totter between two selves—one that is longing for a future full of materiality and one that is longing, simply, to breathe easier. I practise: breathe in, count slowly to three, and let it go. Once more; and again. I spread my fingers and stretch them as I reach my hands up over my head, breathe, and let go one more time—better. As I look at my hands, palm side up, I’m taken back to the first time I had my left palm read. Head tilted back, eyes squinted till they’re barely open, my uncle looks through halfmoon glasses resting on the tip of his nose to finally say, “Oh, wow! You see this line? You’re going to have a long life!” I look up at him, thoroughly disappointed, “I don’t care about that. What else does it say? What am I going to be doing? Tell me pleeease, Sunna!” The urgency to know how I will lead my recently discovered “long life” and how I will fill that space was apparent even then. I still find myself looking for answers in the dark lines that travel across my palm because I cling to that mysterious belief that my hands determine what the future holds. (Literally speaking, though, does it not?). In Sri Lanka, everything is steeped in magic and the supernatural. At least, it is for the maternal side of my family. Nothing is talked about but everything is intuitively believed. From placing a black dot on a new-born baby’s forehead to ward off the Evil Eye to burning hadunkuru, incense sticks, with the soft yet powerful aroma of sandalwood as a
way of cleansing the air of bad spirits. But most importantly, the mirror: always cover any mirrors in the home of someone that died. “But why, sudhu aththammi? Why do we have to do that?” I never got the answer from my great-grandma because nothing of these beliefs should be talked about, remember? I soon learnt that the soul of the dead lingers around their home, and if they catch a glimpse of themselves in the mirror, it causes a disturbance—an off-balance of sorts in the spirit world. I now replay that lesson of off-balance, of uncertainty as I try to make sense of the root-like tangles on my palm. I look up, lean in, and continue the habit nurtured over 17 years, watching my reflection growing through a close-up right eye. Wavering between two planes parallels wavering between two selves; a conundrum faced by the unnatural and the natural, the human and the spiritual. That same sense of uncertainty following you to the world beyond this one. I remember these memories and revere the importance of the safe migration of souls, of mirrors as portals, the uncertainty of movement, and the interconnectedness of the living and the dead as I lean in closer and closer, still teeter-tottering. Hibiscus Rose mall ow Hibiscus is native and trop to warm ic temperat be woody al regions. Th e ese plan sh ts as annual rubs or small trees, as can s or pere of flowers n-nials. well , they ar In the wo colourfu rld l, large, e known for th eir flowers. and trum Hi pet-shap beauty to biscus will no t only br ed yo ur garden, attract but will ing hummingb also irds and butterfli es. The name “hibiscu the Gree s” comes k from Dioscori word “hibiskos, de ” pharmaco s (Greek physic which lo ian, with the gist, and bota nist) id marsh ma entified culture llow. De of the be pending on the symboliz holder, e Hibiscus love, an beauty, charm, ca d the sh youth, fir n ortness of life. st