My debut book is out – now the tough part begins

Loveinatimeofinternationalliving.jpg
Cover art: Dave and Les Jacobs / Getty Images

It all started with an essay posted on Medium that gathered unexpected momentum and provided a case study for the network effect on social media platforms. By the end of the month of publication the essay had made its way to more people than I loosely called friends on facebook.

And so, after more than a year of work nights and weekends, dozens of heartfelt conversations and countless revisions, Love in a Time of International Living is available on Amazon for the price of a cup of coffee!

Dotting the final ‘i’ on a debut work was difficult and nerve-racking and it helped to have a hard deadline before a trip. Since this was my first “proper” collection, I thought it was important to get it out there as soon as possible and judge by the response. I guess I am not a perfectionist. Rather, I am someone self-involved enough to believe she has something interesting to say while taking herself lightly enough to make it possible to publish.

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Don’t be stingy with your culture, share it

Martenici
Bulgarian martenitsi marking the beginning of spring and our hopes for a healthy year ahead

 

As a Bulgarian living in the United States, I was often aware that people found me interesting. Friends of friends I was introduced to would stick around just a little longer to find out how someone like me ended up there, ask about the language, which stirred curiosity with its non-Latin alphabet, or inquire about my country’s Communist past.

In London Bulgaria is less of a mystery. Although I still inspire some interest as an immigrant from the highly corrupt poor cousin someone reluctantly invited to the EU party, more often than not I find myself on the inquisitive end of curiosity. Continue reading

Love in a time of international living

London evening, 2014
London evening

My generation has a problem

“My girlfriend,” said the boy typing away on his phone, “She’s in Canada.” I snuck a peek at the screen and could see he was sending a video of the impressive piano rendition we were all listening to. “When are you seeing her next?” I asked. “In ten days.” And his face beamed.

My generation has a problem. Well, of course, it has many. Continue reading

Generational poem

You call us apathetic
You say we’ve lost touch with the world
You say we don’t communicate
We haven’t much to say and are not eloquent

And yet we pour our souls out to a stranger
Because we are always in need
Of a soul who will listen

We don’t write poems of international acclaim
But we capture our hearts and minds in online epics
Seventy-three times a day
Creating oxytocin so our brains continue to churn ideas
In the incubator of the shower or in the hollow darkness of the mind
Before deep sleep

In the age of fifteen million novels published a month
And exabytes of data born online
We persevere, we are masters
Of the art of the mundane

We are weekend hippies with neatly trimmed facial hair
Pleasantly fragrant armpits and shaved legs
Who go to work on Monday morning
With a certain dignity
Quoting Whitman and Dylan Thomas
To the neighboring cubicles

We work at corporation-less businesses
So we can be big business’ biggest competition
We hate customer service
We hate the Internet company
We hate the network provider
We make tea in a thermos in the morning
And walk by Starbucks smirking

We study anthropology
We double-major in English and Spanish literature
With a minor in women’s studies
And go into consulting
The best minds of our generation
Are thinking about how to make people click ads

We have no savings
We work till the a.m.
At McKinsey and Deloitte to pay off student loans
And save enough to go to Argentina, Cuba, Vietnam
We work at an investment bank until we go insane and take two years off
To build schools outside Bogota

Or we don’t work at all
Because we want to find the occupation that will get us out of bed
We seek meaning in our work, and money too, but meaning first, did you?

We take public transportation
We protest any cause
We save the polar bears
Mull over water prices in Bolivia
Mourn Santa’s helpers in Sichuan

You say we have no depth
And when we take a stand you fault us for our lack of understanding
You say we have no morals
Yet you tell us our friends are not allowed to marry
Or have to leave the country
Or have to leave their country

And we laugh through our tears, and our friends’ tears
Because we know you won’t be here forever
And one day we will have our way, and our children,
Rebels too, perhaps will have it even better

You say we have no generational identity
But if identity is forged through music
We have our festivals and camp-outs
Where we sway like angel haired hipsters in sublime êxtase
And if identity is formed through reading, writing
And if it is through coming together in protest
And if it is through suffering loudly
We are all right

And for that we are self-righteous
And arrogant and have a strong sense of our greatness
You say we are the generation “me”
We are the generation “me”

If you ask us, who are the voices of your generation?
We’ll tell you, you’re hearing them now.

So, where is home?

“I’m a citizen of the world” is a laughable cliché. Yet when a friend used it in all seriousness the other day I wasn’t able to respond with anything but a nod of agreement. She’s a German-born Iranian whose family lives in Zurich and she told me that at a bar atop a tall building in London, where we both live. Then she said she felt Germany was her home but almost in the same breath mentioned a possible work assignment in Australia in the coming months.

 

Fitting in != being similar

London is like that. I used to stand out with my Bulgarian passport and tenure in Argentina and the United States, and here that’s the norm. But I’m starting to think that the reasons are not simply geo-economic but rather generational. Few of my peers are living close to where they were born, few speak one language only and still fewer are planning as their next step “settling down” in the place they are from or even the one where they are currently residing.

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In flight

MovingWalkway
Photo credit: Josh Brewster

 

In 2010 I spent significant periods of time, significant in both number of days and the importance of the events that transpired in those places, in seven different cities across three continents. I recently discovered a written account from the time and was struck by how little has changed in my sentiment of traveling and my thoughts on the meaning of home.

In 2013, I spend time in ten countries. 2014 is only halfway over and I am already on my ninth trip across the globe. Wasteful, perhaps. Going entails returning so if I just stayed put I wouldn’t have to always be in an active state of getting there or going back.

But here I am now, once again having lunch with my carry-on and waiting for a flight back. Back? These days I refer to most of my flights as flights back. I can’t decide if this instinctive denomination is a product of the round-trip phenomenon, or of my own adaptability and skill to turn every place I inhabit into some version of home.

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A Modern Kind of Love

Internet Love
Image: Dmitriy Turovskiy

Submitted to the New York Times “Modern Love” essay competition.

“That’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard,” she says and turns to the sink full of dishes. I stand behind her, munching on a piece of cold cheese, and try to see things from her perspective.

When she was twenty-three, my age, my mom was married, simultaneously going through law school and learning on the go how to be a wife and a mother. A year earlier, before she said I do to the man she had been in love with for three years, she had never experienced physical intimacy or even talked about it much. My father was the first man she ever kissed. Continue reading

El Piropo

Appeared in an archived Pomona College online publication on 2.14.2011

In Argentina they call it el piropo. It is when a man of any age, shape, and form calls out after a woman on the street and tells her she is pretty, beautiful, sexy, skinny, curvy, delicious, divine, a goddess, a princess, a “mammy,” a star, or a bonbon. Sometimes the description is accompanied by a more detailed account of the pain or pleasure caused by the woman’s looks, presence, or indifference, and, sometimes, with a short but vivid description of the things the man would like to do to her in a different time and place…

It came over the ocean with the hot Italian blood that flows through the first tango verses, some of the dirties and most sexually evocative pieces of writing I have ever read; but it also comes from the rich earth of this land, its vegetation, and its sweat, which collects in puddles and trickles down bodies leaving traces of desire. It is generously given and it is far from a beauty trophy: the only thing it shows is that one looks like a woman. Continue reading

The Bus – A Bus Ride through the Inland Empire

Foothill Transit
Foothill Transit Line

Abridged version published in The Student Life on 10.14.2008 

A scene common in movies: crushed by life’s hardships, the heroine gets on a bus and spends long hours going nowhere until her internal turbulence calms down and she is again able to face the world with still determination. What takes me to the bus stop on Claremont’s First Street on a strangely autumnal day, however, is not internal torment, but pure curiosity. I want to test the popular student theory that public transportation in the Inland Empire is “sketchy,” even “scary,” and that the non-recommended use of the Foothill Transit Line might have… consequences. Continue reading