Sunday, March 30, 2008

Even with Confirmed Election Irregularities, There Is Hope for Change in Zimbabwe

The biggest thing on my mind these days is the election in Zimbabwe. Supposedly results will be posted today. The early word was that the opposition party, MDC, led by Morgan Tsvangirai, was on track to win the elections. However, this projection was based on publicly posted results from about 1/3 of the polling stations in the country. An official count is necessary to determine the winner, and many fear that the delay in announcing a result is in order to cover up election rigging.

ZANU-PF and Mugabe have notoriously tampered in past elections in Zimbabwe, and there is evidencet his has happened yet agaion in this one. We know of at least one story first-hand...

You may remember when I first moved to Chimoio, I was working on a project to establish a tea plantation and processing unit in Mozambique. The project was to be carried out in conjunction with a Zimbabwean partner, a family who had been running a tea operation in the Eastern Highlands of that country for many years. They had managed to avoid expropration of their land, a somewhat miraculous feat given the fate of the majority of Zimbabwe's other white commercial farmers, but were nervous about the future and thus interested in establishing operations across the border in Mozambique.

We got word from this family that they were forced off their tea plantation in Zim last week by a group of police thugs sent from the government. Apparently, the police claimed all of the family's equipment and assets, and made them leave the country. No, this was not a land claim...this intimidation was done in order to "secure voter loyalty". Basically, vote for Mugabe and you can come back home and have your farm back. Vote for the opposition, and you can imagine how the story will end.

As I sit today and periodically check the news waiting for official election results, I can't help but feel hopeful that change will finally come to Zimbabwe. Despite intimidation tactics, despite outright vote rigging (there were reports that ZANU-PF managed to cast thousands of ghost ballots), despite people arriving at polling places to find their names strangely missing from the voter lists...despite all of this, I believe that Zimbabwe is at a point where they can no longer bear the economic burden.

I hope that the official result is that Mugabe has lost the election. Either one of the alternate candidates will do; the main point is that the old man must step down...lest he be forced out of power, for I believe that Zimbabwe's people are prepared to engage in Kenya-style violence should the results be rigged once again. Violence is never something I wish for, but in this case, I can't help but see how it would be necessary if Zimbabwe's people want to have any hope for their immediate future.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Gratitude List

I'm in a bit of a slump today, so I'm trying to concentrate on the positive and turn my mood around.

Things I am grateful for today include:

1. Having a job that gives me financial security.

2. A cup of lemon tea being brought to my desk just when I need it the most.

3. Listening to house music full blast while I drive to and from the office.

4. Relief from a persistent itch.

5. E-mails from my Mom giving me real-time updates on her trip back to the US.

6. Being able to talk to Rico about how I feel.

7. A good friend coming over later this evening, even if it is for work stuff.

8. Feeling excited about new jewelry designs.

9. Cats.

10. Internet.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Because You Can't Make This Shiz Up...

A friend who is a partner in an import/export company based in China recently visited us in Maputo hoping to make some business contacts. We set up some meetings, facilitated some introductions, and spent many nights discussing various business ideas over beers.

Yesterday, our friend sent us an email with the good news that one of the meetings we set up for him while in Maputo seems to have resulted in a deal. The owner of a local supermarket chain apparently requested a quotation for a specific product our friend can source for a good price in China, and it looks like the deal will move forward.

Curious, I asked our friend what product the supermarket owner had requested.

Friends, the answer was simply priceless. Of all the products to be responsible for our first China-Mozambique brokered deal, I certainly didn't imagine it would be TOILET BOWL CLEANER. Not the most glamorous product ever, but at this point we are taking what we can get!

Imagine it...Ali and Rico indirectly responsible for an entire container of toilet bowl cleaner being shipped to Maputo.

Heh heh heh. This totally made my night!

Fusion Earrings Available on Etsy!

These earrings feature clusters of 300-year-old trade beads from Mozambique Island on sterling silver pins and chain.

These fusion designs feature oversized discs of Blackwood and Rosewood from Nampula Province with clusters of semi-precious stones, swarovski crystals and pearls.

All of these earrings and other designs are available on my Etsy site at Alexandra Amaro. Perfect for a unique gift for a loved one or yourself!

Commissioned Crucifix

A male musician here in Maputo requested this rosary made of faceted Onyx beads and sterling silver wire. Designing the cross and triad piece was quite a challenge, but I am quite satisfied with the results. I hope the musician enjoys the rosary. Maybe someday I'll catch a glimpse of it in a Mozambican music video!

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Countdown to Mom

Time is dragging in a way that only happens when you are really, incredibly excited about some upcoming event.

My mom arrives in Maputo in a few hours and it is a massive understatement to say that I can't wait!

I am taking most of the week off work to hang out with her. Definitely one of the benefits of being a consultant - I can create my own schedule to some extent despite the fact that I am under a year-long contract with the BIC. Very cool.

I am on my way home in a bit to have some lunch and make some jewelry. I have a friend here who is easily my biggest jewelry client, and I need to finish some cluster earrings for her. The cool part is that she owns a day spa, so we trade my jewelry for her beauty treatments. Works out very well, especially with the wedding coming up (massages and facials are definitely needed on a regular basis!). I am going in for a back and shoulder massage before heading to the airport this afternoon.

Can't wait, can't wait, can't wait!

Monday, March 17, 2008

Pequena Has a Home and Other Updates

A few random notes:

1. I am now a confident driver on the "other side". I am loving the CRV, and loving even more the independence having a car provides. I still need some serious work on parking, however, especialy parallel parking. Just thinking about it makes me nervous.

2. My mom arrives tomorrow for a 6-day visit. I can't wait! It will be her first time in Mozambique. We had hoped to take her to Kruger, but since it is Easter Weekend, we've decided against it. You couldn't pay me to cross the border over the holiday, as it is one of the peak traffic periods and we don't have the luxury of cutting through to the VIP line as we don't have diplomatic status. Sorry, mom. If you want to see big animals, I suppose you'll just have to come back for another visit!

3. Pequena has found a new home! My old colleagues June and JR came over yesterday for lunch, and they decided to take the kitten back with them to the farm. I think it will be perfect, as Pequena is very energetic and will enjoy running around outdoors, and she seemed to really like June and JR. I actually miss the little one. Over the past week, she and I had bonded...

4. The Lura concert on Friday was off the hook! I've never seen so many people at Coconuts - every square inch was packed with people. The music was amazing, Lura was beautiful on stage, and everyone seemed to be having a great time. There was one disappointing moment, when Jenny and I were the brunt of some stupid racial comments while trying to make our way through the crowd, but I can honestly say that it is the exception and not the norm here in Mozambique. Nonetheless, it made me really angry, and I only managed to stop thinking about the comments when the concert ended and the nightclub music started... Dancing is always a great way to clear one's mind and renew one's energy.

5. I am still super tired. Not surprising, given the rhythm of the past few days.


Yesterday Rico finally arrived back in Maputo after an absolute nightmare journey. First his flight from Brazil was cancelled because the pilot brining the plane over to São Paulo from Johannesburg managed to overshoot his landing and end up in the grass outside the runway, blowing out 2 tires in the process. So Night 1 was spent in São Paulo.

The next morning, after an additional 4-hour delay, the rescheduled flight took off, but unfortunately arrived in South Africa so late that there were no connecting flights to Maputo. Night 2 was spent at a hotel in Sandton.

South African Airways had given Rico a printout of a confirmed itinerary where he was rescheduled on a flight to Maputo the next afternoon at 1:55pm. However, when he arrived at the airport to do his checkin, SAA informed him that there was, in fact, no such flight on Saturdays and that he'd have to spend another night in Joburg because there were no more flights to Maputo that day on any airline. Night 3 was thus spent at the Emperor's Palace hotel or something like that.

Rico finally made it to Maputo yesterday morning, only to find his luggage didn't arrive. Apparently they stuffed the plane full of cargo in lieux of passengers' suitcases, as about half of the flight was in line to file a claim with SAA upon arrival. We had to go back to the airport later in the evening to pick up his bags, as the airlines here don't deliver lost luggage directly to passengers' hotels or homes as is the case in every other country I've ever visited, developed or not.

It was funny watching a man in front of us in line at the SAA baggage desk, obviously on his first trip to Mozambique.

Man: So do you have any idea of where my bags are right now? Are they in Johannesburg?

Woman at baggage counter: Ummmmmmm, no. We can't see any of that information.

Man: Okay, do you at least have an estimate of what time my bags will arrive in Maputo?

Woman: Maybe on the 3pm flight. But you should call before you come to the airport because the flight may be late.

Man: But you will deliver my bags to my hotel, no?

Woman: No, you must return to the airport this evening to fetch them.

Man: You're kidding, right? (several people in line, including me, laughed out loud at this point because we were all to familiar with the situation)

Woman: No, sir. You must come to the airport. This is Mozambique.

Man: But it's the airline's responsibility. At least South African will pay for my taxi to the airport, right?

Woman: No...

Man: This is absurd! How is it the passenger's fault? I shouldn't have to pay for this! Where is the office of SAA?

Woman: Around the corner to the left, but it will do no good.

Man: No, I want to talk to someone.

Woman: But this is Mozambique!

Man: I am from Argentina - it's not so different there - but we manage to provide this basic service!

Woman: Here we are struggling to eat. We are dying of hunger! We ask for international donations! How can we provide this service? We can't be expected to have the means to deliver a bag to a passenger's hotel! This is Mozambique...

The poor Argentine man huffed off to try and talk to the attendant at the SAA office, and the rest of us in line commented about the situation. The man was right, after all. It should be a service provided by the airline, regardless of the donor-dependence or poverty of the country in question. Isn't this type of thing taken into consideration when passengers are charged overhead and airport handling fees and other taxes as part of a total ticket price?

Regardless of the obligations or lack thereof on the part of the airlines, there was something about the woman's attitude that made me feel exasperated and sad. This is exactly the type of attitude, in my opinion, that hinders progress. It is easy to sit back and play "poor me", both on an individual and on a national level. Finding solutions, being that requires an effort and an ounce of hope.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Fortaleza de Maputo

From our outing a couple of weeks ago when my friend Heleno was visiting. This is the old Portuguese fort in Maputo, complete with the most beautifully engraved cannons I've ever seen.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Drowning Dream

The other night I dreamt I was swimming in a shallow river. Suddenly, the waters receded as if before a tsunami. Somebody yelled that a flash flood was coming. I felt the current quicken, and the volume of water in the river swelled. Struggling to hold onto the dirt bank, I realized that I didn't have the strength to hoist myself out of the river. I knew that I would soon be swept away, that drowning was inevitable. "So this is it," I thought, and tried to come to terms with my fate.

I woke up before I actually died, but I knew without a doubt it was coming in my dream.

Curious, I Googled the meaning of drowning, and came up with the following:

To dream that you are drowning, signifies that you are overwhelmed by emotions or repressed issues that is coming back to haunt you. You may be proceeding too quickly in trying to discover your unconscious thoughts and therefore must proceed more cautiously and slowly. If you drown to death, then is refers to an emotional rebirth. If your survive the drowning, then a waking relationship or situation will ultimately survive the turmoil.

I also found this:

MENU : Dream Dictionary : Articles : Dream Book : Techniques and tips
DROWNING : Drowning can suggest that you are overcome by an issue. It symbolises a sense of powerlessness and often a lack of control. So look for issues which are dogging your mind that leave you with that sense of powerlessness.

QUESTIONS to help you make associations(pick the one that makes most sense to you)
- Did you feel overwhelmed on the day before the dream?
- Have you been depressed recently?
- Is there some skills that you are really struggling to master recently?
- Is there some issue that you have no control over?

KEY WORDS : overwhelmed, depressed, unable to cope, lacking ability, lacking control, helping calm someone down(write down some quotes that capture your key feelings on issues that have been dominating your mind. Then see if any of these words could appear in those quotes)

KEY PHRASES(Pick a quote which captures your feelings right now. Think especially of the day before the dream) :
- "I was unable to cope"
- "What if I get totally overwhelmed?"
- "I cannot do it - I simply lack the ability"
- "I have absolutely no control over it"
- "I have not mastered this new skill"
- "I have been depressed recently"
- "I want to help because he is clearly in difficulty but... "

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Grocery Run

Today I am going with my friend A. across the border to Komatipoort for a mini road trip. The big plan is to do some grocery shopping at Spar, as just about everything is cheaper than in Mozambique, and the variety tends to be greater.

I'm not one of these people who lives in Maputo but depends on South Africa for 100% of her shopping, entertainment and medical needs (clothes, appliances and doctor's appointments in Nelspruit, Kruger or any of the quaint little guest houses in Mpumalanga for relaxing weekends, groceries at any of the Spars or Woolworths throughout the area), however it is very nice to cross the border occasionally to mix things up.

It's funny, going to South Africa reminds me a lot of going home. Of course, there are many differences compared to the US, but there is something about being in a small-town shopping mall or a big grocery store (the layout is *exactly* the same as a Safeway or Smiths) that just brings me right back to the land of all things familiar.

In other news, Ricardo was meant to come back this evening, but his flight was cancelled. It now seems he's only taking off from São Paulo this morning, and will likely be stuck overnight in Joburg due to the late arrival of the new flight. :(

Meme: Things Left Unsaid

Here is a meme lifted from Ash, whose blog I am unfortunately unable to comment on while using my home internet connection (as is the case with all Typepad blogs as well). This is about things left unsaid throughout the years, kept nameless because that's how you do the meme, but also because I wouldn't name-check like this on the internet without having first had the convo in person...

1. I let you believe something that wasn't entirely true. I feel bad about my lack of total honesty, but at the same time I'm glad I told the version I did because you reacted in a way that made me not want to have you in my life anymore. I suppose we both won and both lost on this one...

2. The letter you wrote me all those years ago hurt me to the core, and I still think about your exact words to this day. I pretended not to care, like your words just bounced off me without making an impact, but they affected me more than you could ever know. I wish I'd had the self confidence back then to tell you to fuck off, instead of sticking around despite it all.

3. I am incredibly sorry for my poor decisions and subsequent actions. You were someone I considered to be a true friend, though I know you'd never believe it after all that happened. I wish you'd taken my apology to heart. Every time I think of you I feel somewhat sick as a result of how things ended.

4. I love you more than you could ever know. I believe we have a connection that will continue even after death. I hope so, at least, because I can't imagine my life without you.

5. I regret the fact that we never truly have gotten to know each other. Why is that?

6. I wish you had done things differently. You have influenced my life in a way that I could have never anticipated, and I am struggling with that realization right now.

7. I know you didn't act maliciously. I'm sorry you have taken so much blame.

8. It's hard for me to be friends with you because you are so thin and pretty, and I continuously compare myself to you.

9. I can't be with you now. This isn't the path I want for my life.

10. You are someone incredibly special to me. I tell you this frequently, but I wonder if you really believe me. I hope you do.

11. I love you and never want to hurt you. Please forgive me for my moments of weakness and poor judgment.

12. I find you incredibly annoying and really can't stand more than two hours of your company without feeling exhausted. Still, I know that you mean well, so I find ways to put up with you.

13. It makes me feel so special to get emails from you. I treasure our friendship.

A Plea for Pequena

Friends, you may remember that I posted a few weeks ago about the little kitten we are fostering at the moment. We now know that she is a girl, approximately 2 months old, extremely playful and more than ready to find a loving permanent home.

I know there are many of you living in Maputo/Matola who read this blog...perhaps one of my readers is interested in adopting Pequena? She would make a perfect outdoor cat/farm cat as she loves running around and is full of energy.

Please let me know if you or someone you know would like to make Pequena part of your family. The situation at home is okay, for the time being, but quickly becoming critical as our boys definitely do not like the idea of a third cat in the flat. Please, plese, please help!

Wednesday, March 12, 2008


When I first moved to Maputo in early 2006, I noticed that much of the city's nightlife was dominated by electronic music, specifically house. I've never really been into this style of music, and admittedly found it a bit annoying in the beginning. All I really wanted when I moved here was to find a club that played salsa and merengue, or at least some type of latin-inspired music that I could dance to...

After several months here, I warmed to Mozambique's unique Afro-Latino style of music and started really enjoying artists like Lizha James, Dama do Bling, Zico, MC Roger, etc. Although it's not the most intellectual music ever produced, it's wonderful for dancing and certainly captures the feel of this country.

More surprising than my enjoyment of Afro-Latino music (it's really just a step off from the salsa and merengue I was craving, mixed with some hip-hop and a slightly different beat) is the fact that I've now become a lover of house music! It sort of crept up on me, until one day last month when I found myself downloading songs in the electronic section of iTunes and copying my friend Heleno's extensive collection of house music.

I don't think it's necessarily about the music, though I do definitely like the style and agree that it's some of the best stuff around to guarantee an upbeat night out. No, I think it has to do much more with the memories associated with the songs. I now have many fond memories of Maputo. This city definitely feels like home in many ways (though in others, I still feel like the supreme fish out of water), and each good night out dancing or spent driving around in the company of friends, it just reinforces the connection between good times in Maputo and the unique soundtrack of this place.

Proof positive that I am in a Maputo-inspired music appreciation phase is the soundtrack I've chosen for my first few days driving around in the silver CRV: all house music. I am especially obsessed with the song "Bleeding Heart" by David Vendetta feat. Rachel Starr. Definitely my Maputo memories song of the moment.


Last night I awoke with a start as thunder boomed so suddenly and violently I thought someone had fired a gun just outside the bedroom window. I took it as a warning sign and dashed to the verandah to bring in the cat boxes, lest the silicone litter become water-logged and useless. Not a minute after I’d hauled in the boxes, the skies opened with the full force of a tropical storm. Lightning cracked so close to the building I feared it might come inside the flat, perhaps attracted by the iron bars that protect every door and window. The boys crawled onto the bed with me, and I struggled to find sleep with all the thunder and gusts of wind and the occasional cat claw to the stomach, be it from torties or in response to an especially loud clap of thunder.

As a result, you can imagine that I am tired today. I have actually been tired, almost to-the-core exhausted, for the past several weeks now. If you look at my agenda, I’m not fully booked with obligations, and it seems that I should have ample time for rest and “me time”. Unfortunately, it doesn’t feel like it at all. I’ve been sleeping quite poorly for a while now, be it because of storms, naughty cats (tearing down the curtains in the bedroom in the middle of the night, Pria taking a revenge shit on the rug in the living room after being reprimanded for climbing curtains, etc.), the ridiculously high temperatures we’ve been experiencing in Maputo lately, or any other of a dozen reasons.

Also contributing to that tired feeling are:

1) Omnipresent underlying stress from wedding planning. The wedding is 3 ½ months away, people! That is nothing, especially considering we still have several financial holes to fill and a house to remodel for the reception. It will work out, I know, but I can’t help feeling the crunch of invitations to send out in a timely manner (after managing to get them out of the clutch of Mozambican customs, where they were held for over the month with the threat of $500 duty…we finally got them out by doing a temporary import declaration and paying a deposit, then sending them all to Brazil for “export” in Rico’s suitcase. It’s a long, painful saga and I won’t get into it further; suffice to imagine a bureaucracy nightmare), flowers to choose, cakes to taste, pre-wedding counseling to complete somewhere (I’m imagining with the local Lebombo Diocese), and so forth. Not to mention the million dollar question of whether or not I will manage to fit into my wedding dress and rehearsal dinner dress more than a year after purchase. I have about 3kg to lose before the big day, and that has me somewhat freaked out…

2) We finally got our car, the Honda CRV we purchased nearly 2 months ago and had imported from Durban, South Africa. Again, imagine the worst bureaucracy possible, the kind where everything goes wrong at every step of the way, and at the end of it all you are more convinced than ever that Murphy is 100% Mozambican. The idea was that Rico would get the car out of the customs lot in Matola, where all goods entering the country by road must stop for inspection and taxes, before traveling to Brazil for his father’s 60th birthday party last week. Of course, the stupid clearing process took about 10 times longer than anticipated, and I got handed the splendid task of getting the car out.

The bureaucracy was actually the least intimidating part for me. What had my stomach in a knot and my palms in a sweat was the idea of having to drive a right-hand-drive car down the left-hand side of the street in the full-on chaos that is Maputo traffic. I’ve only driven here a handful of times, and I must say I don’t have the fondest memories of those experiences.

Thankfully, Ahmed agreed to come with me to the customs lot to get the car out, with the idea that he would then drive my car down Avenida 24 de Julho, the city’s craziest, most chapa-infested street, to the shop that would make and mount my license plates. However, when it came time to leave the customs lot and I tried to hand Ahmed the keys to the CRV, he looked at me with a raised eyebrow and said, “Stop being full of shit. You know how to drive. You’ve driven my car before and it was just fine. Get in the car, you will follow me to the license plate shop.”

I pleaded with him to change his mind. “It’s not the mechanics of driving the car that I’m worried about; it’s 24 de Julho. I’m afraid of hitting someone because I can’t gauge where the car ends on the left-hand side. I can’t tell if I am at an okay distance to pass a parked car or a man on a bicycle, or whether I am going to smash into something. Please, please, please just drive there for me!”

“Get in the car,” he said. “You can do it. Just follow me, I’ll go slow.”

And thus we set off on what was, for me, one of the most nerve-wracking journeys of recent memory. I felt disoriented in the car, constantly switching on the windshield wipers when I meant to indicate an upcoming turn, struggling to translate the images I saw in my mirrors to the real-life traffic around me, and trying the whole time to remember what traffic flow rules should be while driving mão inglesa. But I managed, and in all honesty the anticipation was by far the worst part. Ahmed drove slowly in front of me, and signaled out the window whenever we needed to turn. He even led me back home after we’d put on the license plates.

It is incredibly exciting to have a car, after nearly 3 years of managing Mozambique without wheels of our own. My confidence behind the wheel is going up exponentially with each additional day of driving, and Ahmed has been a very patient teacher, riding around the city with me and giving me tips, helping me stay aligned in the lanes, and giving me just the right amount of the stern cocked eyebrow to make me suck it up and just park the car in the tight spot that requires ridiculous amounts of maneuvering, for God’s sake. It’s been an adrenaline-filled last couple of days since picking up the car on Monday, but this particular exhaustion is well worth it!

3) I had my first visitor since moving to Mozambique! (Okay, technically my friend S. stayed with us last year for over a month, but she was a friend-of-a-friend, and really only became my friend after her trip.) Anyhow, my Brazilian friend Heleno came to visit two weeks ago while on his way to Hong Kong. He was my classmate back at business school in Rio (same school where I met Rico back in 2000, and BL our old roommate from Chimoio, and at least 3 other people I can think of who have come to Moz to do volunteer consulting work – who’d have ever thought that relatively conservative school would spawn such a connection to Africa!).

Heleno was here on business, trying to evaluate the potential for goods from his company in China. We had multiple meetings and are all excited about the prospect of being able to put together some deals in the future, especially for projects that focus on the “bottom of the pyramid” consumers. It was great having a houseguest for a week, as among other things it gave me and Rico a chance to play tourist. We finally managed to go to the baixa(lower-city/downtown area) and take photos of some of Maputo’s landmarks.

I tried to post the images from our outing to the Fortaleza (old Portuguese fort built in late 1700's) and the CFM (railway station, built by the same Eiffel that did the Paris landmark), however it seems Blogger is not in a mood to cooperate this morning. I will try again later tonight and see if I have better luck.

In other news (though likely not anything that will help alleviate my tired state), I am looking forward to a good weekend. Rico comes back from his short trip to Brazil on Friday, then later that evening Lura, one of Cape Verde's best singers, will play a concert at Coconut's, and on Sunday I am making a New Mexican feast for a group of friends including June and JR, my ex-colleagues from the Empire.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Sunday Scribblings: Time Machine

Sometimes I just want to go back, to see if I can find some of the colors and smells and friends that I know were part of my life. I remember very little about my childhood, especially before about age eight.

Most of my memories I know I've created from the photos my mom keeps in a shoebox. I falsely remember my pony Shorty, my red snowsuit with rainbow piping, the summer heat while fishing for trout at Shady Lakes, the trip to Amsterdam where I wore a dress with a numbers print and stared out the window of a ferryboat.

The things I do legitimately remember are scarce and quite blurred.

I remember picking blossoms off the geraniums my mom used to grow in whisky barrels in the sunroom. I would make bouquets of white, red and magenta flowers. For my mom to have been in that house, it was before I was six.

I have random flashes from the summers spent at my grandmother's house in Italy. I remember eating calamari out of a brown paper sack at the beach, the long driveway up to her house flanked by walnut trees, the musty smell of her attic full of African masks.

I recall making mud pies with my neighbor Janelle, and picking apples from the orchard behind the house where I first lived. I remember our ugly old dog, Dolly, who had curly grayish fur and short legs. We had four other dogs, including one who adored me and supposedly would wait at the gate for me to come home, but sadly I don't recall Lobo other than from photos.

I remember one day at school a girl called Brooke got a massive bloody nose as we sat cross-legged in a circle on colored carpet mats. I must have been eight or nine.

I also remember that as part of a class assignment that same year, we had to do a show-and-tell presentation. I brought in a plant that had striped light and dark green leaves and occasionally would produce clusters of red and yellow berries. I don't remember its scientific name, but my memory of this plant is clear enough I'm sure I could find it if I took enough time on Google.

I have flashes of other things: my bookshelf full of toys and books, the white lace-up Easter shoes I'd wear on special occasions, the feeling of sleeping on a high 4-poster bed that I could barely climb up on by myself, eating roasted cashews after trips to the doctor's office for yearly immunizations...

Perhaps most interesting are the things I don't remember.

I have no memories of my mom and dad together. I don't recall any details of their separation or divorce. I don't know how the process went when my mom and I moved to Albuquerque from the country house we lived in when I was born. If I'm not mistaken, my parents split when I was five years old. I realize it's early to remember anything with clarity, but I'd imagine I'd have at least some recollection of our family life before that point...

Sometimes I have the distinct feeling that there is something from my childhood that, if I could only begin to remember, would unlock a lot of my current struggles. Perhaps if I could travel back in a time machine, back to those essential early years, I could at least know where to start my work.