Boston, Race, Religion & Identity

My first post in a long time probably should have been to tell you all about my pregnancy, but I feel compelled to write instead about the recent tragic events in Boston. Like a lot of people, for the last few days I have been fixated on coverage of the Boston Marathon bombings and the ensuing (and ongoing) investigation.

My heart is breaking for the casualties, their families and friends, the city of Boston and for our country. I have been ruminating about this event, and its possible implications for racial and religious relations in America. I am deeply saddened by the prospects… to the point of in-eloquence.

While I can’t seem to form the right words to express what I feel and fear, I wanted to post a brief reading list of articles and op-eds for your consideration. Well, not precisely a reading list, as there is a bit of audio programming in there too, but you get the point (I hope).

These articles, mostly posted before the identity of the suspects was revealed, still apply now that the alleged perpetrators are young white men originally from Chechnya. A friend, and a woman I respect said this morning on social media that she’s “Less sure that the “suspects” being literally Caucasian will complicate feelings about race than that it will simplify feelings about Islam.” Her comment is on the money for where my mind is currently.

I hope we can refrain from profiling further based on a simplification of these brothers’ identities. We don’t need to make assumptions about others in whatever group(s) (religious, racial or otherwise) these individuals fall in to – their actions are their own.

Oof, and the future person growing inside of me seems to be learning to dance or swim at the moment. I wonder what the world they grow up in will look like, and I hope my worst fears are unfounded.

Edible Mail

clementine peel

Edible Mail

We just received the most delightful package – a box full of organic clementines! We were given a one year subscription to Harry & David’s Organic Fruit of the month club by my mom, and this was January’s installment.

I’ve already been eating them, and they are amazingly orange and rotund in comparison to our remaining conventional batch of clementines. (The skin in the photo once contained something delicious)

Since I’ve been juicing again (after cracking my juicer’s bowl and waiting for the replacement to arrive), and since it is difficult to find organic produce where I currently live, this is a very fortuitous gift!

When I was in Portland this summer, my husband sent an edible arrangement, and I have been thinking it would be really neat if they offered organic arrangements. Then, you’d have the option of eating them off the stick or dumping them in the juicer! Well, since they’re precut, there will be some nutritional loss of course, but imagine if you could buy pre-arranged juice recipes! I would adore a surprise delivery like that!

Ethical Gift Giving

With today being Giving Tuesday, and the gift buying giving season being upon us, I wanted to talk a little about my approach to giving in general. I wouldn’t call this a full blown philosophy, but I do try to follow some basic principles. Here’s the annotated version: Put your money where your ideals are.

Do Good by by von glitschka via Help Ink

Give to charity
Some of the most meaningful and memorable gifts I’ve given and received have been charitable donations. From donating to Human Right’s Watch in my Mother’s honor for mother’s day when I was living abroad, to receiving the gift of donations to my undergraduate alma mater. There are a myriad of organizations out there that you can donate to, many of which will send form letters or certificates to the person in whose name you are donating. It can actually be very rewarding to spend the time to research potential recipient organizations, and select one that will be meaningful to the recipient.

Buy from conscientious sellers

If you still want something to wrap up and give as a tangible package, you can also shop with many organizations. Unicef, Sierra Club and Amnesty International all have stores. These are just a few examples, but you can also simply consider organizations working in other areas you support, be it on social issues, environmental issues or even political issues. Check their website to see if they offer anything for sale. Sometimes these may be sold off site, such as this awesome Sierra Club commuter bike I’ve been ogling.

If you’re more interested in fashion and accessories, Ethical Ocean vets sellers on their products which must be either Good for People, Good for Animals or Good for the Environment. You may also consider looking for retailers that donate a part of their profit to charity. An example is Help Ink, where beautiful art is offered, and 40% or more of the profits go to charity. The print at the top of this entry is by Von Glitschka and profits from the sale of this piece benefit Charity Water. Alternatively, Sevenly offers stylish shirts, hoodies and totes benefitting a different charity each week.

Buy Handmade

There are a ton of places to buy hand made, both online and in brick-and-mortar stores. Buying handmade doesn’t just mean shopping on Etsy (but that’s okay too! After all, anyone can use an infinity scarf to keep warm!). Other online retailers like The Bootstrap Project support artisans from around the world. They are a non-profit, employing artisans and helping preserve traditional handicrafts, not to mention the products are gorgeous & functional. It doesn’t get much better than that!

It is worth mentioning here that gifts you made yourself are great too! Repurpose or reinvent something, or create something from scratch! I promise, it is a lot of fun.

Buy Local

Shopping where you live is also a great way to spend your money. One of my favorite thrift stores in town is a not for profit, which supports a local battered women’s shelter. In particular, buying local to me means looking for local small businesses, not just the local branch of a big box store. It may seem like a small gesture, but even if you buy at a local for-profit business, you’re injecting money in to your community, and giving more security to these businesses, and those whose livelihoods depend on them. Bonus: Get yourself out there, and explore your own neighborhood! You never know what you might find…

Want some inspiration? Here are a few ideas:

  • Oxfam – Pay for tools, livestock, a bicycle or instruction that can improve the income generation and livelihood of those in poverty. You can even plant a forest!
  • Good Neighbors – Sponsor a child! Having volunteered with Good Neighbors in Dominican Republic, I can vouch for this as a reputable organization. The children of Los Guandules are in my heart forever. Alternatively, you can contribute to projects providing cookstoves, wells and other relief for impoverished communities in the developing world.
  • Charity Water – Awesome products, profits go to providing clean water to people in developing countries
  • Nisolo – Providing livelihood to Peruvian shoemakers, this is a beautiful catalogue of shoes and other leather goods
  • The Bootstrap Project – These Tajik stockings by Nadzhida look beautiful & cozy, and don’t get me started on how much I love Sodiqjon’s Footstool
  • Shana Logic – Support artists and craftsters by buying some nerdy, hip accessories!

Dominican Diary

I’ve been living in Santo Domingo now for over a month while doing a volunteer internship. The time is flying by at lightning speed! Here are some of the highlights:

  • Working for Good Neighbors Dominican Republic is nothing but rewarding! So far, I’ve been involved in a medical check for hundreds and hundreds of children from Los Guandules (a local slum), a workshop in the amazingly beautiful Jarabacoa, and now we’re planning an awesome series of week long children’s camps slated for July (and we’re accepting volunteers, if you’d like to come stay with us!). I’m managing the GNDOM Facebook page, and the majority (if not all) photos since May 1st are mine.
  • I attended a Cinco de Mayo party thrown by some US Embassy folks, and I saw (but was too shy to meet) the US Ambassador to DR. He’s Mexican-American and a Human Rights advocate! (I wasn’t too shy to read up on him after the party). Dominican food is good, but I personally prefer Mexican food!
  • I rode in a public car (carro publico), which is perhaps one of the most bizarre experiences of my life. For 25 Dominican pesos, you too can go one way down any particular street in a tiny early nineties Japanese sedan with between 2 and 7 strangers (when I rode in the public car, we had 7 people in the car total. I shared the front passenger seat with a young woman dressed in purple). It was actually fun, in a strange way, although I don’t relish the thought of relying on public cars for my primary form of transportation.
  • I sang Japanese songs at Korean-style Karaoke (er, norebang rather) in the Dominican Republic. I feel international.
  • Due to the generous hospitality of a US Embassy member, I’ve been to a local art school, and visited the Dominican Republic branch of Nuestros Pequeños Hermanos, a very impressive orphanage and part of a respectable organization (their model is atypical, as NPH does not offer kids for adoption, instead the orphanage becomes the new home of their children)
  • And finally, I’ve met countless friendly, genuine and inspiring people!

The Dominican Republic is a beautiful country, filled with loads of warm and friendly people (who also may drive in a way that horrifies and terrifies me with my American sensibilities).

Wish you were here!