Baking Bread

Dearest ______,

I wish I could transport the heavenly smell wafting through my kitchen to you right now: kneaded dough slowly baking in olive oil and rosemary. It’s making me feel warm and fuzzy inside that if there ever was a competition on being the Best Hugger, the focaccia bread inside my oven would be winning at this very moment.

I’ve been actively adding recipes into my novice baking and cooking portfolio these past few years. Not for anything in particular but the bliss- pure bliss– I’ve come to discover in using my faculties to make something that ultimately fills me, feeds people. It’s kind of basic, really, feeding yourself. And yet I love how intrinsically essential it is to learn how to do it; make food.

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Time for Tea

Dearest ______,

I like it how in many parts of the world, tea is an event in itself. I became a recipient of bewildered looks inside a cafe in Casablanca once, when I ordered: “Tea. To go, please.” Older gentlemen huddled around tables were murmuring among themselves as staff behind the counter tried to explain that their cups didn’t come with covers, nor cardboard sleeves.

There I was, right at the beginning of a supposedly relaxing 10-day holiday, rushing to get a hot beverage “to-go” so I can, what, go drink it piping hot while aimlessly walking around? Relax and take several seats, giiirrrl.

For someone who has for years made coffee or tea a minor kickoff for some other thing (i.e. a full day of work, an all-nighter before exams, etc), It still strikes me as unnatural when people suggest that the thing itself is actually the tea. Or the coffee. I’ve met people for meals at all times of the day, always with sides of hot beverage. I’ve hung out, read books, written letters with coffee or tea close by.  But I don’t believe I’ve ever just said:

“Let’s meet for coffee (or tea)!”

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It’s been a couple of years since I started collecting and using my first “nice” crockery. That first one: vintage fine bone china in cobalt blue and gold inlay; an Old Royal from England (est 1846), made in the 1950’s. I’ve been collecting (and using) quite a few more since then, not one of them the least bit rare or expensive, to be honest. Nonetheless, they’re all special to me. Apart from telling stories about where I got each of them from, they’ve also become constant reminders of the ceremony of daily life– “the grand and the granular, both” (as a wise friend once put it).

We should all be so lucky as to have the time to pause and simply sit down to a hot beverage. And if we are, that just warrants a tiny celebration of gratitude, doesn’t it?

Love,

Karlita

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Hiraeth

Dearest ______,

Is it possible to miss a place that you’ve never been to before?

For the Welsh, this phenomenon is called Hiraeth, which is described as “the nostalgia and the grief for lost places of your past, or places that never were.”

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I had something that vaguely resembled Hiraeth last year: I was standing on the terraces of Cafe Hafa in Tangier (f.1921), looking at the vast shadows of Spain far across the Strait of Gibraltar. Save for the distant crashing of waves and the clinking of silverware on heated glass, it was a quiet day for mint teas. Too quiet in fact, that for a brief moment, I longed for any form of old-world decadence befalling the now sobered up cafe. A little Moroccan shindig, like what we’d all read about when the beatniks were there, way back in the day.

But then I quickly realised how I actually kind of hate commotion (excluding the occasional mosh pit). Burroughs would probably have hated my law-abiding ass. And so Hiraeth quickly turned into Here I Is.

Which wasn’t; isn’t so bad, after all: Here I is.

Love,

Karlita

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On Work

Dearest ______,

I disagree with people when they tell me: “It’s just work. It’s nothing personal.”

The way I see it, when you spend the majority of your days doing one particular thing– when there are limitless other ways to spend them– Work just gets downright personal! After all, your time (on average 25-30 years of a person’s lifetime) is nothing but yours, personally, isn’t it? So how am I expected to view Work; my chosen vocation as anything but?

With this in mind, some of my work relationships have extended beyond working hours. Some colleagues have become friends, long after tenure. It’s like being in a classroom or an Army camp together. You come out of similar experiences (sometimes enjoyable, sometimes jarring) all slightly different, but also slightly the same by virtue of that singular environment in that certain period of time. And I’ve found that the more jarring the experiences, the more you see what each person is truly made of. Hence, friendships. And also, non-friendships. Heehee.

After almost 5 years on the job, last week was my last at work.

And my own thoughts on Work above are only to say that it has personally been the most exciting and rewarding 5 years of my life, so far: in and out and the blurry in-betweens of Work. In that period of time, I met some of the nicest people (pictured at my farewell dinner last night). Then again, some of the not-so nicest as well. Which, I guess, is to be expected from life in general.

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So the next time someone tells me “It’s just work,” I’ll be prepared with a slideshow presentation of everything that “just work” has allowed me to do, achieve, and become through the years.

While I completely agree that there is certainly more to life than just Work– speaking as a proud member of the Working Class– for it to be truly meaningful, Work is and should be so much more that just a job.

Love,

Karlita

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Le Rouge et Le Noir 

Dearest ______,

 Photographic providence in colours, that is all.

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Sometimes I wish I cared for actual human interactions more. I am constantly in awe of people who are at ease with making small talk with other people strangers because I’m pretty sure that if I just learn how to say “Hi, how are you?”, I’d be surprised with what I’ll know about people. Maybe they’re downright mean, but maybe they’re only waiting for someone to talk to. I’ve always dreaded the latter more, which has probably deprived me of many a lost narrative out there. Compelling tales never told, secrets shared to someone else instead.

I try. But more often than not, I just make do with made-up stories about people in my head. Heehee.

Love,

Karlita

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Birds

Dearest ______,

Over a year ago, I took pictures of white storks perched on their nests atop some Roman ruins. There were hardly any trees around that part of the old citadel of Rabat.

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It’s fascinating how animals adapt to their environments. If humans could be as pliant and less stubborn about how correct we think we always are, I bet we’d all evolve faster (or at least make better choices).

White storks are said to be sacred symbols of Juno, the Roman goddess of hearth and home. I guess this week is as good as any for me to start embodying them.

Or her.

Love,

Karlita

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