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 004: Everything So Bittersweet 

Recently, my birthday twin Emily Pothast posted the following wonderful anecdote:

"Someone who used to fight me tooth and nail on Facebook, and who blocked me years ago, just unblocked me and sent me the nicest message saying that he could now see the point that I was trying to make, and that he was sorry for his past inability to hear it.

"It made my heart feel light. It felt like receiving proof that there is hope for even the most challenging, stubborn people, and that sometimes making the effort to hold a difficult conversation plants a seed, which will grow in its own time. I'm crying tears of joy. Don't give up on each other, is what I'm saying."


Mmm... hope. Sure, the mid-term elections were FINE, but at this juncture, anything short of total disaster is HOPEFUL, if you ask me! I'll take it!

I've been at a racial justice conference in Detroit for the past few days. Can't say I've learned a TON, but I did learn about the term targeted universalism, which is "a frame for designing policy that acknowledges common goals, while addressing the sharp contrasts in opportunities between differently situated subgroups." (As opposed to thinking all policies are a one-size-fits-all solution.)

More practically, Ash-Lee Woodard Henderson of Highlander Center later urged: "Let's be real about not talking sh*t about the ways that we roll. Let's go as far as we can going in alignment—without confusing alignment with agreement."



This installment of RAMBLIN' WITH VEE includes a tale from LA photographer Derek Van Oss, who I first interviewed for REDEFINE magazine in January 2005 (in what may have been the first printed issue of the publication...!). He shares a simultaneously heartwarming and discouraging encounter he had, upon meeting a foreign traveler in Los Angeles. It has a better outcome than say, when my friend Aaron crashed his bike in Portland and walked for miles with a bloody arm and had everyone run away from him rather than ask him if he was OK :T

 //  THIS TIME  \\ 

My short film was finally released last week!
Creating it has completely changed my life.
I hope it affects you, too.


When a Syrian refugee family is invited to a Christian family's house for Christmas dinner, they are caught between opposing viewpoints for and against their presence until an unexpected event suddenly occurs.

"Social-issue films sometimes overemphasize their message at the expense of engaging viewers emotionally and cinematically. Searching Skies works because it finds a core of universality in its subject matter, and Hua delivers the film with considerable confidence and craftsmanship."- Tony Kay, City Arts Magazine
(R.I.P.: City Arts just went defunct T__T)

"[Searching Skies] is an important piece of art that shows the multiple sides and emotions regarding the topic of immigration, specifically Arab refugees.It’s a timely film that forces us to have a conversation with one another." - Dave Serio, Arab American National Museum

 (In adjacent news: you can host refugees via AirB&B, BTW!
Don't be fooled, though... the number of refugees (and immigrants) accepted into the U.S. has lessened dramatically. When I was volunteering to teach ESL to a bunch of old Armenian dudes, the refugee resettlement office at the LA church was even paranoid it would stay afloat, considering. Nonetheless, I guess... .. .


Yesterday, I was on my way home from work and waiting at a Metro station here in Los Angeles.

I noticed a mana foreigner with luggage and bagsasking people for directions. This particular Metro station gets a lot of tourists transferring from the Green Line which is accessible from LAX, so it’s pretty common to see people here asking for directions/looking lost/etc.

The man approached me and asked me in thick accent if this was the train station to catch the train to Union Station.

After 10+ years riding, I know the LA Metro System like the back of my hand, so I enjoy helping people find their way through it.

“No, no. This is the Blue Line that will take you to Downtown LA where you can then transfer to the Red Line to get to Union Station,” I explained.

“Oh, ok, thank you SO much, thank you,” he replied meekly.

There was a 5-minute wait for that train so I struck up a conversation with him about his travels.

Long story short: he had just arrived in LA after a 20-hour flight from his home, Egypt. It was his first time coming to the US and he was actually trying to get to Hollywood where the hostel he was going to be staying at was.

Literally only having been in this country for about an hour and asking several people for directions, he told me several of them just turned him away offering no help. The shuttle bus driver from LAX gave him some (half-assed, unclear) directions scribbled on a tiny piece of a paper torn off from a bus schedule pamphlet that would have gotten anybody lost.

I was tired from a long day at work, I hadn’t eaten and wanted to get home, BUT I wanted him to feel helped. I wanted him to get where he was going with directions that could be trusted. I had those directions, so I why not help? Why not consider him first?

“Follow me; I’m headed that way too.”

Along the hour long trip, he was SO thankful.

I apologized that the other people hadn’t offered to help and were rude. He explained to me that in Egyptian culture, if you see someone who needs help and you do not help them when you can, it brings you much shame.

I haven’t stopped thinking about that. Our culture is so consumed with focusing on things that are only beneficial to our own wants/needs. He had been in our country for an hour and was already experiencing the things that aren’t so pleasant about our culture.

It was something so simple for me to go out of my way to do to help this man, and to try to make up for the others who weren’t willing/able to help.

I think I will always think about this story when I see someone that needs help and I’m able to help them.

I kept thinking about if I had just landed in Egypt and been trying to make my way to my lodging and I had just been turned away; how that would make me feel.

It’s an odd time/place in our country’s history... Not that anyone here isn’t; this is just my reminder to be kind and helpful when you can, y’all. Golden rule, etc. etc.

When I got him to where he was going, he offered me a gift from Egypt - an Egyptian Dollar (Pound).


Created in 1978, the bill's front side shows the Mosque of Qaitbay, in Cairo. Qaitbay was the eighteenth Burji Mamluk Sultan of Egypt from 872-901 A.H. (1468-1496 C.E.).

According to Wikipedia:

"During his reign, he stabilized the Mamluk state and economy, consolidated the northern boundaries of the Sultanate with the Ottoman Empire, engaged in trade with other contemporaneous polities, and emerged as a great patron of art and architecture. In fact, although Qaitbay fought sixteen military campaigns, he is best remembered for the spectacular building projects that he sponsored, leaving his mark as an architectural patron on Mecca, Medina, Jerusalem, Damascus, Aleppo, Alexandria, and every quarter of Cairo. To some historians, he is infamous for building a fortress on the remains of the ancient wonder, the Lighthouse of Alexandria, in 1480, resulting in the final disappearance of the lighthouse, confining it to the history books."

Coincidentally, considering the locations of his architectural influences, especially the cities in Syria, it is likely some of them have since been destroyed, along with so many other treasures from that region... :T


Was this edition hopeful or dismal?!
(!!! I WANNA KNOW !!!)


 //  NEXT TIME  \\ 

Tales from

(Or maybe something else. TBD.)



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