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About Me

I was born just outside Chicago to an Ecuadorian mother and a Bulgarian father. My upbringing was anything but typically American. My father had escaped from a country that was, at the time, under Communist rule. Away from his homeland, he missed many a milestone, including the death of a sibling. He was determined to make his way back to pay his respects. And so, when I was four-years-old, my father took his first trip back to Bulgaria. Fearful that they might detain him upon departure, he decided to bring an insurance policy, something to guarantee that the still-Communist government would have to let him leave at the end of his trip. I was that insurance policy. An American citizen with an American passport. The then holy grail. My mother said that when we finally returned, I spoke in broken English – an unkempt, somewhat feral-looking child who kept shaking her head and saying “da” – so submerged in my Bulgarian heritage I’d become. To this day, I sing Bulgarian songs with love and pride.


Perhaps to make sure that I didn’t forget my Latin roots, my mother had me and my siblings spend summers with her family in Ecuador. Some of my fondest childhood memories are of my time there. Hopping in the back of a flatbed truck with all my cousins and all of their dogs; flying kites near the base of el Volcán Chimborazo; singing melodramatic pasillos at the top of our lungs on public transit (where, as it cost more money to board newer buses, we use to save a few sucres by boarding the jankiest-looking jalopies); straddling the equator and eating cherimoyas in Ciudad Mitad del Mundo. In the US of A, we were a nuclear unit of five with nary another living relative on the rest of the entire continent. But in Ecuador, everybody was my family. Cousins and uncles and grandmothers-once-removed materialized like magic out of the woodwork to kiss my cheeks and claim me as theirs. And I was. And I am. Gatherings were large and loud and somebody always had a guitar and a song.


Back in the states, assimilation seemed to be a regular topic at our dinner table. How did Americans do things? How could we fit in? I remember starting up high school and my parents, sister and I trying to remember the hierarchical order of freshman, sophomore, junior, senior. There are words to this day, I have to pause before saying in English because my mother’d only ever referred to them in her native tongue: bincha, pala, agacachase. My favorite Ecuadorian word, "yapa", stems from the indigenous Quechua language and roughly translates as “a little extra”. And so when making coffee, I put in two scoops, then always say to myself, “y la yapa” as I add just a tiny bit more. Sometimes I yapa the yapa.

At sixteen, I can recall being asked what I wanted to be when I grew up and I replied with “a hermit”. An off the cuff answer that caught even me off guard as I was – and am – an extremely sociable person. But that duality remains with me to this day: The introvert that needs and feeds off of people’s energy / The extrovert that is more than happy with her own company. Both positions I find to be useful perspectives from which to write.


After college I set my mind on Luxembourg. I have always felt most at home when surrounded by foreignness; it has a centering effect on me, plus, for some inexplicable reason, I really wanted to learn Luxembourgish. But I must have missed the exit as somehow I ended up in Germany – where they apparently speak German. Ah, die deutsche Sprache. What a gorgeous guttural language German is. So exact and forthright. So chewy in the mouth. A meal unto itself. One of the first words I can remember learning there was “fleißig” which translates as “industrious”. Up until that point in my life, I had never – not once – used the word “industrious” in English and here I had learned it practically on my first day in Germany. 


And now, after living many a year in New York, I find myself more often than not in England and referred to in passing as “the American” when my whole life I’ve thought of myself as anything but. But I can’t soften my midwestern accent just as I cannot control how I am seen by others. It is what it is. The English spoken here is familiar, yet foreign. Differences sometimes occurring in subtle nuance. And because of this, I try to give more attention to the specificity of language and meaning; not wanting things to get lost in translation or ambiguity. I am a city girl, now living in a bucolic village. The landscape here has inspired many a musician and writer throughout the centuries and I find it having the same effect on me. The land is fecund and lush, sunsets are magical, stone walls are a sight to behold, and the world is beautiful. 


But there has been beauty in the world wherever I travelled.  And I feel so lucky to be a part of it all.  

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