At The Moth GrandSlam on July 24 at L.A.’s historic Regent Theatre, I was honored to share the stage with some of the best storytellers around as we told stories on the night’s theme: Identity Crisis. Please check out this 6-minute video of me performing Old Mr. Ma, the story of my grandma, me, and my search for her father’s Chinese roots.
About The GrandSlam: These events always feature 10 storytellers who have won local StorySlams. Each tells a five-minute story to a live audience in a friendly competition for one of The Moth’s greatest honors: GrandSlam Champ. On our night, 500-plus people listened to us share the most vulnerable, unusual, ridiculous moments we’ve spent seeking answers to the question: who am I? It was a thrilling night of people connecting through the power of story.
About The Moth: “The Moth’s mission is to promote the art and craft of storytelling and to honor and celebrate the diversity and commonality of human experience.” Put simply, The Moth is: true stories, told live, without notes. If you haven’t yet, I recommend listening to The Moth Radio Houror The Moth Podcast. Beware: it’s addicting.
I’m having a blast in the world of oral storytelling, and you can hear me tell my latest story in the podcast Two Truths & a Lie. Or you can watch the video below. In this live storytelling show, three performers share personal stories. The catch? One of us is lying. For this episode, the topic is: Cheats. Can you guess who the liar is?
Please stop by the Writing for Peace blog today for a look at my guest post, Games of Greece, which features an excerpt from my adventure memoir, They Only Eat Their Husbands. After you read that, please check out Writing for Peace, and organization with a mission that is much as its title suggests: “Through education and creative writing, Writing for Peace seeks to cultivate the empathy that allows minds to open to new cultural views, to value the differences as well as the hopes and dreams that unite all of humanity, to develop a spirit of leadership and peaceful activism.” What a worthy endeavor in a world that grows increasingly complex and paradoxically smaller every day.
I’m delighted to introduce a new guest blogger just in time to kick off my new blog. Anastasia Zhivotov is still in high school, but has already developed a delightful and distinctive creative voice that I believe will make you eager to visit her ancestral home in Ukraine. As you’ll also see from her post, I remain committed to a spirit of adventure, although I’m moving away from the Girls Trek Too name. Some days my posts will be shorter, in hopes that I can post more often while also devoting more time to my historical novel, Tortillas from the Chungking Cafe. And guest bloggers will continue to be welcome, in my ongoing quest to support fellow writers and share new voices with readers. In that spirit, please welcome Anastasia:
Coming Home To Someplace I’d Never Been By Anastasia Zhivotov
After over ten years of shitty Skype calls and poorly translated emails, I was meeting my extended family. First were my great-great-uncle and his son – waiting outside baggage claim with flowers. I was barely learning to use my legs again when a hug, a kiss, and a bouquet of pink flowers came from men I’d only heard and not truly seen. I finally understood the phrase “a camera adds ten pounds” because what on Skype seemed to be a pudgy man and full-figured son were really a short well-fed uncle and a well-dressed cousin with predominant cheekbones.
Finally, after flying halfway across America and hopping along Europe, I was home. Home, where the air was thick with moisture and the clouds hung bloated with rain. Home, where women wore heels across cobble roads and men walked with their toes turned out. Home, where age was determined by width, but gender couldn’t be defined by color. Home, where the tongue was foreign but somehow I understood everything. Home, the place others might call Lviv, Ukraine.
Just before nine a.m., Dale and I visit the vague square of dirt next to the Hotel Aaculaax, where a sign advertises kayak rentals. It will cost us 25 quetzales (three dollars) per kayak per hour. Neither kayak is high quality. Dale’s is one of those tippy toy-kayaks in which the paddler sits perched on top with nowhere to press his knees or rest his back. Mine allows my butt to fit inside, but is so shallow my knees poke out. Dale must envy my apparent ability to rest my back against the lip of my kayak. But in fact, this offers no support, only a thin hard line of fiberglass digging into the scar from my recent back-surgery.
We shrug it off. Third-world rentals: what do we expect? Surely we can stand anything for an hour or two.
This is a tippy toy-kayak in which the paddler sits perched on top. (This is not Dale, however. I often don’t carry a camera when kayaking.)
Our paddle in the volcanic caldera of Lake Atitlán is tranquil at first. We round the lush hill called Cerro Tzankujil and skirt the pretty cove on the other side, enjoying a closer look at the homes of expats and Guatemala City weekenders. The houses are painted brightly as flowers, complementing the tropical scenery, though the owners would surely get kicked out of any Home Owners Association in America.