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Soulmates and Cities, by Farwa Zaidi

November 16, 2021 at 10:48 pm

I wrote this short story for one of my classes and wanted to share! Hope you guys enjoy 🙂

As she stepped off the boat and into the city for the first time, she is gripped with a sudden fear. Will she ever find her true pair, or will these travels continue to be a waste? She has been traveling from city to city, constantly on the water, looking for her soulmate. Kashafi legend says that each human is born to find their true pairing, even if it takes their whole lives to do so. As soon as she was of age, she left the Kashafi region to fulfill her destiny. She knew she had yet to meet her soulmate, and she vowed to travel the earth until she did.

Her current stop is in Ranawi, southeast of Kashafi, and about two weeks of travel away. Despite being exhausted, she makes sure to walk through Ranawi with her eyes peered. After all, her soulmate could be anyone she passed by. After a mile long walk and a feeling of defeat, she decides it’d be best to retire for the night and resume her search in the morning.

The next day is bright and sunny, a stark contrast to her mood. So far, she is not enjoying this new city. She has always heard of its’ eccentricities but didn’t believe them all until she saw them. Ranawi is completely unlike her small and quiet city of Kashafi, where everyone who is born is immediately a community member. In Kashafi, she and her mother and sisters would run to each house where new life was being born and welcome the newest baby to their hub. Tradition was that each woman of the city be present at the birth of each new child, and legend foretold it bestowed a lucky life to them. In Ranawi, she didn’t see any community. It was more like a jungle. While the night before she had walked the near empty streets desperate to find a welcoming face, today she can barely see any faces in time before they speed walk away from her. How is she to find her soulmate in these conditions?

Ranawi is filled to the brim with tall buildings, no nature in sight, and people constantly rushing to their next destination. She is used to the calm peace of Kashafi, where each meal is eaten with her neighbors, slowly to cherish their time together. The food they eat is grown by their own labor, giving it the special taste of being made with love. Each family has their own plot of land, where they grow what they choose. Her family has been growing coffee beans, potatoes, and tomatoes for generations. Since her great great great grandfather began their coffee business, her family has been known to have the best tasting coffee in Kashafi. She misses it deeply while drinking Ranawi’s coffee, which she would more aptly describe as mud.

She is impressed by one thing about Ranawi. No two people here look the same. She has never seen such vast differences in skin color, language, and customs. In Kashafi, the residents are a deep brown shade, made darker in summers when they harvest. In Ranawi, she has seen pale people, brown people, darker brown people, and everyone in between. This encourages her to believe she might well find her soulmate here. After all, if people from all over the world are condensed into Ranawi, her pool is made infinitely bigger.

She is tempted to approach women who look like herself and greet them with a traditional Kashafi bow and embrace. She must always remind herself that this is not her home, and here, touching and embracing is discouraged. It is a stark difference from Kashafi, where she can barely leave her home without being hugged a dozen times. In Kashafi, the community is bound by a love for each other that manifests in gift giving, acts of service, and physical touch. A traditional gift for new parents is a basket of harvested food, coffee in her family’s case, at least three meals, and hugs to remind the parents that they are not alone. In Ranawi, she has not seen a single person touch another, and it upsets her in a way she never expected.

As the days go by, she is less and less convinced that she will ever find her soulmate amidst the madness of Ranawi. She has spoken to less people here than in any other city she’s visited, and hardly any of them have spoken back to her. She spends her days wandering the streets, waiting for some magical stranger to catch her eye. It is a shame that everyone here avoids eye contact. She misses the warmth of her own community, the way everyone she sees in Kashafi is always happy to see her. She wonders if her soulmate was her city this entire time.



Book Review: The Farm by Joanne Ramos

May 6, 2020 at 5:22 pm


            The Farm by Joanne Ramos is an engaging, suspenseful, and thought-provoking new read. The novel is set-in present-day New York, and centers around a group of diverse and fascinating characters. Jane, a Filipina immigrant living in Queens, is a health aide at a senior center. She lives in a dormitory with her baby daughter Amalia and twelve other Filipina women. Her older cousin Evelyn, whom she calls Ate (big sister in Tagalog,) is a great source of help and support for her. Evelyn is a well sought out baby nurse to the wealthy elite of New York City. When she falls ill, she asks Jane to replace her as a baby nurse for one of her favorite families, the Carters. The Carters are a rich, white family living in Manhattan. At first Jane enjoys the work, but being away from Amalia proves difficult, and ultimately results in her being fired.

            While we meet Jane and Evelyn, we are also introduced to Mae Yu. Mae is an ambitious and successful businesswoman always on the search for her next big venture. Her most lucrative project so far is Golden Oaks- a luxury retreat for pregnant women. The kicker? These pregnant women are actually surrogating for millionaires and billionaires who cannot (or do not want to) carry their own children. They use Golden Oaks to hire and take care of their surrogates. Mae is constantly on the hunt for the perfect surrogates, whom she refers to as hosts. Her clients are some of the wealthiest and most powerful people on earth, and they’d do anything to ensure a healthy pregnancy and delivery.

            When Jane is fired from the Carters’, Evelyn suggests Golden Oaks. She has already given birth once, so she knows she is capable; she will make enough money surrogating to support Amalia and herself for the rest of their lives, and she desperately needs the work. Jane is hesitant at first- Golden Oaks would take her away from her child for almost a year. However, after much thought and deliberation, she decides to leave her daughter in Evelyn’s care for nine months and begins the application process. There are countless tests, both physical and mental, along with an interview with Mae Yu herself. Ultimately Jane is accepted and moves out to Golden Oaks as a pregnant woman.

            Around the time that Jane begins her experience with Golden Oaks, we meet Reagan, who does so as well. Reagan is a white woman living in Brooklyn who is trying to make ends meet without taking money from her father or giving up on her artistic goals. She is a photographer who has spent years ignoring her father’s advice to go to business school or do something “more practical.” She believes that her carrying a baby for another family is a truly selfless act, and while she does need the money, she tells herself she is only doing it to help someone in need.

            Jane and Reagan are assigned as each other’s roommates. Reagan is eager to make friends with Jane but finds it difficult. Jane is reserved, quiet, and nervous. She finds it hard to even connect with or befriend the other Filipina women at Golden Oaks. She is described as “stand-offish” because she is too nervous to try to make friends. It isn’t until Lisa, Reagan’s friend and a third time host at Golden Oaks, gets Jane to open up that she finally sees Reagan as a friend.

little gods

April 19, 2020 at 1:57 am

LITTLE GODS by Meng Jin is the story of one Chinese woman, told through the lens of the people who knew her best. Su Lan is a physics genius, a cinderella story who grew up in a poverty stricken village in China and became a scientist as an adult. She is perplex, an enigma to even those who know her for years. The book is told from three points of view: her neighbor’s, her daughter’s, and her husband’s. All three of them have questions about Su Lan, and each other. Her life has many secrets, and her loved ones spend years trying to uncover them. Su Lan moves to America with her daughter, who returns to China once Su Lan has passed away to learn more about her life. The lies and secrets she learns during this trip change everything.

This book was really moving. Every character was so well thought out and written, especially Su Lan. It was inspiring how she made a new life for herself after growing up in poverty. It was also a bit frustrating to watch all the people around her struggle with her secrets. I highly recommend it though, as it was really well written and also very informative on the modern history of China.
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