Run from what’s comfortable. Forget safety. Live where you fear to live. Destroy your reputation. Be notorious.

Rumi (via banishingsoapboxes)

A quote for the coming year



For those of you asking: WHAT DO I DO NOW?

I know many of you are saddened by the results of the election. I also know that it can feel hopeless, depressing, and seriously bleak at a time like this. Internet activism is still in its infancy, and while venting your frustrations, anger, disbelief, and sadness can help you feel like your voice is being heard – I beg of you, channel all of those emotions into a tangible result. Now is not the time for complacency. The 47% of eligible voters who did not vote showed us that. Rather than channeling your energy into hatred, bashing of those who voted Trump, Johnson, or Stein, I’ve compiled a list of ways you can help, things you can do, and organizations that will need your help in the coming days, weeks, months, and years.

– Hillary has the popular vote. You can go to http://www.nationalpopularvote.comand ask your legislator to support the popular vote. There’s a script.
– If this election lit a fire in you to make something, create something, and you are looking for a forum for your voice check out Matter Studios at http://matter.com.
– If HRC’s historic campaign meant something to you, let her know.
Hillary Rodham Clinton
Post Office Box 5256
New York, NY 10185-5256

– If you are unsure of which organizations are going to need your help: Planned Parenthood, Everytown for Gun Safety, ACLU Nationwide, the Southern Poverty Law Center, Human Rights Campaign, Earthjustice, and the National Immigration Law Center are just a few. Sight Unseen has created a general fundraiser for all of the above organizations, where you can donate to them here: http://bit.ly/2eNvdFl

If you would rather focus your efforts on a specific organization that is close to your heart, you can visit and donate at the links listed below:
Planned Parenthood: http://bit.ly/2fFyaZI
Everytown for Gun Safety: http://every.tw/1OIuboW
ACLU Nationwide: http://bit.ly/2fzeRir
Southern Poverty Law Center: http://bit.ly/1uBqTeu
– Human Rights Campaign: http://bit.ly/1VOYrD8
National Immigration Law Center: http://bit.ly/1Yyf2Oj
Center for Reproductive Rights: http://bit.ly/2eFDFmG
Center for Constitutional Rights: http://bit.ly/2eNM5fh
– Council on American Islamic Relations: http://bit.ly/2dG4vj7
Common Cause: http://bit.ly/2emnWO6
– Climate Movement 350.org: http://bit.ly/2fUIC0I
Citizens Climate Lobby: http://bit.ly/2fAxiDc
NARAL Pro-Choice America: http://bit.ly/2emmFqh
National Immigration Forum: http://bit.ly/2eFyeUW
– National Immigration Project: http://bit.ly/2fFwS0R
National Women’s Law Centerr: http://bit.ly/2fAB2EN
The Movement for Black Lives: http://bit.ly/2aHk3k8
MALDEF (Latino Legal Voice/Rights): http://bit.ly/2fFh0cz
Race Forward (Racial Justice): https://www.raceforward.org/donate
UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency: http://bit.ly/2g1aMqe
National LGBTQ Task Force: http://bit.ly/2fUNPWi
She Should Run: http://bit.ly/2fFv6gl

If you believe your efforts would be better focused on a local level:
– Find your local representative. Call them. Volunteer for them. Write letters to them. http://www.house.gov/representatives/find/
– Volunteer, volunteer, volunteer. Whether it’s Planned Parenthood, a local soup kitchen, your church, an after school program or otherwise – get involved. Young people especially need your hope, love, support and guidance right now. Mobilize your community to make change for the better.

If you are struggling, or know someone who is, reach out.
– The Trevor Project is free and confidential hotline geared towards LGBTQ youth: 866.488.7386
– The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is: 1-800-273-8255

If you are struggling, do not be afraid to show it. Lean on those you can count on. Let them lean on you. Here are some other random ways to cope:
– Practice Self Care (i.e. make yourself a cup of tea, meditate, take a bubble bath, read a book, watch something silly, go to the gym, go for a walk, light a candle, pray, etc.)
– Take a break from the media. It’s a lot to handle. There’s no shame in needing a break.
– Spend some time outside – it helps.
– Cancel your subscription to People magazine – just weeks after urging their reporter who was harassed by Trump to come forward with allegations – they have already begun pandering to the president-elect.
– If you are an artist, or feel like you need to express yourself in a way you haven’t before – pick up the paintbrush. Sit down at the piano. Pick up your pen. Audition for that play. Create the symphony. Choreograph the dance. Art and creativity are needed now more than ever.
– Stand up. If you see bullying happening – do not sit back and let it happen. Stand up. In the past 24 hours alone the stories of utter racism, xenophobia, and horrific incidences has been overwhelming, sad, and shocking. If you see someone spewing racist rhetoric, homophobic rhetoric, whether it be directed at someone in particular, or in the world – stand up. Sitting back and letting those people “do you” as the kids say is exactly what got us here in the first place. Intervene. Ask them politely to stop. Offer your services to whomever is on the receiving end.
– Remind your Muslim, immigrant, female, disabled, POC, LGBTQ, minority family and friends that you love them – you love them boldly. You love them proudly. You are with them, today and every day.
– Please stop joking about moving to Canada. Our apathy is what landed us here in the first place. Rather than threatening to leave the country – stay, and fight. We need everyone who has love in their hearts to stay, and fight. Change does not happen overnight. Change does not happen by purchasing property on the other side of the border. Change happens day by day.
– Surround yourself with good people. Good people can take you a long way in this world.
– Don’t forget, the race to the 2018 Elections BEGINS. NOW. The House, the Senate, and the White House are now Republican dominated for the first time since 1928. In other words: it ain’t good, y’all. Donate. Suit up. Consider a career in politics: https://democrats.org/, http://www.sheshouldrun.org/
– Let yourself grieve. You need to cry? Do it. (I’ve been crying solidly for the past 36 hours and I’m sure it’s not going to stop any time soon.) Grieve – but remember your strength. Take the time you need to recover, and then move to action.
– Protest. Protest racism, protest xenophobia, protest homophobia, protest negative rhetoric, protest inequality, protest ignorance, protest hate. Defy the odds. “Protest hate, but don’t become it.” Let me say that one more time for the folks in the back.

Protest hate. But do not become it.

In this daunting time in American history, I urge you to look into your hearts and find love. Let love fuel your fire in these coming days, weeks, months, and years – not hate. Rise up with love in your heart. Love one another. Be kind to one another.

Keep fighting the good fight.


I’ve come to the conclusion that wherever I live after Amman, it has to have fall. Even in Izmir, with its sweltering, humid summers and rainy winters, last year at this time I was at least seeing some trees change colors, stepping on crunchy leaves, and was wearing sweaters.

Amman, by mid October, is still unfailingly sunny, with temperatures holding at about 82 F during the day. This also means mosquito season is still going on. Today I will probably sit on my balcony in my bathing suit and keep working on my tan while I read a book.

Even though I grew up in southern California, Texas, and Nevada – not places known for seasons – I guess enough time living on the east coast has made me look forward to and miss fall. Fall is my new year, the time for self-reflection, for figuring out my goals for life and work in the new year. Spring is supposed to symbolize rebirth, but for me, Fall is when I refocus and recharge my batteries.

And with traveling, I managed to miss the three weeks that felt like spring in Jordan – I went to Sri Lanka for two weeks, came home and it was summer. Now, it will just be getting cool by the time we head to the US, where I’ll be back in the warmer climates of Louisiana and Puerto Rico, then briefly in Rochester, NY to catch the very last of fall, and then back to Amman, where depressing, rainy, freezing winter will be in full swing. 

Well if I can’t live somewhere with fall, maybe next year I’ll just have to come up with an excuse to be in Germany or someplace around this time.

In the meantime I’ll keep waiting for the day I can wear my boots and not sweat through a cardigan.


So, in addition to my job as a journalist that takes me to hospitals on the Syrian border and southern Jordan to meet with tribal leaders, I also apparently moonlight as a chair reupholsterer.

I’ve just finished my third and biggest project so far, a sofa, removing the sad, old floral fabric and finding its inner glam with teal velvet.

I took inspiration from this midcentury couch from West Elm, but being priced at $1300 originally, and the fact that there’s no West Elm in Jordan, I decided to emulate it.

For this couch, I bought 16 meters of fabric at 4JD/m, total 64 JD ($90 US)
Paying the tailor to sew new cushion covers: 50 JD ($70 US)
So a total cost of about $160 plus some elbow grease and tools I already had to transform an old couch.

Obviously this one is a two-cushion couch and the arms are styled a bit differently, but the color is pretty dead on and I think it looks great. Plus I even picked up some nesting coffee tables from Ikea that are pretty similar to the one in the West Elm photo.

This is all going in the flat above ours, which we’ll hopefully be renting out soon. So, tragically, I will not be enjoying this couch personally, but I am jealous of whoever gets to curl up on it in the winter in Amman.

I also reupholstered this beast of a wingback chair, which originally had red and gold fabric on it that just made me think of Gryffindor house from Harry Potter, and now I have to do the same to its mate so there will be a pair of them.

More pictures TK once the apartment is all set up and looking pretty.


Some things in Jordan are frustrating, expensive, and confusing. Like dealing with bureaucracy in any way. But some things that I expect to be difficult or expensive or take a long time (because they do in the States) are actually really easy. Like tailoring a wedding dress.

I’ve been putting off/dreading getting my dress sized for months. I didn’t know if it would take months, if it would be some really awkward process, I didn’t want to go alone and didn’t really have a friend to go with me, didn’t know how much it would cost, etc. So much so that I didn’t get it done until after our reception date in Amman, if we were still having one here. But I figured I should do it while my mom was here, so I found one tailor listed online on Gardens St., hoped there would be others in the same area if that one didn’t work out, so last Sunday we went.

Predictably, I found the shop and saw it had been converted into a hair salon. So I went into a formal dress shop next door, told the lady I was looking for a tailor, and she directed me across the street into a shopping plaza, downstairs, to the left, and there I found Said’s little hole-in-the-wall shop. I realized later he was located next to several other tailoring shops, but his was the first one I saw.

I was sort of expecting a girly bridal shop – or at least a woman working there – and those places probably exist, but Said directed me to a little dressing room, where I changed into my too-big dress, and then he pinned up the sides. As he did so, two very conservative women walked in and took the opportunity to gawk at me letting a guy touch me to pin up my dress, which was mildly mortifying. But rather than crawling back to my home on whore island, I changed back into my regular clothes and went to ask when it would be ready and how much.

“Today’s Sunday?” Said asked. “Uhhhh…. Wednesday. I can have it for you by Wednesday.”

And the cost? 25 JD, about $35 USD.

I did have a bad dream that Said decided to alter my dress using bright blue yarn, but I went back today and he did a good job. And I left him a couple of skirts to hem up too, for 5 JD more.

Said is angling for an invite to our wedding party in the US, but he also told me that his application at the embassy had been rejected a few times, so I’m not sure there’s much I could do to bring him to the party. Sorry Said.

I don’t know how this works in the US, but anyone I know who’s gotten married, it seems like dress altering is a months-long process that costs at least a few hundred dollars. I’m not sure if that’s because people are trying to lose weight before the wedding and they do multiple fittings, or if it’s because tailors get booked up months in advance, but this was really easy. And assuming my metabolism stays the same for a few more months (I’ve only ever been five pounds heavier once, and that was in a Rochester winter when I was drinking a lot more beer and eating like a college student) I think I should be good.

The only bad thing about this was then trying to catch a cab to go to work, but that’s a rant for another day.


Goodbye Luna… feeling sad today because Luna has gone to a new home. Luna was my snuggle buddy, personal alarm clock, and housemate in DC, and my mom’s been looking after her since I moved overseas. My mom’s coming in a week and we were trying to figure out how to bring her to Jordan, but it’s such a long flight and airline policies for rabbits are so complicated. I wish I could’ve snuggled her one more time, but hope she’ll have a happy life with this new family.


Thousands gathered at King Hussein Park in Amman, Jordan to celebrate the centennial of the Great Arab Revolt on June 3, 2016.

This was so much fun to photograph – it felt like the fourth of July/being at the county fair – complete with an airshow, bouncy castles, bubble soccer, and face-painting – but the flags were Jordanian and kids were encouraged to climb around on top of tanks.

Photos by Lindsey Leger


Since we had our first dinner gathering last night and our house is pretty much guest-ready, I figure it’s time for a virtual house tour. Plus, it feels like all my awkward adolescent years spent watching HGTV (when I thought I could be an interior designer) have been leading up to this moment.


Living room before & after. I think the only thing we kept is the little white lamp on the table (now in the kitchen), and the coffee/side tables,which we want to replace eventually. Next task is to get some art on the big blank wall and probably paint the green wall a different color. We got the new couch, curtains, and floor lamp from Ikea. Carpet is from Kashmir by way of Sri Lanka. Pillows are from Jordan and Turkey.

It’s taken us several months to get the house looking like this – while the house was fully furnished, and we kept some of the big things like the bedroom sets and a lot of appliances and accessories that were in the kitchen – we replaced a lot of furniture and most of the decor. So that meant slowly moving furniture out of this apartment and into another, or deciding what to donate/sell, and slowly buying furniture as we were able to afford it. I bought a chaise longue that was crazy on sale when a store was closing down. And with my first paycheck here I bought the kitchen table and chairs.


Usually, this meant me and Layth’s mom sneaking over here during the day after she had brought grandpa to a relative’s house, or while he was taking a nap, so that we could redecorate without him “supervising.” But one day we did come home – before we had fully moved in – to find him standing in our living room, upset and confused about why we had moved the furniture. What to say? He’s 95 but still not used to slowing down – he’s used to running a hospital with hundreds of employees, having a busy social life and a big family around him. It’s difficult and it makes me feel guilty about changing things – especially since everything was in good condition, just either felt way too formal for us, or outdated – but ultimately we’re the ones who will be living here every day, so we might as well like it.

The house is still a work in progress, and maybe not ready for prime-time yet, but it’s definitely starting to feel more cozy as we settle into a routine here and start getting art on the walls.


Master bedroom before and after: We switched the bedroom furniture with the guest room (sorry guests! this one was just more to our taste. I promise the other bed is comfy too.) Curtains are Ikea, the bed cover and sheets are Vera Wang and Bloomingdales (purchased at an outlet shop in Swefieh), and we added some more of our own carpets.


The bathroom’s not much different, but we did change the shower curtain and bathroom rug, and we added a corner storage unit and a new medicine cabinet, replacing the little mirror that was above the sink before (all from Ikea).


The guest room! It has a queen-sized bed, two nightstands, a dresser, and a big wardrobe for clothes or extra storage space. Other than moving this bedroom set from our room and removing some of the extra accessories that we didn’t want to keep, this is pretty much the same as before. I would’ve liked to change the curtains in this room (they’re the same blue drapes as in the “before” photos) – but judging by Layth’s grandfather’s reaction to us changing the curtains in our room (”but the blue color is nice! but they are good material! why don’t you like them? why did you spend money?!”) Changing these curtains will have to wait a little while.


The office, before & after: AKA, my new favorite room in the house. We got rid of that bizarre desk and moved in the desk and shelf unit Layth had in his old place (from Ikea, per usual). There’s also a comfy chaise longue next to the window, and a TV. There’s still some bulky cabinets on the left wall, but once we figure out what to do with them we might move things around a little in here.


Sadly, this made me realize that I have only four physical books with me in Amman – and most of them are language-learning books. Granted, I have at least 60 books on my Kindle, but I do miss my books back in the US, especially photography books and poetry, things that don’t translate well on a Kindle.



Sometime last year my friend Kathleen invited me to her and Niluk’s wedding. I didn’t think we’d both be able to make it to San Diego this spring, but as Niluk’s family hails from Sri Lanka, and Layth had wanted to visit Sri Lanka for a long time, this was the perfect excuse for us to hop on a plane and go have an island vacation.


It also happened to be Layth’s birthday while we were there, and since we won’t be traveling anywhere right away after our wedding party in July, it was kind of a birthday trip/honeymoon/much-needed vacation all in one.


We spent our first three nights in Colombo in a little hotel called Lake Lodge, which I chose for its price, its proximity to the Cinnamon Grand Hotel (where the wedding would be) and for the fact that I wanted us to have a few days in a nice hotel before we started shlepping it across the country on un-air conditioned trains and buses with our backpacks.

And as you can see, the hotel was perfect. We were greeted with cold face towels and lime, ginger and mint popsicles. Breakfast was delicious and served by staff who seemed to radiate pure happiness. The place is tucked away down a quiet street, with fish ponds that come alive with frogs at night, and several seating areas. Only a swimming pool would have made it better.


We were close to this little lake, which was home to birds like this (this photo is by Layth, I didn’t want to get so close to this guy), and were also near Gangaramaya Temple, which was a very relaxing, yet kind of hodgepodge Buddhist temple. There were of course many statues of the Buddha, flowers and incense for prayers, but there were also a few rooms of antique collections – old photos, plates, bowls, watches, religious figurines – along with this life-sized elephant head statue.


If you’re traveling to Sri Lanka, especially on a short trip, I’d highly recommend looking up a calendar of their holidays beforehand – including the lunar phases. We happened to arrive on the Sinhala and Tamil new year, and while we were driving into the city, marveling at the lack of traffic, once we arrived in town it hit us that nearly every shop and restaurant was closed. The next day, some of the more touristy shops re-opened, and big shopping centers were open, but we still couldn’t visit a lot of shops or markets we’d read about.

And then, just when we thought the holiday was over, a full moon happened, bringing the country to a halt again. I think many of the restaurants we went to were owned by Muslims, since – perhaps with the exception of a couple hours for Friday prayers – they stay open the most. As one Muslim business owner there told us (in slight exaggeration), “Buddhists – they’re on their own path, they don’t want to bother anyone. But how can they be successful businessmen when they go to bed at five?”

Also, before we left I’d read somewhere that if you wanted to eat Sri Lankan food at a restaurant, you’d have to order it the night before. Someone else told me not to worry about it, but it ended up being kind of true. It’s something that still sort of baffles me – I know all food needs time to prepare – but usually when you travel, local fare is what they have on hand, ready to go. But if you want Sri Lankan breakfast, you have to order the night before. If you want Sri Lankan dinner, find a halal restaurant (aka “Muslim Hotel,” a local quirk of calling restaurants hotels). 


But then we had a pre-wedding dinner to go to, where we got to meet some of Niluk’s family, and where we did finally sample some Sri Lankan cuisine. And then the next night was the wedding.


The wedding ceremony was unlike anything I had ever seen before. Traditional dancers sang with drums and bells, even did backflips at one point. Then there was a complex ceremony of the bride and groom’s family being presented to one another, gift exchanges, prayers.

Kathleen and Niluk started dating about 5 ½ years ago, weeks before she and I found ourselves in the same study abroad program in Jordan, learning Arabic. We learned to cope with some of the challenges of living abroad, and we eventually became roommates and worked in similar fields (she in film, I in media/publishing). Most everyone in that group (myself included) went through breakups while studying abroad, but these two became closer even with all the time spent apart. And so being there with Layth, who I met around the same time, although we didn’t start dating until much later (and then had our own very long-distance time), just made it all the more special to see them get married in Sri Lanka. 


We also spent a lot of time looking around for cute tea houses like this one. I had what might have been the most amazing iced tea of my life here, iced Earl Grey with honey.

Also, I don’t know what couple goes on a honeymoon and basically comes back with groceries, but that’s what we did. I stocked up on coconut oil – that bottle was about $2, but a smaller jar of it would cost about $14 in Amman – various kinds of coffee, tea, spices, chutney, fresh vanilla, etc. And we got some nice textiles and other decor for the house, but more on that later. 

Next time: central Sri Lanka – Kandy and Nuwara Eliya.


First real dinner in the new house. Note the Ikea boxes still in the background.