La Belle Gabonaise - Contena

La Belle Gabonaise

I have ventured into lands far and wide, away from my birthplace and homeland. The experience of being a seasoned traveler against my will has strengthened my resolve for painting beautiful landscapes around me through the art form of words and imagination. 

In all the 16 countries that I have lived in and traveled to, my enjoyment for life and writing has never grown more than when I settle into myself in the present moment. I am happy to wade through the past, so long as it helps me float calmly into the peaceful present. I am amused by the future, as I love surprises and unraveling mysteries. 

I come to you as a writer to serve your highest endeavors and greatest good. I am a lover of life and people. I am happy to perform the prose you need to help you achieve your ideal goals. 

If you'd like to reach out for writing services, life coaching, and other work opportunities that I could perform for you, I would be happy to help. Feel free to reach out at: labellegabonaise@gmail.com

You can find more of my writing on Medium: https://medium.com/@labellegabonaise

Reframing Crippling Anxiety: A "How-To"
Front Page
1 minute read

There are days when we don’t know what to do; we don’t want to move, and sometimes, we don’t even want to breathe. 

The first step is the smallest step: breathe. Take a deep breath in; hold for five seconds, and let it out. Wait for another five seconds. Repeat.

For the frazzled, a repetition of five rounds could work. For some, five minutes. Whether you like to do 5 or 7 or 10 minutes, the choice is yours. It will ground you to refer back to this very moment in time.

Slow down — enough so that your mind stays in your body and not out of it. Relish each deep and lingering breath. Find the quiet and serene place inside of you. Keep coming back to it with each passing inhale and exhale.

They always say that “a journey of a thousand miles starts with one step,” and learning how to breathe well and richly is a humble one. The mentality of accomplishing a thousand miles requires that you stay in the present moment each step of the way. Keep your mind contained in serene clarity and calm.

The more patience and calm you have, the more beautiful the view. 

(Photo by diGital Sennin on Unsplash)

Find the blank space inside of you that is quiet and peaceful. Expand it with each growing inhale and release.

When it comes to replenishing your cognitive resources, it is important to learn how to do small things peacefully. Don't worry about figuring out the whole picture ahead of time. You learn bit by bit. The world was enjoyed and discovered in smaller pockets of wealth, health, and time — through moments of rest.

When we imagine our utopia of world peace, it is a tranquil world where stress does not weigh us down. We can start accumulating the riches of world peace by fostering these qualities in ourselves. This practice of peace within ourselves prepares us to use our cognitive resources in times of need. We will also find that our own practice of serenity enables us to share more calmness with the rest of the world.

We need to be humble and kind with ourselves, by attending to our individual need for rest and pause. It helps to take measured steps and exercise self-awareness.

Over time, we will understand the tempo by which we operate, and how we can better negotiate for our needs and for those of others. Changing the rhythm and course of our fluid thinking grants us vitality for smooth navigation in our lives.

Right now is a time for centering ourselves — to chill the anxiety a bit, and replenish our most vital resource: ourselves. 

Photo by Lorenzo Castagnone on Unsplash

Published March 6, 2020
My Mother's Love: Architecting a Lifetime of Faith and Survival
Front Page
4 minute read
"It may be possible to gild pure gold, but who can make his mother more beautiful?" ~ Mahatma Gandhi

Note: This story is the result of an interview with a young girl about her mother. I was told this story by the source herself.

My mother was out in the garden watering the grass when a rainbow sprouted from the water hose. As she marveled at the shimmer of colors draping her garden, a tiny hummingbird approached. She watched in peace, and it eventually fluttered away.

“Live simply so that others may simply live.” My mother knows Gandhi’s words well. It is etched on the back of her hands from all the times she has cooked for our family and others. It is fluffed in her short, plain haircut so that it clears the way for the things she needs to do. It is noted in her seasoned clothing, often gifts from friends and sisters since she will rarely indulge on herself.

My mother grew up in hard times. My grandmother survived and raised the children in the middle of civil unrest. She was the daughter of the first Prime Minister of a nation, and the wife of one of the chosen members of the army’s nucleus. She was destined for hardship and faithfully taught my mother how to wade through the wilderness with dignity.

My mother was endeared with the nickname “Baby.” Though she has younger siblings, she still remains innocent and child-like in her need to tend to the vulnerable. Aunty Baby is always the one cousins call their favorite, and she is the one to coo babies to sleep. When she is not Aunty Baby, she is helping my father support his friends and family while keeping up with her own siblings’ lives.

As a child, my mother had to suffer from her father’s absence for more than a decade. He disappeared into the jungles, hoping to gain freedom for the country. With him missing and her mother in prison as bait, my mother strove to hold her head high for the family. She preserved her star student status in class for many years. Eventually, much to the chagrin of the political powers opposing her family, her name made headlines for achieving high scores on the national exams. She was eventually accepted into medical school — the most distinguished career path in the country.

She wanted to be an architect. Nevertheless, she chose discipline for her family. Given that they were caught up in poverty and political quandary from the revolution, her obedient nature afforded her the willpower to work towards the collective good. Thus, she entered medical school and entered as 65th in the nation for being one of the top-performing students.

Throughout her education and since youth, she fostered a friendship with the daughter of her father’s nemesis. They never let politics get in between them. They grew up as two sweet schoolgirls who excelled in academics and shared mutual affection for each other. Greater forces tried to tear them apart, but all these years later, they are still best friends.

After medical school, being as diligent as she is, my mother attempted to pursue further higher education, yet her endeavors were unsuccessful. As a result, she chose to be practical and sought work where she could. 

Soon enough, the UN hired her as a volunteer doctor for the remote islands of the Comoros, off the east coast of Africa. There, she met her beloved.

He wooed her in pieces, bit by bit: first, enchanted with her voice, he offered to fix up her broken-down car when they met. Over time, he employed his own political powers to support her public health efforts in the rural parts of the island.

When the island’s volcano was expected to erupt, he picked her up and carried her and her friends to safety in his humble abode. It never erupted, but the experience encouraged my father to bring my mother to the United States to his family and home.

Isolated in the middle of the snowy winter forests, my mother said yes. She said yes to marrying an unusual foreigner thousands of miles away from her homeland. She said yes to the thrill of marrying this dashing American with a heart full of adventure and diplomacy. She said yes to a new life where she was offered security by his loving nature, knowing that nothing would ever be the same again.

Decades later, my mother can be found living next to the stream where my father proposed. She cooks dutifully for her strong and healthy family. Sometimes, she watches YouTube videos on Korean cuisine or children with autism singing “Hallelujah.” Other times, when the weather affords it, she’s outside, gardening or collecting maple syrup.

She’ll let my father drive her to the grocery store and buy her flowers to offer for prayers. She lets him take care of her, just like she let him take her to rough and tumbling countries around the globe for years. She’s always remained by his side. For all her family, my mother has served as a steadfast rock in a stream, offering her strength as a firm foundation during troubling times and loss.

My mother is devoted to serving others. Her faith preserves her compassion and keeps her safe during trying times. Even when she was surrounded by corruption and institutional failures, she chose to uplift others. She offered her time and home to a cancer patient who had no access to cancer treatment, and thus stayed with our family for weeks. She gave regular sums of financial support to a blind and handicapped gentleman begging on the streets until he was restored to good eyesight for the first time since childhood. While giving birth, my mother stayed quiet, wanting to not disturb the nurses. To this day, she is relentless in caring for the weak and needy. She is a natural healer.

My mother is the hidden gem in every lesson; the never-ending warm meadow of clean air and water for every dark, isolating spot in our shadow’s mind. She is the kind, gentle dove waving her soft wings across the clouds, announcing peace, hope, and harmony for the good world. No one can replace unyielding love, and so no one will ever replace her: my own beautiful, loving mother.

“We are born of love; Love is our mother.”~ Rumi “Life doesn’t come with a manual, it comes with a mother.”~ Unknown

Photo by Solomon Abramov on Unsplash

"God could not be everywhere, and therefore he made mothers." ~ Rudyard Kipling

Published March 13, 2020
The Diplomat Who Warned About the Killing Fields
4 minute read

Disclaimer: This story was told to me in confidence by someone credible. This person finds former Ambassador Sichan Siv to be remarkable. Mr. Siv would rarely get rattled, and was described as a highly unusual person. Here is a small vignette about his ambassadorship for the USA.

Former Ambassador Sichan Siv. From genocide to the United Nations, he holds an extraordinary legacy of wisdom that has served the American people well. (Sichan Siv website)

I had the honor to meet US Ambassador Sichan Siv in the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) on two different occasions. We would meet with people, mostly with the Foreign Ministry, as well as in Human Rights, and the first encounter was nothing unusual in Ecuador.

But it was the second encounter that really made me realize what an unusual and exceptional person Ambassador Sichan Siv was. A small example follows:

While we were riding in an armored vehicle, Ambassador Siv told me he was the sole survivor in his family of the genocide in Cambodia, where Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge killed close to three million Cambodians.

The infamous leader of the Khmer Rouge, Pol Pot. He is renowned as one of the creator's of the 20th century's "most brutal and radical regimes".  (photo from CreativeCommons)

"Am I savage person? My conscience is clear." 

~ Pol Pot, when questioned on the millions of deaths in Cambodia in the 1970s during a Far Eastern Economic Review in 1997. 

The Khmer Rouge were the worst of the communist and Maoist fanatics. They were backed by the Chinese government. Ambassador Sichan Siv said after the Americans had left Vietnam, the north Vietnamese took over, and the Pathet Lao movement took over Laos, but the Maoist Khmer Rouge took over Cambodia. 

Mass graves of "The Killing Fields" in Choeung Ek, Cambodia (photo from Flickr)

The very first thing they did was to completely empty the cities of all its inhabitants, so they forced everyone out of the city and into the countryside. 

With very few implements, they told the people they had to build new houses and wells, and their own gardens, and everything else. That in and of itself killed a lot of people.

Then the Khmer Rouge armed these young, brainwashed children. They carried rifles and were told to guard the adults. Many of them were so brainwashed that they would kill people and the like.

Maybe you’ve seen the movie The Killing Fields.

Sometimes the Khmer Rouge would have big political meetings where people were forced to attend, but they would have had the place mined with explosives and killed a lot of people that way. Pol Pot’s policy was to turn the country back to the “year zero”, in which it would rid itself of any Western influence. So if you had an education, you would be marked for execution.

"Without our struggle, there would be no Cambodia right now.”

~ Pol Pot, interview with Far Eastern Economic Review (1997)

As a matter of fact, anyone who wore eyeglasses was considered to be an intellectual that had been tainted by the West, and therefore needed to be eliminated.

Ambassador Sichan Siv said (and I later read about this) that Pol Pot was so fanatical that though Cambodia had a population of eight million, he said that the revolution only needed one million to survive. He was willing, it appears, to get rid of more than three-quarters of the population of his own country.

“Everything I did, I did for my country.”

~ Pol Pot, interview with Far Eastern Economic Review (1997)

In any case, Sichan Siv lost his whole immediate family and his extended family. As a young man, he was somehow able to escape the minefields and patrols, and make his way to the Cambodian border. From there, he was put into a refugee camp in Thailand, and fortunately became friends with an American Peace Corps Volunteer who was able to get him to the United States on a visa.

Sichan Siv quickly learned English and landed in New York City. His job was driving a cab, but he obviously displayed some high degree of intelligence because one way or another, he was accepted into Columbia University and graduated with honors. He went on to become a high level US diplomat, and eventually the Ambassador to ECOSOC.

When he came to La Paz, Bolivia, we scheduled a meeting with the Foreign Minister. It was a very important meeting and I didn’t want to be late. We were maybe fifteen minutes away from the Foreign Ministry, when he asked the armored SUV if we could pull over so that he could look at some CDs of local Andean music with flute, guitar, charango, etc.

A band playing native Andean music, with instruments like the charango, the recorder, guitar, and more. Different bands will incorporate different styles and instruments. 

We had the driver pull over, and there was Ambassador Siv taking his time, whistling a tune, and looking at the different CDs. I tried on several occasions to say to him that we wanted to get there a little early, if not right on time. But what struck me is that he almost intentionally kept whistling and asking the driver to translate to the street vendor about the music.

Time ticked on by and we were actually running late.

When we finally arrived at the Foreign Ministry, in its very formal and ornate gilded Rococo hall, we came in and I could see that once the meeting started, the Foreign Minister was already a little miffed that we had showed up late.

He did not blame Ambassador Siv directly, but since he knew me, he complained to me that I should have known better, and that it was an important meeting. I didn’t say anything in return — I just kept my mouth shut.

Without getting into the details per se, the Foreign Minister began, and the dignitaries began to talk about the merits of Marxism and so forth.

It was then that I realized that Ambassador Sichan Siv had purposely arrived late so that he could talk to these people in a serious way. I can’t get into all the details, but essentially what he said was, “You may think you know what Marxism or socialism or communism is about, but only someone like me who’s actually lived through the genocide in Cambodia and its Killing Fields can tell you what it’s really all about if you go in that direction.”

And so the officials were, I would say, a mixture of shock and growing belief.

Skulls from the victims of the Cambodian genocide. (photo from CreativeCommons)

“I was responsible for everything so I accept responsibility and blame. But show me, comrade, one document proving that I was personally responsible for the deaths.”

~Pol Pot, as reported by David Ashley (1995) and quoted in Brother Number One (1999) by David P. Chandler

Published March 4, 2020