Busting into Boston: Days 4-6

Backdated to March 8th.

Day 4: Snow and the Conference

On March 8th, Kyley and I woke up to snow, snow, and more snow. We took a slow walk down to the T-station (during which we found drifts where I sank up to my thighs). Kyley was really interested in seeing Chinatown, so we headed that way. Though it was actually pleasantly cool outside of city proper, when we emerged in the city the wind was merciless and the snow was icy enough we kept ducking into alcoves to get shelter from the stinging. What we saw of Chinatown wasn’t too impressive (mostly some shops and a McDonald’s with Chinese on it), but for all I know the cool stuff was buried in the bad weather.

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Busting into Boston: Days 1-3

My roommate, Kyley, had never been on an airplane in her life. I was determined that before the end of our undergrad time together, she would go somewhere with me, if only so she’d be comfortable flying when she had to visit me in the future! We originally were planning to go to my house in VA, but when I found out the Association of Writers & Writing Programs (AWP) conference was in Boston this year… we made a slight change of plans.

Kyley dubbed the trip “Busting into Boston,” and on Tuesday we set out on our adventures

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Senior Roadtrip: Orlando

Around sophomore year, Erika brought up going to the Magical World of Harry Potter in Orlando, FL. At long last, the two of us made it work out. I am here to present the full account of the adventures. But first: Introductions. Everyone, Erika. Erika, everyone. Erika is a senior English major (lit concentration), which means she is awesome.

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The Mirror

“If you do not like the image in the mirror, do not break the mirror, break your face.” – Persian poem

I am increasingly convinced that I will not be happy if my life is about the American dream. To be honest, the thought of a white picket fence and a steady job is somewhat terrifying (not to mention a husband and kids with no desire to move beyond their city, much less their country, which is something that seems inevitably attached to the West’s perception of a stable, wealthy life). I knew this a bit before I studied abroad, but since I came back I’m struck again and again with the feeling that this is a haven, a stop, and I really belong somewhere else.

I’m terrified that the monotony, the obsession with one’s self that pervades American culture, the lukewarm contentment and deep dissatisfaction will lull over me. I’m terrified that one day I’ll look in the mirror and see someone who doesn’t care enough to even be aware of another’s suffering.

I started crying today when reading about children in Afghanistan. I longed to coax a smile out of just one child again, to tease that old look out of their eyes and make them grin.

I want to be the sort of person who brings God’s love and healing to hard places even if she has to break her face to do it.

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Dear Dr. Tolkien

Wrote this while I was abroad, but I didn’t get the chance to take it to Tolkien’s grave. Thought I’d share anyway.

Dear Dr. Tolkien,

I wanted to thank you for changing my life.

When I was a little girl, my dad would read your books to me and my siblings. He read them three times to us, when I was eight, and again when I was twelve, and again when I was fourteen. When I was twelve I prayed for Frodo after he was stabbed. Later I remember running to the book and turning to the passage in the Mines of Moria, gasping in relief when I saw it said that Gandalf was gone, not dead.

I think I learned to love fiction as I listened to your books.

I think your books are why I began to love to write.

One day when you were writing your manuscript, your eyes were tired and you didn’t want to be working, and the words came out muddled and wrong. You couldn’t have known what those words would become. You didn’t know that one day my mother would read your words in her second edition of Lord of the Rings. You didn’t know my father would study your words in his college class. And you couldn’t have imagined a bunch of little American kids hanging on those words every night.

You couldn’t have known what those words would come to mean to me. It isn’t just a story. It’s the sound of my dad’s voice when he’s exhausted from working three jobs. It’s the smell of my mother’s edition—musty old pages wrapped in decades of my family. It’s the comfort on that night when my bloodwork came back bad, and I opened the book and read, “I do not believe this darkness will endure.”

One day those words stopped being yours and they became mine.

And that, I think, is the beauty of fiction. It just keeps growing, gathering lives and memories and interweaving them in a text.

That’s why I want to write.

Thank you, Mr. Tolkien, for your words. They have taught me that joy is sometimes like swords, that darkness will not endure, that healing doesn’t always come in this world. They have been my Sam when I thought I was carrying the Ring alone. Thank you.

Thank you for changing my life.


Alyssa Hollingsworth

(GH) War and Bread

This is what I wrote last year around 9/11. It’s still on my heart. Originally posted on livejournal on 9/11/11.

I’ve shared my story in the past. So this isn’t a story directly related to 9/11, but it is a story that’s been on my heart all week. Three stories, actually.

We–my mom, sister and I–were sitting in a nice restaurant in Central Asia, with native people, and we had just finished a fantastic traditional meal. My sister asked our friends to share one bit of their culture that they would like Westerners to know. They thought for a few minutes, and then began to go around the table. Most of them talked about women’s rights and about hospitality.

One man shared a story with us. There is an old tradition, he says. When two people (families or towns) are warring, it used to be that a woman could stop the war. She would bake bread in her home, and then take it to a woman in the other side. The people would cease fighting, because the woman had been so brave and had earned so much respect.

My sister asked if an American woman brings bread, can the war stop? We all laughed. No, they said, because the terrorists do not honor tradition.

The image of that tradition is beautiful and horrifying to me, as I think of a little woman in her chadar, clutching bread still warm from the oven, going into war with a silent gift of peace.

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my heart is flown (and hello)

Well, I’m back.

Being in the States is weird. I saw “chips and salsa” on a menu and thought to myself, “Gross! Who wants salsa on chips?” Then I realized I’d confused chips/French fries and crisps/chips.

I don’t think it’s fully sunk in yet. At times it starts to hit me–that I really am back, and that chapter is over. I’m sure it will be hard when it sinks in.

I’ve started looking at graduate schools in the UK already. I’m by no means coming back to stay, and certainly not in the South. Nothing against the U.S. or the South, but I think I’m quite ready for another adventure.

I’ve at last officially moved from my old LJ. I decided it was high time I graduated myself to WordPress (gasp!). “But what?” you say. “You’ve already posted like 74 posts on this blog!” Yes. You will note I’ve moved my “Greatest Hits” (aka favorite or popular posts) from my old blog. I also posted all of my travel entries in folders organized by trip, because my family thought this would be a good idea. (I might be slightly insane for doing that. I’m not sure I’ve recovered. There were a lot of posts.) I’m not entirely happy with the layout on this blog yet, and will be making some alterations once I have money for a customization pack.

But from now on all content will be new and up to date! So follow along for the merry and insane adventures of your average arthritic traveling hopeful-author college student!