Chúc mừng năm mới - Happy Lunar New Year from ours to yours!

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Dear friends!

We made it! January is over and I feel like the (real) new year is just starting, mainly because as a Vietnamese, you get to celebrate the Lunar New Year with Tết - a week-long celebration to honor the ancestors and relatives and to take a break from work - with your family and friends. I have yet to celebrate the once a year festivities in the mother land, but I am planning to do so in 2020, when I am there for a study abroad semester.

The first few weeks back from Ethiopia, I found myself in the lower spectrum of the happiness curve, just overall feeling low in energy and a tiny bit tense at times... of course I had to ask some of those big questions again: what am I doing and why am I here... and not that I don't know the answers, but after such a transformative trip, it was difficult adjusting back into Berlin life. And speaking of Berlin life.. one of my dearest friends said the other day: well Huyen, I don't think you ever gave yourself enough time to really be in Berlin. Then again, adjusting anywhere during the winter time is just rough! I am well aware that - as I am enjoying the much needed freedom and space to read and write - it's easy to isolate yourself, but what if you actually feel good spending time with and by yourself?

Recently, I read these words by Mary Oliver in the Brain Pickings newsletter "Creative work needs solitude. It needs concentration, without interruptions. It needs the whole sky to fly in, and no eye watching until it comes to that certainty which it aspires to, but does not necessarily have at once. Privacy, then. A place apart — to pace, to chew pencils, to scribble and erase and scribble again," and truth to be told, I am thinking about solitude more and more, but also in a very good sense.

Like, if I decide to go to class, I want to be there, be present and participate wholeheartedly. If I decide not to go, I know I am spending it with other meaningful work or you know, resting (which is also incredibly important), thus I am not feeling guilty because I made a conscious choice. If I decide to plan a coffee date and meet you, that literally means I actually do want to see You and spend time with You. And if I am cancelling on you, know that I am in the midst of a creative process and need the time to finish something up. Or to think and work through my matters. In solitude, I am learning so much more about myself, I learn about my needs and I understand better how to take care of myself, so that I can rise up to my potential and take care of my friends, family and community. 

February is an exciting month though, not only are we welcoming a New Year around the moon, we are also celebrating Black History Month, and while black history is part of history (every day), this month gives all of us an opportunity, an emphasis to continue to learn, to ask questions, to come closer together and to support one another. 

Here are some excellent projects / writings / films for you to read, learn about and invest in: Movement Black August was started by my friend Faith to reflect, read, remember, build, meditate, learn, move, react, respond and breathe. TONL is a premiere diverse stock photography library if you're looking for images for your next deck / presentation. If you're in Brooklyn New York, go check out Cafe Con Libros for some good coffee and all the books. Currently cannot wait for If Beale Street Could Talk to come out in March in Germany. And speaking of one of my favourite writers James Baldwin, I recently came across an 18-page pdf interview he did while he lived in Istanbul (email me if you want it!). It made me think of life differently. I loved learning about his life in France as well, how he took time and distance away from the civil rights movement, to be able to fully document it and witness it. To put it all into words. I loved how he decided to leave New York and just do that. Similarly, Barack Obama, left for Indonesia, as Michelle writes in her bookBecoming, to spend one month away in solitude (here it is again) to write and finish his book (right before his political career took off). Somehow, I feel the same way, as I am away from New York, spending time here in Berlin to write more. Then, as I was doing research about black female artists for one of my school papers, I re-read Zadie Smith's essay on the artist Lynette Yiadom-Boakye, watched this Ted Talk by Thelma Golden, the Studio Museums director, learned about and decided this morning that I will study the works of Amy Sherald who painted Michelle Obamas portrait for the National Portrait Gallery in Washington D.C. and also read this interesting interview with Kerry James Marshall. Also, if you haven't started listening to the podcast Still Processing by Jenna Wortham and Wesley Morris, please stop everything and subscribe right now! After a short fall/winter break they are back and I love listening to their discussions so so much! BTW Jenna has her own newsletter called Fermentation and Formation on health and wellness as well, sign up if you're a fan. Wow, now that I am writing this down, I am feeling incredibly inspired again. Also, please know that this is just a very small list of things I am currently reading and spending time with, BUT this might give you something to study this month as well.

Ok! Lots of exciting things and I actually need to get back to my French homework here in Berlin at 11pm tonight haha! Yes, I love languages again and need to find some sleep, so I am saying goodbye, and au revoir and down below are some of my favorite pictures from our festivities this past weekend.

Oh shoot, I actually also meant to say: how it was important to me to push to see my mother this past weekend. I am still learning that parents are probably never going to tell you that they want to see you, thus you as children need to go for it, push for it, to see them and spend time with them - we're not getting younger! So just do it. Try! Happy that I spontaneously took the train down south to see my Vietnamese community and feel a little bit closer to home. 

Sending so much love and strength to all of you,

sleep and stay warm!!! Spring is coming sooooon!
xx

Huyen

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