Monday, July 22, 2013

nosy in (& about) rwanda

Kigali as seen from St. Paul's

Nosy friends! Two weeks from now, I'll be back in Rwanda. I'm headed there for ten months this time, and I imagine my already erratic schedule for posting Nosy Interviews will grow even more so. But I'm eager to gather new Nosy Interviews while in Rwanda, and excited to say I'll be collaborating with the way-cool Institute for Art and Olfaction to showcase the responses I collect in a meaningful way. 

So much fun, fragrant, & innovative work is happening at The Institute for Art and Olfaction.

My fondest smell memories of my last visit to Rwanda include the smoky green tomato leaf scent I wrote about here; the damp, resinous air on our hike to see the mountain gorillas, who were feasting on huge strips of eucalyptus tree bark; and the steaming veggie roundels served at Zaaffran. My least favorite smell memory is of the intense automobile exhaust in Kigali. Another strong smell memory that defies such categorization is that of the bodies preserved in lime at the Murambi Genocide Memorial Centre. That is a smell I will never forget, but should I mention it? Is it wrong to describe what it was like to stand in those rooms, windows wide open to the hills surrounding us, a song carried in on the slow breeze from the church on a neighboring mountain? What can I say? For the same reason it feels wrong to post a photograph, devoid of context, it feels wrong to say this one thing, what the rooms smelled like, and nothing else.

On our way to Volcanoes National Park to see the mountain gorillas

But it feels wrong to leave it out, too, to write only about how much I loved the tree tomatoes, how even the gorilla's shit smelled pretty good (all that eucalyptus) and not say also that there was a smell in those terrible rooms, and I stood there inhaling it, trying not to think about what it meant. It feels somehow depraved to speak of certain things in smell terms, but I don't think that's because it's disrespectful. Maybe a smell detail gives too much life to the things we wish to distance ourselves from: wounds, rot, death. 

Here's a Kinyarwanda (the language of Rwanda) word I learned (from my anthropologist husband, whose PhD fieldwork is driving our trip) today: 
guhumura: to smell good, to stay calm, to be consoled or comforted, to not be afraid

If a word can be a talisman for travel, for this project, I can't think of a better one. I hope to smell good, to smell deeply and well (even when my nose resists). I hope to stay calm in the face of challenges that arise from living outside of my comfort zone, like when I inevitably and inadvertently look/act a fool in my attempts to connect, and to not let fear--of seeming foolish, of being sad or uncomfortable, of threats real or imagined--keep me from staying open, asking questions, and sharing what I can with the people I meet, and with you. 

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

nosy recommends: natural deodorants (revisited)

I've previously expressed my devotion to the great-smelling, natural deodorant powerhouse Soapwalla. But after a while, it began to irritate my skin. What's a girl living in mega-muggy weather who prefers all-natural deodorant to do? Stay inside, stink, or rely on a few other favorites:

E Plus High C Roll-On Deodorant, Aubrey Organics
This deodorant caught my eye as it had the "Customer Favorite" designation at Cambridge Naturals, a local store that attracts its fair share of natural deodorant seekers. I like the smell so much that I will defend the hyperbolic language on the packaging: "Like the musical notes in a fine symphony, the herbal essential oils and natural vitamins harmonize in Aubrey's E Plus High C Roll-On." It is a harmonious smell! Whenever I catch a whiff of it, I find myself wondering what smells so good, as the fragrance remains slightly unfamiliar and changeable to me, even after near daily use for the last two months. It smells a little bit like an Aveda salon, mixed with the freshest section of the natural foods/crystal store, with floral and citrus notes that tread very lightly, and smell as cool as the roller ball feels.

The Healthy Deodorant, Lavanila 
This was my favorite deodorant before discovering Soapwalla, and it's back near the top of the heap these days. Both the Pure Vanilla and the Vanilla Coconut (my preferred flavors) have this minty, paste-like note that I find so satisfying. The worst thing about this deodorant is its product to packaging ratio feels like its 40:1, and a bunch goes to waste because of the poor design--extra-irritating when you are paying $14 for a stick of the stuff.

Deodorant Fresh, Dr. Hauschka
If you thought paying $14 for a stick of deodorant was nuts, steer clear of Dr. Hauschka's Deodorant Fresh Roll-On, which sometimes runs double that (though I've found it for $20). My friend Jenny was teasing me recently about my $40 deodorant habit, and in defending myself against what seemed like an absurd accusation, I failed to realize how close to the bone she was cutting! Looking at this lineup, it would appear my pits are prized skin real-estate. Dr. Hauschka's Fresh Deodorant, in its heavy, frosted glass bottle, does have a luxurious feel to match its price, and it smells very good and blue-green, with a faintly woody barber shop vibe that I think will be especially appreciated by those taking tentative first steps into the land of natural deodorants.

Weleda Citrus Deodorant 
I find this spray deodorant intermittently effective, and sometimes a bit too bracing (it's like Listerine for the armpits). Perhaps the key to success with natural deodorants is to keep switching them up. Even though it seems I've had my bottle of this forever, I like having it in the mix. I was disappointed, though, to dislike the rose in this deodorant line, especially since most of Weleda's rose body products are so pleasing to my nose.

If you have other natural deodorant favorites, I am clearly all ears and eager armpits. Tell me about them!

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Nosy Interview: Marc Mazique

Marc in the Porpoise Galaxy from Hubble, © NASA, ESA, and the Hubble Heritage Team

Marc and I were in a writing group together, in Seattle, along with Elizabeth, Cienna, and Steven. We met mainly at the Stumbling Monk, which I recall smelling of cement and wood and beer-wet napkin. I loved that place! You can help Marc's rad & radical musical group, Movitas Marching Band, make it to BAM! (Bands Agitate and Mobilize!) by donating here

What do you smell like? 
I smell like peanut sauce mixed with old books with yellowed pages.  

What do you like to smell?  
I like to smell peanut sauce mixed with old or new books, along with lavender.