My life for the past 20 months has revolved around cooking and food. But before that, my life had revolved around writing. I hope that soon enough, I will be able to strike a fine balance between the two loves of my life, as I like to call them.

So it was with great pleasure that I was recently asked to write a personal essay for the new kid on the Houston journalism block, Houstonia Magazine. My former editor at Eating Our Words, the Houston Press food and dining blog for which I was a former contributor, is now at Houstonia, and she approached me about writing for the “H-town Diary” column, which she’d mentioned also boasts the likes of such writers as Chitra Divakaruni and Mat Johnson, both of whom were my instructors at the University of Houston’s Creative Writing Program. Of course I agreed I would write a piece for the December issue—it was my chance to switch gears and float back towards my writer persona. Plus I figured it would give me new material for my memoir (which I plan to finish a draft of in 2014—more on this later).

At first, the editor and I were kicking ideas back and forth about what I should write. “It’s your personal take on Houston. It can be about anything as long as it relates to Houston,” were just about the only parameters she’d given me.

Well, what about my favorite places to eat in Houston? Or how the food scene has evolved over the decades in Houston? Or what about my decision to accept a job offer and move back to Houston after college on a sudden whim while I was standing in the middle of the Hong Kong supermarket and thinking, I’m never going to get this sort of Asian food in Austin?

The editor liked the last idea best, but when I sat down to write, the words just wouldn’t flow. I’d been living and breathing and talking and writing food and cooking for the past two years, and something inside of me told me there was more I had to say about Houston than its food.

And thus this essay was born, partly out of my gripe for the city’s inconvenient public transportation system, and partly from my naiveté that I could possibly start a ripple of change by my words. At the very least, I wanted to make others aware of what it was like to be visually impaired in Houston.

And then the words just flowed.

So here it is, my personal essay about my trials and tribulations as a blind Houstonian trying to get around town, just like everybody else: “The Vision Thing” by Christine Ha. The essay is published in the December issue of Houstonia Magazine, on stands now. Happy reading. Do you live in Houston? What do you think of the public transportation here? Do you know anyone who has to deal with the METROLift? Or just want to gripe about my writing style? Leave a comment.

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15 Discussion to this post

  1. Paul says:

    I liked the essay quite a bit, Christine, in part because you have a natural writing style that is communicative and descriptive. Labeling a fountain as your 'nemesis' immediately helps us know that you accidentally blundered into it more than once – a good bit of concision – and speaking of 'a solo swim class in which I'd never enrolled' is humorous while still imparting feelings of isolation and embarrassment, or at least the anxiety of wanting to avoid those feelings. Finally, I was glad that you didn't write about food this time. Many of us, myself included, learned about you because of your cooking, but I think it's your bravery, along with your willingness to stick your neck out and take risks, that makes you a compelling figure. There is no shortage of food writing in this world, but there is very little written about what it takes to move about a city when you have a disability. Thanks for the insights you shared.

    Out of curiosity, have you ever considered writing fiction?

    • Christine Ha says:

      Thanks so much for the positive feedback, and I'm glad you were glad I didn't write about food. 🙂 I'm touched you were able to see beyond my cooking skills and find something else compelling about me. Such lavish praise!As a matter of fact, I started my grad school program as a fiction writer, so yes, I have been known to write fiction from time to time. I find it a more difficult genre than, say, creative nonfiction, simply because the plot is not yet known.

  2. Great essay, Christine, in Houstonia. So pleased with all your successes!
    Chitra

  3. @JeffD503 says:

    I'd send this by Twitter, but I probably couldn't keep it within the character limit.

    I've read some of your work before, but this is the first time I've read something that wasn't fiction, not counting the times I've read your cookbook. You have a gift in writing, and I think this essay gives us a clear picture of what it's like to be in your shoes. I wish I could say that I fully understood what that must be like, but I would be lying if I did. I can't even begin to imagine what that would be like being able to drive yourself around one day, and then what would mean to lose it. But I think the way you wrote it really shows us and myself what it feels like. Reading about the fountain and how you described it, I could begin to understand it, if only for that moment. Yes, you have a gift for writing.

    Yes, I know you best from MasterChef, but having read this and even from what I've read on your blog, I think you're one of the bravest people I've had the chance to communicate with. Granted, you've come to learn it, but the fact that you're willing to do things that even I, as a seeing person, wouldn't even think of. I have to tip my hat to you, as soon as I can afford to buy one. I know I'm dragging on, but I really enjoyed reading this essay. That's the short and sweet version of this post.

    BTW: You've got more tolerance than me. I can't stand Katy Perry, but then again I've also heard worse too. XD

  4. bryon says:

    Thanks for the compliments! Grateful you experienced it.

  5. Roshaida says:

    You really do have a gift and passion for writing (in addition to your gift and passion for cooking, of course). It doesn't matter whether the subject is about cooking or food or your vision loss, your literary works (blogs/essay/cookbook) are very interesting and highly enjoyable. Thank you for sharing both your culinary and literary gift and passion with us.

  6. Christine, I liked your essay, you have natural writing style, and it is communicative, understandable and descriptive. I am glad to know about your successes! Also I wish you all the very best in your future.

  7. Mark John says:

    Fascinating post. I came past this web journal unintentionally, however it was a satisfactory mishap. I acknowledge now bookmarked your online journal for approaching utilization. All the best.

  8. Andy says:

    Thanks

  9. Ronald says:

    It is great news

  10. Indeed a nice post. I am too a lover of cooking and writing. More often I end up reading articles and posts on interesting subjects, as dont get much time to write. Hope you can find a good balance.

  11. Womenra says:

    Thanks for sharing, Christine! Congratulations with your first personal essay. I follow your blog and looking forward for more publications.

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