Hi! I’m Jordana Chana Mayim! Welcome to my website!
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I'll tell you a little about me, the lovely curly-haired woman on the button you just clicked.
This is me in a purple dress. (Purple's my favorite color.)
And this is me at my friends' house in Italy with a SUPER yummy bowl of pasta:
And THIS is one of the coolest fish I have ever met:
He lives in Baltimore. He doesn’t swim like any of the other fish. He has trouble moving one of his fins, but he keeps on swimming.
I grew up in a suburb just outside of Philadelphia, longing to leave it and see the world. I also grew up with a pencil forever in my hand and the knowledge that I would one day be a writer. Here are the first two books I ever wrote when I was six:
As you can see from the sides of the books, I loved staples almost as much as I loved writing.
I once read this sentence on an exquisite card with a photograph of a woman gazing at mountains in the distance: Dream, but do.
Until I was 27, I pretty much just dreamed. I worked boring jobs (the worst was proofreading phonebooks…even loading a big fat armchair from the lobby onto the elevator and lugging it up to my cubicle didn’t get me fired), hung around the travel section in bookstores, and wrote about 100,000 pages in journals that ultimately provided a very satisfying meal for a paper shredder. I also did my best to deal with a clinical depression that had plagued me since childhood. (Eventually I beat it. If any of you readers out there are struggling with depression, please know: if I can get better from it, you can too. You are NOT alone, even though you may sometimes feel that you are. Hold on. It DOES get better. In the meantime: “Whenever you feel like giving up, remember why you held on so long in the first place.”)
When I was 27, something happened that changed my life and my writing forever. I volunteered to teach ESOL, English to Speakers of Other Languages, to immigrants and refugees in Philadelphia. I had the honor and privilege of meeting the most amazing people from all over the world. I taught them English, and they taught me a better way to see and a better way to be. Their bravery helped me find my own. Their generosity opened my heart. Their kindness lit up my darkness. And teaching ESOL became my job, as well as one of the greatest blessings in my life.
Teaching later took me to Spain.
I arrived with no papers and no plans beyond taking a month-long teaching course. But I hoped that I'd stick around much longer than that.
I did. Four years, a few more countries, and many adventures later, I returned to the U.S. and worked and studied in Boston, a city I fell in love with as a kid.
(This picture of a sand castle is NOT from Boston. But as it's from a beach REALLY close to Boston, and as it's a REALLY COOL sand castle, I decided to include it here.)
And THEN... I decided to fulfill a lifelong dream of backpacking around the world... but with a suitcase instead of a backpack.
I shared Zerah and Nikolas cards.
Sometimes I left my books in parks and gardens.
And I found MAGIC everywhere I went by following a few simple travel rules that I set for myself:
1) If you hear music, you MUST follow it.
2) Speak to as many people as you possibly can. Be sure to ask them A LOT of questions.
3) ALWAYS follow your gut.
4) Accept every invitation to an event, tour, cup of coffee, etc. that you receive, no matter how tired you are. (Only exception: if your gut says "no." See rule 3.)
5) If you can't find magic, create it.
Aside from meeting up with old friends and making new ones, two of my favorite experiences during my travels were:
visiting a luthier's workshop in Cremona, Italy and hearing about how she makes violins
and visiting the temples in Chiang Mai, Thailand.
An experience that is in a category of its own, for the injustice, heartbreak, and resilience I witnessed, was the time I spent at a refugee camp in Greece.
I was living in Chiang Mai just before the pandemic began. For obvious reasons, my travels are temporarily on hold.
At present, I'm working on new books (one of which will be published in September 2021), teaching online (under my given name, Jennifer Helfand; Jordana Chana Mayim is my super cool pen name); planning my next round of travels; and working on ideas for a community arts and cultural exchange program I'd like to start.
Thank you for stopping by my website!
I hope our paths cross again soon and I can share more stories with you!
Here are some moving words that others have shared with me.
And here are two beautiful butterflies and me (when I was 2) to wish you well on your journeys!