Saturday, May 05, 2012

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

A hint of fall in the air this morning

Pretty shadows in Sweden

Last night I got to celebrate my birthday (picnic!) with dearly beloved Greenville friends (and family). I do have some of the coolest, smartest, sweetest, warmest, most inspiring friends in the world. So thankful for them, the outdoors, picnic food (Euro style), and lovely lighting. It felt SO GOOD outside last night! A little warm, humid--like one of the last summer nights of the year.

Karin, Simeon, the kids and me

I got to go to Sweden and Norway the week before I said "Adios" to Europa. I had some lovely friends in Sweden who I actually met in South Africa way back: Karin (Swedish) and Simeon (English). Karin is finishing up her training in the ministry and Simeon is an English teacher, and now state-paid stay-at-home dad (I love Sweden!). I got to see them in England a couple years ago when I was living in Spain--Karin was pregnant then with Bruno. And now they have a new addition to the family, Ophelia (affectionately called "Little O"). It was so nice being with a real family with little kids for a few days. :) Lots of bike rides, long walks in the forest with the kids (which Hannah had always told me about--right outside of Uppsala), walks around the adorable, cool town of Uppsala, a dreamy visit to the Carl Linnaeus botanical gardens, berry picking in Karin's garden, delicious Swedish cuisine, and plenty of long, good conversations with one of the coolest couples I know. Stockholm with Erik was really great, too! So many Urban Outfitters models in that city! :) Loved it.

fjord country... wow.

Norway was--ah--breathtaking! My Aunt Tricia, who, with my Uncle Doug, has traveled the world, has always said it was her favorite country. So, while I was in Sweden, I had to stop over and see these fjords I'd been hearing about. I took a train from Uppsala to Ostersund, hung out there a couple hours (really nice little town with a lake), then trained over to Trondheim (lovely pilgrimage cathedral--I like towns with pilgrim sites, by the way. Good people, cool feel to the town). Spent a couple hours there--got to see "almost" midnight sun (was heading south but it was pretty light out at 11:30)! Took an 11-ish-hour bus down to Bergen that left at 10:30 that night. That was the most beautiful bus ride I've ever been on! I woke up at around 4 in the morning, exhausted after so much travel, and was stunned to consciousness by the lush, green, ginormous mountain view out my window--little waterfalls trickling down. Oh my goodness. The fjords from Bergen (Bergen!!) to Oslo were just breathtaking, too. Norway's definitely on my "to see again soon" list. I was on my way to Norway when the bombing/shooting happened--really shocking. There was a vigil in Bergen and I went to a memorial service for the victims of the shooting in Oslo. Really sobering.

enchanting Bergen

Spain was SUPER hard to say goodbye to... :(

There was a hint of fall in the air this morning. Hurricane Irene is bringing some of the most amazing clouds to Greenville lately. Hard not to think of being on one of them these days. :)

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Photos :)

me, Barbara, and my favorite dog at the farm, who reminds me of Charlotte--a sweetheart!

The farm I'm at now, in Polan, a pueblo outside of Toledo. Cooling off in the shade of a fig tree.

my Senegalese friend and horseback riding instructor at the farm

Scenes from the farm:

Lovely tile buildings in Porto, Portugal:

New friends in Santiago de Compostela

Ellen + Cate reunite at last in Prague!

the charming city of Prague, filled with antique shops, vintage clothing stores and cozy cafes. Now featuring Ellen Kelly!!

St. John's Day/Summer Solstice celebrations in Madrid. Write down a wish, throw it in the fire, then jump over it!

hiking in Granada with Edu and Cala

Friday, June 03, 2011

Oysters, etc.

Carla and me at the beach

view from Carla's apartment at night

Since I last wrote I got to spend a couple days in a little beach town outside Malaga with my old friend Carla, who went to church with me, Biz and Tim in Madrid. She was a member of our delightful outdoor and indoor picnic club--and has shared in some of my favorite memories from that era. Last time I saw her in Madrid, three years ago, she wanted to become a nurse and learn English. Well, she has become a nurse and has been learning English at a little academy in Torremolinos. And she's going to learn a ton more when she comes to visit me in SC. Or when we take our tour of Latin America together next summer... Depending on if either of us will actually have the time or funds to do that. ;) Anyway, I'm so proud of that girl.

Lovely Ronda

While visiting Torremolinos, I finally got to side-trip to Ronda, a white-hill town I'd read about in Rick Steve's guide and wanted to see three years ago. I invited along a sweet little Romanian man who, along with me, was the only visitor at Carla's church the night before. He's been coming to Torremolinos for twenty-seven years and has been half-heartedly trying to sell his apartment there since his wife died last year. He made me kind of sad. Has one son in Germany who he' not that close to (sons! I've noticed from working at the nursing home that daughters generally take much better care of their parents than sons do, with a few outstanding exceptions). Ronda was beautiful--I was impressed with its "New Bridge" that spanned across this green gorge. Really nice panoramas.

And the last week and a half I've been in Utopia: an olive farm three miles away from Orgiva, a pueblo of 6,000 people and at least five organic grocery stores. :) It's a well-touristed hippie town in the heart of the Alpujarra--a region of the Sierra Nevadas. I love the farmer there, Raquel. She's an amazinnnnng cook, has good taste (simple, bright, pleasant decorating), is learning the accordion, and is into medicinal plants. She makes her own face oils, soaps, and toothpaste. My kind of girl! Plus, she's a very patient Spanish teacher. I had my own little caravan there the first week (which I loved) then moved up to Raquel's stucco house when two lovely, kickass 20-year-old girls came to WWOOF with me (from CA/WA). One is studying directing/acting in San Fran and New Orleans and the other history/poli sic at Warren Wilson in Asheville, where Hannah and I used to frequent for their contra dance scene! It is a small world.

view from my little caravan at the farm

Speaking of, I ran into another South Carolinian in an ice cream line in Nerja about a month ago then ran into her again last weekend on a street in Granada, where she's studying abroad! So we had to hang out the next day--went on a hike then out for tapas. I love college kids. Their idealism inspires me--dreams of making bank working in Alaska for a summer or singing on a cruise ship, seeing South America on a shoestring, learning three more languages after mastering Spanish, falling head over heels for someone, making recordings on Garage Band, and someday working for Doctors Without Borders, after getting a free nursing degree from the University of Portland. Being in college is like living in a library: you're surrounded by so many people with good ideas, connections, and resources--these ideas are constantly circulating. I don't think we lose that "early twenties" idealism because the world screws us over--I think we lose it from years of good intentions that aren't followed through with. Maybe that feels like the world screwing us over. :) The world is still our oyster, friends. 

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Bastante Guisantes (so many peas! Yum!)

I kind of feel like I've been living the charmed life lately here on the Mediterranean. Southern Spain is really, really beautiful--I love the warm climate. I've been biking to closeby whitewashed pueblos and to Nerja a few times, picking avocados, strawberries, lemons (my new favorite smell--fresh lemons off the tree!), nisporos (never seen them in the US), and green beans, weeding/thinning out rows of carrots, wearing a genuine sombrero!, and speaking a lot of Spanish to the really nice family here (Laura, Jose Luis and their 4-year-old Abril and 8-month-old Dario). I have my own little "camper" down the hill from their stucco, tile-roofed house. I don't mind the camper at all--but running water, electricity, and wi-fi would make it better. :) I'm seriously thinking of getting myself a little camper first thing when I get home.

I've had lots of time on my hands to read ("Mountains Beyond Mountains" = AMAZING book--Thanks, Tricia and Doug!) and listen to some fun music and podcasts (thanks, Joel, for your splendid iTunes library!). Traveling alone is kind of... not for everyone. I've had a lot of time to think about the things and people who have made me who I am--I feel like I'm getting to know myself better, which is funny: you'd think I'd know myself really well after 26 years of living with myself. :) It would be nice to have a travel buddy. But this weekend I'm visiting Carla, a Bolivian friend I went to church with in Madrid and who now lives in Malaga. We're hopefully going to check out Ronda together, a whitewashed hill town Rick Steves (!!heart!!) is all over.

Since reading "Mountains Beyond Mountains," I've fallen in love with Haiti a little. The book's about Dr. Paul Farmer, a SAINT who has a heart to give quality medical care to the poorest people in the world--he has treated thousands of people with TB and AIDS--seriously saved thousands of lives. He co-founded a nonprofit called Partners in Health that I'd love to work with someday, if I ever make it through 7-8 years of med school + residency. :) The book talks a lot about Haiti's deplorable agricultural problems (apparently the country's topsoil is washing away due to lack of trees holding it in place--seems like an easy enough problem to fix, no? bamboo? more trees?). From conversations with my wise, commonsensical, organic farming bff Hannah, I've been persuaded that (sustainable) agriculture is a good place to start if you want to see a healthy, prosperous, developing community. Sounds reasonable. Thinking about that lately.

Some of my favorite/most thought-provoking quotes from the book: "What I don't like about Marxist literature is what I don't like about academic pursuits--and isn't that what Marxism is, now? In general, the arrogance, the petty infighting, the dishonesty, the desire for self-promotion, the orthodoxy. I can't stand the orthodoxy, and I'll be that's one reason that science did not flourish in the former Soviet Union." -PF

"I was taken with the idea that in an ostensibly godless world that worshiped money and power or, more seductively, a sense of personal efficacy and advancement, like at Duke and Harvard, there was still a place to look for God, and that was in the suffering of the poor. You want to talk crucifixion? I'll show you crucifixion, you bastards." -PF

"'Medical Education does not exist to provide students with a way of making a living, but to ensure the health of the community.' 'The physicians are the natural attorneys of the poor, and the social problems should largely be solved by them.'" -Rudolf Virchow, one of Farmer's medical heroes

"As we entered the city proper (Paris), that great dove-colored epicurean city, he murmered something about how much could be done in Haiti if only he could get his hands on the money that the first world spent on pet grooming." -T. Kidder

Makes me feel a BIT guilty for hanging out in paradise right now (ok--hopefully I'll use these skills to help people someday, yeah?). BTW, Farmer thinks guilt is a valuable sentiment--it's a motivator for the rich to help the poor. Agree?

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Spain So Far

near the piso I'm staying at

I love how many sweet old people there are in this city! Seriously awesome.

on the way to a farm an hour from Madrid in a town called Villa del Prado. One of the most beautiful sunsets I've seen in a while.

Springtime in Holland!

another reason to love Madrid: dulces. Been wanting to order Meringues but, between the two, still just can't say no to Napolitanas. Neither could the cashier that day.

La Teteria de mi Abuela--one of Biz and my favorite places in Madrid! I got to go here last night with a new Couchsurfing friend--so great.

It's been so nice to be following spring around the world this year--I got in a few warm walking evenings in Greenville before I left, and Madrid's spring was at its peak when I arrived, then I got to see spring in its glory in the Netherlands for about a week (Kuekenhof gardens: stunning. MILLIONS of tulips and other flowers). Now I'm back in Madrid, heading to Malaga/Nerja tomorrow for some Mediterranean organic farming adventures with WWOOF. I'm super excited, though, I have to say, there are a lot of appeals to staying in Madrid (which I was thinking about doing for a little while). The last week I've been staying with a friend I met in my TEFL course here about 3.5 years ago (already been that long?? No way!). She's stayed in Madrid and is now teaching English, writing, and starting a website where artists can sell their work with her husband Alberto, who she met here. (They are AWESOME--Laura's a UGA gal and kind of reminds me of my BFF Ellen, another UGA grad--very full of life, exciting new ideas, and interesting things to discuss.) I wonder what my life would be like if I'd decided to stay here for the past three years. It's good to be back.

Madrid is even more breathtakingly gorgeous than I'd remembered. The first day back, I would climb the stairs out of these metro stops and, even on the more "boring" streets, just be compelled to take photo after photo (on my super low-res iPod touch). There's so much cool art stuff going on in Madrid: the Prado, of course, and the Caixa Forum, which has a new free art exhibition every month or two. And a new place, La Tabacalera, which is a huge abandoned old tobacco factory-turned coffee shop / music venue / workshop space (offering about a hundred free workshops open to everyone, from French to Photoshop to Flamenco). Every Tuesday night at 7:30 the music venue becomes a drawing workshop. Models sit on stage with funky props around them and a couple dozen artists can do their work and meet other artists. There's a library in one of the rooms, a "clothing swap" in another, and a couple gardens anyone can take part in outside. It seems like a great place to meet people, too. Oh, and there are some cool nonprofits I've heard about in Madrid that would be so neat to get involved in if I were staying around.

Anyway, this city's got it going onnnnn. But I remember living here, and every time I would leave the city, I felt so refreshed--to breathe clean air, walk in the mountains, or even the streets of a smaller town. So, knock on wood, I'll be at this farm near Nerja for a couple weeks, then probably exploring a little bit of Asturias or Galicia, which I've never been to but of which I have heard nothing but marvelous, green, bagpipey, hard cidery things. Don't know how much internet communication I'll be able to do in the next couple weeks, but I'll try to update.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Megabus, etc

Snow Day!!

(written yesterday--not able to publish till today)

Right now I'm sitting on the Megabus across the aisle from Kyle and Elizabeth, heading to D.C. from Charlotte. It's been too long since I've written. Eliz and I will be staying with dear, dear friends Justin and Erin in D.C.. This will be the second time seeing them this month after almost two years (!) having flown by without a reunion. We'll also hopefully see my cousin Marlie in NYC, whom I haven't seen since her sister Sarah's wedding two and a half years ago.

I think I woke up the other day, suddenly conscious of the fact that it's been four years since I was a senior in college. This time four years ago I was running a lot, listening to Guster and the Shins, taking night photos in black and white, pulling almost all-nighters finishing papers the morning they were due. That was an emotional semester. I thought the decisions leading up to and during college--where to go, what to study, which professors and classes to choose, where/if to study abroad--were the most important ones I would make in my life, but I've seen that the few years after graduating have been laden with as or more weighty decisions.

I've been thinking a lot about more travels this year. Having a hard time narrowing down which countries I'd be interested in living in and what to do there, if I'd be able to go at all (volunteering with a medical group = attractive, but can be expensive...); I've definitely thought about Nicaragua again (I felt like I left my heart there when I was coming back) or another C. American place (ummmm, Alice is going to be in Costa Rica this spring! It'd be so fun to be near her), Chile's been calling me for a while now; Argentina, Peru, Venezuela and Ecuador also sound amazing. Europe is also attractive, for a few reasons. A Holland visit would be quite lekker this year. French-speaking countries are appealing to me these days, too--why not? India--I've wanted to go there for a long time, but I think it'll be a little while longer till that comes to pass.

It's been a really lovely winter so far: dinner parties, new friends, trips to Asheville, Columbia, and Ohio, some stellar conversations, bike rides and broccoli nabbing, my first white Christmas, time with my family, fireside reading sessions, and getting snowed in. (By the way, I love that there are still little piles of snow in various street corners of Greenville--little molecules of snow trying to protect each other from the warm rain and air.)