Dancing the Sardana on Easter Sunday
We are standing in front of the Barcelona’s La Seu cathedral in the Ciutat Vella (old city) of Barcelona. It is Easter Sunday. Less than a half an hour earlier, I drag Claudia from her bed and we rush through the cobblestone maze of alleys from La Rambla to arrive in time. I do not want to be late. Already, a large crowd has formed in the plaza in front of the church. I push ahead in the crowd, not quite sure where the performance will begin.
It starts to happen. As if by silent cue, a few old ladies and old men solemnly place their belongings in a pile together. They join hands and back up, creating a circle with the items that they have placed together in the center. The placing of all of their belongings together symbolizes trust and community. Similar groups simultaneously begin to pile up their belongings and join hands. All around us, the crowd is now more filled with participants than it is with spectators. The circles, like ripples in a pond during a rain storm, are forming all around us. We are in the center. I can feel an electricity of anticipation. I see young and old, men and women, traditionally dressed and in jeans, join together in circles. As the music begins, slowly at first, the dancers execute little hop-touch steps. As the music accelerates, the dancers raise their hands, their faces fill with pride and emotion.
Continue reading Catalan – The Language of Resilience in Barcelona
The Ferryman of Paros
“Tickets,” demands the man in the uniform, his hand out stretched with impatience. His face is filled with disgust and disapproval. I can hear him tapping his foot. We are seated in four very comfortable, squishy chairs on the air-conditioned interior of a ferry headed from Athens to Paros. In our group is my husband, Frank, my 2 year old son, Max, and my 14 year old daughter, Claudia.
We found these beautifully vacant chairs after searching high and low on the gigantic ferry. On the deck of the ferry the heat of the summer and the smoke of the cigarettes cling to the deck like a frightened sailor, afraid of being swept into the sea. This combination of smoke and heat is suffocating. There are no available seats. We boarded late and now everything is taken. It is like a game of musical chairs and we arrived after the music stopped. As we search desperately for a place to sit for the five hour journey, we drag our suitcases behind us like balls and chains. Finally we spot four large, beautiful, cushioned chairs side by side in the cool air conditioned interior of the boat just around the corner from the bathroom. They are tucked in a corner as if forgotten. Gratefully we sink into this heavenly oasis.
Continue reading The Ferryman of Paros and the Princess
The wind is blowing fiercely. Our ferry heads directly towards a sheer cliff. It looks as if we are going to smash into the giant cliff face. Then I notice a narrow line of buildings huddled together at the base of the cliff. This lonely group of buildings and narrow road does not seem large enough to receive the avalanche of human bodies and cargo that is about to erupt from the interior of our ferry. I stand with my husband, my son and my daughter in the bowels of the ferry waiting to disembark. The sea is rough and we wait for the ferry to steady. Finally, the giant ramp begins to slowly lower. As the giant ramp lowers, a digital version of Fur Elise plays eerily over and over again, a strange accompaniment to the methodical, mechanical descent of the back flap of the boat. As the ever widening patch of light and the howl of the wind entering the dark interior of the ferry, the light melody repeats as if we are trapped in a giant music box.
Continue reading Atlantis Found in Santorini, Greece
So come with me, where dreams are born, and time is never planned. Just think of happy things, and your heart will fly on wings, forever, in Never Never Land!
To write about travel adventures seemed so trivial in wake of the dark events that occurred on Friday the 13th in Paris. As I read the Twitter feed and scour the news, I am horrified but cannot disconnect my phone from my hand. At a certain point the news contains the same morbid facts about death and carnage, but I continue to read the same information over and over again. I want to turn away, but I cannot. It is the same morbid hypnosis I felt as I watch the events of 9/11 unfold 14 years ago.
Fear fills me as I think of my own 20 year old daughter in New York City, my aunt in DC and my family in San Francisco. We all live in major American cities. Are any of us safe?
Continue reading The Light of Paris Will Always Drive Away Darkness.
It All Started with Paris
“Make one day Day One.” I saw this phrase yesterday on an advertisement. What a great phrase. Reminds me of how this whole crazy idea of mine started; the idea of learning a language and traveling to the country where people speak that language. Make your one day Day One. Paris was always a one-day-I-would-love-to-go dream. Suddenly I was forty. My daughter, Claudia, was on the verge of high school and our one days together seemed to be numbered. I had never even been to Europe.
My infatuation with Paris and French began in the ballet classes of my childhood. French is the language of ballet. I chose French for my second language in middle school. Madame Champion taught it ineffectually by having us conjugate verbs and memorize words for spelling tests. She spent most of her time marching up and down the aisle of the classroom monitoring my conduct and calling home to complain of my impertinent mouth. I remember telling a boy that his mother wore combat boots. I remember that remark leading to a call home. What I do not remember is speaking French. Claudia, on the other hand, attended Notre Dame des Victoires where she started learning French in kindergarten. She learned poems and songs, However, by seventh grade, if anyone spoke to her in French, she turned red and grew mute. She had all of her language locked in her head. She lacked the confidence to engage in conversation.
One day, our book group read a very dreary book about a women who was diagnosed with brain cancer. Our discussion of the book centered on the thought of what if we each had only one year to live. Would we do anything differently. If we would do things differently, why weren’t we living that way now. What would we change to make the year really count. Suddenly, all of those one days seemed urgent. Why was I delaying my dreams to one day? I decided Paris was going to happen. I was going to learn French so I could help Claudia become more confident in her French. One day became Day One of Project April in Paris.
Continue reading It All Started with Paris.
Thousands of yellow butterflies float through the sky as we wind down the dirt road heading away from Monteverde. I first notice them in the morning as I stand one last time on the back porch of the Star House, the house we had rented in Santa Elena. The little yellow butterflies flutter like flower petals tossed in the wind. I watch them dart over the field behind the house, across the road and up the far hill covered with coffee plants and banana trees. They stream by as if someone has turned on a butterfly faucet. Steadily, they pour across the horizon.
This is our last day in Monteverde, the cloud forest paradise reachable only by unpaved roads and four by fours. Now we unwind the road from the clouds by slowly circling downward towards the Costa Rican coast. The yellow butterflies fill the sky. They fly over the trees, the green hills, the grazing cows, the coffee plantations, the towns, the churches, the soccer fields, the fences, and the dirt road. Every direction I look the yellow butterflies fill the air like a yellow snow storm. As I look, I think to myself “pura vida.” This magical moment can only be described as “pura vida.”
Continue reading How a Thousand Yellow Butterflies Taught Me About Pura Vida.
June 14, 2010
A wasp is fighting a losing battle with the light by the kitchen. He angrily buzzes at the light as if he is enraged by the light’s very existence. The wasp wants something from the light. It is upset by the light’s inaction. The wasp is getting tired. I wonder whether it will leave or just die of rage.
I hear the donkey in the yard behind the house walking around in the hilly enclosure, its hoofs clacking against the rocks. A crowd cheers as a team scores a goal in the World Cup. A boat hums as it passes into the harbor. Everything echoes in Hydra at night. People’s voices mix with the call of a bird. Being at Mr Henry’s house is like camping with beds inside. There’s an explosion of barking dogs. I wonder what sent them off.
Continue reading Mr.Henry’s House in Hydra, Greece