December 31, 2008
My hopes and best wishes to all of you out there.
December 22, 2008
What I gather is that this man was not an 'adventurer' per se, or even a 'traveler', but that he traveled across the globe and ended up living with the Maori simply to survive. He's quite a controversial historical figure--some people count him as a traitor, others a coward, etc. etc., but his story is entirely unique and despite grotesque attention to the intricacies of warfare and cannibalism, his life and story capture a time and a place in the world that would have otherwise been falsely historicized neatly on some library shelf. Here's a brief nod to the man by Wikipedia.
So yeah, at night, right before I go to sleep, I'm at the base of a volcano on North Island, circa 1867.
December 16, 2008
Just got confirmation that I will be speaking at the New York Times Travel Show on Sunday, February 8 at 11:00 in the morning. I shall be the voice of unreason on a panel entitled, "Make Your Wild Travel Dreams a Reality". Perhaps I should just put it out there that not all my wildest travel dreams are ever a reality, yet. I still haven't snowshoed in Antarctica or watched the sun set on a beach in Yemen or even been to New Hampshire but I guess the important thing is to always keep trying. This year's NYT Travel Show will include for the first time ever a country booth dedicated to Ukraine (!). I've also got a few book signings scheduled throughout the two days of the show. See you there.
December 12, 2008
December 4, 2008
November 25, 2008
Perhaps Shackleton himself felt the same way. So close to reaching his goal, and yet never made it, alas. 100 years later, we're celebrating his trip that got away. To all you cold, miserable souls on the ice down south, living the dream, with your satellite internet and such. Happy Thanksgiving!
November 17, 2008
In fairness, while I was a grad student at Oxford, busloads of Russian and Japanese tourists used to stop and take pictures of me, especially when I was dressed in sub-fusc. My only consolation is the thought of hundreds of pictures of me in the family photo albums of Osaka.
November 10, 2008
- Macaron Cafe /161 West 36th Street/ A wee shop the size of a bathroom stall but chock-a-block with les vrais macarons francais. Like a little untrampled pink flower in the midst of hyper-choked midtown. Incroyable.
- Kunjip Restaurant /9 West 32nd Street/Just another glassfront restaurant in Koreatown but with impossible waits, insane crowds, compassionate waitstaff and perfect bowls of food. I dissected an entire mackerel with chopsticks.
- Craft /43 East 19th Street/A+ for design, A for foie gras appetizers, extra credit for the memorable risotto. Righteous brussel sprouts with bacon, yessss.
- Centro Vinoteca /74 Seventh Ave. South /West Village Italian restaurant with white-painted brick walls. Creamy polenta squares with fontina. Warm duck salad, amen.
November 5, 2008
October 24, 2008
October 19, 2008
Now wait a minute, there. I didn't WIN win. I won SILVER, which if I am not mistaken, means I am not the greatest guidebook author in the universe, but only the second best guidebook writer in the universe . . until next year. But that's okay, because I love silver. In fact, I prefer wearing silver to gold, and it makes me feel just like the United States women's gymnastics team.
Here are the judges' nice comments about my book:
Full of fascinating details in writing, graphics and photos, “Iceland” delves deeply into the country in a format that often resists depth. Evans knows the country, and it shows. But he also organizes the essential information in an easy-to-use way. It’s the combination of depth and breadth that sets this guidebook apart from many others. Evans takes his subject seriously and invites the reader into the experience of Iceland with wit and authority.
"Depth and breadth . . . wit and authority." Oh, I'm so flattered and I have way too many people to thank: Dr. Brian Gratwicke (my trusty sidekick and the photographer whose images made the book pretty), my awesome contributors, especially Gudni Johannesson and Eliza Reid (who fact checked and wrote interesting text boxes), Nick Gilroy, and Dennis Riege. My awesome editor Anna Moores, who was extremely patient and full of good ideas, not to mention smart, meticulous, and respectful of all my little primadonna moments. Thanks to Adrian Phillips, Tricia Hayne, Donald Greig, and the rest of the team at Bradt Travel Guides in England. The biggest thanks of all goes to Hilary Bradt who gave me a shot at writing a book. Thank you, Hilary.
To Iceland and the Icelanders, I can't say Takk enough. Thanks to Einar Gustavsson for his interest and longstanding support of my book project, to Magnus Gustavsson for his genuine kindness and promotion of the book, and to Ambassador Albert Jonsson for his personal support. I am indebted to way too many Icelanders to squeeze into a blog post, but please know how grateful I am to all of your contributions big and small.
Getting a Lowell Thomas means a lot to me, so a huge thanks to the Society of American Travel Writers. It's really nice to be recognized for a book that took a whole year to research and write.
So what will I spend my prize money on? A ticket, to somewhere.
October 15, 2008
Like so many travelers to Mexico before me, I picked up a souvenir case of Montezuma's Revenge (the Shrimp Ceviche sounded too authentic to miss). Then I made the mistake of going down to see the ship's doctor, who, in lieu of administering me any medicine, put me in quarantine for 24 hours. Aha! There's no vacation like quarantine, especially when you're paying for it. I tried to make the most of it, watching old movies, ordering room service every 20 minutes and trying to establish the ultimate Love in a Time of Cholera moment. Alas, sitting in your bed on a cruise ship with the sunny Pacific Ocean outside, well it kind of really sucks.
Oh, I understand the whole principle of keeping me away from the rest of the merry cruisegoers, but, but, but . . . . I spent a day of my tropical vacation in isolation! Alright, I'll get over it. OK, inhale, I think I'm over it. No hard feelings Holland America. I love your ship and your perky crew and your all day ice cream stand! You know, I might even go on another cruise with you some day. Next time though, don't expect me to tell you about my funny tummy.
October 1, 2008
September 26, 2008
I am now in search of more examples of recorded Cajun French (spoken, not sung). I recently found this clip from the 1948 movie, "Louisiana Story" in which a father tells his young son that he's "trop canaille" (too much of a scoundrel) before handing him his very first shotgun. Now I just gotta see this movie.
September 12, 2008
Two days later I attended a fantastic music and image presentation on the Crimean Tatars. Both the researcher and photographer used my book while traveling around Crimea this past summer, so I was flattered. Overall, a really quality project that really captured the essence of the place and the plight of the people. You can check out some of their fantastic pictures here: www.alisoncartwright.com. [Photo Credit: Alison Cartwright].
September 4, 2008
August 17, 2008
August 3, 2008
July 24, 2008
July 20, 2008
July 14, 2008
July 7, 2008
July 1, 2008
My writer friend Eliza Reid lives way up north in Iceland but still manages to get everywhere and anywhere on earth. As a new mother with an adorable son, Eliza's busy balancing words with walking lessons. She's also Canadian, so it's appropriate to have her guest star today, Canada Day. Here's a snippet from her travels across West Africa.
The Ségou “gare routière” (bus station) is milling with people. I arrive at 7am, buy a baguette with fried bananas and freshly grilled brochettes of beef, then make my way to the ticket booth to purchase the 5500 CFA ($13) one-way ticket to Sevaré, 350 km away.
I chat to the driver and the other bus employee on the trip, in case I need their help later on. One passenger offers to send 60 camels to my husband in Reykjavík in exchange for me staying with him; I scoff and he raises the offer to 80.
This bus is typical of most: the front windscreen is cracked in several places and an A3 sized posted of Amadou Toumani Touré, Mali’s President, is taped to the right-hand side, adding a further obstacle to the driver’s field of vision. West African pop music blasts from the speakers.
My small talk with the staff pays off and they assign me an aisle seat in the middle of the bus (safest) and by one of the small “sunroofs” – the windows don’t open, so the main door and the sun roofs are kept open to provide a small amount of respite from the heat. The colour scheme of the bus is based on a palette of “dirt” with “dust” accents.
The aisles are crammed with sacks of onions and bottles of local beer. The kaftan-wearing man across the aisle from me is muttering quietly to himself with his prayer beads. Does he know something I don’t?
The 9AM bus to Sevaré leaves promptly at 9:50am, tumbling east along Mali’s main tarmac road, the driver honking frantically to announce when we are about to overtake a slower van with people on the roof or a donkey and cart.
I have a good view of the driver in his tie-died shirt from the rear-view mirror. I can see when he picks his nose and his ears and when he yawns and rubs his eyes. I can see when he leans forward to pick something up off the floor or turns around to talk to his friends.
We stop at most of the villages along the way, usually small communities with mud houses and a mud mosque. Women and children clamber onto the bus to sell their wares – everything from sunglasses to plastic sacks of unfiltered water to oily clumps of dough or fresh peanuts. I buy some dough balls and give a couple to a little boy sitting near me. He smiles shyly and accepts.
The landscape is dusty, like seemingly all of Mali, and flat, dotted with baobab trees, huge termite mounds (a couple of metres high), shrubs, and fields of thin ripe millet, looking like anaemic corn stalks.
I can feel the sweat trickling down my back.
Mohammed, the bus company employee not driving, regularly climbs over the sacks in the aisle to inquire how I am. Am I too tired? Am I not too hot?
Nope. Everything’s great, Mohammed. I’m lovin’ every minute.
June 21, 2008
June 17, 2008
June 9, 2008
Laurence Mitchell is a fellow travel writer at Bradt and the author of guides to Serbia, Belgrade, and Kyrgyzstan. He's also a passionate wanderer who takes stunning photographs. To find out more about him, check out his website: www.laurencemitchell.com. I've been following his recent adventures in South Asia. Really, most extraordinary:
Movie-making in the Indian Subcontinent is not restricted to Mumbai and Bollywood: Pakistan has its very own Urdu-language ‘Lallywood’ based in Lahore, and Bangladesh has Dhallywood, the Bengali equivalent, in Dhaka. I took this photograph in Sylhet in Bangladesh’s northeast although really it could have been almost anywhere in the country. It has all the vital ingredients: well-fed moustachioed men, cartoon violence, pretty women with heaving cleavages, expensive cars. Of course, you don’t see any of this on the streets of Bangladesh – it’s an unashamed escapist fantasy world: Bangladeshis don’t want to waste their hard-earned taka on tasteful art-house documentaries that feature modestly veiled women, rickshaws and rice fields.
Sylhet is best known as a pilgrimage centre, being home to the shrine of the 14th-century Sufi saint Hazrat Shah Jalal. It is also the capital of the district where virtually all of the UK’s Indian restaurant staff hail from. So the rich, north Indian tandoori food that we love in the UK and consider to be ‘Indian’ is actually prepared by Bangladeshis who, as a rule, prefer simpler dishes of fish and rice. Some of this foreign-earned ‘curry money’ eventually filters back to Sylhet, as poor a town as any in this impoverished country. For reasons best known to themselves, Sylhet returnees seem to invest their hard-won savings in the property market – in state-of-the art, air-conditioned shopping centres, which no-one other than their fellow curry-wallahs can afford to shop in. Maybe it’s a case of too much Dhallywood fantasizing?
June 6, 2008
A quick update: wrote up my Paris trip for Intelligent Travel (Paris Sans Agenda) and a host of posh Paris hotel reviews for Business Traveler. I also self-righteously penned this piece on How to Pick the Right Guidebook. Wrote a story on Warsaw and another on Moscow and suddenly want to go back to both.
Alas, time for somewhere warm, so I am headed to fair and sunny Israel. In preparation I am reading Jerusalem: City of Longing by Simon Goldhill and enjoying his traveler's prose with scholarly undertones. Also, can't forget this, I made my early summer pilgrimage to New Jersey and took my first frozen dip of the season. I look forward to doing the same on the other side of the Atlantic next week. Hmmmm, Jersey Shore versus Tel Aviv. I'm looking forward to feeling the difference. Also in the cards this summer is gorgeous Connecticut, cool state Delaware, hot-as-blazes Panama, and then 400-year-old Quebec where I shall be celebrating New France.
Travels aside, what I'm really hoping to do is get away and write, write, write . . . without the interruption of the phone and the construction across the street. A quiet room with a cold glass of water and my new computer.
Yes, I have a new laptop and she's my new best friend. More later.
May 27, 2008
My friend Camille shares my addiction for travel and she's been EVERYWHERE. Here's a bit that she sent me from China--her one last fling before flinging herself off to the emerald city that is Dubai.
On my way to the Temple of Heaven, I was distracted for more than two hours watching individuals and groups engage in various forms of exercise, music, and merriment. Two separate groups of 30 to 50 couples were waltzing, and more than 75 women danced with fans. I saw groups balancing balls on racquets while walking, swaying, and turning around; walkers with ski poles; a group stretching dramatically to an elevator music rendition of Edelweiss, and young people riverdancing to trance music.
I heard loud cracking and realized it was a group of men cracking whips. One man motioned for me to try it, so I grabbed the whip and they all took a step back. A group of old men laughed together as they flew colorful kites. (Have you ever seen anyone over 60 flying a kite in the US?) Following a loud whirring noise, I found about 15 middle-aged men balancing and moving large tops on strings. The most accomplished twirler moved the top across his legs, over his head, and jumped jauntily over the top as it swung under his legs.
Next I discovered the musical section of the park. A harmonica band played while one woman danced; several choirs sang; and a group of about 80 people clapped rhythmically and chanted. The most entertaining sight was an old man with one tooth, a Santa Claus hat, and a frilly apron, lip-synching the high-pitched female part of a Peking opera while batting his eyelashes. Even the Chinese were gathered around laughing at the spectacle.
Photo by Camille Heaton
May 19, 2008
Up next is the Polish version of Iceland, which I am most excited about, given that a huge wave of travelers to Iceland are Poles (go figure). Even the signs in the public library are in Polish. All this after I just submitted an article on the hottest clubs and restaurants in Warsaw. Yes, I'm feeling all things Polish right now. Dzienkuje Bardzo National Geographic!
May 14, 2008
So the news is out, I'm doing another talk at the Smithsonian in July, entitled "The Insider's Washington, DC." I always love doing these, both for the audience members who are always so enthusiastic and for the chance I get to research a place in depth. Instead of something exotic, this time I'm covering my own backyard, wonderful Washington, DC! It's one of the most international places I know, so it's only fitting that I should be doing a travel lecture.
Find out more and purchase tickets by clicking here: Andrew Evans@Smithsonian
May 9, 2008
On a personal note, the film includes lengthy interview from Mart Laar, who I worked with throughout Ukraine. He truly is an inspiring man and it was nice to finally get the back story of the brave work he accomplished in his own country. Watching the film, I discovered that Mart was my age when he became Prime Minister of Estonia (!)
The song festival occurs every summer (July) and I am now keen to make it there one of these years. I love folk songs of any nation, and when song en masse in Estonian the music is neither creepy nor totalitarian--only peaceful and beautiful. In lieu of the film's official trailer, which you can see at www.singingrevolution.com, here's a clip from the singing festival itself (thanks to Estonian Television. Ltd.). The song is Ilus Maa which means simply "beautiful land".
P.S. Isn't the Estonian flag fantastic? Blue, black, and white.
May 2, 2008
The twenty-foot torpedo-shaped bombshell in the courtyard, ominously pointing at the chicken coop, admittedly, unnerved me a bit. Somehow I had missed this rather prominent piece of lawn decor while being swept, with effusive Turkmen hospitality, into my host family’s cinder-block home the night I had arrived in Serdar*, Turkmenistan. It was only in the early dawn of the next morning that, bleary-eyed with jetlag and focused on finding the outhouse, I stumbled into the projectile. By the end of the week, however, I was as comfortable propping myself against the cool gray shell to read Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas or to scribble in my journal as I was picking my way through Serdar’s dusty back streets, dodging past the occasional lazy, shaggy camel, on my “commute” to School #34. No one in the neighborhood seemed concerned by the bomb. There were, as I discovered soon enough, many more such relics strewn across the town’s low-level sprawl, remnants of a Soviet-era munitions plant. Empty threats transformed into items of strange, defiant beauty. Turkmenistan, despite the surreal legacies of Turkmenbashi’s megalomania, is not unlike those casings: hard and threatening at first glance, yet beneath the surface you find a surprising warmth and, yes, beauty.
*Formerly Gyzylarbat, but, like everything else in this most reclusive of the ‘stans, it had been renamed for the former President-for-Life – “serdar”=leader.
May 1, 2008
1. Buy the stinkiest, rawest Camembert you can, preferably from the town of Camembert in Normandy.
2. Wrap it in foil, but only right before you pack.
3. Bury the foil-wrapped cheese into your smelliest dirty clothes; socks are best. Close up your suitcase and check the bag*
4. Check yes on the customs form when it asks whether you are bringing food into the country.
5. When asked by a United States customs official if you are carrying food, merrily respond: "Why yes, look at these lovely chocolates I got in Duty Free!"
6. Pass through, go home, unwrap your cheese and pop it in the fridge.
OR . . .
7. Hide the cheese in your friend's suitcase and let them deal with it.
*If you've only got a carry on, then get the cheese shrink-wrapped or vacuum-packed. Remember though, don't leave it too long. A good cheese needs air to breathe.
April 22, 2008
Last week in Atlanta I gave a lengthy sermon on the joys of packing light, and so I intend to practice what I preach. This trip to Paris is carry-on only, TSA be damned. I'm basically bringing my tiny gym backpack, minus my terrorist deodorant, shaving cream and toothpaste (see . . . Paris is the perfect destination!). I maintain that you really only need three things when you travel: a passport, a ticket, and a big fat credit card.
C'est tout. Bon Voyage to me.
April 15, 2008
Had to add one more pic of me with Patricia Schultz! It's really nice to talk with someone who understands what it's like to write a strong and factual book about a place or many places. I've already read her books but after hearing her talk so passionately about America's great destinations, I am eager to explore much closer to home. In particular, I've got Quebec and Lake Winnipesaukee on my mind.
April 14, 2008
Back from Atlanta where I had a great time at their inaugural travel event. I spoke on "Iceland and other offbeat destinations" and was flattered by the great turnout. I had the pleasure of meeting Arthur and Pauline Frommer, who are amazing in their breadth of knowledge and travel experience. I'm astounded by how in touch they are with what travelers want. I also had a nice conversation with Patricia Schultz, who's even more inspiring in person than in her books. Among her many wise words was her line that "travel makes you a better person." She also bought a copy of my Iceland guide and I was truly touched.
I always have fun at travel shows for the people who are there, and for all the great destinations featured. Among the lot in Atlanta, I was most fascinated by representation from some of the Caribbean's smaller islands (Montserrat, Nevis, Anguilla), Nicaragua, Tahiti, and Zanzibar. I hope to see all those places soon. Thanks to NaTour Communications for the invitation to Atlanta, and thanks to Borders for selling my books!
April 9, 2008
Out of print books are usually the best ones. These are stories that entertained for a time and then were put to rest by a market of attention-deficient readers. When a friend recommended the book "An Island to Oneself" by Tom Neale, I tracked it down on Amazon (with great difficulty) and got it about three weeks later. When it showed up, I started reading around 7 pm and finished at 8 o'clock the next morning. The book tells the true story of Tom's quest to live alone and in peace on a miniscule islet in the South Pacific called Suwarrow (Suvarov).
I think every human has that desire to escape to the quietest, remotest place he or she can find and simply be. It's the very subject of Yeat's poem "The Lake Isle of Innisfree" and a common sentiment among most sentient beings.
Today, Suwarrow is no longer an unknown entity. It's now a target destination for passionate yachties, who can range from a respectable bunch of travelers to an undesirable sort. Luckily it's the former who frequent Suwarrow (seemingly). A quick flickr search reveals dozens of snapshots from the island, including a monument to author Tom Neale with the inscription "Tom Neale lived his dream on this island".
I once spent a week alone on a deserted Caribbean island, though that is another story altogether. It was less idyllic than one might think because surviving is hard work. I especially related to Tom's frustration with husking coconuts. Not an easy task at all.
So now I am doing what everyone must do with out of print books. Passing it on to a friend.
April 3, 2008
Roy Chapman Andrews had his own set of standards which he laid out in his book This Business of Exploring (1935):
To meet the popular conception of an explorer a man must have suffered cold, heat, starvation, fever, attacks from wild animals and savage natives and must have been bitten by snakes.
Is that all? Well, let's see then:
- COLD? Check. Fell through the ice in the Gulf of Finland, air temperature -40°
- HEAT? Check. Phoenix, Arizona in July; 120° F. Suffered severe nausea from heat exhaustion
- STARVATION? Check. Ukraine, 1995. Lost a pound per day for 3 weeks straight as there was no food.
- FEVER? Check. Crimean Peninsula. 104° fever for 3 days.
- ATTACK (from wild animal)? Check. Bit by wild mongoose in Hwange, Zimbabwe.
- ATTACK (by savage natives)? Check. Beat up by street hooligans in England.
- BITTEN by snakes: Check. Bit three times on the wrist by wild garter snakes held captive by my older brother.
March 31, 2008
Zimbabwe holds a special place in my heart, for a whole bunch of reasons. That's where my thoughts are this morning as the country counts up the votes in this most crucial election and hopefully rids itself of a man who is nigh overdue for retirement. No matter what happens, the next 36 hours will be historic. I snapped this picture more than five years ago high up in the eastern highlands of Zimbabwe. After showing me their mud hut filled with chickens, this boy and his older brother followed me around for most of the morning. That means he's about 12 years old today. I sincerely hope that when he wakes up tomorrow, he has a new president who's name doesn't rhyme with 'mug me'.
March 24, 2008
FYI, just got confirmation that I am a featured speaker at the Atlanta Travel Expo on April 12, 2008. Despite my status as a totally D-list travel writer I will be speaking right before Arthur and Pauline Frommer of Frommer's travel empire. Followed by Patricia Shultz (of "A Zillion Places To See Before You Die" fame). In my head, I'm pretending that I'm the opening act. I'll be talking mainly about Iceland and how to get lost anywhere in the world and enjoy it. After which I'll be signing books over at Border's. I'm told that discerning Georgians are already lining up to get their autographed copy of Iceland. Meanwhile I'm looking forward to spending some time in this spunky Southern city, meeting all the folks at the show and catching up with some old friends.
March 20, 2008
March 19, 2008
This week for Gridskipper, I wrote my post on NoMa, Washington DC's attempt to revitalize the no man's land of vacant lots and boring office buildings just north of Massachusetts Avenue, NE. Admittedly, I feel a tad guilty mocking anyone's attempt to improve the city but I really think the trifecta of city planners, real estate moguls, and the federal government is an unholy alliance that definitely deserves a degree of ridicule. I'm more in favor of organic, bottoms-up urban development rather than hype borne from the boardroom.
The upside was that I got to take myself on a field trip into the so-called NoMa corridor, which felt a bit like a totally separate city than the one I live in. Periodically you do get a glimpse of the capitol building, but otherwise, it's all kind of barren and strange. The exception is the awesome brick behemoth that is the United States Office of Printing and Engraving. If only they would go condo! I am tempted to start a campaign to Bring Back Swampoodle, the old Irish shanty town that they are now trying to relabel as NoMa. I think if only they did a survey, they'd find more people in favor of Swampoodle.
March 14, 2008
What do you get when your friend has to rush off to Islamabad as a last minute observer in Pakistan's presidential elections and you agree to take care of her cat? This gorgeous packet of Halwa, the near eastern sweet that is not only delectable, but wrapped up so prettily that I dare not open it. Thank you Rachel! How I adore festive packaging and how I love food smuggled in from faraway places. It's a close second to actually traveling there.
March 11, 2008
Found this ad in The Economist and had a little moment of wait, huh, what? Finland's trying to get smart, skilled people to move there because I guess their own people have moved elsewhere. In three seconds I imagined a parallel existence of me living in Finland and being ruddy and hip and paying gigantic taxes. Still, it made me dream, not unlike the posters of last century that drew huddling European masses to the free expanses of the Dakotas or Oklahoma. Most likely I will think of Finland for the rest of the day.
To the ad people, one tiny nitpick: my pet peeve as a travel writer is anyone referring to anywhere as a "pearl". Pearls are pearls, sweet old ladies are called Pearl, and a good pal can be called 'a gem'. Still, I can list about 20 countries/cities that claim to be the pearl of such and such. It's tiresome. I'm dying to get to Finland, but not for it's pearl-like qualities. Just because it's Finland, that's all.
March 7, 2008
March 4, 2008
Wrote a blog post on Eritrean culture in Washington, DC and now I wanna go see the real thing, obviously. More important I discovered a group of islands that have somehow escaped my knowledge and years of heavy atlas addiction. The Dahlak Archipelago lies in the Red Sea, betwixt Eritrea and Yemen. It is my dream to get myself there now, now, as they say in Africa. A quick googling also reveals about half a dozen Eritrean restaurants in America called 'Dahlak'. The trend appears to be a subtle territorial claim not unlike that of my Argentinian crewmate on my college rowing team in England who christened our new boat "Las Malvinas Argentinas". Ahem. Anyway, must get myself to the islands of Dahlak and I'm even checking flights for spring break. They say the diving is exceptional.
March 1, 2008
Dydd Gwyl Dewi Hapus! Happy St. David's Day! On March 1st we celebrate the patron saint of Wales and the the national holiday of CYMRU. That means wear a daffodil or a leek and be proud. Will do. Ah, but to speak Welsh well, too! I made a fair attempt when I lived in Britain with two years of language classes and a stint in the Welsh choir. Alas, I am still very much an American poseur with a Welsh last name, but a name that I carry very proudly. It comes from my great-great-great grandfather John Thomas Evans who left his little hamlet in southwest Wales and came to America. He later traveled back to Wales and 'walked and walked' all over the country, converting people to his faith. I have also walked lots in Wales. It is a country made for walking and a most beautiful place to be. What I find most amazing is being only four hours from London and meeting people who have never been to London. Llundain? Wales remains a western frontier.
On this St. David's Day I plan on celebrating with my very own Eisteddfod and doing what Welsh people do best: read, play music, and fight tyranny with fire-breathing dragons. Shall we start with a round of the Welsh national anthem, sung so gallantly by the Welsh Rugby Team and their adoring fans, of which I am one? Ladies and Gentleman, please stand for Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau.
February 29, 2008
A day that only happens once every four years is worth a post, eh? Thus I dedicate my Leap Year to a beloved animal that I have yet to meet in person, the Okapi. I recently saw (a dead, stuffed) one at the Natural History Museum and felt so inspired that I got a little choked up. The Okapi looks so gentile; with such awkward gazes, big ears and it's zebra-striped bottom, how can one not be endeared towards this creature? Everyone has their little list of animals they want to see in the wild, and the Okapi is one of my top ten. Alas, it lives in the DRC which is about as dysfunctional home as you can have (if only animals could vote or form militias). If the 15,000 remaining Okapi can hold out until I get to Africa next, I shall be eager to try and spot one. My target destination will be the Okapi Wildlife Reserve. And they even have a blog!
February 28, 2008
February 26, 2008
Pacaya Volcano in Guatemala, about a month ago. I've never seen real lava up close so I had to just get that bit closer. Had to see if I could touch it with my walking stick, you know, to "touch lava". Well, in about three seconds the stick burned up and I singed all the hair off the right side of my face just for the sake of this picture. I learned for myself the great primordial lesson that lava is really, really hot. Don't try this at home.