Would you rather listen to a toddler screaming in discomfort on an airplane, or to his self-soothing music video of “Baby Shark” on repeat?
Posts Categorized: Travel
Multilinguisme est le meilleur cadeau
qu’un enfant peut recevoir
pendant les années formatrices
J’aurais dû parler le français et le suédois
comme mes principales langues familiales
J’aurais dû, mais
le déni de langue de mes ancêtres a traduit par
un monde fermé dépourvu de capacité à communiquer
J’aurais dû, mais
la pression de l’homogénéité
anéantit la langue maternelle des citoyens américains
génération par génération
Mon arrière-grand-père franco-canadien
et mes arrière-arrière-grands-parents suédois
étaient les immigrants les plus récents
qui cherchaient une opportunité
dans le mythique rêve américain
Je suis un Erickson paternel
Ma grand-mere n’apprenait pas ses sons suédois
car ses parents et ses grand-parents ont jugé
être en sécurité pour s’adapter
Ma grand-mère, effacée de Suède,
mon grand-père, le fils d’un évadé Canadien
Je suis un Longe paternel
elle a légalement ajouté l’accent aigu
en héritage pour mon père
qui est devenu un Longé
Elle espérait que cela inspirerait
moins de mauvaises prononciations
d’un beau nom de famille français
l’accent n’a fait qu’ajouter
de la confusion à un système
La pression des États-Unis
pour une langue singulière
opprime et supprime
maintenant mon inclination à rêver
dans un nouveau tonalité
J’ai toujours senti les échos français en moi
La langue flotte
sa résonance et sa percussion
comme un colibri
en remuant l’air
Longe (nom) : corde, lanière
Mes lignées ancestrales de France et de Suède
ont été dépassées par la fierté enracinée au plus profond
des sols de la Révolution américaine
Longé (passé composé de la verbe longer) : aller le long de
Comme c’est ironique d’être marqué
la longueur de l’itinéraire assigné
se rendre complice de…
Seul un sous-ensemble de personnes pâles
sur une petite île
était destiné à maintenir l’anglais
Mais il s’est manifesté dans le monde entier
grâce à la colonisation, au génocide
et à une extraction culturelle plus poussée
L’homogénéité n’est pas naturelle
On ne le trouverait nulle part
dans le réseau interdépendant complexe
et dynamique de cette planète
de la végétation
Notre société humaine, elle aussi
bénéficie de la diversité en équilibre
Poussez quoi que ce soit trop loin de chaque côté
forcer la singularité là où elle n’a pas besoin d’exister
et la vie intelligente exige à s’égaliser
En apprenant le français, je découvre
la racine pivotante sous tant
de mots et de phrases en anglais
Je tire et creuse, creuse et tire
Je suis une ligne à l’autre
chacun empêtré à chaque intersection
J’aurais dû parler le français, mais
c’est le gâchis actuel
de ma lignée atrophiée au langage.
Here’s the deal with this trip. “Trip” is the best word I can find for it, as it’s neither vacation nor honeymoon, nor residency, nor vagabonding, nor holiday. We’re mostly working remotely in other people’s homes: some rentals, some housesits; some more suited to our needs than others. I haven’t written or shared much in these three months abroad, but my trusty notebook has captured evidence of fun highlights, learning moments, tourist itineraries, incredible meals, community connections, and widened perspectives.
My personal journey throughout this extended trip—by which I mean epic pratfall—has been bumpy and riddled with confusion, to say the least. Feeling creatively constipated and generally adrift, a chance encounter with a random youtube video that played out of nowhere (God, is that you?) invited me to focus ninety minutes every morning for ninety consecutive days on a singular project. I accepted this challenge in late November. Why wait for December?
Initially unclear on which one project to develop, I discovered my delight in playing with the many photographs I’d taken in the previous seven weeks. I downloaded a software tool that offered enough editing dials for free, though I admit some of the subscription-locked bells and whistles would be useful. Homesick for my two-going-on-three-year-old tradition of handmade holiday cards, I decided these photos needed captions. The French verb chercher (to look for, to seek) echoed in my mind after our inaugural dogsit in Mont Saxonnex with a pair of truffle hunters trained to Cherche! on command. A few days later, a kind elderly Parisian couple spotted my consternation amidst a busy sidewalk and asked, Vous cherchez quelque chose (Are you looking for something)? Thanks to them, we caught our train. Piecing together the repetition of this action word with my own overall loss of direction, the series in this gallery took shape under the rule to begin each caption with Je cherche (I seek). Another rule: because they’re in French, they’re in cursive. It’s a thing, and I don’t know why.
Here’s the deal with this series. It’s a game. It’s a game to help me rekindle creative impulses. It’s a game to channel my energy, to begin each day in a playful state. It’s a game of wordplay made trickier by intertwining English and French idiosyncrasies that both fog in translation. It’s a game of casual laissez-faire, as I haven’t been exporting the full-quality photo files, so they end up a bit fuzzy-looking. It’s a game to render travel memories more interactive, rather than dooming them to an untouched, unseen album. It’s a game (within a game) of hide-and-seek; sometimes I forget where I hid the caption, and what I wrote. It’s a game to force me outside, to observe, explore, and take more photos when the coffer runs low. It’s a game to appreciate how many photos I might edit in a ninety-minute session; to appreciate how many photos I might have in the series at the end of ninety days. It’s a game due to conclude in late February. It’s a game for me to notice where I’d make slight aesthetic adjustments. It’s a game I didn’t intend to share, yet displaying “imperfect” work offers me a chance to edge out of my comfort zone.
I have another month to go, so you’ll find more photos in the gallery along the way. They’re currently organized by locale in alphabetical order, which isn’t chronological. I’m working on the blog bug that’s separating upload batches into their own alphabetized sections…very unexpected. I intend to add image descriptions and make this gallery accessible to everyone. (Contact me if you’d like to contribute your hand at describing one or a selection of images! Audio/image description is a great tool to sharpen and practice.) When I have access to and time with a larger monitor, I intend to re-order the gallery into a curated story sequence based on the captions, which will mix up the locations.
Comments about the series, photos, or captions are welcome on this page; see below. Right-click on this gallery link, then select the first option “open link in new tab” for most ease to return here. Once you click to enlarge a photo from the display grid, you can view the fullscreen(ish) photos with your left/right arrow keys. Be patient; they might be slow to open. If you aren’t a fan of mystery, I recommend having this translation search open in another tab. Remember to refresh the page to see the rest of my 90-day progress populate the gallery, through March at the latest.
Enjoy! Bon appétit!
The sensation of time passage feels like a week at most, and yet also like a quarter of a year in this goofy autumnal hourglass. The feral cat and 11+ year-old mighty duck are self-sufficient compared to the (easy) 5 year-old and (needy) 3 month-old dogs. The puppy dominates our attention and steers our daily schedule toward brief bouts of work punctuated with outdoor drinks of fresh air below the Bargy mountains.
Our housesitting residence was originally a high barn loft perched atop a small two-bedroom residence built in the 1860s. Our hosts spent the first two years of ownership in the original ground floor residence while they converted the upper barn space into a two-story, five-bed-two-bath layout. It’s a continued work in progress after 18 years; the kitchen recently received a new oven unit to replace the antique woodstove. A young family of four from California started their yearlong downstairs rental in July, so we’ve landed in a surreal US west coast normalcy. Their residence on the ground floor shares a dividing wall with the original cowshed, which was converted into a one-bedroom apartment, rented for years to a kind Frenchwoman who loves dogs and feeds the puppy chex mix.
The access road Chemin des Voyis is named for this hamlet, off the main switch-back arterial to Mont Saxonnex, and the house numbers here indicate the metric distance of the building from the arterial. The great-great-grandson, born and raised here, lives across the street to the south with his children and grandchildren. It was either his great- or great-great-grandfather who settled this acreage in the late 1800s and who built this central barn-cow-house. The two or three surrounding houses in this hamlet are still in the family, owned either by his cousins or other relatives. He tends an enormous garden on his plot, and feeds apples to the cows in the field to the north, adjacent to the garden and tool sheds here.
We’ve eaten heartily from the ample garden to spare the produce from seasonal rot: cabbage, eggplant, leeks, beets/greens, kale, nasturtium, beans, carrots, pears, onion, and zucchini! Loads of zucchini, ou courgette en français. A week ago, we hunkered down for a 2- or 3-day thunderstorm event, complete with photograph-worthy lightning bolts that danced on the surrounding rocky ridges. The elder dog Meg hid in every tiny corner while the puppy played, oblivious to the commotion. We’ve felt right at home, yet suddenly married with young children, staying hydrated with Evian-fresh tap water and strangely interacting with very few French locals due to our distance from the sleepy, pre-ski-season town center.
1. the experience, as a free-write dictation in December 2015
5 am sunrise in Napier:
The horizon flips to keep the night sky in the ocean. The sorbet lining between shades of blue. Birds chattering like 50 alarm clocks sounding at once, overlapped and enthusiastic. Dawn is so far underway that only one star/planet is visible despite my strained search of the clear sky. Two. I thought the first was an airplane. One in the east, one directly opposite in the west. The east star looks like two linked together, which I vaguely remember from either the Sydney observatory or my friend’s telescope.
The dark red amber transitions to gold, revealing a ship in the distance. It’s just the birds, ocean, trees and pathway, and myself. This is my morning ice cream, crisp to the touch. A bicyclist chirps “Morning!” as he passes in a whip of wind.
An enormous log lay beached on the sand. Did the ocean toil all night to birth you there? The waves gently lap and kiss you, to bid farewell after a tumultuous separation.
Gold brightens further to yellow. The clouded horizon softens and blurs, the cloud wisps above sharpen in contrast, cotton candy striped in orange-pink-blue. Impatiently patient. The log is a prehistoric jaw curved upward with a great warthog tooth.
The west planet now barely detected; the eastward sisters shine through bubblegum candy floss. Another greeter of dawn walks the footpath. My form is further exposed in the light: bare feet shoved into untied shoes, baggy pajama pants, ski coat, haphazard scarf. My wild nest of hair untouched by smoothing eyes or fingers after the pillow worked her night shift.
Bubblegum taffy evolves to neon orange, soft cotton of the baby blue blanket further beyond. The horizon light pales, stripping itself of depth and character. The whiteness/witness of the pastel yellow bores. Yawn. How ordinary.
I am a mountain on these black pebbles. Firmly planted and aligned, growing every breath. Tall with light and energy, casting shadows around my periphery. The she-ocean crashed along my toes, tickling to entice me away from my foothold. The foamy sirens eager and clambering for their mother to take me for herself.
A red belly grows behind the skirt of smog, the glowing orb pushing its way up from the golden-lit water at the extreme edge of the earth’s end. Then it’s lost again in thick congestion. The neon cotton bleached white in the wake of approaching sun, paled and perhaps by fear or apprehension, or cowering in reverence.
Ah, this is the bulbous glow that stretches now beyond the reflected windows, over the deco rooftops. A concentrated light forms backstage, ready for the 5-minute call.
The clouds deceived. Morning glow emerges as a surprise, catching the earthly circle off guard. The radiance is all colors at once, so intense only short glances will keep your irises intact. What a grand entrance. Swift and steadily, as if the pulleys were freshly tested and mended for this grand spectacle. Hello, Sun. Good morning. Your rays push blush to my face, carve contours on my outer layers. It won’t be long now, for you to suspend for another seven hours, leaping higher across the convex arch. I’ll see you then. Now I go, return to the woven blankets and threadbare bedding. Tell your night’s journeys to the ocean; she’s eager for company.
2. shaped into poetry or lyrics in April 2020
NAPIER’S FIVE A.M.
Multitudinous avian alarms chime and peal. The main holds the night sky in a flipped horizon.
Sorbet slices between shades of blue. This is my morning ice cream, crisp to the touch.
Deep red amber kneads to gold.
An enormous log lay in the surf. Did the sea toil all night to birth you there?
Her waves gently lap and kiss you, to bid farewell after a tumultuous separation, your prehistoric drift jaw curved into a giant warthog tooth.
Gold brightens to pale yellow.
The clouded skyline softens, blurs while wisps sharpen, cotton candy stripes canary-orange-pink.
Impatiently patient, shining on my wild nest of hair untouched by smoothing eyes following the pillow’s night shift.
Neon orange shifts to bubblegum taffy.
Shadow mountains cast on beach pebbles, firmly planted and aligned.
Skyline pales and strips its depth and character.
Soft baby blues beyond.
She-ocean crashes toward my toes, tickling, enticing me from this foothold; foamy sirens eager and clambering for their mother to take me for her own.
A red belly grows from within smog’s skirt, the glowing orb pushing its way up out of the earth’s extreme edge.
Ah, this is the bulbous irradiance stretching now beyond reflections, over the deco rooftops. What a grand entrance.
Swiftly and steadily, rising true, as if his roped pulleys were freshly tested and mended for this canorous spectacle.
Hello, Sun; good morning. Your rays blush my apples, carve contours in my creases.
Your suspense will expire, leaping higher across the convex arch.
Sing your night’s journey to the sea; she welcomes your camaraderie.
I lift my gaze from the sidewalk to lock eyes with a beautiful, petite red-headed baby who’s maybe five or six months old.
From the bundled confines of the stroller, their entire tiny face stretched into a bright smile: toothless mouth agape, brows raised high.
We simultaneously exchange an inaudible, “Wow!”
“What were you showing our young American friend?” my Kiwi hostel roommate Linda asks my Dutch bunkmate Marian in a scathing tone with a sideways glance. She’s trying to change the subject and reinsert herself in this accidental trio, a fellowship of traveling artists of varied disciplines. Linda sips from her latest mug of wine while Marian and I silently negotiate how to work together as allies. We sense that she hasn’t sufficiently finished with her share of the conversation.
I’d seen Linda alone in our four-bed dorm a few times throughout the past five days, perched with her back to the room and her feet up against the window, a mug within reach on the sill. She’d laugh obnoxiously at her favorite YouTube videos or other loud phone-sourced entertainments. I’d quickly learned that she warms to attention and screeches at disdain.
Linda appears irritated that we’ve momentarily excluded her to revisit and wrap-up our private conversation, which had been interrupted moments earlier by Linda’s own grand entrance and announcement that she’d just walked out on a longtime friendship: “I’ve had a falling out with my Asian friend from Singapore!” It ended over an argument at dinner regarding whether Paris had changed. Linda said she “wasn’t trying to win,” per se.
Before Linda dramatically entered with a swath of wool cape and champagne hiccups, Marian had shown me a printed catalogue of her textile paintings. I’d connected with Marian almost immediately, after an initial day of gauging her distant niceties which she later admitted to, explaining that it takes her a couple days to truly converse with hostel roommates because they’re just strangers she might never see again. Per Marian’s prescription, our fourth roommate was often absent or silently buried opposite me in her upper bunk; it was a frigid week and I suspect she was nursing a cold.
This evening, it’s just us three in the room, duking it out in an intense conversation about the state of the world. The intensity is facilitated, of course, by Linda. A quick sample of Linda’s gem one-liners: Giving thanks is what it’s all about. . . Argentine Tango is the only one. … What’s your inner passion? Your inner journey? … Far out! … We had the chance for self-sustainability, and we sold ourselves to China. … I wouldn’t dare ask for a refund. … America should fucking well mind their own business. France should — do you believe Bush blew up the twin towers?
To answer Linda’s present question, Marian politely offers her the catalogue, and she refuses it with a back-handed wave: “What would I do with it.” Marian asks Linda why her newly-broken friendship affects her so much, if Linda is in fact not sorry that she’s called it off forever. When Linda thinks, she turns her head over her right shoulder. “…Love, peace and joy,” she finally declares with her hands clasped.
Linda is a self-proclaimed “researcher of the heart.” “When you go into the heart,” she waxes, “it gets bigger and bigger. You see the city skyline, but that’s not reality. And you think, far out, how much more space can my heart…? When you go within, you want to burst in tears because there’s something you need to express.” I think I follow. She’s a heavily-buzzed, far more eccentric septuagenarian version of myself.
While Marian and I pack for our next day of travel, Linda goes on for her captive audience, reading passages from her Santiago guide book as if it’s beatnik poetry. Her head falls back, eyes wide, jaw open: “Far out!” She practices her posture for tango, arms clumsily swinging around for balance. She tips into the bars of the bunk bed. This woman, who’s researching the heart and her capacity to feel and “take-in the enormity of the world,” haughtily and unapologetically blames “the Arabs” who “cheated her of 10 Euros” because “they’re Muslim.” And this is the woman who thinks Gone with the Wind is an accurate account of how “slaves must’ve been treated well.” She enjoys talking in stream of consciousness, particularly about herself, and immediately forgets what she said a mere moment ago.
Exeunt. Out she goes. Marian and I take a breath. I have a chance to jot down a few more diamonds from the rough: I was so tired after ten kilometers, so I sat at a cafe and a voice said, “Have faith.” Faith is the answer. … Mustard seeds and mountains — I’m still trying to figure that out. … I have one fault, and it’s drinking too much wine.
The truth is, I agree with Linda on several subjects and levels of thought. There’s something about her manner and privilege, though, that turns me off. I see her through a gated fence, one that occasionally opens for tender moments, and quickly closes again when my lip curls in disgust at her blatant prejudice and lush qualities. Linda is deceptively poised and proper despite her display of wine-drunk contradictions and flamboyant gestures of attempted grace. She’s certainly a curious spectacle to behold. I have an empathetic taste for the dysfunctional family she briefly mentions: “I’m the one who flew. I’m the black sheep.” I feel sorry for her, too, and I’m in awe of her choice to exclusively travel and live in youth hostels for three (or more) years. That’s a long time to function as a socialite out of a suitcase, especially when one is quick to put people off the moment one opens her mouth.
Linda returns with a clean blue mug. Never mind the stack of collected red mugs on the desk, sticky with rings of dried wine. I field more of her blunt, abrasive questions about America, consistently followed by more ignorant assumptions based on her one-time reading of Gone with the Wind. It’s shocking to remember what little is taught to other countries’ schoolchildren about US history (and that’s true for the other way around), in addition to the humbling reminder that accurate and multi-perspective US history is scarcely taught even to US schoolchildren (based on the prevalence of biased books and lesson plans). I try not to voice my disgust in reaction to Linda’s poorly-informed opinions. She goes to the bottle again to top-up the petite mug.
The hostel’s fire alarm takes a turn to interrupt. Without a word, Linda instantly disappears. After about thirty minutes outside, while everyone huddles in the wind-tunnel of a driveway, I finally spot her darting to and fro among the college kids. When we three reconvene in our room, Linda explains, “I survived the earthquakes in Christchurch. You learn to take the essentials. Warm clothes and GO. I felt guilty for bolting and leaving you to be trapped in the elevator.” Marian and I exchange a subtle head tilt.
Marian embodies an admirable level of grace and compassion, particularly when Linda refocuses these vino-fueled eccentricities toward her. (Linda eventually tired of my lack of satisfactory participation). I detect Marian’s growing annoyance when Linda refills again and carries on for another forty-five minutes at least. By the time she’s reached the end of the bottle, Marian and I are clearly tucked in and ready to fall asleep. I catch a couple of Marian’s glances up to me as if to say “Is she real?” during Linda’s inexhaustible laps from the window (city lights) to the desk (last drops).
Linda is “overwhelmed by the world” and “the size of her heart,” yet she “doesn’t let the world into her heart.” NOW she’s speaking to me, the innermost me…except for that last bit about not allowing the world into her heart. I don’t know what she means by that. Then she asserts: “I’m not religious. Sickening.” I try not to spit-take my water at that surprising delivery. She exalts, “Even I go in a cathedral and stand agog.” I get a top-row view of her pageant-esque reenactment of cartoonish reverence between the bunk beds (transformed into miniature flying buttresses of Notre Dame). Linda deliberately turns to each of our four walls, one by one, to repeat a ritualistic display of encompassing arms and gaping mouth. She’s pleased with her performance and concludes, “Humans forget to look up.”
Before the resonance of her pithy observation fades into silence, Linda snaps off the light.
Cheers to you, Linda and Marian, wherever you are today. Cheers to a new year of wonder and compassion, connection and patience, inspiration and purpose. To more chance meetings. To new perspectives. What will you see?
The week started on Monday with a cast-all for each of the sixty-three kids present at the audition. Minus one: a Pea-Wee was too overwhelmed at the audition and left before the cast announcements. One down, sixty-two to go.
When the first rehearsal started, a 16-year-old Scout quit, claiming a conflict. This wasn’t the first time a Scout quit within an hour of casting. Halfway through the first rehearsal, an assistant director quit with a similar excuse, yet she’d joined the final five minutes of the audition, begging us to be part of the show somehow. Five assistant directors wouldn’t hurt. A Seasider quit after the audition, too.
On Tuesday, another Scout quit. She was in tears trying to explain that she’s not usually a quitter, but she’s just not happy being in a group of kids out of her circle. We agreed on her changing to assistant director to keep her involved. Another student showed up with her mom, asking if she could still be in the show even though she was sick and absent from the first rehearsal. I said of course, and to come to the next rehearsal for the Seasiders. I have yet to see or hear from her again.
Come Wednesday, one of the remaining assistant directors agreed to taking over a vacant role, and we accommodated the blocking and dialogue to balance out this new twelfth player. Ilaya and Heather were out sick. In rehearsal, kids started dropping like Londoners in 1800. Our Gil had to mark his voice to ease a sore throat; Preston had to lay down; Molly had to sit out due to a sore leg.
Thursday. I excused Preston from rehearsal before we started; he vomited in the office while awaiting his ride. Casey the Pea-Wee had been home all day, sick from school. Ilaya and Heather were still missing. Molly sat out with a fever. I sent Gil home early to kick whatever bug started to bite his stomach, throat, and head. Laura was homesick, and an assistant director read Ophelia’s lines.
Friday morning, I got a call from Gil’s dad, who informed me of Isaiah’s infirmity, which sounded serious. Rumors were flying about why Heather wouldn’t perform: broken leg, sprained foot, birthday party…? Her stepmom straightened things out by informing us that Heather lives with her mom this weekend, out of town. Heather had said bupkis about any of this – she just disappeared. Preston was still home, recovering. Trace had to lie down during rehearsal with a sore stomach, and later, Hannah complained about an upset stomach. Laura rejoined us, but Jennifer (another assistant director) stepped in for Heather. Alex, our one male assistant director, saved me from performing Gil’s role.
By the time our audience arrived Friday evening, I applied three or four band-aids to bleeding arms and legs, retrieved ice packs for bonked heads and strained joints, and crammed wadded gauze in an infected ear. I used our costume kit’s hot glue gun to fix Sara’s broken shoe sole. Finally, our masking-turned-set-walls fell over onto the children both onstage and backstage at least twice during our run-throughs prior to showtime.
I have no memory of the performance. The costumes were sorted, the set pieces packed, and off we drove to the next town to start the entire process once again. Another school, another cast, another collection of maladies.