Friday night, June, Juneau: Listening to Leo Kottke and taking in the wonder of our yard while babies slumber!
RIP our daughter’s first best friend
We lost Alex this week after only having had him eight months, same age Imogen was when we adopted him.
From the beginning he proved himself to be a capable babysitter…
…except he never learned you’re supposed to pretend you were awake the whole time.
Most of the photos in this post are all from the first month or two. I keep thinking about how happy he made all of us, especially her.
Jacob liked to say that he acted like a reincarnated old miner, the way he held down our corner of 12th and Irwin. True to form, he managed to carve out a huge space for himself in a very short time. He leaves a huge hole behind.
This is random, but notice the cat-shredded bar stool in the picture below:
RIP in kitty heaven.
Mom on the loose, Vol. II: Richard Thompson show
His beautiful voice, and suddenly it’s 1999: I’m emptying my apron after work at the Trempealeau Hotel and find a “Keep this coupon” on the back of which my friend had written “Eva Cassidy” — I do keep it, for eighteen years.
In April 2017 I go to my dad’s house with the intention of having a look at the gifts from my baby shower that I wasn’t able to take with me the last time I was home.
I am so excited to do this but once there I lie down next to my daughter and text by lamplight the friend still in town who has since moved, and felt so peaceful, but never did go through the stuff.
In 2013 one of my favorite poets visited me at my home in Istanbul, and he shouldn’t have been sick even part of one of his days in Turkey, but he was able to come out and walk around the island and eat fish with us.
Man, that is far away now, but I really had pulled the cot in my room on top of the island right up to the radiator and watched the snow fall while worrying about then-boyfriend Jacob in Donetsk, Ukraine;
and Jacob is the husband who not only got me the ticket to this show, but told me to sneak in a beer which I’d scoffed at but which was the right move: no one is going to take a beer from a mom on her first wedding anniversary.
Who knows where the time goes: by Eva Cassidy as I once knew it, by Richard Thompson… every one-syllable word is weighted: sometimes with just a time, sometimes with just a place, sometimes with both,
like my grandparents arriving at our house on Christmas Eve in the eighties, and twenty years later driving my grandma home through town to look at the lights for the last time.
And now I wear her wedding ring on the hand that’s holding an Alaskan beer in a coozie as I write in my journal at a show, but that’s how we become, by little leaps, and by big bounds.
Thirty-six hours in Gustavus, Alaska
Imogen Charlotte turns one year old a week from today! At first I was a little peeved at Jake for setting up a Labor Day trip (albeit a mini one) in between Ted’s visit and Mom’s visit, but I decided (not to just roll with but) to try to get excited about it.
Then I started to pack, and, even though we’d only be gone one night (I have said this many times before) we needed everything – clothes for every type of weather, every electronic and its corresponding cord, e.g.) we would need for a week or more.
Somehow, by 7:15 a.m. we’d started the 4 1/2 hour journey to Gustavus, gateway to Glacier Bay National Park. On the ferry, Imogen enjoyed alternating back and forth between saying “hi” to everyone and speed-crawling toward the bolts on the bottom of the benches, which she liked to lick.
In Gustavus we checked into Jan and Ela’s Wild Alaska Inn which I would totally recommend as they and their place are very warm, especially on the rainiest of days (that take a bit of gumption to get out in, I might add).
We did one short trail and tucked in for the night. (Woodstove and cedar-plank salmon.) As it would happen, the next day (today, Tuesday) was gorgeous and after we both finished our work went for more of a proper walk to check out “town.”
And I had been thinking (the whole past year, but especially this month) about Imogen’s birth and the anger and hurt I unfortunately still feel toward my midwife who completely phoned it in, but also about the fact that people can be such hypocrites and phonies,
when a car went by with the sticker that looked like one of those stick-figure families, but it was either a snake or a pile of poop, that said “let that shit go” and I had to smile; it was just about the right amount of toughness and truth.
Ted/Nina/Stevie epic Juneau stop as seen by Aunt Jame!
Trail baby_Imogen Charlotte at eleven months
Two more holidays and two-digit months old: Imogen Charlotte at 10 mos.!!
Road Baby: Imogen Charlotte at 4 mos.
We did quite a bit of traveling around in Imogen’s fourth month: San Francisco to O’Hare to Oshkosh; back to O’Hare, to Cabo San Lucas and Todos Santos, and back to Cabo; back to San Francisco, to Petaluma and all over West (Sonoma) County; finally, to Juneau (where we are now).
Jessica and Nick were lovely hosts and it was a thrill to see their beautiful place Casa Real take shape before our eyes. Jess has an eye for design, and has assured us that the best is yet to come; if kerosene lamps and piping hot tamales are your thing, you’d believe her, too.
Our first morning in Todos Santos we headed for Las Palmas, a beach 20 mins. from Nick & Jess’s… you’ll just have to trust me that there were waves that were exciting without being scary, blue sky, warm sand and all the other lovely earthy beach-y things… because all I see is
and (last but not least)
It was our first family vacation, and while at times I questioned my own sanity trucking her around all over hell, Imogen liked the warmth, the sound of the waves, and her Grandpa Dusty’s long stories. I think she had the best time of all of us!
We finally made it to Juneau the early morning hours of the last day of the year. Had a ‘soft landing’ at The Alaskan Hotel and Bar , and then worked on getting our cabin set up. I’ll post more pictures of the cabin soon – it is a beautiful place for our first place here in Juneau.
My daughter’s Christmas gift to me
Have you ever been on a flight in which an ordinary passenger made an announcement? I felt like standing up and telling everyone within earshot that it was my 3.5 month-old daughter’s fifth flight; holding her up in her tiger suit for everyone to see (I didn’t do this).
Imogen arrived at the Cabo San Lucas airport in her sea-green layered-lace onesie (Aunt Jenny) with sand still stuck to her, but I’d fed her (in the 4 Runner while Jaco and Jess got us burritos) and changed her (on the front seat), so she was fine through the check-in counter, security, and Jaco and my celebratory Pacificos.
Our flight ended up being delayed an hour and a half, during which time they changed our gate twice. At the first gate her dad bounced her over to Duty Free, and at the second gate she slept in her car seat until it was almost time to board at which time we swapped out her onesie for her flying tiger suit (Grandpa Jim).
On the plane she sat on my lap, fell asleep in her dad’s arms and on the seat between us, hardly cried at all, even as she was rubbing her ears on the bumpy descent, and not at all when we found out we’d also be waiting an extra 35 minutes on the tarmac before ‘deplaning.’
Her dad took her (‘baby tiger coming through’) and we were up and outta there (not a peep), through passport control, baggage claim, back into her car seat, meeting Dusty and Mary, into another 4 Runner, and out of the parking garage, where she was laughing with me,
and then fell asleep again while we accidentally exited into the city, and she made it all the way back to Petaluma without a meltdown, and then I fed her, and we gave her a bath, and put clean clothes on her… and left her on a bed covered in laundry with the light on, for everyone to see and play with, and went to eat a salad,
…at which time she started crying, hysterically, because I’d kept her up too late, and she’d held it together through *another* international flight with three hours of driving and three hours of waiting besides, and she’d had it, and she’d needed me to put her to bed and turn the light off, and I hadn’t held up my end of the bargain
but she taught me a lesson, and I turned the light off and put a heavy soft blanket on her, and thanked her for teaching it to me, but she was already asleep.
Imogen is one month old tomorrow and of course I can’t believe it: in her first month she gained over 1 lb. (7.9 to 9.3), but this is just a statistic.
Her eyes are deep and blue. We tell everyone how good she is and mean it. We take her to a restaurant, a bar, our workplace, and on a long boat ride.
Her Grandma Debbie and Louie come to see her and her grandma holds her every night. She also meets Frederik and Holly, Daniel, Heather, Bailey, Kooch and Victor.
She outgrows her vintage jammies from the hospital, four pairs of socks, one pair of booties, and her Hammer pants with the eyelet around the feet.
She likes music. I’m not sure if she likes being called Beauty, or Noodle.
I already can’t imagine life without her, and I don’t mind the association of that beautiful verb and her name.
Imogen Charlotte’s nursery
The main things I focused on getting were a rocking chair (secondhand from IKEA), a STICK (ground scored from the nature preserve by our house while walking), and (not pictured – yet) a sheepskin rug (scoured the Internet for this and eventually found one sold by Polish farmers at the flohmarkt in Bonn).
Evolution of lattice crust!
Baltic/East Prussian Honeymoon III: Home Sweet Home
Hi everybody! We got home almost a week ago and had a lot to do in terms of getting back on track here in Bonn so it took me a minute to finish my honeymoon posts but here are a few pictures from Lithuania, Latvia and our journey back to Germany by Stena ferry.
It was a great trip and I’m super glad we did it – I reached my fortieth country (Latvia, which was a new one for Jaco too) and have some beautiful new memories to cherish. As is often the case, it did feel good to get home to our *other* clothes and our own bed.
Thank you for following along on the last (big) journey before our little girl arrives in September! It was a special trip for us and it means a lot to have your love and support here on our East Prussian/Baltic Honey-/Babymoon 2.0…and beyond!
See ya soon,
Baltic/East Prussian Honeymoon II: Curonian Overland
Spent our first full morning on the Spit walking through honeysuckle-smelling pine forests which reminded me of the grasshoppers bounding around my great-grandmother’s farm in Princeton, Wisconsin.
Lunched on canned curry and rice left over from our dinner the night before and, after a quick snooze at the end of which a baby came and sat down by us, borrowed bicycles and rode the same paths we had walked earlier to a place to watch the sea that made me realize why the Curonian Spit is a sought-after destination.
Found fish dinners (I had perch, Jake had squid) and desserts (me – black currant sorbet and creme brulee ice cream; Jake cold borscht with sour cream) that matched.
Twenty-five minutes by bus up the Spit, a kind of paradise awaited us in Rybachy: we found a beautifully restored German guesthouse (read: at least twelve foot high ceilings) in quiet, serene surroundings full of irises, peonies and daisies – a welcome change indeed after the first place which had a few issues with overcrowding and plumbing.
After a picnic lunch (sardines and bread) on the “quiet” side of the Spit (the ocean and bay sides are only about two miles apart for the Spit’s whole ninety miles) we went out for dinner, called both our moms, and organized the next two days: sea, Lithuania.
On our full day in Rybachy we read for about an hour and a half after having breakfast outside and then went to the beach and lounged in the dunes.
Believe it or not before lounging we ate sardines and bread again! I love this lunch and hold it dear partly because when I first met this husband of mine and we were traveling by bus through Mali which would stop for 10 – 15 minutes, I would run off to find a bathroom and return to find him just out of the exhaust fumes of the bus but close enough we’d be able to catch it if it tried to leave us, with this snack.
We are so far north that the sun rises before four (which is what time I have been waking up), but I was still sleeping at six when he woke me up to go stand on the side of the road and wait for someone driving to Lithuania (buses only cross that border in the evening).
No sooner had I arranged a nice seat on the side of the road when, in succession appeared Jake with a piece of cardboard he’d fished out of the dumpster on which he’d penned “LT” (Lithuania) and – in a black 2012 Audi with double sunroofs – Damjan, who “likes to do nice things for people if he can” (or so he told us after waiting for us to get questioned at the border again on the way out).
Lithuania is quite a bit different feeling than Russia – in Nida, we are back on the euro, for one thing, so everything is more expensive, there are a lot more tourists, and everything is much easier, but we also aren’t looked upon with the same general bemusement the way we were in Russia.
Jake did help me see that one can appreciate visiting/holidaying/living in an EU country in a different way after spending some time in Russia: besides maybe China, it (Russia) is the one place outside the US’ sphere of influence; it makes one recognize how one should answer for oneself should there be no ‘state’ protection (to be fair, how much is there anyway?).
Happy Learningmoon from Pervalka, Lithuania!
Baltic/East Prussian Honeymoon I: Bonn –> Kaliningrad, Russian Federation
I know, ‘how lame to update your blog while on your honeymoon,’ but I’d like to remind you that I am already pregnant (28 weeks today, as a matter of fact), and the end of a travel day plus Jake not needing/wanting his laptop equals the time is right for my first post!
We left Bonn about 8 am for Berlin where we caught the train to Gdańsk, Poland. I only slept from about 1 am to 5 am the night before but Jake didn’t sleep at all so this is what the majority of our 11-hour train journey looked like to the casual observer:
We were able to find our place just fine, went out for some mushroom and cabbage pierogies (me; Jake went with ‘Gdańsk guinea fowl’ which was actually chicken) and after checking out the town square and getting some stuff for breakfast (and pistachio ice cream) climbed into a bathtub surrounded by candles.
The next day after checking out a pretty cool ship we found a really beautiful restaurant where I ordered trout and Jake was just in general really excited.
Our next destination after Gdańsk was Kaliningrad which was just about 120 km away, but we’d heard it might take a bit longer at the Polish-Russian border which turned out to be true in our case.
Our driver was gruff but patient and we were able to get a walk to the old part of the city in before it got dark, after which time we lit all the tea lights again and watched the Tetris documentary The Ecstasy of Order we’d been saving for Russia.
After breakfast we walked to an aquarium/submarine museum which was pretty fun, then an art cafe Jake had read about, and then an art/history of Kaliningrad museum.
After all of that walking my city dogs were barking and we got Sushi Love for the second night in a row, watched Silicon Valley and ‘chillaxed’ (even though I hate that word and all made up words).
Now we find ourselves in the Curonian Spit, just an hour away from Kaliningrad but right on the Baltic Sea! Let’s see what happens…
Sardinian Babymoon! Installment II: Porto Alabe –> Dusseldorf
Sardinian Babymoon! Installment I: Bonn –> Porto Alabe
Left Bonn at 4 am for our 10:30 flight to Pisa from Frankfurt. It wasn’t too bad getting up at 2:30 am but after lunching in Pisa and our train to Casciana (3 pm) we had about a 5 km uphill walk to our countryside B & B. It was worth it, though – stunning, quintessentially ‘Italian’ views, good lighting in the room. (There was other good stuff too but those were the highlights.) Worked for awhile and fell asleep to rain on the skylights.
Our first morning after cappucinnos and bruschetta we got a ride into Casciana where we were gonna soak in a thermal bath but were told pregnant women weren’t allowed! Had fun instead picking out stuff for Ted’s birthday and goind for lunch – I got a ‘bianca & verde’ pizza on crust Jaco correctly referred to as a big saltine (which incidentally I’ve wanted and haven’t been able to find.) Jaco had seafood calzone with octopus.
Feeling rested after our second night at the B & B outside Casciana, we left to go back to Pisa and then caught a train to Livorno – where we met our overnight (MOBY) ferry to Sardinia. Was happy we’d booked seats in advance – we were using it as our accommodation that night – as we were able to turn the lights down and stretch out in our own ‘zone’ – being halfway through my first trimester I took advantage of being able to sleep anytime, anywhere.
Left our second B & B after a nice Valentine’s Day full of sunshine, walking, gelato, and Cheers. The next leg of travel entailed train from Olbia to Sassari and Sassari to Alghero, and a bus from Alghero to Bosa, with Bosa being the next destination. For Valentine’s dinner I had clam spaghetti because it has been looking really good to me (I know preggo mamas aren’t supposed to eat shellfish but I was okay) and Jaco had a steak.
And just because I feel like it here are a few incidental Valentine’s Day deep thoughts by Jame: single life, while fun (albeit not mutually exclusive) ‘heart-lonely;’ something I miss – past (static) childhood; something I don’t miss; grandmother’s house now with pictures of me from 1996; miss people who are gone, don’t miss people who are still here but act gone.
Our guide Antonio picked us up after our stay at the Bosa B & B, took us to the supermarket, and then drove us to his house in Porto Alabe, which was so close to the ocean we could hear it when we were lying in bed at night even with the windows closed. Found a path which led to a four-hour seaside walk to a tower: the view from the top – and from the ‘pill-boxes’ along the way – quite spectacular.
When beauty came to visit.
Biking and picnics and Rheinlife, oh my!
Well, I just wrapped up my first online photography course, so I thought I would share my ten best images. They appear in chronological order with the original title assignments provided by #photo101. Enjoy!!
1.) NOV. 2nd: HOME
2.) NOV. 3rd: STREET
3.) NOV. 4th: WATER
4.) NOV. 9th: CONNECT
5.) NOV. 11th: THE NATURAL WORLD
6.) NOV. 14th: PLAYING WITH LIGHT
7.), 8.): NOV. 18th: MOMENT
9.) NOV. 24th: GLASS
10.) NOV. 27th: TRIUMPH
Art of Losing.
The last time I’d had to re-trace my steps I’d been in Burkina and’d walked bug-eyed past waterfalls until my legs hurt, then had to go all the way back;
this time I remembered Bishop’s poem and a little annoyingly (i.e., to always look on the bright side), thought at least I haven’t lost those memories.
The whole day was whistle-into-your-house windy. I could not stop listening to this song!
A(nother) room of one’s own.
LIVE from Mecidiyekoy, propped up on four pillows, typing by the light of a soft desk lamp, my fan dutifully oscillating, it seems as though I have become lucky once again, but it didn’t always seem like this, not even always today.
I woke up at ten after having stayed up until dawn (why?), to a message from a woman whose flat I’d inquired about at the beginning of that would-be sleepless night. She would be waiting for me in the morning.
Now seems like as good a time as any to mention that one entire wall is windows, and that these windows have floor-to-ceiling sheer white curtains (I love curtains).
There is an amazing paper lamp on the hanging light fixture (it’s square), molding all around the edges of the ceiling, and, in a quite curious aspect, a beveled-glass wall with a BUILT-IN AQUARIUM.
I forget how it was hard to get here: how thirsty I was, that I waited for hours.
What about tomorrow, next week, etc.? Nobody knows. Right now soft light and CURTAINS and fan, and that is all, all I need.
I’m not going to pretend I hung out in Gezi Park all the time. Actually, I had only seen it for the first time this past Monday when I learned at 7:30 a.m. that there were in fact two bus stations in Taksim (where I’ve lived since April 1st).
What I did think was, “what a beautiful park. I never even knew that was there.” Since it is so close to me, and I would need to walk through it to my new bus station, my spirits lifted a bit. Walking through a park is a nice way to start your day.
So…when I heard (that same day) that there were plans to destroy the park to build a shopping mall, I (perhaps somewhat annoyingly, in hindsight, now that I realize the significance) thought of all of the other beautiful, green spaces in Istanbul (Dolmabahce, for instance, and all of the sea-side places…), but the fact that there are more isn’t the point: the point is that they are taking away this one
(what have they taken already, when will they stop, etc.?).
Now the sounds of more teargas containers hit the streets, and people, in tears, are in each others’ arms, and everyone is running
for the free space to be, not given back, running to go back, and to have it not taken away in the first place.
Island life II: Dogs-for-a-day
The first of many visits to the islands
Karfiguela Falls, Burkina Faso (2013)
Dogon Country, Mali (2013)
Djenne–>Brink of Dogon country, Mali (2013)
Lost and found in Bamako
What remains unknown about the aspects of my being here in Mali create a sum far greater than what is—for this very reason I wanted to stay far away, and it’s also exactly why I came: the depths, and the power, of my unknowing feel at once languid, restless, and still.
As was the case the last time I made the journey to West Africa from London, the beloved friends with whom I traveled have gone, having returned to their lives, to their jobs, to their families, and to their commitments. Unlike that time nine years ago in which I followed my friends’ lead, and returned home to my bed to dream, I have decided to travel on.
“It’s not a big deal,” I say to myself in the mirror. But then my travelling companion (who is exactly my age) and I lie in our tent and geek out—“We’re in Bamako—stressing especially the first syllable so that it has the momentum to carry the other two, and because that’s her name: Bamako, my newest city.
It took seventeen hours to get here from Tamba (and that was on a good bus!): when we rolled in at four a.m. we barely had enough energy to argue with our cab driver. As these things happen, at the end of all of the darkness/mosquitoes there is light, and now we are rooftop camping, third night strong, our auberge complete with a giant tortoise and three watchdogs.
It’s tough to say where we’ll go from here. It seems rational that a greater level of understanding of this place must be reached before further decisions can be made, but the more I learn (i.e., overhear in my limited understanding of French and guarded, broken English), the less viable and realistic this seems.
This said, my sense of wonder continues to grow at an exponential rate, helped along in no small part by the very sense of discomfort, and, yes, at times, impossibility, in which I currently dwell.
And I don’t think I could put a price on that, and I would be remiss to name a price that could take it all away.
La’ayoune, Morocco–>The end of the line (2013)
Overland Africa UK–>Marrakech (2013)
Another year (almost) gone by
Started out the new year by jumping around, I should have known then that it would be a good year.
Reunited with friends at AWP and did a reading for Susan and my mini-chapbook; even the Grammys were worth watching.
Moved to Madison and rode my bike everywhere and only fell off once. Taught my first college classes. Now getting ready to travel again.
2013 will begin Chicago, London, West Africa. I think it has a lot of potential.
Dessert Poems (Binge Press, 2012) Limited Edition handmade chapbook now available!
One step closer to home.
Cleo gives going outside the old college try.
Hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul. – Emily Dickinson
|They were fast!|
But, alas, another cobbled-together job has come to an end and now I find in front of me the only road left, the Real Job, the job that I can find and then relax, the job that I can be at Peace with. I have a new Degree and no debt, and also no money which leaves me feeling like I am sitting on one of those little cloths I was selling, my butt hanging over the sides. It is very well-constructed, but how does it get off the ground?
A moment can move on and still stay with us, it’s one of the most beautiful things in life, Robert Hass’ Mississippi John Hurt lines in the poem about his brother, Ryan Gosling honoring the spirit of Patrick Swayze in his recent film, and in a thirty-three year-old, not-even-really girl anymore, back to the drawing board again, or perhaps there, officially, for the first time, thinking back on what she has to give to the next phase of life.
In Istanbul post-undergrad/pre-graduate school I taught English, wrote in my journal, and watched the O.C.
…and the little book I came across last night that reminded me of those days. Maybe it’s a non-sequitor, but I just don’t want to forget her.
Time to start looking for what’s out there. No pressure in a bad way. I’m looking everywhere…
I saw my beloved Mississippi River, dry in the summer haze, low water, with its big rank smell that smells like the raw body of America itself – Kerouac
Pretty Glacier Park
I had nothing to offer anybody except my own confusion. – Kerouac
It’s from On the Road, which I should read again. The ones who never yawn. So sick at heart. Tired, tired. Tired.
Knew he was on the train but couldn’t see him anymore. Bumped into a couple people on the way back to the car I was so out of it.
Rosemary calls me “babysitter.” It’s our first day together tomorrow and I have a feeling I am going to need all of my energy to be a good one.
My trip is over but maybe a new one is beginning inside of me, we can always hope.
I just like that quotation a lot, all of these stars in me again falling.
|Rm in her new boots.|
Another class finished.
Bound for the Rockies!
Sunday, my first day’s end destination is Medora, N.D., a beautiful park already over one-third of the way. Hope Jen and I don’t stay up too late talking, but we will, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
This should be a great adventure and I’m really excited! Thanks for following along (I hope you do)!
Update: a year gone by
|Iris from mom’s garden|
Wow, it has been a year since I landed in HCMC and added Saigon to Ramona Forever. Whoever is still following this blog since then, thank you, thank you, my friend.
What a year. Now a year ago I am awake my first day there, typing on this blog on the computer in the Van Trang, scared to go outside, texting Rufus. Knowing what I know now, I should have been more scared to stay in the Van Trang.
Like so many things, including this time of life, if it were possible to know how it all turned out, I mean how non-threatening it all was (what did I think was going to happen to me?) I just would have loved all of the good stuff even more, one text to a friend that gets a call.
So it is still cold in Wisconsin, it is supposed to freeze tonight actually, Memorial Day weekend. I really feel as though I have had a whole winter, and I got home in March. Should be interesting to see what happens next year…
and just for old time’s sake:
About me practice, spring ’11:
Gardener/lawn mower, bridesmaid, Master of Fine Arts, Adult Health Literacy Instructor, moth, kitten, and seal lover, poet.
|Dad’s Cecropia moth|
Stretched across the seat of an old truck heading west, taking me to school on a beautiful day like today but one in which
planes had crashed into buildings
& we’d watched them with our parents, we are such a country of dreamers.
Professor lobbed the papers, said A brand new chapter in history right to me.
Suddenly very interested in my life, how to make it good/better.
When I woke up you were already gone. Went to the park to think about what you’d told me.
Listened to the song “See the Sky About to Rain.” And today it has been raining, through all the ins and outs of me.
Lovely last class.
Chopsticks was a song I played on the piano. Then my friend wore them in her hair. Then someone gave me some which I lost on the way to somewhere else, and now, every time I think I know about them I realize there are at least two more things I don’t know.
When I first moved to Saigon and I was still staying in the tourist district, which I have since found out is actually Saigon, although the whole city goes by the name now, I was hanging out with an Australian guy who could not use them: I took a whole meal’s worth of noodles showing him how to use them while some passersby shot photos.
Just yesterday I learned to take the ones that facing down because flies land on them. Plain bun, spinach, hopefully plain, hot sauce (really hot!) bean sprouts, mint, lime, lime, lime, limes face down.
After school Mme. Tuhy is chopping fruit she says “eat everything:” baby bananas, mango, sour cherry-grapes, grapefruit, dragonfruit… and she puts a bowl of rice in front of me which is awesome, I love rice.
So I am thinking nothing could be better being at school all day and walking home in the rain, and then the Frenchman pours me a beer. The Indonesian guy next to me goes oh, you drink? I was raising my glass to the Frenchman at the time or I would have spit out beer. The Frenchman would have gotten it, he always nods with me as though I am saying wise things.
So I am happy as a clam picking away at the rice and the fruit with my chopsticks and Jonny next to me is laughing. “We do not eat the fruit with the rice.” He motions to meat moves it closer to me. I keep on eating the grapes, but I like Jonny.
I put some rice in a lettuce leaf with my chopsticks and roll it up: this he cannot believe; he looks at Mme. Tuhy and the Frenchman as if to make sure they are seeing what he is seeing, but Mme. Tuhy is on the phone and the Frenchman is watching soccer. I wonder what he would have done if I’d thrown a mango in there.
Jonny gets up to go but sits back down. When I can’t eat anymore I set my chopsticks down carefully, silently. As I am saying goodnight I notice he is making a perfect ninety-degree angle with them and the edge of the table.
Decided on a couple of must-see places, Cat Tien National Park and an island called Phu Quoc in the Gulf of Thailand. Went to inquire about them and found out I can take a bus to the park (four hours from HCMC) for only 5 dollars; can fly to the island for $48.00 one way which is very good; Saigon is a city I think I will have to leave to miss.
I left Vietnam Airlines crossed Truong Son St., which Rufus says it is not a hard street to cross but to me it is basically a four lane highway, and went back to my room which Mme. Tuhy had just finished cleaning. She brought me a little glass bowl and some chopsticks which really touched me for some reason, and she picked up all of my clothes off the floor, so she is not going to let me be a slob, got it.
When I walked out my room this guy who lives here asked if I wanted to go to the airport with him to pick up one of his friends which I usually never turn down a chance to go to the airport but I must say I have not been feeling 100% like myself and as all the power was still out decided to go to the mall just to be in the A/C someplace.
I hear “Hello teacher” turn around it is a new boy in one of my classes there with his mom and his brother. They all made me really happy, why was I getting emotional about chopsticks and students, two common things in the new life. Well, I felt done with the mall and it was too hot for parks or cafes, so I keep walking and eventually just end up back at the building where the school is, on the tenth floor of which there is a cinema.
I’ve never even gone up there; the school is on the sixth floor, but the elevator just happened to go up there and the next thing I knew I was in Sex and the City 2. Don’t read the reviews, I made the mistake of it while looking up the New York song (it’s by Jay-Z) I’d heard for the first time while bedridden watching Fashion TV on Bui Vien, second time just last night at the Piss Up (again Rufus).
Maybe it is just the simple fact that it was something familiar in this land of strangeness. That could have been it. I actually got choked up at a couple parts (did also roll my eyes at Carrie a couple of times–you do that with her), said out loud Carrie don’t forget your passport which is definitely good, talking to yourself in a movie.
When I walked out I was doing my Carrie walk obviously and this guy backed up and knocked over one of the heavy metal silver stands that hold those velvet ropes, it was nice. And when I left I thought this is what art is supposed to do. Is it art?
And then there was this little girl riding on the back of a motorbike in the light rain, yellow hooded sweatshirt, and the lights from the stadium were hitting her face like a spotlight, her little cameo, and she was pointing at something, gesture someone older would do, and I just thought, I love her: she is part of my life, not just here; anywhere.
On my grandmother’s 81st birthday
You scratched my broken leg with your knitting needle.
You even remembered pickles in those lunches we packed to eat in the parking lot and you went on all the scary rides with us, the water rides, the Eagle, and even though I was only eight I remember thinking ‘I am sitting next to my grandma on Log Jam, how cool is that?’
I still think of the songs from Joseph when Donny Osmond got raised to the ceiling in that coat, and I remember when I called you from Africa and you said I was so far away, and I was.
They are just some moments in a whole life. Did Gags like the rhubarb and the asparagus?
Asia in present tense.
I say good morning to Mme. Tuhy and the Frenchman, leaving dressed again in the blue dress from Greta which, though comfortable, does not stop the stares.
The cafe across the street from my alcove looks promising. I order a Vietnamese coffee and wish it was three times the size. I feel like Bigfoot.
I walk down the street after an egg sandwich from a street vendor but none of them seem right so I walk past them all, sweaty Goldilocks.
A man slices the tops off coconuts. I stop and watch a man pull his motorbike over, drink one, pay, and take off without saying anything. I wish I were invisible.
We’d rather have the iceberg than the ship,/although it meant the end of travel. – Elizabeth Bishop
In those first few days I
wanted to record everything
The old Westerner
sitting up straight in the cyclo
the way I had earlier
& I was trying to
read critical essays
but there was so much
more all the time which is good,
which is what Bishop
meant in “Casabianca:”
love’s the this,
the boy on the burning
deck and the sailors.
I guess I am still “getting my bearings,” although I am now at the point where I can see for the first time a little bit more clearly what it is going to be like to live here. When I was staying in the Van Trang Hotel, it was still in effect my landing. I am now in another part of the city called Tan Binh which is closer to the airport and my school.
The reason I said Bui Vien/District I it is super touristy is because it is. Tourists here might be walking around anywhere but they are walking down Bui Vien in the heart of Saigon, ignoring or acknowledging other blue eyes amid the madness of it all, occasionally smiling when the fifteenth person that breakfast tries to sell you sunglasses.
I kind of love it so far: I love the craziness of it. Some of it makes me feel like a big fat privileged dork, like how hard the kids work and how much I get paid to slacker-teach them just because I have “experience” but I shouldn’t put it in quotes, I do have experience and this is why I get to walk down the hallway the exact minute class starts with my laundry basket which is actually pretty cool. I’ve made up my mind to concentrate on doing the best job I can and so far I do not feel like running away, on the contrary.
The job is the easy part for me so far, like flying was for Mave Rick, and if I were to make a Top Gun comparison I guess my romance with the city/culture would replace Kelly McGinnis. There is so much support in the other teachers, the staff at the school it is like walking a balance beam on the floor and the ground is all one of those special mattresses invented by NASA. It is much easier than other teaching jobs I’ve had.
This morning one of the kids did this wheelbarrow move which happened fast and his his shoe lifted up my skirt and the kids all started laughing, I felt my face turn red and I looked at Lan and she was laughing too and she just said “accident” and I was able to go on, it just really helps to have someone else in the room, needless to say when they are there to help, not judge or critique you. Even though we do 22+ hour weekends I notice myself actually taking the time to do things like use the bathroom and eat food during the day whereas other teaching jobs I’ve had were either too busy or too stressful or both to do either.
One more on the staff, Uyen, is Rose’s wingmate, Rose is the angel for me here so far and as I’ve lived abroad I know you need those. Rose got me the apartment I’m in now, with French lighting, marble floor, coy randomly swimming under the stairs, for 200 a month, friendly prices. The guesthouse was 300 and was chock-full of foreign teachers, but here I get invited to dinner with the family and eat a couple of bites of pork or something because I am not the biggest bitch in the world and am going to push away food people are giving me when I am starving.
The guy is French and I say Merci when he pours beer out of a 40 oz. bottle about 8 ways for all of us eating, he likes this. Finally, I find out there is a Taiwanese guy named Johnny living upstairs from me, a chemical engineer who has lived here in Saigon for three years and at this place for a year and a half. He rides his bike to work as it is only ten minutes away, and says I can use it whenever he’s not. He has a rice cooker in his room; I love that he’s told me this right off the bat.
Wow, I’ve been typing like crazy and I still feel like there is so much more of course I am sure that there is, we had bamboo soup for dinner, and some crazy drink that tasted like grass. I have had several remarks that I am good with chopsticks. They actually act like you are a guest in their country; I can see why people do not want to leave and don’t. That said, I miss all of you family and friends greatly. Think of you all the time, always. Am ready to have visitors. Although you will have to let me know in advance so Madam Thuy can register you with the Vietnamese officials lest she get fined 500 bucks.
Time to see if I can get some work done now…ooh except there is a cat here with a broken tail that sat by my feet during dinner and when they were all talking in Vietnamese I held my finger down to its nose and it nudged it as cats do and I thought I spoke its language as much as anyone else’s.
I don’t know who is reading this but as these things go, if it is being read you are reading it, hello and thank you. Feel a bit like I’m throwing it out into the void, not that I am going for definitive lines around me.
Apartment searching on the brink of the rainy season
Woke up this a.m. feeling a lot better and finally began to search for apartments. The most promising one so far is an “expat guesthouse” located near my school, 300 USD/mo., shared space with 5 other teachers. From the outside the place doesn’t look like much–actually from the inside it doesn’t really either. It is located on a dusty street and you need a to open a gate to get in. I will have a room with AC and a bed and a closet, my own bathroom, use of the kitchen, living room, and rooftop terrace, and, believe it or not, a maid who does the laundry (even ironing)!
The main thing that I have had to get used to is the HEAT–it can really get to you and make you so tired. I drink about 2 L of water a day and just soak it all in. Last night there was a lizard on my wall in my hotel, as if to remind me where I was in case I forgot. I am looking forward to getting into a place where I can put all my stuff away–the transition period can be rather stressful as of course all I want to do is write poems and I can’t really do that when I have to get these life things out of the way shelter, figure out what food to eat, money etc. But I have a plan that once I get into this place and get new sheets and a lamp and get my AC going the words will start flowing again.
The other travelers I meet stress me out as well sometimes–it can be enough to just keep yourself sane without having to hear with every new person that they are homesick, they talk about how hard it is to be away from home and it just makes me wonder what they talk about when they are home and why they would decide to come all the way to Vietnam.
That said, I have the urge to call people from home a lot, the only reason I don’t is because I don’t know phone numbers. I have read and reread the comments DK wrote on my poems about 25 times since she gave them back to me, I’ve kept them in my carry-on, I’ve taken them to every cafe. I kept them in my bed with me when I was sick.
Virginia Woolf once said “I never travel without my diary. It is important to have something sensational to read in the train.” It is for the future poems that I am doing this. When I remember that, surprisingly it makes it all a little easier–they don’t even exist yet and already they are so reliable.
It *finally* doesn’t hurt at all anymore.
St. Paul –> Denver
Well, it’s my thirty-second birthday in three days; soon I will have made it longer than Sylvia Plath and Lizzie Siddal; one of my favorite moments so far involves watching “Othello,” the Laurence Fishburne version, with my Riverside Shakespeare, highlighting all of my favorite lines just in terms of how I could apply them to my own life, because that is what you do when you are young.
I started this blog when I was dating someone who suggested it; I’m glad I listened to him even though he said what he said about Ranch dressing. I have really come a long way since middle school when the joke involved tapioca pudding.
I didn’t know yet, then, the importance of making myself laugh; I didn’t know that if I didn’t learn how to laugh at myself I would go berserk. I just want people to read this blog; read anything I write.
MA candidate stuff II
Kate’s poem’s speaker didn’t want to write about HIM, but she did, and Kate got such a beautiful poem out of it; lucky Kate, that she can do that.
Dr. Hayes said you should never refer to a poet as the speaker in her poem and poked fun of people who’d done so, but he also bought us pizza and Coke and said we were occasionally brilliant.
Walked home from school slowly, again, lucky life, and still frequently feel lucky in libraries and while looking at and walking around old buildings like cathedrals and less ornate things as grand in scale like wind turbines.
In Northfield I felt lucky the question Did I know how many people he had made happy? found its way into “Johnny Carson Poem”; lucky, lucky life.
Why I Hate Being Single
Because I am.
Because I avoid making eye contact with normal-looking couples.
Because Janis Joplin said freedom is just another word for nothing left to lose but she was a hypocrite and an alcoholic.
Because he called me crying from his iPhone, telling me not to forget about him. Because I still haven’t.
Because there is no one to talk to on Sunday nights when I am tired of Facebook. Because of the picture of two people I miss posing in front of a double rainbow with a happy-looking girl from Illinois. Because she looks like she realizes how amazing they are.
Because when he asked me if my past relationships were good I only nodded. Because I lied to him about how long it has been. Because there have been times that I don’t count. Because there is the chance he doesn’t care.
Because I am self-conscious around people to whom I am attracted. Because I don’t have anyone besides myself for whom to plan. Because I am so good at planning.