Sunday, September 25, 2005


I'm having trouble uploading images (is it me or is it jetlag?), so for now...

1. Varenna from our hotel
2. The castle at Aymavilles, from whence Ray's pop's family came (not the castle specifically...)
3. An alleyway in Monterosso, or somewhere in the Cinque Terre
4. From the rooftop of Il Duomo, Milano

Monday, September 19, 2005

Sto come un papa!

I feel like a pope (i.e. happy)! (Don't ask me why this is a pope-ular expression - ha - but it is.)

We're in Monterosso, the northern most Terre of the Cinque. We hiked between Monterosso and Vernazza today, the next Terre, and weren't sure what to expect. There are plenty of apparently German tourists/hikers here, and we've seen them head off to the trail equiped with steel-toed, shank-soled boots, trekking poles, and enough khaki for the desert. Could it really be that hard of a hike, we wondered.

We headed out this morning, after reading the hike was "tough." I was a little nervous when we started in my all-terrain sandals, and Ray in his hipster/practical tennis shoes. Maybe those hikers knew something we didn't. Along the way we ran into other Americans (tank tops, New Balance running shoes), more Germans (boots, poles, etc.), and some Italians (soccer balls). The first part of the trail was pretty much steps uphill, through terraced vineyards and lemon groves. Stunning. We broke a sweat, but it wasn't that rigorous. Eventually the trail leveled out into some more reasonable ups and downs, and we ran across more people. My favorite was the tour group of middle-aged Janapese women, decked out in street clothes, some with shopping bags and low heels. They were having a great time...sans poles!

Anyway, a worthwhile hike, with some incredible views! Perfetto!

Friday, September 16, 2005

The Federal Way of the Alps (???)

So, before we got to Aosta, we couldn't find much info on the town. We wondered if it was some bland, lifeless community that wouldn't have much to offer us except some family history. We were right, and wrong.

Aosta is a weird combo of newer cement apartment buildings, mining industries, and some ancient and crumbling Roman ruins. It's incredibly ugly, yet the central square and surrounding streets are fun to explore and seem to be geared toward the jet set. We've heard almost no English...seems like half the place is Italian, French, Swiss and German tourists. People always address us first in German.

We did get some family history filled in for Ray's father's side of the family, but a lot more questions were raised. Did the officials at Ellis Island really really screw things up 100 years ago? Why was a mother travelling alone with her 5 children? Where is the current family name? We've found another family name lots of places, but why did it change when this branch of the family emmigrated? Such a mystery.

Can't wait to get to Nicaragua and explore the other side of his family. And then maybe back to Hoxne, Suffolk to look up my kinfolk. So many trips to take, so little time.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Il dolce far niente

The sweetness of doing nothing...

We've been busy with a lot of nothing, and walking up and down to do it. Right now we're in Varenna, town set on a steep hillside coming up from Lago di Como. Tomorrow we'll head to Aosta, then later the Cinque Terre, then Milano.

I've been reminded how many great ideas pop up once I'm far far from home, and I'd like to figure out how to channel the mental fertility that comes from nothing-time when at home. Some epiphanies so far range from the goodness of cheese and honey together, that Ramon was a duck in a former life, and the beginnings of an art project that involve Lago di Como beach glass and photos of the Virgin Mary. Still mulling on that one.

(Ray just chatted with some guys that were from Kirkland and Redmond. Funny.)

Speaking of Ray...he just uploaded some photos.

Tuesday, September 6, 2005

Airing out

That last post was annoying, so I'm moving it from the top of the page with something else. How about some photos.

First, some gypsies in Barlad, Romania. There's a fascinating documentary about the migration and cultural history of Gypsies called Lacho Drom. It's hard to come by, but really worth watching.

Next, my glasses. I wanted to get them in orange, but that wasn't very practical.

Third, a kick-ass Orthodox nun, who I think did a stint as the Romanian Church Lady for a season or two.

Ah, my ring. I love it, though I've learned it's hard to get tiny bits of mango cleaned out of it.

And last, a fine Donny and Marie movie. I think I was 7 when it came out and while I didn't see it in the theater, I did buy the book through the Scholastic Book Club. Whatta read.

Sunday, September 4, 2005

3, 2, 1

I started my new part-time grantwriting job last week. Though I'm superstitious about making any summary judgments in general, I will go out on a limb and say that it seems meant to be for me in several ways. It's a civil rights/social justice organization that I worked for years ago, and after watching the awful Katrina response unfold ("some combination of incompetence and indifference") this week, it is the right place, for the right cause, and at the right time for everything else going on in my day-to-day.

On day 3, we had the monthly staff meeting. It was great: my new coworkers are committed, cohesive, and have damn fine taste in caterers. (Our lunch included some amazing melt-in-your-mouth chicken, gumbo, and corn bread like none I've ever had. I don't recall staff meetings like this from before!)

Since I have a new job, I'm wrapping up at the pet food store...2 days to go! I have to admit that the "fun student gig" has run its course. Another reason my new job seems meant to be.

And, there is just 1 work week in between me and Lake Como and some real relaxation.

I feel incredibly lucky.