Sentence of the Day, Last Saturday of August 2021

Nine of the twelve people who have ever walked on the moon came to Iceland first.

How Iceland Changed the World, p. 185

Photographing Public Art Challenge (PPAC) # 7: Central Coast

Self still playing catch-up on the Photographing Public Art Challenge, co-hosted by Cee Neuner and Marsha Ingrao, which she adores.

She just completed a road trip to the Central Coast. She loves doing road trips because it’s a break from the unrelenting heat in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Robin’s, 4095 Burton Drive, Cambria: Each Table Top is a unique patchwork of tiles. Mine had a plane.

Cambria Nursery, 2801 Eaton Road, Cambria

Fence as Art: Cambria Nursery, 2801 Eaton Road, Cambria

Sentence of the Day, 2nd to Last Sunday of August 2021

At sea, when every day is an endless set of twists and risks, two months is a long time.

How Iceland Changed the World, by Egill Bjarnason, Introduction

Bjarnason is a very beguiling storyteller.

How Iceland Changed the World: Introduction

Self has finished reading the Amanda Lindhout memoir (written with Sara Corbett), A House in the Sky. She decided she would just have to get it over with. She wasn’t even sure she’d have the stomach to read it all the way through, but the writing is amazing. That’s what amazing writing can do: it holds you hostage. Self spent the whole of this beautiful day (sun was shining, and it was NOT HOT) just racing to finish A House in the Sky.

There are some parts that, okay, made self laugh, like the part where Amanda and Nigel are being taken to yet another “safe” house. They were being held in separate rooms and when she sees Nigel, she notices Nigel is shirtless and wonders if . . . okay, never mind. Nigel was unmolested. Lucky for him, he was a man. They sort of respected him. There is a lot about her feelings for Nigel in this book, which adds to the sadness because . . . Amanda was clinging to him so hard, just to make it through, and Nigel was essentially helpless, and made a lot of promises he didn’t mean, because — hey, there were hostages!

Anyhoo, she’s alive, he’s alive, it’s all good.

Onward!

Self’s next book might seem like a strange choice, except that her son has gone there. To Iceland. All by himself. She found out recently.

And also, once, self spent Christmas in Paris, and the only other guests at her tiny hotel in the 17th arrondissement were a Filipino family who were on their way to Iceland for a family vacation, and came with tons of luggage.

Imagine the odds of two different Filipino entities meeting in a Paris hotel on Christmas day! And we didn’t even know each other from Adam! The three kids of the family ranged in age from — if self were to guess — five to 10. WHO GOES TO ICELAND FOR FAMILY VACATION. For that matter, who spends Christmas alone in Paris! But self wasn’t alone! She was with Francine and Francoise, who were so circumspect they never greeted her a Merry Christmas and acted like it was just an ordinary day! All they said to her that day was: “Madame, you must go to the Louvre. NO LINES TODAY.” Which turned out to be very good advice.

This is a very digressive post! Finally, the Iceland book:

Introduction:

The town of Selfoss is a rare find. Nearly all of the sixty-three towns and cities in Iceland were first established out of nautical convenience, in sight of approaching ships, but Selfoss sits inland, away from the stony coast. I grew up there, landlocked.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Kabul, Through the Eyes of Amanda Lindhout: 9 June 2005

Self hopes Amanda Lindhout became a travel writer, because her descriptions of Kabul are gold. She hitches a ride to Kabul with a man and his son who live in Peshawar but visit relatives in Kabul regularly.

I’d taken a taxi that day to a wholesale market area near the center of the city, which sprawled in all directions, straddling the banks of the Kabul River, devolving into a labyrinth of crooked alleys. I bought a plastic cup of raisins and apricots mixed with pistachios and honey-sweetened water and ate them with a spoon. I browsed through little shops. In one, I found a shelf stacked with bars of soap, their wrappers showing a photograph of a smiling woman’s face, except that every face had been scribbled over with a marker. This was a fundamentalist Islamic move, something the Taliban once enforced strictly. Any images of things made by Allah weren’t to be replicated by a human hand, because it counted as playing god. Amanuddin had explained it to me: it was okay to paint or print a photograph of a car or building but not a person or animal. Idolatry was a sin.

A House in the Sky, p.64

Girl Was Learning, Just Not Fast Enough

I tacked my way from Bangladesh into India by bus and train, arriving in Calcutta sometime in February and finding a room at the Salvation Army guesthouse, in the heart of the backpacker ghetto. After Bangladesh, India seemed more user-friendly but no less crowded. Children tailed me down the street, calling “Aunty, Aunty,” their palms held open for change. Men brushed up close, muttering “Ganja? Ganja? Hashish? Smoke?” I spent about two weeks there, volunteering at one of Mother Teresa’s charities, working the morning shift in the women’s wing of the Kalighat home for the Sick and Dying Destitutes, delivering tea and giving sponge baths to patients with tuberculosis, malaria, dysentery, AIDS, and cancer, sometimes in combination. The frankness of it was galling, even nauseating at first, but slowly I relaxed. I would never be saintly like the nurses who staffed the place, but I tried at least to be helpful.

I was also getting used to being alone. What might once have overwhelmed me no longer did. I could read bus schedules, figure out the various classes of train tickets, ask for help when I needed it, sit in a restaurant and eat a meal alone without feeling self-conscious.

A House in the Sky, pp. 53 – 54

Lest we judge Amanda Lindhout too harshly, let us remember Daniel Perl, Stanford grad and Wall Street Journal reporter. Perl was lured in by the promise of an interview with an elusive target, and was kidnapped in Pakistan and subsequently murdered. He had lots more experience than Amanda. It made no difference. Amanda Lindhout emerged alive, and Daniel Perl did not.

Thursday Trios Challenge: 19 August 2021

Self loves this challenge. It is so much fun to look through her archives for trios.

Thank you to the host, Mama Cormier!

In July, self decided to Airbnb in Carmel for a few days. On all her drives around California, she somehow failed to hit up this place, which was one of the first places her Dear Departed Dad took her to when she was a wee little girl. We were on our first family vacation from the Philippines, and Dad decided to make of it a road trip. Somehow, he had always harbored a secret fantasy of having his entire family engage in that quintessential American family activity: the road trip. So he bundled all five of us kids and Dearest Mum on a plane, and rented a car after we landed in San Francisco, and took us on a road trip that included: Carmel, Las Vegas, and La Jolla. Oh, and Highway 1, which we drove all the way from San Francisco to La Jolla.

Anyhoo, last month, self decided to Airbnb in Carmel, and her host had a most interesting apartment, filled with original artwork, weights, records and turntables, hefty art books, and guitars (in case any of the guests wished to break out in song?). Here’s his guitar collection:

Self’s host was extremely cryptic. She notified him that she was vacating, and leaving the key in the apartment per his instructions, and got this response:

  • I am just down the coast a little, enjoying the vanlife.

She thought and thought about an appropriate response, and finally came up with: Have an excellent vanlife!

Stay cool, dear blog readers. Stay cool.

“Are you sure you don’t want to just stay at the Sheraton?”

Yes, yes, stay at the Sheraton! self wants to scream at Amanda Lindhout.

Because, even though Ayelet Tsabari, in The Art of Leaving, takes a lot of risks, Amanda Lindhout’s risks are to the nth, on a whole other level. For instance, going to Bangladesh, where she knows no one. She really wants to go to India, but the flight to Bangladesh is cheap. So off she goes to Bangladesh.

On the flight over, she chats with “a middle-aged German guy” who says he goes to Dhaka all the time on business. While self’s insides are screaming “Watch out!” this man is met at the airport by a driver in an air-conditioned white mini-van and Amanda accepts a ride in his car. Considering that she is staying “at a twelve-dollar-a-night hotel” she’d picked out of Lonely Planet, Martin tells her that the ride would take “three hours and the driver would overcharge” by “virtue of” her white skin and gender. It turns out this Martin is a godsend, because he directs his driver to take her to her hotel, and when she gets out of the car he says, “Are you sure you don’t want to just stay at the Sheraton?” and she says “No, no, this is good!” Martin, bless his heart, presses a business card into her hand and says, “All right, then, call if you need anything.” And Amanda is immediately swarmed (which has happened to self: in the city of Taxco, Mexico, but at least there she had a companion, her Stanford roommate Sachiko; and also in some city in Himachal Pradesh whose name she completely forgets, and again in almost every other Indian city she landed in with the exception of Dharamsala, where she made the wise choice to stay in an inn inside a military cantonment)

From the moment Amanda alights from the German’s minivan, “every head on the street seemed suddenly to swivel” in her direction, and a man dogs her heels saying, over and over, “English? Hello? Hello, hello, hello?”

And yet this is nothing compared to what happens when she checks into her twelve-dollar-a-night Lonely Planet recommended hotel, and gets the third degree:

“For you?”

“For me.”

“Where is your husband?”

“I don’t have a husband.”

The man tilted his head. “Then where is your father?”

A House in the Sky, p. 46

Bless Amanda for being so bold. She refuses to lie. In India, because of self’s great age, and the fact that her itinerary included just temples — temples in the mountains, temples in the middle of a forest, temples whether Hindu or Buddhist or Punjabi — people just assumed she was dying and didn’t hassle her too much. Also, they assumed self was poor because she had no guide, and was always using public transportation.

Actually, it wasn’t just ordinary Indians who thought self was dying. Her friends, too, asked: “Are you sick?”

Wanting to go to Dharamsala means you are sick? Okay, then! Whatever works!

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Amanda Lindhout, Backpacker

Amanda Lindhout makes enough money as a cocktail waitress to fund her first international trip: she and her boyfriend, Jamie, settle on Caracas, Venezuela, because flights to there from Calgary were cheap. Their only guide is a used copy of Lonely Planet (Really, she and her boyfriend sound so American, self almost titled this post Amanda Lindhout, American Backpacker. But they’re Canadian. Who knew Canadians could be so American, just sayin’)

Nothing bad happened to them in South America! This was probably the worst:

In our first weeks in Venezuela, Jamie and I walked miles, strapped sweatily into our backpacks, looking for low-interest money changers and two-star posadas that had morphed abruptly into massage parlors or motorcycle repair shops. We waited at a roadside bus stop in the withering heat only to learn hours later, bickering and thoroughly sunburned, that the Tuesday-afternoon bus to Caripe was now a Friday-morning bus.

A House in the Sky, p. 31

Lindhout reminds self so much of Ayelet Tsabari in The Art of Leaving. She has the same adventurous spirit. Think what might have happened if Lindhout had never gone to Somalia. Could she perhaps have written a travel book?

There were points in Tsabari’s memoir where self found herself getting really frustrated, because of the almost total disregard Tsabari had for her personal safety. She very well could have ended up like Amanda Lindhout, kidnapped for ransom. That she didn’t almost seems like sheer, dumb luck.

Here’s another passage on the further adventures of Lindhout in South America — can anything top this? It made her brave. Brave or foolhardy.

We pitched our yellow two-person tent in the backyard of a budget hotel for a week, striking a deal with the manager to use the bathrooms, paying under half the regular room rate. With the money we saved, we ate shark sandwiches and drank cheap rum at lunchtime.

A House in the Sky, p. 33

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Sentence of the Day: Ayelet Tsabari

Yes, self is still reading The Art of Leaving because, dammit, self is concerned about this woman narrator, who puts herself in the path of danger whenever she can, seems completely heedless of her physical safety, and loves so many people. Sometimes Tsabari leaves them, and sometimes they leave her, but she is never, ever less than FULLY ENGAGED. So, points to her. MAJOR POINTS.

And self is fascinated by her descriptions of Tel Aviv.

It’s like I’m always waiting for something to happen, ready for a fight, wanting to wage war with the day, the world, or a person; as though a part of me longs for the risk, that shard of glass in the sand that catches your eye, a promise, an assurance that I am alive.

— “Tough Chick,” Essay # 11 in The Art of Leaving

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