Category Archives: Stories

Reading Winter Sunshine

Reading winter sunshine, Paris, France

2001
The night I returned home from three months in Paris I had a dream: I was arriving back in Paris and I said, “I’m back, I’m finally back.”
That winter I woke up in the evening, my roommates were gone for the break and I kept one room warm in the top of the house. Mine was the only light in the neighborhood. I would be awake the whole night, depressed, and during the day I’d sleep and I’d dream, “I’m back, I’m finally back.” I didn’t see daylight for a week.
But things got better, as they do, and I met a girl who I’d known for a year. We secretly danced in the dark under trees. We fell asleep tangled in her bed and then I’d dream about being in Paris, being back, finally back.
I’m sure I studied around this time because I remember walking to German class in the snow and swearing at it for visiting Seattle in March. I took the class because I’d met a German in Paris and schemed to go back and woo her with my painful conjugation of simple verbs. But the scheme faded as the snow melted and I kept waking up tangled with the girl on white sheets, waking from the Paris dream again and again.
I had the same dream, warmer, later in the Spring, after we fought about nothing and I walked home alone, looking up at the trees drip in the rain. We had fought about the world: I thought it was incurably sick, while she was more optimistic, and I slept alone, tangled in sheets in my warm room.
Despite her optimism, we stayed together through the summer. At her cabin we swam in fresh water. I pulled myself up the ladder to lay on the dock in the sun, the boards scratching my chest. We swung in a hammock and slept there together in coins of sunlight, and I dreamed of Paris.
In winter I woke up, untangled, alone, in Paris, I was back, finally back. I descended dark stairs to a wet, stony street and walked in the rain on a bridge. I wandered the Left Bank until I found a hotel and carried my things up dark steps to the desk. A young man smiled and motioned down the hall. I walked down the hall and stopped at a door, behind which she waited, asleep, tangled in white sheets.

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So, I was in India during the tsunami

Palolem, Goa, India - Tsunami 1

by Mike

I was in India during the tsunami. I was eating dinner with a friend in a restaurant that sat at the top of the beach and we started hearing waves, the Arabian Sea, which was a surprise because it was low tide. People were shouting and I ran to the front of the restaurant to see Indian men knee-deep in water, grabbing chairs and tables as they drifted away. I thought, “How desperate they must be to think about chairs and tables when this is happening!”

The people in the town were spooked because they’d never seen the ocean act like this…

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We’ve had health care abroad.

Dentist visit, Chiang Mai, Thailand
If there is a god, then why do stupid things happen to smart people?

by Mike

Azure and I have had plenty of health care encounters abroad, so I thought I’d tell some of the fun stories about how we get treated when we leave our own country.

Chipped tooth, France 2001

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Filed under Europe, France, India, Southeast Asia, Stories, Thailand, Tips, Travel

Chatter

Glory Hole, Situk River, Yakutat Alaska

It was light at 4am because we were so far north and I laid on the couch where I woke and watched the men get ready to go fishing. For a few minutes I pretended I was doing serious independent travel and imagined describing the scene in my dispatches home: “These men are obsessed with coffee. They drink it every morning, at least two cups, and then bring a thermos with them on the boat. When they run out of coffee on the boat everyone crashes and takes turns napping on the narrow benches. They play cards late into the night and laugh constantly and have dedicated their lives to fish.”

I tried to pretend…

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Snow on the olive farm

by Mike

Azure and I, picking olives, noticed that the sky was getting dark up the valley. We asked Margarite, “Is it going to rain?”
“No, it won’t rain,” she said.
We didn’t really believe her, so we kept working. But the darkness grew and we were startled to feel an icy wind flee down the valley in front of the cloud.

Down to Nice

We looked up and saw that the darkness had crossed a ridge and was heading for us and whether it was rain, it was serious. Claude screamed orders to get the full olive caisses up and we scrambled to move our equipment inside, protected, and to get the olives out of the cold. Then it hit – snow rioted through the orchard and the temperature must have dropped 25 degrees.

Claude shivering

There was a lot of confusion but we eventually got everything moved in and spent the rest of the day wide-eyed at the snow falling just 30 minutes from Nice.

Of course Margarite was right – no rain.

Where to?

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More from the allee

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by Mike

Last night we went into the allee (it’s an alley of trees) to take some pictures from inside. Azure said that with two people there it wouldn’t be as frightening so she offered to chaperon me. When she was there it wasn’t as terrifying as it was when I’m alone, in fact it seemed a little silly to be so afraid. We took some nice pictures then started walking back toward the chateau.

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I decided I wanted to take a few more pictures but I didn’t want Azure to be bored, so I said she could go back inside since we were so close to the driveway and I was over my fear. Well, that was a bad idea. She went to do some emailing and when I clicked the first shutter for a long exposure (Click, 1, 2, 3, 4….) the night started growing larger and I felt like little eyes were watching me. I heard noises like a tin can being swept in the forest and another bird took off and my heart went from 70 to 150 bpm in a flash. So I ran out of the allee and when I was finally in the open I set up for another picture. I opened the shutter and counted. I heard a noise in the forest again, but then it got really silent. There are really no good options for night in a forest. You don’t want it to be too quite nor too noisy… I was crouching down for the photo and at that moment there was a loud splash behind me that seemed to be coming at me. I turned and in a moment of completely unplanned instinctual response I literally hissed in the direction of the noise.

I thought, “ok, this shit is getting to me,” so I went back to the chateau and found Azure and we walked briskly back to our room.

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Brocciu three: Only one mystery solved

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Cyrus and Patty wait patiently while the supplies are bought at the cheese farm.

by Azure

After the first attempt at making brocciu failed, Mike called the farm to get more supplies for my birthday. Do you want to good news or the bad news first, he asked me after he got off the phone.

It turns out, the milk they had given us was pure, unpasteurized, whole goats milk. Which, on another note explains some things about the bowel movements that were happening on the days when I thought I was drinking 2%. The good news was that they had all the supplies, so Patty drove Linda, Cryus, Mike and I to go get more milk and petite lait.

It was 6pm when we arrived and she happily gave us all that we needed for only 3 euros. This time I got enough for two more trials, one slow cooked and the other faster cooked. She filled the buckets we had brought and sent us on our way.

When we got back to the chateau we realized that we had forgotten the fresh milk. Linda, Mike and I piled back into the car and drove back out to interrupt their dinner and retrieve the milk for brocciu.

After dinner, around 11pm, we started the first trial. This one was slow cooked. I added less salt this time and the proportions were perfect. It got hotter and hotter and finally when the bubbles parted we waited longer and sure enough the brocciu arrived! I scooped in out and put it in my little pot and couldn’t wait to taste it. I got a little spoonful and put it in my mouth and it was so so bad. It tasted just like curdled milk. I had to spit it back into the pot.

Try number two, we figured we had overcooked it time before, but being almost 1am by this time, I had to heat it quickly. It went faster this time, I didn’t spend as much time watching it. I feel like I am getting to know the milk, so I don’t need to. Anyway, when it heater up, I didn’t want it to sit in there too long again, so I turned off the burner as soon as it split, but the brocciu never arrived at all. It was just foam! Again I was so disappointed.

Perhaps it is actually really difficult to make brocciu like people have been telling us. Mike could see that I was getting really down. He told me that when Phillipe had asked how many times Mike thought it would take us to get it right, Mike had answered 10. That made me feel a little better, but I am just not good at this whole persistence thing. That’s Mike’s department. I guess I need to learn that too. I’m counting down though, only seven more tries until I eat the sweet brocciu.

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