Posts tagged "travel"
There Are Distances Between Us

There Are Distances Between Us

The interstate highway system in the United States is the largest and most sophisticated in the world. It is named for President Dwight D. Eisenhower. There are two points and between them, a distance between you and me. These two points are connected in ways we will never fully understand but they are connected. You are there...
Becoming a Sanvicenteña: Five Stages

Becoming a Sanvicenteña: Five Stages

Stage 1: Fear The old highway to San Vicente is nothing more than a dirt road. At the height of the dry season the landscape is leached of color, the road pale as bone. We bump in and out of potholes, my American advisor filling the Peugeot with 400 years of Costa Rican history: the...

Somebody Else’s Genocide

After my reading in Atlanta, Georgia, a blond woman asked me, in German-accented English, if my books were translated and published in Germany. “Ja,” I said. I studied German for two years in high school and one semester in college, but I remembered only a few words—abgehetzt, schoner, arschloch—and only one phrase: Ich habe sieben...

Driving William Stafford

The only thing we talked about was bread. How to keep the crust from splitting in the oven’s heat. How to keep the rise from falling. What the kneading did for the hands. It was 3:00 a.m., as dark as early morning gets, and 26º below. I looked it up. At least once per mile,...

Death of a Citizen Abroad

When a citizen dies abroad, their body is sent home in the cargo-hold of a commercial jetliner along with suitcases stuffed with beachwear, woodcarvings from the tourist stalls, and souvenir bottle-openers shaped like elephants. A coffin is just another piece of baggage. At the airport, a Consular Affairs Officer, Mr. R—, fills out the customs...

Cairo Tunnel

I nudge through the turnstile, putting the stiff yellow ticket in my pocket and crossing a footbridge to the other side of the tracks, where I head toward the cluster of women on the platform. It’s rush hour. Morning salutations compete with beehive intensity. I scoot forward and back. Soon, the Metro barrels up, and...

Future Ex Buys Pajamas

We begin our descent somewhere over Normandy when I read in Let’s Go! France that the Eiffel Tower is this beacon for suicide. Host to twelve successful attempts every year. Katja tells me the jumpers tend not to be locals. She says no Parisian would be caught dead anywhere near the Eiffel Tower, and by the...

Vietnam: Four Ways

1. Silk At the fabric market, a two-tone silk in mauve and gray shimmers, then billows when I free it from the bolt. Delicate cranes fly along its fold. An old woman studies me studying the silk; I can’t let go. “This is so soft,” I say, “so—” But it’s in English. The old woman...

Wonder in Africa

After my first visit to Dakar in 1989, I left disoriented. Now I felt reassured to be back. Pulling into the driveway of the hotel that I had once hoped I would never see again, my taxi stopped behind a huge black limousine, out of which poured an entourage of muscular men and fashion model...

Displacement

This is the Oz Museum in Wamego, Kansas. Here you can see the giant Tin Man just inside the front door, rosy cheeks, a smile straight as piano keys. It’s only the top half of him lounging on the floor, the part with a heart stuck like a prize to his left chest. You can...

Driver Ants

The night we arrive in Uganda, my mother wakes to the sound of rain, not a storm, but a steady slap of drops against pane. She rolls over, her body weary from the plane and the children and the jetlag. Although we are at the top of a hill, windows flung open to catch a...

Spinning Down

On that perfect Caribbean afternoon, while my spouse napped, I had paddled out to a shallow coral area to snorkel. Alone. I knew better. The water was quiet, the coral gorgeous, so I swam beyond the shallow area for a better view. Without any warning, a wall of surf, instant and rogue, picked me up...

Dessert

In Alba, Italy, rain and a market. In my hands, the white greased paper that once held an entire rotisserie rabbit. Its bones clack together as hooves, a horse in the distance. I clutch this paper coffin to my chest, as if for warmth, and scan the piazza for a garbage can. My hunt for...

The Ugly Friend

In Prague my attractive friend and I meet two Swedish men at a vegetarian restaurant. We share a communal table. Outside it is raining as is the case all summer in various locations around Europe. Instantly the men begin smiling and then whispering to each other in Swedish. I am eating soup, lentil I think...

Missing Mao’s Ear

“Y M C A,” I hummed the English words to the song on the train’s loudspeakers. My friend Luc marked each alphabet letter with his arms. Outside, rice fields stretched into the setting sphere of the sun, a discus of fiery flaming red that the Buddha had thrown into the sky. The man next to...

Monsieur Young and the End of Existentialism

In front of Basilique de Fourviere, up in the sky, my face moist from the cold mist moving, I saw the whole city of Lyon spread out in front of me, squat geometric shapes of brown and white and gray. I watched the specks that were speeding cars on a distant highway. I saw the...

“Tetanus, You Understand?”

September 2, 1994:Has anyone ever loved you as much as me? October 12, 1995:My possessions thrown into the arms of skeptical moving men, my three tiny dogs snatched and trundled into an apartment with white-painted walls, my mother arrived from North Carolina and sleeping on the floor inside the frame of a mattress-less bed. Fled,...

The Wheelbarrow Dance on the Harbor of Cascais

The weather had been announcing itself all day, first as a mist tossed high off the distant hills of Sintra, then as a quick bleating pulse through the angled streets of Cascais.  By evening we were wishing for the sweaters we hadn’t thought to bring to Portugal at the summer’s height.  We were remembering the...