Thursday, August 14, 2014

[Staglevision] mediterranean summer

Dear friends and readers,

Just returned home from my seven-week jaunt through Europe! I was in Lisbon for three weeks TA-ing for the incredible writer Alissa Nutting at the DISQUIET International Literary Program. Since I hadn't visited Europe since 2006 (and since the UMass Grad School gave me a very generous travel grant) I decided to visit a few more countries that I missed in college: France, Morocco, and Spain. After DISQUIET, I spent a few days in Paris with my MFA pals Chris and Colleen, but after that, I was traveling solo for the very first time. 

Each morning, I set out with my trusty camera, my Stanford in Entertainment tote bag, UMass water bottle, itinerary, and book. You learn a great deal about the people you travel with; I learned a lot about myself. I became more self-reliant and assertive, better able to navigate foreign cities, better able to approach people I didn't know. At the same time, I was overwhelmed by the kindness and hospitality of the locals, who often bridged the language barrier by speaking in English or by being patient with my garbled bits of Portuguese or French or Maghrebi, heavily aided by gesture. (I was able to trot out my Spanish, though it was easier for me to rehearse and deliver a sentence or two than to understand what was being said to me.) The books I read gave me a dual consciousness as I traveled. Jacinto Lucas Pires' novel The True Actor led me through Lisbon, Hemingway's memoir A Moveable Feast guided me through Paris, and Paul Bowles' autobiography Without Stopping saw me through Morocco and Spain.

Perhaps the best part of traveling alone was the new and unexpected friends I made: Gio Ken, who welcomed me to Lisbon; Karen Hayes and Sarah Reading, two Australians who jumped the fence at Père Lachaise to kiss Morrison's grave; Anne-Flore Rives and her friends, who absorbed me into their table in Paris, toasting "All You Need Is Love;" Amy Harris, my Paris Opera ticket line buddy; Iffy Tillieu and Lee Bo Young, who helped me acclimate during my first day in Marrakech; Pat and Mike Kelly, a dynamic couple from Puerto Vallarta that I met at the hammam; the Chefchaouen crew: charismatic Mehdi Lazrak, Veronica Orlich, Tom and Kim and their dancing daughters Lola and Ruby; John Davison, who opened TALIM to me in Tangier; Solomon Pastor, a footballer from London playing for CD Ronda; and Damien Compain, my host in Barcelona. As luck would have it, I ran into some familiar faces along the way, too! Stephen Ocho Deaderick and I gobbled the famed pastéis de nata in Belem while his Semester at Sea ship was docked in Lisbon, and I bumped into my high school classmate Jeff Kao at La Sagrada Família!

Top 10 Experiences:
1. Sharing the second draft of my story "Night Visits" with a room of talented and generous writers at DISQUIET.
2. Scoring free, front-row tickets to Puccini's La Boheme at the Paris Opera on Bastille Day.
3. Rekindling my love of Ancient Egypt in the palatial rooms of the Louvre, then finding original versions of the Cupid and Psyche paintings I'd been researching on Wikipedia.
4. Escaping the heat and bustle of Paris to sit in awe of Monet's Water Lilies in the naturally lit oval rooms at Musée de l'Orangerie.
5. Treating myself to a luxurious hammam & traditional body scrub with black soap and kessa glove & ghassoul body mask, followed by a relaxing body massage, pool, Moroccan mint tea and cookies!
6. Tiring out my guide while leather jacket shopping in the Fes medina.
7. Impressing the men of Chefchaouen when invited to put down my camera and do pull ups with them at the Ras el Maa waterfall.
8. Climbing up a cliff in Tangier to get to Cafe Hafa, where Paul Bowles and Mohamed Mrabet first met.
9. Receiving a private tour of the Tangier American Legation Institute for Moroccan Studies (and the Paul Bowles Wing!) from Director John Davison during the Islamic Fête du Thrône holiday.
10. Stumbling upon the dark dreamscapes of animators and puppeteers Starewitch, Švankmajer, and the Quay Brothers at the Centre de Cultura Contemporània de Barcelona exhibit Metamorphosis.

Photo Albums:



P.S. The April launch party for my photography book, Outside Windows, was a huge success! I couldn't have asked for a better way to ring in my 29th birthday. You can still order hardcover and EPUB copies of Outside Windows on Square Market. I have about ten copies of the handsome hardcover edition left, and I'd like to find good homes for them.

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