Not to sound jaded or anything, but today's hike, while quite pretty, wasn't really more spectacular than anything one might find in the Pacific Northwest. It was a long walk through a deeply forested area, but when the Olympic National Forest is in your back yard, it's hard to be too impressed by all the shades of green. Still, a very nice day with lots of exercise. We had a picnic lunch on the shore of the Tasman Sea, followed by a drive to the sleepy vacation village of Okarito, where our guides Bas and Marisha prepared a lovely dinner of grilled meats and salmon (despite the fact that they're both vegetarian), plus veggies, salad, corn-on-the-cob, and ice cream. My muscles ache and I was very happy to crawl into bed and type this up.
Friday, January 27, 2017
Thursday, January 26, 2017
|the Southern Alps|
|clockwise from left: Mike, Emily, me, Terry, Jack, Peter, Dale, Bas (guide), Lisa, Don, Merisha (guide), Claudia, and Jennifer - my companions for the next 10 days.|
Saturday, January 21, 2017
Friday, January 20th, 2017 must have been an auspicious date on the calendar because when my mom's cousin took me to the Mount Lavinia Hotel for breakfast that day, we counted five different bridal parties, and it wasn't even 9am.
To have a personal chef is an obvious luxury, but I wonder if those who aren't lucky enough to have one, even temporarily, like I do in Colombo, appreciate how MUCH of a luxury it is, and understand all the things a person doesn't have to do when someone else is employed to cook for you. Velu has been Nilan's cook and housekeeper for years. He stays employed here even when Nilan doesn't live in the country, he's that valuable. He has cooked in embassies and managed large kitchens. His English is fairly rudimentary but I make myself understood by just talking really loudly. I'm kidding. Velu truly enjoys cooking, that's obvious; he can cook western food but why would I possibly eat western food when Velu's rice and curry is top-notch? He makes my breakfast in the morning, brings me coffee or tea, clears up, does the shopping, cooks four or five curries a week -- chopping this and that, crushing spices and fragrant leaves; he measures nothing and makes a huge mess in the kitchen, and when he's done, the kitchen is so clean that there's no indication that anything went on in there. I haven't been in a grocery store in three weeks and I've only occasionally washed a dish. I've learned over the years of visiting that he doesn't want me to bring my plate to the kitchen when I'm finished eating, and that asking for something complicated is fun for him. I usually only want scrambled eggs for breakfast (he makes perfect scrambled eggs) but the other day he told me he was making something "special" for breakfast and whipped up a potato masala, some roti (think Sri Lankan tortillas), and served it to me rolled up like a breakfast burrito. Over the years, this house has been let out to ex-pats who have lived here with their families, and friends have used it as a short-term rental, and Velu comes with the house. He told me that one family of six stayed for a while and that by the time he cleared breakfast, it was time to make lunch; by the time lunch was over, he had to start dinner. He said he was exhausted by the time they left -- but when I'm here, it's like a 'vacation' for him. So there's clearly no reason to take my plate to the kitchen when I'm done eating.
Monday, January 16, 2017
|Katherine Boo, John Gimlette, Christina Lamb|
After that talk, I didn't have anything going on until later in the afternoon, but I met up with Nisreen and Riyaz who had been invited to a friend's house in the fort for lunch. I was a little apprehensive about tagging along for a meal, having not actually been invited, but when we got there, there were about 25 people in all stages of having lunch, and food for possibly twice that many. The house was enormous - I saw a fraction of it, but that fraction included a huge outdoor seating area, a semi-outdoor dining room and kitchen, which was obviously not the 'main' kitchen, a more formal indoor dining room, a massive indoor/outdoor living room, and a completely empty room which could have served as a ballroom. And that was just what I saw between the entrance and the outdoor dining room where we ate, I have no idea what was on the second and possibly third floors.
|Colm Toibin reading from Brooklyn|
|Michael Fehr, a German poet 'performed' two pieces before|
Colm Toibin spoke. Was it poetry? Was it rap? Was it performance
art? I'm still not sure.
|she goes by the name Tricity Vogue|
And then the last day of the fest was Sunday and one of the best sessions of the whole event. I had heard Christina Lamb talk during the panel discussion on travel writing, but she had a solo interview on Sunday morning during which she spoke extensively about two of her books: I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban, and Nujeen: One Girl's Incredible Journey from War-torn Syria in a Wheelchair. These were two amazing topics, stories of two extraordinary teenage girls, and her admiration for both of them was clear. Malala underwent a 5-hour operation to remove a bullet which had traveled through her skull and lodged in her shoulder near her spinal cord and spent 8 days in a coma. Nujeen has cerebral palsy and is confined to a wheelchair, she left Aleppo in 2015, pushed by her older sister Nasrine, traveling 3,500 miles to Cologne. Malala now lives in England and Nujeen lives in Germany, both girls are preparing to enter university. Made me rethink complaints about bad traffic and poor service in restaurants.
Saturday, January 14, 2017
|a photo from her childhood in India|
Brigid became a fashion journalist by accident - she was an assistant fashion editor at the Sunday Times in London in 1960, and in 1961 when the actual editor who was pregnant, was put on bed-rest, she became the editor by default, and spent the next several years writing about the fashion of the 'swinging 60s.' In the late 60s, she met her husband who was a diplomat, gave up fashion writing and spent many years of moving from country to country - mostly in Central Asia and the Arab world; she wrote Diplomatic Baggage, and Packing Up: Further Adventures of Trailing a Spouse about the very real job of being a diplomat's wife. The interview was fun and I was disappointed that I couldn't get a ticket to the another talk she is doing at the festival, one focusing on the fashion of the 60s, because I do love a good mini-dress.
After the morning session, Riyaz, Nisreen and I headed out of the 'fort' area which is where the lit fest venues are, and down the beach road to our different accommodations for the weekend. They dropped me off at Elephant Rock Cottage, which is where I'm staying. I'm in a very nice room up on a hill, with a balcony that looks into a bit of jungle.
|it's hardly a "cottage" - my room is on the top, the big|
windows are part of another rental until below mine.
When we were done at the fest for the day, I went with Riyaz and Nisreen to the place where they and some other friends are staying, and walked around the beach neighborhood for a bit, before settling in with some drinks in the garden area of their bungalow for a competitive game of iPad Trivial Pursuit; Asita and Nisreen against Riyaz and me - pretty evenly matched teams, but we never finished the game as Lalith arrived and we moved onto the beach for dinner, which could not have been more spectacular: