Monday, October 27, 2008

Meme: Eight Homes à les McCains

As tagged by Safiya.

Here’s the meme: McCain has 8 homes in the U.S. You have to pick eight places you would like to live. List them. You don’t have to list your reasons, but if you do at least for a few of them, it would be more fun. And remember that the only rule is: the homes must be within the borders of the United States of America or else, within the borders of the country you live in, so as to utterly emulate the McCains. When you’re done, tag 8 people, so that they may join in the self-indulgence, forgetting about the crappy property market and the equivalent of The End of Pompeii on Wall-Street. You could spend your time hammering your doors and windows shut in preparation for the apocalypse instead, but it would be much less fun.

My eight choices are all in the US:

1. Santa Fe, New Mexico. I love my homestate like no other place in the US. My home would have to be a ways outside the city limits, however, because there is only so much touristy-artsy-newage-vortex-authenticity I can handle at one time. Still, the area is breathtaking.

2. Austin, Texas. I really enjoyed living there prior to my move to Moz. I had a sweet little apartment right around the corner from Zilker Park and Barton Springs, I knew all my neighbors and hung out with them regularly, took Nia classes and enjoyed lots of live music with good friends.

3. Bay Area, California. It could be Rockridge, Oakland, San Fran - whatever. With the BART it doesn't matter too much, everything is accessible. Also, I'd be just around the corner from my Mom and Azul, my two beloved girl-cats.

4. New Orleans, Louisiana. I loved it when I visited my high school best friend for Thanksgiving back in 2004. I think I'd love it just as much now, perhaps even more. It has all the elements that seem to attract me to a city: fabulous fusion architecture, unique population, strong regional culture, multi-lingual, tropical, hot and so humid your clothes mold over if left neglected in the closet for more than a week.

5. Idaho or Montana. Or perhaps one of the Dakotas. Random, I know. But I think I'd like the wilderness, the open spaces and the agriculture.

6. San Juan, Puerto Rico. They vote in our election, so that means I can choose a home in the land of the Boricuas for this list.

7. Sea Island, Georgia. I've never visited, but remember my Mom's stories after she went there for work. Seemed like a beautiful place.

8. Kauai, Hawaii. My favorite vacation spot in high school. Hanalei, Waimea Canyon, endless taro fields and a beautiful pink and gray B&B that we were very tempted to buy. If I had a home there, I'd go zodiac rafting and hiking every single weekend.

Now for the tagging. I'm honestly too lazy to link, as my mouse has acted up and I'm unable to highlight text. So, consider yourself one of the selected ones if you are inspired to play along!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Impressions of a Sunday Evening

On this lovely week-end night, I am:

Making: Custom-ordered rings. A couple is getting married next month and want all Mozambican-made things for their wedding. They commissioned a pair of rings from me, which is a great honor. I just finished the woman's: it has 2 salmon-colored natural coral rondelles nestled around a silver disc, and is wrapped up in sterling wire like a bird's nest. The man's ring is more complex, and I will complete it later. It involves metal stamps, coiling and melting fine silver into balls. Photos to come.

Watching: Pria eating my homemade cat food (such a satisfying thing, akin to feeding your husband a hearty meal). Rico with his feet propped up on the red sofa, laptop on his stomach, surfing the internet.

Tasting: Traces of the square of Cadbury's chocolate I ate a while back. Casillero del Diablo cabernet, nicely mellowed after about an hour breathing.

Listening: Mostly to silence, as much a that is possible in a house with 2 other people (we have a houseguest/friend here at the moment) and 2 cats in the middle of a capital city in Africa. Occasional conversation from the building guards downstairs. A stray song as someone walks by, humming at night. The sound of my fingers typing on the laptop.

Wondering: How I can better manage the supply of jewelry items given that I'm not going to the US very often these days, and South Africa doesn't carry many sterling silver or goldfill items. What to wear tomorrow. How to put together my Halloween costume given that I don't have much time this week. How to pay for a Mozambican vacation at the end of the year in South African Rand so that we can take advantage of their currency devaluation.

Planning: To call my dad in a few minutes. I'd like to call my Grammy, but I fear it's a bit late.

Loving: Reluctant Memsahib's writing. Watching the cats play together. The tuna salad I made for dinner (green peppers, pickles, onion, lemon juice, fresh basil and sesame seeds with the slightest touch of mayo). The satisfaction of having taken 2 naps this weekend, totally unusual for me.

Missing: family, Azul, northern-hemisphere autumn, watching the cranes in New Mexico, huevos rancheros, shopping at cool stores (for clothes, makeup, groceries), a functional postal system, all of my kitchen-ware in my storage unit in California...

Friday, October 24, 2008

Churrasco, and the Sweetest Sense of Success Possible

Tonight Rico and I are going to a barbeque (churrasco, in Portuguese) where we, along with our friends Kelly and Marcos, are being treated to an evening of meat, shrimp, beer, sodas and good times.

The occasion? Zeca, our main taxi driver since arriving in Maputo, and a person who has definitely become a friend over the years, is throwing a small party to say thank you. I will properly tell the story later, but one thing is clear: helping Zeca has been the greatest "development impact" we've had thus far in Mozambique, and likely will be the greatest impact we have during our time here, however long that may be.

Zeca refers to me, Rico, Kelly and Marcos as his "pais", literally his parents, an allusion to the way in which we've influenced his life.

I am excited to go celebrate together, in one of the rare cases in which we've all been able to break out of our unfortunately common, prescripted roles of Poor Mozambican vs. Rich (White) Foreigner. Tonight we are the guests. Tonight Zeca is paying the bill. Tonight we will break bread with friends and commemorate the success of an entrepreneur, one of the people who is able to cure me, if even for a moment, of my terrible cynicism regarding this "development" game.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Actually, It Came as Four

The bad luck yesterday, I mean.

After my difficult day, Rico managed to add a #4 to the list: his cell phone was run over by a car!

It was on his lap when we got out of the car, apparently, and it tumbled to the street without him noticing. Once in our flat, he couldn't find his phone, so eventually went back downstairs to see if he'd dropped it somewhere.

Rico found his phone a few feet from our car, its silicone cover full of dust and tire treads. The screen is completely shot - it looks like a black and gray work of abstract art - but miraculously the phone still works! Rico can't see anything on the screen, so no SMS's or making calls, but he can still receive calls without a problem.

Last night he said "o telefone tá que nem pai de santo: só recebe."

I tried to translate for our friend Lindsey, and realized this is one of the most difficult phrases to make meaningful for an American I've ever encountered. You have to go over a) what is a "pai de santo"; b) what does a "pai de santo" receive; and c) the fact that this is common knowledge in Brazil and therefore is a funny, easily understood comment.


Wednesday, October 22, 2008

They Say It Comes in Threes...

Not the best day so far:

1. Woke up to Parceiro peeing on our quilt and licking himself, a sure sign of what is unfortunately his 3rd UTI in about 2 months. The vet recommended a special food for cats with urinary problems, but - of course - the only sell it in South Africa. Rico and I aren't able to go across the border right now (my passport is caught up in immigration for residency renewal, and Rico is working on a consulting assignment), but we've asked Hugh Marlboro to buy some of the prescription food for us when he goes to South Africa next week. Regardless, I'm putting the boys back on a homemade diet (we'd snuck in some crappy kibble in the last 6 months or so because it's easier and cheaper, and now I feel guilty).

2. Got to work and received an "FYI forward" from a colleague of a scathing email this man at headquarters wrote to the CEO and CFO blasting the report I just submitted. Reading it made me see red. I was asked by the Moz office to "clean up a mess" with this one program's reporting, received little support or feedback from certain key people (i.e. the author of the angry email) in the process, was told by my boss to go ahead and do the report in the best way possible given the information I had, distributed it to a group of people for feedback prior to submission, got approval for submission to the donor, and now this man comes out of left field and tears my work to pieces! I stand by my methodology, and while I believe this guy has some valid points about weaknesses in internal communication, his approach really pissed me off.

3. On the heels of the whole report thing, I got a call from our cook, Américo. "Epa, senhora," he started out quietly. I knew his tone of voice meant bad news. "Tudo bem, Américo?" It wasn't. He explained that the glass pyrex in which I'd had him bake a massive quiche for lunch had shattered while in the oven. I told him not to worry, to clean up the oven, be careful not to cut himself, and throw the whole mess in the trash.

Relatively speaking, not the end of the world...but still, ufff! I'm ready for this day to be over.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

For My Grammy

I found this article the other day and thought it was exceptionally interesting, especially given that my Grammy had such a prominent career in preserving indigenous languages.

Grammy - click here to read the article.

Love you! (and love that you read my blog!)

Changes in Maputo Since We Moved Here

Rico and I moved from Chimoio to Maputo in late January 2006, if I'm not mistaken. The city has really changed since our arrival - in my opinion, mostly in positive ways. Here are a few changes I can think of:

- putting up new (funcional!) traffic lights at major intersections, and better positioning them so you can actually see if it's green or red from your car without having to crank your neck out the window.

- repaving Av. 25 de Setembro in the baixa and putting up a median, thus ending the phenomenon of people parking their cars diagonally in the middle of the 2-lane busy street.

- painting lines on several roundabouts and major thoroughfares in an attempt to keep people in their lanes.

- work to control the erosion of the Marginal road, although this is a problem Maputo will have to contend with forever.

- the opening of the Maputo Shopping Center, bringing with it an assortment of overpriced shops, a nice food court, a big, relatively cheap grocery store targeting the Indian community (lots of spices and products you have to identify from photos on the wrapper because everything is in Arabic or Hindi), and a cinema with a tacky neon façade that has yet to open.

- a visible increase in Chinese presence, from construction sites to restaurants to the flight between Joburg and Maputo (last time we took it, at least 1/3 of the passengers were Chinese).

- increase in Brazilian presence, in particular due to companies like CVRD, Camargo Correa and now the opening of a Fiocruz office in Maupto to support the antiretroviral factory that supposedly will be operating by 2010.

- opening of the Polana Casino and accompanying restaurant - The Meat Co. - and nightclub - Sassas. Great food, random club, no comment on the casino facilities as gambling isn't something I've done here in Maputo.

- opening of Zambi, definitely one of the best, most reliable restaurants along with The Meat Co.

- decline in quality at Costa do Sol. When we first arrived in Maputo, it was our absolute favorite restaurant and we knew the manager and benefited from him ordering special seafood platters on our behalf. Now, apparently, the management has changed. It's still a good restaurant and certainly worth a visit due to its history, but there is better seafood to be had elsewhere, in my opinion.

- change in management at the restaurant at Hotel Terminus, definitely a change for the better. Maputo increasingly has several very good restaurants to choose from.

- opening of Café Sol, the first (and hopefully not the last) coffehouse in the city.

- new hotels in the city: VIP executive and the Arabian-themed one on Av. 24 de Julho.

- destruction of the abandoned Four Seasons hotel. We watched the big blast from Jenny's apartment, and Paco got it on tape, complete with me inadvertently yelling "Caralho!" at the sound of the explosion and subsequent collapse of the old concrete structure. Maputo's shoreline is certainly better off without that eyesore.

- booming residential construction, especially in Bairro Triunfo.

- increase in crime, though thankfully Maputo is still a relatively safe city, especially if compared to places like Rio or Joburg. There have been several carjackings and kidnappings in the last year, a change from the more petty pickpocketing and vehicle/home burgulary that usually plagues the city. I suppose this is one of the unavoidable consequences of growth, especially if the economic benefits don't trickle down to the majority of the population.

- increased food prices and transport cost. I keep wondering when the unsustainable solutions reached following the transport riots in February will start to break apart.

- more "luxury" options available in Maputo: day spas, massage parlors, pilates and yoga classes, etc.

- increase in rent prices. Now it's very difficult to get an apartment in a "good" neighborhood as an expat for less than US$800/month. It's not at all uncommon for a newer/remodeled 3-bedroom flat to go for US$2,500 - US$3,500 per month in these areas. Big houses can easily go for US$3,500 to US$4,500 per month. This is much more than I was paying in Austin, or certainly in New Mexico, and is nearly what rent is like in notoriously expensive cities like San Francisco and New York!

What other changes have you noticed lately in Maputo? Any contributions to this list in the comments are welcome!

Monday, October 20, 2008

Civic Duties Completed

Amazingly, my absentee ballot arrived by mail at our apartment in Maputo. Given the dismal record of receiving mail over the past 3.5 years, I was nothing short of shocked. I thought I'd requested that the ballot be delivered to the US Embassy, but somehow it still arrived via post at our front door.

I feel very disconnected from the election process. I know that even though I reside overseas, the policies of the US still greatly affect me on a personal level, from taxes to how much I must play the ambassador role in the face of poor strategic decisions (and the resulting destroyed reputation of our country) made by our government. Still, I don't really feel engaged. Politics has never been my cup of tea, but I don't think I've ever been so apathetic about the process. Strange, especially considering what a dynamic election process this has been so far, and what critical issues are on the table for our next President to manage.

I decided to vote last week, given that I've know for quite a while whom I prefer to take office come next year. For the record, I voted for Obama, but I'm not entirely convinced he has the fiscal savvy to pull the US through the economic crisis in the most efficient way. Still, for me, he represents the best choice at this point.

I can feel myself becoming more and more centrist as the years go by. I am definitely still a bit left-of-center, but I am increasingly incapable of identifying with either party, or even with a liberal vs. conservative orientation. I've always been registered as an Independent, but now, after some leftish leanings in college, I'm firmly convinced this is the best choice for me.

Apparently my ballot will be delivered along with a bunch of others from Mozambique en masse via the diplomatic pouch, direct to wherever the counting will take place. Here's hoping everything goes as it should with that process...

Also, speaking of civic duties, I got a new passport last week as well. It was fortuitous timing, as 1) I was nearly out of pages, even after 2 additional booklets of 24 pages; 2) my passport was about to expire; and 3) I changed my name. I now have a shiny, new booklet with no stamps that easily fits in my passport holder. And it is my first official document with my new name.

Now that I am legitimate (in the eyes of the US government) as Mrs. Amaro, this kicks of the fun process of changing my name on social security records, bank accounts, credit cards, IRA, driving license, and every other public document ever issued. And I thought I was escaping bureaucracy by leaving my consulting assignment at the BIC...

Friday, October 17, 2008

Thank God It's the 6th Day*

Whew! It's been a whirlwind of a week. I'm glad it's Friday evening and that I have a chance to kick back, have a cocktail, organize my jewelry supplies and go to bed early.

The week started out with my birthday on Monday, and Rico and I had a lovely, quiet celebration. He gave me a chandelier as a gift, which means that he knows me excedingly well. It is a bit of an antique, probably from the 1950's if the design tells me anything, and is a robin's egg blue with a bit of gold painting and 12 candelabra-style arms. It's perfect in my office, as it gives me the blast of light I've been craving for my jewelry work. After surprising me with the chandelier, Rico and I went out to dinner at Micasa, where we had steaks and a delicious bottle of Vergelegen (if I remember the name correctly), perhaps my new favorite South African red wine.

The rest of the week was spent preparing a report at work for an Avian Influenza Contingency Support program that our organization is implementing together with a few departments from the Ministry of Agriculture. It was a real challenge to pull together the report, for reasons that I won't and shouldn't get into here on the blog, but suffice to say I had a "prova de fogo", as they say in Portuguese, to kick off my new job. I managed to finish the report last night at 1am, and turned it in for review by headquarters. In a nutshell, they freaked out a bit. I can tell I'm coming from the private sector and that I'm used to writing bottom-line focused business plans. The feedback I got was that my report was way too harsh, and that it portrayed the organization in a bit of a negative light... The morning was spent "correcting" the language, which amused me to no end. I suppose I need to brush off my euphemisms and flowery writing skills again. You know, "recession" vs. "period of economic uncertainty", or "discrepancy" vs. "slight differences in figures". That type of thing. I realize that although I love to write, I am much more of a tell-it-like-it-is girl in the workplace.

To celebrate the end of the week, I had my nails done today thanks to a gift certificate from my friend Lindsey. I had my hands painted in a super-metallic, intense silver, and my toes done in what looked in the bottle to be a light gray with bluish undertones. I like my hands, but they aren't my favorite color ever with my skintone. A bit too intense, I think. My toes, however, were the big surprise of the day. The color I chose looked in the bottle to have the potential to turn my toes a cold, morgue-like hue of pale gray. But once painted on and juxtaposed with my olive skin, I realized I'd found the perfect neutral. The nice pink-y, beige-y colors that tend to be marketed as neutrals usually look awful on me. They wash me out and turn way too warm. But this is perfect. For the record, it's Essie's Great Expectations. My other all-time favorites are Wicked and this cocoa shade with copper glitter that I can't seem to find on the site.

So. While speaking of all things fashion and feminine, I have 4 people coming to see me tomorrow because they want custom jewelry designs! One woman is getting married and wants rings and a necklace, another wants a set with Ilha de Moçambique beads, another wants some chandelier earrings, and another wants a nose ring! Tomorrow will be a busy day, but at least I'll be spending it doing something I love!

* Portuguese, unlike other romance languages, names the weekdays after numbers. Monday is segunda-feira, literally "second fair (market day) of the week". Friday is the sixth. So TGIF, Portuguese style!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Looking Back

Today is my last day of being 26 years old. As I think about the past year, I remember these events, lessons, sorrows, moments of silliness and new-chapter markers:

- My experience working with Hugh Marlboro at the Banana Empire. Although it inspired some of my favorite writing ever, and many times I think the people I met in that job will be the model for the characters in my first novel, it was overall a tough time for me. I had very high hopes and put my former employer on a bit of a pedestal. The more lofty your expectations, the larger your disappointment when they are not met. I am convinced it was all for the best, though. I moved on to a better work environment, a much better salary than I ever could have hoped for at the Empire, and the valuable lesson of how to better deal with charismatic, nearly intoxicating, but unquestionably flawed bosses.

- Lots of new job opportunities following the episode with Hugh Marlboro. First I worked as a consultant at the BIC doing investment analysis for a fund that supports small and medium-sized local businesses. I can't complain too much about that job, because the timing was God-sent, the pay was good and my friend Tracy was my boss for most of my time there (she was one of the best managers I've ever had, actually, which is rare considering we were close friends prior to working together, which sometimes makes these things difficult). However, the bureaucracy got to me and I'm glad I had a new opportunity elsewhere. Now I'm working for an NGO, and the experience thus far has been positive...

- Coping while Rico was in Brazil from July to December 2007. I never expected our time apart to be so difficult. We had a very strong relationship at that point (and still do, graças a Deus), but I was a bit blindsided by how much being apart affected us and presented us with challenges. It was, I suppose, a good process to go through prior to getting married. We were forced to seriously look at our relationship, spot any brewing issues, and talk things through. The most important lesson that I got out of the time apart was that we must always work to have a good relationship. Nothing is to be taken for granted. This seems a bit trite, but it was important to remember this. Relationships, just like people, are fragile. If neglected even in a very subtle manner, cracks can easily appear. This isn't to say that we neglected each other, or our relationship in general, but we had the difficult wake-up call that even though we get along splendidly and love each other very much, it's not a given that we will stay together. We must cultivate our relationship, be present and aware as much as possible. We have to work to make it happen, every day, infinitely.

- I made some mistakes and bad choices that to this day I am ashamed to think about. I was humbled by the fact that I am capable of hurting the people I love. I made amends in the best way I knew how, but it still pains me to think about these few episodes. I try to be forgiving with myself, and with others. We are all human, and all make mistakes. Every night I pray to God to help me be a stronger, more whole person. I pray that I will learn from my previous poor choices, and that I will go forward as a wiser, kinder, less selfish being.

- Our wedding. The best day of my life thus far. Rico, all of our families together, the Casa Rosa, the church across the street, my dresses and jewelry, friends, dancing, and endless magic.

- Our honeymoon in Vietnam. Total luxury for 16 days in one of the most interesting and beautiful countries I've ever visited. We cruised through Ha Long Bay, went trekking in Sapa, learned to cook some Vietnamese dishes, had clothes made in Hoi An and wandered through the old city, roasted under the sun at the Imperial City in Hue, drank Moet & Chandon and ate wild mushrooms, braved Saigon traffic, visited a floating market in Can Tho, and enjoyed all of the gorgeous honeymoon suites we were treated with during our stay.

- Other fabulous trips and holidays: Brazil/New Mexico/Bay Area over the holidays with Rico - a lavish Christmas with my Dad and that side of the family, including snow falling in Quarai mission, covering the red stones of the ruins with fine white powder; quality family time with my Mom and Grammy and all the animals in California, including a fabulous night out with old friends from high school and a world music concert for New Years; and record-setting wedding planning while in Rio, getting nearly all the major details pulled together in 1 week. We also went to Swaziland with a great group of friends for an adventure sports weekend, the highlight of which for me was white-water rafting and me and Rico being the only boat not to flip over on the river. We did a weekend at Bilene, a beautiful coastal lagoon in Gaza Province, with a group of friends and braaied at the beach house. And, to finish off my 26 years in style, there was our most recent trip to Italy, Slovenia and Austria. I must say, we have a fabulous quality of life.

- Our first international visitors here in Maputo, both in March. Our friend Heleno from Brazil did a business trip to see what connections he might establish for his business in China, and my Mom came to see what our life here is all about and also to test the waters for business opportunities. We look forward to receiving more friends and family here, though we're aware it is a long, expensive trip.

- Little Pequena, the kitten we unexpectedly adopted after my friends Kelly and Jenny rescued her from an alley outside the CFM after one too many gin and tonics. I got a frantic text message the next day, as Jenny doesn't like cats and Kelly is allergic and already has a big dog at home. We took in Pequena, nursed her back to health, and desperately tried to find her a home. After several months, a colleague at the Banana Empire agreed to adopt her. Unfortunately, little Pequena met an untimely demise on the farm, most likely after an encounter with a snake or dog out in the wilds of Boane.

- Our beautiful, loving, naughty, pentelho, unique filhotes: Pria and Parceiro. These cats make me happy every single day.

- Warming a bit to the idea of having children. I'm not very maternal, am not experienced with babies or honestly even comfortable around them, and I've never felt the idea of having children as a real, palpable possibility for my future. Not in the sense that I don't want to have a family - I've always known that at some point I would like to have kids - but in the sense that it was always a very far off idea, years and years away, not something I could relate to at all. Now, for the first time, I feel that having kids is an increasingly real possibility. Some days I think I'd like to get pregnant, though I'm terrified by the idea of giving birth and I know that I'm not yet ready for that big step. I think we're still a few years off, but I can feel changes in my perspective, and this is definitely a first for me.

- Meeting lots of new friends in Mozambique via the blog: Anel and Morne, Brendan, Lindsey, Christina, Jose, Colin...the other day I made a list of all the people I've met here through my blog and was shocked to realize that it's close to 50, and that many of my best friends here now in "real life" I've met via the internet.

- Making fitness a part of our lifestyle, and in particular making exercise something that Rico and I do together. We're working out at least once a week now with a personal trainer, concentrating on flexibility and cardio. It's well worth the money.

- Getting a car and learning to drive one the left-hand side of the street in a car that has the steering wheel on the right. I'm over my initial trauma, though I'm still essentially incapable of parallel parking. Perhaps this is a skill I can add to my list of accomplishments for age 27.

- Changing my name. I took (one of) Rico's last name(s) and tacked it on the end of my own, thus preserving the historical and cultural significance of my maiden name, but giving me a new name that is beautiful, full of alliteration, and easy on the Portuguese-speaking tongue. It's amazing to think that for the rest of my life I will be Alexandra Amaro...

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Photos Including: Vineyards, Rilke, and the Spot Where the Iron Curtain Once "Hung"(?)

A portrait of Mittel Europe: view of Gorizia, Italy from the town castle.

With Marino, our good family friend, with the hills of Slovenia in the background. During the war, Gorizia was split in two; half stayed in Italy, and half went to Yugoslavia under the name Nova Gorica. Now there are no borders - truly amazing.

Marker in a plaza outside the Transalpino railway station in Nova Gorica. As Marino put it, this marks the spot where the Iron Curtain once stood.

We climbed a crazy-narrow (and very tall) spiral staircase to get to the top of this monument near Dobrovo, Slovenia. I was dizzy already from the ascent; the height and wind didn't help at all.

View of the wine-making Collio region of the border. The specialty here is white wines, my favorite being the dessert wine Picolit.

A controversial church (due to its modern architecture), built on a prominent hilltop to give thanks for Trieste having remained part of Italy after the war.

View of the Adriatic Sea from the church hill. I love the light this time of year!

Rico and I hiked the Rilke trail from Sistiana to Duino. The karst cliffs and clear blue water were to die for.

Trying to walk off at least some of the figs I ate!

View of the marina at Sistiana. This beach marks the point where, to the East along the Dalmatian coast, all the beaches are rocky; to the west, along the coast of the Italian peninsula, all the beaches are sandy.

Sunday, October 05, 2008


I recently bought the album Shine by an artist called Estelle. You might know her from the song "American Boy" she sings with Kanye West. I originally got into Estelle because of the video for that song, which is so classy and fresh, and she is simply gorgeous.

Rico and I listened to the entire album while driving to and from Joburg last month (we chose to drive to Joburg as opposed to flying because it costs US$450 per person to go on the 45-minute flight from Maputo, which is absurd!) and are both totally hooked on Estelle's music. All the tracks are brilliant, and I've not been so into an album of this style since Lauryn Hill.

The best song, however, is the title track. Both Rico and I have been singing it all week. "Oh, this is my song, and just like you I got a right to stay strong...I'm gonna shine, gonna shine, gonna shine while my light's on." Amen to that!

Saturday, October 04, 2008

More Italy Trip: Aquileia and Grado

Rico and I took a day to explore the area to the South of my Grandmother's house, setting of many a memory from my younger years. We drove through beautiful countryside, gawked at ice-blue rivers, visited Aquileia (ruins of an ancient Roman city) and had lunch at the seaside town of Grado.

Rico in the Basilica at Aquileia, built in 1031 and, according to Wikipedia, one of the "most important edifices of Christianity." The entire floor of the cathedral is covered in mosaics from the 4th century, though they don't come out so well in photos.

Mosaic detail of the fight between the tortoise and the cock. Each mosaic has some sort of Biblical or historical symbolism, but I'm not able to remember much...I admit, my fascination with the mosaics is much more aesthetic in origin.

More detail from the mosaic pavement in the basilica, taken without flash.

There are 2 crypts in the basilica, also covered in mosaics and featuring frescoes from the 12th century that depict the origins of Christianity in Aquileia (no photos due to no flash rule and lack of tripod).

Classic Ali and Rico arm's length photo inside the 5th centry baptistry.

The "basin" used for baptisms in Aquileia (large stone structure behind Rico) was easily as big as the small wading pool in our house in Rio!

View of the belltower from the archealogical walkway behind the basilica. Unfortunately, the day was quite overcast but with bright light, making it hard to take decent photos with the point-and-shoot.

This once was the site of the Romans' fluvial port. A lime green, moss-covered trickle is all that is left today.

Ruins of the fluvial port structure, with a modern-day soccer field in the background.

Reconstruction of arches and columns at entrance to fluvial port. I love all the scroll detail!

Rico and I went out one of the secondary exits of the Aquileia site, and had to walk along the highway for a bit to get back to our car. This was the view through a gate along the road. Ah, Italy!

After visiting Aquileia, we headed to Grado. Rico went crazy with all the sailboats in the marina.

A group of painters worked to capture the imagery of the main canal.

Rico decided Grado would be an "acceptable" place to have a sailboat, if he were forced to lead such a hard life at any point.

This photo is from another day, but I love it. Here we were walking around Gorizia, if I remember correctly. I am wearing my favorite necklace, one I made from a bit of abalone shell my mom found on the beach in California. I wrapped it with some silver wire, put it on a cord, and now wear it all the time.