Monday, June 29, 2009

summer means o-bon!

Every weekend of the summer a different buddhist temple on the island puts on their Bon Festival, with lots of typical food --fried donuts, grilled manwiches called Flying Saucers, yakitori chicken and teriyaki beef, and Spam musubi. Everyone comes dressed up in their Japanese finery-- from simple stuff like light cotton hapi coats, to full kimono with stiff obi and lacquered combs. There's a big yard in front of the temples, and a tall tower set up in the middle that holds the drums, which the priest climbs up to say a blessing. Lights are strung out like spokes in a wheel and a wide circle is roped off. When it starts to get dark, somebody turns on the tape recorder and a crackly old recording starts up, and all of the dancers go into the circle, and dance in unison, around and around the tower, showing off their finery. All year, they have bon-dance classes so you can practice all the steps to these funny old songs.
I pretended to be texting so I could take these pictures of dressed up people. :)

Here's the tower with the drums and the lanterns and lights... you can see that we should have brought our folding chairs.

Matt's Aikido class meets at the Lihue Hongwanji, and so they got to help out with the bon dance preparations. We got to the hall and saw mountains of chicken and beef stewing in savory sauces. We helped string them onto skewers.
Matt got to go the next night and grill up the flying saucers over open flames-- it was very manly!Rosie dancing along to the music on Matt's neck

Eating fried dough blobs-- Andagi

This cute but annoying dog followed us on our walk.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Home again!

We are home. It is so colorful and hot and tropical and familiar and totally unfamiliar, too-- like a long trip away set me back to Hawaii Novice-- sort of nice to have fresh touristy-but-comfortable eyes... sort of lonely...
But anyway, here's Rosie saying that she is Little!And BIG!

And watering the garden
And hiking
Aw, our special little girl...
Very special. Extra padding necessary.
Yaaay! My Bike!
She made a loaf of bread.
And afternoons by the pool...

Tuesday, June 16, 2009


You'd think by this point Rosie and I would be burnt out from so much intergalactic travel. And really, we would have been. If we had landed anywhere but here:

With amazing all-star auntie Katie!
It was absolutely nourishing to spend a couple of days with her. And it wasn't just the astounding home-slaughtered buffalo we managed to have for every meal. (Katie documented this meal better than I did. Here is Her Take.)

Or home made blueberry ice cream...Or the 2 ton bulls we faced down. (hehe, our gentle afternoon walk turned into an arduous adventure, including tresspassing, enormous testicl---- um, tests of endurance, wading through grass up to our armpits, climbing over electric fence, passing a baby over barbed wire and crawling on our bellies under the same.)

It was just wonderful to have some sisterly time to reminisce and reconnect and cry and bond. Oh yeah, and we got to sing "animals on the bus" for HOURS at a time while driving Rosie around. Katie is huh-larious. Each verse was a full-body, top-decibel enactment of the true nature of each creature. Cheetahs, (CHEEEEAAAAAW!!!!), Monkeys, (heeeheeeeeheee HEEEEEEEEE, HEEEEEEEEEE, HEEEEEEEEEE!!!), octopuses (squelch, squelch). And this is while she is driving! I thought I was going to pee my pants and then die in a ball of canyon fire. It was great. And seriously, it went on for hours. Haaaaah, so fun.

Rosie loved their downstairs neighbors, too.

One afternoon we met the brilliant and beautiful and warm and insightful and level and magical KJ in Salt Lake for lunch at the groovy and idealistic and oddly snooty One World Cafe, where you decide how much you're willing to pay, but everybody eats. She showed Rosie how to take pictures...
See that camera? Kj is an arTISTE. I heart her so. Here are some delectable photos she took of RJ and our adventures together.
After lunch we couldn't find the zoo so instead we lolled around at a lovely park in the avenues, and KJ taught RJ how to kiss trees.

I can't adequately explain how happy it made me to hang out with these girls, and then go back up to Kate's place and have a SPECtacular dinner together, with fancy muddled mocktails. Andi drove up from Orem for the occasion, and it was wonderful to connect with her and witness the alchemy she works with her GINOURMOUS wild-yeast bread. (Hey, I'm talking about Utah, I can say "Ginourmous" and "Oh My HECK????" and " 'preciate" all I want. :)

Rosie was star-struck with all these exciting, engaging, creative and beautiful Aunties. It really was a love-glut. I feel sorry for her, now she's stuck with just me all day!
But all good things must end, so I headed south to Orem so Kate could study for the LSAT. On the way down I got to stop in with my mission companion Ruth and meet her delicious children, Hugo and Ruby. LOOK at these kids!! Those ruddy cheeks! Thanks Ruth-- it was great to see you and your babes. You are a kind good friend.

Rosie has an auntie and an uncle who are just about sibling-size. They are a very cute team

Here's their beautiful new kitchen (looks like a high-end magazine but was all magicked together from the scratch and dent piles) with a typical Pa and Andi "whatever's in the fridge can be delicious" meal.
All that sibling-like love was sometimes a teensy bit overwhelming. :)
Andi got out her fancy photo stuff and clicked some shots of Rosie in hyperspeed and poofy pink.
To see the amazing products of this photoshoot, go here!

Zina was not too happy with the attention drain. :)
So our stay in Utah was very healing-- a good lilipad to rest on for a second and regroup before heading home to Hawaii. I love those mountains-- that crisp air and big sky, the Utah Summer smell of grass and weeds and heat... It's a lulling place to be. We always scoff and say we'd never live there, but when I go in summer and it's just so beautiful and so many people I love are there.... and it's easy and cheap (again, I went shopping with Kate and choked and spluttered my way through all the isles) it sure seems like a dreamy place to be.

But oh well. We'll just have to suffer away, biking to the beach and sipping frozen drinks under our palm tree and watching the surfers, and dream of picnics on the back porch and hot hikes up through the aspens, and cold glacial lakes.

Last Stops: Boston

We got to Boston after our 7 hour flight, and made our way to Liz and Andrew's New England village. This place is seriously beyond picturesque: dogwoods and azaleas in bloom, cute houses with painted shutters and toll-painted flags on the doors.... Why is it that red white and blue decorations in New England are quaint and in Utah they seem politically aggressive? Anyway.

Here are some web-stolen-shots of their 'hood.

Until coming to Boston, Rosie thought that squirrels were mythical beasts. We don't have squirrels in Hawaii. Just chickens and rats. So it was seriously delightful to watch ACTUAL SQUIRRELS bounding through the yard, climbing trees, and PICKING ACTUAL NUTS with their little squirrel fingers! Like seeing a unicorn!

Liz, Andrew, Matt and I were lounging around comparing notes about our various adventures and our stays in Paris. I said, "Paris was fun but, sheesh, we stayed at such a dive! The place was really dingy, these narrow little stairs, the bathroom was microscopic..."
Liz said, "Oh, that's too bad. The place we stayed was really nice! It was really close to the Gare D'lEst!"
me: "Oh really? So was ours! Right next to a Kebab place."
Andrew: "Ours was right next to a Kebab place too!"
me: "We were on Rue de Terrage."
Liz and Andrew: "NO. WE were on Rue de Terrage!"
Me: "The Terrage Hotel!"
All: screams of disbelief all around.
Andrew: "What room were you in?"
Becca and Matt: "Twenty."
Liz: Hysterical laughter. "No way."
Andrew: dumbfounded silence, then, "See, I told you it was a dive!!!"

Proof positive that the Davis girls are cheap: somehow we both found the 2nd cheapest stay in Paris! But the same room??? Bizarre.

We had a wonderful relaxing time in Boston for just one day. We walked around the lake, ate Authentic Boston Donuts in a place where everybody greeted each other when they came in: "Hey Bob." "Hey there Bob." Yes, I'm pretty sure everyone is named Bob. We met some of Liz and Andrew's neighbors. They too were named Bob. The guy who owns their house? Also Bob.

A bit discombobulating! hardeeharhar

We went to the grocery store and Matt and I had to stuff our fists in our mouths to keep from screaming "THAT'S SO CHEAP!!!" at every thing we saw. Produce for under a dollar a pound? ARUGULA? At the STORE??? A gallon of Organic milk... for $4??? It was painful.

Hawaii is an expensive place.

Liz made some delicious curry and then we all went for a little walk to a cute downtown ice cream parlor. With a whole bunch of homemade flavors, and laminated counters and little sticky leather booths-- it was so picturesque! Not unlike the general feeling of the web picture below.

Ahhh, lovely stuff.

Then at 4 the next morning, Liz took us to the airport where we said our fond, "See yas!" and parted ways. Matt went home to Hawaii, and Rosie and I made our way to our last stop, Utah!

Thanks Liz and Andrew for the post-vacation vacation!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Heading Homeward... first step, fly to Boston. And don't die.

So after a month on the road, we began the journey back around the world. Yes-- we traveled exactly to the opposite side of the world. Hawaii is 12 hours behind Europe. But by airplane, we're what, 2 days away.

We made our way to the CDG airport with all our wobbly, bust-wheeled, bursting at the seams roller luggage, our full backpacks, and our kid on her monkey leash. In spite of CDG's every effort, (i.e. no indication of which terminal to go to for our airline, no cash OR credit cards accepted at the train ticket booth, no signs or useful information anywhere in that luminous architectural Form-eez-bettah-zan-peedly-function space) we managed to make it to the right spot for our Air France flight, from Paris, on Sunday, May 31st.

Does that date ring bells with anyone?

As we were sitting comfortably in our roomy bulkhead seats on the 2nd floor, 30,000 feet in the air, another Air France flight full of people coming the opposite direction disintigrated into the ocean, just south of us.

What do you do with that?

It reminds me of the feeling I had when I tested negative for the breast cancer gene. I couldn't even feel relief, it was too big. Just, oh. Good.

It's such a roll of the dice-- dead, not dead. Coulda been but wasn't. Can't even think about the what ifs-- such a narrow line between this and that, happily ever after, or not.

So that was the flight home-- or rather, wasn't. We didn't know about it until we landed, of course. But the tragedy of that other flight has sort of absorbed our safe one.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Parisian Puzzles and Playgrounds....

Right up the road from our (DIVE) hotel in Paris was the amazing Chez Papa-- the pictures below are from the web, because we were too busy chasing Irate Rosie, dodging our One And Only Rude PArisian Waiter, and going into Paroxysms of joy from the incredible food to take pictures.
The waiter was jaw-droppingly rude. It made me clap my hands in glee-- finally! A stereotypical waiter!
The food was meltingly amazing. It made me want to learn how to cook southern french food. The stewed fish, the bloody steak, the herby veg... lovely.We had several nice lunches in places like this:
Where the food looks like:Yum!
One night we went to a Lonely Planet recommended Indian place. We got off of the metro and we were suddenly in West Africa! It was amazing-- ALL African people, Africa-themed restaurants, hardware stores, beauty salons-- and hundred of people hanging out on the street. It was so fun to suddenly be someplace so utterly different from all the white-tourists-only spots we'd been in.
And then we took a left down a narrow ally, and suddenly we were in India!
about 10 amazing Indian restaurants and three Indian grocery stores, several Indian hardware stores, a barber, and a clothing shop. I stocked up on whole Indian spices that I can't get in Hawaii. (No, we have no Indian restaurant on our island. We also have no whole wheat flour in our local grocery store. It's a bit too "wacky", don'tchaknow).

We had an ASTOUNDING meal. Here's another stock photo from the web to suggest the meal that we actually had:
It was marvelous, and even though we made a HUGE mess (Rosie knocked a chair over, threw rice, spilled a FULL mango lassi all over herself, the table, and the floor) they were unfailingly kind and wonderful. Did I mention that EVERYONE we met in France was incredibly kind? (Except that one waiter, but he's like the sour counterpoint to make everybody else seem sweeter.)

So, happy and contented we decided to walk home. As we were walking back to our hotel, suddenly the level of noise jumped up, and then turned in to shouting and screaming, and then there were a bunch of African guys in the middle of the road beating another African guy with metal rods. Then people (aggressors? victims?) started running away at top speed, their batons in hand. One group almost collided with Matt and RJ in the stroller. I couldn't believe it!
It looked like this: (another Paris metro fight-- again, I was too busy huddling against the wall as people streamed past to take pictures). Check out that weapon.
It was CRAZY. What was the deal?? It was so frustrating not understanding anything-- the context, the history, the languages being shouted across the intersections... Suddenly all those reports of rioting in the Paris streets over the last couple of years gained a new vividness.

After a couple of minutes everyone involved ran away, we shrugged and walked home and puzzled these things in our hearts. Matt wondered if he should have tried to step into the fray, since it was 12 guys with scary weapons against one guy. I said, "No Way!" You don't know what that guy did-- maybe he deserved it, maybe he raped somebody's sister or embezzled somebody's savings! Or maybe he was an innocent victim-- Xosa instead of Zulu, on the wrong side of the street. Who knows!

Anyway, it's none of our business.

Woah. Did I really just say that? So is it our business? No, specifically! But... isn't it-- generally? The whole thing had me scratching my noggin.

It reminded me how in the city you are forced to answer Big Moral Questions much more often than in the country. You have to think about racism and violence and poverty because all of those things explode out in front of you-- homeless people expose themselves on the metro (also happened in Paris), homeless gyspsy girls try and con you with strange golden ring scams (at the Eiffel tower), and violence breaks out in all black "ethnic enclaves." What a term!

It's easy to feel all comfortably progressive and moral out in our Hawaiian village, but in the city you really have to test all those ideals of chivalry. Sure, risk life and limb to save the underdog! Or, no-- get you and your family far far away from the violence.

Anyway, as Marie Antoinette said, let them eat cherries and gourmet chocolates. So, that's what we did. Tra-lala!

The chocolate came from a little chocolate shop near the Notre Dame. Lonely Planet called it "The Best Chocolate..... In The World."
How could we possibly say no? Especially with a 5 foot high chocolate fountain and homemade ice creams and sorbets tempting us inside?
We've been eating these incredibly slowly-- taking little half-nibbles at a time. And they really are wonderful. Although I intend to take on a life-long survey to make sure that, yes, they really are the best.
Here's the weird Stravinsky fountain near the Pompidou Center. The water was briney sludge. Eeeew!
And the audio room at the Brandy's anthropology museum. The top floor was a display on "To mix or not to mix?" human cultural (and genetic!) exchange. Each of these tubes piped out a different "hybrid" music-- violins and amazonian flutes.

In the next room they had "hybrid" artifacts-- a text from the early colonization of Mexico with drawings of the Types of mixed people you may encounter, and little tidbits about their quaint and welcoming ways (hey, sounds like a travel brochure for Hawaii!).

The middle floors were all beautiful isolate artifacts, suspended like museum art in cases, with no context, no dates, no explanation. Just... a lovely asthetic collection.

This museum was another noggin' scratcher. The collections were stunning, and essentially completely arbitrary. Primitive, Eastern, Exotic, Tribal-- whatever it is, wherever it's from, just throw it in there! So ghost shirts across the isle from vietnamese grave markers, around the corner from Maori canoes, across from indonesian shadow puppets.

Bizarre. It wasn't an anthropology museum. It was an Exotic Aesthetic Objects Collection.
I'd rather have the creepy mannekins in peasant dress, or the recreated ships hulls, where all those artifacts are contextualized by time and place and importance and relevance.... But anyway.

We went to Notre Dame! It was a little like Disney Land-- huge crowds, all tourists. But it was still lovely. Especially since there was a girls' choir singing in that eternal space. I cried, again.

Is this THE Rose Window? Or just some other impossible feat of medieval artistry and engineering?

And... the Eiffel tower!

We found a playground at the Eiffel Tower, here's our kid playing blissfully in the (faded, sorry, cell-phone-camera) shadow of the Tower itself.
Here's Rosie reaching for the top, and...
Here's me, in 1986! See, if you wonder WHY I would think it is possible to travel to Europe with small kids, this might answer your question. My parents were INSANE.
We didn't intend to get this close (we could smell the crowds), but Rosie suddenly said, "make poops!!" Matt scooped her up and followed a WC sign to the right, which led to another WC sign to the left, and zigzagged him across the park, Rosie shouting, "POOPS, POOPS!!!" Back and forth, cross TWO streets, fight our way through about 8 bus loads of german middle schoolers, and then the last WC sign pointing AT THE TOWER. We gave up and let her go under a tree. Sorry Paris!
Here's the breakfast we had in the Eiffel tower park-- a huge heap of pastries and croissants and baguettes and a box of assorted scraps of cheese from a fromagerie (ARGHE, the mute frustration, enjoying every bite and not knowing what any of it IS! It's like the fisher king-- here we are presented with this astounding food, and we have no ability to completely appreciate it! We'll have to spend the rest of our lives approximating it to earn the experiences of our youth.)
Right after the above picture was taken, two things happened. Rosie dropped her baguette stump, which attrated a crowd of well-heeled parisian sparrows, and the clouds parted to reveal the Eiffel tower.

I said, "Rosie, look! It's the Eiffel Tower!"
She said, "Mommy, look! It's a bird!!"

Aaaaand... the Polar Bear in the Musee D'Orsay! (I always think of the SNL sketch, "bla BLAH, bla BLAH, Bla Bla!)

And... red pandas at the oldest zoo in the world!

Rosie standing like a flamingo at the zoo...
Yes, the Parks of Paris! This one is at the zoo. Notice the statue. A hunter has killed and strung up a baby bear. Now he is being mauled by the mother bear, who already has his knife in her neck. NICE!

Well, we had quite an adventure. I loved the so-fresh-almost-on-the-brink-of-destruction fruit from the fruit stands (stawberries, my children. Strawberries.) I loved the cheap and abundant and excellent breads and pastries and cheeses... I loved hearing the language and hacking my way through it and being able to communicate. I loved the reset button that is vacation... how it's intensified life (is that a Rick STeves-ism?) Your greatest weaknesses and most saving strengths all get drawn to the surface and played out.
And with this chapter, we're nearly done. So Long Europe! It's too sad to say goodbye, so we'll just say, See ya!