mamculuna: (Default)
( Mar. 13th, 2009 07:42 pm)
Journey Home

The time that my journey takes is long and the way of it long.

I came out on the chariot of the first gleam of light, and pursued my
voyage through the wildernesses of worlds leaving my track on many a star and planet.

It is the most distant course that comes nearest to thyself,
and that training is the most intricate which leads to the utter simplicity of a tune.

The traveler has to knock at every alien door to come to his own,
and one has to wander through all the outer worlds to reach the innermost shrine at the end.

My eyes strayed far and wide before I shut them and said `Here art thou!'

The question and the cry `Oh, where?' melt into tears of a thousand
streams and deluge the world with the flood of the assurance `I am!'

Rabindranath Tagore

I usually see yoga as a sort of metaphor or guidebook for living, but this time I think of it the other way. Going to Guatemala was a big jump for me. I'd never traveled for that long completely alone, and never through somewhat sketchy parts of the world without a guide. In the days before I left, my anticipation felt a lot like an icy lining along my usually warm insides. The more people would tell me I was brave, the more frightened I felt. I could have changed my mind--the deposit and the ticket weren't much. Nobody would have thought differently of me for not going, but I knew that it was important to go--I needed to see that part of the world, needed to improve my Spanish, needed not to sit around the house and mope through another winter. But I was really afraid. What I did was just to set the plans in motion and let them pull me through. Occasionally I'd notice my fear, and try to focus on how it felt in mind and my body, to understand exactly what I feared and how fear carved its delicate sculptures inside me, but I kept going on with the plan.

So tonight it worked well that my yoga teacher used the fear and uncertainty of travel as a theme for a class focused on balance, my real nemesis in so many ways. Standing balances, even simple tree poses, are easy for me at home alone, but for some reason in class become ordeals. I fall out every few seconds. But I remembered my technique--just go on with the plan. I can't say that anyone watching would have been impressed, but I felt much more at ease with the whole situation. And when we moved on to pincha mayurasana, I felt the same way I had when I'd gone out on Lake Atitlan in the flimsy little boat, trusting in the plan. Both were like "coming out on the chariot of the first gleam of light."
mamculuna: (Default)
( Feb. 26th, 2009 01:57 pm)
So here's a sort of summary of my Guatemala diary. It's long--partly I'm writing for various people who may consider going. I'm also using it as a place to keep some links for myself to use in later trips.
Where I Went )
People and School )
Food and My Family )
Religion and Magic )
Lots more to say, especially about politics and wars past and present, but I doubt anyone can read more! But if you're going, let me know if you have questions.
mamculuna: (Default)
( Aug. 13th, 2006 04:09 pm)
Italy and Spain. OK, should have posted while traveling. I admire those who can find time to do that, but I always seem to be either running around or recovering from same. But belatedly, here it is.

For all the pictures, go to

but I can’t figure out right now how to get them in the right order, exactly—doubt that will matter to anybody but me.

Southern Europe in general is hot and crowded in July (why both?), but the heat’s not anything different from home—and much less humid, so I’m fine with that. Barcelona and Rome, still wonderful. Florence—too much humanity. Never again in mid-summer.

Barcelona )

Florence )

Rome )
mamculuna: (Default)
( Jul. 14th, 2006 06:19 pm)
Well, I get internet access and a strong need to rest my feet, so greetings from Barcelona. It´s as great as I expected (but as hot as Bill feared)--wonderful tapès, including cuttlefish and such savoury olives, lovely fresh and also cured anchovies, potato tortes, etc. I do find myself drinking beer rather than wine because of the heat, but late in the evening it cools off and then the vino is welcome. We´re staying near the great Gaudí cathedral, Sangrada Familia (actually very near the Hospital St. Pau--both buildings are wonders of the imagination, incredibly rich with details but also impressive in overall design. I will post pictures eventually). In between is the Avignudo Gaudí, a broad street almost closed to cars with cafes lining it and tables in the center, so we can sit and eat and drink and see the buildings all at the same time, without having to go very far.

Today we did go further though, and wandered around the old medieval part of town, the Barri Gothí (I´m not checking the spelling so forgive errors in Catalan) with tiny winding streets (but of course that doesn´t stop the scooters from scooting along them) and great little shops and bars. We ate (more tapés) in the St. Catherine market, a huge indoor market with wonderful displays of meat, cheese, fruit, etc. and went to the Picasso museum.

Although there are lots of kids doing the summer thing, one thing I´m really loving here is how the people my age and older are out and about, so much more than I see in cities at home (maybe I´m just choosing the wrong neighborhoods--maybe there´s an Avignudo Gaudí in Chicago I´m missing). But I love seeing a table full of people in their seventies still dressing up and out in the evening having a good time. And they do dress up--especially this year, with skirts in style, everyone wears such lovely patterns and colors, and such flowing lines.

Hopefully the combination of feet and internet will strike again, but if not, more when I get to Florence, Rome, or home. Hope you´re all well--miss my LJ!
mamculuna: (Default)
( Aug. 24th, 2005 12:08 pm)
All you folks near SF, I'm planning to be out there for a couple of weeks (Sept. 22-Oct. 9). I'll try again to fix details closer to the date, but I'd really like to try to get together, in spite of my previous dereliction. I'll be much freer this time--not just returning from China and trying to hang out with ex in-laws. My son has just bought a house in Berkeley, where I'll be staying, but I can easily come over to SF, or even down to San Jose (I know the way).
mamculuna: (Default)
( Dec. 6th, 2004 10:42 pm)
We went on a trip this weekend, just me and Bill. He wanted to punctuate finishing his book. It was a lot of driving, but nice places. We saw The Hermitage in Nashville--home of Andrew Jackson, a very beautiful Federal style house, very simple and delicate. I thought it was maybe the third best historical place I'd been in this country, after Monticello and Independence Hall.

Paducah was a very well-developed antique and crafts touristy town, with good old buildings for several blocks, a really good restaurant, and a flood wall (more protection on top of the levee) with more murals. This was my fall of murals--after the Mission in San Francisco.

Why does Paducah need a flood wall? It's very near the confluence of the two biggest rivers in North America--Ohio flows into Mississippi. We went there--it's very near Cairo, IL, another unusual town. It's almost dead except for one street of old mansions and the Customs House. There's a book about how Cairo and Kent, Conn, are both towns whose essence has been destroyed in two different ways: Far from Home, by Ron Powers.

The drive was long, but incredibly beautiful. It reminded me that I'd rather teeter on the broken edge of an Appalachian road than face Atlanta traffic.
mamculuna: (Default)
( Dec. 5th, 2004 08:37 pm)
I've posted more about my trip to China at

Scroll down if you just want to see the pictures.
mamculuna: (Default)
( Dec. 2nd, 2004 09:58 pm)
I'm back from China (wondeful!) and California--also great, but missed the really good part of seeing two of you :o(

Sadly, I'm on the road again, this time to Tennessee and southern Indiana--Bill finished his book and wants to get out of town, now that I've been playing for months. So I'm still not really online again. But briefly, the adoption trip was incredibly moving--beautiful, brave babies and parents. Lydia, my friend's baby, is clearly one of the Chosen. You can see a few shots here (

This is very quick and dirty, all the moreso because the camera is new to me, so forgive the quality and size of the shots. I'll tell more when I get back for good. MIss you all!
mamculuna: (Default)
( Oct. 27th, 2004 03:19 pm)
After seeing the poor old folks with walkers and wheelchairs standing in the supermarket for hours to get a flu shot, I wouldn't take one even if I could get it (unlike the football team at our local U). But since I am headed to the source of most flu, I thought I'd at least get a pneumonia shot. And gamma globulin. So I made my appointment with the travel doctor, drove way across town (45 minutes) to his office, waited half an hour. Oh, says the nurse, I forgot to order that vaccine. Why don't you come back next week?

Never mind, I say. Just give me the gamma globulin and I'll take my chances. But grrr. What are appointments for?

Meanwhile, lots of packing. Trying to travel light to leave room for baby stuff but still have something to wear everywhere, from Beijing where it could snow to Hong Kong where it's still very warm--plus must carry supplies of mystery paperbacks and locarb snacks, also my complete stash of emergency provisions for every possible eventuality. Whenever I'm traveling and run into a problem, I add something to my pile when I get back and take it on the next trip. So I have clotheslines, reading lights, peptobismal, matches, candles, pillowcase and washcloth, sleeping pills and dramamine, vaseline, and enough hand cleaner to wash the city. And I still know I'll find something missing just when I needed it. Give it up, Nancy. Travel is unpredictable--you'll never be prepared for everything.

Trying to refresh my travel mandarin, still not getting tones right at all--and anyway we'll be in other dialect regions most of the time. Review charcters instead. Woman--very important word to know when looking for the loo--also difference between eel and fish (but in China, I actually eat first and then ask. Otherwise I'd miss some amazing things. Jellyfish and porkstomach can be tastier than you might imagine).

Talked with another friend who just completed the same trip and he says food in Hunan is wonderful, and tells about the babies and suddenly I can't wait. Add squeaky ducks to travel pile, and go by Laurie's to see the baby's room, all blue and green with a wonderful rocking chair. Can't wait.

This time next week I'll be eating salty scallion pancakes. I wonder if there will still be old men with sewing machines and umbrella repair kits working on the sidewalks, and men in the streets driving tricycles piled high with furniture and bricks and grandmothers? Will it still smell like coal smoke and cabbage, and will the ladies in the market lecture me in local dialects when I try to buy the wrong kind of doufu? Will I get to burn incense to the 80 foot tall Buddha at Yong He Gong? Will mules be fighting Mercedes in the streets and the bicycle bells jingling like Christmas? I know it's changed...

Already can't sleep at all. When I went to China before, I couldn't sleep for days, I was so jacked up. There's something about the energy there.
mamculuna: (Default)
( Oct. 18th, 2004 05:49 pm)
Well, at last my China travel plans are set. We'll leave on Nov. 1, spend a week in Beijing, then go to Changsha in Hunan Province to finally see Lydia! Then we go to Guangzhou for citizenship, and finally fly out of Hong Kong on Nov. 17. That flight home is long, and it's going to be hard for all of us, but especially Lydia. She'll be 15 months old and will only have been with us for a week or so. We don't have a separate seat for her, so we'll take turns holding her on our laps.

What makes it even harder for me is that I want to be in San Francisco by Nov. 19 for a big gathering, so I'll arrive from China one day and then fly back across country the next. I guess I won't even know how to get jet lagged!

I've started reviewing Mandarin CD's but probably won't have much language regained by then, especially the characters. Will have to rely on the kindness of strangers, as usual. In Beijing we'll be staying with L's sister (L is the adoptive mom) and in Changsha we'll hook up with a group from the adoption agency, and most of those people will not have been to China before, so we'll probably be taken care of. I've never traveled with a group like this before--hope I won't find it too frustrating.

I'm really looking forward to going back to Beijiing. I know it will have changed completely from my last visit in 1994--I hope I'll be able to get back on my campus and see what things look like there, but they used to keep the campuses very shut off. We shall see.
mamculuna: (Default)
( Oct. 12th, 2004 03:07 pm)
Here are my answers to [ profile] ann1962 's questions:

Answers! )
I am getting Very Tired of Waiting to get the word from China about when we can travel (going with my friend to pick up the daughter she'll adopt). Why can't they just tell us? What's the reason for keeping the date a secret until almost time to leave, and not letting us know when they'll let us know? I really, really like the people I've met in China, but the government drives me crazy. It always hangs on to control in such petty ways--often to the point that it hurts its own goals.

When I taught there in 1994, they wouldn't tell me what I'd be teaching, so I wasn't able to bring a lot of books that would have been really useful to my students--instead I had to create a lot of stuff out of my head. And since they are (or were) really into intellectual piracy, they could have copied some really good stuff. But no. I wasn't allowed to know until the day before classes started (and since I was American, they had me teaching a graduate course in American Literature--that was wrong, just wrong. I'm a linguist--and yet I completely adored my students and spent hours and hours combing Beijing for material, anyway).

They've finally gotten the visa thing speeded up, at least--10 years ago it took months to get one, and we got them this time in a week. So maybe 20 years from now, if people are still adopting, they'll be able to buy plane tickets on less than a few day's notice.

Laurie (the adopting mother) did say that we will get travel approval this week almost certainly, but then after that we still don't know travel dates until we get an appointment with the embassy in Guangzhou for the citizenship ceremony (Lydia goes through the ceremony there and actually becomes a citizen as soon as she lands in the US).

Still hoping to go at end of October and return by mid-November, but if I suddenly vanish, I haven't gone through a portal to another dimension (no, wait, that's exactly what I'll be doing).

Grrr, though.
mamculuna: (Default)
( Sep. 23rd, 2004 02:58 pm)
I went back, for the first time since I retired, to my former college today, to take the woman who was my assistant to lunch. It was too familiar being there. I didn't feel relief at not having to stay, but I didn't feel longing to stay either. It was just a place I'd been a lot before. Well, maybe I was a bit glad not to have to stay.

Still waiting to hear when we travel to China. At this point it gets a bit irritating, since I have to put all other plans on hold. And if we had some advance time, we could get upgrades to first-class for the trip back, but those will all be sold by the time we get tickets, so we'll be in steerage, for 19 hours, with a baby who doesn't know us. Ugh.

Below are items unrelated to the above!

Poem xposted to [ profile] greatpoets

Last-Minute )

Back to the I Ching: The Army )
mamculuna: (Default)
( Sep. 22nd, 2004 11:13 pm)
More of my journal from Cameroon a few years ago. Here I am leaving the coast and going a little way northwest, into the mountains.
”Cameroon )
mamculuna: (Default)
( Sep. 16th, 2004 10:24 pm)
Here begin several installments of a journal I wrote a few years ago while traveling in Cameroon. This is especially for [ profile] rachelmanija but also for anyone who's interested in Africa or my weird experiences.

Cameroon One: The Coast )
mamculuna: (Default)
( Jun. 19th, 2004 08:27 pm)
Hello all--I've returned to the US from Italy and am now in Chicago for most of the summer, but possibly somewhat internet-impaired. Since we don't have serious online work demands, we're living with dial-up, which means no access during main business hours. And it remains to be see how much I can get on even on Saturday night. So I'm not much of a participator this summer, it's not for lack of desire! Ironically we're still paying for cable in SC, since it costs more to stop and start that to continue....

Anyway, Italy was truly lovely. I had not been there before, and found it a warm and rich place to be. As always happens, everyone's English was much better than my almost-nonexistent Italian, so I didn't get to pick up much language, but did develop a taste for octopus, limoncello, and hazelnut gelato, not necessarily at the same time, but sort of in that order (of consumption, not preference! Could not choose among them). Unfortunately the situation with the dollar and the Euro was not in my favor, so I was inclined to stay in less than *** places, somewhat to the chagrin of my son, who finally put us up at a very nice place at Lake Como. There we went to a wedding in a 17th century villa (exciting for people who live in a country where almost everything dates from 18th or later) in a small town, Uggate (I think).

Surfeit on churches and art museums is not possible for me, but this trip left me definitely satisfied. Favorites: The ceiling of the baptistry in Florence, a Byzantine-looking gold mosaic of the Last Judgement covering the domed ceiling--and I know everyone will hate this, but the Rape of the Sabine Women (the statue--can't remember the artist right now). I am troubled myself about liking both because the subject matter is so disturbing in both cases, but especially the last. And yet the way they are both done is so overwhelmingly beautiful. I am trying to sort out how that can be.

I was glad that the distaste for American policy seemed impersonal--although a restaurant host seemed to feel the need to check us out on Bush (after seating but before serving!), he was quite friendly when he found that we shared his views (that would be anti). We were in Venice when Bush was in Rome, and in all the cities, windows and doors were draped with rainbow flags reading "Pace." I brought one back to use at our local Women in Black weekly protest, thought it's probably going to be seen as a G/L/B/T Rainbow flag here. That's fine too, though, but I wonder how the locals will interpret Pace.

As always when I come back from Europe, I'm longing for a Smart car. Why do we never see them here, I wonder? I know they wouldn't hold up against an SUV in a wreck, but neither does a bicycle.
mamculuna: (Default)
( Jan. 21st, 2004 06:38 pm)
The Road goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can,
Pursuing it with eager feet,
Until it joins some larger way
Where many paths and errands meet.
And whither then? I cannot say.

-- J R R Tolkien

Today I was listening to an NPR talk show about American nomads, from the RVs to the trainhoppers, and I had this sudden vision of myself on the road alone--packing a tent and a sleeping bag in my Beetle and hitting the road, just going on to the next place )
mamculuna: (Default)
( Jan. 4th, 2004 12:40 pm)
In some ways the downtime after the celebrations but before work starts up again are the best time of the year.

Read more... )

Driving on the back roads in the piedmont is so lovely. The red clay and the bare trees, filled with mistletoe. The old wooden farmhouses and the tumbled down barns, and the beautiful goats and horses everywhere.

And Bill, bless him, drove back, so I could finish with a martini in Athens (some bars are good things....)


mamculuna: (Default)


RSS Atom

Most Popular Tags

Powered by Dreamwidth Studios

Style Credit

Expand Cut Tags

No cut tags