Monday, April 30, 2012

Songs for Bologna...

Back from Bologna! On one hand, two and a half days for a jaunt to Italy isn't nearly enough, on the other hand, it's pretty amazing that in this day and age, a two and a half day jaunt across the Atlantic and back is even possible.  There were times when this was nearly a six week trip minimum just to go both ways.

But in any case, it was a weekend full of nostalgia and good times and reminiscing, and it was reassuring that in some respects, things haven't changed hardly a bit, save for more financial stability in our own pockets and some general costmetic changes for the better - everyone was definitely looking good.

In anticipation of the trip, I dug up some of the songs that were so "formative" as international relations students in Italy at at time when those international relations moved from sleepy to overdrive in the wake of everything that happened that year.  Yet despite all that, we managed to have an amazing year of experiences and any one of these songs puts me right back there, as if no time has passed at all.

A very special thank you to a classmate to dug up the whole playlist as I had long packed the CD (yes, we had CD's then) in one of our many shipments.  So for those that were there, here's to "one more time"...
  1. Can't get you out of my head (Kylie)
  2. One More Time (Daft Punk)
  3. Saliro (Daniele Silvestri)
  4. Starlight (Supermen Lovers)
  5. Sexual Guarantee (Alcazar)
  6. Rock DJ (Robbie)
  7. Murder on the Dancefloor (Sophie Ellis Bextor)
  8. Hey Baby (No Doubt)
  9. Escape (Enrique Iglesias)
  10. Girlfriend (NSYNC)
  11. Overprotected (Britney Spears)
  12. Wherever (Shakira)
  13. Get the party started (Pink)
  14. Baila (Zucchero)
  15. Tre Parole (Valeria Rossi)
  16. I'm Real (J-Lo)
  17. Perdono (Tiziano Ferro)
  18. My friend (Groove Armada)

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Packing packing packing for Italia!

Well, I should be packing anyway. Maybe tonight. Today is one of those days - trying to juggle 34 things while trying to be in two places at one time just about most of the day.  But soon we'll hit that 8 hours of silent bliss full of only glossy magazines and rom coms since I take off tomorrow night for a three day weekend to Bologna, Italy for - believe it or not - my 10 year graduate school reunion.  Where did the time go? Not so sure.  Also not sure where the time is going now, I don't even have a packing list.

In thinking of what to wear, I remebered a little video that J. Crew did when they shot their catalog in Rome.  Rome's not on the agenda this time but the clay colored buildings and fountains in the piazza are not so different from Bologna if my memory serves me correctly.  I've also been stocking up on some goodies to wear on our quick jaunt thanks to the help of Flor, the stylist at the Georgetown store (don't know what to wear to something? have something and don't know how to wear it? she'll hook you up) - more on that to come next week!

PS - I had that ruffle trench that keeps popping up in this video but in tan, adored it until I finally wore it out circa our departure from Vienna - looked just as good there as it did in Rome.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

A man with irregular features. Exit stage left. Curtain...

You wouldn't think stage directions would be particularly interesting fodder but to tell the truth, I've always kind of enjoyed them.  Eugene O'Neill clearly enjoyed them as well since he would lay out copious, detailed, lengthy descriptions of what his characters should do - for example:

“She is slender, dark, beautiful, with large eyes, which she attempts to keep always mysterious and brooding, smiling lips, which she resolutely compresses to express melancholy determination, a healthy complexion subdued by powder to a proper prison pallor and a vigorous, lithe body which frets restlessly beneath the restriction of studied, artificial movements.”

How's that for giving clear guidance to an actor? So much guidance, in fact,  that the New York Neo-Futurists (speaking of which, how's that for a name?) have pulled it all together to perform just the stage directions quite literally from a combination of Eugene O'Neill plays, playing as part of the Eugene O'Neill Festival at the Arena Stage.

This is a different kind of play - different is good.  But it does take a bit getting used to. In the first few pieces you're getting used to the pace. The interpretations are comedic in nature, bordering on the absurdist most of the time, and as is my usual gripe, I found a lot to be over-acted.  More can be more sure, but sometimes too much is flat out too much - I just wish the cast wou have a bit more confidence in the fact that they already are really pretty funny.  And when the cast put on the stage directions to "The Web" they lost me altogether, but that's just because the play itself hits such a nerve since it marries up two of my biggest fears in one blow: incarceration for false accusation and abandoning a child - add the setting of a tenement house and the mother's consumption on the side and you have a real human tragedy that for me can never be funny, and I just couldn't get on board with the comedic treatment.  But that's more of a me problem.

But by the last few pieces, they had me back.  At that point the tone and pieces are lighter, and you're getting used to how it works and there are some bona fide laughs to be had.  I think those with experience working in theater will laugh the hardest (and no joke, there was truly one guy just about falling out of his chair in a very exaggerated fashion).  Towards the end, of the literal directions is for the theater to be darkened for three minutes.  All the lights go off  - three minutes can be a really long time.  Three minutes in the dark can also be really funny - for no reason at all.

Photos 1,2, and 3 by Sarah Kruhlwich for the New York Times; Photo 4 by Anton Nickel for Washington Post; Photo 5 by Anton Nickel for Arena Stage via Washington City Paper.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Exotic America: Take me out to the ball game...

Alright - you can't live in America without going to a baseball game.  You just can't.  It kind of doesn't get more exotic America than that right? We headed out to the "new" stadium for the opening weekend last week as we had some die-hard baseball fan friends in town  - I say "new" in quotation marks becuase it's new since our departure for Vienna but probably not new to anyone else.

And here's the thing...we had a really good time.  Not that I was expecting a bad time but I don't know all that much about baseball, and neither does my husband.  I mean, I get the whole hit ball/run around bases but I've never really caught on to why there was so much standing around in baseball (I know I'll catch flack from aficionados for that but when you don't understand the game, it really does kind of look like a lot of standing around - then periodically they switch sides so that the other team gets some time to stand around too).  But it was a gorgeous day, and we were with good friends, the stadium is new and nice and it's actually a pretty diplo-baby friendly thing to do minus a couple of small scale meltdowns when she would have rathered be on the playground that they have built-in (I assume precisely for moments like these).  She loved all the clapping and the random music playing. 

Much to my disappointment, I didn't see peanuts and cracker jacks like the songs promise.  And you'll never convince me to drink beer out of a can that looks like a bottle (um, why?), but there are tons of food options, most featuring some of DC classics like Ben's Chili Bowl.  I had no idea you could buy chili at a baseball game - not sure that I would but you can.  The only thing we would do differently is that I think I would just skip the stroller altogether - the little ones fit right under the seat but still, time for DB to get on those walking shoes and the ergo as a back-up since there is so much standing up/sitting down to let peole in and out as they go to procure these many food items.  Like chili.

I think we might just go again - I need to figure out what happens during all of this standing around.

All photos by The New Diplomat's Wife.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Friday, April 20, 2012

Photography Friday: Running away...

I don't know what rock I've been living under (I suppose the rock I'm usually living under) but I had never heard of the book Born to Run, which chronicles the Terahumara (Raramuri) Indians in Mexico's Copper Canyon.  I guess it only came out just over a year ago, but somehow I have managed to hear about it from four separate people in the past two weeks, so I would take that as a sign to read it.  The book is about their sheer ability to run and run and run, for miles on end.  Running is a way of life, and they're able to go for long distances without rest or injury.

But in addition to reading it, there's a new exhibit that just opened up in Philadelphia (and we've been looking for a reason to make this a day trip with the diplo-family in tow).  Diana Molina, a photojournalist from Texas, been down to visit the Raramuri and document their way of life for over two decades, at times even living with them.  The exhibit, at the Penn Museum until September, features the photos most related to the running aspects of their culture but my understanding is that there will be traditional artifacts, clothing and the unique sandals made of rubber tire they wear to protect their feet.

This pretty much is making me feel like there is no excuse for me not to go running this weekend.

All photos by Diana Molina.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Hotel Art? Yes, please...

Usually the phrase "hotel art" is about as appealing as "office art" - drab, off-the-shelf pieces of nowhere landscapes in pastels, or random shapes and textures that are meant to be non-offensive placeholder alternatives to bare walls altogether.  But not at Maroma.

I mentioned earlier that the main building of the hotel itself used to be a private residence and the team went to great pains to make sure that it still continues to look - and feel - that way still.  These photos don't do it justice but I couldn't stop admiring the paintings and would often go down to the main building just to look at them again (and no, they didn't sell them in the gift shop).  I never did find out the name of the artist and whether these are even remotely possible to acquire - yet another thing to go back for...

Art belonging to Orient-Express Maroma Resort. Artist Unknown.

Mexico in a Box...

If you read You are My Fave, you know that Melanie is pretty much the queen of doing anything "in a box".  They're always some of my favorite posts and I love how each item is chosen carefully and laid out, and pulled together lovingly to brighten someone's day.

I've been traveling quite a bit recently and my grandmother always asks me for two things: postcards and hotel pens (she may or may not have a habit of, let's say, "collecting" them).  She no longer has the use of her legs but is still an adventurer at heart and I know she would have loved this trip through and through, from the colors everywhere to the breeziness of the beach. 

Here's what went inside the box:
  1. An issue of Hola magazine, the Spanish version of Hello (or the equivalent of fine literature staples such as US Weekly), if there is one thing my grandmother adores, it's glossy updates of royals and glitterati, even if its in Spanish.
  2. Postcards from Valladolid and Chichen Itza - it doesn't matter if my grandmother wasn't on the trip, she loves to send them out anyway as a proxy.
  3. A wooden pen that was bedside at our hotel in Maroma
  4. A book about Mexico produced by the Xcaret park - they had it in the gift shop and the photos and illustrations were gorgeous - they cover the ancient civilizations, food and folklore from all parts of Mexico, and explain all kinds of traditions.  In retrospect, I should have bought one for myself as well.
  5. A little sombrero
  6. A straw fan - I thought the colors were amazing but it's also a practical item as well - yes, my grandmother is never without a fan.
  7. A caftan from our hotel in Maroma - they had these great breezy cotton caftans that you could just throw on.  Almost like a natural colored muu muu - this is straight up my grandmother's alley for easy pieces around the pool in the summer heat
  8. Papel picado - I can never get enough of these paper banners - I got a few extra for us in case a party pops up but since paper cutting is also big in the Polish tradition, I know my grandmother will appreciate these too.
And that's it! I didn't appreciate how hard it would be to photograph all the items but I promise to brush up on this!

All photos by The New Diplomat's Wife.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Chichen Itza, wonder of the world...

Our high school Spanish teacher had a real thing for Mayans and Aztecs so the bulk of our "cultural lessons" consisted of her presenting what seemed like long names we couldn't pronounce (that didn't seem to sound like Spanish to us) and exotic animal motifs.  But there was something that stuck with me, even all these years later, and I had to see it for myself.

This Gringo Honeymoon, who has her own view of the ruins, prepped me that Chichen Itza could have it's downsides: it's crowded and "manicured" amongst other things so we went in with eyes open and planned accordingly based on her advice and were able to get quite a bit out of it. 

We came to Chichen Itza from Tulum (which frankly is not the closest, you could save yourself part of the drive if you go from Cancun) and left bright and early at 6am.  I'm not sure what I was expecting from highways in Mexico, but at least for the Yucatan at that hour of the morning, they're a dream.  We maybe saw a handful of cars, and not yet a bus in sight.  This will be key, since once the buses start rolling in, you can pretty much forget it. 

The drive was pleasant, and the ruins open at 9am, and we made it with time to spare - I think we were the second couple to go in so we had the rare priviledge of having the Grand Pyramid pretty much all to ourselves.  I have to say that in my mind, I had been picturing the pyramid much much taller - like a skyscraper so at first pass I was a little disappointed.  But it's actually not the size that's so imposing, it's the spread of the ruins, the steepness of the pyramid, and the fact that you realize you really are in the middle of the jungle.  After a few snaps, we sat down on a shady bench at the base and had a little picnic breakfast that we brought - not a bad view afterall, right?

We hit up the main sites, and then enjoyed a lot of the ruins that are back behind the pyramid which many of the tours didn't seem to go to, even once it started getting more crowded there was hardly anyone back there so lots of time to explore and get pictures.  As you'll see below, jaguars (yes! my teacher was right on the exotic animal motifs!) figured prominently into the ruins and therefore my pictures.  We took our time and wrapped up shortly before noon, just as the parking lot was jam packed of buses - paused for a little granita at the stand to help break the heat and moved on our way....As far as crowded tourist attractions go, I'd say we came up with a pretty good plan.

This Gringo Honeymoon asked me a question that hit on my only regret from the visit.   And that was that I didn't purchase the handkerchief they sell as a souvenir (amongst a panoply of countless other items), and it was on my mind for a long time, just like the leather necklace I didn't buy at Coqui Coqui.  The lady was selling them on the handball court and I just assumed we would see them again but since we were there early I didn't see another vendor.  In the words of my mom, I guess I left something to come back for.

spot the iguana.

All photos by The New Diplomats Wife.
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