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Tuesday, January 24th, 2006

Time:12:57 pm.
Hello from Sarajevo!

I arrived here this morning on the overnight bus from Belgrade. The buses from Serbia don't go all the way to the main bus station in downtown Sarajevo. Instead they stop at a small suburban bus station in the southwestern end of city, the part of town where Serbs live. Then you can take a tram or bus or taxi into the heart of the city.

This city is absolutely gorgeous! Not in a Prague or Vienna way. It's not clean or cosmopolitan or well-preserved. It still shows plenty of scars from the recent wars -- crumbled buildings, echos of bomb blasts on sidewalks, unexploded landmines -- but it's gorgeous nonetheless. I had no idea how mountainous the region is! Everywhere are snowy hills covered with red-tiled buildings that seem to clamour over each other to breathe. Hand-me-down trams and buses from East Germany and Poland, still pasted with faded German advertisements.

And there is such diversity, a real sense of many cultures coming together and blending within blocks of each other. Perhaps more vividly than seemed to in Istanbul. Signs in Serbian (Cyrillic), Croatian (Latin), Turkish, Arabic, English, Hebrew.. Minarets from little neighborhood mosques poke up all over the skyline. A 100 meters or so from the large elegant Gazi Husrev-beg mosque is an Orthodox church, a synagogue, and a Catholic church. These places of worship are encircled by the old bazaar neighborhood, Bašćaršija, which was founded by the Ottomans in the 1400s. Narrow cobbled alleyways of shops echo with the clangs of metal-tinkerers. Sephartic Jews hike up the hillsides. A Bosniak woman sells little caps and prayer shawls. Carpet stores, pastry cafes, old courtyards of Turkish coffee drinkers, metal shops with copper dishes and Turkish coffee-sets, kebap vendors..

I walked along the Miljacka river and across the old Latin bridge, where the Hapsburg heir Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife were assassinated in 1914 -- the event which triggered World War I. I walked passed the Holiday Inn, where journalists had holed themselves up during the Balkan wars and the siege of Sarajevo in the mid-90s. I had a thick dark Turkish coffee.

I think I've fallen in love with another city. If only it weren't so bloody cold here!
Comments: 15 colorful doodles - have some crayons!

Tuesday, January 17th, 2006

Time:5:14 pm.
Hello from Istanbul!

I took a budget airline here from Stuttgart several days ago. My Dad (the amateur historian) flew out from Seattle to meet me here. We're staying at a little backpackers hotel in Sultanamet, only a few blocks from Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque. There's a different classical Turkish poem in every room. Ours is "Out of Time".

Yesterday we walked to the Topkapı Palace, which was the sprawling palace of the sultans during the period of the Ottoman Empire. In their treasury, the have diadems and thrones, jeweled swords, and the supposed arm and piece of a scull of John the Baptist. In a separate chamber, they have holy Islamic relics. A man/guard takes shifts reciting/singing prayers 24/7 from a little glass booth in the corner, occasionally taking sips of water from a glass at his bookside. In the cases in the room, they have beard hairs and teeth of Mohammad, his footprints, sabres, writing boxes, decrees, boxes of his ashes, doors from holy temples, etc. People become very quiet when they get into this room.

We also visited the palace harem (oh yeah!), the beautifully carpeted and colorfully tiled living quarters of the sultan, his family, his concubines, and his black African eunuchs. The Turks inherited and embraced the baths and waterways of the Romans. All over the palace grounds were hand/foot-washing fountains, bathing pools, indoor His and Hers marble toilet chambers, and covered sewage systems. When my medieval European relatives were picking lice off of each other and shunning bathes, Turks were already having pool parties, scrubbing down, grooming their mustaches, anointing their clean bodies with delicately fragranted oils, and changing their socks.

After a scenic and windy look out over the Bosphorus to Asia (hi Asia!) we walked to the Grand Bazaar, an enormous labyrinthic covered marketplace with hundreds of aggressive rug merchants, antique shops, lamp shops, stores selling tea and coffee devices, colored plates, nargile/shisha/hookah/waterpipes, and leather goods, and anything else you could imagine. After losing ourselves, we settled at a little cafe and had lamp shish kebabs and Turkish beer. The placemats on our table were actaully maps of the bazaar, including street names and a sort of "You are Here". The waiter saw us studying the placemats furiously and desparately and offered us two smaller clean copies along with our bill. Oh how we were grateful! We then found our way out of the bazaar, down some winding un-touristy streets to the mouth of the Egyptian spicemarket where we poked our heads into some bird shops (mmm! chicken!) and looked quizzically at buckets of leeches in water - for sale by the liter. Hm.

Today we went to Hagia Sophia, which was once the greatest and largest Christian church/temple/basilica and was built during the reign of the Roman Emperor Constantine, and rebuilt a few years later by the Emperor Justinian. In the 1400s, it was converted to a mosque and its Christian mosaic iconography was plastered over. With the reforms of Atatürk in the 1920s, it ceased being a mosque and instead became a museum. They have been uncovering and restoring the mosaics ever since; nearly one quarter of the basilica was filled with scaffolding up to the dome. We also visited the remains of the Hippodrome and the Basilica Cistern, a giant underground Roman reservoir built with vaulted ceilings and pillars. Those crafty Romans!

Tomorrow we catch an early morning bus out to Gallipoli (site of the famous slaughtering of Australians and New Zealanders) and the presumed ruins of the ancient city of Troy.
Comments: have some crayons!

Friday, December 30th, 2005

Time:10:55 am.
Mood: whoa.
Hello from Warsaw, Poland!

I arrived here this morning via an overnight bus from Vilnius, Lithuania. Planning to connect with my old pal Marko and maybe spend New Year's with him and his girlfriend Iwona.

I spent Christmas in Latvia, in a tiny tiny remote village (in the general vicinity of Estonia) with the extended family of Sanita, a former au-pair of my family. Her mother and grandmother have a small 4-room house with a sort of central brick wood-burning furnace/fireplace that jutted into each room. It was also connected to the kitchen stove.

"Sleepless in Seattle" was on the TV, with Russian subtitling and shabby Latvian dubbing -- one guy does all the male voices and one women does all the female voices. This is typical, apparently. We decorated the Christmas tree with red glass bulbs and electric light strands. An old friend brought over hand-crocheted angels for the three women of the family, and these too were placed on the tree. Dinner was out in a veranda/sheltered glass room adjoining the house. Two large wood tables were covered with different dishes (more than 9, for superstition)... sauerkrauts, sausages, roast chicken, homemade meatballs, pickled mushrooms and radishes and cucumbers, boiled potatoes, gravy, sweet pickled pumpkin... and more! Plus three different kinds of homemade fruit liquor (made from old jams), homemade fruit juice, and sparkling wine.

After dinner, we gathered around the Christmas tree. Sanita drew names from a hat. Each person had to first sing a song or recite a poem, then they had to light a candle which was clipped on to the tree, before they could retrieve their gift(s). There were some 15-20 people filling this tiny room, godparents, goddaughters, current and former neighbors, co-workers and their families.. And as the night wore on, the vodka was brought out, and everyone got drunker and drunker, and little old ladies recited gleefully recited dirty poems and danced about with their candles. Fire everywhere! Then the firecrackers and sparklers and cake was brought out.
Latvian Christmas
The Latvian Christmas tree being set afire!

Firecrackers, inside? Would never happen in MY house! It was fantastic! A big wooshing firecracker shot sparks out of the top, showering light onto the carpet. The sparklers were bent so that they could hang from the tree and lit up. Parts of the tree sizzled and filled the room with the smell of fresh singed greenery. A red Christmas ornament caught fire and melted through. Everyone ate cake (a fresh custardy layered cake that had cooked for two days, then sat another day to absorb all the fruity and custardy goodness) and drank more fruit alcohol. Suddenly everyone seemed to speak some English.

It was a wild night. Baby Jesus? Never heard of him. It seems Pagan Latvia lives on..

As for Vilnius, Lithuania? I spent two days with a crowd of other Couchsurfers and HospitalityClub folks, sleeping among 9+ other bodies on the floor of an attic apartment. When the bodies were awake, they were drinking beer and smoking pot practically non-stop until late late at night. So much Pink Floyd, Ani Difranco, Rage Against the Machine, Emir Kusturitca... And did I mention that among them were like 4 resident ferrets and a tall German guy (he looked vaguely like my friend Max) who was just OBSESSED with David Hasselhoff. Everyone was on their way to Riga, Latvia for the huge CS/HC New Year's Party there.
Comments: 3 colorful doodles - have some crayons!

Sunday, December 11th, 2005

Time:4:25 pm.
Mood: excited.
Hej from Göteborg, Sweden!

It's dark now. But on the trainride up from Malmö, the sky was big bright and blue. Not a cloud around. And no snow on the ground. The train hugged the coastline of the Kattegatt as we sped northwards. Red houses, evergreen forests, and sleek windmills cast long shadows out onto huge sprawling midwestern-like fields which bled out into beaches. The light was incredible.

I'm at an internet cafe in the Göteborg central station. A few weeks back, I struck up a romance with an extraordinarily thoughtful and wonderful German fellow named Johann. He's meeting me here (arriving by train in about an hour!!) and we are going to travel Scandinavia together for the next week-and-a-half or so. I'm terribly delighted. It gets lonely traveling by oneself. And in icy cold Scandinavia, a person needs someone sweet and warm to cuddle up to.

Tonight we see Verdi's Falstaff at the Göteborg Opera. Something light and cheery and Italian to follow last night's Walküre in Copenhagen. Tomorrow, I'm renting a car. (Ha! My first car rental! No thanks to you, USA insurance regulations!) We're going drive inland to Borås, where I'll hopefully connect with my cousin Lisbeth. Then northwards into the Swedish boonies to find Enebacken (the old family farm) and the church in Vänga, where my great-great-grandparents Johan Olausson and Klara Johansdotter are buried. Three of Johan and Klara's kids (Claus, Marta, and Carl Johansson) left for Pennslyvania in the 1890s. This is my return to the homeland.
Comments: 15 colorful doodles - have some crayons!

Monday, October 24th, 2005

Time:9:35 pm.
Hello from Rotterdam, Holland!

I took a train here from Paris this morning. The Russian goddess Lidia-of-Saint-Etienne met me at the train station and we traipsed about town in the rain.

It began with a rather strange experience in a creepy funhouse next to an abandoned hostel. We were trying to get into the "Sleep-In Hostel" right around the block from Rotterdam's Centraal Station. The door was locked and there was no indication of how to get in. Nearby, a colorful door was hanging slightly ajar. We started to open it when we were confronted by some friendly and effusive Dutch folk who had some connection to the abandoned hostel -- which it turns out is only open in July and August. Bummer. They invited us through the colorful door where they assured us they had some maps and hostel information to give us. We followed them down a grungy hallway to find ourselves in this HUGE, colorful and almost completely quiet and empty funhouse/warehouse. There were one or two toddlers playing quietly with whiffle balls on what looked like a mini-golf course, their voices echoing in this huge warehouse space. Creepy. (Lidia muttered: "Surreal experience number one of the day.") But the Dutch folk delivered, were very helpful, and pointed us in good directions in cheerful accent.

The day continued as we walked our way through a park, past a pirate shack and a heron that let us approach within 10 or so feet.. to the foot of the EUROTOWER, a much hyped 180m tower with a revolving capsule that allows 360 degree views of the city. Little windows on the floor allowed views downward. It was windy and the capsule shook as it popped up and down and swirled around like a flying saucer. We squealed and laughed and clung to each other, and marveled at the awesome Dutch architecture. In the gift shop, it was decided that a Eurotower-shaped vibrator that played David Bowie's "Space Oddity" was a neccessary thing for this world.

It finished with a perfect, warmly lit, and cosy cafe/bar with a baby in the window. Lidia treated me to some delicious port and we swapped stories and indulged in some chocolate-hazelnut spread that I had pocketed from the hostel in Liege. As it got darker and later and our bellies warmed with the port, we checked out. The rain had slowed and the city had lit up in the night. We retraced our steps and wormed our way back to the Centraal Station. Lidia caught a train back to The Hague and I headed for a more inviting and open hostel down by the Museumplein.
Comments: 5 colorful doodles - have some crayons!

Saturday, March 26th, 2005

Time:4:46 pm.
Hey folks,

I'm going to be in the Cleveland area from April 14th to the 23rd.

Any of you going to be around/nearby?
Comments: 16 colorful doodles - have some crayons!

Friday, August 1st, 2003

Time:10:24 am.
Mood: sad.
We got a phone call this morning around 5:40am, about 8:40am in Ohio. We were called about half and hour after the fact.

Carolyn, Jordan and Irvie Lee (Grandma's cousin from Louisiana) were there.

I think it's good. I'm glad I had the chance to visit when I did.

But it still hurts. The world has just lost another very spirited and kickass woman.
Comments: 2 colorful doodles - have some crayons!

Sunday, July 20th, 2003

Subject:Back in Cleveland
Time:11:29 pm.
Mood: sad.
The situation is tougher here than I imagined.

I didn't think I would cry so much in the first evening... I only got here at Grandma's around 5:30pm. It's nice to be surrounded by relatives. I never would have thought that my uncle's shoulder would be so comforting in a cry. Or that my cousin/aunt Sarajane could be so profound and moving and keep the tears dangling in her eyes.

Five days. Grandma is so far gone, coming in and out of morphine sleeps in the hospital bed set up in her room. They said that it was difficult for her to come to terms with the fact that she will never walk again. It should have, but didn't sink in for me. I was really optimistic about seeing her.. she's barely lucid. She can hardly talk. We kept coaxing and cheering her to say goodnight, as we each peel off to leave her for the evening. A handsqueeze back is a great and appreciative achievement. Carolyn cheerfully reminded her that it was about time she got some eye-drops. Silent acquiesence.

Five days. Lots of cleaning, riffling through old photos. Bonding time with St. John and Jordan. More shoulders to cry on. I'm glad I'm here.
Comments: have some crayons!

Time:11:51 pm.
Mood: tired.
I felt like that last entry was a bit of a downer. Yes, I know that's allowed.. whatever. I just wanted to clarify a little...

Grandma's fading is tough, yes. And it hurts to see what a stupor of painkillers she is in--a neccessity, considering all the pain she would otherwise be in. But it has been really nice to be around all of these relatives. I hope that she feels the same way. She is surrounded by so much love. I truly hope that she keeps this warm circle around her until the end.

Sarajane, Ken, and Carolyn and I dug through old shoeboxes of photos. I'd never before seen photos of Grandma's father, "Grandpa Humble" as he was known. Still don't know what her mother looked like. I saw some great photos of Dad growing up. He looks exactly like Winslow, except with cap, chunky sideburns, and Englishy vests.. and Englishy girlfriends (oooo!). And my uncle Sydney, before he dwindled into the skinny mumbly brain-diseased man he is today, apparently used to be a vibrant girl-magnet. He looked a lot like my cousin Peter of Japan. I love to listen and watch as the older cousins/siblings worked to remember the faces and places, with such glee. My favorite: a picture of Carolyn standing in the living room, pulling back the front of her diaper and scrutinizing herself while little "Brucie", in his suspenders and porkpie hat, makes a mischievous face. They rolled and rocked in their seats over that one.

After dinner (and cheesecake, from the able hands of Sarajane) we young cousins snuck off to be with each other. Jordan and I shared some white russians while St. John drank Mountain Dew, sitting together on the screened-porch, watching lightning bugs and listening to the little golden retriever puppy play in the dark with it's squeekytoy. Jo and St. John are downstairs watching Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrells. I'm nursing some blackberry tea and thinking about losing myself back into Harry Potter #5. Many things to think about. A long day ahead, I imagine

And. Jen, if you happen to come across this--I'm very sorry that I couldn't attend Mormor's memorial service today. I was thinking about you and her and the service on the flight over here. I really should have been there. Please give my love to Judy and Charles.. and Suzy if she's still around. And Fert. I love you dearly. I hope your 21st was full of love. I hope we connect before the summer's out.
Comments: 2 colorful doodles - have some crayons!

Sunday, June 16th, 2002

Time:10:15 am.
Gotta love the Pacific Northwest!
Comments: have some crayons!

Sunday, May 5th, 2002

Subject:Before the Parade Passes By...
Time:11:34 am.
Mood: chipper.
--On Saturday, May 04, 2002, 4:33 PM -0700 "Bruce" wrote:

Here's a message from Grandma -- it's good to see her on email again.


> -----Original Message-----
> From: Grandma
> Sent: Saturday, May 04, 2002 4:33 PM
> To: Bruce
> Subject: RE: Graduation
> I talked with Edith last night and I think we may join her graduation
> dinner party and I will share the expenses; we will discuss this more later.
> We went to a festival at Oberlin today; Marta stayed at Oberlin as she has
> some papers to finish. She may come here later in the week. Jordan is
> here and I am doing better daily. A Cortison(sp?)shot was injected in my
> arthritic left shoulder and it is relieving a lot of the pain that my fall
> aggravated. I am so thankful that I had no fractures! Love to all. Mom

Yeah. Saturday was a big day. Oberlin had organized it's first ever big all-inclusive parade through the town and post-parade festival in Tappan Square. I invited Grandma and Jordan out.

Unfortunately, the parade began much earlier in the morning than I expected it would on a Saturday morning. So when we got out there, around 12:30-1pm, it had already long ended. But there was still the big festival on the grass--fire blowers, morris dancers, big brass band, (delicious!!) pie eating contests, a free BBQ, a dunking booth, yard sales, Capoiera circles, Israeli dance circles, an alpaca petting zoo, some dogs from the oberlin stray and rescue to play with, people writing on the sidewalk with chalk, children bouncing up and down in one of those inflatable bouncing thingys, jugglers, people chilling with their guitars... lots of people lounging on the grass, in the sun.

So we brought a folding lawn chair and planted Grandma in it. Jordan and Grandma had hot-dogs and burgers. I ate a bun. ("It's full of bunly goodness.") There was also some delicious custard pie and tomato soup. While Grandma worked on a crossword puzzle, we went and fetched her ice cream from the Amish, by way of the DeCafe.

The whole event was a lot of fun. Many of my friends, upon seeing me with a little old lady in red, came up and greeted her with a "Grandma!!". And she laughed and said, "I'm everybody's Grandma!"

Grandma doesn't get out and see people very often. Especially in such large numbers, with such a range of ages. Nor does she get outside in the sun much. I think she had a lot of fun people-watching. And I don't think it was too much stress on her. She's been getting nauseous while driving to doctor's appointments and such, so we were worried... But the 40 minute drive out to Oberlin didn't seem to make her feel ill at all.

I don't doubt that she will make the drive out Yale for my cousin Peter's graduation. It's the graduation of her first grandchild, and it's something that she's been looking forward to for the last 20 years.
Comments: have some crayons!

Wednesday, May 1st, 2002

Subject:Proof, I'm Doomed to LiveJournal
Time:10:00 pm.
Mood: productive.
I'm at Grandma's house. Andrea drove me here last night. On the way, we pondered our summers. Perhaps, at the end of the summer, we can meet up in Houston where we both have relatives--her spunky great-aunt and my aunts Edith and her partner Margaret--and drive back up to Oberlin. Andrea has to be there for the soccer pre-season, so I don't know how well it will mesh with my family holiday to Kalaloch on the Washington coast or my Chinese class at the UW. Probably not too well. We can still dream. I would really like to see some Oberlin people over the summer, particularly Andrea.

Andrea came in for a little while after she dropped me off. She chatted with Grandma about Texas. Grandma grew up in Tyler, in NE Texas. Andrea grew up (until she was 9) in a little town across the bay from Galveston, not far from Houston. They shared their memories of the big pecan trees they each had on their farms and the pecan pies that their families would make. I can't imagine pecans on trees. I'm a fruit-tree person, not a nut-tree person. Pah, Seattle! One day, when I'm old and crusty and living in Texas, I'll hark back to my childhood when apples grew on trees.

Later last night, I got my minidisc out and recorded Grandma chattering on. She talked about my dad and uncles, the Vietnam draft, Intelligent Design (or creationism, as it's now called), and traveling around Europe. I often feel that I know so little about my dad before he was my dad. It's only been recently that I've begun to investigate and pry more, asking direct questions. Who was this man? How did he grow up? And also, perhaps more pressing, how did Grandma grow up?

This morning, I made some coffee for Grandma and we ate cereal together, reading various things that were lying around on the breakfast table. There was an old Us Magazine... from October 2000. (Yeah, OLD.) Many of the articles talked about the things that had gone on in the last month, marriages, lawsuits, suicides... Hollywood gossip. Everytime they mentioned September 11, I was certain they would talk about it or refer to it as a point in history. But of course, this was a year and a half earlier. It just felt so strange to see that date tossed around so casually.

It was a nice day. I planted some lilies and gladiolas in the backyard (There is so much clay in Ohio ground! Did a glacier pass through here or what?) and watched the neighbors' kids make up special rules for Mark McGuire and Mark McGuire playing two-person baseball. I watched Grandma hobble around the house with the physical therapist following her along. I washed clothes and towels and sheets. I went grocery shopping. I made fruit smoothies, sandwiches, and pasta with some stir-fried vegetables. Now I have to prepare for my classes. Oh, how I do.

I'm going back to classes tomorrow morning, and returning in the afternoon. Grandma is lending me her car for the day. A big boxy red Buick. ("I only buy A-MER-ican cars. You can trust 'em!") She can't drive it right now, but it's symbolic of her independence, so I have too return it to post-haste! Jordan will be back by lunchtime, so Grandma won't be alone for too long. She'll take me back to Oberlin once I return Grandma's car.
Comments: have some crayons!

Tuesday, April 23rd, 2002

Subject:Great Expectations
Time:9:36 am.
Mood: sympathetic.
Funny that this should be the first entry.

Last night, a friend appeared at my door for maybe the third time. This time, to tell me that he had to leave. He was hurting, he'd been rejected too many times and he couldn't focus on anything else. So, the best thing for him to do, he reasoned, was to get away. (He set up my LiveJournal account before he left. He's such a dear. And now, I can be a new friend!)
I likened him to my cousin, who seemed to be in the same boat. Expecting a lot, and becoming disappointed when relationships are not as glorious as you think they're going to be. Don't have such high expectations, because you're invariably going to be let down. It sounds terribly pessimistic, but it's actually reason and rationality. When people are emotional romantics and dreamers, the unairbrushed reality of things will be really disappointing.

Well wouldn't you know! This morning, at 7AM, I got a phone call from my cousin--who was calling long distance from his apartment in Montreal. Another rejection. One night stand. Fuck and run, but he wanted it to have been more. He was so angry and so upset. "Men are such bastards!" and "I.. I.. I just thought that there was something there, but obviously he didn't see it.."

I think people need to be more forgiving of each other, and understanding. Most people are not deliberately bastards. Most people get scared (even though they seem like the most secure people on earth) and don't know how to gracefully get themselves out of messes.. and people get hurt. But getting hurt doesn't mean you need to stay angry and hurt. It means you bite your lip and rip the band-aid off, because wounds need air, and bruises need to go through many color changes before they heal.

Don't stay angry and depressed. It'll only make things worse for yourself, and make you really not fun to be around. Be kind. Give space. Keep trying.
Comments: 6 colorful doodles - have some crayons!

LiveJournal for Maj. Bonnet.

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