Americanah, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
As the summer draws to a close seems as good a time as any to reflect back on those sunny days in Spain filled with culinary delights and endless pitchers of the aptly-named tinto de verano. Málaga is the birthplace of Pablo Picasso and they won't let you forget it, but if you're a fan then they've got a great collection in the Picasso Museum.
And generally a great collection of museums - Málaga is neither the best beach destination nor the most beautiful city I've visited in Spain, but if you're into museum hopping, it's got no shortage for a city its size. No real shortage of decent views, too, if you're happy to do a bit of climbing.
Ah, Roma - a city that reminds you of the delights of womanhood. Hello again, catcalls. No, I am not your baby, please f*ck off. Hello, hyper-sexualized* women. Hello again, overtly sexist jokes. Hello, familiar old female ritual of comparing instances of sexual harassment (know what I'm talking about?).
I did enjoy the food, though - as enjoyable a way as ever to empty your wallet-, and the abundant sunshine. And the old architecture - walking through the ruins, one can hardly imagine the amplified magnificence that these multi-story structures must have been a few thousand years before reinforced steel hit the scenes. Perhaps best of all, I got to reunite with a friend almost of a former life, one where we were all just idiot teenagers with little foresight of the people we would turn out to be.
Curiously, I find that many of the people I once cultivated friendships with, only to lose touch and reunite years later, end up curiously having turned into individuals with a similar outlook and similar values. I wonder whether this is coincidence or whether life- and personality-paths simply follow patterns. Or perhaps a bit of both.
Most maddeningly, no one has yet managed to answer the question of what Italians ate prior to tomatoes and pasta (most guesses contain "olives?" though). I will nonetheless take pride in knowing that they owe their beloved modern cuisine in large part to my Chinese forefathers and the continent on which I was raised.
*Women are hyper-sexualized in German media, too, but less on the street (i.e. less makeup, less tight clothing, fewer manes that look as though they took 2 hours to blow-dry into perfection, fewer unsolicited compliments from creepy men).
My camera died about two photos into the first Gaudí house we visited, so what you see is what you get: minimal architecture, artsy portraits, and the first day's lunch. Sarah and I thought we would take one last rendezvous before she abandons me for her native Mexico City and so we headed to Barcelona to rendezvous our bellies full.
This was my first visit to Barcelona and I very much hope it will not be the last - sun, beautiful architecture, and a beach, garnished with tipsy touristing between tapas spots? I could not have written a better recipe for a perfect holiday. Not to miss are Casa Milà and the culinary delights of El Quim in La Boqueria market. And I wouldn't pass up a chance to stop at La Xampanyeria for endless rounds of affordable, and delectable, cava accompanied by simple cheese and olive plates. And when you part, prepare to be asking yourself for a very long time why you ever thought it might be a good idea to leave. y
"This is Burma, and it will be quite unlike any land you know about." - Rudyard Kipling
I know I've basically been a broken record on never posting anymore for basically ever, and these photos are way old, but look! I finally made it to Myanmar before Western-style capitalism did. (Next up: Cuba!) It kind of reminded me of Thailand, to be honest. Yangon was like I imagine Bangkok to have been 60 years ago: humble, smiling, wooden houses between newly-emerging concrete buildings never more than 10 stories tall. (Maybe 15 in the developing center.)
But Bagan - Bagan left me speechless, and its intense beauty was enough motivation to get me out of bed for every sunrise. Some 2,200 temples (of an original >10,000, they say) of varying sizes and shapes lie scattered throughout this 20-square-kilometer area of otherwise mostly wilderness. It used to be the big-shot capital of the Pagan Kingdom, and now it lies in sad but still-magnificent ruins which I am sure will only deteriorate further as tourism increases in the coming years. It made me sad to see people not removing their shoes as they clambered over these sacred places - seemingly a sacredness so long-gone as to have been forgotten (although the locals will certainly tell you off if they catch you).
Bagan has found its place on my short list of things that have truly blown me away (yes, that's me - blasé as pudding) and I look forward to bringing my children there one day.