Savor Something New

June 21, 1926 ~ Kingston, Jamaica
Our room is at the back of the hotel facing the inner garden and harbor. The grounds are beautiful with many varieties of palm trees including coconut and banana trees. In the foreground is one of the beautiful Poinciana trees, which has bright red flower clusters.

Our bags hadn’t arrived so we were unable to change for lunch but our room was so cool, there being a very strong breeze blowing, that after washing we felt much refreshed. For lunch, I ate pepper-pot, which is a very spicy vegetable soup, delicious stewed duck with spiced rice, baked yams, cho chos, potatoes, and string beans. For dessert I had sherbet, cakes and fruit. Always a variety of fruit is served, artistically arranged in a bowl with special forks standing up high and proud stuck into skinned oranges with only the top left for a good hold.

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We didn’t care about the oranges, bananas, or pineapple because we get these at home, but we fairly devoured every bit of mango which came our way. Next best to the mango we liked paw-paw, which looks like cantaloupe but tastes like strong cheese or worse, so is eaten with lime juice, which improves it immensely.

Dear Aunt Jean,
I love getting to know the traveler in you. You don’t come across as being timid, I sense an assertiveness and an air of confidence about you. Journeying to the varying landscapes that exist outside of the concrete jungle and trying new foods that you couldn’t get back home are experiences I can admire and appreciate. I wonder, did you have any must do’s when you went somewhere new? Or, perhaps, things you’d try to avoid?

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I’ve come up with a few “rules” for myself along the way when I venture to an unfamiliar destination. They revolve around being open to new experiences and not setting my expectations too high for when things don’t work out as planned. I also try to sneak in as many local foods and drinks as possible, something we have in common! If there’s a market, you can guarantee I’ll be there. It’s a great way to get to know a local culture, through its artisans and foods.

I know very well the pleasure you must have felt upon seeing the selection of native tropical fruits in your travels across Jamaica, Colombia, and Haiti. You mentioned on a few occasions how special it was to have mango! How sweet it was, literally, and in its newness to you. Would you believe that they’re widely available at grocery stores now? So many different types of “foreign” produce and products from around the world are now mainstream. On any given day I can find mango, papaya, coconuts, jackfruit, tamarind, and the like in my local market.

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There is still something to be said for eating a mango, for example, since we’re on the subject, as close to the source as you can. I have a hunch it will always taste better when it’s freshly picked and sun kissed. Tropical ambiance has a lot to do with the tasting experience! I can attest to that personally. I was introduced to guava on my second trip to Kauai and I was elated to buy some from the store when I got home. Much to my dismay, it tasted bitter and sour, sitting alone in my cold, dark kitchen. It was nothing like the sweet fruit picked from the tree that fueled me on a hike into the mountains.

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While I understand the want for comfort food every now and again, especially if one gets a tad homesick, I find it utterly absurd to bother going through the hassle of traveling, perhaps venturing many miles from home, and eating at a chain restaurant or choosing the same foods off of a menu that you might normally eat at home. But that’s me! I, personally, like to know what people eat for their every day meals. I find it comforting in a way. Oftentimes, it can be very similar to what we eat, just with tiny variations. And if it happens to be totally different, say eating crickets, then I relish in the experience anyway. I suppose I may be in the minority in that I haven’t run into many foods that I won’t eat! In fact, many of my tasting experiences have led to new favorites that I look forward to when I’m back on the road again.

Ai pono,
Monster

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Return Trip

June 24, 1926 ~ Kingston, Jamaica
Our schedule called for a morning drive to Castleton Gardens, the Government botanical gardens, but we and a number of others decided to make an all-day ride of it by going to the north shore of Jamaica visiting Hotel Titchfield at Port Antonio for lunch and returning along the shore to Kingston. The Myrtle Bank Hotel gave us box lunches to take with us.

At Castleton Gardens we saw a large and strange variety of trees, plants and flowers of which Anne and Miss Todd collected some cuttings to take home for planting. The gardener assured them that the cuttings would grow if kept in water meantime, but I am positive that Anne’s won’t grow, planted on her piano.

June 18, 1935 ~ Kingston, Jamaica
Debarked at Kingston, Jamaica about 11 A.M. Explored the shops on King and Harbor Sts. until noon. Lunched at the Myrtle Bank Hotel. Had a delicious meal in the room in the right wing. Recognized our waiter whom I remembered from our previous visit in 1926.

After lunch drove to Castleton Gardens. By the time we reached there it was raining pretty hard so we sat in the car till it let up. Our guide took us on a quick trip through the gardens. Saw the small elderly man who was our guide in 1926.

Returned to the Myrtle Bank Hotel. Found Jimmy and other members of the crew impersonating seals in the swimming pool. Stayed a while enjoying the loveliness of the hotel grounds before walking back to the ship for dinner. Saw only the better side of Kingston – did not drive through the poor sections. Wanted to go ashore at night but even Becky agreed it was unadvisable to go unescorted so we remained on the ship and watched the other passengers trailing back for the midnight sailing.

 

September 20, 2013 ~ Reykjavik, Iceland
After flying overnight and landing in a new time zone, the first point of business was to grab some coffee (for him) and hot chocolate (for me). Something comforting and familiar to sip on after an evening devoid of sleep. We wandered around Reykjavik, zigzagging our way about town. We admired the street art and the delightful scent of baked goods wafting out of buildings. We turned right, following our noses to some freshly baked croissants. The road name was Kárastígur. The flowers potted outside were a bright spot on a gray day.

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Out from the chill of the rain, we were able to ease into our trip by sipping on some hot beverages, perhaps the best we’d had in a long while. My hot cocoa was no Swiss Miss. It was delightfully dark and not too sweet, perfect for this chocolate-loving Monster. What a wonderful experience to have proper whipped cream, the kind that is so thick it stands up on its legs and doesn’t immediately dissolve into nothingness.

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It decorates your upper lip and teases your tongue with its cool temperature in contrast to the steaming liquid below. I was blissfully happy and ready to explore.

January 25, 2017 ~ Reykjavik, Iceland
We landed in Keflavik around 6am local time, having flown the same red eye we had a few years prior. We took the shuttle to the regional airport in Reykjavik and stowed our bags as we had a few hours to kill before our flight north to Akureyri. We took a taxi straight to Reykjavik Roasters, our favorite find from the last trip. The sun wasn’t awake yet and it was dark outside, the January air crisp but dry. The windows to the coffee shop were fogged up, alluding to the warmth we would find inside. The flowers in the planter were brown and shriveled, covered in ice and snow. Our old friend greeted us gently with hot chocolate and a cappuccino upon arrival. It felt good to be back.

We wandered the familiar streets in a warm milk drunk stupor, happily noticing new street art, restaurants we dined in years prior, and places we missed the first go round. It was interesting to see the city in a new season, this time with a fresh coating of snow and the pastel hue of a frosty winter morning’s light. It was quieter and we weren’t seeing everything fresh for the first time.

 

Spirits and Funeral Cookies

August 2, 1933 ~ At sea
Beautiful moon and flashes of heat, chain and spear lightning in the west for quite a few hours. Last night on board and not a sign of romance. We five girls, Axel Dahlgard, and Pop Seller sat in the Smoke room listening to the raspy phonograph. Elinor served the last of her liqueur and we couldn’t be gay even though we tried.

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January 31, 2017 ~ Klaksvik, Faroe Islands
It was a cloudy flight from Iceland to the Faroe Islands. Nearly two hours of white out my window seat view. In the last five minutes, as we descended from the sky, the fog dissipated and the razor-edge cliffs appeared as if from nowhere. They rose up like giants from the ocean; green gems amongst the blue. A waterfall spilled over the edge of a moss-covered mountain like a scene from a fairy tale book. Majestic.

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The rains poured down on our drive to Klaksvík, a town on one of the northernmost islands in the Faroes. It was dark despite the early evening hour. Not having high expectations for this small, relatively sleepy town where we were seeing more sheep than people, we stumbled into a local pub to check out the night life. We were two of three guests at the bustling Roykstovan bar that night and the one local was on his way out. We sat down at a well-worn wooden picnic bench inside the tavern and enjoyed a flight of beer made at the brewery across the street. You can’t get more local than that. The lights were dim, the bar was dead, and the music on the radio was eclectic. You’re So Vain melded into MMMBop, which somehow seemed fitting for this joint. The barmaid wasn’t terribly chatty, unusual for someone in her position. It turns out she had come from her granny’s funeral. She bent down behind the bar and came up with a tin of freshly baked cookies leftover from the reception. Those were probably the saddest cookies I’ve ever been offered, but I’m a sucker for chocolate chip and couldn’t say no. We chatted a bit and learned more about her grandma, toasting our last round and cookies to her.

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Slowing Down

December 18, 1930 ~ At sea
A good day to rest, nothing but sea. Played shuffleboard for two hours without either side running up a decent score. Capt. D. was called away so Percy took his place but the score was still poor. Visited the bridge with the Capt. In the chart room we saw the instrument recording the course of the ship showing every deviation to port or starboard by means of a wavy line. There was also a depth finder which does away with heaving the load over the side. The ship was rolling as usual, so was glad to leave the bridge.

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In the afternoon thought it a good idea to do some reading. Percy had pulled my deck chair behind lifeboat three, alongside the rail. It was so nice to just lie back and watch the sea and sky that I just couldn’t read.

 

April 26, 2017 ~ Captain Cook, HI
After a long morning of tending to the crops and farm, I welcome a quick thirty minute window to exhale and relax before finishing out the day’s work. Not having wifi in our cabin on the Big Island is a blessing, it’s broken me of a digital habit and clutch. I’ve turned to books for entertainment, but more often than not, I can’t sit back and enjoy until the sun goes down. Words on a page don’t hold my attention when the scenery is as beautiful as it is. I’ve learned to just sit and be present, admiring the view, a hard task in today’s frenetic world.

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My mind is unusually calm when staring out at the clouds and peekaboo sea from my second-floor patio. I don’t have useless thoughts and worries churning in my head. I’ve slowed down. I notice the air is filled with the aroma of flowers and citrus. I savor the sweet and slightly acidic flavor of my mid-morning pick-me-up, whether it’s a piece of homemade papaya-orange-lime fruit leather or a cup of our farm grown coffee, instead of mindlessly funneling sustenance into my gullet. I close my eyes and listen to the meditative sound of the wind or far off waves. The coqui frogs are singing, joined by birds and our neighbor’s cows. The fronds on the palm shimmer and shake in the breeze. I hear a thump and visualize the avocado falling off the tree. My lizard friend scurries across the deck railing. Gosh, isn’t he beautiful?

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I allow the sun to fall onto my skin, warming me again after the sweat and breeze have cooled me off. I’ve grown fond of the rooster’s squawk, it makes me feel at home. Ironic since my “home” had no animals to speak of. I am in their company and am happy with that. I don’t feel a constant need to busy myself with things and I certainly don’t feel as if I’m wasting time either. Hawaii is a practice in meditation and gratitude, for which I am thankful. It’s nice to just be.

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Beauty In The Chaos

June 24, 1926 ~ Port Antonio, Jamaica
Frequently along the road we passed women breaking rocks into small stones used for road making. Anne tried to snapshot them but they were camera shy or had other reasons for avoiding the camera. One woman fled up the mountainside rather than be snapped. Anne finally gave up the attempt. We were told that stone-breaking is the work of convicts and from another source we learned that this work is one of the natives’ sources of income.

 

January 7, 2009 ~ Delhi, India
We checked out of our hotel in Delhi and headed toward Agra. With a 4-6 hour drive ahead of us, I knew that I would be spending some of those hours photographing out of the window as I observed this unfamiliar territory. Goodness knows I’ve learned to master this skill over the years. The drive was an eye-opening experience for it was all so foreign to me. The traffic is crazier than in New York City and Naples. Drivers seemingly don’t bother to look before they pass. Multiple cars may be coming the other direction, but people gun it and try to squeeze by, honking their horns mercilessly all the while. Individuals hawking goods go right up to your car in the middle of traffic and tap on the glass to gain your attention, or if the windows are open, they’ll shove their hands and merchandise right through the window. One guy even hung on as we drove away trying to make a sale.

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Buildings resembling primitive houses lay in disarray with untraditional coverings for roofs, an assumption on my part, of course, that these are indeed houses. I’ve also seen people laying out on the sidewalk on cots wrapped in blankets so I’m uncertain. I asked one of the women I was traveling with about what we had been seeing, interested to learn more. I wanted to know if people really lived in the streets with little housing, or if they were just squatting there. She seemed to think that the people were living below the poverty level with their straw roofs, fires to keep warm, dung-pattied/clay houses, and mats for beds. This part of India was proving to be the have-nots vs the haves.

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Barbers without storefronts have their chairs and mirrors set up on the side of the roads. Animals are roaming freely, people are urinating freely in the streets littered with trash. Standing out among the grime, however, are the beautiful and brightly colored outfits that the females wear. They are absolutely stunning! The color in India is what I’m finding to be incredible. This part of the world is awash in a haze of smog, yet the fields stand out with their hunter green grass and contrasting yellow mustard flowers, studded with the saffron and purple outfits of the women tending the crops. How they keep the fabric so vibrant and colorful among the dust and grime of the city air is beyond me.

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– – –

It’s been nearly ten years since I’ve been in India. I’ve had plenty of time to reflect on the trip, my emotions and feelings of being there, along with what I saw. I was a novice traveler at this point and I went very much on a whim with a group I volunteered with at school. Most of this particular trip was spent inside a moving vehicle, or that’s how it seemed. In order to try and process what I was seeing through the window I needed to slow it down, to photograph it. That’s generally how I think best anyway. Delhi, for me, was sensory overload embodied. The sheer amount of people, signs, colors, smells, the air that choked me with dirt and incense. It was a lot to process, especially for someone who wasn’t used to exploring other cultures and countries in real life outside of an anthropology textbook.

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As we whizzed through the city, it was hard to tell what was going on. I could make my best educated guess, but without having the time to get out, to talk with the people, to interact in their daily lives, who am I to tell you what’s going on in the photographs? One thing I’ve always been frustrated with, and still don’t understand about art and photography, are the critiques by an audience trying to articulate what the artist is attempting to portray and what they think the thought process was when creating said piece. People make such a big deal about little details they project to be clues, making up stories for the sake of having a good story. Am I the only one that doesn’t have this big emotional outpouring for every photograph I take? Sometimes, as in the case of these photos, I literally can’t tell you what is going on — and I am growing to resent that in this decade since photographing them. They were merely observations out my window. That’s not to say I had my camera shutter depressed the entire time, hoping for a good shot. The beauty in the chaos still registered in my brain before I pointedly snapped away.

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In the era of fake news, I don’t want to project what I’m looking at in order to make a sap story out of these innocent folks. I would have loved to get to know them, learn about their culture through their eyes and not the narrowed scope of a dirty car window. Were these their dwellings, their shops, or bus stops? Are they happy in life, as their passing smiles would lead me to believe? Perhaps a return trip is in order.